Profit-maximizing organizers of sports contests have an incentive to implement rules that increase the attractiveness of sports contest for spectators. But prohibitively high enforcement costs can prevent organizers from implementing certain rules. We argue that in these instances unofficial norms can potentially complement the official rules and add to the attractiveness of a contest. If contest participants who have an encompassing interest in the contest face low enough monitoring and sanctioning costs, they can enforce unofficial norms among themselves. Thus, organizers of sports contests may find it beneficial to avoid instituting rules that inhibit the emergence of unofficial norms. We provide evidence in support of our contention from the Tour de France.
Fink is with the Institute of Economic Policy, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany. Smith is with the Manvel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy, Troy University, Troy, AL.