Why do the refs come from the north when the clubs come from the south?

By Tony Attwood

The Premier League official referees index does not indicate which FA Association the referees on the Premier League’s books are associated with.  Indeed in the officially published logs there is no record of where the referee has come from at all.

Which is an interesting oversight, because I am sure many fans would quite like to know where the referee comes from when they are watching a game.  Indeed back in the old days we were told which town or city the referee called home.

Now of course, I am sure PGMO, if they ever deigned to speak to anyone (which of course they don’t) would say that it is ludicrous to suggest that referees are biased toward clubs from the home town or region, so there is no need to let us know what’s what.

But of course that is not the point, because there is a growing perception that there is something seriously wrong with refereeing in the Premier League.  The PGMO says not a word, and instructs the mainstream media never to discuss such matters.  The mainstream media, in terms of its football coverage, plays the role of lapdogs, rolls over and says nothing at all.

However if one wishes to go looking the data is available, and all we need to do is pull it together from various sources to see if there is indeed any regional bias in the selection of referees.

Of course we can expect the mainstream media to back up the Premier League in claiming that the referee’s regional origins of his FA Affiliation, is of no consequence.  The referees are all professional, neutral and doing a fine job, we are told.

Which is ok until one begins to think that they are not doing such a fine job after all.  Because at that point, the whole thing starts to break down.  Especially when one does take a look at where the referees do have their place of origin.

Below is a list of all the referees who have, at the time of writing, been recorded by PGMO as having undertaken 10 Premier League games or more this season.

We’ve already made the point of the phenomenal variation there is between referees in terms of cards given out, the likes of Tierney and Pawson giving out around twice as many cards as Moss and Atkinson.

In short, how many cards a club gets owes as much to which referee the club gets as to how many fouls it commits.  But is there any regional bias as well.

Referee Matches Red cards Yellow cards Football Association Affiliation
Paul Tierney 20 1 86 Lancashire
Mike Dean 18 2 58 Cheshire
Jonathan Moss 18 4 38 West Riding of Yorkshire
Michael Oliver 18 2 57 Co Durham
Craig Pawson 18 1 82 Sheffield
Anthony Taylor 18 4 70 Cheshire
Martin Atkinson 16 2 36 West Riding of Yorkshire
David Coote 15 2 67 Nottinghamshire
Stuart Attwell 13 1 42 Birmingham
Chris Kavanagh 13 2 53 Manchester
Andre Marriner 13 2 49 Birmingham
Kevin Friend 11 1 53 Leicestershire
Darren England 10 1 39 Doncaster*
Simon Hooper 10 0 30 Wiltshire
Andy Madley 10 2 20 Huddersfield*

*Not revealed on Premier League official index of referees – home town used instead

So let’s consider overall the areas from which the referees who oversee Premier League games come from…

The north (Lancashire, Cheshire, West Riding, Co Durham, Sheffield, Manchester, Doncaster, Huddersfield): 10

The Midlands (Birmingham, Leicestershire): 3

The south west (Wiltshire): 1

The south east (London, Sussex, Essex, Middlesex, Suffolk, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, Surrey, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Dorset, Northamptonshire….): 0

So let’s compare where the refs come from and where the clubs come from.  The figures relate to the current season: 2021/22

Region Refs with over 10 PL games Clubs
South and South East 0 11
Midlands 3 3
South West 0 1
North, North East, North West 10 6

Quite clearly there is not even the slightest attempt to balance the referees’ points of origin with the clubs.

Now this is not to say that referees are inherently biased toward clubs in their area and I doubt that many would argue that they demand the same percentage of referees per region as there are clubs, but when we find such a disparity we might begin to wonder why.

11 Replies to “Why do the refs come from the north when the clubs come from the south?”

  1. D W Smith – Stonehouse, Gloucester.

    Referee 1972 FA Cup Final

    Booked Bob McNab in the 1st minute of that game for taking out Peter Lorimer I think.

  2. “Now that is not to say referees are inherently biased….” No, of course they’re not……..it’s quite possible some choose to follow orders rather than show any inherent bias.

