Okay it’s now about 15 years since I started to check out stats on home town umpiring and about 10 since I did some assiduous stats work on it. Those of you who have followed me over the years will know that in general the stats show two significant things 1: HOME SIDES ARE FAVOURED BY UMPIRES 2: VICTORIAN SIDES PLAYING AWAY INTERSTATE ARE MUCH BETTER TREATED BY UMPIRES THAN INTERSTATE SIDES PLAYING AWAY.
The two stats I use are pretty simple – I’m not in the business of correlating every side in the AFL though there are a few well-worn trends there. Anyway, here’s the process. I break games into these 4 main categories VIC HOME V VIC AWAY, NON-VIC HOME V VIC AWAY, NON-VIC HOME V NON-VIC AWAY, VIC HOME V NON-VIC AWAY. I also have two smaller additional categories – games played on grounds where there is no home crowd advantage (eg Alice Springs or two Vic sides playing in Bendigo etc) and Non-Vic Derbies ( syd v gws, freo v west coast, crows v port).
Having broken games into these categories I tally up the frees and look at two stats: OVERALL PERCENTAGE of frees (optimum would be 50-50 in each category) and then GAMES OF LARGE DIFFERENTIAL FREE KICKS. This is the best stat to show home town favouritism. Essentially I flag any game where one side gets 56% or more of the frees and the other 44% or less. This I consider to be a significant differential. This stat has usually thrown up a huge discrepancy – in simple terms, an AWAY NON-VIC side will virtually never get a bucket more frees than the home side, while AWAY VIC sides will occasionally get more large differential frees when playing interstate and frequently get a large differential of frees when playing other Vic times in Victoria.
Now this year for THE FIRST TIME EVER at this time of the season there was VIRTUALLY NO SIGNIFICANT HOME UMPIRING ADVANTAGE except in, can you believe it, games in Victoria between two Victorian Teams.
So firstly let me say WELL DONE to the AFL UMPIRING DEPARTMENT. HERE are the basic stats.
OVERALL PERCENTAGE OF FREES
HOME VIC V AWAY VIC : HOME 51% AWAY 49%
HOME NON-VIC V AWAY VIC: HOME 50% AWAY 50%
HOME NON -VIC V AWAY NON-VIC: HOME 51% AWAY 49%
HOME VIC V AWAY NON-VIC: HOME 51% AWAY 49%
Games Of Large Differential (GOLD GAMES) IN FAVOUR OF –
HOME VIC V AWAY VIC : HOME 11 AWAY 5
HOME NON-VIC V AWAY VIC: HOME 6 AWAY 4
HOME NON -VIC V AWAY NON-VIC: HOME 4 AWAY 3
HOME VIC V AWAY NON-VIC: HOME 9 AWAY 7
This is an astonishing turnaround from the nadir of fair umpiring 2016, when of 23 GOLD games played between Victorian Home sides and Non-Victorian Away sides the split was 20 -3 in favour of the Vic home sides. It was also of course the year of the most unbalanced grand final umpiring ever seen when the umpires were clearly sucked in to the underdog momentum of the occasion.
Anyway, whether the fairness continues as the season reaches the pointy end remains to be seen. Already there are signs (Essendon v GWS) that this umpiring epiphany may be short-lived but let’s hope not, and once again well done to those umpires and their coaches who have found the fortitude to go against a barking crowd.