Ref Justice

Brendan Rodgers has recently been vocal about the fact that Liverpool aren’t getting fair treatment from the men in black this season:

“I’m concerned that we’ve not had any sort of rub of the green from officials,” Rodgers said. “We like to think we are a sporting team, I have always told my players to do the right thing, not to dive, to play fair. But the fairness we show, it seems the decisions pass us by because of it. There are so many decisions that have gone against us (taken from The Guardian).

It certainly seems that the Liverpool manager has a point; independent referee assessment website Debatable Decisions, which monitors every Premier League match, shows that the Reds currently have the worst ‘decisions difference’ record in the division.

Not one questionable refereeing call has gone in their favour, whilst four have gone against them. The website states that Liverpool would be level with Arsenal on eight points had all decisions been adjudged correctly by the refs.

Whilst the sample figure of six league games this season is undoubtedly small, the following table shows that Liverpool’s early season card form is way above average:

The Reds have received nearly double the number of bookings, and as many red cards, as they might have expected in the whole season, based on the previous twenty years of data. Sadly, their record with penalties tells a similar story for 2012/13 so far:

Having only played six games so far this term, they perhaps shouldn’t be too surprised to have not been awarded a penalty themselves, but as with sendings off, the Reds’ opponents have already had about a season’s worth of penalties between them (based on the average at least).

What makes matters worse at the time of writing is that Liverpool’s next Premier League encounter is with Stoke City, with Lee Mason refereeing the bout, so history tells us that perhaps the Reds shouldn’t expect their decision figures to revert to the norm just yet.

So far this season, Stoke City have benefitted from more incorrect refereeing calls (5, against a league average of 1.65) than any other side in the Premier League according to Debatable Decisions, and in Lee Mason they seem to have a ref that allows their alehouse tactics to pass relatively unpunished compared to other refs:

Mason has never sent off a Stoke player or awarded their opponents a penalty; based on the rest of Stoke’s time in the Premier League, he should probably have issued them at least one red, and given two penalties against the Potters. It seems that Mason may favour the Brittania Stadium outfit in a similar way to how Howard Webb appears to favour Manchester United.

A look at Mason’s stats when refereeing Liverpool compared to the rest of his Premier League career suggests that Liverpool shouldn’t expect to get their first spot kick of the season tomorrow either, even if Suárez takes his customary clattering in the penalty area.

Lee Mason has only awarded Liverpool one penalty in fourteen league matches (when, as we can see in the second table above, they normally get one every 7.48 matches), but he has awarded one every 2.59 matches in the other 83 games of his top flight career. That’s quite a difference considering that Liverpool have averaged a finishing position of 4.7 since Mason became a Premier League ref, and so have often been one of the more attacking sides.

Of course, in theory all outliers should revert to the norm in time, so perhaps Mason will award his first ever Premier League penalty against Stoke tomorrow, or send one of their players off, which would see his figures swiftly approach the average in one fell swoop. I just wouldn’t count on it if you’re a Liverpool fan if I were you.

Update 07 October 2012:

Following the 0-0 draw between Liverpool and Stoke, it’s apparent that Lee Mason was in no mood to punish Stoke once again. Although he gave Stoke six yellow cards, when he had averaged one per match previously, he’s still below the average of other refs:

The thing I don’t understand is this: the statistics imply that Lee Mason favours Stoke, and doesn’t like Liverpool. Fair enough in some ways, as we all have teams we like and dislike for whatever reason.

But three of the fifteen Liverpool league matches that Mason has refereed have been against Stoke City. Granted, he might not be in line to referee a match between Liverpool and Manchester United for example, but surely in a sample of fifteen matches only one should realistically be against a particular team, not three?

Perhaps the committee that decides which refs get which matches should consider the above stats, and the fact that Robert Huth was not even booked today for the stamp shown here, before giving Lee Mason another Liverpool v Stoke match. Is that too much to ask?

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8 thoughts on “Ref Justice

  1. For some reason your .jpg’s don’t load at the moment, so I can’t see the statistics, which I’m sure would make some interesting reading. Same thing on my laptop and my mobile, so I’m guessing the error isn’t at my end.

    Very interesting article though and seems like Liverpool were really struggling with getting the decisions last season as well. Also interesting, according to Debatable Decisions ManUtd DON’T get the favorable treatment from officials, you would expect. Rather it was Stoke who were dominating the “decisions difference” statistic last year as well, and who would be playing Championship football this term had the refs gotten everything right.

    • Sorry to hear the tables aren’t showing for some reason – they’re still there, I promise!

      Stoke definitely get away with a lot because (I assume) they’re viewed in the football world as a plucky underdog. Their brand of ‘football’ is symptomatic of everything that’s wrong with English football. This excellent piece covers that better than I can: http://t.co/ugZfrCi6

      Thanks for reading.

      • very interesting article its certanly an eye opener re the stats. one question have you got any tips on how to get more traffic to my site. you are very experienced in the anount views and comments you recieve any advice would be greatly appreciated to an novice like me :)

      • Twitter is great for spreading the word, and reddit is a good place to post links too. You could set up a Facebook page for the blog too if you don’t have one already. That should keep you busy!

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