Football Features

Premier League referee stats: Officials ranked by fouls per card

By Harry Edwards

Published: 16:23, 9 February 2024

Refereeing. It’s not an easy job.

Depending on which group of fans you ask, every referee is either bias for or against certain teams. Some are also known to be stricter than others.

There are referees you don’t want in charge of your team, and there are some you might enjoy. The question is, who is actually the strictest referee in the Premier League this season?

We’ve taken a look at all the officials to have taken charge of at least one game in the 2023/24 Premier League, ranking them by the number of fouls per card.

Graham Scott (8.8 fouls per card)

Games: 2
Fouls: 35
Penalties awarded: 0
Cards: 4 (4 yellow, 0 red)

Graham Scott has officiated just two games in the Premier League this season, with just two cards awarded per game. There were a total of 35 fouls across the two matches, with 20 coming in Manchester United’s 1-0 win over Luton Town — 11 to Luton and nine to Man Utd. Luton have also received half of Scott’s cards handed out.

Tony Harrington (7.0 fouls per card)

Games: 3
Fouls: 63
Penalties awarded: 0
Cards: 9 (9 yellow, 0 red)

Still sticking within referees with few games, Tony Harrington has taken charge of three matches, with nine cards and 63 fouls. That’s an average of 21 fouls per game, with Crystal Palace vs Sheffield United (26 fouls and five cards) bringing the most. He was also the man in the middle for Burnley’s 1-1 draw with Luton, awarding the latter a controversial late goal.

Thomas Bramall (6.6 fouls per card)

Games: 7
Fouls: 171
Penalties awarded: 3
Cards: 26 (25 yellow, 1 red)

If we were to impose a minimum of five games officiated on this list, Thomas Bramall would be the most lenient in the Premier League this season. Bramall has taken charge of seven games and while he has averaged 24.4 fouls per game, there have been just 3.7 cards. Alexis Mac Allister is the one man to have been sent off by Bramall, in Liverpool’s win over Bournemouth.

Bobby Madley (6.3 fouls per card)

Games: 1
Fouls: 19
Penalties awarded: 0
Cards: 3 (3 yellow, 0 red)

Bobby Madley returned to the referee rotation this season but has only taken charge of one game, Bournemouth’s visit to Brentford, and it was a fairly tame affair. He awarded just three yellow cards across 19 fouls, but there was a moment of confusion as his watch didn’t immediate clock that a Brentford goal had crossed the line.

Premier League admit VAR have got it wrong 20 times this season

The Premier League have announced that there have been 20 wrong VAR decisions in the competition this season, but overall it is working according to the independent key match incidents panel (KMI panel), which assesses all the big decisions made by referees in every Premier League game.

They have found that VAR has correctly intervened on 57 occasions so far this season, while there have also been 20 VAR errors so far, with 17 of those errors being put down as a failure of VAR to intervene when the panel thinks that should have.

The three mistakes that they did find are as follows:

A factual mistake:

  • Luis Diaz’s goal vs. Tottenham should have stood after being wrongly ruled out for offside

Two subjective errors when VAR intervened and the panel felt it should not have done:

  • Sander Berge’s goal vs. Nottingham Forest (Sep 2023): The panel felt that goal was incorrectly disallowed for handball after a VAR check.
  • Arsenal vs.Manchester United (Sep): Antony Taylor gave a penalty for a foul on Kai Havertz, only for the penalty decision to be overturned because the VAR felt the contact was not sufficient to bring Havertz down.

However, the Premier League’s chief football officer Tony Scholes has told Sky Sports how he thinks VAR has been a success on the whole, but improvements still need to be made.

“VAR is, and remains, a very effective tool in supporting the match officials on the pitch,” he said

“These two elements, I believe, affect the whole reputation of VAR. The first is the amount of time it is taking to check decisions.

“We are doing too many checks, we’re taking too long in doing them as well. It’s to a degree understandable, given the level of scrutiny these guys are under. But the reviews are taking too long and it’s affecting the flow of the game and we’re extremely aware of that and the need to improve that speed while always maintaining the accuracy.”

“The second area is the in-stadium experience for supporters, we know it’s nowhere near good enough. We know it’s not. It affects supporters’ enjoyment of the game and we know it needs to change.”

Samuel Barrott (6.0 fouls per card)

Games: 10
Fouls: 193
Penalties awarded: 2
Cards: 32 (31 yellow, 1 red)

One of the new faces in the Premier League, Samuel Barrott has officiated 10 games this season, with his first match coming in October. He came under fire from Fulham boss Marco Silva in their 3-0 defeat to Newcastle in December, for sending off Raul Jimenez, with the Portuguese claiming he couldn’t handle the pressure. That was Barrott’s only red card to date, with 31 yellows in total and 193 fouls.