  3. David Elleray and Paul Durkin came from the south coast can’t remember being over enamoured with them.

  4. I remember being amused by Elleray, when secretly on microphone, telling Tony Adams to stand up straight.

    A pompous prat of a public school head-master. I thought that he was going to send Tony to detention.

  5. On the Arsenal website there is a great picture on Pepe being fouled in the “Goal of the Month” article. I think that is a yellow card offence, but I don’t recall one being issued to the Wolves player.

  6. Guys,

    the issue that Untold is presenting is the forest not the tree.
    The big picture is there are no referees from London where there a I think quite a few clubs right ?
    Does this mean that

    a) london schools are so poor the referees they get from there cannot count to 11 and can’t read numbers or a watch ?
    b) london area referees are so used to cabs and tube they could not run around for 100 minutes ?
    c) london area referees are not idiots. They understand that PGMOL is full of IAMs (Incompetent Arrogant Morons) and wouldn’t be caught dead getting employment there sa there are many other more interesting and intelligent jobs in the london area ?
    d) PGMOL does NOT want referees from there. As they said themselves, they have to be re-trained as the official rules are different in PGMOL refereed games ?

    Take your pick

    But judging the performance of a lone referee or other you have seen in the past is just what Untold is trying to avoid : looking at the tree and not seeing the forest.

  7. The internal setup of the PGMO is perfect for Riley to get a disciplined bias carried out as organisational policy, and the referees get in return well-paid breaks in London, quality hotels, with every game refereed a series of chapters in London, a book of another life in London. Get back to Leeds you’re the star of the show. You don’t even have to brag about it.

    Any half-assed union rep could strike a deal like this. As to why Riley as the employer would want this deal, it’s the only deal where discipline can be imposed and maintained. He doesn’t want alpha males dripping with the allure of the Premier League waltzing around town talking about their decisions on the pitch, talking about each other, and so on.

    It has to be discrete, professional, oozing money that doesn’t get questioned. So, quality hotels, a break with every game.

    If it’s not this, how do these people travel down, travel back? And when do they do that? A train from St. Pancras a few hours after offending fans?

    Riley has a duty of care as an employer and that has to be incorporated into how the organisation functions because the referee is a performer, on a global stage, with huge financial consequences dependant upon decisions.

    We don’t know anything about it because we’re the fans and we exist for that 90 minutes. The administration of football exists in another place where nobody asks any questions, besides Putin, Infantino, and the easy money crew.

  8. Set those distances, say Manchester to London, to get to the game to walk onto the pitch at kick-off; to get to meet the rest of the PGMO unit for a meeting before the unit starts getting ready to walk onto the pitch: to get from their home, say 40 miles outside Manchester, to where they start the journey to get to London.

    If they have a 12.30 kick-off when do they start their travel to meet the PGMO unit?

    Do they trust public transport? Do they trust the plane? How do they avoid the disruption of a traffic jam? How long do they give themselves to get from the end of the MI to Stamford Bridge?

    They are going to have these hours of travel and stress and then they take centre stage of a Premier League game transmitted around the globe? That’s nonsense.

    They are performers. They are contracted to perform. Sky & BT re-arrange games and expect PGMO to supply the unit at the time and place required. They arrive.

    How Riley organises the logistics of moving referees into and out of London is how he maintains the discipline and bite of PGMO.

  9. My take is that it is all about the water , and its contents and the impurities and conversely the purities ! Over the centuries , much rain has fallen , and much water has passed in the rivers and catchment areas .

    The Albion has had many conquerors , invaders and other undesirables that have put their own ‘take’ in the waterways. They would have left other marks in it too !

    Apparently after a certain meridian line, the water is considered not suitable for EPL referees. This opens a veritably can of worms for research or distortions. Depending on who is doing the research. Bet the FA have a hand in this !

    The water in Lancashire apparently is the most suitable for PIGMOB refs . I cannot see any other factors that would make candidates more suitable . This is open to debate , if they so desire !

    I look forward to the great new research being put into this new field of interest, as we get to the bottom of this mystery on why mostly Northern men are considered as being most suitable for being EPL refs .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *