Victorian bias in free kicks – who’d have thought!

Knowing my penchant for statistics and in light of recent controversy about home town umpiring, a number of you,  my faithful footy fanatics, have been asking me to run my eye over the 2014 stats to see whether there might be home town bias.

Mr Campbell, showing some of the elusive skill he displayed as a midfielder stepping out of packs, managed a brilliant evasion of this question by not answering it and instead saying that he and his umpire junta were only interested in whether umpires were making the right decision. He implied that in fact home town umpiring analysis showed umpires were if anything, harder on the home team.

Does he have a basis? Unfortunately his arcane method is not available to the rest of us so we have to make do with boring stats and gut instinct, rather than his wonder lamp that reveals all.

But first let’s re-cap what I found in the three years  I kept stats – (I think it was 2009-2011 but I might be wrong, although I do remember the results).

Here is what I found, the big points:

1)      ALL VISITING TEAMS DID SLIGHTLY WORSE THAN THE HOME TEAMS ON AVERAGE

2)      IN GAMES WHERE SAME STATE SIDES PLAYED EACH OTHER THERE WAS A VERY SLIGHT FAVOURING OF THE HOME TEAM.

3)      HOWEVER, WHEN TEAMS FROM DIFFERENT STATES PLAYED ONE ANOTHER THERE WAS A DISCREPANCY BETWEEN VIC TEAMS AND TEAMS FROM OTHER STATES NAMELY:

a)       WHEN VICTORIAN TEAMS PLAYED INTERSTATE THEY USUALLY DID SLIGHTLYWORSE IN FREE KICKS THAN THE HOME TEAM. HOWEVER IN GAMES WHERE THERE WAS A LARGE DISCREPANCY (I defined this as 59% or ,more of free kicks going to one side and 41% or less to the other) THEY WERE ALMOST NEVER THE VICTIM.

b)     NON VICTORIAN TEAMS VISITING VICTORIA WERE INVARIABLY THE LOW COUNT TEAM WHEN IT CAME TO THESE GAMES OF HIGH DIFFERENTIAL.

c)      EVEN WORSE WERE NON-VICTORIAN TEAMS VISITING OTHER NON-VICTORIAN VENUES. IN HIGH DIFFERENTIAL GAMES THEY WERE ALMOST ALWAYS THE LOW COUNT CLUB.

In layman’s terms – Victorian teams playing away suffer little damage. Non-Victorian teams playing in Vic or in other non-Vic venues will ALMOST ALWAYS be the ones on the receiving end of a high differential game.  Eg: If the free kick count at MCG is 11-25 you can bet it will be the non-Vic team who gets 11.  But you can be even more certain Port or the Crows will cop it at Subiaco, and similarly Brisbane in Adelaide etc.

Now it seemed to me over the last two years in the snapshots I took that a lot of this was evening up.  It seemed finally, Non-Vic teams were on a level playing field with umpiring. I did not do detailed analysis, just had a look here and there.  Hooray, the umpires were getting it, finally.

WHICH BRINGS US TO 2014

Okay, now first up I have not done stats on same state v same state games, I’m guessing they’ll be pretty even.  So looking at the other fixtures where teams from different states play, up until half-way through last weekend’s rounds there were:

43 GAMES PLAYED WHERE A VIC TEAM VISITED A NON-VIC TEAM.

IN THESE THE HOME (NON-VIC) TEAM RECEIVED MORE FREES ON 21 OCCASIONS, 4 WERE EQUAL, AND VIC TEAMS GOT MORE FREES 18 TIMES.  You can see at a glance this is pretty even.

 

NOW THERE WERE 42 GAMES PLAYED WHERE A NON-VIC TEAM VISITED A VIC HOME TEAM   

IN THESE THE VIC (HOME TEAM) RECEIVED MORE FREES A WHOPPING  32 TIMES! 1 WAS EVEN AND THE VISITORS GOT MORE FREES ONLY 9 TIMES.

You can see a massive imbalance here, even worse than it was when I was keeping stats.

