Does the referee each team get make any difference? Yes, and there could be an explosion coming!



By Tony Attwood

It’s our question and at last someone else is asking it – and it is the Liverpool Echo who have joined us with the question “how actually have the Reds fared depending on who is in charge? And does it actually matter?”

So it is time to look at the groundwork, as all the clubs have played eight games so far this season.

To start, we wondered about the astonishing number of yellow cards that Tottenham have got this season (something that is not often mentioned in the media).  Tottenham have had 27 cards so far this season, averaging 3.38 a game which will total 128 at the end of the season at this rate.  Last season the notorious Leeds side got just a mere 84 across the season.

Indeed, in September, Goal tells us, the Premier League set a new record for most yellow cards in a single day, beating the one set over 25 years ago with 12 bookings in Tottenham’s game alone.

So is this down to specific referees?   What we have done is taken a look at how referees have been spread out this season among the clubs to see if certain clubs are getting yellow-waving referees, or if this high level of carding is a general trend among all the PL referees.

Most clubs across their first eight games of the season have had seven referees – obviously, one referee seeing each club twice.   It is a curious pattern, but one caused by the extreme lack of referees available to handle games in the Premier League.

20 referees have been used so far, across 80 Premier League games (8 per club) meaning that there is no reason for any referee to have seen the same club more than once, even with the catastrophically low number of referees available.  

But each of the clubs we look at in our table below have had at least one referee twice.  Brighton have actually had each of Taylor and Madely twice ALREADY – and we are only eight games in.  Manchester City have had Pawson and Oliver twice already.  Liverpool have had Taylor and Hooper twice each, and so it goes on.

But our prime question here is, is this massive increase in yellow cards this season due to certain referees?

And the answer to that is “not yet proven” – as we can see from the list of referees and their carding level  Here is the list of referees, and they are all waving the cards is roughly similar ways except Olier and Madley.    Madely is giving out cards 41% more cards than Oliver this season.  If a club wants to keep their yellow cards down, in this frantic carding season it is Oliver who is the man you want.  


Referee Games Fouls pg Fouls/Tackles Yel pg
1.Anthony Taylor 7 20.57 0.65 5.14
2.Robert Jones 7 26.43 0.81 5.29
3.Michael Oliver 6 19.17 0.51 4.50
4.Andy Madley 6 27.17 0.82 6.33
5.Peter Bankes 6 22.83 0.67 5.50


And indeed it turns out Arsenal and Manchester City have each had Oliver twice.    Here’s the grand table club by club.  Tottenham have had blow out games with two different referees so get listed twice.


Club Referee Games Yellows Club total
Arsenal Oliver 2 4 12
Tottenham Jones 2 8
Tottenham Bankes 1 6 27
Chelsea Robinson 2 7 26
Manchester City Oliver 2 5 15
Liverpool Taylor 2 5 15
Wolverhampton Pawson 2 9 24
Brighton Madley 2 10 23


5 Replies to “Does the referee each team get make any difference? Yes, and there could be an explosion coming!”

  1. One obvious factor in Spurs yellow card total is Bissouma who appears to be trying to get himself booked and maybe sent off every game at the moment. I don’t think that has anything to do with the referee it’s simply a problem with the player. Another factor may be that you have a new team trying to play very attacking, agressive football. That leads to counter attacking situations where the team is stretched and desperate tackling can occur. If that is a factor you would expect the yellow card count to reduce as the season goes on and the team learn to play more as a unit. We’ll find out I suppose. It does strike me that while you can trot out numbers to draw any meaningful conclusions you would need to look at how each team was actually playing, not just who had refereed the matches.

  2. Jod: re Bissouma, I’m not sure that this is quite right. He’s had four cards, which puts him in the top 10 for carded players this season, but he’s not at the top of the list: Gordon, Hickey and Jackson have all received more. Four cards yes is a lot, but the key issue is that Tottenham have seven players each with 2 or 3 cards – I think it is across the team, not just focussed on one player.
    Yes, Tottenham may well be playing as you say, and yes the yellow count may come down as the season progresses, but it is a very risky approach, and it is interesting that the other teams near the top are not using this approach at all. Liverpool, Man C and Arsenal are on 15 cards or fewer while Tottenham are on 27.
    The approach might well calm down, but given it is something spread across several members of the team, I still see it as interestingly risky. They might get away with it, but I’m not convinced.

  3. Is there nobody with a possible link to PGMOL, Howard Web or Sky Sport that could ask the question as to why there is 20 referees available but some that are not used or referee a lot less games than Taylor, Oliver & Jones as an example? With 20 refs available each round, surely the other 10 can rest and be fully recovered for the next round. That way nobody gets over exerted & can do their jobs as expected from them? If you have mail addresses please let me have them then I’ll mail the question to them and let you know what their replies are. Enjoy the game against Chelsea but remember it is another London derby so it’s going to be tense but I think totally winnable.

  4. Thankfully I began following football long before we knew the names of the officials or discussed their decision making endlessly. I’m afraid this question of referee bias will continue until AI takes over the officiating of games & then only if Howard Web hasn’t been allowed to program them.
    With many none Arsenal fans complaining bitterly about the extreme lack of diversity in the Arsenal Women’s squad I’m surprised they haven’t yet aimed their ire at the PGMO. Why no £70K Diversity Managers at the PGMOL? Why is there not 50% female referees as demanded in other walks of life? And of that 50% many have to be muslim or black. And that is before we get onto the LBG+52 brigade with a proportion being trans. Maintaining standards? Sorry that went out the window long ago in the UK. Look at our politicians, national & local to see that doesn’t apply.
    PS My computer insists on changing the words I type, Lock instead of Look

  5. “Government data about the UK’s different ethnic groups. 82% of people in England and Wales are white, and 18% belong to a black, Asian, mixed or other ethnic group (2021 Census data)”

    If my maths is correct that means slightly less than 1 in 5.

    Given that, out of a first team squad of 31 (including on loan as published on the Arsenal web site) to correspond with the UK demographic we should have 6 players in the black, Asian, mixed or other ethnic groups” We have at least 15.

    Funny how nobody focuses on those stats.

    Given those ethnic groups see reason to point out their under representation within the Arsenal ladies, which is a fair point, does that mean White players have reason to point out their under representation in the mens squad?

    Or is it that when ethnic groups are over represented they are their on merit, but when they are under represented it is due to racism?

    Just asking.

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