Loup Study: The Science of Soccer Diving

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By Gene Munster of Loup Ventures

Once every four years, the Loup Ventures team turns into big soccer fans. We’re attracted to the spirit of the World Cup, a truly global tournament, but the purity of the game and the tournament is often diluted by “The Dive.” For those of you new to soccer, “diving,” or what some call a “flop,” is when a player exaggerates an injury in order to draw a penalty or strategically run out the clock.

As we watched the games and the dives (on average 4 egregious examples/game) we wondered if diving is more of a science than an art. So we decided to study the phenomenon and found that there is, in fact, more science than art to diving.

The Comical Dive

The Oxford Dictionary defines a soccer dive as, “a deliberate fall when challenged in order to deceive the referee into awarding a foul.” Our research looks at a subcategory of the dive, the “comical” dive. We consider a dive to be “comical” when the level of acting is humorous. While this may seem subjective, the “comical” benchmark makes it more objective.

Methodology

With the help of Invisible, one of our portfolio companies, we studied 25 random games in this year’s World Cup. Invisible helped us track:

  • Number of times players fell to the pitch
  • Number of comical dives
  • Time of game the dive occurred
  • How long the game was delayed
  • Score at the time of the dive

Source: Loup VEntures

 

Findings

  • The most important takeaway from our study: teams with a lead comically dive 44% more often, likely in an effort to run out the clock.
  • On average 9 falls to the pitch/game. The majority (75%) of these falls had an element of subtle acting.
  • On average 4 comical dives/game.
  • Comical dives lasted an average of 45 seconds.
  • 59% of dives occurred in the first half, 41% in the second half (both include extra time).

Below are two graphs that visualize our findings:

Source: Loup Ventures

 

Source: Loup Ventures

 

Biggest Offenders

If you are wondering which teams dove the most, the top three were Iran, which averaged 7, Sweden (5), and World Cup champion France (3.7). The three teams that averaged the least amount of flops (0) were England, South Korea, and Denmark. Note, the number of sample games varied between 1 and 3. If you are interested in looking further at the data, click here. From our findings, we believe that the “art” is not an art after all, but a calculated science.

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