By Tony Attwood
The view we have been putting forward of late is that referees are very diverse in their view of the game. As a result David Coote last season gave out 4.60 yellow cards per game. Martin Atkinson gave out 2.46 yellow cards per game.
Both referees were regularly employed throughout the season, Coote taking 20 games, Atkinson 26. Clubs that had Atkinson four times in a season would find themselves with fewer yellow cards. Clubs that got Coote four times in a season would see their yellow cards total rising twice as fast.
This shows, as do other stats we have put forward about the number of fouls awarded, the fouls per tackle and so on, the percentage of home wins and the percentage of away wins, that referees systematically differ in their approach to the game. And given that they do not see clubs an equal number of times, some clubs benefit, some suffer.
In short, to some degree, the success that clubs have in the Premier League is dependent on which referees they get, and whether they get them at home or away.
Yet all of this could be so easily overcome, as we have regularly argued, simply by having enough referees so that each club gets each referee no more than twice a season – something we have been advocating for years.
But interestingly the media will have none of this, and following our recent set of articles they have gone on a convoluted set of rambles the aim of which seems to be talking about everything else to do with referees, while avoiding the fact that different referees oversee games in different ways.
That fact, combined with the second fact that one referee might see a specific team five times and another team just once, can give an enormous advantage to specific teams. What is the excuse for Paul Tierney refereeing Burnley away from home five times last season, given that we know how varied referees are in their ability to avoid the influence of the crowd? Or Mike Dean getting Liverpool at home four times in the season?
Or Michael Oliver getting Arsenal away a staggering five times?
For when this is combined with the fact that some referees have a propensity to oversee games that end in away wins, while others have a propensity to oversee games that end in home wins, which referee the club gets at home and away is a major factor in determining if the club wins or loses matches.
It is so obvious that there is something amiss with this system, and yet what we now have is the Telegraph attempting to deflect attention by saying there are “millions of people around the world extremely keen to express their opinions on his officials’ performance. Running PGMOL, the Professional Game Match Officials, is to add a new enemy every week, the slow accumulation of grudge, accusation, contempt – and worse – as one-by-one every club’s fanbase encounter something that they cannot forgive.”
They are making out that any criticism of the way refereeing is run is simply the result of special pleading by fans of individual clubs.
That is not right. For as we have been saying for years, let us have enough referees so that each team gets each referee twice, once at home and once away. It is that simple.
That would solve many of the current problems. So why is that so difficult to achieve?
Here we have one simple question that no one else wants to ask, let alone answer. Why don’t we make football fairer by having each referee only see each team twice, once at home, once away?
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