Date: 8th July 2007 at 2:08pm
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At the end of February Arsene vented his frustration at the number of yellow cards we picked up compared to the number of offences committed. Goodplaya and others posted a list showing the ratio of cards to fouls in the premiership illustrating Arsene`s point that we picked up a card on average every 5.45 fouls while the premiership average was 7.9. Nearest to us was Blackburn at 6.26 and even Bolton got away with 6.46 fouls per card. At the time the list set a few hares running and a vigorous debate as to whether we were being unfairly treated or not. Some pointed out that the cards weren`t all issued for fouls but included other offences such as dissent. This was about two thirds of the way through the season and I was interested to see whether this debate had any effect on how we were treated in the last third of the season.

At first sight it seems as though we did get a response as we were allowed 10.8 fouls per card in the remainder of the season while the premiership average was 11.29. In other words we were given an extra 5.35 fouls per card while, collectively, the others only managed an extra 3.39. Still the stats seem to show that, in any case, refs get a little more forgiving towards the back end of the season. We ended the season having committed the least number of fouls at 402 with a yellow card count of 59 equal to one every 6.8 fouls. The team with the most fouls at 597, Watford, picked up 44 yellows a card every 13.6 fouls. Closest to us in fewest fouls was Sp*rs who with 434 were allowed 9.23 fouls for each of their 47 yellows.

The old cliché that refs are only human is obviously true (in most cases) and research showed some time ago that there is a definite tendency to give decisions in favour of the home side especially when confronted with vociferous home support. In theory though as every team plays home and away this ‘natural` bias should even out over the season. But I wonder whether Arsenals style can count against us. Terry Venables said recently “If matches were won on points, like title fights in boxing, Arsenal would top the league every year”. Do we dominate games so convincingly that refs feel the need, entirely sub-consciously, to even things up – give a little to the underdog as it were? This is a remark bound to earn the scorn of many, including some gooners, but to me it is just a normal, understandable human reaction if it is true.

There is a British culture of refereeing which seems to reflect a tradition of work rate and grit as virtuous qualities, which they are to some extent. I recall an incident in ManU`s CL campaign last season where Scholes was booked and Fergie claimed that he would have got away with it in the Premiership. That was true and therein lies a problem. A mistimed tackle can be accepted provided the tackler has a 50% or so chance of getting the ball. Too often such tackles in the premiership are allowed when there is at best only a 40% chance of success. Punishing such events automatically encourages better tackling. At the same time professional fouls where a player deliberately blocks another player doesn`t always get punished. Such tackles should also be mandatory bookings to allow the type of attacking moves we all appreciate. Changing this refereeing culture will suit Arsenal but will also improve the game in this country by encouraging more open, flowing, expansive play. In time this will also improve the national team and so it is in everyone`s interests to get the balance of refereeing priorities right. Trevor Brooking recently regretted the lack of technique amongst our U21 players. In part at least the road to improvement depends on recognising that technique needs to be rewarded in competitive games.

Serie A has some 32 referees on its roster, the Bundesliga has 40 and the Premiership has about 17. Does this lead to the culture of celebrity affecting referees and their ability to make decisions without first considering the impact on their celebrity image? This was something that I believe affected Graham Polls decision making and that of Jeff Winter before him. Both were acutely aware of the ‘star` status amongst the refereeing community. More referees with TV games more widely spread amongst individual referees would reduce their individual profile which, I feel, is as it should be.

Global betting on single premiership games can be as high as £200m. Betting patterns change significantly when individual referees are named before the match. Professional gamblers monitor and understand individual referees` quirks and inclinations and use these to try to forecast the outcome of games. If gamblers are aware of this then so are other professionals in the game. It stands to reason that the more anonymous a referee is the less predictable he will be and the fairer the outcome of the game. So increase the number of referees substantially and reduce their celebrity please.


17 Replies to “Arsenal – Oi Ref!!”

  • very good points made there by amos. I can say few things: first, refs need to be held accountable for their decisions – not to be defended at all costs – the prime example being the cockup of Mr. Webb and his c(u)nt assistant at last year’s CC Final. All this ‘they’re human after all’ is not good enough – if I screw up at my job – I’m either gone or sanctioned. If they cannot do their job properly and teams suffer in many ways because of their ineptitude – change smth! Introduce hi-tech, hawk-eye, add another ref, make them run more – whatever. For some clubs it does not even out in the end – some benefit most, some get *****ed. And why does EPL have only 17 refs?? Must be Superrefs.

