Do Referees Hate Arsenal?

By Daniel Cowan
In Arsenal
Jan 2nd, 2014

Do referees hate Arsenal? I don’t think so. Do they treat Arsenal unfavourably? A compelling case could be made for that considering how often we have stonewall penalties waved away and certain players are allowed to get away with running roughshod with the legs of our players.

So far Arsenal have managed to overcome poor refereeing decisions by simply just winning the game but it doesn’t hide the issue completely. There have been games where Arsenal have suffered dropped points or the opportunity of a different game by poor decisions.

For example, the loss to Manchester City may have had a completely different ending had the offside and penalty decision been correctly called. Had the first been called correctly then the course of the match changes, Arsenal don’t have the other decisions made incorrectly because they do not exist in that reality and by extension, City do not get many of their goals. Do Arsenal still lose? Probably but the point of endless possibilities means we can’t speculate. Arsenal could have won, drawn or lost even harder but those possibilities were taken away when the official made a bad call. What stings, is they made three of them.

Refereeing decisions, right and wrong, play a huge part in the reality the game follows and it would be wrong to ignore the fact that little decisions in our favour (rightly or wrongly) help decide the reality that sees us winning games and sitting on top of the league. However, it is not these little decisions that truly matter, it’s the big ones and it’s the big ones that the referees and officials are getting wrong more often than they get the right.

Against Chelsea, ignoring the straight-red-studs-up-leg-breaking-on-a-bad-day challenge on Arteta by Mikel and the numerous yellows Ramires should have had resulting in another sending off, Theo Walcott was denied a stonewall penalty. The referee has a clear line, no obstruction whatsoever and can undoubtedly see Willian take Theo’s legs out. There is no ball contact, it’s not a 50/50 challenge; it is a foul. If Mike Dean doesn’t think it is a foul then the only other option is simulation.

Theo Walcott denied a stonewall penalty against Chelsea by Mike Dean


This decision cost Arsenal the opportunity to go a goal up. It was a big decision and one that Mike Dean refused to make.

Some argue that the referees are making the right decision by not making a decision at all. This is taken straight from FIFAs rulebook:

If a player attempts to deceive the referee by feigning injury or pretending to have been fouled (Simulation)

To deal with simulation the referee must know the difference between:

* a tackle (challenging for the ball and touching it) – no action

* a foul made by the defender – free kick or penalty kick and disciplinary action if needed

* a Simulation (attempts to deceive the referee by feigning injury or pretending to have been fouled) – a yellow card

* a fall (no attempt to deceive the referee – no action

To understand what is a foul you need to consider the rules again and here they are:

Fouls and misconduct are penalised as follows:


A direct free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a player commits any of the following SIX offences in a manner considered by the referee to be careless, reckless or using excessive force:
kicks or attempts to kick an opponent
trips or attempts to trip an opponent
jumps at an opponent
charges an opponent
strikes or attempts to strike an opponent
pushes an opponent
A direct free kick is also awarded to the opposing team if a player commits any of the following four offences:
– tackles an opponent to gain possession of the ball, making contact with the opponent before touching the ball
– holds an opponent
– spits at an opponent
– handles the ball deliberately (except for the goalkeeper within his own penalty area)
A direct free kick is taken from where the offence occurred.


A penalty kick is awarded if any of the above offences is committed by a player inside his own penalty area, irrespective of the position of the ball, provided it is in play.

In the Chelsea example we have a player who is clearly kicking Theo Walcott. Penalty. You could call it a missed tackle but he has not touched the ball so therefore it is still a penalty. The ball is also still in play so therefore it is still a penalty.

The only other consideration is that Theo dived (which he didn’t) and therefore it is simulation and he should have been booked. There is no other option for the referee. Mike Dean has a clear view of the situation and can plainly see it is not a fall, that the tumble Theo took was due to a kick to the legs and no contact was made with the ball.

