Arsenal Opinion – A life-long Gooner’s defence of the honesty and intergrity of referees

A life long Gooner’s defence of referees honesty by Jon Fox

My fellow Gooners, I have long been planning to write this piece, as I have long been saddened at the general assumption that some refs are biased and dishonest. I think quite differently.

I have to declare an interest here, as I regularly run the line in my local Croydon league. I am not qualified to referee and would never wish to either. In a higher level than Sunday parks football, I would not be allowed to run the line, unless I were qualified.

But needs must and I repeat, there are not enough refs and not enough “linos” either, as refs are packing it up through frustration and even fear.

What I see, week in week out, is frankly a disgraceful and disgusting baiting of refs in general.

Grassroots football of today is the PREM league of tomorrow, surely? 

It ought to alarm those who hold our beloved sport dear – which surely means all of us – that refs are leaving in droves. and some who are gutsier are still reffing well into their seventies, as there are too few younger ones willing to put up with the nonsense they have to endure.

In all sincerity, would YOU personally when working, whatever your occupation be, accept such verbal abuse and often the threat, even the actuality sometimes of physical abuse too! Would you?? Somehow, I THINK NOT!

Now, I presume you individually like to regard yourself as a fair minded and rational human. If you don’t, then I am wasting my time and yours.

I have no doubt that we are fundamentally good people who wish no harm on anyone. Equally though, I have little doubt that most of us, myself definitely included, consider most Prem refs and especially those who ref our games, often useless and, let us say, as needing massive improvement.

I will not comment in this piece on VAR directly, as I have twice written of it previously on JA. I will soon be penning an article, not on integrity, but on standard of refs, in general. That will have a very different conclusion from this piece, I promise you.

In this article, it is a side issue, as I WRITE NOT ABOUT COMPETENCY but about honesty. Of course, I fully agree VAR has had a massive effect on our game and on how refs’ referee. But in historical terms it is still a newcomer and therefore only of recent importance.

But refs being called cheats and called all the names under the sun has been going on for countless decades. Years ago, we used to hear that old chestnut, shouted from the terraces “Get some specs, ref”. And back then most fans would laugh at such a comment, probably agree with it and thus let off steam.

You could argue, when at that level only, well fair enough! Provided it went no further than that. I have never thought and still do not, that football is a game for timid and thin-skinned fans or players. God knows I don’t, as many of my posts on JA will amply testify across the years.

But ever since social media came in and we all became “weaponised”, it has got far worse. You know, if you are being honest, on this very site, how often refs are called cheats, called biased and so on!

I say with good reason, that far from refs being biased, it is we fans, MOST of us, who are biased and we, disgracefully and unthinkingly, take out our own natural frustrations on professional people whose honour is at stake. Just visit other clubs fan sites and see how many of them also call refs cheats and biased against their team too. You will have your eyes opened. But you will gain vital perspective too.

And, though many are nowhere near good ENOUGH, we have no right to mistreat decent normal humans, doing their level best in an impossible position, as we regularly do.

Maybe you are convinced yourself that refs are “bent” – but however incompetent, with or without VAR, decisions frequently are, (and I firmly state, MANY ARE SCANDALOUS) – that does NOT mean that refs lack integrity.

Referees are ordinary, decent people who love the game and are trying to do, in an almost impossible position, their very best, and to give the very best and most honest decision they can.

If you refuse to accept that, then there is nothing else I can ever write to persuade you otherwise.

But if, I say ‘if’, I have given at least some of you real food for thought, then this piece has not been wasted. I do hope this reaches many minds on JA.

Thank you for reading it, my friends.


Jon Fox (JA’s arch old git!)

Tags referees


  1. Howard Webb believes there is nothing to hide when it comes to communication between referees. Hopefully EPL will become more transparent and have more advanced technology to minimize human errors in the future

  2. I have been watching the EPL for close to 25 years. To agree that English officials are not biased and incompetent means that for 25 years I have been seeing illusions.

    I am not an illusioned person.

    1. HH I like your opinions and I dont think you are an illusioned person but you are surely a biased person as you are an arsenal fan not fan of all the 20 PL teams, so I am sure you dont watch all the matches of the other 19 teams? If you watch each and every match of every PL team and then say referees are biased then we could start talking but each fan says that referees are biased against their team.. Liverpool fans they everybody hates scousers etc.

      1. In SAF Man utd’s time, how many referees mistakes cost them 3 points? You will find none. How many mistakes gifted them 3 points? If they are honest mistakes why going only one way and not both sides?

        I this reply to Krish.

    2. HH

      I completely agree. Just think of Utd under SA.

      It’s still ingrained in my memory when we lost our unbeaten run at Old Traffold back in 04/05, and I swear the ref was either a Utd fan or he had been bribed, because if he was just incompetent, then you would have seen bad decisions on both sides. What I saw, was the most one sided biased ref performance of all time!

