The visible hand in economics

Yes, it IS the referee’s fault!

Posted on: February 26, 2008

You always here about how biased referees are from football fans. However, Matt and Agnitio are model football fans and seem to rarely criticise the referee, even when Liverpool are getting walloped. Now Robin Hanson links to a study which gives them a reason to lambast the ref a bit more:

Referees, who are appointed to be impartial, tend to favor the home team by systematically awarding more stoppage time in close matches in which the home team is behind. They also favor the home team in decisions to award goals and penalty kicks.

Not that we should be surprised by this news: it would be odd if referees were such a different breed that they could block out all the incentives to appease the home crowd. Why should we ascribe some superhuman power to them that none of us possess? Fans everywhere can rejoice in the knowledge that all referees are likely to be biased towards the home team, or whatever team they personally sympathise with. It’s just human nature and we can expect no more of them.

Should this be a rallying cry for those who advocate more technology to assist referees? Referees can get away with a lot of bias because, while their decisions are verifiably right or wrong, they can plausibly claim to have made an honest mistake. Allowing them to have access to video footage and other technological aids prevents them from claiming ignorance. Then their decisions can be objectively judged as good or bad by people who have access to the same information that the referee does. The possibility of review seems likely to decrease the number of errors made by referees, and decrease the likelihood of their bias affecting the results.


1 Response to "Yes, it IS the referee’s fault!"

“However, Matt and Agnitio are model football fans and seem to rarely criticise the referee, even when Liverpool are getting walloped”

Hey, no need to bring Liverpool into this. Its been a hard time for all of us 😉

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