Men in The Middle: Premier League Referee Performances 2022/23

Updated: 326 Football

Discover the truth about Premier League referees in the 2022/23 season. Dive into the data and behaviors of these key decision-makers, and see how they handle the pressure of scrutiny. Are they really as good or bad as we think? Find out the facts behind the whistle-blowing.

Men in The Middle: Premier League Referee Performances 2022/23
Dan Tracey Data Scientist and Football Editor

Writer, analyst, podcaster, Spurs fan. Three out of four is not bad. If there is a data angle, I will find it.

Men in The Middle: Premier League Referee Performances

They used to say that the sign of a good referee, was one that went unnoticed during the game. However, even if a referee does have a good game within the confines of the Premier League, they are now under more scrutiny than ever before.

Whether decisions are correct or incorrect, there are mountains of column inches, hours of discussion and days of audio debate all regarding the man in the middle. While just to add more fuel to the fire, here is some input of our own.

Decoding Premier League Referees: The Facts

🏅🔍 They used to say a good ref is one that goes unnoticed, but the scrutiny on Premier League refs is 🔝. 📰⏰⚖️ Dive into the data and behaviors of these key decision-makers for the 2022/23 season. Are they really as 🆗 or ☹️ as we think?

Not to necessarily say whether referees are good or bad, as ultimately such an opinion is subjective. Although we all have our opinions on those who blow the whistle at full time, it is always better to deal with facts.

Facts that come in the behaviour of referees during this 2022/23 Premier League season and with all the data complete for the season as a whole, we are now going to take a deeper dive into those who punish dives in the first place.

PLAY TO THE WHISTLE

When it comes to referee data, it does not offer as much depth as those who ply their trade in the Premier League. However, there are still enough points of analysis to understand how and why referees behave as they do.

Craig Pawson called over 500 fouls last season - Steindy (talk) 13:35, 18 November 2014 (UTC), CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

While although the main facets of referee data will be fouls and cards, we can also get an idea of how lenient the men in the middle may or may not be and whether they have anything in the way of home bias.

The best place to start is by looking at the number of fouls per referee, and with the number of matches overseen being different, we will also present the data table on an average fouls per game basis.

Referee Matches Total Fouls Average Fouls
T Robinson 2 57 28.50
B Madley 1 27 27.00
J Smith 1 25 25.00
T Bramall 8 195 24.38
C Pawson 21 502 23.90
D Coote 21 492 23.43
M Salisbury 15 350 23.33
P Bankes 21 483 23.00
A Madley 25 574 22.96
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Although Tim Robinson has the highest average fouls, his two Premier League games in charge do not offer much in the way of outright analysis. The same can also be said for Bobby Madley, Josh Smith and Thomas Bramall in fairness.

This means to make things as fair as possible, we should look at referees who have been in charge for at least 10 matches across the 2022/23 Premier League season and when applying this rule it is Craig Pawson who tops the average list.

🥇📊 Craig Pawson leads the way!

🔝 In 21 games, he recorded 502 fouls, averaging 23.90 per game. 💪 Not far behind is David Coote, who oversaw the same number of fouls. ⚽️✨ #PremierLeague #Referees

Twenty-one games in charge, 502 total fouls. This equates to an average of 23.90 per game and with David Coote overseeing the same number himself, his average was 0.47 lower than Pawson’s at 23.43 – 0.10 more than Michael Salisbury's below. 

While when we consider all the referees that have walked out to the Premier League anthem at least once last season, there was an average of 22.92 fouls per game. A figure that is rather interesting when you consider those who are below average.

The likes of Michael Oliver, Stuart Attwell and Andre Marriner find themselves in the below-average portion of the list. Perhaps they are not as strict as first thought or with experience comes the ability to let the game flow.

FOULS OR CAUTIONS

Peter Bankes handed out 91 Yellows in 21 games last season

Although the number of fouls per referee will offer some form of insight, it does not tell anywhere near the full story and to expand on our newly found knowledge, we are going to now look at this from a cautionary angle.

Because the interest really comes around when yellow cards are added into the mix and when we look at the same names of elite officials, this is how they look from a total yellows and average yellows per game point of view.

Referee Matches Total Yellows Average Yellows
B Madley 1 6 6.00
T Robinson 2 9 4.50
P Bankes 21 91 4.33
M Salisbury 15 65 4.33
J Brooks 19 81 4.26
R Jones 26 105 4.04
D Bond 4 16 4.00
T Harrington 6 23 3.83
P Tierney 30 114 3.80
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Now if we once again ignore those outliers - any referee who has overseen less than 10 games we can see that Michael Salisbury and Peter Bankes share the distinction of handing out the highest number of average cautions per game.

4.33 to be precise and in doing so, they just pip John Brooks to this unwanted accolade, with the 33-year-old averaging 4.26 himself and this greater than the league wide average of 3.82 – a figure that Paul Tierney comes in just lower at 3.80.

🔴🃏 Michael Salisbury & Peter Bankes take the caution crown!

🎯 With an average of 4.33 cautions per game, they narrowly beat John Brooks at 4.26. ⚠️ This surpasses the league-wide average of 3.82. ⚽️✨

Once again Michael Oliver’s data shines an interesting angle. Considered by many as the Premier League’s best refereeing export, he is not one who is in a rush to get his yellow card out. Only 2.90 per game and this is the third lowest figure of all the 2022/23 referees.

Just below him is Jared Gillett at 2.65. The Australian has certainly been a great addition to the Premier League’s refereeing panel, and it does open the question as to whether other international officials should be able to ply their trade in the league. 

