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Tuesday 18. January 2022 - 11:20

Statistical evidence that refs don’t favor Real Madrid over Barcelona

By now, Real Madrid fans – and really, all fans in LaLiga – have grown tired of seeing Gerard Pique complain about officiating and how it is either biased for Los Blancos or biased against Barcelona.

Usually, he is arguing some combination of both at any chance he gets. It has even gotten him into some hot water and has caused people to lose some respect for the once-great center back.

But Pique’s conspiracy theories about an agenda from LaLiga in favor of Real Madrid don’t seem to hold water when looking at the numbers. Most of his gripes – and the gripes of other Barcelona fans – seem to hinge on this idea that Los Merengues get more penalties than everyone else. And this is an argument that is easy to dispute.

The CIES Football Observatory is famous for its transfer valuations, but they have far more interesting data when it comes to team statistics. In their most recent post, they looked at the frequency teams have earned penalties since the 2018-2019 season, noting how “VARdrid” became an insult levied at Real by Barça fans at the end of the 2019-2020 season when Los Blancos beat La Blaugrana in the title race.

Whereas Barcelona rank fifth among all teams in LaLiga in minutes per penalty (428 minutes played for every penalty won), Real are in the middle of the pack of the league despite being one of the best teams over this period. Los Blancos rank 10th, behind even Levante. It takes 503 minutes (or more than five matches) for Real Madrid to win a penalty.

Of course, Los Blancos have made the most of their penalties. They are the only team in LaLiga – and one of the only teams in Europe – to have converted all of their penalties during this timespan. Thank you Sergio Ramos and Karim Benzema, who has never missed from the spot in his Madrid career.

Which teams win the most penalties in LaLiga? Glad you asked. Real Sociedad is in first, with Villarreal and Valencia in second and third. Real Betis is fourth, just ahead of Barça. Then it is Granada, Getafe, and Atletico Madrid who take the most minutes before winning a penalty.

Perhaps Atleti can then have a gripe about getting so few penalties, but, as Diego Simeone once said, teams that spend more time in the opposition’s box as a playing style get more penalties. Hence why Barcelona and La Real, for example, are near the top of the table in this statistic.

So there is no agenda from the refs favoring Real Madrid. Especially not with penalties. On the flip side, just because Barcelona are in the top five for penalty frequency, I will not say there is an agenda in favor of the rival club either. They just happen to win more penalties, through a combination of their playing style, types of players (Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele have been menaces in the box with their dribbling), and, of course, random chance.

Put down your pitchforks, take off the tinfoil hat, and, for the love of all that is holy, stop listening to Pique. Legend has it he is still trying to pull Kylian Mbappe to the ground.

Provided by: Frank Henriksen
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