  • Surely Yellow cards are awarded on the basis of the seriousness of the foul not on the cummulative number. This is an area where statistics are a nonsense. Whilst bookings should eventually be awarded if a team are just committing lots of small niggling fouls, if a team commits 10 fouls in a game, and all of them warrant 10 yellows, then there should be 10 yellow. And God forbid, we get the soft appalling excuse of a non-contact support they call football on the continent, where there is rolling around and players act as if at deaths door because someone has brushed past them!! and Football isn’t iceskating .. you win games by scoring goals – if there’s no end result you don’t deserve to win … how about suggesting bigger goals or no more offside?

  • They tried a similar thing with Rugby in the Super12 – mess around with the rules, a change here, a tweak there – yes lots of attractive running and dazzling play and almost overnight youngsters forgot the fundamentals of the game to the point where they had to learn them all over again.

  • Dismissal of ‘continental’ football as being ‘a soft excuse of the game’ doesn’t explain why these ‘softies’ outplay England in national competitions or the success of continental players in the English League. The idea that it is only foreign players who dive and feign injury is a stereotype that has been blown away by now surely. Too much credit is given to the English characteristics of the game which ultimately counts against us in national competitions. Refereeing culture is a part of that so that the seriousness of the foul itself often plays little part in the decision to give a yellow card.

  • kernowboy, as per usual you’re talking out of your arse… AFC are generally ridiculed by ignorant *****s for being a soft team – the same *****s that then say we are a dirty team. We have very few players the likes of Savage, the whole Bolton team, 99% of the Sheffield team, Carsley, Tugay, Essien, Burton, Butt, Thatcher and other regular leg-breaking, provoking thugs in the league who get away with murder before they are brandished with a card. Sooner or later you’ll be on the receiving end and then we will hear of another conspiracy theory coming from the Lane.

  • Its a typical Arsenal whinge … you dominate games with no end result so it MUST be someone else’s fault .. for years we heard squealing from Vieria and Petit and there weren’t a dirtier pair in the league. You get more yellow cards …. because you deserve those yellow cards. Wenger has for the last 10 years inspired a culture of indiscipline at your club reinforced by his myopic stance. Don’t ruin the game of football because you don’t get your own way, go follow another sport like Tennis or something.

  • You are mssing the point kernowboy insofar as you are capable of understanding one. I do think we were harshly treated at times last season and the stats support that. You can argue that the stats don’t suit your bias so they can be ignored but they are at least worthy of consideration. As for ruining the game of football – it is more likely to become a casualty for the lack of technique encouraged amongst English players as Trevor Brooking pointed out after our gritty but ultimately amateurish efforts in the U21 tournament.

  • I think Arsenal’s problem is that we are not nasty enough. In terms of pure technique and footballing ability, you’ll be hard pushed to find better than us. But we need to do the simple, nasty things better. This is what makes these statistics so baffling. There is no agenda or conspiracy pushing this, the fact is Arsenal players make so few fouls in a game and play a virtual non contact game, almost like basketball at times, that when a foul is committed, it is exacerbated in the mind of the referee. Whereas thugs like Savageand Morgan can windmill their way through games without drawing attention to themselves. The perfect example for us was Blackburn away in the league, Savage kicked Gilberto, pulled him to the ground then aimed a slap at this head. Gilberto flicked out a boot- making no contact- and was sent off. Tugay made a sickening lunge at Cesc’s shin, splitting his shinpad clean in two, and was only booked.

  • Good atricle Amos, and I agree wholeheartedly that we must increase ref numbers to dilute their profile. I also think we should make them more authoritarian but we find a way to get the clubs to shape this so they buy into it. Your figures demonstrate that after complaining we were shown more leniency and every manager has sussed that barking and haranguing refs can sometimes give you an advantage… ask Mourinho, who abuses the fact he has the gobby English captain playing in his team. Dissent should mean an automatic yellow, and 10 yard penalty. Savage or Thatcher-style thuggery should be a 5-match ban – that’ll make them think twice. Also, post-match video-analysis should be used for punitive measures, so that cheats can get caught for violence, diving etc.

  • lol, I love the way you guys include Tuguy as a dirty player, just because of one bad tackle – do you watch any other football than your over-rated football team?? – BTW where’s your Henry gone?? You are a team in decline, soon the spammers will be bigger than you…

  • Was that just a guilty reaction on your part? Who said Tugay was a dirty player? Why not give it another try – you might get there. As a Blackburn supporter do you get to watch any football – overrated or not?

  • I also notice wellsy, that you show no disgust at me labelling Savage a dirty player?

  • Good points there Amos. Definitely a case for increasing the number of refs,but that will barely scratch the surface in terms of a solution for these problems. The yellow card stats were surpising, even during the season when Goodplaya 1st put them up.

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