Are Refs Biased?
Americans might not be able to agree on much these days, but one thing is pretty universally accepted: professional sports referees are biased. If you're an American football fan, can you think of a recent time when a ref made a bad call? That got us thinking-are referees actually biased? What factors, if any, influence the way refs call a game?
There's a small amount of research out there that explores this very topic. Three economists published a study in the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society that looked at 1,000 cricket matches from 1986 to 2012. Unfortunately, given we're a bunch of Americans here at TestTube, we will not pretend to know the intricacies of a cricket match. That said, the researchers found some insights that could translate to just about any sport. The team concluded that even referees that were specifically chosen to be impartial sided had a 10 to 16 percent bias toward the home team.
Scorecasting, a book published in 2012 by Toby Moskowitz and Jon Wertheim, took a similar look at American football. The authors found that NFL home teams held a 57.3 percent home field advantage. The authors point to referees as a major factor in this data. When NFL refs throw flags, it rallies the home team fans which could prompt the refs to throw flags more and more in favor of the home team.
Whether or not referees actually affect the outcome of a match by siding or not siding with the home team, they're still human and their human quality is what makes sports so exciting and fun. Think about it. Would you want to go to a soccer match with robot referees? Yeah, we thought so. Refs are prone to bias, emotion, and yes, even error, just like the rest of us.
Are you a big sports fan? What's the worst time a ref has totally screwed up a game? Let us know in the comments below.
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"Fans like to blame refs' bad calls on biased. Some think this tactic is used to mask their team's defeat. But the home field advantage may not be the myth some people think it is. It's a statistical fact, according to three economists."
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"Academics have proved what football (soccer) managers in the English Premiership have been complaining about for years -- that referees are inconsistent and favor home teams."
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"When referees see red, they don't get angry. They may actually favor the competitor in scarlet attire, a new study suggests."
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