Kevin Friend is the referee for Everton vs Arsenal this Sunday as the Premier League enters the homestretch and the top-4/top-6 battle is intensifying. There are only three points separating Arsenal at 3rd and United at 6th. With most of the competing teams having only six matches remaining (seven in the case of Arsenal) or 18 points at stake, every game is vital. From now on, every point earned is significant but, unlike the sensationalists and fear-mongers, we must advise that teams will drop points here or there without damaging their final prospects.
To us at this blog, of greatest importance, in this final run-in, is that the refereeing decisions be scrupulously fair and in strict compliance with the laws of the game to avoid any accusation that a team has been cheated out of the points they legitimately earned.
Unfortunately, over the past many years, we have seen instances when PGMOL referees completely betray their profession by refusing to enforce the laws of the game at this critical stage. One stunning example was a premier league game late April three years ago between Chelsea and Tottenham. With Spurs in the running for top honors, England’s number one referee at the time, Mark Clattenberg, allowed both teams to kick and foul each other without punishment. He later admitted in an interview that he “allowed Tottenham to self-destruct”
According to Clattenberg he “went in with a gameplan” so he could not be blamed by Tottenham for losing the title. While booking nine Spurs players in the match, he said he could have sent off three.
“Some referees would have played by the book; Tottenham would have been down to seven or eight players and probably lost and they would’ve been looking for an excuse.”
Now several fans may think Clattenberg’s conduct somewhat amusing, insofar as he succeeded in deflecting any culpability for Spurs’s eventual defeat, but it was an amazing confession by a referee; admitting he premeditatedly refused to enforce the laws of football he was sworn to uphold, especially being a FIFA referee. From his own lips, the age-old Narrative and indoctrination that referees are fearlessly applying the rules in a game rife with cheating, conniving players suffered a fatal blow. Only the willfully blind and naive continue to believe such nonsense. Many referees are just as conniving and scheming, approaching their assignment with a “gameplan”; refusing to apply the rules and making dodgy decisions for and against the teams they are refereeing.
So does Kevin Friend go into this Sunday’s game between the Toffees and the Gooners with a certain mindset? What can we predict from the historical data?
Friend was once a favorite of PGMOL. Ten years ago he was promoted to the Select Group Referees, i.e. those who primarily officiate Premier League matches, in his early years he had notable appointments such as refereeing the 2012 Community Shield and the 2013 League Cup final. But he never made the FIFA list. One wonders why.
Worse referee in issuing 2nd-yellows
In the five years prior to this season Friend has done an annual average of 20 premier league games demonstrating he is highly rated by the PGMOL. Only Taylor, Oliver, Atkinson, Dean, Marriner, Moss and Pawson received a greater number of appointments. But over those five years, of all the top referees, Friend was by far the worse in showing a second-yellow card for disciplinary violations. The record shows in five years he dished out a second yellow an average of one in 51 games. That works out to one every two seasons. Incredible!
Friend’s rate of 2nd-yellow is more than double his nearest rival, Neal Swarbrick, who dished out a 2nd yellow an average of one every 20 games. Friend’s reluctance to punish players who repeatedly violate the rules during a game, especially for dangerous and reckless tackles, is hardly publicized but may explain why he is useful to Riley and the PGMOL.
Long-time readers of this blog are aware of my thesis, supported by data, that the PGMOL’s primary method of manipulating games is to not enforce the rules for reckless and dangerous tackles. We describe it as “lawless”, some say “dodgy” refereeing. Specifically we have provided data showing that in recent years, of the traditional top-6 clubs, Manchester United is by far the worse club in terms of incurring yellow cards but they are the least affected by red cards. For more see blog titled Chelsea and Arsenal Are The Dirtiest of The Top-7 Clubs This is due primarily to referees like Kevin Friend refusing to issue 2nd yellows.
Look no further than last Tuesday’s game between Wolves and United to understand the importance of 2nd yellows. Close followers of United have long known that Ashley Young is frequently reckless and dangerous in trying to stop his opponents but usually gets away unscathed; either with a talking-to or a single yellow card by most PGMOL referees. But last Tuesday, he crossed the wrong man, Mike Dean, on the eve of his record-breaking 100th red card, and was ejected for a clearly egregious tackle. Down to 10-men United could not hold off what is, so far this season, a dangerous Wolves team and dropped three significant points in their quest for top-4.
Kevin Friend so far this season has issued zero second-yellows. He is no Mike Dean. But is he a Mark Clattenberg? Sunday will tell.