- A cop who selectively enforces the law is a crooked cop.
- A judge who selectively applies the law is a crooked judge.
- A referee who selectively applies the laws of football is honored and beatified in the PL as a great game manager.
Such is the daily, repetitive conditioning and socialization of the footballing public, it is considered sacrilegious in many quarters in the Premier League to criticize the referees much less to acknowledge they play a critical role in slanting the results of football matches, based on their style of refereeing. The only group of individuals who do not fall prey to such naive, wishful thinking are the bookmakers. They who are in the business of separating hapless punters from their hard earned cash, care greatly who is the referee assigned to a PL game before offering odds for 1st yellow card, 1st red card, much less odds on winners and losers.
Despite the enormous rise in the financial power of the bookmakers, who destroy the amateurs week-in and week-out, football pundits and the various forecasters in both mainstream and social media, as a rule, ignore the role of the referees in their predictions. It is this fact-free thinking among the footballing public that is the greatest obstacle to reforming the PGMOL and in bringing forward the day when a robust, effective system of Video Assistant Refereeing (VAR) is implemented in the Premier League.
Which brings us to the case of Mr. Andre Marriner. He will be the official in charge of the Saturday, November 3rd top-4 clash between Arsenal and Liverpool. All kinds of prognostications are being bandied about but hardly any take into account his style of refereeing. By way of background, Marriner is from the West Midlands and is a member of the Birmingham County Football Association. In 2005, Marriner was promoted to the list of Select Group Referees that officiate primarily in the Premier League. He also refereed for FIFA between 2009 & 2017.
In my research I was surprised to discover that Marriner is really among the very small elite group of referees that Mike Riley tends to assign the really big games. That group comprises also comprises Atkinson, Oliver and Dean. Since Mark Clattenburg quit the PGMOL in February 2017 it seems Marriner has become even more critical to Riley.
|Games Assigned||Games w/Top-4||% Top 4|
Being from the Midlands, it is not surprising he does a lot of game betwixt and between big northern and southern clubs as highlighted by the clubs from the top-6 to which he has been assigned over the past three years.
Given the competition among the PGMOL members to do the big games because of the attendant prestige (see Halsey’s book Added Time), the frequency and number of such assignments Riley has given Marriner is quite significant. He is apparently a safe pair of hands.
Classic Game Manager
By a safe pair of hands, the data shows that Marriner is a classic “game manager” in the PGMOL mould. Consistent with the findings in my previous blogs the red card has disappeared arsenal of one of the top referees in England and the yellow card is not far behind (see The Disappearing Red Card blog). The graph below illustrates:
In 15/16, when he did only 20 games, Marriner dished out one red card. In two subsequent seasons when he did 26 and 27 games respectively, Marriner found cause to award zero red cards, yes zero over two years.
Similarly we see a decline in yellow cards from 102 in 16-17 and to 79 in 17/18. 20% fall. Furthermore the preponderance of yellows are in the 2nd half of matches, making it unlikely Mr Marriner, and those who aspire to referee similarly prestigious games, will ever get around to handing out a second yellow where appropriate. What Marriner and the PGMOL have done is acclimate players and the footballing public to the idea that “dangerous” tackles (which are committed repeatedly week-in and week-out) should go unpunished in the first half of games, lessening their chances of ever seeing red from a second yellow as the game unfolds.
This is contrary to FIFA laws that Marriner swore to uphold and is nothing less than lawless refereeing. How is this any different from a crooked cop or crooked judge who selectively enforces or applies the law?
Marriner’s per game data for the past two years shows that while he finds players are committing on the average the same number of fouls per game at 20, he is giving less than one yellow card in the first half and over 200% more in the 2nd half.
|Marriner Per Game|
|Fouls||Yellows||1st Half||2nd Half|
As favorites, if I was Liverpool, in the 1st-half in particular, I would get physical with Arsenal’s key players, especially Ozil, and prevent them from establishing their passing rhythm. Similarly the defenders should get tight on their strikers, and in critical situations, tackle them from behind if necessary. Take full advantage of Marriner, knowing full well the unlikelihood of a yellow card.
As for Arsenal, it is difficult to defend against such tactics when the referee is so permissive. To retaliate is merely playing into the hands of the opponent as it is usually the retaliator who gets caught and is penalized. It is important to keep calm, ride out the storm in the first half and wear them down in the second.
As for penalties and off-side goals, without VAR to adjudicate, this is a crap shoot. It all depends on whom the PGMOL has decided consciously or unconsciously to aid in the run for the title. Some have opined that Liverpool is being handicapped but I have no data to support this prognosis.
However based on Mr Marriner’s refereeing data; this game will be decided by game management, not great refereeing.