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. CONEYBHOY @ 6:58 PM,



    Well, I guess it’s a matter of trust, the Starfelt penalty did look like a possible correct call in real time



    And the ball skittered off Goldson’s hands so quickly in real time it was difficult to assess if it actually hit the defender or had been skied by Starfelt



    So yes, the real decision making on both occasions came down to VAR



    Hail Hail

  2. Chairboy



    Agreed; Collum is disliked by all so that means he is brilliant or useless



    I’m on the useless camp; but could be diametrically wrong😎

  3. STEBHOY on 4TH JANUARY 2023 6:42 PM



    I couldnt work out why Jura was marking fatty. I dont know if we sorted it at half time but it was really stupid to have him on him

  4. Their penalty on Monday.I thought it was a penalty straight away.Seeing it back,still can see why he gave it.If it had been us,we would have been screaming for it.Starfelt needlessly went to ground.Sakala was heading for the byeline.Stay on your feet.I have seen penalties given every week on MOTD for less.


    You go to ground you better be sure.Winning the ball.not enough.Penalised now for,follow through,undue force.Big Ajer had a habit of it.


    Sure Ange will drum it into them.Don’t give the Ref a decision.We know how it normally ends.

  5. Can see how the wee dick who hosts ssb gets a gig on Sky now,always trying to confuse issues, and shut down any anti Celtic stuff

  6. TB


    I will wager anything that you have NEVER seen a pen given on MOTD when a defender didn’t touch the other player, cos Carl NEVER touched him.


    Defenders or any players are allowed to slide in to block a ball, it’s part of the game, I agree that in real time I thought that it was a pen, but slo mo clearly showed he NEVER touched him, so VAR has to do it’s job, else it’s cheating, that’s as clear as day.

  7. paulsthroughball88 on




    “It was supporters, mainly of Aberdeen and Dun Utd that stopped the huns going straight back into the top division, so just the threat of withdrawing money works, sadly the Celtic support won’t contemplate anything similar, I well remember the debates at the time re a supporter boycott, I actually found it quite sad that Celtic supporters were willing to pay to be cheated, but it takes all sorts.”






    Your very valid point was lost in all the talk about a boycott of away fixtures.



    This was about fans threatening non-renewal of season tickets.



    And,as you say, it worked.

  8. Ange isn’t interested in getting into it about the refs. He wants everyone to concentrate on Celtic being the best football team we can be without distractions.



    I can see why. Its doing my head in. We face an age- old, complex problem which we could, collectively spend huge amounts of energy trying to solve with very little, if any, benefit. Simple solutions wont work, dont work, and can be really counter-productive.



    I’m not suggesting we do nothing, but I have no idea what it is we should do. So I’ll stick to the football and avoid it as much as I can

  9. The irony is the amount of shit penalties Collum has given over the years,is off the scale



    Aye it worked alright, money always outs at the end of the day, it’s what makes everything tick, withdraw it and you have the power.

  11. The Blogger Formerly Known As GM on

    Dr John was labelled a “war monger” and run out of town by those who disagreed with his politics.



    The notion that we should boycott home games because we are being cheated is absolutely ludicrous.



    Having said that, something more tangible needs to be done by the Club other than “in discussions with the SFA” type headlines. They raised concerns following a Beaton master class at Ibrox a few years ago and again more recently (I think) following Bobby Madden’s “Happy Easter” performance at Hampden in the League Cup semi-final. Of course the audacity of Madden became apparent only a few weeks later when he announced he was leaving for England and it dawned on us all that the SFA has given him the game as a farewell present.



    There’s no point in Celtic having “discussions” and “raising concerns” with the SFA. Nothing will get done about it.



    I appreciate it’s difficult for the Club – the SFA, refs and SMSM will just circle the wagons. Stuart Dougal and Kenny Clark will pop up on Shortie talking about referee safety. Pictures of Dallas’ cut head will appear in the rags and like last time, the BBC will be conveniently on hand to show Beaton receiving a police escort in to a first division match.



    For real change we need the didi teams to stand up for themselves, but unfortunately that’s unlikely to happen.



    All we can do is keep winning.

  12. My friends in Celtic,



    Boycotting home games ? Your having a giraffe. No, non, nien, née.


    Boycotting away games :- I no longer go to away games, so unless you consult our away fans then it’s pointless.



    I would imagine most of the current away support would respond in three short initials. :- GTF.




  13. Like Bada said, I think, …….thull git a few pens agin thum later on when its of little consequence.


    Thems usually benefit by about 9 points early on in the season to give thum a guid start………….



    I hate thum.




  14. paulsthroughball88 on

    “So, what worked?”






    “Ok, let’s not do that”.

  15. Back to Basics - Glass Half Full on

    Assuming penalty data across 2017/18 to 2022/23 provided by SeanyPrawny earlier is correct?



    I took the liberty of capturing the league goals for and against ratio over the same period.



    Comparison below.



    Goals : For-Against / (Ratio)


    Celtic …. 472 – 133 / (3.55)


    Sevco …. 440 – 160 / (2.75)



    Penalties : For-Against / (Ratio)


    Celtic …. 30 – 21 / (1.4)


    Sevco …. 48 – 12 / (4.0)




    A few points.



