The figures that reveal how referee bias is achieved in the Premier League

By Tony Attwood

You might recall that in a recent post we revealed just how different the way teams are treated by different referees in the Premier League.   In case you missed it, you can flip back to the whole article here, or just glimpse at the table below or see the data used again below – with some extra data added.

The question then arises, how can you explain that one of the top referees this season, in the most popular football league in the world, has a home win record of 65.2% and another has 37.5% home wins under his belt?   Of course, you can try “pure chance” but really that’s not much of an explanation of such consistency.  People who deal with statistics really don’t like having pure chance as an explanation.

We’ve already shown on this site, that the prime reason for the normal level of home wins against away wins, is the crowd’s activities.  This revelation came from comparing the level of home wins and away wins in games played with no crowd present and those played with a crowd present – something which of course was possible to do when no crowds were allowed into matches during the pandemic.

This season there have been 151 wins for the home teams in the Premier League, 81 draws and 120 away wins out of the 352 games.  In percentages that is 43% are home wins, 23% are away wins and 34% draws.

But when we looked at individual referees what we find are totally different figures…

Referee Games Home Win% Away Win% Draw%
1. Paul Tierney 24 37.5 37.5 25.0
2. Anthony Taylor 24 41.7 25.0 33.3
3. Craig Pawson 24 54.2 29.2 16.7
4. Mike Dean 23 34.8 39.1 26.1
5. Martin Atkinson 23 56.5 26.1 17.4
6. Michael Oliver 23 56.5 26.1 17.4
7. Jonathan Moss 23 65.2 21.7 13.0
PL average (all refs) 43% 23% 34%

Now in reality it should not matter which referee you have for matches in the most popular league in the world, but in fact, if you are the home team, you must really hope to get Pawson, Atkinson, Oliver or Moss.   If you are the away team you’ll be looking out for Tierney or Dean.

But there is another more alarming feature in the table to highlight and it is the fact that 34% of games in the league are draws, and yet only one in this group of seven elite referees is giving that percentage of draws – Anthony Taylor.

The problem is that referees like Pawson, Atkinson, Oliver and Moss are handing out home wins at way above the average level – get one of those referees when you are at home and you can be fairly sure which way the game is most likely to go.

Now how is that happening?

If you have been to more than a handful of games, you will have noticed how often the away team is holding out for a draw while in the last 10 minutes or so the home team is going hell for leather for the final goal to get all three points.

During such a spell of play, the home crowd tend to get more and more vociferous, and, as the figures above have shown, even elite referees who oversee multiple games a season in the PL are influenced by the crowd.   And this turns these games that were heading for a draw into a home win.

Indeed if you are inclined to place a bet, the tables above combined with the knowledge of which referee is in charge will give you a distinct advantage.

As the research undertaken during the pandemic shows, the reason for the advantage of the home side when the crowd is present, is the crowd.  The crowd do indeed, the research shows, influence the ref.  Take the crowd away, and the referee is not influenced.  Take the crowd away, and that advantage goes.

So in essence teams at home must hope to get referees in the style of Pawson, Atkinson, Oliver or Moss when playing at home.  Teams that PGMO have taken against will get those referees when playing away from home.

Of course, all this could have been avoided if the PGMO increased the number of referees so that each referee only saw each team twice in a season – once at home and once away.   But no, they refuse to do that, bolstered of course by the fact that there is an agreement amongst the media in England, rarely to mention referees and never to raise the question of possible bias (conscious or unconscious).

But at least we now know how the bias is being achieved.  By keeping the number of referees low, and by a refusal to note the difference between various referees in terms of their willingness or otherwise to be influenced by the crowd.

It has taken a few years of research to get to this point, but I think it was worthwhile.  Especially since no one else has been willing even to contemplate what is going on.


4 Replies to “The figures that reveal how referee bias is achieved in the Premier League”

  1. Well, that’s a bit of a result then!…
    We’ve got Tierney on Thursday, with Dean on VAR!!

  2. On the other hand he was in charge of our away game against Crystal Palace which we lost 3-0 as well as our home loss to Chelsea back in August when we lost 2-0. Probably neither result affected by the referee but we certainly need to play a lot better on Thursday than we did in either of his previous two games in charge.

    Overall he has had the whistle 12 times in PL games for us and we have won 6, drawn 3 and lost 3 so one of the less fearful referees we might have.

    Dean ov VAR duty isa tad more troubling. He certainly knows all the rules but has been known to interpret them in unusual ways to our detriment. He has been less controversial in recent games, hopefullyhe isn’t given anything significant to do.

  3. I have always though that, unlike some other referees, Dean is quite competent. It follows, however, that when he is showing bias for or against a team, he is doing so consciously.

    We have not had much of him this year, but the incident that stands out in my memory was when an Everton player stamped on the face of Tomisayu and Dean ignored it – even after a VAR check which confirmed what had happened.

    That must be more than incompetence.

  4. Dean is the Dracula of refs, closely followed by Atkinson and Moss. Dean on VAR can be more cruel than Dean in full view.

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