Tottenham Hotspur and the Refs

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 Spurs 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 Spurs fans who are qualified refs to help us in this venture.

Untold Vs PGMOL - TottenhamHotspur 2011/2012

We have reviewed 21 games that involved Tottenham Hotspur last season. That is 55,26 % of their games. So more than half of their games.

I think this is rather good as it could bring a good view of how the refs did in the games with Tottenham Hotspur. So let us see how the refs did and have a look at how many correct calls they made.

PGMOL Vs EPL - Basic Competency - TottenhamHotspur 2011/2012

With a score of 72.96% correct decisions in total they end up around the league average. I have said it before this league average is too low for me. But the average is what it is and if the refs are not capable of doing better any team can only be happy when they get the league average in their games. The score for Tottenham Hotspur is 0.47% better than the league average.

If we put weight on the score we see that the score drops a bit to 71,51% and that is 0.15% away from the league average. So not that bad compared to the league average once again. Maybe I sound like a broken record but I think we cannot be satisfied with that league average score.

Let us see at the decisions in detail now.

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

There sure was something wrong with the goals in Tottenham Hotspur games. A score of not even 90% accuracy is unacceptable. Before you rush to any conclusions at this moment I don’t know at this moment in the analysis if this is about goals in favour or against Tottenham Hotspur. I think it is a disgrace that the refs are not able to get all the goal decisions correct. I could even settle for 99% correct but not 89%. That is way out of line.

Better news from the offside decisions. 95% correct is some 5% better than the league average. It still is not the 99% claimed by Mike Riley but well it sure looks better than for most teams.

The other decisions are a little bit better than the league average. But it still means that 1 decision in 4 is wrong. It just doesn’t feel and sound good.

The penalty decisions are lower than the league average.  Only 56% correct. That is almost like throwing up a coin and make you decision like that. And that for  such an important decision…this is not acceptable.

The red card decisions are slightly better than the league average. With 23% it is too low. But the league average is even lower.  But which student will come home happy with that score on his exams and will his parents feel better if they hear that the average was even lower?

The yellow cards are almost the same as the league average. Marginally better. Again 56% correct is not what I expect from Pl refs. The best refs in the best league? Let us take that with a pinch of salt. Or with lots of salt.

Now let us move on and try to see if we can see if there was some consistency in who benefited from the wrong decisions.

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

In the 21 games we did there were 11 away from home and 10 at home.

The normal away bias a team has to face is -1.826. Tottenham Hotspur had to face a negative away bias of -0.636. So that is better than the average but still they had to face a negative away bias. And people who follow football a bit will remember that Mike Riley claimed that there is no bias at all in the PL and with their refs. So no bias means no home/away bias also. Well it is there.

At home Tottenham Hotspur could have expected a normal positive bias of +1.826. They got a score of +3.800. So that is more than the double normal home bias.

So it looks that there was a big difference between the way refs acted in away games from the way they acted at White Hart Lane. However the big positive bias at home combined with a lower than average away bias results in a strong positive bias in general.

If we put weight on the decisions we see almost the same picture. The normal weighted negative away bias is -2.619 and Tottenham Hotspur only got a negative away bias of -0.637. So this is much better than the average.

The home bias is also very high. A score of +5.8000 is more than the double of +2.619 they could have expected.

The final result is a weighted positive bias of +2.429 bias points in the favour of Tottenham Hotspur.

Let us now take a look at the refs who were involved in those games.

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

So we had 10 referees in 21 games. 4 referees had a negative bias score and 6 had a positive bias score.

On the negative side we have and this will be no surprise for people who have been following Tottenham Hotspur and Mr. Chris Foy. The negative bias score from Probert, Dowd and Oliver is very small.

As is the positive bias from Atkinson, Jones and Marriner. They only have a very small positive bias swing in favour of Tottenham. So we could say we had 6 refs that were more or less neutral in the games from Tottenham Hotspur.

Let us move to the 3 most positive refs for Tottenham Hotspur last season. Howard Webb had a positive score. And Mike Dean had one. People who have been following the relationship between Redknapp and Dean will not be overly surprised.

But the most positive ref for Tottenham Hotpsur last season seems to be Mark Halsey. Now let us see if this changes if we put weight on the decisions.

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

And yes we see a few changes. Only 3 referees left with a negative bias score. 6 with a positive bias and one with no bias score.

The neutral ref was Phil Dowd. Well done to him.

Chris Foy was a walking disaster for Tottenham in their games. He messed up rather badly. Oliver and Probert are negative but not with a very high number.

The positive refs are having a rather big score in favour of  Tottenham Hotspur. Halsey stays top and Dean is close to him when it comes to making errors in favour of Tottenham Hotspur. Atkinson also messed up a bit in his games in favour of Tottenham.

Webb was his usual self I would say. Just messing things up in general at times.

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

If we see at this graphic we see some interesting moments. A bad start with rather normal referee performances one could say (or not overly biased ones). Then the season kicked off and the bias was slightly better than normal in favour of Tottenham.

They kept on rising and rising and then someone had a enough. The combination Foy-Stoke is a dangerous one. Tottenham Hotspur paid the price and lost points thanks to a big big negative bias score from the ref.

In week 22 we see again a big negative swing against Tottenham that again cost them points. It was a if someone was saying at a certain moment: “ok, you can come close to the top clubs but this is a bit too close.” We had two of those games with some big calls going against Tottenham Hotspur.

But they also had some games when things went their way. With some big decisions in their favour. Sometimes they got points from them, but it didn’t work all the time.

They lost points in two games near the end but alas we couldn’t review those games so we don’t know if the refs had anything to do with that.


The refs had some strange games involving Tottenham last season. In some games they had a disastrous bias against them. We exposed Chris Foy after what he did in the game Stoke-Tottenham. That was robbery in broad daylight. We have no problem in admitting that. That was such a biased performance against Tottenham (or maybe more pro-Stoke) that is was not funny to watch.

But Tottenham also had a few days in the sun from the refs after that, when things went their way. Am I saying things even out then? No, they just got a bit lucky with some decisions in a part of the season.

And then we noticed a strange thing. You may remember that I mentioned at the start that at a certain moment in the season some Tottenham Hotspur people talking about not just qualifying for Europe but also challenging for the title. And then well we have seen it with other teams in the last few seasons… Suddenly the refs decisions start going against you. Some big decisions going against you. Referees seemingly trying to hold on to a draw in certain games.

It’s not a typical anti-Tottenham Hotspur bias . It’s is the behaviour that teams who come to close to the title and who are not “suited” to win the title have to overcome.

But don’t think it was all going against Tottenham Hotspur over the whole season. No in fact the numbers show a bias in their favour in general. But when it really mattered, when it really, really mattered … the refs turned their back.

As this is an Arsenal blog we could end this with saying: been there, seen it all before, same old each season.

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2 Responses to Tottenham Hotspur and the Refs

  1. Adam says:

    Thought this may demonstrate the home and away bias
    Full Home Away
    P W D L F A W D L F A W D L F A GD Pt
    4 Tottenham Hotspur 38 20 9 9 66 41 13 3 3 39 17 7 6 6 27 24 +25 69

  2. CHRIS FINCHAM says:

    Interesting piece, thanks.

    Few comments

    1. There needs to be some elaboration on what is meant by “dedicated and qualified referees”. How many are there, what levels, and what qualifications? “Dedication” also makes me nervous; it hints of a bit of zealousness.

    2. The “weighting” procedures are not explained or justified.

    3. The measures, from “correct low” to “incorrect high” need explanation. Is this simple division?

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