When the stadium goes silent: How crowds affect the performance of discriminated groups

Mauro Caselli, Paolo Falco and Gianpiero Mattera in this voxeu research show that when there are no spectators in football matches, African players do well:

Racism in football returned to the headlines recently following racial abuse of England players on social media after the final of the UEFA European Championship. How does the harassment of supporters affect discriminated athletes? Using the COVID-19 lockdown as a natural experiment, this column compares the performance of individual football players in the Italian Serie A with and without fans at the stadium. The evidence shows that players of African origin, who are most frequently targeted by racist abuse, perform better in the absence of supporters.

Our results fit a broader framework that stretches beyond the world of sports, whereby individuals who belong to historically discriminated groups perform worse than their peers when the task takes place in an environment in which discriminatory behaviour occurs manifestly. More generally, the analysis fits within an ever-growing literature documenting the role of racial discrimination in driving labour market disparities (e.g. Deschamps and De Sousa 2015, Lang and Spitzer 2020, Aizer et al. 2020, Bayer and Charles 2018). Furthermore, since the research shows that discriminated players do better in the absence of fans while no other groups do worse, the evidence suggests that racial harassment leads to an overall decrease in productivity and efficiency. The issue has also begun to attract the attention of the media and new statistics on the issue have circulated after the release of the working paper, corroborating the findings (e.g. The Economist 2021).

Finally, it is worth pointing out that the results are particularly striking because they concern elite athletes, who are the best in their profession and typically enjoy high earnings as well as enviable social status. Further investigation would be necessary to test the impact of racism on the performance of athletes in lower-ranked leagues, and especially among youth, where one can imagine the impacts of discrimination being even more significant and harmful.

The conclusion of the study is that racism can do economic harm to the football industry. Football, like other sports, thrives on fans from all over the world seeking to watch and emulate extraordinary players who perform beyond the normal. When a significant share of players cannot express their full potential, the ‘beautiful game’ becomes less beautiful and less appealing.

Damning from so called developed world.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: