Wanted: Newcastle fans who are qualified refs who could help monitor League refs this season

Part time and retired referees required to monitor the performances of Premier League refs this season

For the past two seasons a group of referees from all levels of the game have been working on a project to monitor the effectiveness or otherwise of Premier League referees.

They have done this simply by watching videos of matches, and recording each decision, noting if it was right or wrong.

In the 2011/12 season, over 40% of all the matches in the Premier League were covered in this way, and the results that were published were extraordinary, in the sense that they revealed a much lower level of competence than is generally ascribed to referees.

Perhaps even more importantly, the research revealed that the old adage that mistakes “all even out in the end” is the opposite of the truth.  An extraordinary, some would say frightening, bias was revealed.

Of course all such projects have to start somewhere, and in our case the referees who came together to start this project were all Arsenal supporters.  And that of course opens the project up to a claim that it, itself, was biased, especially as our analyses included Arsenal games.

We didn’t want to pretend we were something we were not, so we published our findings on a site that openly proclaims that it is a site that looks at football through the eyes of Arsenal supporters. And we have compared our results to another web site that reviews referee performances in a different way and which has no links with Arsenal – and our results were in many regards very similar to theirs.  So we are encouraged to believe that we are on the right lines.

As I say, we all start somewhere, and this is our origins.  But what we want to do now is expand the number of referees and to include in our number referees who are by their inclination supporters of other teams – or perhaps no team.

Our instructions to those who join with us are simple: referee the match on TV as you would referee any match – with impartiality and fairness.  We don’t think our referees this last season were biased in a pro-Arsenal way, but we are wanting to expand and take on refs who are most certainly not pro-Arsenal, to allow us to be able to answer any pro-Arsenal bias claims and most importantly to allow us to be able to cover many more matches.

We will then publish our reports on this club-neutral web site, that has just been set up for this purpose.

Now some questions answered…

First, is there any money in it?  The answer is no.  It’s a labour of love.  Of course we dream that maybe just as Opta started out as a little research project among friends and turned into a multi-million pound business, so might this.  And if so, money will be shared out, but for now, no. All I can say is that we started our Arsenal site three years ago with no readers, and last month it got 800,000 visits.  So we do know a bit about getting an audience.

Second, do I have to do lots of matches?  Again no.  If you can only do one a month, we’d like to have you on board, although ideally we’d like one a week – or even more if you can give the time.  The only thing we ask is that you are clear in your commitment.  The one thing we want to avoid is taking on a ref who says “yes, I’ll do two reviews a week” and then we get nothing.  We know circumstances change and sometimes we can’t do what we offer to do – we just ask our ref reviewers to keep us informed.

Third, what actually is measured?   We have a standardised grid – we’ll be happy to show it to you.

Fourth, will I be identified?  No – our ref reviewers are listed by number “Ref Reviewer 3, Ref Reviewer 8” and so on.

Fifth, is anyone taking notice?  Yes – the BBC picked up on our work, and ran a significant story on what we are doing.  Then, the PGMOL (the organisation that runs Premier League ref affairs) suddenly changed its web site from an open site that talked about educating fans into the laws of the games, into one that only members of PGMOL could enter.  (Of course we can’t prove that was down to what we were writing, but it was one hell of a coincidence).  And the entry on Wikipedia about PGMOL now mentions our work (although of course this could change any day!)

So what next?  If you are a ref and you are interested, just email WalterBroeckx@hotmail.com and tell Walter about yourself.  If you want to know more about the blog and how we are putting all this together, write to Tony.Attwood@aisa.org

In time we shall be reproducing some of last season’s  reviews here – but if you are interested do get in touch and we’ll point you in the direction of the reviews that we did last year.

We do hope you will be interested in talking to us.  Please, if you are interested, but are unsure, do get in touch.

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