This will be the fifth part in my series on refereeing in English football, here are the links for parts I, II, III and IV. This time I’ll be looking at the most strict and lenient referees. Again I’m only going to include the 23 referees with a sizable amount of experience (76+ games).

I’m defining how strict a referee is by the number of fouls they allow before producing a card. The stricter the referee the smaller this number and the more lenient the referee the larger this number.

So firstly I’ll look at both teams. (The average here is 7.73 with a standard deviation of 1.33)

Referee Fouls per card Referee Fouls per card
R Styles 6.31 P Durkin 10.81
M Dean 6.37 J Winter 10.29
L Mason 6.72 M Halsey 10.14
S Bennett 6.77 U Rennie 10.05
M Clattenburg 6.87 N Barry 9.11

How about giving producing a card for the home team? (Average 8.79, standard deviation 1.89)

Referee Home fouls per card Referee Home fouls per card
M Dean 6.87 J Winter 14.16
R Styles 6.91 M Halsey 12.48
M Clattenburg 7.21 P Durkin 12.41
L Mason 7.61 N Barry 11.20
M Atkinson 7.69 U Rennie 10.57

And then showing a card against the away team (average 6.93, standard deviation 1.10)

Referee Away fouls per card Referee Away fouls per card
R Styles 5.83 P Durkin 9.66
S Bennett 5.83 U Rennie 9.57
M Dean 5.93 M Halsey 8.63
L Mason 6.04 J Winter 8.24
A Marriner 6.25 D Gallagher 7.88

So I think there are a few things to note from this post. Firstly that away teams appear to be on a much shorter leash when it comes to dishing out cards. I can think of a couple of explanations that could explain this, at least in part. Firstly I think (there is no statistical basis for this – it is purely an observation) that away teams are more likely to attempt to waste time than their home counterparts. This obviously generates a certain number of yellow cards without a foul being awarded, thus bringing the ratio of fouls per card down. Secondly there will be a small effect from persistent fouling. I’ve already established that away teams commit more fouls than home teams so there would be an expectation that occasionally this will culminate in more cards for persistent fouling being produced to the away team. The spread of fouls is reasonably tight though (less than one foul over the course of a whole game) so this would be a minor effect. A third reason I can think of is the referee feeling the pressure of a home crowd and booking/sending off an away player more readily than they would a home player. We’d all like to think that this isn’t the case but the evidence is there to suggest it does indeed happen.

There’s also some question to ask of individual referees. For example why is Mark Clattenburg amongst the fastest referees to give cards to a home player but not when it comes to away players? Why does Steve Bennet do the opposite? And why does Jeff Winter have such a vast difference between the number of fouls per card based on whether you’re playing for the home or away team?

In the next post I’ll look at which referees have the largest discrepancy when it comes to how quickly they hand out cards to the home and away teams. There is one referee who stands so far from the pack it is remarkable.


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