Stig Arve Sæther1

1Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Department of Sociology and Political science, Dragvoll, Trondheim, Norway

Presence of the relative age effect and its effect on playing time among under-20 players in the Norwegian premier league Tippeligaen – a four-year follow up

Monten. J. Sports Sci. Med. 2016, 5(1), 11-15


European top-level soccer clubs are continually looking for talented players. Few clubs, however, are willing to let youth players play at the highest senior level. Perhaps as a consequence, the search for talented players has resulted in an imbalance in the characteristics of these players, towards an overrepresentation of players born early in the selection year, an effect called the relative age effect (RAE). The RAE has been documented to be present among senior top-level players. Even so, few studies have investigated the effect among youth players at the senior level. The aim of this study is to examine RAE among U17-U20 players in the Norwegian premier league Tippeligaen in the 2009-2012 seasons. Participants were 315 male players born in 1990-1996. The results showed that 68% of the players were born in the two first quartiles of the year. The effect was even increasing in the four-year period. As we could expect based on the literature, the oldest players are given more playing time. However, the connection between playing time and RAE was inconsistent. Norwegian top-level soccer seems to be affected by the RAE when selecting their players. These players are not however guaranteed playing time because of the RAE.


Youth, relative age effect, soccer

View full article
(PDF – 166KB)


Ashworth, J. & Heyndels, B. (2007) Selection Bias and Peer Effects in Team Sports. The Effect of Age Grouping on Earnings of German Soccer players. Journal of Sports Economics, 8 (4), 355-377.

Besson, R., Poli, R. & Ravenel, L. (2013) Demographic study 2013. Retrieved November 20, 2013, from http://www.

Bloom, B.S. (1985) Developing talent in young people. New York:Ballentine books.

Brewer, J., Balsom, P. & Davis, J. (1995) Seasonal birth distribution amongst European soccer players. Sports Exercise and Injury, 1, 154-157.

Carling, C., le Gall, F., Reilly, T. & Williams, A.M. (2009) Do anthropometric and fitness characteristics vary according to birth date distribution in elite youth academy soccer players? Scandinavian Journal of Sports Medicine, 19, 3-9.

Christensen, M. K., Laursen, D. N. & Sørensen, J. K. (2011) Situated learning in youth elite football: a Danish case study among talented male under- 18 football players. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 16, 2, 163-178.

Cobley, S. P., Schorer, J. & Baker, J. (2008) Relative age effects in professional German Soccer: A historical analysis. Journal of Sports Sciences, 26 (14), 1531-1538.

Cote, J. & Fraser-Thomas, J. (2008) Play, practice and athlete development. In Farrow, D., Baker, J., & MacMahon, C.I (Eds). Developing sport expertise. London: Routledge.

Diaz Del Campo, D.G., Vicedo, J.C.P, Villora, S.G. & Jordan, O.R.C. (2010) The relative age effect in youth soccer players from Spain. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 9, 190-198.

Dudink, A. (1994) Birth date and sporting success, Nature, 368, 592

Gagné, F. (2000) Understanding the complex choreography of talent development through DMGT-based analysis, in: K. A. Heller, F. J. Mönks, R. J. Sternberg, & R. Subotnik (Eds). International handbook for research on giftedness and talent (2nd) (Oxford, Pergamon Press), 67–79.

Glamser, F. D. & Vincent, J. (2004) The relative age effect among elite American youth soccer players. Journal of Sport Behaviour, 27, 31-38.

Gould, D., Udry, E., Tuffey, S. & Loehr, J. (1996) Burnout in Competitive Junior Tennis Players: 1. A Quantitative Psychological Assessment, The Sport Psychologist, 10, 322-340.

Haulan, C. & Sæther, S.A. (2011) Aldersbestemte fotballandslag i Norge. Dette kjennetegner de selekterte spillerne i 2009. Retrieved November 01, 2012, from

Harter, S. (1978) Effectance motivation reconsidered: Toward a development model. Human Development, 1, 34-64.

Helsen, W.F, Van Winckel, J.V. & Williams, M. (2005) The relative age effect in youth soccer across Europe. Journal of Sports Sciences, 23 (6), 629-636.

Jimenez, I. P. & Pain, M. T. G. (2008) Relative age effect in Spanish association football: Its extent and implications for wasted potential. Journal of Sports Sciences, 26 (10), 995-1003.

Musch, J. & Grondin, S. (2001) Unequal competition as an impediment to personal development: A review of the relative age effect in sport. Developmental Review, 21, 147-167.

Musch, J. & Hay, R. (1999) The relative age effect in soccer: Cross-cultural evidence for a systematic discrimination against children born late in the competition year. Sociology of Sports Journal, 16, 54-64.

Peterson, T. (2004) Selektions- och rangordningslogiker inom svensk ungdomsfotboll. Retrieved November 10, 2010, from

Poli, R., Besson, R. & Ravenel, L. (2013) The demographic polarization of European football. Retrieved March 25 2013, from -european-football

Roderick, M. (2006) The Work of Professional Football. A Labour of Love? London: Routledge.

Simmons, C. & Paull, G. (2001) Season-of-birth bias in association football. Journal of Sports Sciences, 19, 677-686.

Sæther, S. A. (2010) Retrieved June 15, 2011, from http://

Sæther, S. A. (2015) Selecting players for youth national teams - a question of birth month and reselection? Science & Sports (in press)

Vaeyens, R., Philippaerts, R. M. & Malina, R. M. (2005) The relative age effect in soccer: A match-related perspective. Journal of Sports Sciences, 23 (7), 747-756.

Vincent, J. & Glamser, F. D. (2006) Gender differences in the relative age effect among US Olympic Development Program youth soccer players. Journal of Sports Sciences, 24 (4), 405-413.

Wiium, N., Lie, S. A., Ommundsen, Y. & Enksen, H. R. (2010) Does Relative Age Effect Exist among Norwegian Professional Soccer players? International Journal of Applied Sports Sciences, 22, 2, 66-76.

Williams, A. M. & Reilly, T. (2000) Talent identification and development in soccer. Journal of Sports Sciences, 18, 657-667.

Williams, J. H. (2010) Relative age effect in youth soccer: analysis of the FIFA U17 World Cup competition. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 20, 502-508.

Wilson, G. (1999) The birthdate effect in school sports teams. European Journal of Physical Education, 4, 139-145.