Sporting aggression more common in opponents of a similar ability than in contests between unequal teams
Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent. He has won many awards for his journalism, including five-times winner of the prestigious British science writers’ award; the David Perlman Award of the American Geophysical Union; twice commended as specialist journalist of the year in the UK Press Awards; UK health journalist of the year and a special merit award of the European School of Oncology for his investigative journalism. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Oxford and has a special interest in genetics and medical science, human evolution and origins, climate change and the environment.
Wednesday 15 August 2012
Football matches are more likely to turn aggressive and
dirty when the teams are evenly matched compared to contests between two
unequal teams, a study has found.
The same is true of basketball matches and is probably a universal phenomenon in all competitive team sports where two opposing teams are of the same level of ability, scientists said.
A study of premier league football matches in Germany and basketball games in the North American league has found that aggressive contact between players increases when opponents are more equal, the researchers said.
The same is also true of aggressive contests between individuals in the animal kingdom, whether it is rutting deer stags or quarrelsome Siamese fighting fish. Now scientists believe they have found evidence for the same trait in competing groups of sportsmen.
The scientists counted the fouls in 1,530 football matches in the German Bundesliga and 1,230 games in a season of the National Basketball Association. They gave each team a ranking based on their past performance and this was used to calculate a measure of ability called resource-holding potential (RHP).
According to Gert Stulp and colleagues of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, who carried out the study published in the journal Biology Letters, the RHP of each team became a good measure of relative ability compared with other teams in the same league.
“We found that in both sports the number of fouls committed increased when the different in RHP was smaller. Thus we provide what is to our best knowledge the first evidence that, as in conflicts between individuals, conflicts escalate more when the groups are more similar in RHP,” the researchers say.
“Conflicts between animals escalate more when individual competitors are more similar in RHP. Here we have shown, to our best knowledge for the first time, that this effect is also apparent during conflicts between groups,” they say.
“More specifically, the difference in ranks, that is the difference in our estimate of group RHP between teams predicts the number of fouls committed during a game of both football and basketball.
“Moreover, we found that in football more cards were shown by the referee when differences in rank were smaller, showing that more severe fouls were committed when the difference in RHP was smaller,” they add.
Previous research on male football players had shown that the sex-hormone testosterone, which is linked with aggression, increases significantly prior to matches when the game was between two extreme rivals – more so than when playing against a moderate rival.
“Thus playing against a well-matched team may well increase testosterone and hence the aggressiveness of the players, which results in more fouls,” the scientists say.
The origin of sport probably lies in the need forindividuals to improve their skills in physical competition, such as warfare or hunting, to it should come as little surprise that there is a common thread with competitive contests in the wider animal kingdom, the scientists say.
South Korea ferry passengers who were told to stay put 'got trapped' aboard sinking ship
Are beards attractive? Ryan Gosling says yes, but science says no. Take the A-list facial hair challenge and find out who's right
Malaysia Airlines MH370 co-pilot's phone 'was on and made contact with network tower' 30 minutes after plane turned around
Andre Johnson: Wu-Tang Clan-discovered rapper severed his penis and jumped from LA building
Oscar Pistorius trial: Defence witness 'unqualified' to testify
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
US Navy christens huge $3 billion destroyer ship USS Zumwalt that appears as a fishing boat on enemy radar
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
Nigel Farage on Have I Got News For You: Ukip leader ridiculed over expenses and party 'fruitcakes'
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
- 1 Poveglia: 'World's most haunted island' up for sale...is anyone brave enough to buy it?
- 2 Big Bang Theory to get special Star Wars episode with help from Lucasfilm
- 3 Babies cry at night to stop mothers procreating, scientists claim
- 4 Pharrell Williams 'Happy': British Muslims dance to song in video
- 5 24 people applied for the 'world's toughest job', here are their interviews
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...
£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...