The FairFootball correction scheme

a better guess than the official winner


Our goal is to correct obvious errors of the referee in enforcing the laws of the game, as defined in the “Laws of the game 2005” that can be found for instance here:



However, these laws abound in phrasings like “considered by the referee to be”, “in the referee’s view / opinion” and other similar ones. Read strictly, it would mean that anything the referee decides is right, by the fact itself that he has thus decided, even if the teams played handball over the pitch without him having anything to say. Or, for something to be unlawful, it would have to be proven that the ref in fact thought it was wrong / unfair, though he didn’t say it (in other words intentional wrongdoing; unintentional mistakes would be lawful). Of course, we consider this approach to be totally unacceptable, else we wouldn’t be creating this site. We also think that the laws are badly written in this respect; any such mention should in our view be removed from them, and if necessary a single phrase should be added stating that the laws are applied by the referee as he considers appropriate, that his duty is to enforce them to the best of his ability but that he is the only one to make all decisions.

Therefore, our goal is to correct plays according to the “objective” laws, that is with all such phrasings removed.


We will judge every action to our best ability, based on video recordings. And, though we welcome feedback, on our site we will be the referee, that is have the final say over everything.


We will only reverse the referee’s decision when we think it was definitely wrong based on the video material. Whenever there is reasonable doubt, we will give credit to the referee. This includes the case when he has made other errors in the same game or in others, regardless of their number and gravity.


We will correct based on any video material at our disposal, not just the official TV covering. We will use a video material only when we will be reasonably sure that it is authentic and accurate.


Rules for correcting a game’s score:


  1. Whenever a goal is certain to be wrong (such as when it occurs from an incorrect penalty or free kick, or after an un-flagged previous felony, or if the ball in fact did not pass the goal line) it will be cancelled.


  1. Whenever a goal is certain to be right but wasn’t awarded (such as when it is ruled out because of a wrongly granted previous felony, in most cases an incorrect off-side, or if the ball in fact passed the goal line), it will be considered.


These first 2 are pretty obvious.


  1. When a penalty is not granted, we will assume 80% chances that it would have been a goal. That is, for each of the 2 teams, the first 3 such penalties of the game (if they exist) will be counted as goals, the fourth will not be, the fifth again will be, and if there are more of them the next 5 and all following groups of 5 will be treated in the same way. This will be done independently for each team; also, if there are any correctly granted penalties they will not take any part in this.


  1. When a free kick is not granted which occurs at maximally 25 meters from the goal and 45 degrees shooting angle, we will assume 20% chances that it would have been a goal. That is, for each of the 2 teams, the first 3 such kicks of the game (if they exist) will not be counted as goals, the fourth will be a goal, the next one again will not be; then, like at point 3, all subsequent groups of 5, if any, will be treated the same way. The independency provisions of point 3 (the last sentence) apply also at this point.


  1. Any other not granted free kicks (including corners), as well as other non-granted felonies, will be ignored, that is won’t be considered for correcting the score.


  1. When action is stopped following an incorrectly granted felony and a player is near the goal with nobody between him and the goal (including the goalkeeper) and having a good shooting angle (but he doesn’t shoot, which occurs rarely), we will consider it to be a goal.


  1. Except as provided at the previous point, when action is stopped following an incorrectly granted felony and we consider it to have likely resulted in a goal (such as when a player remains with only the goalkeeper to beat), we will assume 50% chances that it would have been a goal. Therefore, the first such situation will be considered a goal, the second will not be, the third will be and so on. The independency provisions of point 3 (the last sentence) apply also at this point.


  1. Other situations of action stopped following an incorrectly granted felony will be ignored.


These points can be thought of as being too simplistic. Indeed, one could argue that the chance of a penalty being scored depends on the player who takes it and on the goalkeeper who defends it; that the chance of a free kick being scored varies smoothly with the distance and the angle, as well as with many other factors (2 important ones being again the player who delivers it and the keeper who defends it); that the un-granted penalties, free kicks and stopped actions should be combined and not treated separately, and possibly other objections. The problem is that it would be enormously difficult to take all these points appropriately into consideration. Therefore, we have chosen to simplify things in a uniform manner.


Establishing the final ranking based on the corrected scores:


This wouldn’t be an issue in complete tournaments like national leagues, where all teams face each other. But in eliminatory competitions like the Champions League or the World Championship, a basic problem appears: if the corrected scores of a round result in different teams to qualify than the official ones, these teams will not be allowed to play in the next rounds instead of the wrongly qualified ones.

Of course, there is no 100% right way to correct this; one might think there is no way that is reasonably OK. However, we think there is a way that is more correct than ranking based on obvious referee blunders. Therefore:


  1. If the corrected scores of a round result in different teams to qualify than the official ones, the officially qualified teams will represent the teams that should have qualified instead of them, and trade places with them in the final tournament ranking.


  1. An exception is made for situations when more teams qualify from a group. If a team qualifies according to the corrected as well as to the official results, but with different group ranking, it will retain its official ranking. This is done in order to keep things simple and as close as possible to reality, although it is wrong that a team loses top ranking and has to play tougher opponents because of incorrect game results.

Thus, if officially teams A and B qualify in this order, but upon correction the order is B first then A, the order will be considered unchanged. If officially teams A and B qualify in this order but upon correction the order is C first then A, the considered order will be A first then C (instead of B), that is B will represent C as defined above.


  1. Our result corrections may lead to a draw in an eliminatory game, such that additional time or penalty kicks should be played but in fact are not. In such cases, the team that officially loses the round will be considered qualified. This is against the principle of keeping things as close as possible to reality, but is a just compensation to the team that was denied the possibility to defend its chances; we think this is important enough to be worth it. Besides, it will make our site a little more interesting.


  1. If according to the above rules a team gets to represent more than 1 incorrectly eliminated team, higher-ranked results / place swaps take precedence over lower-ranked ones.

Thus, take the case of the World Cup 2002, when Korea first beat Italy, then Spain, both incorrectly, then correctly lost to Germany. Korea then represents both Italy and Spain and should trade places with them. However, first it trades with Spain; thus, after the first trade, Spain gets a semi-final place and Korea a quarter-final place. This one it then trades with Italy, thus Italy gets the quarter-final place and Korea gets the eighth-final place.


The model is far from perfect. In the above example, Italy could rightly claim that it may have beaten Spain given the chance; both Italy and Spain can also claim they would have beaten Germany, which is not only possible but very likely. Unfortunately, those games were in fact never played; this is the most that can be done based only on games that have been played and on their corrected results. It’s the limitation of the model. But we believe a final ranking with Spain semi-finalist, Italy quarter-finalist and Korea eighth-finalist is definitely more correct than the official one.



Some heated debates about the validity of our approach and about our style of refereeing can be found here:
Google groups: World Cup 2006 refereeing
Google groups: Is Italy win tainted ?