There has been a lot of talk over the last few weeks surrounding the topic of penalties.

Andrew Dallas’ extraordinary decision to award four spot kicks to Rangers against St Mirren at Ibrox last weekend sparked a furore over the standard of officiating, with many fans and pundits disagreeing with the majority of penalty decisions the referee made.

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Fans of just about every club in Scotland seem to feel that their own team is harshly treated when it comes to penalties, with many fans of both halves of the Old Firm seemingly convinced there is some sort of conspiracy against their team.

Agendas and biases towards certain clubs are unlikely and impossible to prove anyhow, but what we can do is examine the data from this season so far to try and settle the debate about which side gets the rub of the green a little more often than they possibly should.

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We’ve taken a look at this season’s penalty statistics in the Premiership in an attempt to do just that.

The first port of call for this type of analysis is to examine the number of penalties each Premiership side has been awarded so far this season.

The data supplied by Wyscout tells us that, at the time of writing, Rangers have been awarded more penalties than anyone else with nine, followed closely by Aberdeen and Kilmarnock, who have had seven apiece.

This, however, merely scratches the surface and is frankly a superficial way of viewing the issue.

Teams like Rangers or Aberdeen are far more likely to be given penalties than a side like Livingston or St Mirren, based purely on their tactical setup.

Sides at the top end of the table who tend to attack more aggressively, perhaps naturally, spend more time in the opposition box.

The data shows that such teams tend to have more opportunities to be felled in the area and subsequently awarded a penalty.

There is, however, a way to get around this issue. If we compare the number of touches each team has had in the box over the course of the season, and divide it by the number of penalties awarded, then we arrive at an interesting figure.

This number demonstrates how many touches in the box a side accumulates on average before being awarded a penalty by a referee.

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If a team has a high number of touches in the box without being awarded a penalty, then they can probably feel a little hard done by.

Conversely, if a side are gaining spot kicks with a relatively low number of touches in the box, they’ve probably been a little lucky, or get tackled particularly aggressively in the box.

As the table above demonstrates, there is a fairly broad spectrum at play here. Kilmarnock are awarded more penalties than anyone else relative to the time they spend in the opposition area, and at the other end we have an unfortunate Livingston side who have had 332 touches in the box this season, yet have only been awarded a single penalty.

Celtic (121) require nearly double the amount of touches in the box before they get a penalty than their rivals Rangers (65), while Aberdeen (54) also excel at winning penalties despite not actually spending too much time in the opposition area.  

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To put it blunty, these numbers tell us that some teams are awarded more penalties than others.

Teams like Livingston, St Mirren and Hibernian spend a relatively high amount of time in the box without being awarded penalties.

Of course, this could simply be because opposing defenders aren’t committing as many fouls against them as they are against other teams, but, generally speaking, it stands to reason that the more you have the ball in the opposition box, the greater the opportunity of being awarded a penalty you have.

There are many reasons a side could spend more time in the opposition box than another and not be awarded a penalty; perhaps the opposing team are standing off them, or maybe the defending team’s tackles have been particularly well-timed.

Ultimately, though, the numbers do not lie.

Certain clubs - such as Aberdeen, St Johnstone and Kilmarnock - spend very little time in the box yet are awarded a relatively high number of penalties, while others appear to be missing out.