Saturday 7 January 2012

Mike Riley - the 'right refs for the right games' - part 2

This is the second part of my analysis of BBC Radio 5 Live's coverage of the interview with PGMO chief Mike Riley.  The BBC's Mark Chapman also talked to Tony Hibbert who is a match delegate and an ex-Wolves player, the delegates are affiliated to the LMA and PFA.  Tony Hibbert felt we have the 'best officials in the world' and that all our referees were 'there on merit'.  When asked about how the delegates scored referees Tony Hibbert said that they look at 'their management of the game', 'none of the technical side of it', 'how he approaches and manages players' and 'positional play'.  This all tallies with the PGMO line of the independent assessor and delegate looking at the 'referee’s control of the match, the way that he deals with key incidents as well as the way he communicates his decisions'.

Therefore it seems that the independent assessors and delegates do very little in terms of systematically scoring the specific decisions of referees, so the score that Mike Riley has for each referee from each game from these delegates and assessors appears to be a rather soft entity.  The main concern of managers and fans is whether referees get their big and little decisions right, so if delegates are not scoring this then how can Riley claim that standards are improving and there is no bias in any refereeing decisions?

Referees should be assessed by the systematic review of their performance on video after the game in which all free kicks, card and penalty decisions are objectively scored, this currently does not seem to happen.  This already happens in countries such as Belgium, if the PGMO are not already doing this then it is an absolute disgrace and the fact that the PGMO do not reveal any detail of how they assess the performance of referees is pretty bad in itself.

So why is all this data kept so secret?  Mike Riley thinks it would create 'more anxiety' amongst supporters, they then somehow meandered off into saying that error was unavoidable, slightly missing the point that the way that fans are kept completely in the dark by the PGMO is not healthy.  Then onto technology, Mike Riley made it clear that FIFA prevents the use of video technology which is obviously true.  There was some talk about the use of extra officials, goal line technology and the increased involvement of the 4th official.

Mike Riley was then asked about getting ex-players into refereeing.  He did slightly dodge this question by saying that he wanted to get people from all backgrounds into refereeing, and did comment that some referees have played the game at a decent level ( Halsey).  The lack of ex-players going into refereeing is a massive problem, this natural understanding of the game is impossible to fake.  Jimmy Hill was a big backer of this idea, it's just a shame that the governing bodies have not pushed it through with enough force.

Overall Mark Chapman did a very decent job with his interview, Mike Riley was very political in his responses and did avoid answering the trickier questions, time was also very limited.  Firstly it is obvious that technology would help referees and this area is not Mike Riley's problem, it is FIFA's, secondly the appeal process is nothing to do with Mike Riley, it is the FA's responsibility, as is the issue of introducing more retrospective punishment for violence and diving for example.

There are several issues concerning refereeing in the Premier League that I am extremely concerned with.  Firstly the PGMO's referee selection process is the opposite of transparent and arguably there are many avenues through which unconscious bias can rear its ugly head, the skew in the regional distribution of referees is also a massive area of concern as regards potential bias.  Secondly there simply is not the information in the public domain to reassure football supporters that an Italian style match fixing scandal would not be very possible in England.  Thirdly the assessment of referee performance does not appear to be as robust as the PGMO would have us believe, and again the PGMO has revealed very little as to the specifics of how referees are actually scored for their performance.

In conclusion I still have significant concerns about the way in which refereeing is run by the PGMO and unfortunately Mike Riley has done very little to allay my fears.  It is sad for football in general that refereeing is run in such a closed and shady manner, it does not encourage trust in the refereeing process and its integrity.


Clockendrider said...

Completely unsurprised by the arrogance shown by Riley. These people really don't care about the utter lack of respect they show to the football fans who ultimately say them. But then again they're part of the whole footballing hierarchy in this country which has always and continues to treat the paying public with utter contempt. Nor should we be surprised by the FA stuffed shirts backing them up. One anachronism underpinning another.......

Block8Mikey said...

How can anyone take Mike Riley seriously. His own record perfectly demonstrates where his loyalties lie.

A few seasons back he refereed a total of 49 Prem games. 41 didn't involve Man U and he awarded 1 penalty. 8 games involved Man U and he managed to award 9 penalties......ALL to Man U.

Now call me sad but I did the maths and the odds are greater than a lottery win so I emailed the footballing authorities asking fro their comments. Their reply must have got lost in the post!!!!!

Riley showed such an extraordinary level of (conscious or sub-conscious) bias towards one club throughout his career it was unbelievable.

Similarly a study was done by a Uni Prof into bias in the first 10 years of the Premiership. Unsurprisingly the Man U supporting press did not make much of it. What it found was that every club in the Premiership had between 48% and 52% of refs decisions in the favour.............reasonably even I'd say. Oh except for Man U who had 83% of decisions in their favour.

It's absurd not to police this scientifically, effectively and fairly but it won't be because for everyone concerned Man U makes more money and end up self perpetuating the privileged position.

Sad but true.

Block8Mikey said...

Oh and as for Dowd who, to be fair to him and everyone else, is consistently appalling. How do we think he doesn't demonstrate bias when Arsenal have managed only one win in the last 16 games he's been "in charge of".

Anonymous said...


interesting stuff

do you know who this Uni Prof was or have a link to this research?



Block8Mikey said...

Sorry 1979, I don't but was published about 2004/5 I think.

Anonymous said...

How can we take this article seriously when you can't even get the name of the delegate right. Tony Hibbert you say, the Everton defender? Or Kenny Hibbitt the former Wolves player and manager.