Penalty distribution defies explanation


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.


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  1. From @Zeshankenzo



    5 seasons (2018-19 to 2022-23) League penalties awarded v conceded net:



    Rangers = +28


    Hearts = +9


    Celtic = +8


    Kilmarnock = +7


    St Johnstone = +2


    Hibs = +1


    Aberdeen = -1


    Hamilton = -1


    Dutd = -3


    Livingston = -6


    Dundee = -9


    Motherwell = -10


    St Mirren = -12


    Ross County = -12



    Penalties awarded v conceded table:



    Rangers = +5 *


    Hearts = +3


    St Johnstone = +2


    Motherwell = +2


    Livingston = +2


    Aberdeen = 0


    Dundee Utd = 0


    Ross County = 0


    Kilmarnock = -2


    Celtic = -3


    St Mirren = -4


    Hibernian = -5



    (only club not to concede a penalty *)

  2. bournesouprecipe on




    Great stats



    Pity you couldn’t have seen them coming when you said VAR would be good for Celtic and you were looking forward to it.

  3. Back to Basics - Glass Half Full on

    Cheers Pablo.



    Second stat in particular is staggering.



    Measuring penalties conceded against goals conceded (as opposed to just total penalties conceded) is both smart and proportionate.



    Goals conceded is indicative of how much pressure your defence is exposed to (as are penalty concessions – or at least should be 🤔🤔)

  4. If they are 3 up at Tannadice, with 5 minutes to go on Sunday, you can bet your bottom dollar on Dundee United getting awarded the softest of penalties…….or any game in the next couple of weeks, with similar circumstances.

  5. Melbourne Mick on

    Just watched the hun game again, and what a remarkable


    performance that was by big Alistair, I said in yesterdays post


    how he had stiffened big Lunge strum twice, but after I


    watched again there, he was instrumental in the thug having


    to go off, after he gave him a backhander lol, when lunger


    tried to do him.


    Shades of big Tam Gemmell there 👍


    Yes that bhoy will do just fine.


    H H. Mick

  6. PeterLatchfordsBelly on

    Exactly the drum I’ve been banging. Forget the ins and outs if specific incidents (however stonewall – like Goldson). It’s the defiance of the laws of probability that demands an explanation. Over the period you describe it’s not explicable in any reasonable or fair minded way. Especially given the entirely reasonable weightings attached to non-penalty goals.



    Perhaps it is all a product of a collective (Hunnish) unconscious bias, but it looks helluva like a rigged game to me. VAR might’ve done us a favour by shining such a clear light on it. Time for the suits to step up with those blazer wearing masons at Hampden.

  7. PeterLatchfordsBelly on




    I must say that particular vignette passed me by on the day, but it brings joy to my heart to see rough justice meted out to that particular clogger by our new bhoy. I like cut of his jib. Big unit, quick, hungry and good on the ball. Loved the footage of him ripping up the park to out sprint Sakala (and cover for the faint hearted Juranovic at the same time).

  8. Back to Basics - Glass Half Full on

    Sutton1888 – great stats also from Zeshankenzo.






    Now – if he could provide goals scored/conceded over 5 seasons alongside penalties awarded/conceded for same period?



    Would bring Paul67’s headline stats totally to life.



    My point being – we’ll have the biggest gap by far while (strangely) our penalty count differential puts us in and among the pack …



    … miles behind the “frontrunner”

  9. Paul67



    “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.”





    I prefer Sutton1888’s set of stats to yours. The first thing that would be said about your measure of non-pen goals to overall goals, will be how many were awarded to Celtic and missed?



    There is a way to present the anomaly in pen stats (and in foul count) but do not give them a cheap laugh dismissal

  10. GlassTwoThirdsFull on

    Been struggling to keep clean sheets for four months now. Got away with it domestically (apart from St Mirren) but it was only a matter of time before it caught up with us.


    Still looking good for a 100 point season. The new players (hopefully one or two more!) will add quality and competition for places.


    Promising start from Johnston, though not too clever at first goal.


    Amazing to believe that until very recently Greg Taylor was considered by many to be a “weak link”!


    Three points Saturday please and hopefully a few goals and a clean sheet.


    RIP Frank McGarvey.

  11. Some teams have a style that gets them a lot of penalties, especially if they are a team with positive bias.



    Liverpool and Man Utd have got an awful lot of soft pens over the years.



    There is a lot of diving involved but it is the soft ones where bias comes in



    Both those teams have players who like to run at defenders of generally be a nuisance in the box



    Sevco try to play in a similar fashion (Gerrard legacy) and a lot of the pens they get are actual pens. This is what the attacking player wants as an outcome.



