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. Please can we we double-check those penalties won v penalties conceded figures? They appear to be drawn from TransferMarkt and apply to seasons 2017/18 to 2021/22 inclusive (rather than 2018/19 – 2022-23). It also appears that TransferMarkt separate out penalties awarded after the Top 6 split – so if you look at the penalties awarded table for each season it does NOT include any penalties received AFTER the split. For example, if you look at the penalties awarded stats for 2021/22 TransferMarkt will show that “Rangers” were awarded 7 penalties in the Premiership but dig a little further and you will find that they were awarded a further 3 after the split (so received 10 penalties over the league campaign).



    My quick reading of the penalty stats is from season 2017/18 to the present: “Rangers” awarded 48 penalties and conceded 12 (+36); Celtic awarded 30 penalties and conceded 21 (+9). Over this period “Rangers” have been awarded 6 penalties after the split and Celtic nil.



    If you dig deeper within the stats available on TransferMarkt it shows that of the 48 penalties “Rangers were awarded in the league during this period, 26 were received when the match was level or they were in a losing position (54%); Celtic were awarded 12 of their 30 league penalties when level or behind (40%).



    Please someone double-check and confirm or correct these figures.

  2. GREENPINATA, the first weekend of the foreign referees officiating a guy from Luxembourg took charge of our game at Celtic Park ( can’t remember the opposition).



    The final score was 1-1 and he chopped off a goal for us for offside (which Sportscene that night proved was on-side). However the guy strolled through the game, had total control and respect throughout and everyone around me left totally impressed.



    The same guy was scheduled to take the Dundee Utd v Thems game the next day, but unfortunately the game was called off due to a water-logged pitch. I would have been really interested to see how the Huns reacted to not getting things going their way when needed.



    Overall the foreign refs were well received across the country. Funny that!

  3. My recollection of the foreign ref handling the match we didn’t win was “thank God” for a decent ref, no matter the result. For once, I didn’t feel cheated by the officials. Celtic need to demand that no sevco supporting mib ever again ref our matches, and certainly not oversee VAR either. By all means, bring in outside refs. The cheating has gone on far far too long. Didn’t that supporter, Frank, show up Walker for what he is (on Celtic Star)? Good mhan yersel. I suppose anyone in Scotland who wants to make their way in the sports media, who has a perceived Celtic background has to bend over backwards to appear neutral. Maloney seems to be the next one up. Give me the likes of Sutton and Hartson and Michael Stewart any day.

  4. EmeraldBee – I wouldn’t have thought the same ref would do 2 different games a day apart ?



    They do nearly as much running as the players.

  5. Bhoyjoebelfast on

    EMERALD @2.28


    Alain Hamer(ref) ICT( opposition) 2-2 result.


    Same ref. took charge next day Newco v Dundee Utd.


    I used this as a question on CQN.

  6. Wasn’t the reason the refs went on strike is that one of their own was caught cheating – they didn’t like being called to account


    Says everything about them and nowt has changed

  7. Bhoyjoebelfast on

    I meant to say same ref. in charge of newco-Dundee Utd.Game not played…….my mistake…..SORRY!

  8. Gene on 4th January 2023 2:41 pm



    Wasn’t the reason the refs went on strike is that one of their own was caught cheating – they didn’t like being called to account



    Correct, anything else is just fluff…

  9. paulsthroughball88 on




    Dougie McDonald lied about his reversal of a penalty decision for Celtic at Tannadice. He said the change of mind was down to the assistant referee, which was not the truth, as the assistant referee later confirmed.



    Of course, following an SFA investigation, the man who told the truth resigned, while McDonald was merely given a warning, here in the land of sporting integrity.

  10. And some on here thought that the game would be fairer and more transparent with VAR……..really…..

  11. As we are playing Killie twice in a week, would we rather drop points to them in the league if we beat them in the Cup?



    I expect us to win both games but if we stop Sevco in the cups this year, the pressure really will be on

  12. I don’t remember who it was, Kris boyd or Barry Ferguson, who said “They got away with one there” believing that Goldson’s handball was a penalty. But with VAR you litterally can’t “get away with one” anymore!



    So something is obviously wrong and needs an explanation. Are they incompetent? If they are, they should be dropped – that was the biggest game of the season so far! There must be consequences for their actions.



    And Goldson’s hands clearly make his face bigger so what’s up with that interpretation?

  13. Is this the same governing body and refereeing fraternity that deemed a Celtic player Racist because he came from a racist area in Europe therefore he must be .



    No proof /evidence , went on the word of a player after the game .



    Same old same old … del amitri springs to mind .

