Sports Rules as Common Pool Resources: A Better Way to Respond to Doping
Economic Analysis & Policy, Vol. 39 No. 3, December 2009
4 Pages Posted: 13 Nov 2017
Date Written: September 2009
In sports, as in all other fields of human life, there are written rules and then there are unwritten rules. An example of the former in soccer is the offside rule: a pass only is legal if at least two defenders are between a pass-receiver and the goal when the pass is made. An example of the latter is what might be called the “Injury Truce”: if team A has an injured player and kicks out of bounds in order to stop play for medical treatment, after the time out team B kicks out of bounds itself to return possession to team A. Players who violate either rule face negative consequences, the only difference being whether the consequence is enforced by the referee or not. For the offside rule, the referee grants a free kick for the other team. For the injury truce, violation leads to rough play on the field and stigma off the field within the crowd of spectators. Both consequences are negative and both cause the rule to be followed. Athletes are humans, and their personal incentives are not described entirely by the formal rules in a game. Informal rules matter. Sports rules are also a response to the common property resource (CPR) problem posed by any game: The game is more fun (and economically more valuable to players and spectators alike) if it is played according to certain rules.
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