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
Date Written: September 24, 2020
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: Suggested Citation