 

IN THE 28 GAMES PLAYED BWTEEN NON-VIC TEAMS THE HOME SIDE GOT THE FREES 19 TIMES, 1 WAS EVEN, 8 TIMES TO THE VISITORS.

 Once again a massive imbalance against the visiting team.

 

NOW WHAT ABPOUT THOSE ALL IMPORTANT BIG DIFFERENTIAL GAMES WHERE ONE TEAM GETS ALL THE FREES? I defined a BIG DIFFERENTIAL AS 57% or greater going to one side.  Want to have a guess how that worked out?

IN THE 32 GAMES PLAYED BETWEEN VICTORIAN AND NON-VICTORIAN TEAMS THAT CAME IN AS HIGH DIFF THE BREAKDOWN FOR TEAM WITH MOST FREES WAS:

HOME VIC TEAM:  12

AWAY VIC TEAM:    7

HOME NON-VIC TEAM:   9

AWAY NON-VIC TEAM:  4

 

IN ALL, THE VIC TEAMS GOT THE ADVANTAGE 19 TIMES, THE NON-VIC TEAMS 13 TIMES.  ONCE AGAIN A MAJOR ADVANTAGE TO VICTORIAN TEAMS.

IN THE 16 GAMES OF HIGH-DIFF PLAYED BETWEEN NON VIC TEAMS, THE HOME TEAM GOT THE ADVANTAGE 12 TIMES, THE AWAY TEAM 4 TIMES. Just as it was 5 years ago.

Once again all this is proving HOME TEAM UMPIRING EXISTS: UNLESS IT IS A VIC TEAM PLAYING AWAY.

Mr Campbell may well be right that when he looked at frees the HOME side should have got more but those games must surely have been when Non-Vic teams were at home playing Vic teams, or same-state sides were playing each other.

There are only 2 possibilities to explain the stats above; EITHER VICTORIAN TEAMS ARE SO MUCH MORE DISCIPLINED THEY DON’T GIVE AWAY FREES WHEN THEY TRAVEL OR, UMPIRES CORRECT HOME TEAM BIAS ONLY WHEN A VIC TEAM IS THE AWAY TEAM.

 

 

 

 

 

About dave warner

East Freo supporter, musician, writer who has used football themes in songs (Half Time at the Football, Suburban Boy, Free Kicks) and books (City of Light, Footy's Hall of Shame)

Comments

  1. Skip of Skipton says

    Despite all their howling, Carlton are 17-3 when it comes to winning the free kick count this year. The three games where they were on the wrong side of the ledger were in Victoria against Victorian teams.

    Two of those, vs.Geelong in round 12, and vs.Collingwood in round 15, the total free kick count for the match was below 20! Umpires swallowed the whistle.

  2. My oh my.
    Who would have thought that a pro-Victorian bias extended beyond the father-son rule, the fixturing and the MRP? Not to mention the courts ,the media and the commentators,(although during the West Coast Eagles/Essendon game, I found that the Channel 7 crew were much more bearable than Grandstand ).
    Does the Warner ruler and protractor have its sights on finals?
    Thanks for the insights

  3. Paterson’s CURSE!!

  4. Skip of Skipton says

    The father-son rule is a great thing and has been around a lot longer than the WC Eagles, or Adelaide Crows. WA and SA teams have a more stringent version, but that will soon start equalising. There is a son of Peter Matera running around in the TAC Cup. Chris Waterman’s son represented WA u/18s this year etc.

    You joined us, we didn’t join you. Remember that.

  5. David Zampatti says

    It’s a mug’s game,
    All these Friday nights, Saturday afternoons, Saturday nights, Sunday afternoons, Sunday twilights and occasional Thursday and Monday nights,
    It’s just a mug’s game.
    You think you’ve won a free kick
    And can have a shot atf goal,
    But then it gets reversed by
    Some Victorian arsehole.
    You nail the bloke you’re playing on—
    —Who BT called a faggot—
    And the worst part is HE gets the free
    From some biased fucking maggot
    It’s a mug’s game.

