“He’s just a wee laddie”: the relative age effect in male Scottish soccer

James H. Dugdale*, Allistair P. McRobert, Viswanath B. Unnithan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
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Significant structural, developmental, and financial constraints exist in Scottish soccer that may predicate a different approach to talent identification and development. To our knowledge, no published reports exist evaluating the prevalence of the relative age effect (RAE) in Scottish soccer players. Consequently, the aim of this study was to investigate the prevalence of the RAE among varied playing levels and ages of male Scottish youth soccer players. Birthdates of male youth players (n = 1,230) from U10 to U17 age groups and from playing levels: “Amateur” (n = 482), “Development” (n = 214), and “Performance” (n = 534), alongside a group of male Scottish senior professional players (n = 261) were recorded and categorized into quartiles (Q1 = January–March; Q2 = April–June; Q3 = July–September; and Q4 = October–December) and semesters (S1 = January–June and S2 = July–December) from the start of the selection year. Birthdates were analyzed for: (a) each playing level and (b) each age group irrespective of playing level. For the varied playing levels examined, an RAE was evident in “Development” and “Performance” playing levels only at youth level. When examining each age group, an RAE was observed in U12–U17 players only. While there was a slight asymmetry favoring Q1 born senior professional players, the RAE was not present within this group of our sample. Results from our study suggest that a bias in selecting individuals born earlier in the selection year may exist within male soccer academy structures, but not at amateur level. The asymmetry favoring chronologically older players at youth but not professional level questions the efficacy of this (un)conscious bias within male Scottish soccer players.

Original languageEnglish
Article number633469
Number of pages7
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jan 2021


  • RAE
  • adolescent
  • football
  • talent identification
  • development
  • selection
  • recruitment
  • Scotland


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