Information on Referees in the SPL
As a welcome break from myself and Mahe,the following article is by REBUS67. I mean,you can tell right away that it’s not by me-just look at the amount of research that has gone into it!
The first 25 rounds of the SPL are examined in this analysis. Most of the data used were obtained from the Corner-Stats and the Sportinglife websites.
A variety of outputs from refereeing are examined, including, fouls and cards awarded, as well as the chances of a particular referee awarding a penalty. After 25 games there is considerable variation in the number of yellows handed out by SPL refs. However, to compare the referees propensity to issue yellows, we need to adjust for the number of matches that they refereed. Nick Walsh ref’d the most matches at 18, with Gavin Duncan only taking 3 games. So, the statistic examined is the average number of cards issued per game.
Andrew Dallas handed out the most cards with an average number of yellows per game of 5.1. He is followed by Nick Walsh(4.2), Kevin Clancy(4.1) and Greg Aitken(4.1).
Bobby Madden(2.6) had the lowest average number of yellows per game, and Craig Thomson was in the middle of the pack with 3.1 cards on average per game.
The number of reds varied from 0 from Gavin Duncan to 5 from Kevin Clancy. Both Bobby Madden and William Collum issued 4 red cards. When we adjust for the number of games ref’d we find that Kevin Clancy, Steven MacLean, and Willy Collum used the most reds on average per game. Andrew Dallas was in the middle of the pack.
What stands out is that Kevin Clancy tends to issue a lot of cards, both yellow and red. Whereas Bobby Madden is light on issuing yellows but heavy on reds. Andrew Dallas’ behaviour is the opposite: heavy on yellows but relatively lighter on reds.
When we look at the percentage of matches in which at least one penalty was awarded we again see substantial variation amongst the referees.
Andrew Dallas, Greg Aitken and Kevin Clancy awarded at least one penalty in 42-43% of their games. Bobby Madden was not far behind at 38%, whereas Gavin Duncan did not award any penalties. Amongst the rest, Willy Collum and Euan Anderson are the least likely to award penalties.
Looking at the average number of fouls per game(for both teams) awarded by our referees, we see more consistency if we eliminate the data for one referee, Gavin Duncan. He awarded an average of 18.7 fouls per game. At the other extreme, we have Steven McLean who awarded 26.7 fouls. However, most referees award a total of between 23-26 fouls per game. To illustrate what this means, 23 fouls in a game means one is happening every 4 minutes, whereas a foul count of 26 means the game is stopped every 3.5 minutes….not conducive to a free flowing game. Thomson, Robertson and Clancy tend to be more conservative in awarding fouls, whereas Muir, Dallas and Collum tend to have relatively high foul counts.
None of the above can be used to suggest that referees are showing preference. What the above analysis does show is that there is considerable variation across referees in some of the categories of punishment(cards, and penalties). After 25 matches most referees should have invigilated a variety of teams so one would expect some consistency to emerge, but the data does not support that.
One statistic that may shed some light upon the fair treatment of teams by particular referees is the difference in the number of fouls awarded to each team within a game. It is not a perfect measure of even handedness but over a number of matches, the average may provide a measure of fairness. A small difference in fouls awarded could indicate that the ref is applying a consistent approach to both teams, whereas a large difference may be indicative of a bias towards one team. As already said, it is not a perfect measure of bias, because one team may be outclassed by another and might resort to fouling to frustrate the superior team. However, over a number of matches the average difference in fouls might reasonably be expected to indicate consistent refereeing. The referees that produced the largest differences in the awarding of fouls, after adjusting for the number of matches ref’d, were:
- Alan Muir
- Willy Collum
- Andrew Dallas
- Greg Aitken
- Don Robertson
- The refs with the smallest adjusted differences in awarding fouls were:
- Craig Thomson
- John Beaton and Euan Anderson
- Steven Maclean
- Nick Walsh
Craig Thomson awarded exactly the same total fouls to each pair of teams that he refereed.
Of course, it is not just the number of fouls that is important, it is when these fouls are awarded, and whereabouts on the park they are awarded that really matters. It would be a monumental job to collect that type of information.
As mentioned above, the difference in fouls awarded, at best, can only be one measure of consistent refereeing. It would be wrong to use it in isolation.
Many Celtic fans will be more interested in how their club compares to Sevco. Here is a brief statistical summary, based upon the first 25 games of the league, 2018-19.
The table speaks for itself.
- the average points/game that Celtic and Sevco obtained from each ref.
- the average number of fouls/game that Celtic and Sevco obtained from each ref.
- the average number of yellow cards/game that Celtic and Sevco obtained from each ref.
- the average number of red cards/game that Celtic and Sevco obtained from each ref.
- On average Celtic accrued more points than Sevco did for the following refs:
Collum, Thomson, Robertson.
- On the other hand, Sevco obtained more points than Celtic under these refs:
Clancy, Dallas, Beaton.
- Celtic and Sevco both obtained on average 3 points per game under Bobby Madden. Steven McLean was not included because he had not ref’d any Celtic games at this point in the season.
- Which refs produced the largest spread of points between the two clubs? The answer is John Beaton who returned the maximum average of 3 points per game for Sevco, but only an average of 1 point for Celtic. Willy Collum is next, providing an average of 3 points per game for Celtic and 1.5 points for Sevco. The third largest spread is provided by Dallas who generated an average of 2.3 points/game for Sevco compared to 1 point for Celtic.
- The Overall Picture
- Finally, each of 7 SPL refs were compared on how they adjudicated both Celtic and Sevco across the four criteria mentioned above(Points, Fouls, Yellows, and Reds).
- The following was assumed:
More points is better than less;
Less fouls/game is better
Less Yellows and Reds/game is better.
Two referees stood out from the rest in that across all four criteria their adjudications consistently favoured one team.
- In Sevco games ref’d by Andrew Dallas compared to Celtic games that he ref’d:
On average, less yellow and red cards were awarded to Sevco;
less fouls were awarded, on average;
and Sevco scored more points than Celtic, on average
- Similarly, in Celtic games ref’d by Don Robertson compared to Sevco games that he ref’d:
less yellow and red cards, on average were awarded to Celtic;
less fouls were awarded, on average;
and Celtic scored more points than Sevco, on average.
- John Beaton’s performance has been of interest lately. In terms of this analysis, there is no real evidence that he has operated in a biased manner. On average, he has awarded slightly less fouls/game for Celtic. He has not awarded any red cards to either team and there is not much of a difference in yellows/game for the two teams. The only key difference in the games ref’d by Beaton is that, on average, Sevco emerged with 3 points/game, and Celtic with 1.
- Grateful thanks to REBUS67 for this article. The research and prose is his,the syntax errors-mainly a strange preponderance for numbers to appear beside paragraphs-are mine. As I dunno how it happened,I can’t clear the bloody things either!
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