Research shows English refs favour home teams

Academics have proved what team managers have been griping about for years – England's Premier League referees are inconsistent and favour home teams. After studying 2,660 FA Premier League games over several seasons, researchers found referees were statistically more likely to show yellow and red cards to the away team, Reuters reported. The study, due to be published in the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, also discovered that some referees are significantly more likely to punish players than others.

The researchers from the universities of Bath, Otago in New Zealand, St Andrews and Wales, Bangor, took into account home advantage, game importance and crowd size. They found that that underdogs received more yellow and red cards than favourites and the number of offences tended to be higher towards the end of the season when evenly-matched teams played in games with a lot at stake. Large crowds also played a key role, inspiring more aggressive play from home teams.

“Managers have been right to highlight inconsistencies and controversial decisions in games, but without a proper analysis of refereeing decisions over a period of time, their comments look like the usual post-match gripe, especially if they are on the losing side,” said Dr Peter Dawson, an Economics lecturer at the University of Bath.

A Wigan Athletic supporter, he said the research even had implications for crime studies. “The football pitch is like a laboratory for crime economists,” he said. “You can introduce a new rule or increase the severity of a punishment and then see how long it takes for the referees and the players to adjust their behaviour.”