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Racism in soccer? Running head: RACISM IN SOCCER

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RACISM IN SOCCER? PERCEPTION OF CHALLENGES OF BLACK AND WHITE PLAYERS BY WHITE REFEREES, SOCCER PLAYERS, AND FANS1

PASCAL WAGNER-EGGER, PASCAL GYGAX, AND FARFALLA RIBORDY University of Fribourg, Switzerland

Wagner-Egger, P., Gygax, P., & Ribordy, F. (2012). Racism in soccer? perception of challenges of black and white players by white referees, soccer players, and fans. Perceptual & Motor Skills, 114, 275-289.

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Address correspondence to Pascal Wagner-Egger (pascal.wagner@unifr.ch).

Racism in soccer?

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Summary.— This experiment investigated challenge evaluations in soccer and their relation to prejudice: more precisely, whether skin colour may influence judgements of soccer tackles. Three groups of participants (soccer players, referees and soccer fans) were asked to evaluate challenges, featuring Black and White players as aggressors and victims in a mixed-design study. Results showed that participants made some differentiations between Black and White players in a challenge evaluation task. Participants were more likely to consider within-group challenges as fouls and were faster to consider challenges made by Black players as fouls. On the other hand, fouls made by White players were seen as more severe. There were no major differences between the participating groups, suggesting that the observed effects were independent of how good players were or whether they were referees or not.

Racism in soccer? In present times, racism is undoubtedly a major concern in professional sports, and especially in soccer: in European championships, African players suffered regular racist acts committed by spectators as well as other players. Among the most prominent examples are

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those of Samuel Eto'o in Spain1, Marc Zoro in Italy2, Pascal Chimbonda3. The president of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), Sepp Blatter, has often voiced his concern about racism in soccer, and has affirmed his willingness to fight against this plague to professional sport. Racism in soccer is a multifaceted problem that encompasses a broad range of social phenomena such as the sociological and political background of soccer fans, soccer culture (e.g., Back, Crabbe & Solomos, 1999), economic discrimination of players (Szymanski, 2000), crowd dynamics, or social judgement of play. The focus of this present study was on the latter. Several studies in social psychology have addressed social judgement of performance by athletes, coaches, referees, or spectators (for a review, see Plessner & Haar, 2006), but only a few have focused on judgements of aggressive behaviours in soccer (e.g., fouls). The present study primarily investigated the extent to which Black players were discriminated against by fans, referees, and players, when judging challenges. A challenge is a short sequence of play in which a player tries to take the ball of another player. In a soccer game, a challenge may be judged by the referee as an offense (therefore sanctioned) or as a correct intervention. Social Cognition and Sport The prototypical intergroup nature of team sports has often been considered as appropriate for the study of social psychological phenomena. Most importantly, evaluation and judgement processes in sport have often been under scrutiny, especially in regard to the different biases that may act upon those processes. For example, Hastorf and Cantril (1954) showed that American soccer fans of two competing teams evaluated infractions of the rules, while watching the same match, in favour of their own team, exemplifying the process by

Racism in soccer? which people favour the behaviours and perceptions of the members of their own group (i.e., the so-called ingroup bias). Snibbe, Kitamaya, Markus, and Suzuki (2003) also found that European and American students, but not Japanese students, evaluated their local university baseball team more positively than the...
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