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July 2021

Only 1 in 5 red cards was right last year. Ref League Tables – the important decisions.


 Ordinary is Pointless


This article is part of the series : REFEREE REVIEW 2012


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.

In this article we will focus on the most important decisions by referees this past season. The decisions about red cards, penalties and goals. I think nobody will disagree that these are the most important decisions that directly and openly have an affect on the outcome of a game.  People who are a ref or have been a ref will know that the “other” decisions that are taken care of in an earlier article can also show something. But in the other decisions the impact is not clearly visible. As in the decisions in this article the outcome is more clear to see.

Before we start with the red cards I would like to make the point that this is only about the decisions on the field. In case of doubt we agree with the ref and stick to his decision. When something happened behind his back and he didn’t see it, the decision was marked as not correct. If in such case the FA took action after the game is something we didn’t take account of it in our numbers. We only judged the ref on the field and his decisions on field.

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The league average on red cards was 21,43% correct decisions. A ridiculous low number.


Correct decisions red +/- Average
1 ASTON VILLA 100,000 78,571
2 SWANSEA 66,667 45,238
3 WBA 50,000 28,571
4 BLACKBURN 50,000 28,571
5 QPR 37,500 16,071
6 MAN U 36,364 14,935
7 FULHAM 33,333 11,904
8 WOLVES 28,571 7,142
9 BOLTON 25,000 3,571
10 LIVERPOOL 23,077 1,648
11 TOTTENHAM 23,077 1,648
12 ARSENAL 21,875 0,446
13 MAN C 19,048 -2,381
14 NEWCASTLE 17,647 -3,782
15 CHELSEA 17,241 -4,188
16 SUNDERLAND 12,500 -8,929
17 STOKE 0,000 -21,429
18 WIGAN 0,000 -21,429
19 NORWICH 0,000 -21,429
20 EVERTON 0,000 -21,429

The first thing we notice is that in the games we reviewed Aston Villa the refs got it spot on when a red card had to be given. This shows that it can be done. But alas…Aston Villa is the only team to even come close to a perfect score in this type of decisions.

12 teams have a higher score than the league average. So this means 8 teams have a lower score.  And 4 of those teams have a score of 0 (zero). This means that the refs didn’t make any correct decisions on red cards! Be it sending someone off that should have been sent off. Or sending someone off who shouldn’t have been sent off… Nothing was correct!

Do you have any other word apart from disastrous for such a score?

As this is an Arsenal blog I would like to point at the fact that Arsenal had a score higher than the league average. In fact the score from Arsenal came closest to the league average.  So if you think 1 correct decision in 5 decisions is all right… then the refs did all right in Arsenal games. Needless to say that I totally disagree with this and that I think the score should be around the score of Aston Villa. For all teams in fact.

This type of decisions leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Obviously referees are not that interested in keeping the game clean. I have seen people slapping other players against the head without being sent off. I have seen players  kicking each other when the ball was out of play or on the other side of the pitch. I have seen two footed tackles with studs showing over the ball. I have seen studs planted on knees that could have easily cost a player his career. I have seen nasty and disgusting things that don’t belong on a football field. Things that belong in cage fighting but not in football.

And far too many of those things went unpunished by the refs. Sometimes even without calling a foul. At times it looked as if refs were afraid to show the needed red cards. I think this is cowardly behaviour from the refs. Maybe inspired by the fact that the media are too quick to say: the ref ruined the game by handing out that red card. THIS IS BOLLOCKS!!! It is the player who commits the assault or who punches another player that is guilty of ruining the game! I repeat myself: IT IS THE PLAYER WHO DOES THIS WHO IS RUINING THE GAME! NOT THE REF!

The ref is only ruining his game and that of the team who wants to play football when he doesn’t give a red card when it should be done.

After making myself clear on this we move on to the penalty decisions. Again I would like to point at the fact that in case of doubt we give the referee the benefit of the doubt.  The overall league average of correct penalty decisions was 62,24%.



