The 2018-19 premier league season culminates this weekend and almost every type of award will be dished out but none for the referees. Golden boot, golden glove, you name it, but what about the golden whistle? Is there a referee of the year?
My favorite tool for analyzing PGMOL referees is their issuance of yellow and red cards during the season. As I explained in previous blogs the PGMOL has a de facto policy of keeping their cards in their pocket refusing to enforce the laws of the game regarding reckless and dangerous play. In contrast, during the recent round of UEFA Champions and Europa League games, the referees were quick to flash their cards for bookable offences thus ensuring none of the teams could kick each other off the park. No wonder the football public was treated to absolutely exciting games with dramatic finishes.
Ex PGMOL referee Mark Halsey confirmed in his book Added Time the conduct of PGMOL referees is no accident. Leaders prior to Mike Riley, such as Phillip Don, were more supportive of refereeing according to the letter of the law, but were rid of very quickly. He made the point that because the PGMOL is financially dependent it is:
“…. vulnerable to pressure from the Premier League, who have their ideas on how games should be handled”
Earlier in the season I did a piece documenting the “Disappearing Red Card” explaining how PGMOL referees are less and less willing to penalize red-card offences:
“….over the past two seasons red cards have dropped like a stone to less than 50 for the first ever time in 17 years; to 41 in 16/17 and an astonishing 39 in 17/18.”
With one last round of games to go, so far this season they have issued 46 red cards (18 Second Yellows and 28 Straight-Reds). Evidently they made an effort to reverse the downward trend. Maybe the PGMOL or PL have been monitoring this blog and are aware some of us are tracking and publicizing their dodgy tactics and tricks. Who knows?
In the context of the lenient PGMOL policy on bookable offences, below is a table of the top-11 PGMOL referees, i.e. those with at least 20 games assigned, showing the distribution of yellow and red cards to date.
|Referee||Matches||Yellow||2nd Yellow||Straight Red||Yellow/Match||Cards/Match|
The data is crystal clear, the firmest and most resolute referee this season is none other than Mike Dean. He leads the table, by far, with 4.75 Cards/Match, literally leaving in the dust PGMOL favorites and FIFA referees, Anthony Taylor (3.4 Cards per Match and and Michael Oliver (3.17 Cards per Match). Dean flashed 123 yellow cards with nobody remotely close, Taylor is 20% less at 101. Moreover the man from Wirral showed more cojones than Taylor and Oliver combined, issuing a total of ten (10) red cards (five 2nd Yellows and five Straight-Reds) whilst his more credentialed FIFA colleagues could only muster eight (8) red-cards between them. Taylor, in particular, showed absolutely no guts, no gravitas and no spine when it came to making the tough decisions as evident by dishing out a total of one (1) 2nd Yellow for almost the entire season.
One should note this year has been an unusually high rate of red card issuance by Dean at 0.42 per game. In his 21 year career in the top flight his next best year was 0.36 per game in 2006-07 when he totaled 16 red cards for the season. It may be that Dean set himself goal of achieving the landmark of 100 red cards, the highest of any premier league referee, which he achieved in April when officiating Wolves versus Manchester United. Whatever was his motivation he certainly showed up his PGMOL colleagues as dodgy referees who refuse to show their cards for bookable offences.
Meanwhile the media and many fans refuse to address this lawlessness affecting English refereeing hoping, like a man whistling past the graveyard, that next year things will get better.