Every year I dutifully do my analysis of the relative bias of home-town umpiring and it seems every year it throws up pretty much the same result – certainly for the last six years.
I don’t specifically look at how individual clubs do with umpires, I don’t have the resources but for many years the trend has been that the most favoured club, no surprise, is the West Coast Eagles. However, football pundits, especially those in Victoria, have failed to look at the deeper, more worrying trend (for those of us who follow Non-Victorian clubs anyway) and that is that non- Victorian Clubs, even with the Eagles, get the worst deal overall.
Most will recall early in the season when Victorians were up in arms over the free kick count against St Kilda versus The Eagles (25-12). But the Saints suffered exactly the same free-kick count against Essendon and nobody raised a peep. Nor did those same critics seem to care that the Swans were 9-20 against North, or 16-29 against the Western Bulldogs. For Swans supporters who lost the chance of a flag in 2016 via a horribly biased umpiring effort, it is par for the course. Check out the sample above – not one was paid a free-kick and I could have added another dozen.
Anyway, simply expressed here are the major findings for home town bias in umpiring 2018.
- UMPIRES SIGNIFICANTLY FAVOUR HOME TEAMS
- THE BIAS AS USUAL FROM LEAST TO MOST GOES LIKE THIS; least biased to Home Teams is when Home Victorian Team plays Away Victorian Team, next least biased when Home Non- Victorian Team plays Away Victorian Teams (Even with the Eagles!) second most biased is when Home Non-Vic Teams play Away Non-Vic Teams and yes, most biased when Home Victorian Teams play Away Non-Victorian Teams.
- With the West Coast Eagles games removed, Victorian Away teams suffer no disadvantage at all.
- The bias is common on both measures that I use – Overall percentage of free kicks paid, and Games Of Large Differential (GOLD) in free kicks.
I split games into the four categories mentioned above plus two others – Home Derbies in SA and WA, and games played in a neutral town where there can be no reasonable basis for calling one team a “home team.”
The two stats used are then simply
ONE – a division on Home or Away basis of aggregate free kicks in each category to determine the percentage paid over the season to the various home and away categories
AND TWO – a division on Home or Away basis of GOLD games: a game qualifies as a GOLD game if one team receives 56% or more of frees and the other 44% or less.
SEASON FREE KICKS OVERALL PERCENTAGE comes out like this:
HOME VIC V AWAY VIC total frees HOME 51.5 % AWAY 48.5%
HOME NON-VIC V AWAY VIC HOME 51.7 AWAY 48.3
HOME NON-VIC V AWAY NON-VIC HOME 52.3 AWAY 47.7
HOME VIC V AWAY NON-VIC HOME 52.6 AWAY 47.4
GAMES OF LARGE DIFFERENTIAL
HOME VIC V AWAY VIC % of GOLD Games Favouring HOME 56.2 % AWAY 43.8%
HOME NON-VIC V AWAY VIC HOME 61.5 AWAY 38.5
HOME NON-VIC V AWAY NON-VIC HOME 75 AWAY 25
HOME VIC V AWAY NON-VIC HOME 84.2 AWAY 15.8
Look at the huge discrepancy in the last figure. There were 19 games played between Home Victorian and Away Non-Victorian teams in which one team got 56% or more of the Frees – 16 times of those 19 it was the Victorian team that was favoured.
Please, tell me with a straight face that is not terrible bias.
Now to be fair, the Vic Teams playing Away didn’t get a fair crack either: that was 16-10 in favour of the Home Non-Vic Teams. Nowhere near as bad for the visitors but still not pretty. HOWEVER, if you remove West Coast Games this drops to 11-10.
This echoes recent years. When Vic clubs travel away with the exception of West Coast (and to a lesser extent Crows) games, they do no worse than if playing away in Melbourne.
The shocking pro-Victorian bias is very similar to 2016 when the grand final was marred by blatantly one-sided umpiring and does not augur well for those Non-Vic Clubs who might play a final in Victoria.
THE REASON FOR THE BIAS
You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that umpires, like all of us, want to be liked and therefore tend to not penalise home teams, especially in blow-out free kick games. It would seem that umpires give the more intimidating home crowds Eagles/Crows a better go than the more placid Sydney and Queensland supported teams but why they should favour Vic home teams more who knows? Maybe because media and their own HQ is housed there they are more susceptible.
This bias has been around over the 15 years I’ve been doing stats and there has been no fix, not even an acknowledgment of a fundamental problem. Getting rid of Haydn Kennedy might help but I doubt it.
Irish and American players have shown they can adapt to our game so why not umpires.
If we want a truly unbiased adjudication, I think we should train neutral overseas umpires and house them off-shore, flying them in only for the game.
The locals have had their chance and repeatedly failed. Time to fix the mess.