    First, the correlation between the data is not exact … for the simple reason that you can score from outside the box but cannot get / give away a penalty outside.



    That said –



    goals are THE strongest indicator of attacking and defensive capability.



    Pens awarded and conceded are, IMHO, the second strongest …



    … although I accept a case could be made for any one of


    – shots on target


    – touches in the box


    – crosses and passes into the box



    Comparison data for these metrics would strengthen any analysis.



    Second, head to head comparisons don’t show a lot – data is too narrow and anomalies more easily explained away.



    To see how this fits more generally – I’d suggest we would need to see


    – the 5 data sets above (for and against)


    – for every team that played in the SPFL


    – over multiple years



    But that ask is beyond my patience and capabilities !!




    Just because we don’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening, make the discussions public and it turns into a public fight. Refs can’t be seen to have their authority publicly challenged by one club, or be seen to be conceding anything.



    Our problem isn’t just that the refs give decisions against us, the rest of Scottish football also thinks we get decisions in our favour, they’d laugh at the idea that were unfairly treated. The SFA is those clubs



    For the smaller clubs standing up for themselves would mean challenging the bias that works in favour of the “old firm” bit just the Huns



    Tgats how they see it, that’s what we’re up against

  17. Back to Basics - Glass Half Full on

    For what it is worth?



    It wasn’t beyond my patience and capabilities 19½ years ago.



    I’ll go to my grave firmly believing we were cheated out of the league in 2003.


    (We chucked it away in 2005).



    Attacking and pressure applied data for Celtic and Oldco were unbelievably close across the board …



    Except for 2 measures.


    – Penalties awarded


    – Opposition players red carded



    Can’t recall exact figures but the gap was absolutely ridiculous.



    The fix was well and truly in.

  18. The prejudice and bias thing – I don’t get.



    Given the chance I’d do thum down every time.


    Any chance I’d get – *boom* – take that hundom…………..!



    My tuppence-worth, thems hate us more




  19. paulsthroughball88 on

    How about a 3rd measure?



    Properly registered players.



    You better believe we were cheated in 2005.



    Check their team at Easter Road that day, an EBT X1.



    Just deduct 3 points for just that ONE game out of 38 and we’re very deserving Champions.

  20. I haven’t seen anyone advocating a home game boycott, if there has been I must have missed it, I certainly haven’t, tho when you think about it, it worked back in the day to achieve their goal.

  21. UNCLE JIMMY on 4TH JANUARY 2023 5:51 PM


    ‘The idea of refs disclosing their allegiance is an interesting one.





    More of an issue, in my opinion, is the *culture* within scottish football. The pro rangers then sevco bias which in institutional in nature.





    Refs, commentators, broadvasters are all in scope.’







    Not sure whether it is analogous to, or is actually an example of, Cultural Hegemony.



    Most probably the latter.



    But it tells us something about Scottish society in general. It is not confined to just football.



    Celtic did have an opportunity to knock the whole ‘air of Protestant supremacy’ vibe on the head when the huns went bust, but chose for commercial reasons not to.



    ‘Dr John was labelled a “war monger” and run out of town by those who disagreed with his politics.’







    Are you suggesting that the reason Reid stood down was because some fans didn’t like him?

  23. paulsthroughball88 on




    And remember, they didn’t have to let renewal dates pass without coughing up their dosh, the threat was enough to concentrate boardroom minds.

  24. The Blogger Formerly Known As GM on

    A good point Celtic40 and that’s where the SMSM come in with their old firm/Glasgow’s big two/one side’s as bad as the other narratives. They convince fans of didi teams there’s equivalence between Celtic and Sevco when it comes to referees. Nothing could be further from the truth.



    Neilson at Hearts often uses it as an excuse. How many times have you herd him day “you don’t get these decisions when you come to Glasgow” to deflect from a pumping. His latest is “VAR officials sitting in Glasgow”.



    We’re on a hiding to nothing so long as the didi teams think there’s equivalence and the SMSM ain’t going to tell them otherwise.

  25. SAINT STIVS on 4TH JANUARY 2023 8:18 PM



    And we still finished the stronger team



    All the talk of poor fitness levels seems to have disappeared. Or stamina, or whatever

  26. Celtic’s no’ the enemy here………………….



    Its scoddish hundom. Bias and Prejudice hiding in plain sight……….



    Sure, we could be better, different , more vociferous…strident perhaps……… but the main issue is hundom in all its sleekitry.


    Thems would love us to be dis-united and riven with rancour.




    Unfortunately that seems to be the case, you can’t blame them for seeing it that way when to look at the media tgere only seems to be 2 teams in Scotland.

  28. GuyFawkesaforeverhero on

    Celtic B bhoys 4 up, last ten minutes.



    Joey Dawson, Ben Quinn 2-0 HT.



    Adam Brooks pen (you’re havin’ a laf). Joey Dawson again.

  29. GuyFawkesaforeverhero on

    Willie Collum’s JFK Video Assassination Referee decision released by SFA – suicide, play on.

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