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Which teams always benefit from referee mistakes, and which teams are constantly wrongly penalised?

By Tony Attwood

If you have been reading the referee reports this season you will know that the Untold referee review team has expanded its work quite considerably.

As a result in the reviews this season we have included these two tables:

  • Table 9: Major Wrong Decisions Against Teams
  • Table 10: Major Wrong Decisions in Favour of Teams

These tables incorporate second yellow cards, red cards, penalties and goals, and each one of these gives a team one “bonus” point for a wrong decision in favour of the team, and takes away a point for a major wrong decision against the team.  Thus if Man U gets a penalty they should never have had, they gain one point in our table.  If Everton have a penalty against them that should not have been given, it is minus one point.

In the tables below we look at the negative and positive effects to see what the result on the games whose analyses we have published on Untold.

Clearly if the old mantra that “it all evens out in the end” is valid most clubs should have a result of positive and negative effects somewhere around zero.  Man U might get three dodgy decisions in their favour one week, but we might expect a couple against them the next week, and so on.

Let’s see if this happens.  Here are the combined results from two of the weekly tables…

Table 9 shows major wrong decisions against teams and in this table teams are listed in negative effect order.

Team 2nd Yellows Red Cards Penalties Goals Total
Arsenal 3 1 4 1 9
Everton 2 3 1 2 8
West Ham United 2 2 2 0 7
Chelsea 2 0 3 1 6
Liverpool 0 3 2 1 6
Manchester City 3 1 1 1 6
Tottenham H. 1 2 2 1 6
Middlesbrough 0 3 1 1 5
Stoke City 2 2 1 0 5
West Bromwich 0 2 2 1 5
Bournemouth 1 2 1 0 4
Hull City 1 1 1 1 4
Southampton 0 1 1 2 4
Swansea City 2 0 1 1 4
Watford 3 0 1 0 4
Crystal Palace 1 0 1 1 3
Manchester United 1 0 1 0 2
Leicester City 0 0 1 0 1
Burnley 0 0 0 0 0
Sunderland 0 0 0 0 0

So even though some of us (who don’t have refereeing backgrounds and who do these reviews) think that the refs are getting better in terms of Arsenal, Arsenal is still getting the most unwarranted important decisions against them than other teams.   Burnley and Sunderland had no major untoward refereeing events against them.

Table 10 shows the reverse: Major Wrong Decisions in Favour of Teams

This is the converse of the table in section 9 and shows where the largess of the PGMO has fallen.

Team 2nd Yellows Red Cards Penalties Goals Total
Manchester United 5 1 2 1 9
Leicester City 1 0 5 2 8
Chelsea 4 2 1 0 7
Stoke City 1 3 2 1 7
Watford 4 2 1 0 7
West Bromwich 2 2 2 1 7
Crystal Palace 1 3 1 0 5
Tottenham H. 2 3 0 0 5
Liverpool 1 0 1 2 4
Southampton 1 0 3 0 4
West Ham United 0 0 3 1 4
Everton 0 1 1 1 3
Hull City 0 1 2 0 3
Manchester City 0 2 1 0 3
Middlesbrough 1 0 1 1 3
Sunderland 0 2 0 1 3
Swansea City 0 0 1 2 3
Bournemouth 0 1 1 0 2
Arsenal 0 0 0 1 1
Burnley 1 0 0 0 1

So from Arsenal’s point of view we not getting much in the way of major decisions wrongly going our way.  And we are getting a lot of decisions against us, which should never be.   We are getting hit both ways.

Now let’s combine these two tables.  Arsenal, as just noted, are getting the worst of both deals – nothing much going in their favour, but a lot going against them.  No balancing out in the end.   Is this what happens everywhere?

The next table compares wrong decisions both of a positive and negative nature.

Team Total negative Total positive Overall
Arsenal  – 9 + 1 – 8
Everton – 8 + 3 – 5
West Ham United – 7 + 4 – 3
Chelsea – 6 + 7 + 1
Liverpool – 6 + 4 – 2
Manchester City – 6 + 3 – 3
Tottenham H. – 6 + 5 – 1
Middlesbrough – 5 + 3 – 2
Stoke City – 5 + 7 + 2
West Bromwich – 5 + 7 + 2
Bournemouth – 4 + 2 – 2
Hull City – 4 + 3 – 1
Southampton – 4 + 4 0
Swansea City – 4 + 3 – 1
Watford – 4 + 7 + 3
Crystal Palace – 3 + 5 + 2
Manchester United – 2 + 9 + 7
Leicester City – 1 + 8 + 7
Burnley 0 + 1 + 1
Sunderland 0 + 3 + 3

The range is huge, from -8 to +7.  Put another way, some teams are swamped by wrong decisions going against them without any counteracting balance in their favour, and some are basking in a whole array of getting wrong decisions going in favour of them without much going against them.

