Racial Bias in Fans and Officials: Evidence from the Italian Serie A

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Recent scholarship studying the impact of race-based prejudice has emphasized its rampant persistence throughout all aspects of modern society, including the world of sports. Prior research from American leagues has shown that even referees, trained officials intended to enact neutral judgements, are subject to bias against Black and dark-skinned players. To extend these studies and inform policies aimed at combating racial bias in public spaces more broadly, we report results from a unique dataset of over 6500 player-year observations from the Italian Serie A to examine whether these biases persist in European football. Our results show that darker-skinned players receive more foul calls and more cards than lighter-skinned players, controlling for a range of potential confounders and productivity-relevant mediators. By exploiting an absence of fans induced by the COVID-19 pandemic, we also present preliminary evidence that fans may play a key role in inducing poor calls against darker-skinned players.




Magistro, B., & Wack, M. (2023). Racial Bias in Fans and Officials: Evidence from the Italian Serie A. Sociology. https://doi.org/10.1177/00380385221138332

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