Why now more than ever refereeing in the Premier League should be a matter of debate





By Tony Attwood

Let’s put this another way: Why is football journalism so averse to asking interesting questions?

Like, why are Tottenham Hotspur, currently top of the league, getting so many yellow cards?  29 in fact.  OK not the most (that is Wolverhampton Wanderers with 31) but second (equal with Chelsea), and followed closely by the likes of Sheffield United and Nottingham Forest.

Or put another way, why is Tottenham adopting the approach of clubs from the lower parts of the league (Chelsea are currently 11th) in order to maintain its position at the top?

Is it perhaps because the referees have got it in for Tottenham?   Or are they using illegal tactics to achieve and maintain their position at the top?  The Express did comment on one of Tottenham’s yellow cards tally noting, “Maddison was not happy at a decision from referee Peter Bankes. He put his hands on his head and slumped to the floor to express his disbelief.”  But they didn’t go on to note that Tottenham are currently heading for an all time record number of yellow cards in the Premier League.

Yet surely these are interesting points and interesting questions worthy of debate.  And to see why that so, let’s look at last season (Yellow 2022/3 in the table below), how many each of the top 10 clubs has this season (Yellow after 13 games) and what this will mean if things carry on like this (the last column on the right).


Pos Team Yellows 2022/3  Yellow 2023/24 after 13 games Yellow after 38 games Est 2023/24
1 Manchester City 44 17 71
2 Arsenal 52 15 63
3 Manchester United 78 20 84
4 Newcastle United 62 23 97
5 Liverpool 57 16 68
6 Brighton and Hove Albion 59 25 106
7 Aston Villa 80 22 93
8 Tottenham Hotspur 75 29 122
9 Brentford 55 23 97
10 Fulham 80 18 76


The numbers look as if they will grow significantly and clubs will be penalised for that – although as far as I know the penalties for multiple yellow cards remain the same as before.

The PFSA website explains:

  • Five yellows accumulated before match week 19 results in a one-match ban.
  • Ten yellows accumulated by week 32 will result in a two-match ban.
  • Fifteen yellows by week 38 means a three-match ban.
  • Twenty yellows in a season can result in the Regulatory Commission punishing the player in a manner that they deem to be most fitting.

In other words there is no punishment for the club or the team, just punishments for players, so clubs with totals heading into the 40s will know they are teetering on the edge if they haven’t already gone past it in terms of an individual player getting five cards.  Tottenham are on 29 cards after 13 games which is starting to look dangerous. 

And that is especially because cards are not evenly spaced out among the team.  If we look at the situation as it stands we can see a whole raft of players either on the five card level or about to hit it, probably next weekend.


Player Club Yellows
1. Nélson Semedo Wolverhampton Wanderers 5
1. Anthony Gordon Newcastle United 5
1. Aaron Hickey Brentford 5
1. Nicolas Jackson Chelsea 5
1. Emerson West Ham United 5
6. Edson Álvarez West Ham United 4
6. Yves Bissouma Tottenham Hotspur 4
6. Josh Cullen Burnley 4
6. Lucas Digne Aston Villa 4
6. Bruno Guimarães Newcastle United 4
. Mario Lemina Wolverhampton Wanderers 4
6. Douglas Luiz Aston Villa 4
6. Lucas Paquetá West Ham United 4


Tottenham have one player on four cards and two players on three.  West Ham have two players on five yellow and one on four cards already.  Chelsea have one player on five cards , and three on three, and we have only played a third of the season!

Other records are tumbling.  Goal.com for example noted that  “The 13 bookings in Tottenham’s win over Sheffield United set a new Premier League record for most yellow cards in a single game.”  Interestingly they didn’t really contemplate why or comment on Tottenham’s sillyness at letting that happen.

Does it mean that Tottenham have found that the approach used by Wolverhampton, Sheffield United and Nottingham Forest (currently 12th, 20th and 15th in the league) which leads to lots of cards is a good approach to use at the top of the league?   That might be so, which doesn’t bode well for the image of English football.  Or does it say more about how Tottenham are playing?

Or should we contemplate what the PGMO is up to, or how clubs such as Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City (all sitting on roughly half the number of cards Tottenham have suffered) are achieving their success without all the cards?

Well, we have to work all that out by ourselves, because according to the media, yellow cards are not a story.   I think that might be because Arsenal are not shown in a bad light so no journalist wants to know, but maybe there are other reasons.

2 Replies to “Why now more than ever refereeing in the Premier League should be a matter of debate”

  1. Tiny Totts , all those yellows and essentially only a ¼ of the season gone . Oh dear , oh dear , oh dear.

  2. I think what you’re saying Tony, and if you’re not I am, is not exactly what is happening in respect of each club or the increase in bookings but why the hell are the media completely and utterly avoiding the subject…….it smells even more than it did before but even the media don’t question it nobody will.

    But if the media don’t question it, WHY, WHY, WHY.

    It doesn’t just smell it absolutely stinks!!

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