  6. The People's Elbow says

    I don’t need stats, I just need the 12.50 mark of this…

  7. Dave Brown says

    Most interesting, Dave, though not surprising. I know the sample starts to get a bit low but would be interesting to see if venue makes a difference (i.e. do umpires make more of an effort to even up the free kick count in front of big Perth / Adelaide crowds as opposed to the three dogs and a mintie wrapper at a GWS game?). A reasonable indicator of where the political pressure lies in the game ATM.

  8. Not to mention the Grand Final is played at MCG.

    I can hear all the groans coming out of Victoria already about the fact that it is the biggest ground and more people can view it etc, etc.

    The problem with that argument is that a great proportion of the people who go to the GF are corporate types who haven’t been to a game all season but this is their one big day to suck on the AFL teat. I know from personal experience. I’ve been to two GF’s on corporate largesse to see two teams I couldn’t give a sh*t about but I got to suck down 14 pints and make a pr*ck of myself.

    GF should be rotated each year, with tickets being allocated 50/50 to each of the participating club’s members.

  9. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Skip that is a I stupid comment if interstate clubs didn’t join the whole competition would have gone arse up with multiple clubs broke , the joining fee and then tv rights have saved clubs , if it was a fair dinkum comp of course the father son rule would be scrapped , there would be less sides in Vic , it would be a seventeen round season .
    The competition is ridiculously favoured to the Victorian clubs let alone the umpiring !

  10. Lemme know how you go on moving the Gf from the MCG Malcolm, and then you can start on getting the Melbourne Cup moved to Morwell, the US Masters to Gopher Droppings Municipal in Kansas, the Indy 500 to Calder Park and the British Open Tennis Championship from Wimbledon to the courts at Cockfosters Girls Grammar School.

  11. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Rick N it wasn’t me who put moving the grand final it was , MarcD ( he is right ) just because these things aren’t going to happen does not make it incorrect

  12. matt watson says

    Time for neutral umpires.
    What’s Billy Bowden doing?

  13. If only the sons of those players whose whole playing career was after 1987,when the Eagles saved the VFL bacon were therefore eligible for the father-son rule, that would be a lot fairer.
    The finals fixturing might be a pain if five interstate sides end up in the final eight and the second week could see three interstate sides

  14. Nat Fyfe is taking anticipatory retaliation to new heights. He should be representing Likud in the Knesset.
    What a waste of football talent. He should leave the cheap shots to Zac Dawson.

  15. MGLFerguson says

    Pursuant to PB’s comment, I wonder in re: Fremantle whether their style of “play” substantively affects the bias stats.

    Cheap-shotting aside, my observation of them is that they seem to consciously hold-the-man and hold-down-the-player-who-marked on the theory that only a proportion of actual offenses will be whistled, and the net benefit in slowing play while their far-forward press gets a second or two extra to run back into position off a rebound far outweighs the cost of the frees actually paid cf. 2013 NFL Seattle Seahawks defensive backfield for a parallel example of pushing the officiating for net advantage.

    Assuming my observation is correct, my point being a free kick ratio against Fremantle might not necessarily be indicative of officials’ non-Vic bias as much as a savvy (cynical?) coaching strategy.

  16. MGLFerguson says

    Interestingly, Fremantle is only 4th in the league in total frees against, but leads (trails?) the league in negative free-kick differential (-2.5 per game) by a fair margin, with the lowish total number of frees being whistled in their games suggesting that there is some amount of swallowing of whistles going on in their games. And without considering venue, almost all of the non-Vic free-kick shortfall can be attributed to Fremantle’s total alone.

    FWIW, Carlton’s per game free kick margin (+3.6 frees per game) is almost double the next two, Adelaide (+1.9) and West Coast (+1.8). So you could choose your poison in alleging bias with that statlet.

  17. Rick N – as Malcolm (thanks) points out, I don’t think it will happen, but that doesn’t make it right. Your use of the straw man argument in your examples of alternative venues highlights my point.

