Who is the most hated Premier League referee this season?

  • We analyzed the sentiment of about 14,000 tweets from August 2021 to present day
  • The negative to positive tweet ratio for Premier League referees suggests that mistakes (or perceived mistakes) get more traction
  • Anthony Taylor is the most mentioned referee, accounting for 53.66% of all tweets
  • Taylor gets a lot of negative reactions on Twitter, with 59% of tweets mentioning him having negative sentiments attached
  • Martin Atkinson is the 2nd most mentioned referee on twitter with 1692 tweets – the negative to positive ratio is worse than Taylor’s with 70.13% tweets being negative and only 29.86% being positive
  • Red card and VAR were the most mentioned referee elements in these tweets
  • Chelsea is the club that figured the most in negative tweets – a good explanation for the hate against Anthony Taylor who sent off Reece James in Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool in August
  • The most number of negative tweets came on August 29 – a day after Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool that was officiated by Anthony Taylor

A referee arguably has the most thankless job on the football pitch. Fans are ready to crucify them for the smallest mistake and yet their good work goes unnoticed. Research done by Bonus on tweets referring to Premier League referees this season points to the same as there are more negative tweets, when compared to positive tweets.

Referee Name Negative Positive Neutral neg% pos% Total number of tweets
% of total tweets
Anthony Taylor 1979 1370 3841 59.09 40.91 7190 53.66%
Chris Kavanagh 105 89 121 54.12 45.88 315 2.35%
Craig Pawson 202 114 287 63.92 36.08 603 4.50%
David Coote 94 121 225 43.72 56.28 440 3.28%
Graham Scott 61 68 107 47.29 52.71 236 1.76%
Kevin Friend 188 117 269 61.64 38.36 574 4.28%
Martin Atkinson 674 287 731 70.14 29.86 1692 12.63%
Michael Oliver 435 372 775 53.90 46.10 1582 11.81%
Paul Tierney 136 115 271 54.18 45.82 522 3.90%
Stuart Attwell 87 33 126 72.50 27.5 246 1.84%

So, who is the most hated Premier League referee on Twitter?

And the award goes to……Anthony Taylor.

From the tweets that we analyzed, 53.66% (7,190) mentioned Anthony Taylor. 59% of those tweets (1,979 in total) were negative in nature.

Referee Negative Tweets

The majority of these negative tweets came after the 1-1 draw between Liverpool and Chelsea on August 28, which Taylor officiated. His decision to send off Reece James for a goal-line handball drew the ire of Chelsea fans on Twitter.

Taylor was also subject to criticism between October 11 and October 16 – a period in which he officiated the UEFA Nations League Final between Spain and France.Taylor has never been the darling of Chelsea fans – he officiated two consecutive FA Cup finals (2017 and 2020) which the Blues lost to bitter rivals Arsenal. The red card to James only made him a bigger villain at Stamford Bridge, it seems.

Martin Atkinson is not going to win any popularity contests

Atkinson, who is a fan-favourite of Arsenal fans (and pigs can fly) had the second highest percentage of negative tweets, among all the referees. From 1,692 tweets directed at him, a whopping 70.13% were negative in nature.

A sizable chunk of these negative tweets came after he ran the show during Manchester United’s 2-1 win over West Ham United on September 19. Atkinson came under fire for not awarding penalties to Manchester United. He did award one to West Ham that was not converted by club captain Mark Noble.

Stuart Attwell had the highest percentage of negative tweets directed at him (72% of 246 tweets). His stint as VAR official during Liverpool’s loss to West Ham did not get him any admirers from the red half of Merseyside where there was controversy over the Hammers’ opening goal. Liverpool players and fans thought there was a foul on Alisson Becker, who was credited with an own goal, but the referees thought otherwise.

Alisson himself took a dig at Attwell and match referee Craig Pawson via his Instagram account.

The most used word in negative tweets?

*Plays “who’s that Pokemon” theme*. It’s Chelsea!

The word Chelsea appeared 1,137 times in the 14,000 tweets that we analyzed from August 12th to November 9th 2021. It is not surprising, considering that Taylor was the ref at whom most of the twitterati directed their negativity.

When it comes to referee centric terms, ‘red’ and ‘VAR’ were the most used. Red appeared 660 times and VAR, 774.

Hate trumps appreciation

All the referees had more negative comments directed towards them than positive. A stark reminder of the thankless job that they do and also the intense scrutiny they are under by football fans.

Methodology

Tweets collected between August 12th 2021 and November 9th 2021.

Sentiment analysis done using TextBlob.


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