Is this the biggest refereeing bias scandal yet found in the Premier League?



By Bulldog Drummond

In the past we have looked at the number of yellow cards being given in relation to tackles and fouls, and the results were pretty alarming, revealing as they did huge variations in the way referees handled different clubs.

This season, many more cards are being given for non-tackling offences, and although at first stats were published showing yellows for tackling and non-tackling offences the numbers we are being offered by WhoScored make no sense as we explained in the previous article.

For as we showed, the WhoScored stats show that Arsenal have committed 10 fouls and have 11 yellow cards for fouls.   The same disparity shows up for the other teams we looked at in the last article.

So we have tried looking elsewhere either to be able to explain why the stats have gone wrong, or to spot something we have never looked at before.  And we found one such issue that most certainly does tell a strange story: Yellow cards at home and away.


Club Yellow home Yellow away Difference Home bias
Arsenal 9 6 -3 -20%
Sheffield United 15 11 -4 -8%
Tottenham Hotspur 14 15 -1 -2%
Manchester City 8 9 -1 -3%
Liverpool 2 14 +12 +87.5%


Now you don’t have to be suspicious to really pause over the fact that Liverpool hardly get any yellow cards at home.  That number of two yellow cards at Anfield is under half of their nearest rivals for low yellow cards.  Tottenham (for whom we obviously don’t feel any sympathy) have got 700% more yellow cards at home than Liverpool.

Now since no one else has done this (at least as far as we have found today), we are publishing what is (or at least we think is) the first analysis of home / away difference in yellow cards.  And this, to us, looks like one of the biggest bias scandals that we have ever seen.  Which given what we have found in the past, is saying something!


Team Yellow at home Possession at home% Yellow away Possession away % Possession difference
1. Sheffield United 15 35.6% 18 54.1% -18.5%
2. Tottenham Hots 14 61.4% 15 60.2% +1.2%
3. Chelsea 13 60.9% 16 61.5% -0.6%
5. Aston Villa 12 56.3% 10 44.9% +11.4%
6. Newcastle 11 56.3% 12 51.5% +4.8%
7. Manchester Un 11 59.9% 9 47.1% +12.8%
8. Brighton 11 62.5% 14 53.8% +8.7%
9. Arsenal 9 60.2% 6 60.2% 0
13. Manchester City 8 59.6% 9 66.3% -6.7%
20. Liverpool 2 67.3% 14 46.1% +21.2%


Now the fact is that no club near the top of the league has anything like the difference between home and away possession as Liverpool do (over 21% difference).   And no club anywhere near the top of the league have the same difference in yellow cards (two at home, 14 away).

Obviously, one explanation is that Liverpool are a much better team at home than away.  But it is valid to ask: Can they really be that good and yet constantly pick up yellow cards away from home when it doesn’t happen to anyone else.

Obviously again, if Liverpool dominate games totally that helps, and yes they do have the highest possession rate of any club at home in our selection.  But even so, the other clubs with home possession rates above 60% are getting far more cards than Liverpool.  And indeed, although of course we hold no brief for Tottenham, we do try and get all our statistics right and they show Tottenham with 61.4% possession at home but 14 yellows.

So, yes it is possible to argue that with 67.3% possession at home, Liverpool have to tackle less.  Yet what is also strange is that their possession rate drops to 46.1% (akin to that of Brentford) away from home!

To answer this I wondered if Liverpool actually put in many, many more tackles away from home, and very few at home – that would after all explain the yellow cards.  Yes they do tackle away from home more than at home, as virtually all clubs do, but not by much.

At home it is 14.8 tackles a game.  Away it is 18.4.  So 3.6 more tackles away from home…


Club Tackles at home Yellows at home Tackles away Yellows away
Arsenal 17.6 9 17.5 6
Liverpool 14.8 2 18.4 14


So yes, Liverpool put in fewer tackles at home resulting in one yellow card every 7.4 tackles.  Away it is one yellow card every 1.31 tackles – which is not far from the number of cards per tackles most clubs get away from home.


One Reply to “Is this the biggest refereeing bias scandal yet found in the Premier League?”

  1. “For as we showed, the WhoScored stats show that Arsenal have committed 10 fouls and have 11 yellow cards for fouls.”

    And as I explained in my comment on the last article. Your statement appears incorrect as WhoScored clearly state in their tables that it is 10 fouls PER GAME for 11 yellows!!

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