    Why is is ordained by the laws of nature that only one venue must hold the rights to host the Grand Final ad infintum?

    Last time I checked, the A in AFL stands for Australia, not Victoria.

  18. I didn’t read the whole article as there were too many capital letters going on for me, so excuse me if these factors have been taken into account:

    1. Are games played by team at grounds not in their home state counted as home games (Hawks at York for example, Melbourne in the NT)
    2. Are umpires’ state allegiance calculated into this analysis?
    3. Are historical trends (AFL has been running for over 20 years) examined against pre-AFL period? The reason for asking this is that implied (fairly overtly) in this piece is that umpiring favours a particular, let’s call it, brand. In this case it’s Victorian clubs. Following that logic, umpiring prior to the advent of a national competition, it could be hypothesised, favoured a particular brand, let’s say the big 4 – Pies, Blues, Tiges and Dons. If that is the case (and it would make for a fascinating study) you may well chart trend lines that match historical moments such as the rise of the Hawks as a football power and the decline of the Pies. You might even be able to see the (VFL) establishment view of the introduction of the handball as a key ball movement strategy built into what teams used the handball mostly and whether free kicks against showed a pattern congruent with the rise of that disposal measure.

    All this is to say that there is just enough analysis in this piece to suggest something but not nearly enough to suggest what. What it highlights for me is that a greater research project (without a chip on the shoulder guiding the curiosity) might make for some revealing patterns in how the game is understood and interpreted by those closest to its pulse.

    If free kick count bias was the strongest determining factor for chance of success in this industry and research demonstrated that it was then I reckon there are two teams in particular that have a lot more reason than any non-Victorian clubs to feel aggrieved and that’s Footscray and St Kilda.

    Cheers

  19. daniel flesch says

    Doing what my Year 8 teacher told us what NOT to do , please excuse me for stating the obvious. Equally as important as the number of frees paid is the timing and spot they are paid. Christensen’s match-winning free that shouldn’t have been last Frinight just one of many examples.

  20. Following on from Daniel, I’ve seen many games where the frees are highly biased in the first quarter or half, thereby giving one team a massive start, and then an attempt to even it out during the rest of the game-too late. Another factor that I think was touched on above is that some teams are much more disciplined than others, and some players (not naming anyone from Geelong) have made getting frees into an art form. All of that said, the umps have a difficult job with the speed of the game, the rolling mauls, and endless new rules or rule interpretation mandates.

  21. Further to Daniel & bj’s comments, i have taken the liberty to extract some research that was done by a dedicated fremantle follower off the Dockerland site, i hope he does not mind me posting his article. These stats refer explicitly to fremantle but do cover the view of what Daniel and bj were making about timing and location.
    These stats are up to the finish of RD19
    Yes i am a fremantle supporter and member, but this doesn’t take away from only wanting fair judgement across the AFL in respect to umpiring.

    Fre_DOh Fremantle F.C. and free kicks – a case study Posted: 3 weeks, 5 days ago #464615
    So what’s the deal with umpires?

    The display by Messrs Fisher, Dalgleish and Stevic last Thursday had most of us nonplussed and hot under the collar all night.

    So are we getting the rough end of the pineapple from the men in high vis outfits?

    Our overall free kick count stands at 266 for (good enough for 18th place) and 305 against (6th). Our differential of -39 is the worst in the league.

    What follows is a breakdown of our free kick stats this season. I’ve broken the figures down into a number of different categories: Zones; qtr by qtr; home v away; jumper colours; day v night v twilight; margins, and the umpires themselves.

    Zones

    I’ve broken the playing field into 4 zones:
    Zone 1: Forward 50
    Zone 2: Area between forward 50 and centre
    Zone 3: Area between centre and defensive 50
    Zone 4: Defensive 50.

    Each zone is specific to each team, ie. Zone 1 refers to both teams’ forward 50, etc.