The only other explanation is that he believed Willian touched the ball which given his proximity to the foul and line of sight is bonkers. His bosses should be looking at that decision and his positioning and doing something about his poor judgement or lack of conviction in making a decision. If he has “covered” it up by writing in his report that he believed Willian got the ball then he should be removed from duty until his eyes have been checked.

Against Cardiff yesterday, Jack Wilshere was fouled in the box but no punishment was given to either player. He just waved play on. From the angle the ref is at he can clearly see the situation, if it’s not a foul then the only other scenario is that Jack threw himself to the floor, which is simulation – which is a card.

Surely by looking at the way these players are falling the referees can tell if it’s natural or forced. These are trained professionals who get paid to make the decisions they are shirking.

It doesn’t just happen to Arsenal, it happens to all teams and the reason is because referees in this country are not held accountable for their actions or inactions. The review committee do not do their jobs properly when it comes to potentially career ending tackles like Yaya’s on Arteta but will swiftly dish out a two game ban to a young player flipping the bird to 50’000 people who have been abusing him for 90 minutes.

Referees in this country are lazy and weak in my opinion. I appreciate that it must be hard dealing with up to 28 multimillionaires every week but it is weak to refuse to make the big decisions, it is weak to favour the home team because the fans are whistling and booing and it is weak to allow players to get away with several minor fouls because they are already on a yellow card.

Homeblowers are the purge of all away fans but what concerns me more is the shocking imbalance of referees home towns.

Of the 18 referees officiating  in the Premier League only two of them are from the South East or South West (including South Wales) despite 9 of the 20 Premier League clubs being in the South East, South West or South Wales. The rest are from the Midlands, North East and North West.

I would like to see 3 or 4 of the South East, South West and Wales based referees currently in the Championship on the roster for the Premier League. I would like to see referees performances scrutinised the way player conduct is scrutinised.

When referees make such bad decisions maybe they should be allowed to speak to the media to explain what happened. We’d all have a lot more respect for the referee who publicly says “I cocked up and I’m sorry” because you know that in his next game he will be extra aware of making a mistake again.

The referee that doesn’t have to own up to his bad decisions can just go into the next game and do it again because he hasn’t had to hold himself accountable.

Maybe the answer is having more ex-players as referees. It might be hard to attract Premier League players who have earned millions of pounds but there are plenty of lower league players who might be tempted to stay in the game.

Do Arsenal get treated unfairly? Yes I think so but I don’t think we have exclusivity on poor referees, it happens to everyone and we just have to make sure it doesn’t affect our title bid.

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About "" - 509 Posts

I am a South London born Gooner now living in Leigh-On-Sea, Essex. I'm a husband, daddy, podcaster, trainer enthusiast and aspiring author. My work is my passion and for that I will always be grateful. Here is where I write my thoughts and views on Arsenal Football Club, the greatest team the world has ever seen.

12 Responses to “Do Referees Hate Arsenal?”

  1. Joshua Paul says:


  2. George Ayer says:

    mark dean,lee probert,Atkinson,lee mason,all hate arsenal n they are the most useless n incompetent referees u can find in the seems they have an agenda to rob us,but God is on our side

  3. Neil Stanbra says:

    If you analyse the statistics of refereees in games, there is some evidence that at least some officials have an obvious bias towards and against certain teams. I see all Arsenals’ home matches and a number of away games.
    The two worst referees in my opinion are Mike Dean and Martin Atkinson. Arsenal have to play very well to overcome a match where Mike Dean is in the middle. I can remember seeing him award one penalty to the Gunners, away at Blackburn. I’m told there have been two but I’m not sure when the other was.
    On the other hand he has penalised us for many very soft and dubious penalties.
    Remember Gareth Bale falling over in front of Szczesney? The handball by Santi at Old Trafford? Handball by Senderos v. Sheffield Utd in the FA Cup, the foul on the ball v. Birmingham City in the game when Eduardo was broken.
    The obvious foul on Walcottt was one of countless non-decisions from the poisonous little man.
    While Arsenal have not been Champions for nearly ten years now, they have been consistently a top four team, but two penalties in 50 odd games??

