Is there a Referee/VAR bias toward the Top 6 Clubs?
A common misconception in the Premier League is that the referees favour the top clubs and their opposition are disadvantaged from the get-go when facing one of the elite Premier League teams. The VAR this past season provided clear data as to whether this is the case, and exclusive URef data suggests that there is no bias toward the top 6, even though some of these clubs ranked highly in Team Fortune (Key Decision F/A differential), Team Sentiment scores (URef user Key Decision approval percentage) and the amount of Key Decisions they were involved in.
Spurs had the worst differential for Key Decisions going in their favour (-12), while City (-11), Liverpool (-8) and Arsenal (-7) all suffered negative differentials too. While United and Chelsea both had positive differentials (+17 and +4 respectively), their Key Decision Sentiment scores were higher than the average referee sentiment score, which means URef users have an approval rate higher for the Key Decisions when United and Chelsea are involved opposed to the average referee’s Key Decision. The table below shows each club’s Sentiment Rating for the Key Decisions they are involved in.
While United and City’s Sentiment ratings suggest URef users strongly agree with the Key Decisions called relative to the rest of the league, the other four clubs had Sentiment ratings that are not dissimilar to the league average, meaning the Key Decisions they were involved in were not perceived as biased or unfair more so than any other team in the league.
The amount of Key Decisions/game is another URef metric that suggests no bias exists toward the Top 6 teams in the competition.
United and City again appear as outliers and tend to have more Key Decision involvements with 1.24 Decision involvements per game. Spurs too look to be outliers with a similar amount of Key Decision involvements with 1.21, however as previously mentioned they had the worst Key Decision Differential in the league! Liverpool and Chelsea had below average Key Decision involvements, while the Blues had the least amount of Key Decision involvements in the league (tied with Newcastle at 0.63/game)!
While URef’s exclusive data advocates the lack of bias toward the top Premier league teams, in reality we saw Spurs and Arsenal struggle last term while Leicester and Wolves fought hard throughout the season to compete with the top 6 teams. The upcoming season will be sure to provide more remarkable insights, but any continued bias toward specific clubs doesn’t seem likely.