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July 2021

Referee Review 2012/3: Aston Villa. A very significant 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 series 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 next team in our survey:

Aston Villa

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We did 23 games of Aston Villa and that is 60,53%  of their games. A rather high number of games done in fact. So unless the complete opposite happened in those 15 other games we can think that this should be the pattern for the whole season.


Aston villa


In the second column we see the type of decision. And in the column “Favoured” we see how many decisions favoured this team when we reviewed them.  In the column “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 294 wrong decisions in the 23 games we did with Aston Villa.  That is just under 13 wrong decisions per game. Again this is too high to be good.   But more importantly now is to see how the dividing was of those wrong decisions.

Of those 294 wrong decisions we had 169 in their favour and 125 going against them. The difference is 44 decisions going in favour of Aston Villa  in total. This is a rather big  bias in their favour.

When we look at the decisions we see that they got a big benefit from the fouls/free kicks decisions.  A very big number of decisions going their way. We also see that the corners, goal kicks and yellow cards swung their way in most cases. And of the very important decisions we see that they sure were lucky when dealing with penalty decisions.

If we look at the decisions going against them we see that this is mostly about advantage, indirect free kicks and throw ins and those can be classified as not that important decisions. But one big thing is that Aston Villa had a negative swing on the goal decisions. And that is of course a bad thing to have. I think that is the type of decision you want your team to have a positive bias.

In fact this is the type of decision where there should be no bias at all. But alas we didn’t reach that point yet and given the way the authorities work in football we probably never will.

All in all Aston Villa had a lot of favourable decisions going their way and the only really negative point is the goal decisions. And yet that type of decision just be the one that divides the points at the end of the day.

Editorial note: if you want to comment it is perhaps worth having a look at some of the background to this research in the articles below, if you have not come across Referee Decisions before.  We have had situations in which supporters of various teams have not done this, and made comments which, in retrospect they maybe wish they hadn’t.

26 comments to Referee Review 2012/3: Aston Villa. A very significant bias

  • cpl

    Sounds a bit like sour grapes to me. A really scientific study

  • nigel

    At the end of the day anyone who watched the villa/arsenal match will know how biased the ref was towards villa on that occasion, in my opinion he changed the face of the game with his bad calls. A game in which we were clearly ahead in terms of play, our players became frustrated at the decisions being made and we stopped thinking about our play and became concerned by way the the game was being managed. once we were 2-1 down we started chasing and although still dominating play we left ourselves open in much the same way city did against Cardiff and thus villa caught us on the break and put the game beyond our reach. We have to accept that all teams have games like this and refs who don’t know their … from their … at end of the day eventually things even themselves out. What concerned me was the way supposed fans and bloggers reacted to this loss and it became obvious not one of them actually watched the match, prob something to do with the fact they were all watching porn at the time! What does concern me is the spurs fans who thought they had a chance of beating a far superior team in open play. Whats the chances of spurs getting handed another 35 penalties this season?

  • Mark Laffan

    Jesus, get over it! You were well beaten in that game, Villa lost to Chelsea in the same week, with the winner being scored by a player who elbowed Benteke in the face just a minute beforehand, there is your “evens itself out”. Who decided they were bad calls anyway!!

  • WalterBroeckx

    I really wonder if some are really dumb or just have missed this: Editorial note: if you want to comment it is perhaps worth having a look at some of the background to this research in the articles below, if you have not come across Referee Decisions before. We have had situations in which supporters of various teams have not done this, and made comments which, in retrospect they maybe wish they hadn’t.

    If they have missed it try to read the article again and try to understand that this is about last season. If you then still cannot get it… then well.. we just have to accept it

  • Mark Laffan

    Yeah, we get it.

    Why did you put it up though? You were beaten and it will happen again this season, probably because of the ref, waah waah. Weak!

