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Last season revealed significant referee home bias, but what about penalties??

By Tony Attwood

Last season is one that investigators into the oddities of football will probably dwell on for a long time, because it gave us a unique insight into the influence of the crowd upon referees.

Of course it’s not something PGMO encourage their pals in the media to talk about, but… 

I wondered about Arsenal and red cards and penalties.  It seems that we do get more red cards than other teams.  But is that right? 

Actually yes it is.  Here are the total number of red cards awarded to the teams that have played every Premier League season…

Club Red cards Percentage of total
Arsenal 96 20%
Chelsea 83 18%
Everton 96 20%
Liverpool 58 12%
Manchester United 69 15%
Tottenham Hotspur 71 15%
Total 473 100%
And since we are on penalties, let’s move on to this past season, because by Christmas last, there was another issue causing concern: the rate at which Leicester was getting penalties.

Untold raised this issue, again to some abuse from those not liking out statistical view of life.  But to see what happened the table below breaks down 2020/1 into two sections – the first third of the season, and then the rest.  What we’ve done is taken the number of penalties each club had by Christmas, and then assumed that the similar process would continue, and looked at how many they might get.

And as Untold pointed out in an article – if Leicester’s rate went on, they would break every single record for penalties.

But rather interesting the mass of penalty awards didn’t continue.  Of course we don’t know why, but one little point we made was that most of Leicester’s penalties came from Vardy falling over.  We even described the way it happened.  Vardy entered the area with or without the ball and then turned 180 degrees to go the other way.  This often made the defender collide with Vardy – they couldn’t get out of the way in time.  Referees gave penalties, but really that was not quite right, since there was no way the defender coming behind Vardy could know Vardy was going to turn and allow the defender to collide with him.

Anyway, we made that point, and instead of ending the season with 27 penalties as would have happened if everything had continued as before Leicester ended with 12.  PGMO it seems, worked it out for themselves.

And in fact it seemed to the little Untold team that many clubs were using the lack of crowd to try out all sorts of similar pesky tricks.  As a result by Christmas the penalty rate was running at an all-time high.

Fortunately either some naughty clubs stopped trying to cheat, or else the referees stumbled on the same issue as we did and the penalty awards dropped back to a normal level.

The “Penalties expected” column shows how many penalties we would have seen if the pre-Christmas rush had continued.  The “deficit” column shows how many penalties each club did not get which on pre-Christmas terms they might have expected.

Club Penalties received first third of season Penalties expected by end of season Actual Penalties received Deficit
1 27 12 15
2 15 6 9
3 15 9 6
4 15 11 4
5 15 6 9
6 12 10 2
7 12 7 5
8 9 4 5
9 9 9 0
10 9 6 3
11 6 6 0
12 6 4 2
13 6 5 1
14 6 6 0
15 6 5 1
16 3 4 -1
17 Wolverhampton 0 0 4 -4
18 WBA 0 0 4 -4
19 West Ham 0 0 4 -4
20 Burnley 0 0 3 -3
TOTAL 57 171 124 47

47 penalties fewer were awarded than that wild opening third of the season had predicted.  Had that not happened we would have had 171 penalties this past season.  The previous highest was 108 in 2006/7.

It would have been a 58% increase in penalties!!!!

Did we help?  I’m sure PGMO have a few computers and a few statisticians around, and someone would have said, “Have you guys seen what Leicester are up to?”  The real problem to lay at PGMO’s door is that it took them a third of the season to work it out.

And of course there is no punishment for collectively trying to fool the referee, which maybe there should be.  Now there’s a thought.

6 comments to Last season revealed significant referee home bias, but what about penalties??

  • John L

    Vardy, Fernández, Kane all display this cheating practice and boost their personal scoring totals as a result

  • Mikey

    Whilst I concur with the overall concept of refs being influenced by fans, I struggle a little with the suggestion that home teams shouldn’t get more penalties. Home teams would on average, I imagine, have a greater level of possession (I may be wrong). I would therefore suggest that without knowing this (and ideally, possession in the opponents third of the pitch) it’s hard to draw any conclusions just by looking at ‘home’ and ‘away’ in isolation.

  • potter

    To get penalties you have to play into the box , and with present referees it helps if you do it at speed and take a spectacular tumble. . Holding , pushing , shoving don’t count in this day and age . Hand ball is in the eye of the beholder or his mate in Stockley Park .
    However the premise remains , run at them at pace and go over and your chances of getting a penalty are higher than if you try to pass the ball through the eye of a needle and get baulked on the way.

  • Nitram

    Potter

    I tend to agree. You only have to look at how differently those 2 types of offences are analysed.

    When there is a perceived foul on a guy travelling at pace they’ll get the microscope out and if there’s the slightest contact they’ll proclaim a penalty is the correct call. There was contact equals a foul, which it doesn’t actually but that’s another point altogether.

    But when a defender is ‘shepherding’ or ‘marking’ a player it seems any amount of contact to the extent of ‘bear hugging’ is just seen as part of the game.

    The only slow paced event that seems given fairly regularly is a blatant shirt pull.

  • potter

    Nitram I forgot the Luiz against Wolves one where it seemed that you only had to be in the vicinity to give one away.

  • John L

    Potter, yes that’s true, but only if you are playing for Arsenal.