By Tony Attwood
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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|
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?
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