Study Shows Ethnic Minority Players are not Treated Unfairly by Football RefereesBy The University Of Surrey, PRNE
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
GUILDFORD, England, March 10, 2010 - An analysis about whether there is a racial element to referees decisions
to give a yellow card to football players in the Premiership, has been
carried out by staff at the University of Surrey.
Dr Rob Witt, head of the Economics Department, worked with Barry Reilly,
of the University of Sussex, on the study called "Disciplinary Sanctions in
English Premiership Football: Is There a Racial Dimension?"
The project used data from five recent seasons and exploited an extremely
valuable, but hitherto barely used, administrative database held at OPTA
Sportsdata in London. These data were used in conjunction with specific
information on the characteristics of players.
An analysis of raw data suggested evidence of a racial dimension in the
application of sanctions with black and mixed race players receiving, on
average, between a quarter and a third fewer yellow cards compared to white
players in spite of having a higher foul count.
However, once a variety of characteristics are controlled for including a
players' field position, foul count, time played and club, the empirical
analysis revealed no systematic evidence of a bias against black or mixed
race players by referees.
Dr Reilly says: "Our study finds no systemic evidence that ethnic
minority players in the English premiership are treated unfairly by referees
when dispensing yellow card sanctions.
"Although the raw data on yellow cards dispensed actually suggest that
referees appear to behave more leniently towards black and mixed race players
than white players, the statistical evidence for such a claim is not found to
be all that strong."
The field position of a player is found to be important with defenders
and midfield players statistically more likely to incur the wrath of referees
than forward players.
The analysis showed there was no bias against black or mixed race players
in the eyes of the referees.
But there is a racial dimension to the application of sanctions with
black and mixed race players receiving between a quarter and a third fewer
yellow cards compared to white players, on average.
The study, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, found no evidence that
ethnic minority players are treated unfairly by referees.
Dr Witt said: "A study of the English Premier League finds no evidence
that ethnic minority players are treated unfairly by referees when dispensing
"If anything, at the average, there is evidence that referees appear to
behave more leniently towards black and mixed race players than towards white
The analysis revealed a harsher application of the rules by referees over
time. On average, the number of yellow cards issued rose statistically
between the last season studied (2007/08) and the earliest (2003/04).
The research found the salutary result that a player's race is not a
determinant of a sanction outcome and this reflects positively on the
professionalism of referees.
The findings in regard to race differ from that detected in a study by
Price and Wolfers (2007) in their study of the National Basketball
Association in the US, which is currently the only other paper to our
knowledge that has explored the relationship between race and disciplinary
sanction outcomes in a professional team sport.
They found that during the 13 seasons from 1991 through 2004, white
referees called fouls at a greater rate against black players than against
Notes for Editors:
Dr Barry Reilly is a Reader in Economics at the University of Sussex and
the lead academic for the research.
The University of Surrey is one of the UK's leading professional,
scientific and technological universities with a world class research profile
and a reputation for excellence in teaching and research. Ground-breaking
research at the University is bringing direct benefit to all spheres of life
- helping industry to maintain its competitive edge and creating improvements
in the areas of health, medicine, space science, the environment,
communications, defence and social policy.
Programmes in science and technology have gained widespread recognition
and it also boasts flourishing programmes in dance and music, social
sciences, management and languages and law. In addition to the campus on 150
hectares just outside Guildford, Surrey, the University also owns and runs
the Surrey Research Park, which provides facilities for 140 companies
employing 2,700 staff.
The Sunday Times names Surrey as 'The University for Jobs' which
underlines the university's growing reputation for providing high quality,
The Nuffield Foundation is a charitable trust with the aim of advancing
social well-being. It funds research and innovation, predominantly in social
policy and education. It has supported this project, but the views expressed
are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Foundation. More
information is available at www.nuffieldfoundation.org
Media enquiries: Howard Wheeler, Press Officer at the University of
Surrey, Tel: +44-(0)1483-686141 or E-mail: email@example.com
Media enquiries: Howard Wheeler, Press Officer at the University of Surrey, Tel: +44-(0)1483-686141 or E-mail: h.wheeler at surrey.ac.uk
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