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Ref Review 2012/13: The bias that teams get from the refs by playing at home

By Walter Broeckx

This article is part of the series of the Referee Review 2013. You can find links to earlier articles on the bottom of this article.

 __________________________

On this site we have published all kinds of reports over the season 2012-2013.

We have dealt with the different teams. We have looked  closely at the refs themselves leading to the best ref election of the season according to the views and based on the numbers found by our referee reviewers.

We then had another look at the bias from the refs with each team.

The next step was looking at the 4 most important decisions on the football field that could have the biggest impact on the final result of games. We have shown this in the wrong decisions about second yellow cards, red cards, penalties and goals.

And we did not only show which teams gained and how many times they gained, but also which teams suffered and how many times they suffered. Of course when the ref makes a mistake there is always a team that benefits but there is also a team that gains from the wrong decision. So it is important to have a look at both sides of the medal.

Next to our seemingly never ending numbers coming out from our reviews we will show all the bias decisions that teams had to suffer last season in the matches we reviewed.

We will show you how many decisions went in favour of each team at home and how many decisions went against each team at home. A bit like we did with the important decisions. But in this table we will also show what that means for each team in relation with how many games we reviewed. We will do this by showing the average decision they faced each game we reviewed.  And we will also do this for the away games and then give you the grand total.

This is also important in the way that big decisions are sometimes more visible. More visible when the people who show games on TV allow them to be visible and this certainly goes for programmes on TV where they only show highlights. Cutting an important decision out of the highlights can make things look differently.

So the numbers we will show you include the big decisions but also the more invisible little decisions bias. Things only the eyes of a trained person will see and that mostly is overlooked by most fans in the stadium or even watching on TV.  These are the numbers that include the decisions  were referees know that you can go from a level playing field in to a biased playing field.

In the tables you are going to see we have for each team the numbers of decisions that favoured them and then we have the numbers when they were suffering from the wrong decisions from the ref. In the third column of numbers you then see the total swing. And in the final column you see the average swing taking in account the number of games we reviewed. And it is that number that we will focus on when we talk about the tables.

But let us first have a look at the first set of numbers. The decisions for and against each team when they played at home:

Home swing

The first thing we notice is that despite Mike Riley, head of the PGMOL, claiming there is never ever any bias in English football our numbers once again show that he is just talking bollocks (to use the technical term). There is bias. Home bias. Whoever wants to deny such a thing is an idiot.

Our numbers for the season 2011/2012 showed it and this time again you can clearly see that most teams benefit from the decisions when playing at home.

The team that had the highest number of decisions going their way at home was the team playing in the Theatre of Dreams, or Manchester United. So it seems that this dream has been built on many wrong decisions in favour of the home side. The Theatre of the Nightmare decisions for visiting teams would be more appropriated at times.

Manchester United had the most decisions in numbers going in their favour (128) and when we take in account the number of games we reviewed this results in them having on average more than 5 decisions going in their favour each home game. Meaning that the away team will know before the game starts they will have to overcome more than 5 wrong decisions.

The team that had the second highest home bias on average in their favour is Norwich City. So it is not really just about a big team bias, with all respect for Norwich, but I don’t think they will count themselves amongst the big teams like Manchester United or Chelsea or any other top 4 team.  Closely followed by Aston Villa in 3rd place and yet again this is not really a top 4 challenging team.  And the same can be said about the team in 4th place Sunderland.

So there is a strange thing going on. The fact of the Manchester United bias is something that people might want to explain as big team bias, but then why are the teams in 2nd and 3rd and 4th place smaller teams? So there must be something more in to this.

Because only in place 5 do we find a team that can be called a big team. Or at least a team challenging for the top 4. Tottenham is that team who has a high home bias. But that is not even half the bias Manchester United is enjoying.

In fact when we look at the other teams that finished in the top 4 we find that Manchester City had a negative home bias. On average they had more than 1 decision going against them at home. And Chelsea only had a small positive home bias in their favour on average. If we look at the numbers from Chelsea we see that they had a lot of wrong decisions in their home games but that it almost evened out for them at home.

