Data and refereeing have not been used in the same sentence enough and we @RefPal aim to change that. To kick start our pursuit of using data for better decision making, improving referee education and helping refereeing departments to analyze the consistency of their referees we took a look at the most difficult topic in refereeing (based on our data) - handballs in the penalty area.
For that we analyzed 7 seasons and every situation in our database involving handballs in the penalty area. We looked at seasons
2020 - 2022 from Estonia
2021 - 2022 from Finland
2022 from Faroe Islands
2022 from Latvia
There are 294 such incidents, out of which we analyzed 130 where the penalty was given (both correctly and incorrectly) and when the penalty should have been given, but was not. The analysis does not benefit from the 164 situations with a possible handball where the referee correctly decided to play on.
An important acknowledgment is that analyzing handballs from such data brings the accuracy percentage down. If we were to look at all 294 incidents, then the accuracy percentage would be 76% - not too bad. If we would involve every time there is a possible handball (basically every time a player touches the ball in the penalty area) then the accuracy would be well over 90%, but neither of those adds a learning benefit. Looking at only the penalties given and the penalties that should have been given we get the accuracy at 41% which clearly demonstrates that there is an important issue to be faced. Another thing that strikes us off the bat is that out of the penalties given 20 % are given wrongly and this also needs to be looked at. Here is the things we looked at with each of the incidents:
What type of a situation was it: - a cross - a shot - random handball in play
Before hitting the hand was it played with a foot, with head, was it an aerial duel or straight after it
Was the ball flight long or short and how many frames before the handball was the hand already out of the body (making the body bigger)
Which part of the penalty area the incident happened
What was the angle of the referee into the incident
Was there a player in between the situation and the referee and whether the view of the referee was blocked by the culprits own body or was the situation openly visible
Whether the referee made a clear effort to improve his angle prior to the incident happening.
Now let’s kick of this set of 4 articles with the first learning points
Making an effort = better accuracy
In RefPal we divide the handballs in the penalty area into 3 categories.
Handballs from crosses - accuracy 43 %
Handballs from normal play - accuracy 43 %
Handballs from shots on target - accuracy 39 %
Let’s start with the one with the worst accuracy - handballs from shots on target. Analyzing the 58 incidents we found that the biggest influencer in those decisions was the position of the referee in relation to the shot. If the referee was positioned on the side of the shot, then the accuracy level dropped to 17 %. In this video it can be actually seen that just prior to the shot the referee starts to move to the left of the shot and not behind it. View from side: When the referee was positioned behind the shot ie having an optimal viewing angle the accuracy rose to 59% View from behind: As we also looked at if the referees were making an effort (sprinting to get behind the shot) to improve their view an even clearer picture emerged. The accuracy increased dramatically to 75% Making an effort: This is also true in cases where they actually did not manage to get to the ideal position, but were seen visibly to make an effort towards it. Making an effort 2:
That allows us to draw 2 conclusions:
In order to improve their accuracy a referee needs to be aware of team tactics and players likely to take a shot on goal. Knowing that they need to seek to be behind the shots when those are taken to improve their chances of a correct decision.
Secondly, when referees are focused and making an effort to get to the best position, they drastically improve their chances not only because of better angles but also because they are prepared for the handball happening even before a shot is taken.
In the next post we will look at the worst case scenario for referees.