Away teams 41.6% more likely to be shown a red card [Data analysis]

Posted on 25 February, 2021 by Danny McLoughlin

To understand the impact that red cards have on football matches we have collected data from 19,985 games in Europe’s top 5 leagues over the last 10 years.

The data below includes games from the German Bundesliga, French Ligue 1, Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A, and English Premier League between 2010 and 2020.

This analysis examines the number of red cards for home teams versus the number of red cards for away teams.

Key Findings:

  • Away teams 41.6% more likely to get a red card in a game than the home team
  • Away teams get 25.9% more red cards in total than home teams

Away teams 41.6% more likely to get a red card

In total, there were 3,904 games over the last 11 years in Europe’s top 5 leagues where at least one red card was shown.

Games including at least 1 red card

 

 Number red cards  Red card home team only  Red card away team only  Red card both teams
 1  1378  1931  0
 2  80  132  316
 3  1  3  56
 4+  0  0  7
 Total  1459  2066  379

 

When looking at games where only one team received a red card, the home team received at least one red card in 1,459 games. The away team received at least one red card in 2,066 games.

 

 

Staggeringly, that translates to the away team receiving a red card in 41.6% more games than the home team does.

Games including red cards for home team vs away team

 

 Number red cards  Red card home team  Red card away team
 1  1378  1931
 2  396  448
 3  57  59
 4+  7  7
 Total  1838  2445

 

However, when you also include the games where both teams received at least one red card, this comes down to, a still significant, 33.03%.

Away teams get 25.9% more red cards in total

 

 

Of the 4,934 red cards handed out over the past 11 years, 2,750 (55.74%) went to the away team. Only 2,184 (44.25%) went to the home team.

That works out as 25.9% more for the away teams.

Breakdown of top 5 leagues

Interestingly, over the course of 19,985 games across Europe’s top leagues, the numbers are remarkably similar.

 

 Competition  Home team  %  Away team  %  Total
 Bundesliga  255  46.28%  313  53.72%  568
 La Liga  513  44.65%  674  55.35%  1187
 Ligue 1  425  43.28%  602  56.72%  1027
 Premier League  250  43.93%  356  56.07%  606
 Serie A  508  43.92%  678  56.08%  1186
 Total  2184  44.26%  2750  55.74%  4574

 

This suggests the distribution of red cards is not a cultural difference between nations or a reflection of the intensity of home (or away) fans in different countries but more something that is inherent to football or referees as a whole.

 

 

Overall it is clear that away teams are receiving more red cards than home teams. Come to the end of this season, when there is enough data to make a reasonable comparison, it will be interesting to see if the lack of fans has narrowed this gap.

Author
Danny McLoughlin
Danny McLoughlin

Danny McLoughlin is a researcher for RunRepeat covering football, sneakers and running. After graduating with a degree in computer science from The University of Strathclyde, Danny makes sure never to miss a game of his beloved Glasgow Rangers or the Scotland national football team. He has been featured in prestigious publications such as The Washington Post, The Irish Times, Footwear News and the like.

daniel@runrepeat.com