And finally when we look at the numbers of Arsenal that finished in 4th place in the league table. There is such thing as Arsenal having the home advantage at the Emirates. Because at home Arsenal has to overcome on average more than 7 decisions which are wrong coming from the refs. More than 7 decisions against them in each home game. Compare this with the more than 5 decisions in favour of Manchester United.  That in itself is a swing of more than 12 decisions difference between these both teams!

Questions to ask at Mr. Riley….

Do you think there is home bias in the PL? The answer should be: of course there is.  But why don’t you acknowledge it then and admit that it exists instead of closing your eyes for it.

And then the most important question: why is the difference between the teams that big? Doesn’t this show that there is something more sinister at work beneath the surface? But to change that (if you are interested in such a thing of course) you first have to admit that something is wrong. And up to now I never heard you say anything that might suggest that you even think there is a problem.

Believe me Mike, we do have a problem. Wake up.

Next we will look at the away bias in our next article and then we will show the total picture of course.

In this series

Wrong second yellow cards

Wrong red card decisions

Wrong PENALTY decisions, a closer look.

Wrong goal decisions

It doesn’t all even out in the end

Extrapolating important decisions

The earlier series of reviews:

17 comments to Ref Review 2012/13: The bias that teams get from the refs by playing at home

  • Mandy Dodd

    Excellent analysis seems every table and graph shows the same story. Will be interesting to see how city do this season! The strange thing is the helping hand the spuds get post arry , of course under arry nothing would surprise, why are they so favoured? To get them to the top four to do us or something else?

  • dan

    Great

    I Like to add, only a week ago Arsenal were labelled “Cry Babies” by the British media, so, in LFC complaining the media taking notice of this issue, therefore I concluded not only we firefight the evil PGMOL but also the xenophobic media!!!

    Here’s to me praying Good riddance to both:)

  • JD

    There has been a lot of research on ‘home advantage’ which exists in all sports. After removing all other factors, the primary explanation of home advantage is favourable referee decisions at home. The louder and rowdier the home crowd – the more pressure a referee is under not to make a bad call against the home team or make a questionable call against the visiting team.

    So while Manchester United is a big club, what is important for their home game ref call advantage is they always have a packed, loud, boisterous stadium. The number is so skewed for MU that the Fergie factor has to be considered. I think the lack of the Fergie factor alone could explain the drop under Moyes. The other bigger clubs with traditionally very loud stadiums like Liverpool and Everton

    Why does a bias show for some of the smaller clubs? While the smaller teams have a numerically smaller home crowd, the crowd in these older stadium are right on top of the field and they are fully committed to loudly cheering their team and jeering the referees and opponents. Villa and Sunderland have never been described as pleasant places to play – the same goes for refereeing. No surprise that amongst the smaller clubs Wigan had a negative advantage – they are a rugby town and never had a dedicated home football crowd.

    So what allows Arsenal to have a negative home ref call advantage? Listen to the home crowd – embarassingly quiet and polite since the move from Highbury. This would be especially true of last year when in addition to having too many tourists and corporate types in the stands – the Arsenal fan was generally frustrated with the direction of the club and finding it hard to get behind the team. I would love to see what these numbers looked like for Arsenal at Highbury, and whether the excitement of the apparent new dedication to fighting for trophies and signing a marquee player have increased the excitement – and therefore the volume at home – increasing the odds for favourable referee decisions.

  • OMGArsenal

    Walter….could you explain to me how united can have only 5 decisions going for them away to Arsenal yet Arsenal get 7 decisions going against them at home against United, for example. Wouldn’t the 7 decisions going against us, be actually 7 decisions going for United, not 5 per game?

  • WalterBroeckx

    OMGArsenal,
    of course these are averages. So it could well be that in some games they had more than 5 decisions going in their favour.

  • Pat

    @JD
    To try to explain the Arsenal home disadvantage in terms of the noise of the home crowd is ludicrous. Have you seen the size of the home disadvantage and how much bigger it is than any other club? There is something else going on here, especially if you take these figures with all the other evidence showing referee bias against Arsenal.

