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July 2021

Ref Review 2012-13: Sunderland. A team with a positive bias.

By Walter Broeckx

This article is part of the series of the Referee Review 2013. You can find links to earlier articles on the bottom of this article.


In this part of the series we have a look at each team and see how the bias panned out for each team. This is based on the decisions themselves without putting any weight on each decision. A total table will be published at the end of this and then you can compare each team with the other teams.

And it will be an interesting table I can assure you of that.

First we are providing a table for each team highlighting each type of decision. This gives the totals as for when the team in the article got a favourable decision and when they got it against them.

If the traditional mantra, “it all evens out at the end of the season” is true it should show in these statistics – and indeed for some clubs we have already reviewed, that is the case.

But as I said, in the table we just show the decisions as a decision and we didn’t put any weight on the decisions. That is something for later on. Now we just take each decision at the same value, which is of course not saying all because a wrong penalty call is a bit more important than a wrong throw in decision.

But now let us move to the sixth team in our survey: Sunderland.

We reviewed 19 games that included Sunderland last season. And that is exactly 50% of the games they played in the PL. So I think we can say these could be rather accurate numbers.

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In the second column we see the type of decision. And in the column headed “favoured” we see how many decisions favoured Sunderland when we reviewed them. And in the column headed “Penalised” we see how many times a wrong decision went against them.  The total swing is the difference between the favoured decisions and the penalised decisions.

A negative number in this column means that the total was against the team and a positive number means that the total decisions was in their favour.

In the last column we see the average swing per game based on the games we reviewed. And this gives an indication on how many decisions went against a team or were in favour of a team. The lower the number the lower number of decisions that were wrong. And a positive number indicates that in each game they get some decisions in their favour and a negative indicates how many decisions the team has to overcome.

We had a total of 264 wrong decisions in the 19 games we did with Sunderland. That is more than 13 wrong decisions per game. Dreadful in fact. Of those 264 wrong decisions we had 149 in their favour and 115 going against them. The difference is 34 decisions in favour of Sunderland. And that is almost 2 decisions in their favour on average.

If we first look at the decisions that went against them we see that we find the goal decisions is one of them.  But with only 1 wrong decision in total this is not really too bad. Of course if that was the only goal of the game it is bad. The other two negative decisions are goal kicks and corners.  Maybe not the most important ones except when you are a team that scores a lot from corners? Or concede a lot from corners against you.  But those statistics are not at my disposal for the moment.

But in general all the other decisions went in favour of Sunderland.  The foul/free kick decisions are the most wrong decisions in their favour. But also the penalty decisions were rather in their favour most of the time. We had 10 wrong penalty decisions and 7 went in favour of Sunderland and only 3 against them.  Of course a penalty with a score of 5-0 or at 0-0 is a world of difference at the end of a game. But this is something we cannot see in the numbers over here. That is something for later, I hope.

When it comes to discipline (yellow and red cards) we see that these wrong decisions went very much in favour of Sunderland also.

There are a lot of referees from the north east in the PGMO ranks, and at its simplest level one might ask if this is good score by a team from that region a coincidence?  We’ll see more later on with the weighted scores.

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2 comments to Ref Review 2012-13: Sunderland. A team with a positive bias.

  • I must admit I found this all quite interesting, in that statistical bollocks way we do, until I reached the absurd conclusion that Sunderland may have (slightly) benefited from certain decisions, though not others, in half the games last season because there are a few match officials with North-eastern origins.

    The region splits in three main ways, SAFC, NUFC and Boro. Wouldn’t it be as ludicrous for me to argue that a ref or lines(wo)man from a Newcastle-supporting catchment area would abandon professionalism and be down on us?

    Agreed, 50 per cent isn’t a bad sample but you know as well as I that the other 19 could produce quite different stats.

    And it’s not as if we bring our own refs – whoever they might be thought to support – to the game, as Arsenal did (Paul Danson) inn 1996.

  • Mandy Dodd

    theserefs do like their northern teams! seem to recall us regularly on the wrong sides of these things in the north east!