    The other problem is the refusal to penalise violent play and persistent fouling. Atkinson at Man. City ignores a despicable tackle by Yaya Toure,
    but can’t wait to give a penalty when City’s midfielder starts his dive two yards before reaching Szczensny! Not really surprising when you remember that last season away at Stamford Bridge,Ramires tackled Coquelin and damaged his ankle, susequently taking the football and setting Mata away to give Chelsea the lead. In the same game the thug Ramires then dives obviously to win Chelsea a penalty which won the game for them. An almost perfect day for Mr. Atkinson. I don’t remember Atkinson ever awarding a penalty for Arsenal.

  4. Double canister says:

    well done, it’s difficult to keep a rational and intelligent analysis going about the refs, when deep down we know they have it in for Arsenal. There is a bigger question – why do they have it in for Arsenal?

  5. bonaroca says:

    I am a regular watcher of the game. Admittedly refereeing is not an easy job. What irritates me is that refereeing in the Premier has deteriorated and that could be seen with the protests of managers. Instead of the Board of Referees investigate why a manager is protesting they just castigate him with a fine. Certain decisions taken by referees and their assistants leave much to be desired particular when a foul goes unpunished and a similar gets a yellow. Many used to criticise certain European referees, to day English referees have lost that Tag of being the best, technically they are not anymore. Television now is exposing all that is bad in the game.

  6. Max says:

    I couldn’t agree with your analysis more. We lost a title on the back of this lack of scrutiny and backbone. Recall the season Eduardo had his leg broken by the Birmingham defender I believe it was? We’ll that season we were clear of second placed by a significant margin and had our form continued we would have won the league. That incident caused a significant change to the Arsenal team. Though we did not lose a single game from that point on, we drop points we would otherwise have had.

    The pundits claim the type of challenges players may in the England are a show of strength but this is not rugby or American football or even ice hockey, where fist fights are a valid part of the game. If you follow ice hockey you will know that even now the NHL have started clamping down on players and the old style excessive force challenges.

    Watching the analysis of yaya’s tackle on arteta where Gary Neville claimed it was fair as both we’re going for the ball, and ex-Liverpool defender, I believe Carragher, he said Yaya should have been shown the red card, the worst part is that the voting audience agreed with Neville. That suggests that the football watching public have bought into the stupidity of this thuggish mentality the media peddle and the FA encourages due to their inaction on bad refereeing decisions.

  7. Twivil says:

    Yes- most (but not all) refs have it in for Arsenal. The worst are the ones you mention and refs have cost Arsenal the title. There must be an agenda or some (many) refs would have been sine died for their shockingly biased performances over the years. And the main question is why the Prem, Riley and the Assessors all stand for it? Are they that thick? Which leads us on to the Press. Some of the Hounds are Arsenal supporters. How could they miss such blatant stuff? I just hope they are not turning a blind eye to the very illegal act of match fixing and -which if investigated would lead to the ‘best league in the world’ being relegated to the trash bin!

  8. Ray from Norfolk, Virginia says:

    I believe that there is a conspiracy, and that very big money and other interests have ruled that Arsenal must not win the title, If we still do, it means that we have accomplished a lot despite major cheating.

  9. Vinay says:

    The case is not just about us, its about the overall standards of the refereeing which is poor. Arsenal are considered to be soft and the open statements by other managers like fergie, mou, sam, pardew etc who keep saying oh they cant take the physicality of the game makes the refereeing committee go into Arsenal games with that mindset. Our players are way too honest and they dont even fall when fouled which makes it even more tougher, overall i believe Arsenal go into every game with an unfair mindset of the refs whoever is in charge of the game.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      Our players are honest on the whole but that shouldn’t be a reason for castigation. I agree, refereeing in general is poor and that’s what I said.

  10. Windy City Arse says:

    Why not have a referee & linesman league system and a panel that review matches & award points for wrong decisions. 3 referees with most points at end of season get relegated to div 1 & 3 of the best from div 1 come up.

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