How Dare We? SAFC lucky with refs or Untold Arsenal just bonkers?

Jake suspects a fondness for making mischief
Jake suspects a fondness for making mischief

OK, Untold Arsenal freely acknowledges that it reports on football “from an Arsenal perspective”. Just as we all recall instances of crass refereeing decisions against us in encounters between our clubs, Gooners assume victimhood from other occasions.

But this Arsenal site is trying to persuade readers that Sunderland did rather well out of match officials’ wrong decisions last season.

That is an acceptable argument, even if analysis of the 19 games they didn’t scrutinise might well reveal a different story. What was just a bit rich was the suggestion that pro-Sunderland bias on the part of refs and/or their assistants could lie behind the scoring. We probably need to let John McCormick loose on them (PS: we did and it’s at

Walter Broeckx introduces his article as part of a series of referee reviews for the season just gone. Visit the link given above to see what they aim to do in the series, and how. And bear in mind Untold Arsenal is a bloody good site that happens, as I write, to be top of the hit list (we’re 11th)

Sunderland were the sixth team to come under the microscope. Walter claims that studying 50 per cent of games suggests “these could be rather accurate numbers” and, as a statistical sample, I’d find it hard to quarrel with that.

But while I remember dodgy decisions for and against us last season, I’d also like to see a complete review, ie taking account of all 38 Premier games.

The author states: “We had a total of 264 wrong decisions in the 19 games we did with Sunderland. That is more than 13 wrong decisions per game. Dreadful in fact. Of those 264 wrong decisions we had 149 in their favour and 115 going against them. The difference is 34 decisions in favour of Sunderland. And that is almost 2 decisions in their favour on average.

“If we first look at the decisions that went against them we see that we find the goal decisions is one of them. But with only 1 wrong decision in total this is not really too bad. Of course if that was the only goal of the game it is bad. The other two negative decisions are goal kicks and corners. Maybe not the most important ones except when you are a team that scores a lot from corners? Or concede a lot from corners against you. But those statistics are not at my disposal for the moment.

“But in general all the other decisions went in favour of Sunderland. The foul/free kick decisions are the most wrong decisions in their favour. But also the penalty decisions were rather in their favour most of the time. We had 10 wrong penalty decisions and 7 went in favour of Sunderland and only 3 against them. Of course a penalty with a score of 5-0 or at 0-0 is a world of difference at the end of a game. But this is something we cannot see in the numbers over here. That is something for later, I hope.”

Walter goes on to say wrong decisions on yellow and red cards also went very much Sunderland’s way. There’s a table of decisions for and against us in his article and I commend readers of Salut! Sunderland to take a look (see the link in my introduction).

All respectable if debatable stuff until we reach his conclusion: “There are a lot of referees from the north east in the PGMO ranks, and at its simplest level one might ask if this is good score by a team from that region a coincidence?”

You’ll all have your own thoughts. Mine, as posted in a comment at the site, read:

I must admit I found this all quite interesting, in that statistical bollocks way we do, until I reached the absurd conclusion that Sunderland may have (slightly) benefited from certain decisions, though not others, in half the games last season because there are a few match officials with North-eastern origins.

The region splits in three main ways, SAFC, NUFC and Boro. Wouldn’t it be as ludicrous for me to argue that a ref or lines(wo)man from a Newcastle-supporting catchment area would abandon professionalism and be down on us?

Agreed, 50 per cent isn’t a bad sample but you know as well as I that the other 19 could produce quite different stats.

And it’s not as if we bring our own refs – whoever they might be thought to support – to the game, as Arsenal did (Paul Danson) in 1996.

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Monsieur Salut, Paris-style, by Matt
Monsieur Salut, Paris-style, by Matt

28 thoughts on “How Dare We? SAFC lucky with refs or Untold Arsenal just bonkers?”

  1. … you are entitled to believe that London clubs are disadvantaged because it produces no current referees, and also that Man Utd benefit unfairly from decisions and responses to decisions. Most of us, however, will see that for the nonsense it is. There are good refs and not-so-good ones. Good refs sometimes have stinkers. But professional football would not permit a match official to work if he showed himself to be liable to favour this or that team with clearly wrong decisions. . The allegation of geographical bias is the biggest obstacle to the claim by Untold Referee to be impartial; the origins of the exercise, to highlight ways in which life was cruel to one north London team, represent another. And no, I have never especially held to the “evens itself out” argument. But while refs make mistakes at work, I am sure these are overwhelmingly honest mistakes even when they change the course of a game. They also make them a lot less more often than the fabulously paid players they are monitoring.

    • This could be a factor however I can argue (and back up with factual data) that Chelsea get many decisions go in their favour.

  2. The media and the pundits all shout the mantra about bad decisions. ‘It all evens out in the end’. With out any evidence for the claim. But the mantra as some how become fact, When there isn’t any evidence for it.

    The media want us to believe and (many do) that their chosen ex player who is their mouth piece is an expert simply because he has played the game. Most players barely know the laws, never mind the problems of the manager etc.

