Our behaviours are highly influenced by social pressure. This column takes as a natural experiment the 2020 season of the Japanese professional football league, which held matches without spectators due to the COVID-19 pandemic, to examine whether the presence of spectators puts pressure on referees’ decisions. The authors find that the home team advantage is real: the number of fouls decided against the home team decreased significantly in matches with spectators. The absolute number of home-team supporters mattered.
Our behaviours are highly influenced by social pressure. For instance, amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Japan, many people stayed at home and wore face masks, following the government’s ‘requests’ even though they were not legally binding. Such behaviours may be partially caused by social pressure in addition to the primary purpose of infection prevention.
The relationship between social pressure and people’s behaviour has been one of the main concerns in economics since the pioneering work by Akerlof (1980). One strand of the literature has analysed this relationship by focusing on the presence of spectators and match outcomes in professional sports (e.g. Endrich and Gesche 2020, Bryson et al. 2021, Scoppa 2021). We follow this literature (Morita and Araki 2021) and take as a natural experiment the 2020 season of a Japanese professional football league, which was unexpectedly forced into holding matches without spectators due to the COVID-19 pandemic, to examine whether the presence of spectators puts pressure on referees’ decisions.
To read the full text:
“Social Pressure in Football Matches: An Event Study of "Remote Matches" in Japan”
ARAKI Shota (Fellow (Policy Economist), RIETI) / MORITA Hiroshi (Hosei University)
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OTA Rui (Yokohama City University) / ITO Arata (Senior Fellow, RIETI) / SATO Masahiro (Tohoku University) / YANO Makoto (Chairman, RIETI)
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