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Sabotage in Tournaments: Evidence from a Natural Experiment

  • Balafoutas, Loukas
  • Lindner, Florian
  • Sutter, Matthias

Many tournaments are plagued by sabotage among competitors. Typically, sabotage is welfare-reducing, but from an individual’s perspective an attractive alternative to exerting positive effort. Yet, given its illegal and often immoral nature, sabotage is typically hidden, making it difficult to assess its extent and its victims. Therefore, we use data from Judo World Championships, where a rule change in 2009 basically constituted a natural experiment that introduced one costless opportunity for sabotage. In Judo, competitors can break an opponent’s attack in an unsportsmanlike manner; these are seen as acts of sabotage. Based on a unique dataset of 1,422 fights, we find that the rule change in 2009 has led to a large increase in the use of sabotage. Moreover, sabotage is more likely to be employed by relatively less qualified individuals, and to be targeted at more qualified ones. From a survey among spectators, we show that sabotage is welfare reducing.

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Paper provided by University of Munich, Department of Economics in its series Munich Reprints in Economics with number 20132.

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Date of creation: 2012
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Kyklos 4 65(2012): pp. 425-441
Handle: RePEc:lmu:muenar:20132
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  1. Garicano, Luis & Palacios-Huerta, Ignacio, 2005. "Sabotage in Tournaments: Making the Beautiful Game a Bit Less Beautiful," CEPR Discussion Papers 5231, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Glenn W. Harrison & John A. List, 2004. "Field Experiments," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(4), pages 1009-1055, December.
  3. Jeffrey Carpenter & Peter Hans Matthews & John Schirm, 2007. "TOURNAMENTS AND OFFICE POLITICS: Evidence from a real effort experiment," Middlebury College Working Paper Series 0709, Middlebury College, Department of Economics.
  4. Julio del Corral & Juan Prieto-Rodriguez & Rob Simmons, 2008. "The Effect of Incentives on Sabotage: The Case of Spanish Football," IASE Conference Papers 0821, International Association of Sports Economists.
  5. Harbring, Christine & Irlenbusch, Bernd, 2008. "How many winners are good to have?: On tournaments with sabotage," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 65(3-4), pages 682-702, March.
  6. Lazear, Edward P, 1989. "Pay Equality and Industrial Politics," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(3), pages 561-80, June.
  7. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters, in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Gary Charness & David Masclet & Marie-Claire Villeval, 2011. "Competitive Preferences and Status as an Incentive: Experimental Evidence," CIRANO Working Papers 2011s-07, CIRANO.
  9. Kong-Pin Chen, 2003. "Sabotage in Promotion Tournaments," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 19(1), pages 119-140, April.
  10. Gary Charness & David Masclet & Marie Claire Villeval, 2010. "Competitive Preferences and Status as an Incentive: Experimental Evidence," Post-Print halshs-00497974, HAL.
  11. Christine Harbring & Bernd Irlenbusch, 2011. "Sabotage in Tournaments: Evidence from a Laboratory Experiment," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 57(4), pages 611-627, April.
  12. Christine Harbring & Bernd Irlenbusch, 2005. "Incentives in Tournaments with Endogenous Prize Selection," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 161(4), pages 636-, December.
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