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Causal effects of an absent crowd on performances and refereeing decisions during Covid-19


  • Alex Bryson
  • Peter Dolton
  • J. James Reade
  • Dominik Schreyer
  • Carl Singleton


The Covid-19 pandemic has induced worldwide natural experiments on the effects of crowds. We exploit one of these experiments that took place over several countries in almost identical settings: professional football matches played behind closed doors within the 2019/20 league seasons. We find large and statistically significant effects on the number of yellow cards issued by referees. Without a crowd, fewer cards were awarded to the away teams, reducing home advantage. These results have implications for the influence of social pressure and crowds on the neutrality of decisions.

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  • Alex Bryson & Peter Dolton & J. James Reade & Dominik Schreyer & Carl Singleton, 2020. "Causal effects of an absent crowd on performances and refereeing decisions during Covid-19," National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) Discussion Papers 524, National Institute of Economic and Social Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:nsr:niesrd:524

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    More about this item


    Attendance; Coronavirus; Covid-19; Home advantage; Natural Experiments; Referee Bias; Social Pressure;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C90 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - General
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • L83 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Sports; Gambling; Restaurants; Recreation; Tourism
    • Z20 - Other Special Topics - - Sports Economics - - - General

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