Over two thirds of Arsenal games this season handled by just seven referees

By Tony Attwood

Let me repeat that headline: over two-thirds of Arsenal games this season are handled by just seven referees.

I make no allegation that any of these men take bribes, nor are poor at their job, nor are, for psychological reasons, more likely to call a foul in a tackle committed by an Arsenal player than one committed by a player of another team.

Rather I simply suggest that just in case there were a bad apple in the box, it would make sense to have each referee get no more than two Arsenal games a season.

And that thought is enhanced when a look at the refereeing figures so far this season show that…

Three of these referees in the group that handle over two-thirds of Arsenal games, are in the top four referees in the Premier League for handing out fouls per game.

So let’s try and explore this further…

First, our campaign has been that each club should only see each referee twice during a season.  The Premier League is the richest league in the world, so it can certainly afford this and it would stop allegations about Arsenal getting referees that have a propensity for handing out free kicks and penalties against Arsenal.

But no, the figures show that Arsenal has had over two-thirds of its league matches this season handled by just seven referees.

Even worse is this finding:

Over a quarter of Arsenal’s games this season have been handled by just two referees: Pawson and Oliver.

And this is bad news for Arsenal because Pawson has handed out more yellow cards than any other referee this season while Oliver has handed out more red cards than any other referee this season.

But there is even worse to come:  Pawson and Oliver are in the top four referees for calling fouls per game.

Now let’s think this through….

We’ve called time and time again for each club to get the same referee no more than twice in a season, not because we are saying they are biased against Arsenal but because it is a simple precaution and one that can be easily afforded by the richest league in the world.

But PGMO have made no move in this direction and the media has refused even to notice that there might be a problem.

We’ve also noted in the past that the figures relating to tackles per foul committed by clubs show that some clubs persistently manage to get fewer fouls called against them per tackle season after season.

Of course, it might just be that these clubs have recruited or trained players who can tackle but not foul, and yet given that this has been going on for some years, it seems strange that other clubs don’t follow suit.  And also strange that one club, in particular, can get this low tackle to foul ratio and yet be mid-table much of the time.

Our suggestion, therefore, is that certain clubs get a reputation in the minds of referees as being “not dirty” while others get the opposite reputation.   So where a tackle goes in that is 50/50 foul or not, if it is undertaken by a team considered “not dirty” they get away with it, while the club with the reputation for being dirty is liable to be called out.

Because it would be hard to get such bias out of the thinking of referees, the one obvious step would be to employ more referees and ensure that no referee oversees more than two matches per PL club in a season.

But no –  just consider this table – this is the list of referees Arsenal have had this season that have overseen three or more Arsenal games in the campaign.  In other words the list of referees who have overseen more Arsenal games than our approach of a maximum of two games per club would allow…  (Figures from Who Scored)

Referee Games Fouls pg F/pg pos Fouls/Tackles
1.Michael Oliver 5 10.60 4 0.79
2.Craig Pawson 4 12.50 2 0.77
3.Mike Dean 3 9.33 0.54
4.Martin Atkinson 3 8.33 0.81
5.Anthony Taylor 3 8.33 0.45
6.Jonathan Moss 3 7.00 0.50
7.David Coote 2 10.50 5 1.31

So these seven referees have overseen 23 of Arsenal’s 34 league games – over two thirds of our matches controlled by just seven men.

14 of the Arsenal games have been controlled by five referees who each call over 10 fouls per game on average.  (By way of comparison some referees only call five or six fouls per game but we have only seen them once each in Arsenal matches).

PGMO could employ more referees and could share out the referees they have got more equitably to get this bias out of the system.  But they don’t.  The media could pick up on this bias but they don’t.

What’s going on?

Arsenal’s anniversary of the day: 4 May 1976: Bertie Mee leaves Arsenal

8 Replies to “Over two thirds of Arsenal games this season handled by just seven referees”

  1. I have been convinced for many years that there is an anti-Arsenal disposition on the part of the PGMOL and this is supported by the volume of evidence presented on this site. In recent memory there are numerous anecdotal references to also support this view – even non-Arsenal supporters have picked up on the fact that Xhaka, in particular would have got red cards for offences such as those by Fernandes or Mane, which have resulted in yellow or no card at all. Anyone recalling the events of the infamous match 50 at Man Utd would regard the suspicion of Riley’s continuing malign influence as being quite credible.

