Referees’ Card - Awarding Behavior and Performance Evaluation in Professional Football: The Role of Teams’ Running Distance and Speed

Pamela Wicker
Johannes Orlowski
and Daniel Weimar

This study examines the effect of football teams’ distance covered and number of intensive runs (>20 km/h) on referees’ card-awarding behavior and their performance evaluation. The empirical analysis uses data from the German Bundesliga (2011–2018), yielding a final sample of n = 2,130 observations on a match-game day basis. Card-awarding behavior is measured with the number of yellow, yellow-red, and red cards awarded. Performance evaluation is captured by Kicker grades. The regression analyses show that greater distance covered by teams is associated with significantly fewer yellow, yellow-red, and red cards and significantly better grades for referees. The higher the number of intensive runs, the fewer yellow-red and red cards are awarded. Referees receive significantly better grades when teams have covered more distance in the match. Collectively, these findings suggest that not only referees make biased decisions but that the evaluation of their performance is also subject to biases.