Are referees biased? Further strangely suggestive figures….

By Tony Attwood

This article continues from the articles two days ago relating to how many cards each team gets.

This table below shows the number of cards per game involving different clubs.  The club with the most cards per game is Arsenal with 4.90 cards on average.  The lowest is Manchester City with 2.40 cards per game.  That is quite a big difference.

So with matches involving Arsenal there are more than twice as many cards per game as there are with matches involving Manchester City.  And not far off twice of the number of cards as with games involving Burnley.

And remember these are not just cards against Arsenal but cards in total in matches involving Arsenal.

And just out of interest in the list below in order of clubs with cards against them, I have listed the London teams and Watford in brown, and we see that in a cards per game analysis the top four places are given to London and home counties teams.

Team Pld Cards Cards per game Total per game
For Agst For Agst
1 Arsenal 20 52 46 2.60 2.30 4.90
2 Tottenham 20 51 40 2.55 2.00 4.55
3 Watford 20 47 37 2.35 1.85 4.20
4 West Ham 19 42 25 2.21 1.32 3.53
5 Man City 20 43 25 2.15 1.25 2.40
6 Bournemouth 20 43 41 2.15 2.05 4.20
7 Sheffield United 20 42 26 2.10 1.30 3.40
8 Man United 20 41 51 2.05 2.55 4.60
9 Everton 20 39 41 1.95 2.05 4.00
10 Wolverhampton 20 38 47 1.90 2.35 4.25
11 Norwich 20 38 38 1.90 1.90 3.80
12 Chelsea 20 37 45 1.85 2.25 3.75
13 Aston Villa 20 37 56 1.85 2.80 4.65
14 Burnley 20 36 20 1.80 1.00 2.80
15 Newcastle 20 35 32 1.75 1.60 3.35
16 Crystal Palace 20 33 49 1.65 2.45 4.10
17 Brighton 20 32 33 1.60 1.65 3.25
18 Southampton 20 30 40 1.50 2.00 3.50
19 Liverpool 19 22 23 1.16 1.21 2.82
20 Leicester 20 21 44 1.05 2.20 3.25

So I wondered, given that the clubs that are getting the most cards in their games are from the Home Counties, where do referees come from.  The referee data sheet I used did not have everyone’s home area, but since the two refs without a home (as it were) handled just six games between them we can leave them out for the moment.

Martin Atkinson West Yorkshire 17 52 3
Stuart Attwell Warwickshire 10 46 1
Peter Bankes 5 21 0
David Coote Nottinghamshire 8 31 1
Mike Dean Wirral 15 68 2
Kevin Friend Leicestershire 14 52 3
Simon Hooper Wiltshire 6 22 2
Robert Jones 1 4 0
Chris Kavanagh Lancashire 14 47 0
Oliver Langford West Midlands 1 1 0
Andy Madley West Yorkshire 5 16 0
Andre Marriner West Midlands 12 29 2
Lee Mason Lancashire 9 32 1
Jonathan Moss West Yorkshire 13 50 2
Michael Oliver Northumberland 15 53 0
Craig Pawson South Yorkshire 11 46 1
Tim Robinson West Sussex 1 2 0
Graham Scott Oxfordshire 11 36 3
Anthony Taylor Cheshire 17 77 3
Paul Tierney Lancashire 14 43 0

Now there is a thing.  The teams with the most cards against them are generally from London and the south.   But the number of referees from London and the south are, well, Tim Robinson from West Sussex (1 game) and Simon Hooper from Wiltshire with six.

We are however looking at six teams from London and the home counties, and we find that four of the teams occupy the top four positions.  In a normal situation these London and home counties team might expect to be spread out across the league in terms of cards, but four of the six occupy the top four places.

Of course it is easy for supporters of clubs from outside the region to say that London clubs tend to be cheating bastards who need to be carded – and yet you might expect such clubs to be aware of this, and so restrain their players.  Yet they are still being carded – which is odd.

Now when we combine this with the data from our articles earlier in the week we know that, for example, London based Arsenal were at that moment 13th in terms of the number of fouls committed by Premier League clubs with 211, compared to Leicester’s 198.  But Arsenal have the most cards with 52 against Leicester’s 20.   So these non-London referees are in this case two and a half times less likely to penalise Leicester for a foul with a yellow card than they are London based Arsenal.

