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Referee Articles

Do soccer referees hate the tall guys?

Many of soccer's greatest players have been small fries. Diego Maradona is only 5'5". Lionel Messi (pictured) is 5'7". Pele towers over both of them at 5'8". According to new research, these little guys have, in addition to their superhuman quickness and skill, an extra advantage: Shrimps get all the calls.
Niels van Quaquebeke and Steffen R. Giessner, researchers at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, compiled refereeing data from seven seasons of the German Bundesliga and the UEFA Champions League, as well as three World Cups (123,844 fouls in total), and showed that on average the perpetrators of fouls were about one-third of an inch taller than the victims. When two players were involved in illicit contact, the referee was more likely to call an infraction against the taller guy, especially as the height difference increased. When the disparity was relatively small, less than two inches, the smaller players got the call 52% of the time. But when one player had at least 3.9 inches on the other, the taller one was whistled about 59% of the time.
The researchers admit that taller players could just be bigger, stronger, and more likely to foul, but they also argue that an unconscious bias is involved in the referee's decisions. To strengthen the claim, they performed an additional study in which sports fans were shown pictures of players of differing heights running toward the ball and were told that one of them ended up on the ground. When the smaller player hit the turf, fans were more likely to assume that he hadn't taken a dive but had been fouled Austin Kelley.
A new study shows that when two soccer players are involved in a collision, the taller player is more likely to get called for the foul.

1-5 cm 52.0%
6-10 cm 55.4%
> 10 cm 58.8%
Avg. Height of Perpetrator Avg. Height of Victim
182.4 cm 181.5 cm

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