This article follows from “If Premier League matches were fixed, how would we know?”
Data and analyses from Andrew, and from Footballcharts.co.uk Commentary from Tony
In the last article we saw that huge variations exist in the number of fouls it takes in games to get a card. But of course such figures as we saw in the last article could be produced by chance. “It all evens out in the end,” as is the cry of the eternal deniers of anything ever being wrong with referees.
So how are we going to see if this is likely or not?
The way we do this is to turn the thinking upside down and consider how clubs and/or referees in any league would use bookings as a way of doing one club down, while helping another club, while all the time leaving the door open for a compliant media carefully to ignore the issue and endlessly pretend nothing was amiss.
The figures below come from Footcharts web site except for the final column on the right which measures the difference between cards for and cards against which I have added. So a positive number in the last column means that the club received more cards against itself than the opposition, while a negative number means that the club received fewer cards than its opponents game by game.
|Team||Pld||Cards||Cards per game||Diff|
|In the above a red card is equal to two yellows|
So what do we learn from this?
The most obvious thing is that there is no immediately obvious pattern – and it can be argued that surely if there was anything in any of this search for data on fouling, there would be a pattern. And yet there is something here…
For we can see that high flying Leicester get many more cards against them, than for them. However Manchester City near the top of the table are the reverse; they get more cards against them, than they get against their opponents.
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As for Arsenal they get more cards against them than anyone else, and more cards against their opponents than even Villa and Palace.
That is enough of a jumble to make anyone looking at this think – “there is nothing wrong here – there is no pattern in the numbers.” And at first I thought that,
Except, except, except….
What our figures showed in the first article was the enormous variation in the number of fouls it takes to give out a card. So in our very first example at the start of the last article we saw that Newcastle could commit 12 fouls to get a yellow card while Arsenal committed seven fouls and got three cards.
Of course one can argue from this data that Leicester City, with their one card a game, are obviously an incredibly clean team that simply don’t foul, whereas their opponents try and chop them to bits. And yet two seasons ago they received many more yellow cards than their opponents got in matches against them. If that is so it has been an incredibly quick change – and one wonders why other clubs don’t copy their style.
Now I am not searching out these figures to prove that there is anything fishy in relation to refereeing in English football – as I have said many times, I think the thing that suggests that something is amiss is the extreme secrecy of PGMO, its refusal to allow referees to be interviewed, its offer of silence money to referees who agree not to say anything in public after they retire, its deliberate policy of restricting the number of referees, even though an increase in the number of referees would reduce the chances of Type III match-fixing considerably etc etc etc.
But what these figures do reveal are several unexpected issues, ranging from the number of fouls it takes to get a yellow card to Leicester’s paucity of yellows this season.
Combine this with the utter secrecy of the PGMO and its constant insistence of doing things differently from other leagues (refs not allowed to look at pitch side monitors, VAR brought in a year after most other leagues, very small number of referees etc) and yes, to me it does all look rather odd.
However even I was amazed at the variation in the number of fouls it takes to get a card, between Arsenal players and other clubs. The fact that Arsenal get more cards per game, suggests Arsenal commit more fouls per game – but that is not the case. It is down to the huge variance between the number of fouls it takes to get a card, in Arsenal matches.
And then there is Leicester who either have the cleanest team ever to walk on an EPL pitch, or they are being treated differently. The average number of fouls per card in the Premier League this season is one card every 5.39 fouls. Leicester have got 21 cards this season yet have committed 198 fouls – that is one card every 9.43 fouls. They have to commit almost twice as many fouls as the average team, to get a card!!!
Now of course you might say that this is fair enough – obviously their fouls are of a very minor nature and not worthy of cards. And unfortunately I can’t argue with that because the analyses that would allow such consideration are not available – although having watched Leicester (they are the nearest PL team to where I live and I have a number of Leicester supporting friends who will discuss such matters in an open and friendly manner) I am not at all convinced by this argument.
And they are happy to discuss this because we can make predictions of how matches will evolve based on these and other figures. Quite simply find a bookie who will take your bet that Leicester’s opposition will get at least twice as many yellows as Leicester and you could be on a winner. In fact using these figures I think we can start making quite a few predictions.
Which is not to say I am not alleging that refereeing is fixed in the the EPL. My case has always been that there is every reason to be much more open about refereeing than is the case now, and the insistence on being secretive as PGMO is, and the insistence of mainstream media on not discussing any aspect of refereeing except when PGMO puts out its annual press release, merely makes some fans like me rather suspicious.
What I am saying is that the lack of yellow cards for teams such as Leicester (and here one might also add Southampton) is curious (not least given that Southampton has committed the sixth highest number of fouls and yet has the third lowest number of cards).
Roughly speaking, Arsenal and Leicester commit almost the same number of fouls but Arsenal get two and a half times as many cards. Of course you can say that Arsenal commit far worse fouls, but having spent half a day watch videos of both clubs while writing this, I think that one is hard to prove.