Obviously we do not have videos of non-London referees being handed payments by non-London clubs to prove corruption, and of course if rewards are being given they will be made very secretively.   And of course we do not have definitive evidence that anything is amiss.  Rather, in each analysis what we have are a very curious set of statistics – here a set which show London clubs being penalised with more yellow cards by non-London refs, even when the number of fouls is similar.

There have been comments of course, during this series, suggesting that we have proven nothing, and I’d agree with that.  What I am trying to say (obviously not very clearly given some of the comments) is that if something is amiss with refereeing by the PGMO, it is going to be well hidden, so all we can do is look for unusual patterns.  None of the unusual patterns is of itself going to be proof that anything is wrong, but a collection of unusual patterns would be suggestive that something might be wrong.  If one finds enough unusual patterns then the chances that there is something odd happening are increased.

To give a simplistic example, if referee X wants to ensure a victory for club Y and club Y commands the game of its own volition and is sailing to an easy win then not only will referee X not have to bias the game for club Y he might, in order to balance his own figures give a few more dubious opinions in favour of club Z, since they won’t affect the result.

This means we have to look and see if there are any trends which creep through, despite such possibilities.  Those who have chosen to disbelieve there is anything wrong with PGMO, are of course fully entitled to their own opinion.  The difference between us I suppose is that I am looking at certain oddities and wondering whether they really are likely to be happening by chance, or whether they are the by-product of bias.

And as always wondering why PGMO choose to have such a small number of referees, with such a geographic bias, and with their regulations (not replicated in some other countries) about no interviews with referees.

13 Replies to “Are referees biased? Further strangely suggestive figures….”

  1. I think that last night’s referee must have read your earlier articles and thought that he’d try to provide supporting evidence for your contentions. The Arsenal yellow cards were ridiculous when compared with the uncarded ManU fouls.

    Fortunately ManU were so poor they couldn’t take advantage of the ref’s support.

  2. Interesting article.. Would like to mention that Craig Pawson the inept referee from the Chelsea game was 4th official last night in another game where the referees was very lenient for the opposition

  3. Manipulation…. next one

    This is from the Metro

    Here is the headline :

    “Ian Wright criticises David Luiz for throwing Unai Emery under the bus after Arsenal beat Manchester United”

    Here is the 1st paragraph, which, you’ll notice, doesn’t say exactly the same thing :

    “Ian Wright believes David Luiz ‘went a bit deep’ as he appeared to throw Unai Emery under the bus following Arsenal’s 2-0 victory over Manchester United.”

    And here is the last paragraph stating what Wright said :

    “Reacting to Luiz’s comments, Arsenal legend Wright told Premier League Productions: ‘It seems to me like he’s saying something about the old manager and maybe the way that he set them up, the way they trained – maybe they didn’t enjoy it as much. ‘He’s saying he was sad, when you’re happy you can sleep for hours and stuff like that, I don’t know. It went a bit deep for me! ‘But what it says to me is that they’re obviously a lot happier than they were. ‘It’s good to listen to him, because he’s talking about the youngsters understanding what it takes now to be a player at a club trying to achieve stuff, how hard you have to work to get that and how hard you have to work to maintain that.'”

    So at no point in time, unless my knowledge of the english language, grammar, meanings etc is suddendly off, does Ian Wright criticize Luiz. He just repeats what he heard/read Luiz saying. Worse then that, Wright is quote saying : “it’s good to listen to him” !!!!!!!!!

    Talk about an outright lie/misrepresentation done on purpose.

    The result ? Well normal Arsenal fans get upset at Wright for something he did not do, feel aggrieved, Maybe Luiz gets upset as well, the blogosphere has another negative spin to start a full cycle. And people just fall for it.

  4. And if I’m not mistaken this is what happened to those top four clubs yesterday:

    Arsenal 11 fouls & 2 cards Man U 15 fouls 0 cards
    Southampton 21 fouls & 3 cards Tottenham 8 fouls 4 cards
    Watford 12 fouls & 5 cards Wolves 6 fouls 1 card
    West Ham 3 fouls & 1 card Bournemouth 12 fouls 2 cards

    So in every case the London team picks up more cards per foul than the opposition.

