Eliminating Supportive Crowds Reduces Referee Bias

34 Pages Posted: 9 Dec 2020

See all articles by James Reade

James Reade

University of Reading

Dominik Schreyer

WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management

Carl Singleton

Department of Economics, University of Reading

Date Written: December 7, 2020

Abstract

We use a series of historical natural experiments in association football (soccer) to test whether social pressure affected behaviour and outcomes. We observe how the normal advantage for the home team of playing in their own stadium was eroded behind closed doors, with no supporters. After designing a three-step sample selection and regression strategy, to get as close as possible to a causal interpretation, the standout effect of an empty stadium was that referees cautioned visiting players significantly less often, by over a third of a yellow card per match or once for every twenty-two fouls. Closed doors matches were different because referees favoured the home team less in their decision making. These results add to the literature describing how home advantage in sports decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic, though many other factors changed at that time besides the emptying stadiums.

Keywords: Home Advantage, Referee Bias, Social Pressure, Attendance, Natural Experiments, Coronavirus

JEL Classification: C90, D91, L83, Z20

Suggested Citation

Reade, James and Schreyer, Dominik and Singleton, Carl, Eliminating Supportive Crowds Reduces Referee Bias (December 7, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3743972 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3743972

James Reade

University of Reading

Dominik Schreyer

WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management ( email )

Burgplatz 2
Vallendar, 56179
Germany

Carl Singleton (Contact Author)

Department of Economics, University of Reading ( email )

Whiteknights
Reading, Berkshire RG6 6AH
United Kingdom

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