THE YELLOW RATIO

Michael Oliver proved to be the most lenient referee last season - Photo Credit: The Premier League

Now that we know who likes to kill the game with constant interruptions and who is partial to waving their yellow card more often, it is now time to see if there is a correlation between the two statistical tables.

How do we measure this? We can take a fouls-to-yellow ratio and in doing so, we can see just how lenient the latest crop of Premier League referees really are. 

Referee Matches Total Fouls Total Yellows Fouls To Yellow Ratio
G Scott 6 119 13 9.15
J Smith 1 25 3 8.33
T Bramall 8 195 24 8.13
M Oliver 30 631 87 7.25
C Kavanagh 13 269 39 6.90
J Gillett 17 306 45 6.80
D Coote 21 492 77 6.39
C Pawson 21 502 79 6.35
T Robinson 2 57 9 6.33
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Once again we will apply the previous caveats, which means Michael Oliver is the referee of most interest. We referenced above that he is not in a rush to get his yellow cards out and this is further reinforced in our third data table.

Oliver may have blown the whistle 631 times last season, but these indiscretions were only converted to a yellow on 87 occasions. Meaning that for every foul that was awarded, it would take 7.25 for a player to be cautioned.

🕰️🎟️ Michael Oliver - a patient referee!

⏳🟨 Despite blowing the whistle 631 times last season, he only showed a yellow card 87 times. 🚫🟡 On average, it took 7.25 fouls for each caution. ⚽️✨

Next in line is Chris Kavanagh and after overseeing 13 Premier League matches, 269 fouls would lead to 39 yellows. A caution every 6.90 fouls and just above the average of 6.37 that was found across the division.

At the other end of the scale, it is John Brooks which also hogs the spotlight. Only 19 matches in charge last season but no less than 420 fouls were awarded. An average of 5.19 fouls for a yellow and it seems as if you do not want to get on his wrong side.

IS THERE ANY BIAS

Josh Brookes - Photo Credit: The EFL

With this data now painting a clearer picture of current Premier League referee behaviour, it is time to provide the biggest brushstroke of all and this comes courtesy of measuring home versus away bias.

🏟️👀 Are referees biased against away teams?

👀⚽️ Let's calculate the away bias ratio of our Premier League referees. 🏟️🗳️ If the ratio is more than 1.00, we'll uncover some away bias.

It is often accused that referees have bias against teams playing away from home and with the data table below, we are going to now reveal which referees are guilty of at least some form of unconscious bias.

To do this, we must measure the number of total fouls our referees have given against the away teams and divide that by the number of total fouls our referees have given against the home teams. In doing so, we will generate an away bias ratio and if the ratio is more than 1.00, there is away bias.

Referee Matches Home Fouls Away Fouls Away Foul Bias Ratio
B Madley 1 10 17 1.70
T Robinson 2 23 34 1.48
J Brooks 19 195 225 1.15
A Madley 25 270 304 1.13
T Bramall 8 92 103 1.12
C Pawson 21 237 265 1.12
P Bankes 21 230 253 1.10
D England 17 168 184 1.10
T Harrington 6 63 69 1.10
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 Of the 23 referees in the data sample, 15 had away bias last season. Although it is not by a huge amount per referee, it is interesting to see all the same and if any teams are on their travels while Josh Brooks or Andy Madley is in charge, you could be in trouble.

Both referees have an average away foul bias ratio of 1.15. For every 100 fouls they give against the team playing at home, 115 are awarded to the visitors. Is this subconscious bias or is there a deeper meaning here?

🗺️💨 Away bias alert!

😮🔄 Out of 23 referees in the data sample, 15 showed bias towards away teams last season. ⚖️⚽️ Keep an eye out: if Josh Brooks or Andy Madley officiate while your team is on the road, watch out! Their average away foul bias ratio is 1.15. For every 100 home team fouls, they award 115 fouls to visitors. 🤔✨ Is it subconscious bias or something more?

Do away teams have to scrap harder for the points that they are trying to earn and in turn have to be more combative on the field of play. In fairness, that is a more logical conclusion than a referee preferring one club over the other. 

When trying to find the most neutral referee of all, that accolade is currently bestowed Chris Kavanagh. With an away foul bias ratio of 1.01, he is doing his very best to keep things down the middle.

While the official who has swung the other way and favoured the away teams, is none other than Darren Bond with an away foul ratio being as low as 0.84. Although if we were to remove him because of the previous caveats, it is Michael Salisbury who favours the home teams the most. 

CONCLUSION

In terms of the data above, it certainly shines a new light on referees and although we will never truly know if referees are as strict or as lenient as we conceive them to be, we can at least get a better idea of how they want the game to unfold in front of them.

By the same token, we can never say with any real conviction that a referee is biased, especially as impartiality is very much the name of the game. Which means although we may have an idea which is either backed or not backed up by data, it will ultimately stay as a hot topic for debate.  

Methodology

Referee data supplied by https://www.football-data.co.uk/

Meet The Author

Researched and written by Dan Tracey ahead of Publishing by Steve Madgwick

Dan Tracey is a multi-talented writer, data analyst and podcaster whose six-year career in the sports data sphere has seen incredible successes. From helping UEFA create their annual technical reports to writing articles for Sports Betting Websites including sites like TheLinesUS and Goal - there's no shortage of areas where his expertise shines through! In addition he can be heard on podcasts lending an insightful voice as well as providing weekly betting angles - all culminating with him teaming up OLBG.com in the present day. Simply put: wherever you find angled data being crunched? You'll also likely find Dan not far behind!



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