Officiating bias, influenced by crowds, affects home field advantage

April 03, 2007

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., April 3, 2007 - The roar of the crowd may subconsciously influence some referees to give an advantage to the home team, according to a study that examines the results of over 5,000 soccer matches in the English Premier League. The matches were played between 1992 and 2006, and involved 50 different referees, each of whom had officiated at least 25 games within that time period.

Ryan Boyko, a research assistant in the Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University, led the study, which will be published in an upcoming edition of the Journal of Sports Sciences.

"Individual referees and the size of the crowd present are variables that affect the home field advantage. In order to ensure that all games are equally fair, ideally, all referees should be equally unaffected by the spectators," says Boyko.

Boyko studied the number of goals scored by a team at home versus those scored while away, and found that teams scored 1.5 home goals on average, and 1.1 while away. Crowd size also had an impact on the number of goals scored by the home team, and for every additional 10,000 people in the crowd, the advantage for the home team increased by about 0.1 goals.

In addition to affecting the number of goals scored, the away team received more penalties, implying that referees are making calls in favor of the home team, possibly as a result of the influence of the crowd. Some individual referees are more susceptible to these influences than others. In fact, more experienced referees are less biased by the impact of a large audience, which suggests that they may develop a resistance to effects of the crowd.

Match results within the English Premier League were chosen for study because the games are heavily attended and the teams are located within the same time zone, eliminating long-distance travel as a factor involved with home field advantage. Information about the results of English Premier League games is also widely available online.

While previous research has studied the home advantage with regard to the influence of the crowd, player performance, and referees' decision-making processes, little work has been done on the variation of partiality from referee to referee. While understood to be present in sports that are both judged and scored, earlier studies had also shown that the home field advantage is more pronounced in sports that are subjectively judged, such as figure skating, as opposed to those that are objectively decided, such as speed skating, indicating a relationship between the judging process and the home field advantage.

The findings could suggest ways to increase the fairness of matches by identifying referee susceptibility to the external factors that are present at most sporting events.

"Referee training could include conditioning towards certain external factors, including crowd response," Boyko says. "Leagues should be proactive about eliminating referee bias. The potential is there for a game to be altered because of factors that subconsciously affect the referee."
-end-
The paper was co-authored by Boyko's brothers, Adam and Mark Boyko. Adam Boyko is a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Biological Statistics and Computational Biology at Cornell University, and Mark Boyko was a student at the New York University School of Law at the time of the study.

Harvard University

Related Goals Articles from Brightsurf:

Evenness is important in assessing progress towards sustainable development goals
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) emphasize a holistic achievement instead of cherry-picking a few.

Romantic partners influence each other's goals
Over the long-term, what one partner in a two-person relationship wishes to avoid, so too does the other partner -- and what one wants to achieve, so does the other.

Can copying your friends help you achieve your goals?
Consumers often struggle to achieve self-set life improvement goals, but what if deliberately emulating the successful strategies used by their friends could help them?

Conservation goals may be stymied by a lack of land for biodiversity offsetting
Developers may struggle to find enough land to offset the biodiversity impacts of future development, according to a University of Queensland study.

How the chemical industry can meet the climate goals
ETH researchers analysed various possibilities for reducing the net CO2 emissions of the chemical industry to zero.

Infants prefer individuals who achieve their goals efficiently
From birth, we acquire information and learn through interacting with others; that is why it is so important to be able to identify the most suitable individuals to interact with.

Not finding new goals post-retirement associated with greater cognitive decline
Certain middle-aged and older adults, especially women who tend to disengage from difficult tasks and goals after they retire, may be at greater risk of cognitive decline as they age, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

Psychologists discover secret to achieving goals
Research led by scientists at Queen Mary University of London has provided new insights into why people often make unrealistic plans that are doomed to fail.

Achieving optimal collaboration when goals conflict
New research suggests that, when two people must work together on a physical task despite conflicting goals, the amount of information available about each other's actions influences how quickly and optimally they learn to collaborate.

Pyschologists analyze language to categorize human goals
The researchers say human goals can be broadly categorized in terms of four goals: 'prominence,' 'inclusiveness,' 'negativity prevention' and 'tradition.'

Read More: Goals News and Goals Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.