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August 2021

REF REVIEW 2012: Bolton Wanderers. The team with the positive away bias


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By DogFace and Walter Broeckx

Untold Arsenal has a team of qualified referees who have reviewed more than 40% of the EPL games from last season. The reviews themselves were based on full match video footage with the advantage of video technology features such as slow motion and pause.

By reviewing those 155 games we have made a database of more than 7000 decisions that have been judged by our panel of dedicated and qualified referees.

The numbers you will see are based on those decisions and those reviewed games.

Next in our reviews we have a team that went down also. Leaving us with no “B”teams in the PL next season. (I refer to the alphabet of course).

Maybe a bit of a surprise that Bolton went down. Well for me it was. We hear that they had a very controversial defeat on the last day of the season at Stoke with Stoke again having one of those days blessed by bad referee decisions in their favour and with Bolton paying the price. But unfortunately we didn’t have that game to review – so we cannot comment on that one.  But you find out what we did have below.

Untold Vs PGMOL - BoltonWanderers 2011/2012

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We managed to do 10 games from Bolton Wanderers last season.  That is 26,32% of their total games. So  just  over 1 game in 4.

Just as with Blackburn Rovers I think this is a good result for a lower placed team. Of course things could have been better. But lack of games shown live on TV prevented us from doing more games. And if you know a ref in your part of the world who maybe would be interesting in joining us: tell him about us, ask him to join us so we can do  a better job next season. Let us see how competent the refs have been in the games from Bolton Wanderers as one of the teams involved.

PGMOL Vs EPL - Basic Competency - BoltonWanderers 2011/2012

So the overall score of the refs in total was better than the league average. The un-weighted decisions was just under 3% better and the weighted decisions were better just under 4%. So that looks to be a positive sign at first.

But it still means that 1 decision in 4 was not correct. I think the PL should aim a bit higher.

Let us see how the different type of decisions have been done by the refs.

PGMOL Vs EPL - Basic Competency Breakdown - BoltonWanderers 2011/2012

If we look at the goal decisions we can see that they were better than the league average. 95 % correct is not bad but remember this should be somewhere around 99% correct. The most important decision type must be the most correct one.

The offside decisions that we could check are also better than the league average. Just under 94% correct. Not really the 99% that Mike Riley claims of course.

The other decisions are also some 2% better than the league average. Under the 75% border line but well we know by now that  there are a lot of mistakes made.

The penalty decisions were much better than the league average with a score of 71%. Some 9% better than the average but I still think this is not enough to be called good.

The red cards are still very low with only 1 in 4 decisions correct.

And the yellow cards are worse than the league average with a score that goes below the 50% border down to 47%. But that in fact is the only decision type where the refs scored lower than the league average.

So rather high (relatively speaking of course) correct decisions but who suffered from the wrong decisions.

PGMOL Vs EPL - Incorrect calls Breakdown - BoltonWanderers 2011/2012

And now we see an interesting score in this graphic. In the away games they didn’t get a negative away bias against them but a positive bias score of 1.000 decisions points. Not a big one but it results in a rather big swing compared to what teams normally have to face. I want to point that this is only based on the games we did review.

The home bias is almost the same as the league average. The final result is a positive bias swing in their favour in total of +1.500. But in the games we reviewed they only managed very few points. So at first sight we could say that the positive bias didn’t really help them a lot.

If we put weight on the decisions the normally expected negative away bias of -2.619 is a positive away bias of 1.250 for Bolton.  And they also have a positive home bias which is 1 point better than normal.

So in the 10 games we reviewed we have seen a rather positive bias from the refs in favour of Bolton. Let us have a look at the refs who did those games.

EPL vs PGMOL - Incorrect calls Breakdown by Referee - BoltonWanderers (Un-Weighted) 2011/2012

We had 9 different refs in these 10 games. Only ref Clattenburg did two Bolton games. The rest are all numbers based on one game.

3 refs of the 9 had a negative bias. One had a zero bias and 5 refs had a positive bias. Mike Dean having a zero bias and Clattenburg a positive bias over two games of only 0.5000 points are very strong in the middle and on the good side of the bias numbers.

Peter Walton was very biased against them it seemed. Marriner and Probert not really exceptional at first sight.

The 4 other positive refs had a rather big swing in favour with Kevin Friend being a friend of Bolton the most. Let us see if we put the weight on the decisions  changes something in the next graphic.

EPL vs PGMOL - Incorrect calls Breakdown by Referee - BoltonWanderers (Weighted) 2011/2012

And yes it does. We now have 4 refs with a negative bias and 5 with a positive.

Mark Clattenburg goes from a un-weighted 0.5 positive bias now to a negative bias of 0.5 points. This is an example of a ref who made few mistakes in total but apparently missed a yellow card against an opposing team.

Dean makes the opposite move. From a zero bias he goes to a positive bias. This could mean that he gave them a wrong penalty or awarded a goal that should have been disallowed.

Lee Probert and Andre Marriner their negative bias is rather small. Peter Walton seemingly had all the registers open against Bolton.

The same could be said of the positive refs Oliver, Foy, Friend and Jones. They get a in very high weighted score in favour of Bolton.

PGMOL Vs BoltonWanderers - Incorrect calls Seasonal Handicap - BoltonWanderers (Weighted) 2011/2012

Despite a very favourable referee performance in game 2 they didn’t win any points from it. And the same could be said from the rest of the first 7 games. Getting them from 1st place after the first day of the season to being bottom after 7 games. And the game that put them bottom in week 7 was a game where the ref was not at their side it seems.

Week 22 and 23 saw them having the ref on their side and picking up some points. So it can be helpful to have a little help from your friend the ref. It got them just out of trouble  in those games. But it didn’t save them in the end of the league.


Despite having a positive bias overall it didn’t help them to remain the PL. Some high profile mistakes from the ref at crucial points cost them. As we didn’t review those games they are not included. A case in which our cry for help would maybe have changed a few things.

The refs in the Bolton games did in general better than the league average. Only handing out the yellow cards was worse than the league average.

Some games we did review

Bolton – Tottenham Hotspur
Manchester City – Bolton
Chelsea – Bolton
Bolton – Liverpool
Bolton – Arsenal
Bolton – Chelsea
Arsenal – Bolton
Bolton – Manchester United
Liverpool – Bolton
Bolton – Manchester City

Editorial Footnote: Occasionally readers wish to make the point that our figures or methods are themselves fixed or biased.  If you have such a view and wish to argue that point please do take a look at our article on data and conclusions first.   If you want to see past articles in this series they are at EPL REFEREE REVIEW 2012- An historic study on the refs in the EPL


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