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The 12th man?: refereeing bias in English and German soccer

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  • Babatunde Buraimo
  • David Forrest
  • Robert Simmons

Abstract

The paper investigates potential bias in awards of player disciplinary sanctions, in the form of cautions (yellow cards) and dismissals (red cards) by referees in the English Premier League and the German "Bundesliga". Previous studies of behaviour of soccer referees have not adequately incorporated within-game information. Descriptive statistics from our samples clearly show that home teams receive fewer yellow and red cards than away teams. These differences may be wrongly interpreted as evidence of bias where the modeller has failed to include within-game events such as goals scored and recent cards issued. What appears as referee favouritism may actually be excessive and illegal aggressive behaviour by players in teams that are behind in score. We deal with these issues by using a minute-by-minute bivariate probit analysis of yellow and red cards issued in games over six seasons in the two leagues. The significance of a variable to denote the difference in score at the time of sanction suggests that foul play that is induced by a losing position is an important influence on the award of yellow and red cards. Controlling for various pre-game and within-game variables, we find evidence that is indicative of home team favouritism induced by crowd pressure: in Germany home teams with running tracks in their stadia attract more yellow and red cards than teams playing in stadia with less distance between the crowd and the pitch. Separating the competing teams in matches by favourite and underdog status, as perceived by the betting market, yields further evidence, this time for both leagues, that the source of home teams receiving fewer cards is not just that they are disproportionately often the favoured team and disproportionately ahead in score. Thus there is evidence that is consistent with pure referee bias in relative treatments of home and away teams. Copyright (c) 2009 Royal Statistical Society.

Suggested Citation

  • Babatunde Buraimo & David Forrest & Robert Simmons, 2010. "The 12th man?: refereeing bias in English and German soccer," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 173(2), pages 431-449.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:jorssa:v:173:y:2010:i:2:p:431-449
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    1. Giacomo De Luca & Jeroen Schokkaert & Jo Swinnen, 2011. "Cultural Differences, Assimilation and Behavior: Player Nationality and Penalties in Football," LICOS Discussion Papers 29711, LICOS - Centre for Institutions and Economic Performance, KU Leuven.
    2. Snyder Kevin & Lopez Michael, 2015. "Consistency, accuracy, and fairness: a study of discretionary penalties in the NFL," Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, De Gruyter, vol. 11(4), pages 219-230, December.
    3. repec:lan:wpaper:3946 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Cerveny, Jakub & van Ours, Jan C. & van Tuijl, Martin A., 2016. "Effects of a Red Card on Goal-Scoring in World Cup Football Matches," IZA Discussion Papers 10174, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. repec:lan:wpaper:3661 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Hlasny, V. & Kolaric, S., 2015. "Catch Me If You Can - Referee–Team Relationships and Disciplinary Cautions in Football," Publications of Darmstadt Technical University, Institute for Business Studies (BWL) 74994, Darmstadt Technical University, Department of Business Administration, Economics and Law, Institute for Business Studies (BWL).
    7. Michael J. Lopez, 2016. "Persuaded Under Pressure: Evidence From The National Football League," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 54(4), pages 1763-1773, October.
    8. Katherine G. Yewell & Steven B. Caudill & Franklin G. Mixon, Jr., 2014. "Referee Bias and Stoppage Time in Major League Soccer: A Partially Adaptive Approach," Econometrics, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 2(1), pages 1-19, February.
    9. Pawlowski, Tim & Downward, Paul & Rasciute, Simona, 2014. "Does national pride from international sporting success contribute to well-being? An international investigation," Sport Management Review, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 121-132.
    10. Bryson, Alex & Buraimo, Babatunde & Simmons, Rob, 2011. "Do salaries improve worker performance?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(4), pages 424-433, August.
    11. Peter Dawson, 2014. "Refereeing and infringement of the rules," Chapters,in: Handbook on the Economics of Professional Football, chapter 24, pages 401-418 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    12. Andrés J. Picazo-Tadeo & Francisco González-Gómez & Jorge Guardiola, 2011. "The importance of time in referee home bias due to social pressure. Evidence from Spanish football," FEG Working Paper Series 03/11, Faculty of Economics and Business (University of Granada).
    13. Pamela Wicker & John C. Whitehead & Bruce K. Johnson & Daniel S. Mason, 2016. "The Effect of Sporting Success and Management Failure On Attendance Demand In The Bundesliga: A Revealed and Stated Preference Travel Cost Approach," Working Papers 16-02, Department of Economics, Appalachian State University, revised 2016.
    14. Schreyer, Dominik & Schmidt, Sascha L. & Torgler, Benno, 2016. "Against all odds? Exploring the role of game outcome uncertainty in season ticket holders’ stadium attendance demand," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 192-217.
    15. Barry Reilly & Robert Witt, 2016. "Disciplinary Sanction and Social Pressure in English Premiership Soccer," Working Paper Series 8816, Department of Economics, University of Sussex.
    16. Bäker Agnes & Vetter Karin & Mechtel Mario, 2012. "Beating thy Neighbor: Derby Effects in German Professional Soccer," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), De Gruyter, vol. 232(3), pages 224-246, June.
    17. Karol Kempa & Hannes Rusch, 2016. "Misconduct and Leader Behaviour in Contests – New Evidence from European Football," MAGKS Papers on Economics 201629, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).
    18. Andrés Picazo-Tadeo & Francisco Gónzalez-Gómez & Jorge Guardiola Wanden-Berghe, 2011. "Referee home bias due to social pressure. Evidence from Spanish football," Working Papers 1119, Department of Applied Economics II, Universidad de Valencia.

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