    Zone: Freo Free Kicks / Opposition Free Kicks

    1: 33 / 50
    2: 85 / 99
    3: 106 / 105
    4: 42 / 51

    As you would expect the vast majority of free kicks are awarded between the 50m arcs and are fairly even.

    Free kicks inside respective forward 50 show a significant discrepancy (-17). This discrepancy is widening at an alarming rate:

    Zone 1: Freo / Opposition
    Rds 1-6: 11 / 7
    Rds 7-19: 22 / 43.

    It’s becoming increasingly difficult for a Freo forward to win a free kick inside forward 50.
    We have only two players with more than 17 goals this season: Ballas (41) and Pav (35).
    Ballas has received 7 free kicks this season. By zone: 2/3/2/0.
    Pav has received 18 free kicks this season. By zone: 6/5/7/0.

    Both of Ballas’ forward 50 free kicks have come when the game was effectively over (we were leading by 33 and 50 points respectively).
    Two of Pav’s 6 forward 50 free kicks have come when the game was effectively over (down by 34 and up by 66 points respectively).
    Neither has received a forward 50 free kick since round 14.
    v Carlton: Free kicks inside forward 50: Freo 0, Carlton 5.

    Quarter by Quarter

    Team: Qtr 1 / Qtr 2 / Qtr 3 / Qtr 4

    Freo: 71 / 65 / 74 / 56
    Them: 90 / 72 / 78 / 65

    There’s no real discrepancy here. Confirms the long held beliefs that umpires award more free kicks in the first quarter (to assert their authority?) and ‘swallow’ their whistles in the last quarter.

    Home v Away

    Home: Freo 147 – Them 156
    Away: Freo 119 – Them 149

    As you would expect we receive more free kicks at home than away.
    It’s a little surprising that we are losing the free kick count at home. We have lost the free kick count in each of our last 3 home games (40-54).

    Jumper Colour

    Purple: 153 – 150
    White: 113 – 155 (includes Indigenous round jumper)

    We seem to get a significantly better deal from the umpires when we wear man purple.
    So why were we wearing white at home last week?

    Day v Night v Twilight

    Day: 101 – 120
    Night: 116 – 130
    Twilight: 49 – 55

    They loathe us any time of day or night.

    Margins

    I chose 30 points as a reference point to check the ‘umpires square up the free kick count when a game is won or lost’ adage.

    When we’re 30+ points up: 64 – 65
    When we’re 30+ points down: 21 – 19
    When the margin is less than 30 points either way: 181 – 221.

    We do seem to get a better deal when the game is ‘over’.

    Umpires

    We have had 24 different field umpires officiate our games this season. Ten only once.

    The umpires we’ve had on multiple occasions:

    Umpire: Win – Loss Record / Frees For – Frees Against

    Dalgleish: 5 – 2 / 113 – 133
    Margetts: 5 – 0 / 72 – 64
    Fisher: 3 – 1 / 56 – 81
    Farmer: 2 – 1 / 52 – 47
    Hosking: 3 – 0 / 49 – 34
    Kamolis: 2 – 1 / 42 – 62
    Mitchell: 2 – 1 / 33 – 49
    Rosebury: 0 – 3 / 32 – 46
    Stevic: 2 – 1 / 47 – 57
    Chamberlain: 2 – 0 / 17 – 38
    Harris: 0 – 2 / 32 – 41
    Nicholls: 2 – 0 / 32 – 19
    Pannell: 2 – 0 / 21 – 34
    Ryan: 2 – 0 / 35 – 43

    Surprisingly we’re 5-0 with Margetts and with a positive differential (+8).
    We’re 2-0 with Razor Ray but he still hates us (17-38).
    We’re 0-3 with 2013 GF umpire Rosebury (32-46).
    We’re 3-1 with Fisher (56-81) although that’s probably more to do with the quality of the opposition (GC, Rich, St K and Carlton).

    So there you have it. I’ll leave you to make your own judgements.

    If anyone would like to read the whole article you can find it here
    http://www.dockerland.com/index.php?option=com_kunena&func=view&catid=1&id=464615&Itemid=168

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