      Ferdinand who was the last man deliberately took out Ljungberg when he was clean through. Straight red, yet it wasn’t even a foul!

      The constant hacking of our players, but mostly Reyes.

      RVN studs down on Cole’s knee. Horrendous challenge, yet again, no red card.

      Rooney diving to win the penalty which RVN converted, and then having the cheek to later say that he didn’t like divers.

      Sorry for the rant, but that ref’s performance always sticks in my mind, and I don’t think we ever recovered in the league under Wenger after that.

      1. I think that’s the big one. I think the penalty was a dive, but that was the least bad decision as they give those all the time, the frequent fouling and lack of punishment really was beyond the pail. We certainly had a lot go against us in that game, and it’s by far the worst I’ve seen in terms of multiple decisions going against us – worse that it was such a big game. It’s incepted or cemented the idea of anti arsenal bias in refereeing amongst many of our fans, but really it’s far from a common occurrence.
        If you watch our games now and really take note when something goes in our favour, not just what goes against us, I think you’ll see it more as some things go our way, some don’t.

        1. In SAF Man utd’s time, how many referees mistakes cost them 3 points? You will find none. How many mistakes gifted them 3 points? If they are honest mistakes why going only one way and not both sides?

      2. Mike Riley on that day was an utter disgrace of a ref, remember Ferdinand pulling back Ljunberg when clear on goal, Reyes being kicked by the Neville brothers, Riley did nothing and he went onto be in charge of the Refs when he retired, joke of a person

    3. Yeah to suggest that Mike Riley wasn’t a biased referee in the disgrace of a match that ended our undefeated record is utter idiocy. Lee Mason “forgot” to draw the line was another blatant example.

      Worse still if every referee was honest and unbiased then the whole organisation is corrupt as how on earth can such of group of incompetent unfit referees appointed and still keep their jobs despite making critical errors repeatedly. I promote and protect my buddies policy in place?

  3. 100% agree, Referees have to be protected more from these sensitive childish players for example in the NBA referees hold a lot of powers (maybe too much) if the player talks back, they are reprimanded, imo in football the referees should be allowed to be more harsh to disrespectful players, more yellow and red cards for shouting and insults and the players and managers will learn to behave themselves in appropriate manners

    1. Referees DO have the power to control matches – they choose not to take that responsibility on so many occasions.

      Players surrounding referees?
      The official has the right to issue yellow cards.

      Foul and abusive language?
      Can send off the player if directed at him personally – issue a yellow card if not.

      The problem has been that Mike Riley made the PGMOL answerable to no one – allowed referees who made mistakes available for games immediately, with no punishment whatsoever – made ridiculous claims about their members getting all the big decisions correct and VAR has proven time and time again that they didn’t!!

      I have no doubt whatsoever that SOME referees have made decisions, knowing they were wrong – whether it was because they were incompetent, cheating or just biased.

      Finally, name me one profession that has not been found to have members who were not corrupt in one way or another…. think long and hard, as referees have already been convicted.

      1. As always, an excellent response, especially your last paragraph. Seems Jon didn’t take note of that

        1. Oh YES I did. I simply saw no point arguing with a guy whose mind has long been made up that refs are biased and cheat.
          In fact dgr8xt, YOU seem not to have noticed my comment beginning “If you refuse to accept that, etc”!

          As I don’t agree, obviously, or else I would not have written this article, what would be the point?


          1. Jo, if you can’t personally reply to me, but rather refer to me in the third party, that only shows YOUR ignorance.
            Mind you, I didn’t expect anything less, as you always BLUSTER when you can’t answer the question put to you.

            I’ll ask the question once more to anyone reading this :
            Please name me one profession that has not been found to have corrupt members.

            Remember, of course, that there are referees who have been found guilty of being corrupt,so that’s one profession we can certainly say has / had corrupt members.

            dgr8xt, could you ask the author of this article if that is correct?

            1. Ken On the basis of your comment that all professions have corrupt members, a statement I would not much disagree with – although , typically inaccurately , you conflate corruption with bias which are not the same things at all(how much I wish you understood the true meaningof nuances) – to listen to you ,one might imagine all folk in all professions are corrupt!

              BTW, My answering dgr8xt, was in the foolishly vain hope that you might agree that arguing with YOU directly, is a complete waste of both our time. You suggest that because a few refs have been proven to be corrupotm that therefor all refs are biased BALDERERDASH CLEARLY!

              In all the years we have both been on JA, neither one of us has ever yet persuaded the other to change his opinion on ANY matter Arsenal related.

              So what is the point of keeping trying? None, I suggest!

              1. Well, I think I’m making progress, as you have, FINALLY, admitted that there ARE corrupt referees!!

                What a great day for common sense!!
                . Of course, you try to sneak in that little porky about me saying ALL refs are corrupt, but PROGRESS HAS BEEN MADE.

                Now, all I have to do, is keep ensuring you stick to the words that I write, rather than your interpretation of them and we will be halfway there.

                Corruption and bias are two different things and referees, as in all professions, have both types within their rank and file.

                Of course, if you don’t want folk to discuss your thoughts, especially if they challenge them, why produce an article in the first place?

  4. Beautiful article, if only there were more like it.
    We often talk about the pressure on the players, but it’s no less for referees, and they’re far less well compensated. I would have thought most people have experienced moments in their lives where they’ve had to make a rapid decision – even without thousands of eyes on you, it’s not always easy! I can only imagine what it’s like to do it constantly with that kind of pressure. When you think of it like that, is it any wonder mistakes are made? Would you expect to get it right even 90% of the time?
    What’s more, the way we assess it from the outside, it’s so much more memorable when something goes against you than it is when something goes in your favour – it’s only natural and I believe that explains a large portion of believers in cheating and excessive/overt bias

    1. DAVI So grateful to have least reached your mind.
      Though I’m bound to add, that having read your posts for some considerable time, I have always considered YOU as one of our minority of non biased fans.

    2. I tried to reply to DAVI, thanking him for being one of our minority of non biased fans-and we have many others also non biased of course.

      But a technical anomaly prevented me replying directly under his name.

    3. How do you explain Lee Mason for not disallowing Brentford’s goal, Anthony Taylor for giving Jesus the yellow card and no penalty against Forest, and Martinelli’s disallowed goal against Man Utd?, there are errors yes and there are questionable decisions that don’t sit right with fans

      1. Oh, surely it can never have been sheer incompetency could it!

        It HAD to have been anti Arsenal “bias” or “deliberate cheating” of our club. No other possible EXPLANATION! Is there!

        Well, NOT TO YOU ANYWAY, it seems. Sigh!

        1. And Lee Mason was justifiably sacked following the Brentford game wasn’t he! He had for years been an incompetent for most of the games throughout the PL that I’ve seen, Arsenal or otherwise.
          Howard Webb seems to have addressed the unfair and secret practices of his predecessor.

          1. He’s trying Jax, but I have to point out that he himself has a reputation with regards to manchester united – some say he was their 12th man when he refereed their games!!

        2. Yep, corruption, has nothing to do with anti-Arsenal bias, but when you look at the glaring so-called errors refs have been making with no outcome or repercussions. Remember when Xhaka was given a yellow card for a foul against Villa and the ref pointed in three different directions for three fouls, yet this was his first foul as Lacazette pointed out afterward in a tweet, yeah I do believe that is a corrupt act judging a player because of who he is, refs are supposed to be non-bias when taking charge of a game, he wasn’t.

  5. I think fans perception of officials would change drastically if we didn’t see managers continually berate ( and abuse ) them. I hate it when I see the ugly snarling faces of managers (Klopp and Warnock being the main ones )in the faces of officials who are only making decisions as honestly as they can. They get some wrong sometimes of course they do but they are only human.Who of us can say we have never made a mistake in our working lives.

  6. You should check out Untold Arsenal who for years have been banging on how poor the refs are and provide a lot of date to back it up

    1. And, I suppose, by any chance, “Untold Arsenal” could not possibly be run and used by Arsenal fans? Could it!!!

      NONE OF WHOM could ever be thought biased, eh?

      1. Have watch countless of matches in all sorts of leagues and I can safely say improvement needed into the premier league.

        Whether its because of political/ PR or sheer incompetence reasons, somethings just don’t smell right at times. Not even the will or appetite to address blatant irregularities in the game

      2. Try reading the facts they give before you make an ill-informed remark, you haven’t got a clue have you?

    2. Great website and fully committed to The Arsenal foreverinourshadow, one I’ve neglected for quite a while.

      1. They have been banging on for years about the refs, the FA, the PL, UEFA, and FIFA, also the corrupt media as well and provide well-detailed facts.

  7. “NONE OF WHOM could ever be thought biased, eh?”
    To their credit, and I use this reluctantly, the blogger does admit bias, for the same reason as you suggest jon.

  8. Nice article with some interesting food for thought.
    3 things come to my mind:

    1) I also watch American Football from time to time. There they seem to have a much harder stance on any player or coach, who disrespect a ref., and they do seem to have much fever problems in this area

    2) Top league football today is played at a higher tempo than just 15-20 years ago and much faster than 30-40 years ago. Things simply happen quicker and decisions need to be taken at even smaller split seconds. Logically, it must lead to more mistakes

    3) However rational and non-biased, we like to see ourselves, it is also a well-proven fact, our feelings have a huge impact on our decisions. That of course also goes for refs. They are only human beings, and there is no doubt in my mind, they also like and dislike individual players or teams, and while there is no reason to believe in deliberate cheating, their feelings will occasionally make them “see” situations with subconscious bias

  9. If there was a bias against us we would never be awarded a pen would would ?
    This season at home to Man U , Liverpool and City we are given spot kicks
    So if there’s an agenda , someone is doing terrible job at it lol
    In our invincible season Pires clearly dives against Portsmouth and the reff gives us a pen
    How is that bias ?
    In CL Final Eboue dives for free kick
    How is that bias ?

    1. We did really well for cards by the refs this season, with no reds & 16th out of 20 clubs for yellows (32 I think). So no bias there.

  10. Good writeup Jon. I believe that some refs sometimes make terrible decisions because of emotions which will naturally be interpreted as bias by fans. And I don’t know why they enjoy giving Xhaka a red in situations where they would let other players off. Though since he has switched roles this season, it has changed. But the fact remains that refs are humans and as such will sometimes have bias. I watched a YouTube video where a ref had to deliberately kick the ball into the net because he desperately wanted a particular team to win. I need not tell you how much chaos ensued from players and fans in the stadium

      1. Of course the ref I mentioned above kicking the ball into the net was cheating. As you stated above, every profession has cheats. And no one should tell me that Howard Webb wasn’t a Man Utd referee. Ask Ryan Babel

  11. For Jon Fox
    Well done on your article. I agree with you that they are honest.
    I wish to take a wider point about respect for professions. You say referees are quitting in their droves.
    Do you know that one third of teachers are quitting their professions because of the way they are treated and the work load on them from being a teacher to teacher + administrator + guidance councillor. They love teaching and are not in it for the money.
    A huge percentage of nurses are not joining the profession due to the cuts in bursaries.
    People in combat in the armed forces return from duty and too many of them are homeless.

    Until due respect is given to so many professions they are going to leave and thus leave a less dedicated workforce.

    1. IGL, Yes I do know and I also know a great deal about many political situations outside and unconnected with football too.
      I thank you for your perceptive post and share your disquiet that we humans are often far too eager ro criticise hard pressed fellow humans who often do almost impossible jobs, under almost impossible circumstances too. And mainly for far too little pay too.

      Refs are just one and a far less important one, among many other professions.. Which is just ONE, among other reasons, why I CONSTANTLY POINT OUT THE SHEER GREED IN TOP LEVEL FOOTBALL, which is in stark contrast to folk such as nurses and teachers who do a FAR greater service to society than do obscenely paid players..

      I SUGGEST ALL MATURE FOLK KNOW that life is often deeply unfair.

      But knowing it is no ethical reason to refuse to stand up against it. That is my life philosophy and always has been. Always will be, while I HAVE BREATH IN MY BODY.

      1. For Jon Fox
        I completely agree with you about human greed.
        Mahatma Gandhi (whom I refer to as the father of the Indian nation) once said: “There is always enough in this world for our needs but there is never enough for our greed”.

        1. “Gandhi believed in the Aryan brotherhood. This involved whites and Indians higher up than Africans on the civilized scale. To that extent, he was a racist. To the extent that he wrote Africans out of history or was keen to join with whites in their subjugation, he was a racist,”

          1. @ foreverinourshadows
            You are absolutely right about that issue and I also have disagreement with him on that.
            My point was that about the issue of greed and this is where I agree with him.
            Many people have greed as their uppermost reason and would put a spin to back it and this does not make them right just because they are non-racists and this is usually the upper classes of the older generations. That is also a form of hierarchy and control and Both Indians and Africans are victims of this.
            I always look at the statement and not form a judgement because of the person making the statement.
            There is too much wrong in this world.

  12. How old one is or how long one has been a gunner doesn’t invalidate what my eyes have been seeing, what my intellect reads and what common sense tells me. To me, so far as EPL is concerned it is one of the most corrupt league in the world if not the most corrupt. To say the refs in EPL are neither corrupt or biased is a complete fallacy and denial. How do you forget to draw an offline line? All of you in the VAR room forgot to draw an offside line? That is not incompetence but blatant corruption.

  13. Surely it cannot be the same @Jon Fox who had no sympathy for Mike Dean?when he appeared on Sky to talk about the abuse,the threats..that himself,his daughter,family got.

    1. Siamois, thisDISGRACEFUL post is a complete lie and to have done so, which I OFCOURSE DID NOT, would be to go against all I HAVE HELD DEAR ALL MY LIFE.

  14. refs will come under scrutiny, when you have the present system.
    7 London teams
    3 southcoast
    4 liverpool/ manchester
    6 from midlands and north east
    how many refs from down south……..
    how many non white footballers are there ?
    how many non white refs are there.
    just a thought.

    1. Wise folk disregard completely such bogus issues, such as relevance of shade of skin or where a ref lives. Both are nonsense thinking!

Comments are closed

Top Blog Sponsors
JustArsenal Top Ten UK Blogs