Are football referees really biased and inconsistent? evidence on the incidence of disciplinary sanction in the English Premier League

Peter Dawson, Stephen Dobson, John Goddard, John Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Citations (Scopus)


The paper presents a statistical analysis of patterns in the incidence of disciplinary sanction (yellow and red cards) that were taken against players in the English Premier League over the period 1996-2003. Several questions concerning sources of inconsistency and bias in refereeing standards are examined. Evidence is found to support a time consistency hypothesis, that the average incidence of disciplinary sanction is predominantly stable over time. However, a refereeing consistency hypothesis, that the incidence of disciplinary sanction does not vary between referees, is rejected. The tendency for away teams to incur more disciplinary points than home teams cannot be attributed to the home advantage effect on match results and appears to be due to a refereeing bias favouring the home team.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-250
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A
Early online date29 Nov 2006
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2007


  • bivariate negative binomial regression
  • bivariate Poisson regression
  • English Premier League football
  • refereeing bias and inconsistency

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