    Celtic for a long time have played a controlled passing game and when we hit the box the desired outcome is a pass. Drilled into them in training



    Sometimes we overpass and a lot of the time we do not knock the ball directly into the CF as it is not a high percentage chance for a goal but it is a decent chance of a pen for Sevco.



    In the Aberdeen game, i was desperate for McGregor to pass into our strikers to cause some panic but his drilling told him not too.



    I think if we played the Sevco penalty game , we would get a lot of bookings for diving. Bias again

  12. Melbourne Mick on




    Couldn’t believe how fast he overtook both players with


    that lung busting run, don’t know why JJ couldn’t match


    them for speed, he’s certainly got it in him ?


    H H. Mick

  13. bournesouprecipe on




    “ VAR might’ve done us a favour by shining such a clear light on it. “



    I’ve said similar since it started, who would have thought that after just a handful of games Celtic could go fully evidenced up to Hamdump.



    Exposed cheating at an embarrassing level we had to wait for our spread out ‘honest mistakes’ they are coming thick and fast under VAR.



    The sheer weight of numbers is brass bawbaggery that could backfire, like it did before.

  14. MELBOURNE MICK on 4TH JANUARY 2023 12:53 PM




    A I said previously, how far do Celtic want to


    push it ?




    P-Push it real good………

  15. Paul 67,



    Our penalty claim was a stonewaller. The huns penalty could be argued over. I was not surprised to see a penalty given as intent and ” follow through” is now part of the equation.



    A draw was not a bad result for us given that we did not play to the standard we have set ourselves.



    I am more concerned that we need to step up when we are outwith our comfort zone. Greyskull, Australia and European competition.



    Our players are not Robots, and I’m absolutely sure that ” Bugs” were prevalent ( Does anybody know anyone who has not been under the weather in the last few weeks )



    We remain 9 points clear, despite the odds we are the only team undefeated under domestic VAR and we have an astute manager who knows we have higher gears.



    Our future is bright and VAR will not tharwt our success in Scotland.


    Ange is relaxed and I totally agree. There is a bigger prize we must address.



    HH, the journey continues.

  16. bournesouprecipe on

    Bada @ 12.14



    Sevco have made it difficult for them as they usually only win by one goal, so any adverse VAR has been completely off the agenda.



    Less than crucial adverse decisions still to come.

  17. Interesting lead,



    As someone who left the west of Scotland in the mid-seventies I can say with internal knowledge and an outsiders eye there is prejudice in Scotland.



    The cultural Catholic and Protestant divide is a huge issue and those flames are fanned by Glasgow football



    The English Premier league has a company that supplies a service delivering match officials – Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL)



    We should be pushing for this organisation to be engaged by the SFA to enure the top tier league and main trophy competitions are officiated to a higher refereeing standard



    They also have exceptional knowledge on VAR running and implementing VAR



    They would only take the contract if they were allowed to do their job unhindered and without fear or prejudice as this would tarnish their reputation



    Having a Rangers supporter as referee in a crucial old firm game would be viewed as absurd in any serious footballing nation



    Hail Hail

  18. I prefer Sutton1888’s set of stats to yours. The first thing that would be said about your measure of non-pen goals to overall goals, will be how many were awarded to Celtic and missed?







    P67 is measuring non pen goals to pens awarded.

  19. Coneybhoy, nail hit on the head



    They play to get penalties and free kicks it’s the whole game plan just like Southgate does with England, it’s like the screaming out that was coached during the pandemic the more it’s coached the more it becomes natural behaviour for the players and the better at faking and getting the desired result

  20. I may have missed the explanation p67 but regardless of the explanation (theyll always come up with one given subjectivity) it’s the mechanics of the Goldson call that I’m interested in.



    Did Collum recommend a review? If not then we have a problem because a VAR official should not be making subjective calls – that’s the referee’s job. Collum should have recommended a review and allowed Beaton to interpret and do his job.



    If Collum has recommended a review but Beaton refused then we have another problem.



    There remains a lot of grey here and that allows people of the hook.

  21. If we went back 50 years,the figures similar to those above would be equally as shocking.We have been getting robbed since we were founded.Its not VAR that’s the problem.


    I will ask this.if any on here were a generous would you be towards them?.Would you give them a penalty against us ?.I know I wouldn’t.The problem is not VAR,its the system.Letting people Referee games,when they will automatically revert to their bias,is a recipe for unfair decisions taking place.


    Instead of having meetings with the instigators of this farce,we should be demanding the same Refereeing standards as other countries.You cannot Referee a game,involving the team you favour.That’s what we should be screaming from the rooftops.


    On the game.Ange made mistakes in his team selection.and substitution regards Taylor.and Joe Hart needs his are booted.Has happened too many times.