    To objectively report on the refs on all a season’s league matches is a huge task but it is the only way to prove the mantra is no more than a myth.

    When you look at the map that locates EPL refs and see that there is none from London and South East and only one south of Birmingham. Do you say ‘Oh well it all evens out in the end’?

    When you take into account that refs are not allowed to explain decisions. Do you say ‘Oh well it all evens out in the end’?

    That at first the PGMOL’s website was an open site but now is closed. Do you say ‘Oh well it all evens out in the end’?

    When you follow the career of a ref who has refereed a Man U home and Man U have lost and find that his career takes a downer. Do you say ‘Oh well it all evens out in the end’?

    When you see one team being kicked of the park while yellow cards handed out to the other team for the lightest of touches do you say? ‘Oh well it all evens out in the end’.

    Untold Referee is the start to end the myth.

  3. The well-meaning attempts to portray Untold Arsenal’s approach to its Untold Referees referee survey as entirely non-partisan sit uneasily with the site’s own description of the series and its origins:

    “Untold Referees is part of Untold Arsenal – an ever growing collection of articles and comment on numerous aspects of football from a pro-Arsenal perspective. A list of other sections within Untold Arsenal is given at the end of this page, and on the home page of the site.

    “Background: Initially Untold Arsenal started to publish referee reviews of Arsenal matches, and through this we found some evidence of what appeared to be consistent bias by referees against Arsenal. The point was then made we would get a better overall picture of what is going on if we also analysed errors made by referees in non-Arsenal EPL games as well.”

    The methodology may have developed in a more even-handed way but the classic refs-have-a-down-on-us Arsenal mantra lies at the roots of the whole exercise. Add the nonsensical statement that Sunderland benefit from the bias of non-existent refs from the North East officiating at our games and you begin to see why the series seems so flawed.

  4. Sobs….it is clear UA and Walter aren’t trying to blame or insinuate or demean Sunderland’s reputation. His final conclusions may be a stretch to say the least BUT the overall intent is to try and enlighten the general football public about what ¨seems¨to be going on with regards to the PGMOL and the EPL.
    I am a former professional referee and let me assure you that UA and Walter have taken on a Herculean task in trying to prove any bias or conspiracy by officials and some teams. Personally I don’t see much favouritism in Sunderland’s case but I do clearly see it in United and Chelsea’s cases. however, does that prove a conspiracy….i think not….it is almost impossible to prove that an official is bent unless you catch them taking a bribe or whatever, on camera. The types that try and fix matches are very skilled at staying in the dark….I doubt they’ll ever be caught….especially since nobody is looking.

    • OMGArsenal I don;t think there are any “bent” refs about, in this country at least, and I agree they’ve taken on something enormous in trying to enlighten us, but I also think that Webb is so obviously far friom the best we have, and a poor example on anything other than looking authoritative.I think that the refs we class as “poor” from our seats and armchairs are those who seem to fall into the “first arm in the air if it’s a big team” mentality.
      Let’s see how this season goes with whatever extra technological help the refs are given…and in Webb’s case, no doubt overrule

      • I personally think there is a bias on two fronts.

        Firstly, there is seemingly an unwritten rule or just a contagious culture about what teams to be lenient on and those to punish and the refs that get promoted, are the ones who think along the same lines.

        Secondly, player fitness has increased dramatically to the point where they are almost like machines. Refs are not at this level so are prone to making mistakes, especially as there is 1 ref and 22 players plus managers and all else going on around them in the stadium. Granted, they have the assistants but they can only do so much. Refs need help that can keep up with the demands of the modern game and in my opinion, this can only be achieved through the use of video replay technology.

  5. Howard Webb, media darling that he is, is largely held to be the most competent official currently officiating in the PL, says it all really about the standard of officiating.

    PS: Arsenal are paranaoid but I still hope they are out to get them anyway! (all in jest).

  6. There is good data on their website, all available to check over yourself if you don’t agree with it.

    The problem is not just Mike Dean, but instead the head of PGMOL, Riley who decides not to employ basic methods to remove any innate bias certain refs may have.

    It would be easy to actually randomly assign referees (after removing them from teams they support/dislike), hire more southern Refs to balance out any possible north/south bias or to employ more refs so that any bias from one particular ref affects a team less.

    I believe Untold Arsenal are more interested in calling out the above rather than trying to suggest anything untoward by Sunderland or any conspiracy against Arsenal and improving the awful refereeing in the league is certainly a worthy goal and one that should be applauded by fans of any team.

  7. I read quite a lot of Untold Arsenal and my answer to the question in the headline is that they are not bonkers but they are a bit paranoid. It’s a shame really because they are the only site I am aware of that is attempting to assess referees’ performances objectively. They just go a bit too far sometimes and spoil their good work with insinuations of a grand conspiracy. And we all know that the problem is Mike Dean, not a grand consipracy.

  8. Your headline is rather sensationalist isn’t it? I thought the article was (despite it being from that dreadful site) rather balanced.

    You don’t really offer any counter arguments, yet your headline suggests they have thrown your favourite puppy in a canal.

