Games of Two Halves: Non-Experimental Evidence on Cooperation, Defection and the Prisoner’s Dilemma

Stephen Dobson, John Goddard


We develop a stylized two-period game-theoretic model of the strategic choices made by soccer teams when selecting between defensive and attacking team formations, and between non-violent and violent styles of play. Cooperative behaviour during the early stages of matches is typically superseded by non-cooperation during the latter stages. The propensity for violent play to take place in the latter stages of soccer matches is interpreted as novel non-experimental evidence that players typically resort to mutually detrimental non-cooperative forms of behaviour when the payoffs assume a prisoner’s dilemma structure.

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