  • astonguerrilla

    What are you trying to prove here?(before you post again, I have looked into your background research). We all know that refereeing decisions can generally go for and against each club, and that it’s also possible for a club, over the course of a season, to receive more decisions for or against than others, so what? If your research covered the past 5-10 seasons and there were some significant differences in bias then you will have highlighted something worth looking into.
    Trust me, as a Villa fan there have been some seasons over the past ten years where we have not had the rub of the green overall. What I don’t like about this article is that you’re trying to use your “background research” to prove that some clubs are deliberately getting preferential treatment. What are you really trying to say here? That referees get together and decide that they don’t like certain clubs and will therefore take it out on them when they’re on the pitch? That some clubs are paying cash for decisions? Get real.
    This research proves nothing because of the time short time frame that you’ve used. Keep it up, and then post your article again in ten years, let’s see if you’ve made any significant findings then.

  • astonguerrilla

    Why is it taking so long to moderate my last post?

  • Jamie Thomas

    It is so obvious since I started watching the Prem League one team consistently got the calls in their favor. How can the FA management allow so much slanted officiating. Wouldn’t the prevailing wisdom acknowledge that having 70% of the calls be a distinct advantage to the outcome of a contest. Amazing in the US our American Football referees are grades each game and are only allowed a slight variance when their calls are reviewed to determine consistency and a level playing field. It definitely makes one wonder if English Soccer is prescripted like our wrestling. Maybe things will go back to ‘fair play’ with sir Alex retired. I would like to see the statistics over the last 10 years to see if 2012-13 was an anomaly or a pattern of an advantage to Manu. Come on refs call it right or forfeit your game day wages.
    Just calling it as I see it.
    An American Fan

  • Al

    forget about this troll.
    thanks again for your article.

  • Va Cong

    Mark walter had done this before the Villa match, and its across not one game moron. You say you got beat by Chelsea but do you not want these stupid decisions ironed out?

  • Stuart

    Do yourself a favour and take Walters advice : read into the history of this research rather than make blind assumptions.

  • Arvind

    Some comments are just painful. Just awfully painful. Have a look at Walter’s work over 2 years, Mark..before commenting.

  • WalterBroeckx

    maybe because we are usually 2 to do the moderating, one is on holiday and the other one has to earn a living at some point of the day.

  • WalterBroeckx

    we have been doing research for more than 3 years in total now. After one year some said: it need to be done over 2 years.
    We did it for 2 years. And some said: it need to be done over 3 years.

    We did it for 3 years. And now you say: you need to do it over 10 years.

    I think you are wrong. It should be at least 20 years. 🙂

    It’s also funny that last year we had a negative bias against Aston Villa and no Villa fan came out claiming that we should do more years. Oh well as I said before : this is not about having a dig against a team but just counting the wrong decisions and drawing conclusions from the numbers.

    If you don’t like the numbers fine. If you like them also fine. But either way the numbers are what they are. Like it or not.

  • Stuart


    “What are you really trying to say here?”

    Walter is trying to say, infact quite clearly saying that there is bias in the premier league. How & why and whether or not it is intentional is what needs to be answered.

    There are clear patterns emerging from the 3 seasons of data which shouldn’t be taken lightly and even without all this data, you would have to say there is a chance of corruption in the biggest most lucrative sporting competition in the world.

  • I’m a Villa fan and I have to say I DO think there’s a bit of sour grapes here. However, I haven’t read the 22 article background reading!!!

    Who on earth is gonna bother doing that? So If you want to avoid the jumping to conclusions reactions why not produce a synopsis of how the bad decisions are decided.

    As it is I’m left to take the bad decisions on face value by accepting the author’s view. Ok. But in the article your conclusion is that Villa have had the rub of the green in terms of bad decisions in their favour. And from your table that would be the case.

    However, there is no weighting of the decisions everything is lumped in together. You allude to this in the article but provide no attempt to do anything about it.

