Arsenal v Crystal Palace: the insanity of the refereeing in the Premier League


By Bulldog Drummond

In this article, I want to go back to the referee.  Figures in this piece as in all our articles on refereeing and the PGMO come from the highly recommended  WhoScored.

Our referee today is Stuart Atwell, and these figures examine his calling of fouls in relation to tackles compares with other referees, as well as his number of yellow cards per game.


Referee Games Fouls pg Fouls/Tackles YelLOWS pg
1.Paul Tierney 23 20.61 0.61 3.48
2.Michael Oliver 21 21.43 0.60 3.14
3.Anthony Taylor 20 20.25 0.56 3.55
4.Simon Hooper 20 19.95 0.57 3.20
5.Stuart Attwell 18 19.28 0.58 3.56


Here we are not looking at the rights of wrongs of each decision, but seeing where Attwell stands in relation to other referees – and the figures suggest he is middle of the road for those referees doing 18 games or more.

The key numbers are fouls per tackles and yellow cards, and here Referee Attwell is in line with other referees.  That doesn’t mean he is always right, but rather he is not massively eccentric.

So now let us move on to the results of his games

In this table we compare six referees who have overseen 10+ Premier League games this season, in terms of their willingness to allow home wins.  Here the range is utterly extraordinary and one might ask exactly how it can be that some referees are overseeing matches with 60%+ home wins and some at around the 30% to 37% home wins.

In this table we have taken the top three referees for home wins and then the bottom three on the same criteria


Referee Games HomeWin% AwayWin% Draw%
2.Simon Hooper 20 70.0 5.0 25.0
4.Stuart Attwell 18 61.1 16.7 22.2
5.Robert Jones 18 61.1 27.8 11.1
15.John Brooks 11 36.4 27.3 36.4
16.Craig Pawson 17 35.3 41.2 23.5
19.Anthony Taylor 20 30.0 45.0 25.0


And the question is simple.  How can some referees be seeing 60 to 70% home wins and others only 30% to 37% home wins across two thirds of a season?   It seems ludicrous.

Let’s do it the other way : away wins – and here the insanity continues.  Some referees seeing 40% away wins and others under 10%.  How can this possibly be reasonable?

Either referees are being picked for their propensity to help the home or away team, or else some are simply biased by the crowd, while others have read all the statistics about home crowds influencing referees and have simply gone to the other extreme.  Either way is wrong.


Referee Games HomeWin% AwayWin% Draw%
1.Anthony Taylor 20 30.0 45.0 25.0
3.David Coote 14 42.9 42.9 14.3
5.Jarred Gillett 12 25.0 41.7 33.3
18.Andy Madley 18 50.0 16.7 33.3
19.Peter Bankes 14 42.9 7.1 50.0
20.Simon Hooper 20 70.0 5.0 25.0


So let us finish with a look at our referee today: Stuart Atwell across his 18 games this season…


Referee Games Fouls pg Fouls/Tackles Pen pg Yel pg
Stuart Attwell – all 18 19.28 0.58 0.17 3.56
Stuart Attwell home 18 9.89 0.57 0.06 1.33
Stuart Attwell away 18 9.39 0.60 0.11 2.22


He is twice as likely to give a penalty to the away team as the home team – but the numbers are small so this could easily be a quirk of the figures.   But he gives a lot more yellow cards against the away team.   Although also twice as many penalties to the away teams – but again the numbers are small.   

Luckily for Arsenal today he is a home win referee – and we’ll take every win we can get of course.  But these figures are utterly crazy.   How can a league be run on the basis of having some referees that oversee home wins at twice the rate of other referees? 

2 Replies to “Arsenal v Crystal Palace: the insanity of the refereeing in the Premier League”

  1. Interesting article as always, but there is an extremely important variable missing. What games are the referee in charge of ? If a ref has two Arsenal and two Man City games against lower level teams, one would expect that would boost their home win numbers by four games and the converse is true.

  2. Chinus, the implication I am taking is this. Referees who take a match most weeks should be given a wide range of premier league games and not see the same clubs over and over again. Indeed our basic point for years has been that each referee should not see the same team more than twice in a season, so that any bias that does creep in, is less likely to favour one team that is seen, perhaps, half a dozen times in a season.

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