The astonishing difference between refereeing in Netherlands and England




By Bulldog Drummond

The advent of our match with PSV Eindhoven from the Netherlands on their home ground has raised a question in relation to the tackles, fouls and yellow card tables that we normally publish before each league match. And the question simply is, why don’t we consider these figures for European games?

The answer until now has been simple: the difficulty in obtaining comparable figures, but we have now got them and so here, for the first time is the comparison for PSV and Arsenal

When it comes to tackles, the difference really isn’t that great – PSV commit 17 tackles per game against 15 undertaken by Arsenal.   But when we move on to look at the result of these tackles we really start to see the differences unfold.

PSV are judged by their Dutch referees as committing 6.2 fouls per game, while the PGMO referees in the Premier League judge Arsenal to be knocking up 10.1 fouls a game.  That is 63% more.  An extraordinary difference, given that Arsenal are committing fewer tackles per game than PSV.

And when it comes to yellow cards, Arsenal are picking up170% more cards per game than PSV!!!!


team Tackles pg Fouls  pg Yellow PG
PSV Eindhoven 17.0 6.2 0.64
Arsenal 15.0 10.1 1.73


These figures are so different that they suggest that absolutely no attempt has been made by Uefa to ensure that the same standards of refereeing apply across Europe.  Of course, that is not much of a surprise in itself since PGMO is a highly secretive organization that very much does its own thing, and far from informing other nations in Europe what it is up to, it won’t even communicate with people who attend football matches in England.

But moving on, having seen the difference in the number of fouls and cards handed out to these two teams, let’s have a look at the all-important ratios.


PSV 2.74 26.56 9.69
Arsenal 1.49 8.67 5.83
Difference PSV 84% higher PSV 206% higher PSV 66% higher


So PSV can undertake getting on for twice as many tackles as Arsenal before a foul is called.  PSV can also undertake three times as many tackles before a yellow card is called, and PSV can commit two-thirds as many more fouls before a yellow is called.

Now of course what we don’t know is how the referee will deal with this, given that the referee is Italian.  It would be good indeed to do a review of an average team from each country, but that’s a bit beyond us at the moment, so we are just going to look at the home nation of the referee: Italy.

And for the moment we will just look at the midpoint of tackles, fouls and yellow cards in Itlay and for the two teams competing.


Country Tackles Fouls Yellow
Italy 16.6 12.6 2.36
PSV 17 6.2 0.64
Arsenal 15 10.1 1.73


We can see that in Italy the average rate of fouling is double that which is found at PSV and the number of yellow cards is way more than three times as many as it is for PSV games.

So the question is, does the referee adjust his adjudication to meet the expectations of each team or does he just carry on as before?  I suspect the latter.

But this does raise an interesting point – the standard, style and approach of refereeing in Italy on average, appears to be quite different from that which PSV experiences in the Netherlands.  Is this because referees in the Netherlands are in fact much more easygoing when it comes to which tackles are fouls and which deserve a yellow card, or is there seriously a difference of approach in different countries?

I would suspect the latter for the simple reason that we have already found considerable variations of style and approach among PGMOs own referees, with some for example constantly favouring the home team, and others constantly favouring the away team.

The worst outcome will be for the Italian referee to have been told “we do things differently in the Netherlands” and to try and referee the way PSV is used to.   At least our players will be used to referees being all over the place when it comes to standards, so whatever oddities the referee comes up with, they won’t be too surprised.

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