At 6 feet seven inches,Tottenham and England striker Peter Crouch will no doubt believe that fifty-fifty decisions usually go against tall players.
Now evidence that he may be correct has come in the form of a paper entitled “Height-Related Bias in Foul Calls,” due to be published in the February edition of the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology.
Dr Steffan Giessner and Dr Niels van Quaquebeke, two scientists and researchers at the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University in the Netherlands, assert that soccer’s tall people usually get the dirty end of the stick in ambiguous situations when a referee calls a foul.
Their research indicates that taller people are more likely to be perceived by both referees and fans as the offenders and their smaller opponents as the victims.
The study is based on data compiled from major European football events, including seven seasons of the German Bundesliga (85,262 fouls) and UEFA Champions League (32,142), and three FIFA World Cups (6,440) – a tally of more than 100,000 fouls.
“We chose football because the sport often yields ambiguous foul situations in which it is difficult to determine the perpetrator,” van Quaquebeke said. “In such situations, people must rely on their instincts to make a call, which should increase the use and the detectability of a player’s height as an additional decision cue.
By providing scientific insights on potential biases in refereeing, our work might help officials weigh the options. It is not our call on how on findings should be used. Perhaps in better training for referees.”