Correct decisions penalty +/- Average
1 ASTON VILLA 83,333 21,092
2 WIGAN 82,250 20,009
3 SWANSEA 80,000 17,759
4 CHELSEA 73,214 10,973
5 WBA 72,727 10,486
6 NEWCASTLE 72,727 10,486
7 BOLTON 71,429 9,188
8 SUNDERLAND 70,000 7,759
9 MAN C 69,565 7,324
10 MAN U 64,706 5,000
11 NORWICH 64,286 2,045
12 WOLVES 60,000 -2,241
13 TOTTENHAM 56,250 -5,991
14 ARSENAL 56,061 -6,180
15 QPR 52,632 -9,609
16 STOKE 51,852 -10,389
17 EVERTON 50,000 -12,241
18 LIVERPOOL 50,000 -12,241
19 FULHAM 33,333 -28,908
20 BLACKBURN 30,000 -32,241

In the penalty decisions we see that again Aston Villa has taken the best place. With a score of 83.33% they have a score above the 80% mark and this means that the refs have done more than 21% better than the league average.

In this table we have 3 teams with a score above the 80% mark in fact. Wigan and Swansea also join Aston Villa in this.

If we look at the 70% mark (the minimum score that is acceptable) we see that only 8 teams have a higher score. So 12 teams have to live with the fact that the refs couldn’t produce the strict minimum that should be reached!

Bottom of this table we find Blackburn. With a score of just 30% of the penalty decisions in their games as correct. In the Fulham games it was just slightly better with 33.33%.

Mike Riley, do you think this is serious? Do you think this is acceptable? This is crap refereeing. There are not enough words to describe my disappointment about those numbers.

I know lots have been said about Arsenal and penalties in the past season. And yes Arsenal has been treated badly with a score of 56.06% correct penalty decisions. But we weren’t the only victims. Not that this is a big consolation of course.

Teams don’t deserve this crap, no matter which team that is on the field. Each teams deserves good and fair referees who are capable of scoring at least 70% on this type of decisions and in fact for penalties the bare should be raised to at least 80%. If not more.

Leaving this behind us we move on to the most important type of decisions: the goal decisions.

This type of decisions is what wins games and what wins titles or loses titles. So this is what should be the most correct of them all. And to start with some good news: this is the decision that the refs got the highest score in. The overall league average was 91.75% correct decisions.

So this is good, one could say. But I’m not that easy satisfied you know. Because as this type of decisions decides who takes the points home this should have a score of 99%. I could have said I want a score of 100%. But even I will admit that 100% perfection rarely exists. So I could take with the 1 mistake in 100 goals.

But what I cannot expect is the fact that the number we have found means that almost 1 goal in 10 is wrong! That is an average of almost 3 wrong goals each game day!  That is awful.

Let us move on to the table.


Correct decisions goal +/- Average
1 NEWCASTLE 97,826 6,073
2 SUNDERLAND 96,552 4,799
3 WOLVES 96,154 4,401
4 SWANSEA 95,652 3,899
5 BOLTON 95,000 3,247
6 WBA 94,118 2,365
7 EVERTON 94,118 2,365
8 LIVERPOOL 94,000 2,247
9 MAN U 93,860 2,107
10 NORWICH 92,857 1,104
11 BLACKBURN 92,683 0,930
12 WIGAN 92,000 0,247
13 ARSENAL 90,476 -1,277
14 MAN C 90,265 -1,488
15 ASTON VILLA 90,000 -1,753
16 TOTTENHAM 89,706 -2,047
17 CHELSEA 89,247 -2,506
18 FULHAM 88,462 -3,291
19 QPR 86,364 -5,389
20 STOKE 66,667 -25,086

The team that came closest to the score I would like to see was Newcastle. So in the games from Newcastle the refs done a good job. Showing it can be done in fact. The final score of 97,86% is decent and is more than 6% above the league average.  And as they like to be good neighbours the score from Sunderland comes close to the Newcastle score.

In fact we have 12 teams that have a higher score than the league average. But this also means that we had 8 teams that didn’t manage to get the league average score.

Arsenal is leading the pack of the teams that didn’t got the league average score in 13th place.

