Mike Dean paused. Pausing is his favorite thing to do, next to sniffling once and looking nonchalantly sideways while he allows the camera a moment to catch up to him. Then he likes to saunter over to the player and produce his card with maximum drama. Sometimes the player will ask why, then Dean’s eyes will pop, and he will tell the player why, right then and there. Most referees will just say “please leave the field” but not Dean, he likes to keep the drama boiling a bit, keep the cameras on him for a few more precious seconds and so he likes to have a little discussion right there.
That’s exactly what Mike Dean did when he sent off Nathan Redmond in yesterday’s match between Southampton and Tottenham. Redmond was sent off for a tug well behind the ball – the call was denial of an obvious goal scoring opportunity. It was the right call. Redmond did stumble into Alli and thus a penalty was awarded, but a deliberate foul (Redmond pulled the shirt before stumbling) which is intended to deny a goalscoring opportunity is supposed to be a red. What probably could have been a showcase match for the Premier League, quickly devolved into a rout for Spurs as they capitalized on their man advantage and won the match 4-1.
This is Dean’s 17th season in the League. He has refereed more matches than any other referee in Premier League history, 413. That’s 84 more matches than Graham Poll. In Graham Poll’s 329 matches in charge, he gave away 50 penalties and just 19 straight red cards. That’s a penalty every 6.6 matches and a straight red every 17 matches. Mike Dean has Poll’s numbers crushed. He’s given 130 penalties so far in his career. That’s more than twice as many as Mark Clattenburg and Martin Atkinson who are second on the list with 66 penalties each. Dean hands out a penalty every 3 games on average. Atkinson, one every 4.7 games. Clattenburg, one every 4.3 games.
Dean is second on the all-time list of straight red cards, just two behind Phil Dowd. But his straight red card record isn’t spectacular. He’s just below 0.1 red cards per game or a straight red every 10 games or so. That’s a lot of red cards but not particularly unusual. Even if we add in his second yellow red cards, Dean has sent a player off 85 times in 413 matches. That’s one every five matches and comparable to Mike Riley and Phil Dowd above him who are around one red card every 4.5 games.
But when you add everything together – penalties, red cards, and second yellow cards – Mike Dean has 215 dramatic events in his 413 matches. That’s one every other match, 1.9 matches to be accurate. On average, Mike Dean sends a player off or awards a penalty in every other match. That’s more than Phil Dowd’s record of one dramatic moment every 2.4 matches or Mike Riley’s similar 2.4.
Dean doesn’t apply these cards and penalties equally. He’s not just pumping out red cards and penalties on a reliable schedule. For example, in the last 7 Spurs matches he’s refereed, he has awarded 4 penalties for Tottenham and 1 for their opponent. He’s also penalized Tottenham’s opponents with three red cards in those games and given no red cards to Spurs.* That’s more than one major dramatic moment in every match. On average.
Dean makes up for all the drama in the Spurs matches by taking a day off when he referees Arsenal matches. In the last 7 Arsenal matches he’s only given away two red cards: both were to Arsenal and both were in the infamous Chelsea match where Gabriel and Cazorla were sent off but Diego Costa wasn’t called for a single foul, despite being banned in retrospect for mauling Koscielny’s face. He has awarded zero penalties in those matches as well.**
Mike Dean, he loves a moment of drama. Unless he’s refereeing an Arsenal match. Then, he has some inexplicable need to stay quiet.
*Dean has an unusually clean record in terms of penalizing Tottenham with red cards. He has only punished them twice since the 2006/2007 season. Their opponents have been red carded 11 times.
** Dean, the most prolific penalty hawk in League history, has given Arsenal just 3 penalties in 60 matches. He also doesn’t seem to be interested in awarded the opposition penalties – he’s given them 6 in those 60 matches. His career average is a penalty every 0.31 matches, but when refereeing Arsenal matches, that number goes down to 0.15 which is highly unusual.