Ref Review 2012/13: The bias that teams get from the refs by playing at home

By Walter Broeckx

This article is part of the series of the Referee Review 2013. You can find links to earlier articles on the bottom of this article.


On this site we have published all kinds of reports over the season 2012-2013.

We have dealt with the different teams. We have looked  closely at the refs themselves leading to the best ref election of the season according to the views and based on the numbers found by our referee reviewers.

We then had another look at the bias from the refs with each team.

The next step was looking at the 4 most important decisions on the football field that could have the biggest impact on the final result of games. We have shown this in the wrong decisions about second yellow cards, red cards, penalties and goals.

And we did not only show which teams gained and how many times they gained, but also which teams suffered and how many times they suffered. Of course when the ref makes a mistake there is always a team that benefits but there is also a team that gains from the wrong decision. So it is important to have a look at both sides of the medal.

Next to our seemingly never ending numbers coming out from our reviews we will show all the bias decisions that teams had to suffer last season in the matches we reviewed.

We will show you how many decisions went in favour of each team at home and how many decisions went against each team at home. A bit like we did with the important decisions. But in this table we will also show what that means for each team in relation with how many games we reviewed. We will do this by showing the average decision they faced each game we reviewed.  And we will also do this for the away games and then give you the grand total.

This is also important in the way that big decisions are sometimes more visible. More visible when the people who show games on TV allow them to be visible and this certainly goes for programmes on TV where they only show highlights. Cutting an important decision out of the highlights can make things look differently.

So the numbers we will show you include the big decisions but also the more invisible little decisions bias. Things only the eyes of a trained person will see and that mostly is overlooked by most fans in the stadium or even watching on TV.  These are the numbers that include the decisions  were referees know that you can go from a level playing field in to a biased playing field.

In the tables you are going to see we have for each team the numbers of decisions that favoured them and then we have the numbers when they were suffering from the wrong decisions from the ref. In the third column of numbers you then see the total swing. And in the final column you see the average swing taking in account the number of games we reviewed. And it is that number that we will focus on when we talk about the tables.

But let us first have a look at the first set of numbers. The decisions for and against each team when they played at home:

Home swing

The first thing we notice is that despite Mike Riley, head of the PGMOL, claiming there is never ever any bias in English football our numbers once again show that he is just talking bollocks (to use the technical term). There is bias. Home bias. Whoever wants to deny such a thing is an idiot.

Our numbers for the season 2011/2012 showed it and this time again you can clearly see that most teams benefit from the decisions when playing at home.

The team that had the highest number of decisions going their way at home was the team playing in the Theatre of Dreams, or Manchester United. So it seems that this dream has been built on many wrong decisions in favour of the home side. The Theatre of the Nightmare decisions for visiting teams would be more appropriated at times.

Manchester United had the most decisions in numbers going in their favour (128) and when we take in account the number of games we reviewed this results in them having on average more than 5 decisions going in their favour each home game. Meaning that the away team will know before the game starts they will have to overcome more than 5 wrong decisions.

The team that had the second highest home bias on average in their favour is Norwich City. So it is not really just about a big team bias, with all respect for Norwich, but I don’t think they will count themselves amongst the big teams like Manchester United or Chelsea or any other top 4 team.  Closely followed by Aston Villa in 3rd place and yet again this is not really a top 4 challenging team.  And the same can be said about the team in 4th place Sunderland.

So there is a strange thing going on. The fact of the Manchester United bias is something that people might want to explain as big team bias, but then why are the teams in 2nd and 3rd and 4th place smaller teams? So there must be something more in to this.

Because only in place 5 do we find a team that can be called a big team. Or at least a team challenging for the top 4. Tottenham is that team who has a high home bias. But that is not even half the bias Manchester United is enjoying.

In fact when we look at the other teams that finished in the top 4 we find that Manchester City had a negative home bias. On average they had more than 1 decision going against them at home. And Chelsea only had a small positive home bias in their favour on average. If we look at the numbers from Chelsea we see that they had a lot of wrong decisions in their home games but that it almost evened out for them at home.

And finally when we look at the numbers of Arsenal that finished in 4th place in the league table. There is such thing as Arsenal having the home advantage at the Emirates. Because at home Arsenal has to overcome on average more than 7 decisions which are wrong coming from the refs. More than 7 decisions against them in each home game. Compare this with the more than 5 decisions in favour of Manchester United.  That in itself is a swing of more than 12 decisions difference between these both teams!

Questions to ask at Mr. Riley….

Do you think there is home bias in the PL? The answer should be: of course there is.  But why don’t you acknowledge it then and admit that it exists instead of closing your eyes for it.

And then the most important question: why is the difference between the teams that big? Doesn’t this show that there is something more sinister at work beneath the surface? But to change that (if you are interested in such a thing of course) you first have to admit that something is wrong. And up to now I never heard you say anything that might suggest that you even think there is a problem.

Believe me Mike, we do have a problem. Wake up.

Next we will look at the away bias in our next article and then we will show the total picture of course.

This entry was posted in Arsenal, Aston Villa, Chelsea, Everton, Fulham, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Norwich City, QPR, Reading, Referee Reviews, Southampton, Stoke City, Sunderland, Swansea City, Tottenham Hotspur, WBA, West Ham United, Wigan. Bookmark the permalink.

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