To be fair  19 teams are rather close to the league average if you want to look at it in a nice and gentle way. But there is one team that has seen the most crap referees of them all. Stoke is that team and in their games the refs came only up with a score of 66.67% correct goal decisions.

This means that of every 10 goals that were scored in games that had Stoke on the field at least 3 were not correct! This is a ********* disgrace. Teams don’t deserve such crap decisions! NO team!


If we put all the tables together and calculate the average we end up with an order that we will show you below.

The higher the place in this league table means the better the decisions in total have been for the games with the teams involved. Of course in individual cases in some games things will have been the reverse situation. But this is an average referee league table based on 155 games.

This is not saying that the teams on the top got the decisions their way. Or the one at the bottom got the decisions against them. No this is the score of how the different referees did when the teams where on the field.  This is a league table based on the % of correct decisions in total from the refs. Completely different than what we will show you in the next article when we look at the bias.

But the next table is showing which supporters have been blessed with good refereeing in general and which teams have been pestered with bad refereeing in general. This is based on all the different types of decisions we have given you so far.


10 MAN U
18 QPR

So Swansea has seen the best refereeing in the whole league last season. closely followed by Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion.

The 3 teams that have seen the most crap referees this season are QPR, Fulham and Stoke.

Check out your own favourite team in this table and try to remember if what you have seen was good or bad from the referees in general. Don’t think of getting advantage for your team or not. That isn’t the point in this table. The only thing that matters is: whether the refs correct in their decisions for both teams or not.

I will pick my own team of course. It is in 14th place. So on the side of the league table where we have seen more of the crap refereeing style.

Where is your favourite team placed Mike?


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22 comments to Only 1 in 5 red cards was right last year. Ref League Tables – the important decisions.

  • El Gringo

    Except the fact that the results are so depressing, great work!

    Two questions, though–since I’m not a qualified referee myself, I’d like to know what constitutes a red card offense. And also, did you include only straight red cards in the analysis, or were second yellows included as well?

    And to anyone who’s a ref with some free time, sign up! Walter and the reviewers need your help!

  • bob

    These continue to be shocking results. The new “normal” of lowered, sub-average expectations. The honeyed end product of the Hives of Queen Bee Riley is eagerly awaited in your next article.

    Perhaps then you will provide a statistic (if possible) of what are the odds of a team – Arsenal in this case – to have had ZERO penalty kicks at Home, awarded in one season. I’d hope to see that stat here, perhaps in the comments. Or in the next article/comments. Is this calculable? Wouldn’t it be an important statistic for AFC fans, indeed any fans to know? If the odds are astronomically against this happenstance, wouldn’t that say something that matters?

  • Dutchie

    Big credits to you guys DogFace and Walter Broeckx, excellent work!

    Before knowing the date you collected i already knew Stoke City would have the lowest score on correct goal decisions. They get away with fouling the goalkeeper every damn time. It really pisses me off. Look at their last match against Bolton, and how Foy screwed The Trotters. All the goals scored by Stoke in that match should have been disallowed.

    When a team doesn’t have an alternative way of scoring, they shouldn’t be allowed to cheat. But they are! When a team cannot match the technical level of the oppononent, they shouldn’t be allowed kicking and intimidating. But they are! When Manchester United cannot keep up for the number 1 spot in the league, they shouldn’t get all the decicions in their advantage. But they do! This is the way the referees think i guess. Very frustrating.

    But hey, Gazidis has a job at the FA now, so thinks might change. Although it took him lightyears to change anything at Arsenal FC.

  • Dutchie

    Wow, normally my grammar is bad, but this time i forgot how to spell also.

  • Robbie

    I think it’s very difficult to investigate whether or not the yellow or red card was correct. Individually many cards are incorrect but I think overall the refs do a decent job. I believe the ref will use his cards when things are getting out of hand and just wait for the first chance to show the card. Being on the pitch I think the ref have a good feeling for the game and he will try to keep the game from spiraling out of control. I usually don’t complain when Arsenal recieve a card because I think our players become overly frustrated when things aren’t going their way. Having a young squad will result in more bookings. I think in many cases when a player receives a red card that looks suspicious he has been foul-mouthing and not listened to the ref giving verbal warnings. I’ve given up trying to understand, watching from the stands or at the tv you don’t get the full picture. I want to believe the refs aren’t incompetent. The PL is a very competitive league. It’s faster and more physical so it’s hard to compare it with other leagues. Maybe we can find a correlation between the pace and physicality of the play and the correct calls by the ref between different leagues.

