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Strategic behaviour and risk taking in football

Author

Listed:
  • Stephen Dobson
  • John Goddard

Abstract

This article develops a dynamic game-theoretic model of optimizing strategic behaviour by football teams. Teams choose continuously between defensive and attacking formations and between a non-violent and a violent playing style. Starting from the end of the match and working backwards, the teams’ optimal strategies conditional on the current state of the match are determined by solving a series of two-person non-cooperative subgames. Numerical simulations are used to explore the sensitivity of strategic behaviour to variations in the structural parameters. The model is tested empirically, using English football league data. Teams that are trailing are willing to bear an increased risk of a player dismissal in order to increase the probability of scoring. Teams that are leading or level in scores play cautiously. The scoring rates of teams that are trailing are higher than those of teams that are ahead or level. Stochastic simulations are used to obtain probabilities for match results, conditional upon the state of the match at any stage. The article’s main theoretical and empirical results constitute novel, non-experimental evidence that the strategic behaviour of football teams can be rationalized in accordance with game-theoretic principles of optimizing strategic behaviour by agents when payoffs are uncertain and interdependent.

Suggested Citation

  • Stephen Dobson & John Goddard, 2008. "Strategic behaviour and risk taking in football," Working Papers 2008/7, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham Business School, Economics Division.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbs:wpaper:2008/7
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D43 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Oligopoly and Other Forms of Market Imperfection
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • L83 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Sports; Gambling; Restaurants; Recreation; Tourism

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