  22. bournesouprecipe on

    MM @ 12.54



    It’s been laid bare in a short period of league games, exposed and not fit for purpose,with paying supporters left in the dark. Camera angles, nobody else sees , TV analysis doesn’t matter anymore, it’s what VAR sees with Willie and John cobbling up the rest.



    Celtic have enough evidence to withdraw our funding, the most depressing phrase associated with VAR is when a supporter says “ it’s here to stay” . Hamdump’s own ‘problem’ has been microscoped by staff that are incapable of calling it straight.



    Win the league and stay stume then it starts all of over again at 0-0 next season?



    I don’t think so CSC

  23. Chairbhoy,



    I posted my post before reading already said the things I was on about.


    Its still true though.A ridiculous scenario.

  24. AN DÚN @ 1:20 PM,



    The decision is always left to the referee on subjective calls but these EPL guidelines are interesting…



    The VAR is constantly monitoring the match.



    VAR is used only for “clear and obvious errors” or “serious missed incidents” in four match-changing situations: goals; penalty decisions; direct red-card incidents; and mistaken identity.



    Of course in Scotland this guideline seems to be blurred: “clear and obvious errors” or “serious missed incidents”



    Abada’s “offside” goal against Livingston is an interesting one in that regard, if the officials were debating the nuances of the offside rule for several minutes it suggests it was neither a “clear and obvious error” nor a “serious missed incident”



    We need to stop flaffing about and all get behind LEFTCLICKTIC @ 1:01 PM notion that only by getting officials managed from outside Scotland are we going to get proper match officiating



    We should get a petition, crowd funded if necessary, to push for these guys to get the gig…





    We could cite the SFA part in the IFAB being compromised by the poor officiating in their domestic league



    Hail Hail

  25. TURKEYBHOY @ 1:30 PM,



    No worries of course, it’s an interesting post and I agree with it



    I was thinking the other day, we used to get a few Sunday newspapers including the Sunday Post, of course as kids we headed straight to the funnies, for me that was after reading the sports section



    Now this is the conversation I had with my dad in the early seventies…



    Me: Dad, Celtic are top of the fair play league



    Dad: Aye and Rangers will be bottom



    Me (after another perusal) : Second from bottom



    Now, from memory this league was based on fouls awarded, red cards and bookings



    Can anyone explain why Celtic perennially were top of that league and Rangers languishing near the bottom



    Hail Hail

  26. Jura got stick for being out of position for Kent’s goal but it seems more that he was moving left already as he expected McGregor to hit it shorter to the RB.



    Sakala is very raw but also very quick and he caused lots of problems at CP in the 1-1 draw last term.



    As for their penalty, in real time, I don’t think he does a double movement to stand on Starfelt’s foot – it would be a pretty tricky thing to do.



    There’s a reason rugby refs when they watch the replay on the screen ask for it to be played at normal speed rather than the TMO.



    And the better ones, generally only need one look.



    As for the Goldson penalty, at least 2 of our players are claiming handball but then they play to the whistle as they have to.

  27. GuyFawkesaforeverhero on

    Good luck to the Celtic B bhoys tonight at Excelsior, Airdrie v Civil Service Strollers.



    A right good opportunity to be in the mix for the rest of the season with a win. By my count, second place above the honey bears on goal difference, with still a couple of games in hand over the leaders Spartans, is possible tonight.



    Averaging three goals a game in this campaign is already an improvement on previous squads, it would be very welcome to avoid going one down in the first five minutes, for a change.



    Up the Celts. Down with Airdrie.

  28. My friends in Celtic,



    In 2010 during the referees strike, Celtic drew 2-2 at home with ICT.



    What would be really interesting would be for some kind person to check the CQN archives and see the reaction to the foreign ref.




  29. GREENPINATA @ 2:00 PM,



    My recollection was the referees weren’t particularly helpful to us, my thoughts at the time was they’d be inclined to be in solidarity to their brother refs



    Officiating a football match is not an easy or ego rewarding task



    Lord Reid moved on an normal service was resumed



    Hail Hail

  30. Back to Basics - Glass Half Full on

    Greenpinata – for what it is worth I can provide my recollection?



    To be clear – it could be everyone on the field behaved better because of the backdrop and the foreign ref was an unknown quantity …



    … but the biggest takeaway for me on the day was the complete absence of


    – wee man syndrome


    – “I’m the heedie – take 100 lines” airs


    – Captain Mainwaring persona



    I don’t recall the ref making more or fewer mistakes …



    … but, compared to his Scottish counterparts, his management of the game looked effortless


    (often a sign of enhanced capability)

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