How much do the regular PL referees’ vary over how they handle games?



By Tony Attwood

In this article, we only look at referees who have overseen 10 or more games in the Premier League this season in order to see the level of variation in their results. The raw data comes from WhoScored and all figures related to games this season.  You might also want to have a look at Squwaka’s article on referees and card giving

We should of course expect some variation between the results referees get in games they oversee, for clearly no two games are the same.   But the point here is that the variation that we see between referees is much more than we might expect if we take it that all referees are trained to see games in the same way, and they don’t get to referee some teams more than others.

But it is not quite like this.   For example, Samuel Barrott sees 23% fewer fouls per game than David Coote.  So as a defender you don’t really want David Coote in control, and if you know Coote is blowing the whistle, it might be a good idea to reduce the number of tackles you make.


Referee Games Fouls pg Percentage difference
David Coote 12 24.50
Samuel Barrott 13 19.85 23%


As a result of this David Coote sees 73% of the tackles in a game as fouls, while Jarred Gillet only see 51% of tackles in a game as fouls.  A whacking great 43% difference!  And remember these guys are refereeing in the same league.


Referee Games Fouls/Tackles Percentage difference
.David Coote 12 0.73
Jarred Gillett 14 0.51 43%


But if like Arsenal you have a cool calm penalty taker you will welcome Michael Salisbury who is getting on for one penalty a game.  But no thoughts of possible penalties occur with Andy Madley in control.  The chance of a penalty is with Michael Salisbury is 136% more than with Andy Madley.


Referee GamES Penalties per game Percentage difference
.Michael Salisbury 11 0.82
.Andy Madley 17 0.06 136%


But what about the handing out of yellow cards – and here we are looking at yellow cards from all causes not just tackles as the figures we can obtain from Who Scored don’t separate the cause of the cards into different groups.  


Referee Games Yellows per game Percentage Difference
David Coote 12 5.17
Samuel Barrott 13 3.08 68%


There is a 68% higher chance of yellow cards when David Coote is in charge than when Samuel Barrott takes the field.

But let’s move on.  We know from the statistics that we ran during the pandemic that at that time away wins shot up and home wins declined.  (If you want to go back over the research and statistics that link is a good place to start).  The reason, as we have so often covered this, is the proven influence of the crowd on some referees.  

In the tables that follow the figures are for the Premier League this season.

Home win percentage


Referee Games HomeWin% AwayWin% Draw%
Simon Hooper 18 61.1 27.8 11.1
Paul Tierney 18 27.8 44.4 27.8


Away win percentage


Referee Games HomeWin% AwayWin% Draw%
Jarred Gillett 14 35.7 57.1 7.1
Robert Jones 16 56.3 18.8 25.0


Champions of the Drawn game this season


Referee Games HomeWin% AwayWin% Draw%
Anthony Taylor 20 40.0% 30.0% 30.0%
Stuart Attwell 12 58.3% 41.7% 0.0%
PL figures in total 281 45.9% 33.5% 20.6%


So there we know,  Once you know who is in charge of a game then although you can’t be 100% sure of the result, and the clubs obviously still do have a lot of say in how a game works out, you will have an extra insight into what we might call a likely result.

Thus if Arsenal are playing Sheffield United, we can’t be 100% sure that Arsenal will win, but it seems very, very likely given the state of the two teams.  But if you fancy taking a flutter on Brighton against Crystal Palace, a look at the general attitude and approach of the referee could take your winnings up a bit.

9 Replies to “How much do the regular PL referees’ vary over how they handle games?”

  1. It’s shocking to realize some people will look at those stats and see nothing wrong. Flat-earthers perhaps.

  2. However, the stats do not show how referees differ in their decisions between different teams.

    Thus, Riley was a ref who would not give fouls, but only in the case of Man U?

  3. The stats do show referee variation between different clubs, but no one at the moment is gathering them and publishing them. That however is possibly about to change.

  4. John L

    Not sure if it was Riley, but there was one ref that point blank refused to give penalties against Man United, but gave them in abundance against everybody else, especially when they were playing Man united. Been written about on here but I cant remember who the referee was. Anybody?

  5. John L

    Very true 😉

    But there was one in particular and I think it was Howard Webb.

    I’ve had a look around and have found a brilliant article specifically about his bias towards Man United, from about 10 years ago. Yes, it’s by a Liverpool fan, but the statistics are the statistics, and they are damning. To be clear it doesn’t make specific reference to the point I made above, but it is very much in line with Tony’s theme of the imbalance (or bias if you prefer), in how a referee handles different teams.

    There is a table a little way down the article that is absolutely damning. Not just in the way he favoured United, but how he clearly targeted Arsenal.

    The table the author produced not only showed Webb’s bias, but also showed how all the ‘other’ referees also favoured Manchester United and targeted Arsenal, but by nowhere near as much as Webb, who was clearly a massive ‘outlier’ and a massive Man Utd Fan!!!

    One final point.

    That means at the head of the PGMOL we had Riley, and we all know what he did to us at OT, followed by Webb, who also clearly favoured man Utd.

    Anyway, for us at UA it’s a fantastically researched article and clearly shows just how dramatically different the Laws Of The Game are applied by different referees. It is clearly not a new Phenomena.

    It is well worth a read.

    PS I have not checked any of the stats.

  6. I pointed out some years ago that Riley was so bad that in one season he refereed something like 40 games. In those games he gave nine penalties.

    He refereed 31 games that didn’t involve Man United and in those games he gave just one penalty.

    In the nine games involving Man Utd he gave eight penalties. Every single one of them were in Man Utd’s favour.

    Now in my view that’s not a statistical quirk but absolute evidence of a corrupt referee. Not one that is necessarily taking backhanders, but certainly one who is completely and utterly biased. I’m no statistician but I understand enough to know that this level of uneveness doesn’t happen by accident.

    The media, of course, never said a dicky bird.

  7. Mikey

    So it WAS Riley. I remember the post very well, and it was what I was referring to above, I just couldn’t remember who it was or who produced the numbers.

    Thank you for that.

    “I’m no statistician but I understand enough to know that this level of unevenness doesn’t happen by accident.” Exactly.

    Did you take a look at the link I put up? Webbs numbers regarding his treatment of Man Utd are also damning and I would suggest indicating bias to a level that gives Riley a run for his money.

    It also cannot be a coincidence that these two Manchester United loving officials ended up as heads of the the PGMOL.

    If those numbers were in favour of Arsenal can you imagine it not being highlighted by the media? If it was Wenger that had the referees numbers in his mobile do you think it would of been allowed to drop? If you put those two things together, it is a massive indictor that something was/is seriously amiss with how our game is officiated. An utter disgrace.

    But as you say, this is Man Utd so not a Dickie bird.

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