Following Wigan Athletic’s defeat to Newcastle on Saturday, Roberto Martinez gave additional firepower to the age old argument that referees favour the so called bigger sides. Martinez was quoted as saying, ‘it’s just that we’re Wigan Athletic and it’s very difficult to get it wrong against us.’
The idea has been around for so long that many football fans and managers mention it as if it is fact, but following Martinez’s comments, a question must be asked. Is it merely a myth that small sides do not get the decisions?
As a fan of English football, any suggestion of considered bias towards certain clubs is disappointing, we all want to see fair, unbiased officiating in football. Yet it would be naive to think that incorrect decisions really do even themselves out over the course of the season, as if by magic.
The reality is that certain clubs are going to get more decisions over a season, the campaign after that, that club may get less, but do the bigger clubs get more of these decisions? The evidence does not suggest that they do, indeed no evidence or study has ever proven such a claim.
However, there are other factors that influence the chances of teams getting decisions. Manchester United famously went 10 years without a penalty being scored against them at home, with only 3 penalties awarded in that time. This led to many fans to declare that it was impossible for smaller clubs to get a decision at Old Trafford.
Yet, those claims do not allow for the quality of player at Manchester United, the team throughtout that the time was top draw and logic dictates that top quality players are less likely to concede penalties and more likely to win them than lesser players.
It is true that the more fans in the stadium, the more voices the referee has to block out. Naturally, some referees are going to be better at this than others. It could be argued that teams with bigger stadiums such as Arsenal and Manchester United are more likely to get decisions due to this. However, if the crowd is raucous, such as at Loftus Road on Sunday, surely the amount of people in the stadium is insignificant in comparison to the atmosphere.
This season, both Kenny Dalglish and Andre Villas-Boas have argued that decisions have consistently gone against their sides. As the managers of Liverpool and Chelsea, their claims do not do much to support Roberto Martinez’s words.
Roberto Martinez may feel harshly dealt with and he may feel that Wigan get less decisions because of who they are. In reality, there is no reason that Wigan will not be on the end of beneficial decisions before the season comes to an end. The fact is, the argument that ‘smaller clubs do not get the decisions’ is just a myth.