Racial Bias in Fans and Officials: Evidence from the Italian Serie A
30 Pages Posted: 2 Feb 2022 Last revised: 19 Oct 2022
Date Written: July 3, 2022
Recent scholarship studying the impact of racism and race-based prejudice has begun to elucidate its rampant persistence throughout all contexts of modern society, including the world of sports. Prior research from American sports leagues has shown that even referees, trained officials intended to enact neutral judgements, are subject to bias against Black and dark-skinned players. To extend these studies and inform policies aimed at combating racial bias in public spaces more broadly, we report results from a unique dataset of over 6,000 player-year observations from the Italian Serie A to examine whether these biases also exist in European football. Our results show that darker-skinned players receive more foul calls and more cards than lighter-skinned players, controlling for a range of confounders. By exploiting an absence of fans induced by the COVID-19 pandemic, we also present preliminary evidence that fans may play a key role in inducing poor calls against darker-skinned players.
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