  • WalterBroeckx

    El Gringo, I will try to copy the rules and instructions in regards to red cards in the next hours. don’t have much time now. sorry

    But I can tell you that a second yellow card is also counted of course in the red cards.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Robbie, would be interesting to find out if people like us do this in other countries so we could compare this to other countries

    Also Robbie,
    In some cases there is no way between a red card at all. Like the defender on the line stopping the ball with his hand from going in. A ref cannot say when it happens: oh it was a fair game up to now so I will just give a yellow card. No the instructions are what they are and have to be followed.

    But like I said to El Gringo: will add the instructions later today (I hope)

  • bob

    Yes, agreed on all observation. But is it down to the way every referee thinks, every time? It’s clear that in some games some refs (even unexpected refs) can have near perfect ratings, or at least far above average ratings. So what does this big gap between good and terrible come down to? Pure coincidence? Is it is a coincidental collection of individual referees who make individual decisions, end of story? Or, if there are patterns to observe, is it something gone rotten in Denmark, something more than just frustrating. Our frustration – well, the PGMOL can live with that. Beyond frustration lies something more effectual.

  • bob

    You want to believe that everything you are reading is no true because you want to believe that the EPL is neither that incompetent nor that bent. Your honesty is refreshing. But the facts as you read them have pushed you into asking for a comparative study with another league for you to be convinced. If that were possible, and if, indeed, two different league averages actually provided something meaningful (I think that can be argued both ways), would you then ask for a comparison to a third league, and so on? I would suggest that, just perhaps, the reality of refereeing in the EPL, just the EPL is enough to go by for us to examine without going to other leagues. There’s no need – this isn’t particle physics (which, in turn, has had huge debates over what’s going on). Imo, the PGMOL has betrayed your dreams and decent standards; and it depends on our making excuses for them as to why they must be doing a good or honest job. It hurts to be lied to; but it can be energizing to realize it.

  • Charlie

    I am shocked. This data needs to go viral. Everyone should know how truly terrible Premiership referees are. It’s debated every day but we tend to assume that overall they get most of the decisions right. That’s obviously not the case and it almost makes the league a lottery. What we need to do is pay them a lot more but scrutinise them a lot more also, like the players. I am a firm believer that the best paid professions attract the best in their field. Why not pay them 100k a match and give them matches based on number of correct decisions, weighted and judged by a panel. You would see excellent people enter the profession and many of those currently serving poorly would be ejected.

  • El Gringo


    Take your time! Your life is much more important than my silly curiosity =)

  • Dutchie

    @ Bob

    Well, ofcourse there is no coincidence in this. But it is not unlikely that it’s all down to individuals. Referees are under enormous pressure and they usually lack character to deal with it (same problem in Holland). So it is possible they would not dare to disadvantage Man Utd by denying them a possible penalty, because of the rage of Ferguson, the ammount of supporters and ofcourse the media who will(!) report about it (unlike when Arsenal is denied, then they are quiet).

    It’s also a fact that most of the referees are from the middle and northern parts of England. A lot of those people have a different view on the game compared to the rest of the world (excluding Australia). This view ofcourse conflicts with the rules of the game, as it is not allowed to tackle with two stretched legs (at Stoke-on-trent they are convinced it is part of the game). So it could be a cultural thing too.

    But, even if this is true, then it is still up to the PGMOL to spread the risk of possible bias. They do not. We get Mason a little too often against Everton, while he gives them far more penalties then to other clubs. And Man Utd is getting Webb way too many games, especially the big games at Old Trafford. So it is possible that the referees work fully independent from eachother, but the ones above them know about their bias (proven by the same data u can find here)
    and appoints them to influate the competition.

