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A numerical defence of British refs

Tuesday 24th January 2017
Premier League referees have come under an increasing amount of scrutiny this season, with myriad examples of their supposed inadequacies circulating the media. Mike Dean has been the highest profile to be targetted by this new wave of attacks of referees, with the FA succumbing to pressure and demoting him to the Championship.

Referee's decisions have changed the balance of games, yes, and have impacted the course a game follows numerous times this year. But, they bring so much more positives to the game - positives you will not find in any other league in the world.
Premier League referees have a unique quality of letting a game flow. This is so important to the English game; free-flowing, fast and high-intensity games are what sets the Premier League apart. If one goes across the continent and watches a game in La Liga or the Bundesliga, one will find themselves becoming increasingly frustrated at the constant interruptions and pauses as the whistle blows for innocuous challenges.

These aren't just words without substance, either. Let's look at the numbers.

Barcelona and Real Madrid's score draw earlier on in the season witnessed 35 fouls. If we compare a game of equal intensity and high stakes, Spurs' 2-0 victory over Chelsea saw just 18 fouls. This isn't a one-off, either.

Bayern Munich's defeat at the hands of rivals Borussia Dortmund threw up 28 fouls, whilst last weekend's clash between Manchester City and Spurs saw just 17 fouls.

The picture develops, Real Madrid's 3-0 victory over Atletico Madrid produced 35 fouls. That's an average of a foul every 3 minutes.

Referees in the Premier League will inevitably make mistakes; the game moves at such a pace that the view afforded to pundits and fans isn't always accessible to the man in the middle. These mistakes will inevitably disrupt a game, and influence its outcome. But, it's football - these things happen.

The game we love is not a game paused every three minutes: it's a game that goes from attack defence in the blink of an eye and lays scene to a frenzy of combat and challenges. If we, the media and the fans, continue to scrutinise and apply pressure on the FA to crack down and scientifically analyse and condemn every mistake a referee makes then we subject the Premier League to the same fate as the Spanish and German leagues - leagues that stall and stutter.

Video technology has been discussed and could work. If a team is allowed one call per match, concerning a decision in and around the penalty area - an area where games are decided - then football will be influenced for the better. Yet, we must not go overboard and allow incessant stoppages and pauses; that should be reserved for sports like NFL (nothing against NFL, however).

Isn't football about mistakes, anyway? Nothing can be perfect - just ask philosophers - and we shouldn't seek to impose Orwellian-like attention on referees. Let us allow games to flow, allow mistakes to be made and bask in the flowing glory of the Premier League.

Michael Jones

Football & political writer with a predictable love of everything retro. English Literature undergraduate at the University of Exeter, looking to pursue a career in sports journalism. For a collection of my work, visit. http://mikejonesmedia.wordpress.com

Follow me on twitter: @jonesmichael_97

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