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.
- 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|
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|
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|
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.