The Relative Age Effect in Soccer: Cross-Cultural Evidence for a Systematic Discrimination against Children Born Late in the Competition Year

in Sociology of Sport Journal

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Jochen MuschUniversity of Bonn

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Roy HayDeakin University

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Previous findings of skewed birth date distributions among sports professionals have been interpreted as evidence for a systematic discrimination against children born shortly before the cut-off date for each age grouping. Alternative explanations for these findings exist, however. This research therefore attempted to replicate the effect in a cross-cultural comparison. A strong relative age effect in professional soccer was found in Germany, Japan, Brazil, and Australia, showing that the effect is independent of different cut-off dates and a variety of climatic and sociocultural factors. A shifted peak in the birth date distribution of Australian soccer professionals paralleling a corresponding change in the cut-off date in Australian soccer in 1989 was also established. This pattern of results provides strong evidence for the cut-off date in youth soccer as the main cause for the relative age effect in professional soccer.

J. Musch is with the Psychological Institute at the University of Bonn, Römerstr, 164, D-53117 Bonn, Germany <jochen.musch@uni-bonn.de>. R. Hay is with the School of Australian and International Studies at Deakin University, Geelong, Victoria, Australia, 3217 <haysoc@deakin.edu.au>.

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