Why are referees so biased against certain clubs? These figures are shocking

By Tony Attwood

Note: Raw data used in this article is taken from Who Scored and the Premier League website

We have often looked at how different referees have different ways of handling matches.  And indeed it looks like this season will be no different, meaning that in part, how well a club does in the league, depends on which referees the club gets.  

But as the figures below, the PGMO-wide bias against some clubs in favour of others still continues and this is truly shocking.

And that’s not all.  We’ll come to the way referees consider different clubs in a moment but first, consider this…

Stuart Attwell has overseen four PL games this season.  All have been home wins. Now that might not seem too extreme – after all it is only four games.  But last season Attwell refereed 20 Premier League games and 60% of these were home wins.   David Coote on the other hand refereed 20 games of which only 25% were home wins – a staggering difference.

Craig Pawson however has refereed five games this season and none have been home wins.   In fact four of Pawson’s games have resulted in away wins – again a remarkable number.

In the figures that follow the number of fouls per game is for both sides per game, so I’ve made the assumption that the referee hands these out equally, and then divided by two to get the average fouls per game per team.  The same process applies for yellow cards.

This table sets out the basics for the most regularly operating referees.   The explanations of the columns are below, but if you are in a hurry you can skip these and the table and move on to the conclusions further down the page.

The columns represent

Fouls PG AFC  = Fouls committed by Arsenal per game

50% fouls PG all games = The average number of fouls per game awarded by the referee divided by two (to give an approximation of fouls awarded by this ref to clubs on average.

So we can compare the first two columns and see that only one referee really seems to be targetting Arsenal and that is Darren England who marked up 15 fouls in a game against Arsenal, while on average only handing out 10.8 fouls per club per match.

Yel PG AFC = Arsenal yellow cards per game. 

Ref Yel PG 50% of total per match = number of yellows given out by this ref on average per match, divided by two, so as to reflect the number per team.  This figure can be compared with the previous column which shows Arsenal’s yellow card per game.  The figures suggest Arsenal is not being singled out.

The final two columns show the percentage of games for each referee that end up as home wins and away wins.


Referee Fouls pg AFC 50% Fouls PG All games Yel pg AFC Ref Yel PG 50% of total per match home wins away wins
1.Paul Tierney 9.00 8.9 3.00 2.10 60% 20%
2.Anthony Taylor 11.00 10.0 2.00 1.50 0% 50%
3.Craig Pawson 10.00 11.4 1.00 2.30 0% 80%
4.Darren England 15.00 10.8 1.00 1.83 66.7% 0%
5.David Coote 10.00 9.66 2.00 1.16 33.3% 66.7%
6.Robert Jones 10.00 10.5 2.00 2.00 100% 0%
7.Jarred Gillett 6.00 8.75 2.00 2.12 25% 25%
71  70 13  13  42.57%  34.42%


What we can see is that Arsenal are absolutely middle of the road for fouls and yellow cards this season. 

But clearly, the figures for several referees are eccentric.  Pawson and Taylor have overseen no home wins in 21 matches between them!  Jones has seen no away wins or draws!  What is going on?

Against this, we can note that there have been 67 games this season in the league.  33 have been home wins.  19 have been draws and 15 have been away wins.  In percentage terms that means 49.25% have been home wins, 28.36% have been draws and 22.38% have been away wins.  Yet Pawson and Taylor have between them not overseen a single one of these!!!!!


Club Home wins Away wins Draws
All Premier League 49.25% 22.38% 28.36%
Arsenal 100% 75% 0
Refs of Arsenal games 42.57% 34.42% 33.01%


We can also take a look at the analysis which compares tackles, fouls and yellow cards – all figures are per game.


Club Tackles Fouls Yellows Tackle/Foul Tack;le/yellow Foul/yellow
Arsenal 14.6 10.1 1.85 1.45 7.89 5.46
Man City 11.4 8.3 0.71 1.37 16.06 11.69
Tottenham 17.1 10.1 2.14 1.69 7.99 4.71
Liverpool 13.0 8.2 0.83 1.58 15.66 9.12
Leicester 15.3 8.1 1.29 1.88 11.86 6.27
Leeds 24.2 12.3 2.17 1.96 11.15 5.67
Man Utd 15.7 12.5 3.33 1.26 12.46 3.75


And we can see the power of Liverpool and Manchester City here.  Manchester City can commit 11.69 fouls before getting a yellow card.  That is over twice the number of fouls that it takes before Arsenal get a card.  Liverpool can commit 9.12 fouls before getting a yellow card.  That is almost as bad. 

Of course, we are not being as hard done by as Manchester United who are getting a yellow card for every 3.75 fouls.   Manchester City have to commit three times as many fouls as Manchester United before getting a yellow card.

