But now a study at the University of Birmingham claims that Premier League decisions are indeed influenced by a player’s ethnicity or nationality.
Having analysed 760 games during the ’06-’07 and ’07-’08 seasons, the study claimed that black overseas players are 15% more likely to have yellow and red card decisions go against them than white Englishmen.
Funnily enough, it was an incident during that ’07’-08 season that first struck me as incongruous. Late in the Chelsea-Arsenal Carling Cup final, Lampard and Fabregas resumed their oft-tempestuous courtship in midfield with some intense cuddling. Yet three black Africans — Toure, Adebayor and Mikel — saw red from the ensuing minor scuffle.
Neither the study or I suggest, referee is a conscious racist. Instead the paper — called Punishing the Foreigner – concludes the discrepancies come from “the unconscious mental association between members of a social group and a negative attribute”.
The other conclusion you can draw? Joey Barton must be dirtier than we thought.