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Changing rewards in contests: Has the three-point rule brought more offense to soccer?


  • José Correia Guedes

    () (Faculdade de Ciências Económicas e Empresariais, Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Palma de Cima, 1600 Lisboa, Portugal)

  • Fernando S. Machado

    () (Faculdade de Ciências Económicas e Empresariais, Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Palma de Cima, 1600 Lisboa, Portugal)


In the mid-nineties FIFA decided to increase from two to three the number of points assigned to the winning team of a soccer match played under traditional round-robin national leagues. Since a game of soccer can be regarded as a contest, FIFA's measure provides an interesting case-study for analysing how a change in the system of rewards (from a zero to a non-zero sum rule) may affect the contestants' equilibrium behaviour. In this paper we try to assess, both theoretically and empirically, whether FIFA's new point rule has changed soccer towards a more offensive game, in which teams adopt more risky strategies. In particular, we evaluate the "naïve hypothesis" according to which the measure would induce every team to play always more offensively, and we explore the extent to which the change in teams' behaviour may be affected by quality differentials between teams. Our most important hypothesis is that when the asymmetry between opposing teams is large enough, an increase in the reward for victory induces the weaker team to play more defensively, rather than the opposite. By looking at a subset of matches held in the Portuguese first division league, which approximate the conditions of our model, we find support for this hypothesis.

Suggested Citation

  • José Correia Guedes & Fernando S. Machado, 2002. "Changing rewards in contests: Has the three-point rule brought more offense to soccer?," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 27(4), pages 607-630.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:empeco:v:27:y:2002:i:4:p:607-630
    Note: received: July 1999/Final version received: May 2001

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    Cited by:

    1. Wladimir Andreff & Gaël Raballand, 2011. "Is European Football’s Future to Become a Boring Game?," Chapters,in: Contemporary Issues in Sports Economics, chapter 8 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    2. Geyer, Hannah, 2008. "Theoretische Analyse der Strategienwahl unter der Zwei- und Drei-Punkte-Regel im Fußball," IÖB-Diskussionspapiere 1/08, University of Münster, Institute for Economic Education.
    3. Geyer, Hannah, 2008. "Auswechselverhalten im Fußball: Eine theoretische und empirische Analyse," IÖB-Diskussionspapiere 5/08, University of Münster, Institute for Economic Education.
    4. Giancarlo Moschini, 2010. "Incentives And Outcomes In A Strategic Setting: The 3-Points-For-A-Win System In Soccer," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 48(1), pages 65-79, January.
    5. Franck Egon & Theiler Philipp, 2012. "One for Sure or Maybe Three: Empirical Evidence for Overtime Play from a Comparison of Swiss Ice Hockey and the NHL," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), De Gruyter, vol. 232(3), pages 210-223, June.
    6. Lee Yoong Hon & Rasyad A. Parinduri, 2016. "Does the Three-Point Rule Make Soccer More Exciting? Evidence From a Regression Discontinuity Design," Journal of Sports Economics, , vol. 17(4), pages 377-395, May.
    7. Dilger, Alexander & Froböse, Gerrit, 2018. "Effects of the three-point rule in German amateur football," Discussion Papers of the Institute for Organisational Economics 3/2018, University of Münster, Institute for Organisational Economics.
    8. Parinduri, Rasyad & Lee, Yoong Hon & Tiong, Kung Ming, 2016. "The effects of the three-point rule in individual sports: Evidence from chess," MPRA Paper 71060, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Sylvain Béal & Sylvain Ferrières & Eric Rémila & Phillippe Solal, 2016. "An axiomatization of the iterated h-index and applications to sport rankings," Working Papers 2016-11, CRESE.
    10. Kenneth Linna & Evan Moore & Rodney Paul & Andrew Weinbach, 2014. "The Effects of the Clock and Kickoff Rule Changes on Actual and Market-Based Expected Scoring in NCAA Football," International Journal of Financial Studies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 2(2), pages 1-14, April.
    11. Wladimir Andreff (ed.), 2011. "Contemporary Issues in Sports Economics," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 14146.
    12. Stefan Wagner, 2010. "Managerial succession and organizational performance-evidence from the German Soccer League," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 31(6), pages 415-430.
    13. Ricardo Manuel Santos, 2014. "Optimal Soccer Strategies," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 52(1), pages 183-200, January.
    14. Liam J.A. Lenten & Jan Libich & Petr Stehlík, 2013. "Policy Timing and Footballers' Incentives," Journal of Sports Economics, , vol. 14(6), pages 629-655, December.
    15. Néstor Garza, Iván Yunis, 2012. "Desempeño de los equipos en el fútbol profesional colombiano: un análisis in game," REVISTA DE ECONOMÍA DEL CARIBE 010254, UNIVERSIDAD DEL NORTE.

    More about this item


    Contests · rewards · incentives · strategy in sports.;

    JEL classification:

    • L83 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Sports; Gambling; Restaurants; Recreation; Tourism
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty


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