Fergie Time – Behavioural Economics and Sport

A recently published book entitled “Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played And Game Are Won” is, I am informed, an absorbing read on the behavioural economics of sport. Recently reviewed in The Economist, the book uses sport to test economic theories about decision-making. The objectives of those in sport is easily measurable and the results of each game is extremely clear – win, draw, loss. They discuss home advantage and discovered that the home team win:
– 54% of games in Major-league Baseball
– 60% of cricket
– 63% English Premier League
– 69% in American College Basketball

Fergie Time
Research shows that referees are more likely to favour the home team with penalties and yellow and red cards. Furthermore, if the home team is winning there is less stoppage time added on but quite the contrary if the home team is losing – that is they add more stoppage time. The added or reduced time at Old Trafford when Man Utd are trailing/drawing or winning is know as Fergie Time – named after Alex Ferguson the manager at Manchester Utd.

But the authors of the book suggest that referees are not biased but they tend to rely on crowdsourcing, picking up the mood of the crowd when making their decision. Economists refer to this as Anchoring which refers to people’s propensity to be exceedingly infuenced by external factors (eg. the crowd). But when a home crowd is taken away there is a different set of results. Becasue of crowd violence 21 games in the Italian League where played to empty stadiums. In these games the home bias declined by:
– 23% on fouls called
– 26% for yellow cards
– 70% for red cards

This was more prevalent in soccer as they are many more decisions to be made by the referee than in other sports.

Loss Aversion and Golf
The authors also look at golf and found that players tend to care more about saving par rather than, a similar-sized gain, making a birdie. This doesn’t make sense as it is the number of strokes over the course of 18 holes is what counts.

1 thought on “Fergie Time – Behavioural Economics and Sport

  1. Pingback: Scorecasting – loss aversion and home field advantage « econfix

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