Corruption and sensitive soccer games

We utilize data from sensitive soccer games in 75 countries between the years 2001 and 2013. In these games one team was in immediate danger of relegation to a lower division (Team A) and another team was not affected by the result (Team B). Using within-country variation, our difference-in-difference analysis reveals that the more corrupt the country, according to Corruption Perceptions Index, the higher is the probability that Team A would achieve the desired result in the sensitive games relative to achieving this result in other, non-sensitive games against the same team. We also find that in the later stages of the following year, the probability that Team A would lose against Team B compared to losing against a similar team (usually better than Team B) is significantly higher in more corrupt countries than in less corrupt countries. This result serves as evidence of quid pro quo behavior.

That is a recently published paper by Guy Elaad, Alex Krumer, and Jeffrey Kantor.  For the pointer I thank the excellent Kevin Lewis.


'quid pro quo behavior'

Wait until they discover how ties used to be valued in soccer, and why the weighting changed.

These findings aren't surprising, but I would imagine that in countries with mid-level corruption, the more you would find surprising results against the lower ranked team.

In many very corrupt countries there's little money or prestige to be made by football and suspicious bets would be uncovered very quickly. In a lower status European league there are always plenty of bets being placed and there tend to be more unsavoury companies associated with the sport. These factors would, I assume, overpower any squad-level quid pro quo behaviour.

As an example, two seasons ago KF Tirana were relegated on the last day in extremely dubious circumstances. This in a country where the next team to be relegated had their manager stabbed for refusing to fix games, their current champions are banned from European competition for ten years, and the team replacing them in Europe is owned by a private security firm.

But, to be honest, I've not a lot of time right now and haven't read their paper.

Why not just imagine that players on teams that survived relegation the previous year are jaded when things haven't got any better?

I fear that the authors of papers like this are not interested in the subject of their paper (here, corruption in sports), but are just trying to prove their cleverness. I guess that matches the credibility of most sports commentators.

Also doping control seems a failure. It's unbelievable that among hundreds of players no one of them ever use performance enhancing drugs.

The last guy who caught during the world cup was Maradona on 1994. No major doping case on the Premier or Spanish leagues. It's impossible to know for more corrupt countries.

I seem to recall Maradona was on cocaine? I think that says more about his personality than football in general. Professional football in the UK has hundreds of teams, way into the lower leagues. Its hard to believe that with all these teams there would not have been at least some whistle blowers. Tabloids in the UK would love a juicy story about doping. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence of course but the lack of rumours doesn't suggest a major problem. It maybe that football is more based on skills than fitness or strength and a good player doesn't gain a lot of doping.

Ephedrine during the 94 world cup, cocaine on the Italian league.

Yes, it's harder to keep secrets secret in a large team and the incentives for whistle blowers are large. Maybe, football is really clean from drugs.

It's nonsense that football is clean from drugs. There are plenty of examples of failed drug tests in football and plenty of evidence of systematic doping at a team level. Lots of top name players have failed tests, many of these have been given extremely lenient sentences or been completely ignored by the media. What exactly are these large incentives for whistle-blowers?

Next you'll be telling me that tennis is clean.

"This result serves as evidence of quid pro quo behavior." No it doesn't. It's compatible with it but also compatible with other hypotheses e.g. the obvious one of referees being bribed by the team with more at stake.

Maybe their paper has some way of ruling out the latter: has anyone who's read the paper got anything to say on this point?

The following year both teams would have equal at stake so your secondary hypothesis doesn't pan out

Quite a coincidence that a Thai soccer team got trapped in a cave while they were on their way to testify to the FBI about Hillary Clinton’s crimes

Perhaps it's just that the team with more at stake tries harder.

Under your hypothesis, this would be true in both high and low corruption countries, and we would see no difference. But that is not what the authors found.

What's the correlation between a sport that relies on media for most of its revenues and corruption? Sports that rely on media are entertainment not sports, so I would expect corruption to increase as a sport evolves into entertainment. Is advertising a corrupting influence in sports? Is advertising a corrupting influence in social media?

Cowen might argue that advertising does not have a corrupting influence, just the opposite: who would watch the sport (and advertising) on media if the sport is known to be corrupt. Of course, one could also argue that social media would not misuse personal data because knowledge of the misuse would discourage use of social media.

a. Team B will need them next year to pad their stats.

b. I wonder if the league has antitrust exemptions.

b. this is a very interesting perspective.

In theory there are rules against clubs being owned by the same person/company. But, there's 3rd party ownership of players which makes more difficult to establish who's the real owner.

Also, there's nothing preventing football clubs acting like a cartel.

Tyler seeks one his 3 laws whenever he sees a country like Russia be relatively successful in the World Cup? Too Straussian...

Does the PGA Tour want Tiger Woods to be battling for a win at golf's four majors? Does the NFL want the New England Patriots and the New York Giants to win their respective conferences? Does the World Cup want the host country to go deep into the tournament? Does Formula One want Mercedes and Jaguar to be in the first four places at the end of the British Grand Prix in a sprint to the finish? Did the media want Donald Trump to win his party's nomination? "Corruption" involves much more than an envelope full of cash. [Jaguar finished first and third, Mercedes second and fourth. If the finish was the result of a little soft corruption, I'm all for it.]

I recall a paper (five or ten years ago) that came to a similar conclusion about Sumo wrestling matches in Japan in which one contestant faced relegation to lower level competition. To a striking degree, a team or club whose member would throw [!] such a match could expect reciprocal throwing when one of its endangered members had a match.

I have a friend who used to work for FIFA, he said that outside of the English speaking countries, Scandinavia, Germany, France and Japan, there was a chance that any international game was rigged and if the result looked strange it probably was. Mafia groups controlling and/or blackmailing players for the purpose of running betting schemes was one of the big reasons.

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