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Do English referees give England players favourable decisions ?

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Paul Scholes’s non-sending off in the title climax on Sunday has confirmed a suspicion I’ve held for a while – Premiership referees are biased in favour of England (or just plain English) players over their foreign counterparts.

As Sunday’s match official Steve Bennett blew his whistle to indicate a foul had been committed when Scholes clashed with Wilson Palacios, you wondered what went through his mind.

As he called the ginger-haired midfielder over amid the crowd’s baying calls for Scholes’ marching orders, what was the thought process for the Kent official ?

Did he re-analyse the incident in his head and recognise that Scholes neither went off his feet or tugged at the shirt of his Wigan opponent, making it not necessary to brandish a second yellow card by Bennett’s infamous strict interpretation of the laws ?

Or did he look at the panting 33-year-old before him and think….well he’s not a bad lad, never gets into any trouble off the field and he is ‘one of us’ isn’t he ?

As an island nation, English people’s xenophobia towards foreigners has been well documented down the years — but is it now extending to individual match refereeing decisions resting on the nationality of who’s committed the offence ?

There have been several incidents this season to suggest this is the case. Incidents where very similar offences committed by players from varying origins have resulted in vastly different punishments.

The obvious ones were Ashley Cole being let off the hook by Mike Riley at Spurs for a blatant show of dissent a few days before Javier Mascherano was sent off at Old Trafford. Mascherano’s behaviour was rightly criticised after the game, but was it any worse than Wayne Rooney’s persistent ref abuse either before or since that day ?

Remember John Terry’s challenge on Cesc Fabregas at the Emirates this season ? No punishment for the England captain and nor was there any for Wayne Rooney when he launched himself into Niko Kranjcar during United’s FA Cup exit to Portsmouth.

The mere fact that Bolton’s Kevin Davies, who regularly commits the most Premiership fouls each season, did not get an early bath this season (ask Jay McEveley if he should have done) suggests something is afoot.

Then there was Jamie Carragher wrestling Everton players to the ground more than once and getting off scot free in the Merseyside derby — you know the one where Steven Gerrard kindly reffed the game for Mark Clattenburg!

Well, I’ve spotted a conflict of interest here. The PGMOL (Professional Game Match Officials Board — who run the ‘elite’ referees) was formed in 2001 by The FA, The Premier League and The Football League.

That will be the same FA that runs the England team then will it ? The same FA that needs to keep clubs like Liverpool, Man Utd and Chelsea on-side when it comes to getting the big name players to endorse their kit launches, charity projects and to play for their teams.

Remember when, in 1998, England captain Alan Shearer was found not guilty (by an ‘independent FA commission’) of deliberately kicking Leicester’s Neil Lennon in the face ?

I can remember watching the TV evidence and being as appalled as Martin O’Neill (who pushed for the case) was, but the referee took no action during the game and Shearer avoided punishment, later releasing this statement: “I am delighted to have cleared my name and can now look forward to Saturday’s Cup final and the countdown to the World Cup.”

You don’t think there was a bit of pressure exerted there for it to be swept under the carpet ?

That’s all water under the bridge now and proves nothing other than maybe the England captain got a lucky break, maybe a foreign player would too.

Well look at this.

On the last weekend of the Premiership season it was reported that 35% of the players were English and 65% non-English. Taking that as a typical figure (and it didn’t strike me as being an unusual week) and you might expect a similar breakdown when it comes to red cards shown in the season — 35% English and 65% foreign right ?

No. Actually, from 61 Premiership red cards in the season just finished only 14 went to English players — that’s almost but not quite 23%. Over 77% of the red cards were shown to ‘non-English’.

Of course this is a wholly unscientific means of testing my theory, which needs further research – maybe the FA can get someone on the case.

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Comments (15)

  1. I would say English players are treated a bit better than foreigners,that is part of the reason scholes was not sent off on sunday. We could have seen Jamie carragher sent off or give away penalties on numerous occasions this season but saying that a couple of those incident involved lescott.

    What also annoys me is the way that Players like Ronaldo and hleb always have claims for fouls waved away that were actually fouls,while Gerrard and Rooney dive alot more than people think but always get awarded free-kicks, usually in rooney’s case it is moaning about fine tackles. Alot of the problem is how foreigners can build up a reputation for diving alot quicker because cocks like alan hansen point it out on MOTD and lay into them but when his two favourite players do it they don’t they say that they have gone down a “little easy”.
    Eg. the fat granny fucker’s dive against arsenal to end the unbeaten run, Gerrard screaming for pens against sheffield utd and hungary when he dived, or John Terry’s displays of fine goalkeeing skills always being missed by the ref.

  2. nope, sorry, don’t agree at all. perhaps with some referees this issue may have some basis, but otherwise i can’t see much fact behind this at all. with regards to the Paul Scholes issue against Wigan; there may have been something going on there but i strongly doubt it has much to do with the fact that Scholes is English. rather i think that it may have had more to do with the ref fearing for his own public image should he send off Scholes so close to the Champions League final, which Scholes famously missed out on back when United won the competition in 99. if there was anything going on then i think it would be that, nothing to do with origins. personally i’m not convinced it was a yellow-card offence anyway, but if it was then you could say that the ref brought it back into balance a little when he denied Scholes an obvious penalty later on in the match. to be honest i think it has more to do with the reputations of individual players, English or otherwise, that can affect the decisions of referees. as the last comment stated Ronaldo frequently has valid claims waved away because he does have a reputation for ‘going down easily’ even if he doesn’t do it as much anymore. maybe he should pick up his acting skills, and learn a trick or two from Didier Drogba who has to be the premier league’s most frequent diver at the moment.

  3. I think this is quite a ridiculous claim to make, though I can understand why you would make such a case, but I think that, overall, English players are more disciplined than:

    -the typical divers (Ronaldo, Torres, Drogba, Henry in the past, and others). These players are always likely to pick up yellows because of dives. Not many English players get booked for diving every week. So that will bring their discipline up.

    -the idiots (Ronaldo, Nani, Mascherano, Gallas et al) who get in trouble for speaking to the ref and headbutting. The only English names who should go on that list are Rooney and Alan Smith.

    The one area where the English players are more likely to pick up cards is that of the ‘hard men’. Scholes, Michael Brown, Barton are all very tough-tackling players, but there are foreigners in the same mould such as Alonso, Mikel or Eboube.

    At the end of the day, I think that you can look in the Premier League and see that English players are more disciplined than foreigners overall and I think that that is what accounts for the 12% deviation that you mention.

    Also you fail to mention the upheld suspension on Downing which was eventually increased earlier in the season.

  4. I disagree with you both. Maybe there is something in the idea that English player are treated better …after all if the rules were applied Rooney would be sent off in every game. However, it has more to do with the fact that there are two different set of rules in the EPL one for the big clubs and one for all the others. This is a fact that especially applies to ManU. In nearly every match this season on local soil they have benefited from at least one questionable refereeing decision…Betfair this can be your next research. Just take the last match against Wigan as an example, Ferdinand prevented a goal bound shot with his arm which should also have been a red card offence had it been given…was this a definite penalty maybe not would it have been give if it was a Wigan player, I think so. Scholes was not shown what should definitely have been a second yellow, and Rooney was guilty of decent as he does week in week out.

  5. Andrei – I’m sorry, you’ve made two big mistakes there:

    1) Gerrard is a notorious diver who doesn’t get booked.

    2) Ronaldo feigned a headbutt but didn’t hit anyone – same incident, James comes rushing into the group of players surrounding the scene and pushes Vidic in the chest. That action alone merited a booking and Ronaldo deserved at best a yellow. He got a red, James went free.

    Not that I necessarily agree with Simon, but your counter-argument (English players aren’t dirty) is way, way off the mark.

    Also, for the record, did the Arsenal player who ‘kicked’ Nani get booked? No, Nani got booked instead. So we have a case where referees don’t get decisions right, where certain serial divers get away at all times (Torres got away with murder in the Champions League against Inter) while Rooney regularly gets away with abusing the ref (a few yellow cards and I’m quite sure it will be clamped down on by Fergie).

    Bias for the English players? Not sure there’s a cohesive case here but the points made are interesting, and your counter-arguments are flawed.

  6. Was the player who kicked Nani English? ;) I agree that there are some English players who do dive, but in all honesty Gerrard is not one of them… but that is another argument for another time.

    Also I think Rooney had 8 yellow cards this season which would make him one of the least disciplined players in the league and most of those bookings were given for dissent.

    Anyways, I am not talking about particular incidents here, just the general feeling that I get which is that English players are a whole lot more disciplined than most of the foreign ones. The criteria which I used are diving (most divers are and have been foreigners) and headbutting which is a two way street, but English players still seem to do it a lot less than non-English ones.

    Oh well, it is just a feeling that I have, it might be wrong but I do not think that there is any way to objectivley measure that so right now opinion is all that counts.

    By the way, it was a good article with good arguments.

  7. Bayern, perhaps you are not familiar with the shoulder, a part of the body attached to the arm, which is what was actually used by Ferdinand. The referee was extremely harsh in not giving Scholes a penalty for the clear foul by Bramble, but I suppose Wigan is a big club too. I am pleased to see you find Rooney guilty of being decent, or wait was that meant to be dissent?

  8. hmmm… the sole reason why Arsenal is getting dragged into this is because they have no English players. Seriosuly though how many red cards did Arsenal players receive through out the campaign??? 3? 1 vs Everton, 1 vs ManU in FA Cup & 1 vs Bolton.

  9. Andrei,
    How the fuck can you call scholes a ‘hard man’? he is well known for being a shit tackler.
    Terry and Lampard are also pricks for talking to referees.
    Henry was not known for diving, if he did dive it as not nearly as much as gerrard does.

    Ahmed Bilal,
    Well done, Gerrard is a diver.

  10. @Raed – Pity they don’t punish people who bring the game into disrepute by fighting with their own team-mates in front of a live full-house stdium, televised internationally.
    Ferdinand was definitely a shoulder. On the other hand, as someone mentioned previously, what about the Scholes penalty incident?
    I must admit though, Rooney does get away with quite a lot of dissents/decents.

  11. @ Karl: Yeah at least they don’t kick stewardess’ and claim it was a sponser board. Espcially since that person in question is a touted future England captain.

    Also I’m under the impression footballers have hands, then arms, no biceps, then shoulders, hence the ball always hits the “shoulders” missing the biceps.

  12. I guess, with regards to the Ronaldo headbutt incident, whilst he may have ‘feigned’ the attempt, there was intent and it was rightly a red card. Similarly, Vieira was sent off at Old Trafford for kicking out at Ruud Van Nistelrooy, despite not coming anywhere near to touching him, so there is precedence.

  13. Yellow and red cards should be given by the video ref. Period. Actually, everything that matters should be left to the video ref, but for yellow / red cards there’s not even the lame excuse that it would slow down the game.

  14. This is the crime wenger have commited for long. fielding more non english players and refs do not like his team while liking his football. there have been costly decisions in the EPL against arsenal this season such as adebayor’s disallowed goal againts aton villa and penulty claim against liverpool

  15. maybe the reason scholes didn’t get sent off was because it was his second foul of the game and would have been extremely harsh?