Rational Rule Breaking: Time Wasting to Win Soccer Games

23 Pages Posted: 24 Jun 2019

See all articles by Henrich R. Greve

Henrich R. Greve


Nils Rudi

Yale School of Management

Anup Walvekar

National University of Singapore (NUS) - NUS Business School

Date Written: June 18, 2019


Rules regulate behavior, but in competitive contexts they also create incentives for rule-breaking because enforcement is imperfect. Sports is a prime example of this, and one that lends itself well to investigation because rational rule-breaking is often measurable. Professional soccer is a highly competitive team sport with economic rewards for winning given to teams and players. It is played according to a set of rules to ensure fair play, but the enforcement is incomplete, and hence can lead to strategic behavior. Using newly available data, we examine strategic time wasting, a behavior that help teams win games, or tie games against superior opponents, but is contrary to the objective of game play as entertainment for the spectators. We demonstrate that strategic time-wasting is widespread and is done through delayed restart of the game after goalie capture of the ball, goal kick, throw-in, free kick, corner kick, and substitution. The strategic time-wasting has substantial magnitude, and rational and semi-rational models predict time-wasting well. Because this time-wasting is a result of incentives created by not stopping the game clock, we predict that a change to rules with stopped game clock when the play is stopped would make game play more time efficient.

Keywords: Rational Decisions, Anchoring and Adjustment, Rule breaking, Sports, Soccer

Suggested Citation

Greve, Henrich R. and Rudi, Nils and Walvekar, Anup, Rational Rule Breaking: Time Wasting to Win Soccer Games (June 18, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3405891 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3405891

Henrich R. Greve (Contact Author)

INSEAD ( email )

F-77305 Fontainebleau Cedex

Nils Rudi

Yale School of Management ( email )

135 Prospect Street
P.O. Box 208200
New Haven, CT 06520-8200
United States

Anup Walvekar

National University of Singapore (NUS) - NUS Business School ( email )

1 Business Link
Singapore, 117592

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