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July 2021

The Referee Reviews: Neil Swarbrick. Every goal was right, but oh, the 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……


For the next ref in our series we have ref Neil Swarbrick.  Neil Swarbrick is 47 years old and is one of the refs that started his career rather late. He was 29 when he started refereeing and in other countries that alone would make it impossible to make it to the top.  But he as reached the PL in 2011.

In the season just gone ref Swarbrick did 18 games in the PL and we reviewed 6 of his games. That is 33,33 % of his games we have been able to cover. So a rather low number and this makes it more difficult to draw conclusions.  This is one of the lowest percentage of all the refs we have. But it is still massively more than a sample undertaken to predict an election result, and anyway we can only work with the numbers we have and we have to take them as they came and that is what we will do.

So how did he do when we look at all the decisions?

N Swarbrick all

In the 6 games we reviewed of ref Swarbrick we counted that he had to make 887 decisions in total. And our panel of referee reviewers found that 782 of those decisions were correct. That is a score of 88,16% correct decisions. And that makes him one of the better decision-makers in the PL of last season.

Of course for those who have been following us for a while,  you know that judging them as correct is not the same as being correct completely. When we can’t judge a call or when we are not 100% sure he made a mistake we call the decision correct. But it might be that if we had seen other angles we might have seen an incorrect decision.  So in general the numbers could be even flattering the refs but this goes for all the refs and not the refs we are looking at today.

But having some kind of decent general score is one thing. What matters more is seeing how his important decisions have been and this is something we can see in the next table.

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N swarbrick imp

When we looked at the important decisions ref Swarbrick had to make in the 6 games we could review we have found that he had to make 403 important decisions. And our panel of ref reviewers found that 307 of his decisions could be counted as correct. And that gives him a total score of 76,18% correct decisions. And this also is one of the better scores of last season. Let us try to have a look at his strong and weak points.

The best part of his numbers are of course the goal decisions. All his goal decisions were correct and that is something we like to see of any ref.  So that is great.

What also is rather good is his foul/free kick decisions. Hanging around 80% in general is just fine and among the border line that we would love to see from all refs.

When we look at his penalty decisions we see that the score drops to 50%. But with only 2 decisions to make about a penalty in those 6 games it is difficult to judge him in the long run.

When he has to make yellow card decisions his score is also 50%. Not really what we like to see.  And certainly when we take the next decisions type and look at the second yellow cards and the red cards. As this is where he had no correct decisions in the 6 games we covered.

Is he somewhat afraid to send a player off? Doesn’t he dare to take that decision? I think this is a bit disappointing. When we look at his disciplinary decisions the score goes down significant. And he therefore messes up his score and brings it down. Because when you look at his decisions they are generally better than average but he doesn’t dare to follow up on his calls when he needs to produce yellow or red cards. A shame really.

Let us take the next table in which we can see which teams were happy when he was around and which teams were unhappy when he made a mistake.


N Swarbrick bias

In the 6 games we had reviewed we had 10 different teams.

4 of those teams can be satisfied with the way he handled their games. West Ham and Southampton ended up with a zero bias score so that is great. Sunderland and Chelsea also came very close to having an almost zero bias score.

If we look at teams that got the wrong decisions going their way we notice a very high score for Newcastle and Tottenham. And an out of this world score in favour of Everton. And I will come back to this in a minute.

Manchester City and Aston Villa were on the wrong end of his wrong decisions a lot.  And then I we see the score of Arsenal. And that is one of the biggest negative bias scores of the season.

Now the score of Arsenal and of course Everton was based on one game. And as I have said above based on the numbers of his yellow and red cards this is where he has a weakness in his game.  He did call most fouls correctly but he refused to give yellow cards to stop constant fouling and kicking.  That was the impression we had based on that one game and this also gets confirmed with the numbers in total of all the games we could review.

FINAL CONCLUSION: If this ref would be more proactive in giving yellow cards from the start of his games then he could and would have a very high score.  His decision making is one of the better of the PL refs last season but he then lets himself down with not showing yellow or red cards when it is needed.



2 comments to The Referee Reviews: Neil Swarbrick. Every goal was right, but oh, the bias!

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    A certain appointment for the Everton game then I would think!

  • bjtgooner

    Once again the same trend is shown as with previous reviews, very poor on major decisions and with an anti Arsenal bias – this time (and I realise the figures are based on one match) an extreme anti Arsenal bias.

    Even when one match is used as the basis for analysis the figures should show a fair decision making process.