  • Gord

    @JD

    The laws were designed for home bias. The size of the field has minimum and maximum length and width (and the two meet, but the laws specifically disallow a square field). This is the home advantage allowed to each team in the laws. If a team had particularly fast players, a large field can be an advantage. If a team is particularly slow, a small field is an advantage. If a team has someone who is particularly good at long throw-ins, a narrow field is an advantage.

    Even if officials are fair, the home team should have an advantage based on the above. But, as teams play in stadiums, and construction is expensive, can teams afford to build stadiums to fit the maximum allowed dimensions of a football pitch? I suspect only teams that build large stadiums will be willing to find players like Theo, because much of Theo’s advantage is lost on a small field.

    ——–

    @Walter

    I got annoyed at what Dean did. So I am going back to the beginnings of the EPL and looking up all the cards. I am looking at winning goals, saving goals (team gets 1 point instead of 0), whether those win/save points are a result of penalties and when I get all the card data, I will look at red card/second yellow. Analyzing text commentaries would be better (might pick up injury data), but in looking for much of anything in 1992/93, websites that now produce commentaries almost never get hits. Do the newspapers and TV channels have old commentaries?

    If you have ideas as to what to look for in reprocessing minimal statistics, I can add stuff.

    There are 2 “first” red cards. Niall Quinn got a red card at the 25 minute time for something. On the same day, Micky Adams at Southampton was issued a red card for dissent, with no time associated with it (as far as I can find). The first yellow card in that Southampton game is listed as 26 minutes (one after Quinn’s red). And this Micky Adams straight red for dissent, is listed before any of the yellows. Listed before, because it happened before? Listed before because reds are more important? Did Southampton play a man short for any length of time due to this red?

    Happy Holidays people.

  • Mick

    @Gord
    It would be an interesting exercise to assess the difference in probability of getting carded or not depending on your skin colour and nationality. How much more likely would a black French P Viera be to receive a yellow or red card than a white English W Rooney for a similar offence, as I have been convinced for some time that such racial bias is present. Would it be possible to incorporate such information within your intended task?

  • Gord

    @Mick

    Can you find the data?

    Yes, with data to work from, I can try to see if there is anything present. Looking up all these cards is time consuming, I can’t imagine your data is easy to find. One that looks interesting to me, is to try and find injuries, and in cases where blame is possible, who caused the injury.

  • Mick

    @Gord
    I see your point re getting the relevant data. I suppose it would be possible to find some numbers for cards issued and for what from Walters reviews but that info on its own wouldn’t show much would it. A red card issued to a french black player would need the circumstances of the issue of the card to be compared to similar examples involving a british white player where a card wasn’t issued, an impossible task I would think. It’s a shame because if a clear bias on the grounds of skin colour or race could be proven the whole issue of referee competency would be forced to the top of the media and FA’s agenda.

  • Gord

    @Mick

    I dislike the idea that the EPL _owns_ the game report data. The data could easily be crowdsourced by people watching the game on TV or tape. Or at least much of the data could. But the EPL and the FA should make all of that data public, so that people can analyze it should they desire to. It appears it is available in Germany.

    I suspect you need the complete racial and country information for every player in the league. And you need the starting 11 for every game, the substitutes, and the substitutions made. I suspect with some people, racial problems like you envisage are a threshold thing: if there are only a couple of players from a minority on the field, there is no problem. But if most of the players on the field are from a minority, then there is a problem.

  • Gord

    Mick, or whoever.

    I just ran across a game where there was a special note, a player had missed a penalty. Has anyone ever compiled missed penalties?

  • Gord

    They are looking at way more data than you or I could dig up, Mick. I don’t know if Opta gave them free access, they are a commercial outfit doing sports statistics.

  • Gord

    Another question. Some surnames have spaces or punctuation (“Di Cannio” or D’Andrea). Do given names have spaces or punctuation?

  • Gord

    Trivia.

    Working on 1992/93, I’ve run across two players which had 3 brothers who all ended up playing football. One of those players, actually had all 3 brothers on the same team at one time (Rod Wallace).

    A famous Canadian family in ice hockey are the Sutter’s, from Viking, Alberta (population 1041 currently). Six brothers all played NHL hockey. Anything like that happen football? Arsenal football?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sutter_family