    However, I believe that Arsenal are not the only victims. In nearly every match on television, it seems to emerge that the referee is favouring one side and treating the other more harshly. I am not thinking of major controversies, involving VAR checks, so much as the awarding of routine free-kicks for one team whilst ignoring comparable incidents against the other. This appeared to be the case in the Leeds v Man City game, in which the referee seemed to favour the latter – not that it was a decisive factor in terms of the result, although the margin of victory could well have been smaller. Also, events in the last Everton – Liverpool match have been well documented, with Everton having a case for two penalties which were not given. My impression lately is that Liverpool have benefitted from a lenient approach by referees to the overtly physical part of their game.

    Since SAF retired, it is harder to detect any obvious consistent pattern in uneven refereeing, as teams seem to benefit and suffer by turns. Perhaps that’s why some believe that “it all evens out in the end.” (I don’t)

  2. Could you not ship this information off to the FA ,UEFA,prem league (most imps) to AFC ( for them to keep a record/ dossier) but most importantly to a friendly Arsenal journo( say Amy Lawrence) to put it out there.Only when there’s pressure or enquiries by these organisations will the PGMOL & Riley act.It’s an utter disgrace & highly suspicious 🤨

  3. @John L,

    Tony published a post before the West Ham game that shows how there is some sort of bias that goes way beyond Arsenal and affects other teams


    And if a team gets the same referees regularly, and let’s for argument’s sake we imagine these referees were the best, it would have an impact on other teams who would then be more often refereed by lesser ‘good’ referees. Then again, as I said : let’s dream !

    The point is that PGMOL is not capable of plastering the cracks thar are appearing and their total and utter incompetence is more and more showing. The argument that some Arsenal fans are just sore loosers and whining does not work anymore when you consider data. And the data shows there is a big problem with the refereeing of the richest, most popular football league in the world.

  4. How do the stats look for other teams?

    Do they also have a concentration of referees? Are we an outlier in that respect or, in fact, the same for all teams.

    That is, this is an artifact of having too few referees – which I think is one of you points.

  5. It’s certainly not a scenario that calms the undercurrent of doubts many of us have about the standard of officiating in England but it’ll have to change somewhat next season as Dean, Atkinson and Moss are all retiring from the middle even if Atkinson and Moss will still be around Stockley Park in some capacity or other, Jobs for the Boys don’t ya know…

  6. It’s no coincidence that the richest league in the world may have the most opportunities for enriching the fringe players as well. If you have a system that’s shady it suits the people who continue to make it so. You can benefit enormously if you have bent refs at your beck and call. The insiders in the Premier League, the PGMOB and the FA stand to benefit the most if they have insider knowledge of who is likely to win the next game or even the complete season.

    What other reason could there be for the Premier League to risk their reputation by employing dodgy refs? It’s all about the money. Bribe a couple editors and you nullify the efforts of the journalists as well. They can’t all be that stupid; the stats are available. Even crooked FIFA was too embarrassed to appoint English refs at the last world cup. I wonder why?

  7. Mike Dean in the VAR room could be worse than Mike Dean on the pitch.

  8. @mike (not Dean…)

    my take on it is that if there were bribes, the word would have gotten out. We live in a world where nothing is secret very long.
    The sorry state of PL refereeing goes back a couple of decades at lease.
    Were it corruption, it would have leaked at some point like the US Supreme Court leak a few days ago.

    I strongly believe we are seeing total and utter incompetence run havoc. Nothing nore, nothing less. The statistics published on Untold, for example about home bias advantage show how unprepared the referees are to cope with any pressure. The fact that some referees are assigned the same team over and over again (Arsenal is one case) shows the incompetence of the refereeing organisation.The fact that some teams are being manhandled so much more then others – not Arsenal – the fact that some players are being systematically ‘punished’ (many of them from Arsenal), the fact that PGMOL states that referee decisions are being pretty much correct way past the 90 % mark when this has been proven to be wrong just prove the point. The utter secrecy around referee decisions is another element.

    The media dares not speak about it, scared of being left out of reporting, a sort of corruption the other way around, that is true.

    We are seeing incompetence on a grand scale. A shame. A scandal.

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