  14. McDonald wasn’t sacked,he stayed out the road for a while, and got nice wee desk job doing Referee Development……ahem…..or similar

  15. paulsthroughball88 on




    Arteta went mental over the non-award of a penalty late in the game last night against Newcastle with the score at 0-0. A cross caught a defender’s elbow, the defender having turned away from the ball, so far from clear-cut or an obvious error.



    Had it been a Goldson-type handball, I think emergency services would have had to be brought in.

  16. paulsthroughball88 on

    As I said Bada, he was given a warning, because according to Regan



    “Dougie made the correct decision [not to award the penalty]. The correct decision is what happened here. Dougie has apologised to everybody; to Steven and the SFA. He is full of remorse.”



    Steven being the ironically-named Craven, the assistant referee.

  17. paulsthroughball88- if you watch it again, there’s actually 2 penalties, Stokes i think, was involved in 2nd incident, it ended with a drop ball on the edge of the DU area,with Celtic players ordered by McDonald, not to contest it



    Celtic player received a 7-match ban,i think,based on the “law” of Probability when accused by Aberdeen player who`s name escapes me



  19. !!Bada Bing!! on 4th January 2023 3:00 pm



    And some on here thought that the game would be fairer and more transparent with VAR……..really…..




    No one thought that.



    Some said that VAR would highlight/magnify how poor/corrupt the refs are.



    I believe that is what is happening now, and will finally bring this all to a head.



    I’m really surprised that there are calls for VAR to be ditched, because that will help us how??? Which decisions in the hun game would’ve been different if there was no VAR??



    There was a poster yesterday that said they weren’t prepared to pay all this money to watch Celtic be cheated, which appeared to imply that they are okay with continuing to fund Scottish football, as long as the cheating isn’t so in their face.

  20. Dr John being silenced said it all for me.


    Gotta keep the OF bandwagon going come what may, we can scweem and scweem all we want, it will be to no avail.


    Our greatest ever manager said more than 60 years ago…..well we all know what he said

  21. the_huddle on 4th January 2023 3:54 pm



    !!Bada Bing!! on 4th January 2023 3:00 pm









    And some on here thought that the game would be fairer and more transparent with VAR……..really…..












    No one thought that.



    That’s exactly what some on here posted,we will agree to differ .

  22. SHUGGIEBHOY67 on 4TH JANUARY 2023 3:50 PM



    Yip thats the one .



    DESSYBHOY got his name I couldn’t remember either , cheers chaps .

  23. Oh, and reading back on here since full time was grim reading.



    Would’ve been torture if we’d lost.



    So many angry posters.

  24. I was one of those who thought that VAR would be a positive move, I have already held my hands up to my naivety, I honestly didn’t think they would be so blatant, but as some have said it may help in the long run, but, and always the but, it won’t as long as the OF is at the forefront of the boards thinking.


    This is another occasion that we have the Silver Bullet, sadly it won’t be used

  25. The Huddle- we do agree on that,we could have played better for sure,a sickness bug going through the squad, could explain some team selections, and performances. HH

  26. paulsthroughball88 on




    I thought there was a foul on Hooper before the keeper cleaned him out.



    The assistant ref’s face betrays shock at whatever McDonald said to him, and a feeling of brown stuff going to hit the room-cooling device.

  27. !!BADA BING!! on 4TH JANUARY 2023 3:33 PM


    Italian games live all day on BT Sport




    Like Botticelli?

  28. GREENPINATA on 4TH JANUARY 2023 2:00 PM


    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.







    I was at the above match



    Big tall fit looking ref from Luxembourg, anyway we played badly and drew .



    One aspect was that the ICT players were constantly blown up for climbing all over our defenders at free kicks pumped into our box …. things that we had just taken for granted …



    Barry Ferguson stated that they got away with one there.


    I wasn’t the biggest fan of Sir Bob Kelly but he certainly would have put these people in their place .A Sevconian as ref in their games ?Bob would have wiped the floor with them !

  30. bournesouprecipe on

    Nick Walsh rolls up at Parkhead on Saturday Kevin Clowncy on VAR



    What larks csc

  31. I’ve made this point before about the cheating and we could stop it in a heartbeat.


    The club would only need to indicate to the SFA that they were considering not taking away tickets as they believed the paying public were being decieved. Take Kilmarnock as a prime example. They hover around the Profit / Loss mark all the time. I believe Celtic supporters put around 250,000 into their coffers each year in league games alone. How long could they survive without it? I personally would take great delight in finding out. We can go on being blatantly cheated or do something about it. But the SFA are relying on using the loyalty of the supporters against the club and the supporters themselves, clever eh?

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