The home and away scandal: ignorance, or cover up?



By Tony Attwood

If you are a regular reader you will know during and since the pandemic, we have presented evidence that shows that…

  1. Some referees are influenced by the crowd
  2. As a result of this, some referees are much more likely to oversee home wins, while others are much more likely to oversee away wins.  Indeed if you wanted to gamble on who would win certain matches, knowledge of the referee would be key to improving your chances of coming out with a profit.
  3. Apart from the simple fact that referees should not vary very much from each other over how many home or away wins they oversee, the knowledge that this is not so, allows those who choose which referee oversees which match a chance to influence results – or indeed to gamble on results with an extra edge (although I am absolutely not suggesting that is happening).
  4. And it does appear that Arsenal can get referees with a tendency to give victory to the away teams for a disproportionate number of home games and vice versa for away matches.

All that has been established in a series of articles on this site of late.  But now we come to a rather interesting question that emerges as a result of these enquiries.

Why is PGMO allowing this to happen?

The first possibility is that PGMO don’t have a clue that this is going on.  Although it only took about an hour to go through the stats and find them, we had to be looking in the first place, and it took us years to stumble across this anomaly.  So it is quite possible to conclude that PGMO didn’t know this was happening because they didn’t look.  And maybe if they don’t read Untold, they still don’t know.

That is very plausible but also very worrying, for given that PGMO runs refereeing in the Premier League one might take it that PGMO also has a statistical division which is looking for oddities and quirks in results.  That would just be a simple safety precaution, and such a regular investigation could well throw up other statistics, the likes of which our tiny organisation hasn’t stumbled on yet.

The second possibility is that PGMO believe in their own propaganda – and indeed this is a trap that many organisations fall into.  Everything seems to be going ok, it is argued, so why waste time looking for problems?

Indeed it could be argued that looking for problems when none are apparent on the surface is not only a waste of money but also undermines the referees – suggesting that they cannot be trusted to be honourable and accurate.

The third possibility is more sinister, in that it starts from the premise that PGMO found these figures before we did, and have decided to do nothing about them.   And from this point again we have to ask why would such a thing happen?

Yet it is a fact that when organisations stumble across a problem within, there is a tendency to hide the truth.  “No one has noticed,” it is argued, “so why should we give the media and the fans something to hurt us with?”

That argument obviously leads to another problem, and that is the question of whether one does anything about the issue from now on.

Of course, I must make it totally clear that all I am reflecting upon is statistics which show that some referees oversee games with a high level of home wins, while other referees tend to oversee games with a high level of away wins.  I have no way of knowing why this is happening – all I can say is it should not be.

But let us imagine (and I stress it is imagining, because although the facts are undeniable, what is happening to cause them is unknown), that PGMO realises this is happening and had to decide what to do about them.

The fact is that any action at that point could lead to the details becoming more widely known and eventually reported by the media.   Which in turn would question the entire credibility of PGMO.

That would leave the chance (as in fact has happened) that someone else (eg Untold Arsenal) would stumble on the figures, but if PGMO reckoned it could count on the mass media not to pick up on the story (and given that the media rarely if ever criticises referees since the sacking of Alan Green on Radio 5) it could take a chance on the fact that the story would remain buried.

Certainly, we know from the past, that just because Untold comes up with facts and figures, that does not mean others will believe us.   Indeed even after all our data on tackles, fouls and yellow cards we recently had a correspondent here claiming vigorously that there was no link at all.   We showed there was and the correspondent shut up, but the point is, denial of reality, does seem to work in our society and with our media.

For the moment, however, it seems to be just Untold on this story.  So we’ll continue to follow it up.

5 Replies to “The home and away scandal: ignorance, or cover up?”

  1. The whole subject of bias is a potential minefield and congratulations to Tony for tackling it. However despite the many hours of work that Tony must have put in there are even more areas that could be subject to bias and to my knowledge have never been investigated.
    What about the colour of a players skin, his country of birth, his religion, his reputation. Would a black French Patrick Viera be more likely to receive a red card than a white English Harry Kane? I think we all now the answer to that. How much do all these factors combine to influence different referees decisions against any given player? How about which lodge a particular manager or club owner/chairman may or may not belong to?
    As I say it is an absolute minefield and the surface has only been scratched.

  2. Per The Athletic–

    Referee chief Mike Riley will step down as general manager of Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) next season.

    The 57-year-old has been in the post since 2009, having replaced Keith Hackett at the end of his own 20-year elite refereeing career.

    One of the main challenges during Riley’s tenure was the introduction of VAR in 2019.

    Click here to read the full story.

  3. I have seen a report that Howard Webb will be the successor in Riley’s role. That’s Man Utd succession planning confirmed then.

  4. Although he still haunts the place Fergie’s influence is not what it used to be so it’s too early to be disparaging about any successor .
    As we have no Idea who will make the decision we can only hope that it will not be Riley.

  5. The statistical evidence proves the home/away bias of PGMOL officials. Shame Arsenal doesn’t benefit from it.

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