A new study conducted by the University of Birmingham has found Premier League referees are 'more likely' to book players from ethnic minorities that those with English backgrounds.

Diving in football has been thrust into the spotlight in the last few weeks thanks to incidents involving a number of high profile players, including Liverpool’s Luis Suarez and Tottenham’s Gareth Bale.

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers insisted last night that Suarez gets a rough deal from Premier League referees – a sentiment Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard echoed - after he was denied a clear cut penalty against Norwich and was seemingly stamped on by Stoke’s Robert Huth on Sunday, which went unpunished.

Earlier today Stoke’s Michael Kightly responded to Rodgers’s complaints about Suarez by claiming the Liverpool forward’s actions are ‘not good for the game’, while Potter boss called for the FA to hand Suarez a three game ban after he seemingly threw himself to the ground in the Stoke penalty area on Sunday.

Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero admitted he felt as though foreign players get the short end of the stick when it comes to referees decisions earlier this month, something that Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson refuted soon after.

Asked if he felt as though he was less likely to get a decision than a British player, Aguero said: "Maybe, yes. It can happen, but I don't think it does here. If it does, it's not good for anyone.

"Here in England, there are almost as many foreign players as English players and it's not right that some have a privilege that others don't."

Now a report from the University of Birmingham has backed up Aguero’s claims.

The study, which analysed 760 Premier League fixtures between 2006 and 2008, used Opta data, and demonstrated what Dr James Reade from the University of Birmingham called a ‘clear’ pattern that showed referees were ‘more likely to book foreign players who are from the same background as the most sizeable minority groups in the UK’ -  although he insisted this was not a sign of ‘deliberate discrimination’.

“The results of the analysis were very clear that referees are more like to book foreign players who are from the same background as the most sizable minority groups in the UK,” Dr Reade said.

“We analysed a huge range of factors taking into account the player’s style, age and position as well as data about individual matches. This means we are confident this is not the product of playing style but other factors.

We do not believe that this is deliberate discrimination on behalf of referees indeed they are probably completely unaware that this issue exists.

“Instead this comes from the unconscious mental association between members of a social group and a negative attribute.”

The study also showed that the level of 'implicit discrimination' increased when a referee was forced to make a decision quickly, and also when a decision is more subjective, unlike say, when a yellow card is issued to a player for removing his shirt while celebrating a goal.

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Football
Premier League
Luis Suarez
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