    It would be a good idea to weight the decisions in some way. Goals and pens could be 10 and 9 respectively with REDs and 2nd YELLOWs being an 8.

    The other decisions would need to be weighted on an individual basis which could be tricky. SO settling for a simple hierarchy with corner top on 6 and foul an average 5. THe rest could be lower.

    You get the idea. Of course, this is not perfect but it would produce a better picture.

    A question, why aren’t the fouls and free kicks totals equivalent?

    And a request. COuld you make the table smaller so it doesn’t impinge on the sidebar, please…

  • Va Cong

    It’s ok Walter no need to waste your time responding to and idiot he’ll only beat you with experience. Save you breath for the logical thinkers who can discuss rather than abuse.

  • WalterBroeckx

    They were right about one thing so I changed the width of the table so it fits in the page

  • marcus

    Lots of trolls these days Walter….

    more trolls than gargoyles on Bruges cathedral 🙂 (although I haven’t scientifically verified this)

  • marcus

    I suppose if Jane Austin wrote a social novel about the PGMOL, it might be called:

    “Trolls and Trollopes”

  • Pat

    For those who still can’t grasp it …

    It is pure coincidence that this article appears a couple of weeks after Aston Villa beat Arsenal.

    The analysis is based on last season’s matches.

  • astonguerrilla

    Fair enough about the moderating thing, Blogs aren’t jobs, I forget that.
    You probably should have waited a few more weeks before publishing your current findings on Villa; It’s only been three weeks since that opening day game at the Emirates, a lot of Villa fans will have spotted this article in their NewsNow feed and instantly made the sour grapes connection. I’m also not surprised that some people haven’t read all of your previous research, It’s a big ask when your checking the internet on your lunch break! Maybe a brief but clear synopsis of your ongoing project at the start of this article would have helped. Hats off to you for your commitment, I don’t mean to knock your effort here at all.
    I agree that refereeing is inconsistent, it has been for a long time, but I can’t accept that’s it’s down to bias on behalf of the referee. The Premier League is too big an industry for that sort of thing to happen without at least one whistle blower coming out and selling their story, the British Media would jump all over that.
    I’m afraid you’ll need to carry on collecting the numbers for a few more years before you convince me that Premier League referees are corrupt, I’m sure you won’t mind though, everybody needs a project.

  • astonguerrilla

    ahh, a Villa fan has already suggested the synopsis thing. Proof that I don’t read everything!

  • Nelson Wong

    Thank you for doing this project.

    In the end, it might or might not prove there’s a corruption plot in EPL but at least there must be someone publishing the information because decisions of referees are important and they need someone to check on them. FA/FIFA is supposed to do so but they have a huge conflict of interest. Also, they are not open in the referee issue which is very not up to modern standard.

    Even if there is no curruption plot, this project proves the standard of referee is way too low.

  • Stuart

    Why does everyone assume it is only about corrupt referees? (although I am sure Walter has had some words in his ear providing verbal proof of this)
    Bias is not only found in people choosing to be biased, it can happen without intention – this is still bias but identifies a different area of need such as further support for referees. The authorities have tried to gloss over this area with goal line technology however goals are hardly ever the problem. In my opinion, we NEED technology for the whole pitch or more referees monitoring the field of play – I’d say 1 per player to effectively keep an eye on things properly. I’l let you decide which is the most viable option.

  • marcus

    “I agree that refereeing is inconsistent, it has been for a long time, but I can’t accept that’s it’s down to bias on behalf of the referee. The Premier League is too big an industry for that sort of thing to happen without at least one whistle blower coming out and selling their story, the British Media would jump all over that.”

    You mean the PL is a monopoly? The coverage of the PL is a virtual Sky monopoly? The refereeing is a PGMOL ‘monopoly’? Monopolies and bad things go hand in hand, er, like say, Oil Companies fomenting wars in the Middle East for example

    As for the British Media jumping over the story, I shall treat that remark with the disdain it deserves.