Could being the oldest in your age group have an impact on your earnings as a professional footballer in Italy’s Serie A?

Research by Birkbeck Sport Business Centre’s Dr Giambattista Rossi, together with his colleague Luca Fumarco of RED, Institut de la Statistique et des études économiques, Luxembourg, into whether relative age effect (whether one was born early or late in a particular year) affected the number of appearances and relative wages of Italian Serie A footballers, was recently published on the World Economic Forum website.

The research findings provided evidence for a long-term relative age effect in football, in terms of both representativeness and wages. The study outlined possible remedies for this effect.  A reform of the age-grouping system could be carried out (e.g. a shortening of the chronological distance between oldest and youngest players in the same age group). Also, football coaches could be educated on this phenomenon so they could account for it when they train children. Combatting the relative age effect in soccer is important for the sake of equity, children’s happiness, and additionally because it would reduce the waste of potentially skilled (but not yet mature) relatively younger players in youth categories.

These results were only suggestive of the existence of a more general long-term relative age effect. Although the process that determines the relative age effect in sports is equivalent to that which determines the relative age effect in education, the authors suggested it was necessary to carry out further investigations in tertiary education system and in the more general labour market to gain generalisable conclusions on the existence of long-term relative age effects.

Copies of the research paper can be found at Rossi, G. & Fumarco, L. (26th April 2016). “Could being the oldest in your age group have an impact on your earning?”. World Economic Forum/

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