There is one person in a soccer match that can have a huge influence on the outcome of the result despite not playing for either team involved: the referee. So how important is the referee in soccer and why should bettors look at referee statistics before betting? Continue reading to find out.
The most likely direct influence a referee can have will be through the awarding of a penalty, as they are converted 78.3% of the time. A referee can also dramatically affect the outcome of a match by sending off a player or failing to make either of these two decisions when they perhaps should have.
Part of the fun of following soccer is debating if the referee made the correct decision. Whether they are wrong or not, their decisions can greatly impact your bets. Luckily for bettors, the stats for each referee are widely available on the internet and with the referee for each match announced almost a week in advance, this gives plenty of time for research before betting.
Arsenal have had a player sent off every 10.5 league games on average, compared to local rivals Tottenham Hotspur who only see red every 19 matches on average.
Take the recent 1-1 draw between Manchester City and Everton. In the first half, Bobby Madley booked both Kyle Walker and Morgan Schneiderlin. A look at the stats for 2016/17 reveals Madley issued more yellow cards than any other referee. Cards can also vary across different European leagues, such as La Liga and the Bundesliga.
Armed with this knowledge, a bettor could surmise there was a chance of a red card for two yellows and bet accordingly. Sure enough, both players were later sent off for their second bookable offence. Of course, that sort of thing won’t happen in every single match, but it illustrates how a little knowledge regarding referees may pay off.
Does the time of year make a difference?
Research shows the number of yellow cards varies depending on the time of the year too
This adds to the theory that you might have expected further yellow cards in the match mentioned above, as it took place in the early months of the season where cards are more common. Whatever the reason is for this being the case, it’s a useful thing to know when betting.
There have been 16 different referees used in the Premier League so far in 2017/18. There may be a couple more used, as the average over the last eight seasons is 18.7 refs per season, and there are always a couple who only take charge of one or two matches. But broadly speaking we know who will referee this season, and we can research them for our benefit.
If we compile their data from the last eight completed seasons, we can see there is a wide range in sample size, which isn’t ideal. Mike Dean leads the way on 237 matches, down to Graham Scott on just 13. There is still insight to be gained though. I’m going to focus on referees who have officiated at least 100 Premier League matches.
Take penalties, for starters. Across the past eight completed seasons, there has been a penalty awarded every four games on average. The frequency for awarding a spot kick inevitably differs depending on the referee though. The ranges vary from one every 2.8 matches (Mike Dean) through to one every 6.2 (Neil Swarbrick).
We can also then factor in the teams that are playing in a match, and look at their records for penalties. For instance, there has been a penalty every 2.9 Bournemouth matches over the past two seasons. If they were facing Watford (who’ve seen one either for or against every 3.3 games) with Mike Dean as referee, then history would suggest the likelihood of a penalty would be high.
Conversely, if you see Neil Swarbrick refereeing Swansea City (who’ve had a penalty given for or against them every 5.3 matches since they returned to the top flight) against Southampton (4.8) then it’s far less likely there will be a spot kick awarded. If you are betting on penalties, it will be beneficial to know how important a penalty is in soccer betting.
You can apply the same principles to other stats too. Take red cards for instance; there has been one every 6.4 games in the last eight years. Lee Probert has sent a player off every 5.0 matches on average, whereas Neil Swarbrick has only done so half as often.
In terms of teams, the difference in how often teams have a player sent off is apparent just by looking at those from north London. Arsenal have had a player sent off every 10.5 league games on average, compared to local rivals Tottenham Hotspur who only see red every 19 matches on average.
- Read: How to bet on cards.
Data is also available on what proportion of a referee’s matches are won, drawn or lost by the home team - another factor that should be taken into consideration when looking at home field advantage in soccer.
Across the past eight seasons, there has been a penalty awarded every four games on average. The ranges vary from one every 2.8 matches (Mike Dean) through to one every 6.2 (Neil Swarbrick).
The home team wins around 46% of the time overall, but as with everything the referees display a range. It’s interesting to note the range runs from Lee Probert (with 51.6% of home wins) down to Neil Swarbrick (39.3%), just as the red card stats did too.
As with any system designed to improve your betting, looking at referee stats is far from flawless. Whether a referee is prone to giving cards and penalties or not, ultimately the actions of the players on the pitch will make the biggest impact on his decisions.
A lot will also depend on which matches a referee has been assigned. Depending on the fixture the chances of a home win can be a lot more or less likely than the average rate of 46%. A little research on referees can certainly still provide insight on what might happen in a match though.