Paul Tierney (5.9 fouls per card)

Games: 15
Fouls: 325
Penalties awarded: 4
Cards: 53 (50 yellow, 3 red)

Paul Tierney is one of the more experienced referees in the Premier League and he’s pretty lenient when it comes to fouls per card. On average, Tierney hands out a card every 5.9 fouls, with nine cards in total coming in Bournemouth’s game against Wolves in October. He’s also awarded four penalties, with only three referees giving more.

Rebecca Welch (5.9 fouls per card)

Games: 2
Fouls: 53
Penalties awarded: 0
Cards: 9 (8 yellow, 1 red)

Another new face in the Premier League this season, Rebecca Welch made history just before Christmas as the first ever woman to officiate a game in the top-flight. That match went without any event of note, which is what you’d want as a referee. But in her next game she did sent off Philip Billing in Bournemouth’s 1-1 draw with Nottingham Forest.

Michael Salisbury (5.7 fouls per card)

Games: 9
Fouls: 204
Penalties awarded: 8
Cards: 35 (33 yellow, 2 red)

If you want a game with penalties, follow Michael Salisbury. Across his nine league games this season, Salisbury has awarded eight penalties, with seven of those coming across just three matches. He awarded two in Sheffield United’s 2-2 draw with West Ham and in Arsenal’s 4-0 win over Bournemouth. But the big one came in Fulham’s 3-2 win over Wolves in November, which saw Fulham score twice from the spot and Wolves once. But he still only averages 5.7 fouls per card.

Everything you need to know about blue cards in football

Next season, the powers that be are looking to introduce blue cards as part of a trial for sin bins in football, but what exactly are blue cards and what do they mean for the beautiful game? we’ve got all the info you need to know.

Why will players pick up a blue card?

Referees will use blue cards for players showing dissent or for challenges that they deem worse than a yellow card offence, but not to the level where they feel they should be sent off.

What happens if you get a blue card?

Players that receive a blue card will serve a 10-minute suspension in a sort of a sin bin rule and allowed to return to the pitch once their allocated time is over.

However, FIFA have released the following statement:

“FIFA wishes to clarify that reports of the so-called ‘blue card’ at elite levels of football are incorrect and premature. Any such trials, if implemented, should be limited to testing in a responsible manner at lower levels, a position that FIFA intends to reiterate when this agenda item is discussed at the IFAB AGM on 2 March.”

Tim Robinson (5.4 fouls per card)

Games: 15
Fouls: 344
Penalties awarded: 3
Cards: 64 (64 yellow, 0 red)

Tim Robinson has shown the most yellow cards in the Premier League this season without also showing a red. Robinson has booked 64 players in total, from a massive 344 fouls — the second-most of any Premier League referee. That’s pretty unsurprising as only one man has refereed more Premier League games this season. More on him later.

Josh Smith (5.2 fouls per card)

Games: 4
Fouls: 93
Penalties awarded: 1
Cards: 17 (15 yellow, 2 red)

Another newer face, Josh Smith has taken charge of four games in the Premier League this season, and has shown two red cards. The first came in his very first match, to Jeanricner Bellgarde in Wolves’ 1-1 draw with Luton, before sending off Connor Roberts as Burnley lost 3-0 to Brentford.

Sam Allison (5.2 fouls per card)

Games: 1
Fouls: 26
Penalties awarded: 0
Cards: 5 (5 yellow, 0 red)

On Boxing Day, Sam Allison ended a long wait for a black referee in the Premier League, following in the footsteps of Uriah Rennie. Allison took charge of the relegation battle between Sheffield United and Luton Town, showing five yellow cards while awarding 26 fouls.

Robert Jones (5.0 fouls per card)

Games: 14
Fouls: 343
Penalties awarded: 3
Cards: 65 (61 yellow, 4 red)

No referee has shown more red cards this season than Robert Jones. Jones has sent off four players in total, with Mario Lemina, Lyle Foster, Willy Boly and Manuel Akanji all falling foul. Alongside that, he has shown 61 yellow cards from 343 fouls, the third-most among Premier League officials this season.

Andy Madley (4.9 fouls per card)

Games: 14
Fouls: 339
Penalties awarded: 1
Cards: 67 (65 yellow, 2 red)

Brother of Robert, Andy Madley is becoming a familiar face in the Premier League and one of the more-utilised officials. Madley has booked 65 players in the Premier League this season, with only two referees showing more yellows. As well as averaging 4.9 fouls per game, Madley holds the record for most fouls in a game this season, awarding 40 in Aston Villa’s 6-1 win over Brighton in September.

Michael Oliver (4.8 fouls per card)

Games: 14
Fouls: 294
Penalties awarded: 4
Cards: 59 (55 yellow, 4 red)

One of the Premier League’s representatives on the world stage, Michael Oliver is in the middle ground for leniency this season. Showing 59 cards in total, Oliver has awarded 294 fouls, this his most (33) coming in Tottenham’s 4-1 defeat to Chelsea at the start of November.