    Now a couple of days ago, someone argued that it was important to know the possession stats too. So if s/he is reading:

    Arsenal 49% (5.5 fouls per card v Man U 15 for none)
    Spuds 59% (2.0 fouls per card v Southampton 7.0)
    Watford 36% (but given they went a man down early on that’s unsurprising) (2.4 fpc v Wolves 6.0)
    West Ham 43% (3.0 fpc v Wolves 6.0)

    So I don’t see that possession played much of a part (I believe Watford only received one card after they went down to 10 men).

    In summary those four London clubs 2.42 fouls per card against the oppositions 9.0. So despite London clubs committing 34 fouls v the oppositions 54 fouls, the London clubs received cards at over 3.5 times the rate of the opposition. And interestingly the other two London clubs were yet again treated less harshly than the opposition.

    As Tony says, it proves nothing but continues to demonstrate a pattern!

  5. @Mikey,

    thanks for the info. too bad I did not find a website that gives all that for each game of the season.
    My opinion is that with ots of possession, many fouls a few cards definitely show a probability of rotational fouling.
    And little possession with few cards/fouls that something is amiss as you cannot keep defending and not have fouls.

    At least that is my opinion and I’ll be happy to hear from you all.

    As for the geographical ‘tendency’ Tony had pointed to that a few years ago, there definitely seems to be something amiss here.
    Maybe it is just some crazy attitude that PIGMOB can keep cultivating as visibly no-one is allowed to look over their shoulder, not even Home Counties clubs.
    When one sees how the hatred fowards foreigners can drive people to do crazy things, regional ‘differences’ (I mean some sort of communal way of thinking) could very well lead to that kind of results.
    I remember Tony underscoring a comment that referees from th South of England needed to be re-trained for the PL.

    So maybe money is not at all the issue but weird resentment issue pushed up more then a few notches…

    Which in trune makes it all the more difficult to prove as there is no money trail….just emotional stuff in the ref’s brains and an organisation built to work this way.

    Maybe we ought to defend the point of view that PIGMOB at large is in dire need of a shrink (Robin Williams would say of a blowjob….).

  6. Well, Tony
    I’m fairly often in disagreement with you on some things and don’t comment on others but I have to say, on this topic (& others), I am in genuine awe of your ability to crunch meaningful numbers and come up with a well-reasoned argument.
    When I returned to the UK in 2014 I came to UA through a trawl for Arsenal fan sites; around that time I also became interested in
    Yours & Walter’s in-depth researches are testament to what UEFA admitted to some weeks ago; and your continued banging on about how mainstream media are ignoring these inconvenient facts together make a valuable contribution to the growing body of opinion beyond that of the ignorant and the partial.
    I read recently that the derisive term ‘conspiracy theorists’ could be viewed instead as description of those who are unafraid to court ridicule in questioning the lies that the powerful feed us with.
    Happy NewYear to you & Walter from Newlyn.

  7. OT: Nketiah

    A few places yesterday mentioned that Nketiah is coming back from Leeds. Does that mean he will be loaned out elsewhere?

    Well, Bristol City apparently think they have first crack at him. So, their newspaper writes up an article, explicitly detailing his failings. Why on Earth would we loan out a player when the medja in that city have already started writing their attack articles on him?

  8. @ Chris

    I use You have to get used to it but if you click on Premier League and explore.

  9. I believe Football Is Fixed have some hypotheses that could help to underpin some of Untold Arsenal’s hypotheses. Alas, I do seem to remember this website’s derision of Football Is Fixed.

  10. @Mikey
    Thanks about the possession/fouls/cards stats i wanted to see if there is some sort of pattern bt Chris has bit me to it.

  11. Gideone, perhaps I can help by telling you my attitude so you and anyone else interested can have it direct.
    I was disappointed by their post which is now permanently on the site in which they say “We release 5% of our analytics and any hacks made available to us. We retain 95% for strategic defence, constructive negotiation, court.”
    That may be necessary, but it doesn’t give us any evidence as to what is going on. I think it is better to draw conclusions that we can from the evidence and publish those as hypotheses, rather than suggest one is sitting on enough gunpowder to blow the whole thing up but isn’t going to give us a clue.
    So I have followed a different route.

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