Free to celebrate: Joy for Geelong after a thrilling win against Fremantle at the weekend. Photo: Getty Images
Loud, boisterous, braying parochial home crowds in most cases do not influence an umpire’s decisions, according to umpires director Wayne Campbell.
While the assumption of fans is that umpires feel pressured by home crowds, Campbell said the numbers this year indicate the home side has had more missed free kicks than away teams.
At the weekend, Fremantle lost to Geelong at Simonds Stadium by only two points but they lost the free kick count by an astonishing number. Geelong received 25 free kicks to Fremantle’s 10 to half-time. According to Champion Data it was the first time since 2011 that a side had been paid 25 free kicks in a half. The Cats received only six free kicks in the second half.
‘‘It was a bit of an outlier game really,’’ Campbell said. ‘‘And I think if you go back to the Bulldogs-Geelong game at Simonds Stadium, the raw figures were quite different for the home team [the Bulldogs received 12 more frees than Geelong].
‘‘Our whole point is that the raw for-and-against numbers do not matter, what really matters is the correct decision, the missed decisions and the unwarranted free kicks,’’ he said.
‘‘We have looked at games this year that you would call parochial-crowd games. So not every game a round, but about four games per round.
‘‘Of the parochial games we have looked at – in 35 games the free kicks were in favour of the home team, 28 were the away team and in eight the numbers were equal. Of those games, there were 222 frees missed for the home team and 202 missed for the away team.
‘‘Adelaide-Hawthorn in round 17 for instance, the free kicks were 14-13 Adelaide’s way, but there were eight frees missed for Adelaide and one missed for Hawthorn. So the figures would suggest the home team should have received more frees.
‘‘Now, as for the psychology of that, I don’t know. Is it the psychology of the umpire in front of a home crowd, or the players in front of a home crowd?’’
In Perth on Sunday, West Coast received 12 frees to Collingwood’s three at quarter-time in a game the Eagles won by 10 goals. The 17 free-kick differential between teams in the West Coast-Collingwood and Geelong-Fremantle games were the biggest of the season.
According to Champion Data’s raw for-and-against free kick numbers, West Coast at home fares the best of any club, with the Eagles having the better of the free kick count in nine of 11 games there, and with a differential overall of more than 50 free kicks compared with their opponents. Adelaide is next best, having ‘‘won’’ the free kick count in seven of 10 home games with a free kick differential in the Crows favour of 40.
The Cats at home are next best having won the free kick count in four of their six home games and overall they have been 25 frees up on their opponents.
In contrast, Fremantle has only won the free kick count in four of their 10 home games and overall are down seven free kicks on opponents. Gold Coast has had more frees than its opponent in only two of its nine home games and is overall down 14 frees on opponents. Campbell said free-kick numbers were up to an average of 38 a game over the past four weeks.