    Another theory ofcourse is that Manchester United is the flagship of the FA. They are by far the most popular club, especially in Asia. From a commercial perspective it’s good for the FA that Man Utd wins a title once in a while.

    And last but not least, as i said before, don’t forget Ferguson is the big star of the Premier League. He has half of the managers, pundits, journalists and other media in his pockets. Probably some referees too. Their squad is overrated and his tactics (and tactical abillity) are also overrated, but they still manage to win so much. Can’t find the logic in that.

    Wow, long post. Anyway, just a bunch of theories.

  • bob

    Yes, and all that you’ve set out, taken together, is about isolated individuals, each acting in their own way and their own interests, some who have power and some who have none to less? Is this what you’re saying? No shared plans, no payoffs, no quiet alliances, no convergence of mutual interests to have MU come out at or just off the top? That’s just Fergie the One and Only being all-powerful? Is that what you mean?

  • Adam

    @Mr Broeckx, Question for you. Does this list include red cards that should have been given but were not?

  • Tom

    I have a question on red cards. As I see it there are four possible scenarios:

    1) The ref correctly issued a red card
    2) The ref incorrectly issued a red card
    3) The ref incorrectly did not issue a red card
    4) The ref correctly did not issue a red card

    My question is, how (if at all) do you go about determining number 4? In theory, the question “should a red card be issued?” could apply to any situation, but clearly there are particular scenarios (a hard tackle, a brawl, etc.). So how do you decide what to include in category 4?

  • RedGooner

    Nice piece of work.
    I am NOT shocked at the findings.
    I am shocked that there was 5 teams below us.
    I guess they could afford that though since none were our rivals.

  • Damien Luu

    @RedGooner: Yeah, me too. I thought that Arsenal have been worst screwed. A little bit of bias from our part, I guess 😉

  • Elvis Senthil

    If you take bias for or against, Arsenal is bottom and stoke on top. ;(

    The table merely shows amount of wrong decisions . Stoke had most wrong decisions and most of them were in their favour.
    PS: Looks like Stoke confuses real football with American football. Someone ought to teach the F@#ktards the difference .

  • nicky

    To read the articles, please use the following :
    Log on to the website I gave you.
    Log on to The History of Arsenal.
    In the righthand column there are titles in alphabetical order.
    Log on to Wartime and the 3 articles under that heading.

  • mark

    if there was automatic video replay of every penalty. Then the refs would be more willing to call a penalty because it would get reviewed and if correct the penalty is taken. If not, then it is a goal kick. This is just and it would not take longer than it does now to set up the penalty kick. As it is now the ref is reluctant to call a penalty for fear he has gotten in wrong. But video tec would give him assurance that the right call has been made. If his call of a penalty was correct then he grows in confidence.

    With goal line tech the correct call of goals should improve. The only issue then would be was it off side or was there a foul. So it still might not be 100% correct but it ought to be closer because the officials can now focus on those issues rather than the issue of the ball crossing the line.

    Why are these two technologies been resisted? It seems to me the only reason is that some one is gaining something from not getting decisions correct!

    Keep up the good work Untold Arsenal!

  • bob

    They’ve officially announced that they are going to install goal line technology in January or next season. It will “fix” a minor but important glitch; and, most important to them, it does not threaten their referee’s interpretation/control of the game results. To ensure this end, deploying goal line technology will become The Excuse for not installing the far more needed full video replay. “Too costly.” “It will slow down the game.” “We’ve already given goal line technology.” “It will take further study.” “We’ll appoint a committee to look into it.” Etc.

  • Stuart

    The only snag in the apprach you mention with regard to video replays for each pen is that it open to abuse by corrupt refs (if there are any of course) as it gives the ref an opportunity to call a penalty for non penalty instances in order to stop a team from scoring and then conveniently as it is not a penalty, the defending team get a goal kick.

    I think video replay does need to be implemented and the managers need to have the say over when an incident is reviewed. The review can be done on the sideline with a 5th official whilst play continues and if deemed a penalty, then play will stop and the ball will go back. If you give a manager unlimited calls but up to a maximum of 2 or 3 incorrect calls before 80 or 85 minutes, this should control over use and time wasting too.