As we discussed recently, there is zero point in you and me (or Celtic) claiming prejudice in refereeing, supporting evidence simply does not exist. Bias is different, although it remains difficult to sustain with the hoary old “honest mistakes” retort. The SFA defence for the Goldson incident is already in, although it does not cross the threshold set by the rules in my interpretation.
As we also touched on recently, we are all biased: you, me and even referees – all of us, without exception. That means we will interpret incidents differently. The Newco penalty on Monday being a perfect example. Sakala’s foot landed on Carl Starfelt, how can Starfelt be penalised, many of us asked? If it was the other way about, we would all have claimed the penalty, correctly.
Claims of bias are easy to defend at any given incident (see ‘honest mistakes’, above). It is in the aggregate you get a picture of what is going on. Since promotion to the Scottish Premiership in 2016, Newco’s penalty stats have differed from Celtic’s in a remarkable way.
In that period, Newco had to score 9.0 non-penalty goals for each penalty awarded. Celtic have had to score 11.8 non-penalty goals for each penalty awarded, 31% more than Newco.
Celtic conceded 5.1 non-penalty goals for each penalty awarded against them. Newco conceded 10.9 non-penalty goals for each penalty awarded against them, an incredible 212% higher figure. The sample size of 6.5 years football is sufficient to expect random clusters to even out.
The Goldson incident on Monday is neither here nor there, it affected the outcome of a game but will not change the outcome of the season. What should concern us is that a normal distribution of penalties decisions over 248 games (per team) does not exist.
As I said, there is no prejudice, but we are all biased. The most successful clubs often see neutrals want them to lose, which is normal. Celtic the most successful club in domestic football anywhere in the world in recent seasons, decent people will want us taken down a peg. Referees, on the other hand, need to have a frank look at the penalty stats. There is an anomaly with one glaring explanation.