Refereeing in the English Leagues

I’m going to take a look at referees shortly so I thought I’d outline how refereeing decisions vary across the top four tiers of English football. For a comparison of attacking events you can look at this post.

I’ve included SOTR in the tables for fouls and offsides as I think it’s likely to be about the best indicator of possession that I have. Obviously the team in possession of the ball is much less likely to commit a foul (and more likely to be caught offside) so I expect fouls and offsides to correlate well with SOTR.


Nb: fouls do not include offsides

League Total Home Away Home ratio* Home SOTR
Premiership 25.17 12.26 12.91 0.487 0.572
Championship 24.97 12.20 12.77 0.489 0.560
League 1 24.06 11.67 12.39 0.485 0.562
League 2 24.43 11.89 12.54 0.487 0.564

*Home ratio = Home team fouls committed / (Home team fouls committed + Away team fouls committed)

So the most fouls are seen in the premiership. The gap is relatively small but enough to clearly see. Home teams have get a similar proportion of decisions go their way in all of the leagues.

Yellow cards

League Total Home Away Home ratio
Premiership 3.08 1.31 1.77 0.426
Championship 2.95 1.27 1.68 0.431
League 1 2.90 1.23 1.67 0.424
League 2 2.81 1.21 1.61 0.429

Again the highest number of events are seen in the premiership and there are a similar proportion of cards given to the home team in each of the leagues.

Red cards

League Total Home Away Home ratio
Premiership 0.17 0.07 0.10 0.406
Championship 0.18 0.07 0.11 0.381
League 1 0.19 0.07 0.12 0.390
League 2 0.19 0.07 0.12 0.383

We’re working with quite a small sample here (~4000 in total compared to ~70,000 yellow cards and ~500,000 fouls) but there appears to be a similar number given out in all of the leagues, with a slightly higher proportion of red cards given to the home team in the premiership.


League Total Home Away Home ratio Home SOTR
Premiership 10.33 5.71 4.62 0.553 0.572
Championship 10.41 5.69 4.72 0.546 0.560
League 1 10.29 5.64 4.65 0.548 0.562
League 2 10.38 5.65 4.73 0.545 0.564

This is the only category where more decisions go against the home side than the away side but that’s not surprising as the home team typically has more possession and thus more chances to be caught offside. The proportion of offsides given against the home team are pretty similar for all of the leagues. Home teams get a smaller proportion of offside decisions against them than the proportion of shots they take which could be explained by any number of reasons (possibly away teams looking to play more on the break which is likely a tactic that generates a high number of offside decisions).

So there are the basic numbers that I’ll be referring back to when I look at referees or discipline in the future.


One thought on “Refereeing in the English Leagues

  1. Pingback: 16 Analytics Articles You Might Have Missed

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