If this were balancing out then most teams should have a final column result somewhere between + 2 and – 2.    These “balancing out in the end” teams are Chelsea, Liverpool, Middlesbrough, Stoke, WBA, Bournemouth, Tottenham, Hull, Southampton, Swansea, Palace and Burnley.   Just over half the teams in the League.  So for the majority, it is by and large ok.

But this means that eight teams in the league are either getting a far larger rub of the green and luck of the draw than is ever likely statistically, or getting the reverse.

The winners in terms of repeated referee decisions wrongly going their way without any balancing effect are

Manchester United and Leicester, and to a far lesser degree Watford and Sunderland.

The losers in terms of repeated referee decisions wrongly going against them without any balancing effect are

Arsenal, Everton, and to a far lesser degree, West Ham and Man C.

But – and this is perhaps where matters have changed from previous years, and is probably what those of us who watch without refereeing experience are picking up – this isn’t actually making huge amounts of difference in terms of points.  In fact, curiously, Arsenal have benefited from a mistake in terms of points gained.   The table below shows teams in alphabetical order and records how many points clubs have gained or lost as a result of referee errors.

The big winners are Middlesbrough, and the biggest losers are Crystal Palace.

Team Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Total
Arsenal 0 +2 0 0 0 0 +2
Bournemouth 0 0 +2 0 0 0 0
Burnley 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Chelsea 0 0 0 -1 0 0 -1
Crystal Palace 0 +1 -1 -3 0 0 -3
Everton +2 0 0 0 0 0 +2
Hull City 0 0 +1 0 0 0 +2
Leicester City 0 -1 0 0 0 0 -1
Liverpool 0 0 -1 0 0 0 -1
Manchester City 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Manchester United 0 0 -2 0 0 0 -2
Middlesbrough +2 0 0 +3 0 0 +5
Southampton +2 0 0 0 0 0 +2
Stoke City -1 0 0 0 0 +2 +1
Sunderland 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Swansea City 0 0 0 +2 0 0 +2
Tottenham -1 -2 +2 0 0 0 -1
Watford -1 0 0 0 0 0 -1
West Bromwich 0 0 0 0 0 -1 -1
West Ham United 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

The most obvious explanations for the disparity between bias and the effects of bias are

a) That that the clubs that suffer at the hands of refs are used to it, and simply work harder to overcome the problem.

b) Referees do get influenced for and against clubs but this season they are redoubling their efforts not to let it affect the results too much.

Now why should point b) exist?   The suggestion that some of us were making on Untold before analysing these figures was that as video refereeing gets ever closer the referees are trying to clean up their acts.   If they find themselves, either through incompetence, through habitual bias, or just because of the speed of the game, making errors they will do what they can to ensure those multiple errors do not affect the result.

That then is a prediction – that what we will see in games to come is referees making multiple errors in favour of one team and against another, but that in the end the number of results which are affected by these errors is more modest than we might expect.

If this is the case, it is certainly new.  But now with a prediction we can see where the data takes us.

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What organisations and what people really have the power in football?

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Referee Appointments and Results Matchweek 06 – with video evidence

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6 comments to Which teams always benefit from referee mistakes, and which teams are constantly wrongly penalised?

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    Sorry Tony, the last table shows the points that Need to be added to the actual league table to counteract the effects of the referees mistakes. Arsenal should be two points closer to the top of the table and Middlesbrough should be a massive five points higher which could be vital for them as they are one of the teams likely to be in a relegation battle come the end of the season.

  • Usama Zaka

    Tony, the plus sign means these teams were denied this much points and it should be added to them.

    The minus sign means that these teams were awarded these extra points and it should be subtracted from them.

    You can edit out the article, if you want.

    P.S I forgot to just add a +2 for Bournemouth in the total column, in the report.

  • Usama Zaka

    the week 7 ref report will correct some typos, and porvide a broader perspective on these tables, becuase there a lot of result changing decisions in many games for week 7.

  • Andy Mack

    We are still getting the ‘smelly end of the stick’ but it’s definately it’s been less smelly this season. We’d never have got the Sanchez penalty at Watford last season…

  • Mandy Dodd

    Utd and Leicester getting the rub of the green, life is sometimes so full of surprises

  • Goonermikey

    It goes deeper than this for me. If (as would seem to be the case) Man U get a large refereeing bias in their favour, the players know that as do the opposition players. Man U players know they can go into tackles harder with a greater chance of getting away with it or fall over more often with a higher expectation of winning a free kick. Meanwhile, the position have to ease off against them. For fear of giving away “soft” free kicks Hence there is always an advantage for Man U before they’ve even kicked a ball. It’s not just the major decisions that influence the outcome of a game.