Premier League referees are brandishing red cards at an unprecedented rate in the 2023-24 season. According to the data collected by SafeBetttingSites.com, PL refs have been giving 0.225 red cards every game, or 2.25 red cards every game week, on average this season. Never before in the history of the Premier League have referees been so lenient with sending a player off.
Twenty-seven red cards in 120 games so far. Last season’s total was 30
Premier League referees have courted many controversies this season, both for on-field and VAR decisions. They are also attracting attention for giving a disproportionate amount of red cards during the first 12 game weeks.
So far, the Premier League refs have shown 27 red cards in 120 games this season. This means that refs are showing 0.225 cards every game or 2.25 cards every ten games (or a game week) – which is an unprecedented rate.
From the data we gathered from the last 20 years, 2005-06 was the most notorious one as a total of 76 cards were dished out at the rate of 0.2 cards per game. Since then, the frequency of red cards has steadily declined, with some exceptions. The 2014-15 season stands out as it witnessed 0.187 red cards per game, or 71 red cards altogether.
However, starting from 2016-17, the Premier League became very lenient with red cards. For a period of six seasons, from 2016-17 to 2022-23, the biggest season total of red cards was 48, which translates to 0.126 red cards per game. In fact, the last season witnessed a historic low of 30 red cards. Only the 1993-94 season, which was, in fact, a 22-team season, saw fewer cards in the history of the Premier League at 29.
As it stands, the ongoing season is only three red cards away from reaching the last season’s total in less than one-third of the league season. If the referees continue to dish out red cards at the same rate in the Premier League, one can expect 85-86 red cards over the course of the season.
A sharp U-turn from the Premier League?
It appears that the Premier League has taken a U-turn when it comes to discipline on the pitch after taking a progressively lenient stance with sending players off for years. In the initial phase of the current season, the uptick in red cards seemed like an anomaly. However, it has persisted now for 12 weeks, and these decisions have impacted a lot of results already. We have already seen multiple instances of more than one red card in a game or a team finishing with nine men.
VAR has also guided a lot of these decisions and has caused a lot of controversy already. Now, it would be interesting to see whether the Premier League can persist in being so generous with red cards for the rest of the season, especially with the involvement of VAR.