Ref Review 2012/13: Manchester Utd gain highest positive bias in the League

By Walter Broeckx

This article is part of the series of the Referee Review 2013. Other articles to this subject can be found on this site. Including reviews of games, reports on teams and reports on refs


In this part of the series we have a look at each team and see how the bias panned out for each team. This is based on the decisions themselves without putting any weight on each decision. A total table will be published at the end of this series and then you can compare each team with the other teams.

And it will be an interesting table I can assure you of that.

First we are providing a table for each team highlighting each type of decision. This gives the totals as for when the team in the article got a favourable decision and when they got it against them.

If the traditional mantra, “it all evens out at the end of the season” is true it should show in these statistics – and indeed for some clubs we have already reviewed, that is the case.

But as I said, in the table we just show the decisions as a decision and we didn’t put any weight on the decisions. That is something for later on. Now we just take each decision at the same value, which is of course not saying all because a wrong penalty call is a bit more important than a wrong throw in decision.

But now let us move to the next team in our survey:  Manchester United

All the games we covered were analysed by qualified referees, drawn from a wide range of clubs.   Details can be found on the Referee Decisions site (see below).

We were able to do 29 games and that is 76,32 % of their total games in the PL. I think this is a high enough number to draw some firm conclusions. The chance that what we find in this table would have been reversed completely in the other 9 games looks rather small. But people who disagree can always try to convince us by giving us some extra analysis and evidence. Our evidence can be found on the website

manchester united

In the second column we see the type of decision. And in the column “Favoured” we see how many decisions favoured this team when we reviewed them.  In the column “Penalised” we see how many times a wrong decision went against them.  The total swing is the difference between the favoured decisions and the penalised decisions.

A negative number in this column means that the total was against the team and a positive number means that the total decisions was in their favour.

In the last column we see the average swing per game, based on the games we reviewed. And this gives an indication on how many decisions went against a team or were in favour of a team. The lower the number the lower number of decisions that were wrong. And a positive number indicates that in each game they get some decisions in their favour and a negative indicates how many decisions the team has to overcome.

We had a total of 334 wrong decisions in the 29 games we did with Manchester United.  That is more than 11 wrong decisions per game, almost 12. This is again rather high and certainly too high for my liking.  But we have seen worse things this season so after a while you get used to it.  But more importantly now is to see how the dividing was of those wrong decisions.

Of those 334 wrong decisions we had 236 in their favour and 98 going against them. The difference is a staggering 138 decisions in favour of Manchester United. And I can tell you by now that this is the highest number of decisions in favour of any team.   Let us have a look at the decisions  in detail to see if we can see some strange things.

Well the only type of decisions that went against Manchester United was the advantage decisions. With 1 (one) decision more against them than in their favour this is not much of course. But that is the only type of decisions where Manchester United could argue that they have been badly treated over the whole season.

If we look at the decisions that went in their favour we see that these are all the other decisions. The margin for the not that important decisions like corners, goal kick and offside are rather small. The decisions like throw in and corners are already on a higher level.

And if we go to the decisions of free kick/foul we see that there is a big big big difference (or bias) in favour of Manchester United.  Also if we look at the goal decisions we see that this very much in their favour.  The penalties are also in their favour but we must point at the fact that they had some decisions going against them also. But still the overall score on those decisions is clearly in favour of Manchester United.

It looked as if the referees did all they could to make sure that last season would go to Old Trafford.  Maybe in a secret agreement to give him the 20th title and then to see the manager disappear and take his influence away from the game? Who knows.  This season will be interesting and we will be keeping an eye on this of course.

Manchester United was probably the best team in the league, but the refs didn’t do much to make life difficult for them.

Editorial note: if you want to comment it is perhaps worth having a look at some of the background to this research in the articles below, if you have not come across Referee Decisions before.  We did have a situation in which supporters of various teams have not done this, and made comments which, in retrospect they maybe wish they hadn’t

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