In the Premier League 2021/2, 50% of refs showed signs of persistent bias

By Sir Hardly Anyone

Mike Dean, Jonathan Moss and Martin Atkinson all retire after the last round of games in the Premier League this season.   But are they biased referees, or the ones who can ignore the crowd and referee the game without crowd interference?

That has become the prime question but not a new question.   Science Direct in 2004 was one of the first publications to raise the issue when they found that “The presence of crowd noise had a dramatic effect on the decisions made by referees. Those viewing the challenges with background crowd noise were more uncertain in their decision making and awarded significantly fewer fouls (15.5%) against the home team, compared with those watching in silence.

“The noise of the crowd influenced referees’ decisions to favour the home team. It is suggested that referees’ decisions are influenced by the salient nature of crowd noise, the potential use of heuristic strategies, and the need to avoid potential crowd displeasure by making a decision in favour of the home team.”

We had a perfect example to test this out during the pandemic when games were played with no crowd present.  You can follow the entire set of research through the links in the article “Wholesale referee bias returns”

We can see the horrific nature of concistent referee bias through these figures – with the crowd present the home and away win figures are consistent.  Take the crowd away and they are reversed.  But as the article linked above shows, there is a lot more evidence than just the figures.

Season Home percentage of points Away percentage of points
2018/19 57% 43%
2019/20 58% 42%
2020/21 44% 56%
2021/22 * 57% 43%

*Season up to 12 December 2021.

But what of this season?  Whoscored have provided us with the data.

Referee Games HomeWin% AwayWin% Draw% Bias
1.Anthony Taylor 28 42.9 25.0 32.1 Home
2.Paul Tierney 27 37.0 37.0 25.9
3.Mike Dean 26 34.6 34.6 30.8
4.Martin Atkinson 26 53.8 30.8 15.4 Home
5.Michael Oliver 26 53.8 26.9 19.2 Home
6.Craig Pawson 26 50.0 34.6 15.4 Home
7.Jonathan Moss 25 64.0 24.0 12.0 Home
8.Stuart Attwell 20 60.0 20.0 20.0 Home
9.David Coote 20 25.0 40.0 35.0
10.Andre Marriner 19 26.3 57.9 15.8
11.Kevin Friend 18 33.3 50.0 16.7
12.Chris Kavanagh 18 33.3 33.3 33.3
13.Andy Madley 16 62.5 25.0 12.5 Home
14.Simon Hooper 15 26.7 33.3 40.0
15.Darren England 15 46.7 26.7 26.7 Home
16.Graham Scott 12 50.0 41.7 8.3 Home
17.Peter Bankes 12 41.7 33.3 25.0
18.Robert Jones 12 8.3 50.0 41.7 Away

In short half of the referees are showing persistent signs of bias through these figures.

I know of course that the now retiring Dean is shown on this chart as unbiased, and of course, we know how much Dean has annoyed Arsenal fans.  But, there are many ways of being biased, and here we are just looking at one.  I am not making an allegation against Dean nor saying everything was fine with him, rather I am looking at one issue – is the referee influenced by the crowd?

And I am working on this approach because it has the advantage of being measurable.  It is statistically inconceivable that 64% of the games Moss has refereed actually should have been home wins, when the overall analysis suggests it should be around 35%.

But there is more to it than that.  If referees are chosen evenly for games, and were all refereeing to the same standard, then although we might expect some variance between the level of home and away wins for each referee, it ought to be small.  But among the main referees the level of home wins varies between 34.6% and 64%.   Where is the explanation for that?

So should we just shrug our shoulders and say that is how it is?

Actually no, because next season Atkinson and Moss are becoming managers at PGMO.  This means PGMO will in part be run by two guys whose refereeing figures are bonkers, to say the least.

That means any hope we might have had (which was vanishingly slim) of any type of reform, has now gone.  These men will not tarnish the memory of their past careers by suddenly saying that refereeing has been very poor in allowing this bias of referees primarily toward the home team.  To do so would through the whole management of refereeing by PGMO into doubt.

Instead, I expect to see justification with a wholesale effort by the PGMO, backed by the ever compliant media, to ignore the figures shown here and carry on as if there is nothing odd at all in the analyses of referee behaviour.

After all, they’ve got away with it this far.  Why on earth would they stop now?

10 Replies to “In the Premier League 2021/2, 50% of refs showed signs of persistent bias”

  1. Equating home win percentage to referee bias is ridiculous. Premier League averages for this season are 43% home win, 34% away win, and 23% draw. Historically, that number is about 46% home win percentage. Home teams have an advantage in every league in the world, without even looking at refereeing. If you’re working on the assumption that home sides should only win at a 35% clip, you might as well just skip the exercise entirely, as it’s already flawed on premise.

  2. oh’ now i understand, it’s to make all the data fits into the article

  3. Tony, Interesting – was wondering (and I don’t know even if the stats are available) as to how say, the top 10 refs in the Bundesliga) compare on that basis that you have done above in terms of number of games and home/away bias.

  4. What is interesting and not even being discussed is that England will have two refs at the 2022 WC.

    Odd that because other than France I don’t think any other European country can match that number. Perhaps are refs are rated far better than some think !

  5. Found it by using the same link!

    The top 10 referees there did between 14 and 18 games, with a top home win % of 68.8%,a low of 20%(!) and an average % across them all as 46.24% For away fixtures the figures were a high of 43.8% and a low of 12.5% with an average of 31.38%

    Referencing the figures above for the Premier League on the same basis – home win first – high 64%, low 25% average of 45%, away – high of 57.9%, low of 20% and an average of 33.08%

  6. West Stand: it is not so much a case of refs being rated better, because anyone can write the ratings how they like, but rather the variance between the referees that we have in the Premier League. The fact that some give so many more home wins than others seems very hard to explain in terms of the nature of the teams they referee, so something else must be causing it.
    And if considering who is refereeing in the world cup finals there could be many explanations. One of course is that PL referees could be seen as much better than other referees. Another is that the support England has given to Fifa by ignoring all its scandals, which are being reported regularly in other countries, is being rewarded.

  7. Or it could be that the top 6 say in the PL are stronger at home than say the top 6 in France, Germany etc.
    Or put another way the top 6 will tend to beat the bottom say 10-12 clubs at home whereas in other countries the gap between the top six and the bottom 10 isn’t that great.
    What I do know is that whatever the reason this article hasn’t got close to any conclusion that stands up to scrutiny

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