English Refereeing: An Empty Circle of Bad Decisions

Mulan

Why is English refereeing so bad?

On the third of January, 2022, Stuart James wrote an article for the Athletic titled "The only people biased in the referee debate are us fans". That article is definitely the worst article I have ever read in the Athletic and it is one of the worst overall. Believe it or not, the Athletic does have its share of horrible articles.

The reason I mentioned Stuart James' article is that it serves as proof of how bad English refereeing is and how everyone tries to sweep the problem under the rug.

You could check the article yourselves, but here is my quick interpretation of it. Stuart James starts his article by talking about how referees are only humans and by the end he says how referees don't go into a match having decided to be biased toward a certain team.

That's a logical fallacy

If referees are human beings, then they're definitely prone to be biased. There is no human on earth that isn't biased. To say that referees aren't biased at all is taking away their humanity. Stuart James' logic basically eats itself here. The problem isn't whether referees are biased or not, it is how much they can control their bias and emotions. You simply can't referees are unbiased by nature.

Back to the question: Why is English refereeing so bad?

This is the first answer.

There are seven levels of a referee's life in England. The seventh to third levels are basically amateur football and age groups. The first and second levels are of course the English Premier League and the Championship.

If you're a referee getting started you will of course start at the seventh level and work your way up, or down, depending on how you look at it. Between the seventh and third levels is where problems start to occur as that's where it becomes clear that, yes, you are biased as a referee.

During each match and some time after it, a referee doesn't have much control over their actions. Hysteria and pressure from the surroundings are almost a given. All that is left is the rationalization of one's actions as it is barely an attempt to mask hysterical decisions as rational decisions.

What does that have to do with refereeing?

Well, for a simple referee starting their career by going to a certain school or academy matches without any protection, they have to deal with crowds who humiliate, insult, and degrade them. At some point, the poor referee decides that the 20-25 sterling pounds aren't worth the headache of dealing with these people. Especially when many of those referees are doing it as a hobby because they love football. But, it is far from being their main source of income.

The issue is, that between the seventh to third levels, English refereeing loses most of its competent prospects. That happens due to three reasons:

  • Low monetary return

  • Pressure and extremism from the crowds

  • Lack of protection.

Let's say you made it past those levels. Now you're at the third level looking to be promoted to the second and first level. The next part is easily the most backward, demeaning, abusive, and deprolabe part of being a referee in England.

A disgusting mix

This is how I would describe the top two levels of English refereeing as few to none of the people who make it to this point are competent and unbiased.

Mike Riley, was the referee during the biggest refereeing scandal in Premier League history, or what is known as the "Battle of the Buffet" between Manchester United. Below you will find a 10 minutes compilation of bad decisions.

https://twitter.com/WelBeast/status/1239438083302535168?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1239438083302535168%7Ctwgr%5Eb5f1e3030db72a0e4f3cb993dc53c2489cddcefb%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.sportbible.com%2Ffootball%2Fall-of-the-bad-refereeing-decisions-in-man-united-vs-arsenal-in-2004-20211202

Anyway, that same Mike Riley is the Managing Director of Professional Game Match Officials Limited, what is that? Well, it's the body responsible for match officials in English professional football. If you want to make it as a level 1 or 2 referee, you have to impress these people. Almost no two people can disagree over how bad Riley's officiating was which comes without even mentioning whether he was biased or not. That man is the Managing Director of referees in the Premier League and the English Football League Championship.

Referees in England can't do anything. Players get punished, managers get punished, but referees never get punished for making mistakes. Why is it that only referees get to be human to protect them from any criticism? And doesn't being human also mean that you are prone to making mistakes and being biased? Even supporters get punished and banned but referees don't.

In fact, I would argue that those referees who make all those mistakes get rewarded instead of punished. The job security of English football referees is insane. Especially white ones, but more on that later.

Here are stats that everyone can check.

Mike Dean

Here are the win percentages for the English Premier League's top 5, barring Liverpool.

  • Manchester United: 66.7%
  • Chelsea: 62.5%
  • Manchester City: 62.5%
  • Tottenham: 50%
  • Arsenal: 6.7%

Under Mike Dean as a referee, Arsenal has managed to win 1 game. This stat covered 4 seasons, during those seasons Arsenal had a win percentage of 50-60% of their games. I understand the tendencies to play devil's advocate, especially when it's banter form or because you support a different club but anything that drops from 50-60% to less than 7% requires a lot of wrong things happening.

Arsène Wenger once criticized Mike Dean in January 2018 for giving West Bromwich Albion a fake penalty that gave them the draw. The mistake was so severe that Mike Dean himself admitted to having made a mistake. Still, when Wenger called it out, Wenger was punished by the FA by getting banned for three matches and fined 40 sterling pounds.

Howard Webb

If Mike Riley is the Managing Director at Professional Game Match Officials Limited then you should know that Webb is the Chief Refereeing Officer. That's right, the man who saw Dutch midfielder Nigel De Jong Kung Fu fly kicking Xabi Alonso in the chest and gave it a yellow is the Chief Refereeing Officer in England.

During the same period of Mike Dean vs Arsenal, Liverpool had a similar problem with Webb. Bare in mind, Webb is supposed to be the crème de la crème of English referees.

Depending on which referee, Liverpool had a win percentage that is between 40-90%. Under Webb, it was 27% with Liverpool losing 14 games out of 22 while Webb is the referee. That is at least twice the number of games lost under any other referee. Still, and much like Mike Dean, there is no investigation.

What I mean by the investigation isn't necessarily accusing the referees of something but just an attempt to explore why such disparities occur.

Empty circle

There aren't any investigations, there won't be any investigations. I mean, who would conduct those investigations? Mike Riley? If there were investigations then Mike Riley wouldn't have made it to become the Managing Director at Professional Game Match Officials Limited. It's an empty circle.

Soon, Mike Dean, Anthony Tyler, Jon Moss, Martin Atkinson, and all the other white men abusing their power will continue this reign.



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12 comments
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I think their decision making is even get more terrible with the use of VAR sometimes.

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That's what happens when they're not held accountable. If I pay you to post on Hive no matter what you post, you're bound to shitpost after a certain point.

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The protection these guys get from their bosses will continue to make English refereeing a shit sight. Even with VAR, sometimes it's as if they're looking for a possible angle to validate what they've already decided in their minds. It's maddening.

I do not see why every other aspect of the game is subject to scrutiny except referees.

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What makes it worse is that these guys will become the bosses and continue this circle.

I do not see why every other aspect of the game is subject to scrutiny except referees.

Exactly!

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This is a very itneresting in sight into the strucutre of refereeing! Always cool to get to leanr something new!

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Ohhhh yeah you are very correct my friend, there is this bald refree in English league, he is just too strict with those cards and I find him so annoying...on different occasions he has denied English teams of goals and penalty kicks....you have indeed spoken my friend

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Yeah, I could pretty much link most refs with the team they're biased toward by just going their track record. It is disturbing how that system is built.

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Have you ever seen the viral video, where a woman at a game yells "We love broccoli, and we love sports, and that's why we're here!" she clearly has no idea what is going on, but is having a blast anyhow. That's me. Go sports ball!

I was drawn in by your description in PYPT however @amirtheawesome1 , I had never really considered the politics behind sports! This was an insightful read into the biases that surround football. Thanks for sharing a perspective that I'd have never considered normally!

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I just got around to seeing that lol! I think it might be interesting regardless of everything. I was also surprised by the politicking behind sports despite researching and talking about sports for 10 years now.

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