And yes I know that Manchester United are a bunch of hearty roughs, but not 312% heartier and rougher than Manchester City.

And again, has anyone seriously watched Leicester and compared them with Tottenham to be able to suggest that Leicester’s tackles are consistently 33% worse than Tottenham’s?  And for goodness sake, everyone knows I’m not a Tottenham fan.  Are Arsenal really operating at the same level as Leeds when it comes to punishing fouls?

According to today’s referees in the PGMO, Arsenal fouls are twice as bad as Manchester City’s.  And quite simply I have seen no evidence to show that is true.

In fact, I’d say if you want some statistical evidence that there is something seriously wrong with PGMO referees, it’s here, in these numbers.


7 Replies to “Why are referees so biased against certain clubs? These figures are shocking”

  1. Interesting stuff. I read on another site that Jesus got no yellows last season and only 6 across the last 3 seasons with Man City (I haven’t verified those figures) yet he has picked up 4 Yellows in his first 7 league games for Arsenal. Seems to indicate he is now suddenly being treated differently having moved clubs?

  2. I’ve said before, look where most EPL referees are from – Lancashire and Yorkshire. The southe east represents in excess of 30% of England’s population, and a third of EPL teams this season. Who was the last referee from London? David Ellary, who retired in 2003. Says it all.

  3. Al

    I know it’s early days in Jesus’ Arsenal career, but I thought I go and see if he was this sort of thug in a City shirt.

    It’s been a bit tricky to work out because some of the stats are per match and some per minute. For ease I’ve just divided the total minutes by 90 to transpose to ‘per game’ were necessary. Anyway, here’s what I think I’ve found. Premier League only.

    Over 6 seasons Jesus played a total of 9,312 minutes or approximately 103 matches.

    During his time at Man City, he was called for an average of 0.86 fouls per game.

    In an Arsenal shirt that has more than DOUBLED to 2 fouls per game. In fact, 3 per game for the last 3 matches.

    During his time at Man City, he received a yellow card 0.14 times per game. Or about once every 7 matches.

    In an Arsenal shirt that has QUADTRUPLED to 0.57 times per game. Or more than once every 2 matches.

    During his time at Man City, he received a yellow card for every 6 fouls.

    In an Arsenal shirt that has almost HAVED to a card every 3.5 fouls.

    Now either moving South has turned him into a reckless fool or referees are judging him completely differently in a red shirt to how they did when he was in a Sky Blue shirt.

    I know what I think.

  4. Al

    But all is not as it first seems:

    Okay so I’ve had a look around and managed to compile the facts behind all our opponents’ bookings and it was surprising and in fact showed my suspicions were wrong, at least about one aspect.

    This is a list of every card against us this season:

    V Crystal Palace

    64th minute: Clynne on MARTINELLI

    V Leicester City

    16th minute: Fofana on MARTINELLI

    V Bournmouth

    60th minute: Smith on MARTINELLI

    V Fulham

    45th minute: Palitinha on SAKA
    51st minute: Robinson on JESUS
    70th minute: Ried for DISSENT

    V Aston Villa

    13th minute: Ramsey on MARTINELLI
    54th minute: Konsa on JESUS
    68th minute: McGinn on ODEGAARD

    V Manchester United

    71st minute: Tomany on JESUS
    81st minute: McGuire on JESUS
    94th minute: Erikson for DISSENT

    As you can see Martinelli and Jesus are tied on 4 yellows each for fouls against them.

    Jesus gets fouled 3.1 times per match on average, meaning he’s been fouled 21 times for those 4 cards.

    So as we can see, Jesus can be fouled 5.4 times before a player is booked. Now I’m not entirely sure about this but I believe that is about the average fouls per card for the premier league. As I say, I’m not sure so if somebody can correct me please do.

    I’ve also looked at Jesus’ 4 cards and it turns out 2 of them are for dissent, meaning he has received 2 cards for 14 fouls, which actually is not that bad, and as I said, I think below the average.

    This doesn’t mean of course that he isn’t being treated harsher than he was at Man City because out of all the cards at City some would also of been for dissent, so the cards to bookings ratio would naturally be even less. How much less will have to remain a mystery because as much as I enjoy doing this I am not trawling through 6 seasons of Man City stats to find out.

  5. Al

    I’ve been and had another look, and what you say is correct. In his last 3 seasons at City, he played around 64 matches (give or take allowing for substitute appearances) for 6 cards, or less than 1 in 10 matches.

    Comparing that with 4 cards in his first 7 games for us, or 1 in 1.75 matches, does suggest something fishy.

    The reason my stats make his time at City look more in line with us is because in his first 3 seasons he played 35 matches for 9 cards or 1 in 3.8, which is quite high, but still not as high as now.

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