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Referee Bias in Professional Soccer: Evidence from Colombia

Listed author(s):
  • Juan Mendoza


  • Andrés Rosas


This paper measures the magnitude of referee bias using data from the Colombian professional soccer league. Our dataset contains more than 1,600 observations encompassing all first-division games played between 2005 and 2010. We use both OLS and Poisson regressions to estimate the effect of the score difference on the length of injury time added at the end of both the first and second halves of each game. Our main result is that there is statistically-significant referee bias favoring home teams. In particular, we find that referees extend injury time by approximately a quarter of a minute if the home team is trailing the half or the game by one goal. We also find that referees tend to end injury time half a minute earlier if the home team is winning by one goal. Our estimation controls for various determinants of injury time such as the number of player substitutions, the number of yellow and red cards, the occurrence of penalties or other unusual events during the game. We also consider fixed effects at the team and referee levels. We study how the size of the referee bias might depend on variables such as attendance, ranking difference, previous performance in the tournament, homicide rates in the city of the home team, as well as a measure of historical performance of each team. Our results are consistent with the hypotheses that social pressure or psychological motives, either conscious or unconscious, exert a significant influence on referees’ decisions.

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Paper provided by UNIVERSIDAD JAVERIANA - BOGOTÁ in its series VNIVERSITAS ECONÓMICA with number 011059.

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Length: 38
Date of creation: 23 Sep 2013
Handle: RePEc:col:000416:011059
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  1. Sutter, Matthias & Kocher, Martin G., 2004. "Favoritism of agents - The case of referees' home bias," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 25(4), pages 461-469, August.
  2. Neil Rickman & Robert Witt, 2008. "Favouritism and Financial Incentives: A Natural Experiment," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 75(298), pages 296-309, May.
  3. Luis Garicano & Ignacio Palacios-Huerta & Canice Prendergast, 2005. "Favoritism Under Social Pressure," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(2), pages 208-216, May.
  4. Vincenzo Scoppa, 2008. "Are subjective evaluations biased by social factors or connections? An econometric analysis of soccer referee decisions," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 35(1), pages 123-140, August.
  5. Pettersson-Lidbom, Per & Priks, Mikael, 2010. "Behavior under social pressure: Empty Italian stadiums and referee bias," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 108(2), pages 212-214, August.
  6. Mark Duggan & Steven D. Levitt, 2002. "Winning Isn't Everything: Corruption in Sumo Wrestling," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1594-1605, December.
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