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Take 28,038 referee decisions during the course of one season. And what do you find?

By Walter Broeckx

This is the second article in our annual referee review. Links to the earlier articles can be found at the bottom of this article.

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So after revealing how many games we reviewed last season we now will try to see how competent the refs were in general in the games we reviewed.

To find out how competent they were we have taken all the decisions we had in the games we reviewed and just looked at the fact if they were correct or not.

This was a huge task because it meant that we checked a total of 28,038 decisions. That is around 138 decisions each game. But this is how it goes for an average ref in the PL. They are faced with some 138 decisions in 90 minutes. If I got my numbers correct this is a decision every 40 seconds.

First of all I would like to show you how these decisions are divided. This can give you an impression of what the main task of a ref is in fact. It shows what are the most common decisions a ref has to make during a match. This has nothing to do with good or wrong decisions, just showing the decisions in total. And from this we get this table:

Dividing the decisions
Call Total % of total
2ND YELLOW

49

0,17%

ADVANTAGE

84

0,30%

CORNER

2325

8,29%

DROP BALL

7

0,02%

FOUL

5363

19,13%

FOUL THROW

3

0,01%

FREE KICK

5101

18,19%

GOAL

573

2,04%

GOAL KICK

3596

12,83%

IND. FREE KICK

22

0,08%

OFFSIDE

945

3,37%

OWN GOAL

29

0,10%

PENALTY

173

0,62%

RED

64

0,23%

STOP PLAY

2

0,01%

THROW IN

8774

31,29%

YELLOW

928

3,31%

28038

100,00%

So you can see that the area in which most decisions have to be made by referees have to do with throw ins. More than 30% of the decisions are about who kicked the ball out and who can restart the game. I can also tell you right now that this is one of the decisions that we rarely are able to check completely as not many of those incidents get much replay time or viewing from different angles.

The decisions that comes in second place when we just count the numbers are the decisions about fouls.  Here we have some 19% of the decisions. And then the subsequent free kick is 18% of the total decisions. Why the difference you may ask as the result of a foul is or should always be a free kick? Well the difference is because you could also have a penalty to restart the game after a foul. Or the ref can give an advantage after a foul.

Now the fouls and free kicks are decisions we could check much more than the throw ins.  But not all fouls are shown in replays and different angles and sometimes we couldn’t check the decisions. In that case we judged the decision of the ref as correct as we have always done from the start of these analyses.

The next decisions we have are the goal kick decision with some 12% of all the decisions. And the corners represent some 8% of all the decisions.

As you can see in this table the most important decisions (and I take a foul as a not that important decision for this) like decisions about goals, penalties, red cards, yellow cards represent only a small part of the decisions referees have to make in a game. Those aforementioned decisions together only make up 6.48 % of the decisions in the games we reviewed.

So one could say that the more important a decision, the less these events happen in a game. This could lead us to thinking that for some +90% of the time the ref isn’t put under extreme pressure.

Of course there is a lot of pressure on the ref when it comes to calling the fouls and that was 19% of the decisions. So a total of 25% one could say are more or less important decisions. And if we add the result of calling a foul (the free kicks) we get up to just under 44% of the decisions as more or less important in a game.

In numbers we then speak of some 12,280 decisions that can have a more or less major influence on the outcome of a game. Of course each decision can have an important  impact on a game. But in general we can assume that a penalty decision has a bigger impact than a throw in on the half way line.

I hope this article gives you a good impression on what a referee does to earn his money. Looking at a decision every 40 seconds it sure seems that refs are kept busy in a game. And that itself is very good. Because keeping your concentration levels high is one of the most important things to be a good ref. One moment of losing you concentration can cost you the match and lead to all sorts of troubles. So the more decisions you have to make the more likely to be concentrated.

In the next article we will try to figure out how correct those 28,038 decisions have been that we have done in our reviews. This is where things really will become interesting. We are only doing the warm up till now.

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1. Who reviewed the games

2. What we did and what next

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