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Does race affect the score?

Exploring the correlation between race and performance in international football.

Ever since Viv Anderson became the first black footballer to represent England in 1978, the national team has been home to players of a variety of ethnic and racial backgrounds. More than 35 years later, however, discussions about racial motivations in England team selections continue.

Recent research by Professor Robert Witt – in conjunction with Professor Barry Reilly and Ray Bachan – set out to discover the impact of race on team performance in the purest possible form: match results.

Examining the performance of the English and French men’s national teams between 1996 and 2011, the study explores whether the racial composition of the national teams exerts an influence – either positive or negative – on match outcomes.

The conclusion? It doesn’t. In their paper, Team Performance and Race: Evidence from the English and French National Soccer Teams, the research team conclude that “there is clearly no performance-related argument to support restricting non-white representation in the national team.”

“The motivation for restricting a national team’s racial composition is unclear, though may be animated by an exclusive sense of what defines nationality and/or a racial stereotyping of players in terms of their performance and ability levels.”

“If such a policy was encouraged in the recent past in either country, as has been alleged, it was evidently misplaced.”

For more information, explore the full paper online. You can also discover more about Research at the School of Economics on our website.

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