Soccer bookings show ethnic discrimination

The behaviour seen on Premier League football pitches is indicative of the attitudes of wider society according to Dr James Reade, whose research collaboration with colleagues at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge has revealed that referees are more likely to unwittingly discriminate against certain ethnic groups than others.

The research team studied data recording every action from two seasons’ worth of Premier League games, as well as player statistics. Their findings pointed toward ‘implicit discrimination’ – the unconscious association between a social group and negative attributes.

Referees were more likely to book players from very poor countries, such as parts of Eastern Europe and some African nations.

Dr Reade says: ‘Sport is reflective of wider social and economic interactions and we believe this research and other sports-related data can be studied further to look at a wide range of labour market issues.’

The Premier League has been made aware of the findings, but has yet to decide whether it will use them.