Home-Bias in Referee Decisions: Evidence from 'Ghost Matches' During the COVID-19 Pandemic

9 Pages Posted: 2 Jul 2020 Last revised: 29 Oct 2020

See all articles by Marek Endrich

Marek Endrich

University of Hamburg - Institute of Law and Economics

Tobias Gesche

ETH Zurich, Center for Law & Economics

Date Written: September 24, 2020

Abstract

We use ghost matches induced by COVID-19 in the Bundesliga, Germany's top two football (soccer) divisions, to investigate whether audiences affect referees. We find that pre-COVID-19 referees gave less fouls and yellow cards for the home team relative to the away team. During the ghost matches, these differences in fouls and cards changed so that home teams were treated less favorably than before. This effect is concentrated in matches where the relative share of supporters for the home team is large. The results provide evidence for a home bias in referee decisions through social pressure.

Keywords: referee bias, football, natural experiment

JEL Classification: D8, K4

Suggested Citation

Endrich, Marek and Gesche, Tobias, Home-Bias in Referee Decisions: Evidence from 'Ghost Matches' During the COVID-19 Pandemic (September 24, 2020). Economics Letters, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract= or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3639500

Marek Endrich

University of Hamburg - Institute of Law and Economics ( email )

Johnsallee 35
Hamburg, 20148
Germany

Tobias Gesche (Contact Author)

ETH Zurich, Center for Law & Economics ( email )

Rämistrasse 101
ZUE F7
Zürich, 8092
Switzerland

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