Six years since the ground-breaking Dave Warner home-town umpiring analysis I’ve gone through the figures again to see if there is still any bias in AFL UMPIRING favouring Home Teams. Look up my old blog and you’ll see my figures then showed pronounced home town bias especially against non-Victorian teams playing away from home. In summary for 2009, games between neutral teams (ie: teams from the same city playing one another) were evenly umpired: home teams got 51% of free kicks. Vic teams hosting interstate teams got 54% of frees – a substantial number, as did Non-Vic Teams hosting Non-Vic Teams. Non-Vic Teams hosting Vic teams got around 51%, very little advantage. Importantly the games where there was a SIGNIFICANT difference between frees paid to teams (ie: a big imbalance) showed a huge bias to home-teams, especially against Non-Vic Teams playing away.
So here at the half-way point of 2015 I have run the numbers to see if anything’s changed. Answer – a little. Neutral games (ie games between teams from the same city) are at 50.5 % for the Home team. No real bias. When Vic teams host Non-Vic Teams this jumps to 53.4% and is almost identical to when Non-Vic Teams host Vic Teams 53.3%. Once again the teams most disadvantaged are those Non-Vic Teams playing away against other Non-Vic teams. they get only 45.6% of frees compared to the host’s 54.4%. Significant games – games where one side gets 58% of frees or more, continue the bias. In Vic Home v Non Vic Away, games are running 7-3 in favour of the Home Vic teams. In Non Vic Home v Non Vic Away significant games run 4-0 in favour of the Home Team. In Non-Vic Teams hosting Vic Teams it’s 6-1 in favour of the Home Teams. All of these numbers suggest strong home-town bias.
IN SUMMARY: HOME TOWN BIAS IN UMPIRING IS REAL. Comparing this year to 6 years ago the major difference is that visiting Vic teams are worse off than were then but the most picked on, deprived teams are still those Non-Vic teams travelling to a Non-Vic location. We can speculate on why this might be – less away fans at the ground to pressure the umps, a subconscious knowledge of umps that they umpired against the home team when they were last travelling etc.
So maybe umpiring is getting worse – but at least it’s getting worse more evenly which should be some comfort to Non-Vic teams (and doesn’t Eddy belly-ache and moan when Vic teams cop the same treatment non-Vic teams have endured for years!). Mind you I will be very interested to see if this trend continues to the end of the year. In the last few rounds the bias to Home Vic teams has been very strong and leads one to suspect that things may be reverting to where they were. Time will tell but you’ll find the truth here not with those hacks who need to sell papers to Collingwood fans to survive.