The Situationist

The Situation of Refereeing – Abstract

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 1, 2009

soccer-refereeVincenzo Scoppa has posted an intrguing article, “Are Subjective Evaluations Biased by Social Factors or Connections? An Econometric Analysis of Soccer Referee Decisions” (35 Empirical Economics (2008)) on SSRN.

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Many incentive contracts are based on subjective evaluations and contractual disputes depend on judges’ decisions. However, subjective evaluations raise risks of favouritism and distortions. Sport contests are a fruitful field for testing empirically theories of incentives. In this paper the behaviour of the referees in the Italian soccer (football) league (“Serie A”) is analyzed. Using data on injury (or extra) time subjectively assigned by the referee at the end of the match and controlling for factors which may influence it (players substitutions, yellow and red cards, penalty kicks, etc.), we show that referees are biased in favour of home team, in that injury time is significantly greater if home teams are losing. The refereeing bias increases greatly when there is no running track in the stadium and the crowd is close to the pitch. Following the 2006 “Serie A” scandal we test whether favouritism emerges towards teams suspected of connections with referees finding that these teams obtain favourable decisions. Social pressure by the crowd attending the match however appears to be the main cause of favouritism.

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To download the article for free, click here.  For a sample of related Situationist posts, see ” I’m Objective, You’re Biased,” “Unlevel Playing Fields: From Baseball Diamonds to Emergency Rooms,” and ” What’s Eating David Ortiz?”  To review the collection of posts on “situationist sports,” click here.

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One Response to “The Situation of Refereeing – Abstract”

  1. Interesting. That fits with other kinds of studies, quite different in form, but which also illustrate the impact of social pressure. Even my h’s dissertation (Lawns as a Site of Environmental Conflict) showed that, independent of other factors, there was what he called a “neighbour effect.” While as a whole the neighbourhood might have a mixed lawn character, the yard of a particular house was more likely to have traits of neighbouring houses.

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