    Also, your font is really difficult to read!

    • The headline is meant to be interesting – it’s what they’re for! – though I’d argue in Mandy Rice Davies fashion that my main thrust amply justifies it.

      If people can’t read beyond them to see whether or not an article is balanced, that is clearly their problem. You may have a better point on font.

  9. I dont think Walter is suggesting that Sunderland are responsible for the favoured decisions or that something sinister going on.

    The site often highlights the lack of refs in number the prem. because of this you have refs from Newcastle involved in Sunderland games. How can this not affect you’re results?

    I recommend that when placing your bets this year wait to see who is ref, check out the site and then make a decision based on the analysis.

    I believe that our results are affected by Mike Dean. This is proved by the research conducted on Untold.

  10. Clattenburg and Oliver are the two North East based refs and are not allowed to referee either Sunderland or Necastle United because of perceived bias. Alan Wilkie, who was a self confessed Black and White, never refereed us.
    Presumably Howard Webb would not be given the Sheffield derby (although Tinsley Viaduct Wanderers v Meadowhall Athletic is about his level) or Rotherham United v Doncaster Rovers.
    When the North East gets any favours from any national institution is the day that hell freezes over or Joe Kinnear signs a player, whichever comes first.
    I’m going out for a walk.

  11. Sobs

    Your comment proves the point I am making. You make assumptioons it is based on a defence of Arsenal when it isnt.

    If you had a clue you’d know there are NO refs from London! They are mainly basded in the northwest (you, know, where ManU are based!) and the midlands, with a few from yorkshire thrown in.

    The blog has done this for a couple of years, on every team and as far as I can tell, its ref reviews are as unbiased as they could be. The thing you and others are doing, which is natural given the title of their blog, is assuming its all partisan.

    It aint

    • Sid – fair point, although almost everything to do with supporting a team becomes partisan at some stage, and (naturally) involves a great deal of paranoia. I mentioned Arsenal because it came from an Arsenal site – had it been Man U (surely they wouldn’t DARE claim that other teams benefit due to the incompetence of officials?) I’d have mentioned Ferguson/Moyes.
      If I ever have itme, I might try and find the reports on which the original piece is based.

      Whatever happened to the Tring “where the refs come from” School of refreeing?

  12. Unfortunately what you have done, is assume this is somehow based around Arsenal fans blaming refs/oppo teams for their shortcomings.

    Not true. Tne Ref reviews are unbiased in as much as they are carried out by qualified refs who review as many PL games as possible and then their verdicts on decisions are judged against those of the actual refs. Refs who for me are pretty average at best.

    What you fail to do, is see the series for what it really is, the attepts of one blog to try and improve the state of the officiating of our game.

    Instead you’ve lowered the tone of the ‘debate’ to over simplistic tribalism.

    What a shame.

    • Simplistic tribalism: my accurate summary of Walter’s piece, with supporting link to methodology? Or his statement: “There are a lot of referees from the north east in the PGMO ranks, and at its simplest level one might ask if this is good score by a team from that region a coincidence?” ?

      • Yes, simplistic, just look at the responses you’ve engendered mate!

        You missed a trick as the PGMOL are a monopoly and a pretty shady one at that. Would be good if the bigger picture was viewed instead of the lowest common denominator.

        You missed a trick man. Just my opinion.

      • It would have wrong, smacking of plagiarism, to have reproduced the whole Untold Arsenal piece. I deliberately concentrated on the Sunderland analysis for the very obvious reason that this is a Sunderland site but conscientiously gave the onward link so people could see the whole article. But for Walter’s conclusion, which I frankly find absurd, I probably wouldn’t have bothered at all.

  13. Did they include our game at the Wongadome, I wonder, in their analysis? MOTD pundits were purring over the authoritative display by the media darling that is Howard Webb.
    The instances they showed to heap praise on him served only to emphasise what a poor game he had. Ignoring the lineswoman who was a foot from an incident to book Danny Rose from his position thirty yards away. Giving a foul for a perfectly good tackle by Sessegnon that led to their disallowed goal (wrongly disallowed, I grant you) No red card for the two-footed lunge on Johnson, or any action for Cabaye’s constant jabbering on and fouling. Does not giving a yellow or red card count as a wrong decision?
    I’d like to see the stats and balance of wrong decisions for Arsenal games, and hear the justification – probably because a ref from London was involved, and they all support Chelsea, Spurs, Fulham, West Ham, etc etc.
    No doubt we’ll see Arsene waving an iPad bursting with statistics, graphs, and Pat Rice during post match interviews this coming season.

    • Needless to say, Arsenal supporters are welcome to offer their views (first-time comments may be held briefly for moderation). And Walter has right of reply, especially to Sixer’s suggestion about getting out more

  14. I’d just like Arsene (and his sidekick Jose) to give honest answers to questions about his side’s fouls rather than the “I didn’t see it” we’ve all become accustomed to, or maybe he should try to use these stats to justify some of the statements he makes when one of his players goes down.

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