Sunderland and the Refs – a review of how it went

Last season a group of qualified referees reviewed more than 40% of the EPL games. The reviews themselves were based on full match video footage with the advantage of video technology features such as slow motion and pause.

By reviewing those 155 games we have made a database of more than 7000 decisions that have been judged by our panel of dedicated and qualified referees.

The numbers you will see are based on those decisions and those reviewed games.

Below is the review we published in the summer on Sunderland and the refs.  We are publishing it again because we hope to attract more referees who are willing to monitor what the refs in the Premier League get up to.  If you would like to help us please have a look at our earlier post on our desire to recruit Sunderland fans who are qualified refs to help us in this venture.

The first thing to check is to see how many games we did that had Sunderland playing its part.

Untold Vs PGMOL - Sunderland 2011/2012

The numbers are rising. We reviewed 14 games from Sunderland. That is 36.84% of their total games. The higher the number the more accurate the numbers must be. So I think this year review is really starting to become very interesting.

The first thing to check is the overall competency numbers of the refs. It doesn’t matter who was the team that got lucky with the decisions. It is more to see how well or how bad the referees did in the Sunderland games.

PGMOL Vs EPL - Basic Competency - Sunderland 2011/2012

Well the first numbers are really not very encouraging. Lower than the already low league average. So basically we could conclude that the refs were not really at their best in Sunderland games.

If we put weight on the decisions the number goes below the alarm bell number of 70%. Like we have said before below 70% correct decisions is not really acceptable for referees in the PL.

Let us now take a look at the different type of decisions.

PGMOL Vs EPL - Basic Competency Breakdown - Sunderland 2011/2012

With only one goal wrong in the Sunderland games this is a good number. One of the best in the league so far. So no complaints about that.

But if we move to the offside decisions we see a very low number. Only 85% correct. Again I must remind you of the claims from Mike Riley who said a few months ago that 99% of the offside decisions were correct.

The other decisions are almost the league average. So if you are happy with the low league average fine.

The penalty decisions are better than the league average. A score of 70% can look good enough but then again this type of decisions is very important and this should be much higher.

The decisions about red cards are very bad. Only 1 correct decisions of the 8 that had to be made.  And this numbers is even worse compared to the already very low league average.

The yellow cards are close to the league average but not really that good to be honest.

The next step we take is now try to see who got blessed by bad referee decisions in these games with Sunderland.

PGMOL Vs EPL - Incorrect calls Breakdown - Sunderland 2011/2012

If we look at the first number we see that the negative away bias is very low. It is almost non existent. Remember we normally have found an average negative away bias of -1.826 and for Sunderland this is only -0.125. Great one could say. Almost no bias.

But at home we see a very strange thing. The positive league bias we found in the league is + 1.826 and we now see that Sunderland had a negative home bias in the 6 games we reviewed! This is the highest negative home bias we found so far this season. One could say that the way most refs have acted it was more the stadium of darkness than the stadium of light for Sunderland. They end up with a negative bias in total.  Can it get any stranger?

Well it can. Because if we put weight on the decisions we see a rather strange movement in the points. We suddenly see that the normal negative away bias of -2.619 is a positive away bias of +1.750. So this is a clear example that the refs gave a few big decisions to Sunderland away from home.

If we look at the home bias we see that there also is a negative bias of -1.000 and the league average gives us a normal positive home bias of +2.169.  But this number is lower than the un-weighted bias and these numbers indicate clearly that the refs made a mess of the decisions in general but when it came to mistakes in the big decisions it was most of the time Sunderland that got the calls in their favour.

So from a negative bias against Sunderland, we go to a positive bias in favour of Sunderland when we put the weight on the decisions.  Let us have a look at the refs who were involved in those 14 games.

EPL vs PGMOL - Incorrect calls Breakdown by Referee - Sunderland (Un-Weighted) 2011/2012

In total we had 9 refs in the 14 Sunderland games. 4 had a negative bias swing against Sunderland. Mike Dean and Anthony Taylor battle it out for the top spot on the negative side of the table. Kevin Friend and Lee Mason also are on the negative side of things.

And then we move on the Lee Probert and Chris Foy. They have a zero bias score! I must say I am a bit speechless on this. But never the less I can only clap  my hands for this. So bravo Mr. Probert and Mr. Foy.

Another one with almost no bias is Phil Dowd. Just a small positive bias. Also well done.

Howard Webb and Neil Swarbrick are the most positive refs for Sunderland. Webb even on 2 occasions. Now let us see if we can find some strange things with the refs when we put the weight on the decisions.

EPL vs PGMOL - Incorrect calls Breakdown by Referee - Sunderland (Weighted) 2011/2012

We still have 4 refs with a negative bias against Sunderland. But Anthony Taylor has won the first prize in anti-Sunderland feelings. He has beaten Mike Dean who ended up in second place. Lee Mason and Kevin Friend keep their position on the negative side of the table for Sunderland.

And then…I can only congratulate Chris Foy with this. He made mistakes in the game he did with Sunderland. But at the end of the game it evened out for both teams. Well that is what our bias index tells us. As well as with the un-weighted score as with the weighted score he has a zero bias score. AMAZING STUFF!!!!! Great job!

I almost forgot. There are 4 other refs. Dowd still with a very low positive bias in favour of Sunderland.

Lee Probert catapults himself way up the positive ladder for Sunderland. He started with a zero overall bias but when we put weight on the decisions it is clear that he favoured Sunderland with the important decisions. Swarbrick stays roughly the same.

But he lost his first place to Howard Webb.  It is clear that Webb not only made a mess of things when doing Sunderland but also very much in favour of Sunderland.

PGMOL Vs Sunderland - Incorrect calls Seasonal Handicap - Sunderland (Weighted) 2011/2012

If we look at the numbers and the bias line we see that on some occasions the bias was big, both in favour and against. 3 or 4 rather big bias points in favour but didn’t bring them much points.

Some big negative bias lines also didn’t bring hem much points.

What is interesting to see also is that they had 7 games out of 14 where the refs made relatively few mistakes in total.


The refs in general were average. One could say a bit normal.

Some very big swings between the different bias scores resulted in a strange final score.

They got more wrong calls in their favour away from home than at home.  The very big positive away bias was strange to see.

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