David Coote (4.7 fouls per card)

Games: 10
Fouls: 245
Penalties awarded: 4
Cards: 51 (48 yellow, 3 red)

David Coote is one of just four referees to send off two players in a single Premier League game this season, and also holds the joint-record for most cards in a game in 2023/24 (12). Naturally, those both came in the same match as Brentford and Aston Villa were both reduced to 10 men in the latter’s 2-1 win just before Christmas.

John Brooks (4.6 fouls per card)

Games: 14
Fouls: 326
Penalties awarded: 4
Cards: 69 (65 yellow, 4 red)

Another of the referees to have shown four red cards, John Brooks has spread his out across four games. Only two referees have shown more cards in the Premier League this season than Brookes’ 69, but the most he has awarded in a game was seven (twice).

Chris Kavanagh (4.5 fouls per card)

Games: 13
Fouls: 277
Penalties awarded: 5
Cards: 61 (60 yellow, 1 red)

Ranking third for penalties awarded, Chris Kavanagh has pointed to the spot in five different matches — two of which have included Newcastle and two Chelsea. Although, any fans looking for bias can note that he awarded a penalty for and against Newcastle, as well as for and against Chelsea.

Craig Pawson (4.4 fouls per card)

Games: 11
Fouls: 245
Penalties awarded: 3
Cards: 54 (51 yellow, 3 red)

No referee has awarded more yellow cards in a single game than Craig Pawson, with 11 of his 51 shown in total coming in Wolves’ 2-1 win over Man City in September. Pawson has also sent off three players, including on the opening weekend of the season when he only showed a red card (and no yellows) as Man City beat Burnley. That’s the only occasion this season where a red card has been the only card of a Premier League game.

Simon Hooper (4.3 fouls per card)

Games: 14
Fouls: 317
Penalties awarded: 0
Cards: 72 (69 yellow, 3 red)

Sitting second for cards in the Premier League this season, Simon Hooper’s 72 shown have come across 317 fouls, but he is yet to award a penalty. He’s the referee to have officiated the most Premier League games this season without awarding a penalty, and one of just six yet to point to the spot.

Darren Bond (4.3 fouls per card)

Games: 2
Fouls: 43
Penalties awarded: 1
Cards: 9 (8 yellow, 1 red)

Back down to a referee to have only taken charge of two games, Darren Bond wasn’t taking any rubbish when he was in the middle. With 43 fouls across just two games, Bond showed nine cards including a red for Tim Ream in Fulham’s 3-0 defeat to Brentford — in which he also awarded his only penalty of the season.

Peter Bankes (4.2 fouls per card)

Games: 10
Fouls: 213
Penalties awarded: 1
Cards: 50 (49 yellow, 1 red)

With 50 cards in 10 games, Peter Bankes would be around mid-table for cards per game in the Premier League this season. But when you look at fouls per card, he’s up there with the strictest. With just 213 fouls for his 50 cards, including one red, Bankes is a referee you don’t want to mess about.

Stuart Atwell (4.1 fouls per card)

Games: 11
Fouls: 240
Penalties awarded: 3
Cards: 57 (55 yellow, 2 red)

Stuart Atwell is one of a handful of referees to have both shown a red card and awarded a penalty in the same Premier League game this season. However, he is one of just two referees to do that on two occasions this season. The first came in Man Utd’s 3-2 win over Nottingham Forest, both coming in the Red Devils’ favour, before going against Burnley for a red card and penalty in their agonising 3-2 defeat to Aston Villa.

Anthony Taylor (4.0 fouls per card)

Games: 17
Fouls: 380
Penalties awarded: 10
Cards: 94 (91 yellow, 3 red)

Anthony Taylor is the most-experienced referee in the Premier League and the most-used, with 17 games so far this season. It will come as no surprise that he stands top of the charts for penalties awarded, with an incredible 10, including two in a match on three different occasions. He has also shown more cards than any other referee, closing in on the 100 mark.

Jarred Gillett (4.0 fouls per card)

Games: 11
Fouls: 222
Penalties awarded: 4
Cards: 55 (53 yellow, 2 red)

Made famous by a viral video showing his final game as a referee in Australia before coming over to England, Jarred Gillett is becoming a regular in the Premier League. Hitting 11 Premier League games for the season, Gillett has shown 55 cards despite awarding just 222 fouls. But there is one referee more strict.

Darren England (3.8 fouls per card)

Games: 4
Fouls: 87
Penalties awarded: 1
Cards: 23 (23 yellow, 0 red)

Four games may be a slightly smaller sample size, but players know they cannot cross Darren England. Across his four games, England has awarded 87 fouls, hitting the 20 mark three times. All 23 of his cards have been yellows too, with the worst match being Aston Villa’s 3-1 win over Crystal Palace — where he awarded 22 fouls, one penalty and eight yellows. As well as having the fewest fouls per card, England also averages the most cards per game at 5.9.