There is a clear regional bias among the refs: The EPL Referee review analysis

Czech Republic v Portugal - Quarter Final: UEFA EURO 2012

WARSAW, POLAND – JUNE 21: Referee Howard Webb gestures during the UEFA EURO 2012 quarter final match between Czech Republic and Portugal at The National Stadium on June 21, 2012 in Warsaw, Poland.

By DogFace and Walter Broeckx

Untold Arsenal has a team of qualified referees who have reviewed more than 40% of the EPL games from last season. The reviews themselves were based on full match video footage with the advantage of video technology features such as slow motion and pause.

By reviewing those 155 games we have made a database of more than 7000 decisions that have been judged by our panel of dedicated and qualified referees.

The numbers you will see are based on those decisions and those reviewed games.

After having reviewed in depth refereeing for clubs across the regions, we can compare them based on the numbers we have found so far in the EPL Referee review. If you want to find all the articles so far in this series, you can go to this page

We will try to see if we can find a difference between the refs and the regions by putting a few numbers next to each other and see if we can find links between regions or against certain regions.

So I first made a table with the different refs and the average positive or negative bias they have shown in the games from the different regions they did.

Walton MID -3,30 9,50 -0,67 -4,50 -0,83
Clattenburg NE -0,78 1,50 -1,00 0,93
Jones NW -0,31 -10,00 3,00 -3,00 1,57
Taylor NW -0,38 -7,00 1,75 12,00 -20,00
Webb YOR 0,64 4,50 5,50 5,00 -5,36
Atkinson YOR 1,59 -1,94
Probert SW 1,29 0,67 -4,25 -1,33
Friend MID 1,86 -4,50 -12,50 2,13
Dean NW 2,27 -2,40 -1,50 -1,00 -0,39
Dowd MID 2,65 0,33 0,00 6,00 -7,25
Oliver NE 3,20 3,33 3,50 -5,50
Marriner YOR 3,60 -1,00 -4,00 -3,72
Halsey HER 4,08 -4,00 -8,00 1,93
Foy NW 3,25 -0,67 -0,25 -5,36
Mason NW 6,63 -4,00 4,75 0,50 -8,00
Attwell MID 7,00 14,00 -2,25 -8,25
Swarbrick NW 8,00 4,00 -6,25
Moss NE 5,50 -5,50

A negative number (-) means that their bias was against the region that is named on top of the column.

And the higher the number (positive or negative) the higher the shown bias. If we take ref Attwell as an example, maybe you will remember that he was demoted and sent back to the first division last season. And if we look at our numbers we see that in the games he did he had big swings in his bias numbers. The Midlands was enormously favoured as was the North West. When they demoted him they gave as a reason that he messed up with the big decisions too much. And well that seems to be what our numbers also have to say about him.

What is interesting is that great while (obviously) we don’t have the power to demote refs, the PGMOL can so, and given that our findings coincide with theirs, I wonder if they will also demote a few others refs if they compare their numbers and ours.

What PGMOL did not refer to was the massive positive bias for the Midlands that occurred under Attwell – who is from the Midlands. So can we see now if we can find a similar pattern with other refs? That is why we put in the region they come from behind the name of the referees. At first I wanted to put Halsey in the North West region but I have been told he is from Hertfordshire but now living in Bolton. So I went for his place of birth in his case.

A next step I took was having a look at how many positive or negative refs a region had to suffer in their games. Of course suffering a positive bias maybe a wrong choice of words.

Positive refs 75% 38% 67% 42% 22%
Negative refs 25% 54% 33% 58% 78%

So here are the numbers for each region. A team from the North West has a 75% chance of getting a positive bias in a game. A team from the North East has only a 38% chance of getting a positive bias when they play.

Teams from the Midlands are better off as they also have a positive bias chance of 67%. The other region (the artificial “region” that incorporated Norwich and Swansea, as they don’t really fit into any region) has a slightly negative bias chance in their games.

And if we look at the London region as a whole we see that they only have a chance of 22% to get a positive bias.

Can we find a reason for this? Well I tried to see if we could compare this with how many refs there are in each region. And because of there being a few refs from Yorkshire I had to add an extra column now. And we will start with the same table but add a few important lines:

Positive refs 0,75% 0,38% 0,67% 0,42% 0,22%
Negative refs 0,25% 0,54% 0,33% 0,58% 0,78%
Number refs 3 6 3 4 1
% of total refs 16,67% 33,33% 16,67% 22,22% 5,56% 0,00%
% or refs no Yorkshire 40,00% 20,00% 26,67% 6,67% 0,00%

So what you can see now is that the refs from the North West are the highest in number. They form 33.33% of all the refs in the PL. And the teams from the North West have the highest chance to receive a positive bias.

The next highest represented area are the Midlands with 4 refs or 22.22% of the total of all the refs. And we can also see that the teams from the Midlands are also the second highest in having the chance of a positive bias.

And if we then turn our attention to London we see that they have 0 (zero) refs in the PL and they also have the lowest chance of getting a positive bias in their games.

As there were no Yorkshire teams in the PL but 3 refs from that region I also did the same without the Yorkshire refs: we can assume that they divided their bias fairly over all the teams and the regions.

But the only conclusion we can reach from doing that is the same conclusion we already made from including the Yorkshire refs:-

The more refs you have in your region the higher the chance of receiving a positive bias when you are from that region. It can’t be a coincidence that the order of having the most refs in the region is the same as having the highest chance of a positive bias.

The order is clear and is the same:

1. North West

2. Midlands

3. North East

4. Other

5. London



Even though Mike Riley said there isn’t bias amongst PL referees we first of all now have proven that there was a definite home bias in our previous articles.

We then have done a series of articles when we had a look at each region.

And now we have shown that there is another form of bias that we can find in our numbers.

We now have shown that there is a link between how many refs there are in a region and how the teams from that region get a positive bias. The more refs in a region the higher the chance of a positive bias. This can be seen the clearest in the North West region.

So if we want to have a fairer league it seems that the influence of the North West should be brought down and that there should be some refs from the London area in the PL. If not the bias in favour of teams in from the North West from some refs will make it more difficult for teams from other regions to compete on a level playing field.

And instead of sticking their heads in the sand the PGMOL and Riley should look at the numbers and do something about it. They should take immediate measures to reduce the impact of any possible bias.

A first step should be to make sure that every ref can only have a 6 point impact on one team over the whole season. Meaning they can only send a ref for two games to each team in the season. This is a first and absolute necessary step to take. Not doing this simple step is almost a criminal act against fair play from the PGMOL.

But of course the PGMOL has to realize the possible bias that exists amongst refs. And I see no sign that they are even willing to try and realize there is bias amongst refs. The statement Riley made last season about there being nothing wrong brings fear to my heart. The first step to improve things is to realize that something is wrong.

It is the duty of a ref to bring fair play to each game, and it is the duty of the PGMOL to take care that fair play is there for every team. Not doing this is bringing the game in disrepute. You know a thing that can get managers and players banned. So if the PGMOL does not change this, they should be banned.

This concludes the regional analysis. From now on the next step will be investigating the teams via a survey of each team in the PL. And we will try to see how the refs did when we reviewed the games from those teams.

So stay with us in the coming weeks as we will have more interesting numbers and results and new extra graphics!

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