Friday, 14 June 2013

Football's Crime Stats

There have been some recent think pieces in the media about the 'fall in crime' around the world.  Here the Guardian (25 April 2013 'Crime rate keeps falling despite austerity') finds criminologists 'surprised' but willing to offer a variety of  potential solutions.

This article from the Wall Street Journal runs through some: no lead in petrol, improved policing and use of prison.  Other suggestions are that the rise in legalised abortion to falls in crime (the Freakonomics argument) and more recently some suggest that playing video games leads to fall sin crime.  This blog post emphasises the empathic possibilities and my own work suggests the preferability of people stealing cars online in VL rather than in RL.  Others suggest games players are simply 'too busy' to commit crime.

But is crime falling?  As a criminologist Marion Fitzgerald is less sure that crime is falling; and, for other reasons, neither is the right, with accusations (Daily Telegraph, 12 May 2013) that the police have been keeping figures down for political reasons.  I too place little confidence in the accuracy of the figures, not because of cock-ups or conspiracies - though there have been examples of both - but because crime is a malleable social construct.

So it is with some interest that the 'fall' in crime appears to have been mirrored by fouls in football.  As the BBC say, 'The number of fouls committed by Premier League players has dropped by 22% since 2006, according to figures released for the first time'.  Obviously some suggestions are made for why this might be.  Since the definition of a foul is a very subjective matter I can't agree with Mark Riley of the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (BBC 8 March 2013 'Can football learn from rugby union's attitude to referees?')
that "The referees at Premier League level get 95% of their decisions right, the assistant referees get 99% of their decisions right".

Interestingly just as fouls have fallen so has punishment.
Referees issued 52 red cards, the same as in 2006-07 and the joint lowest since 1996-97 when there were 44 dismissals. In 2011-12 there were 66 sending-offs, with a record 73 being shown in 2005-06.
And, again this should be of interest to criminologists and penal reformers education and self-policing seem to be cited as reasons!  What next restorative cautions? Are players routinely tested for lead?  We know many play soccer video games.  Has this made them less aggressive?

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