Determinants of Football Fans’ Happiness: Evidence from Facial Emotion Recognition

  • Iuliia Naidenova
  • Petr Parshakov
  • Sofiia PaklinaEmail author
Research Paper


We analyse the determinants of football fans’ happiness in the Russian Premier League using facial emotion recognition. We propose a new way of measuring subjective well-being and provide its empirical validation using sports data. Our sample consists of about 10,000 photos from football matches uploaded on the most popular social network in Russia during the seasons 2014/15–2017/18. The dataset of photos is analysed with the Emotion Recognition software, which takes a facial expression in an image as an input and returns the confidence across a set of emotions for each face in the image. Next we use multinomial logistic regression to identify the determinants of happiness. The results show that uncertainty and expectations are important drivers of football fans’ happiness. A win decreases the probability of being unhappy, and the effect becomes stronger for late rounds of a national championship. The change in happiness because of a home team win is stronger for males.


Happiness measurement Emotion recognition Football Uncertainty of outcome 



This paper is an output of a research project implemented as part of the Basic Research Program at the National Research University Higher School of Economics (NRU HSE).


  1. Alexandrova, A. (2005). Subjective well-being and Kahneman’s ‘objective happiness’. Journal of Happiness Studies, 6(3), 301–324.Google Scholar
  2. Boychuk, V., Sukharev, K., Voloshin, D., & Karbovskii, V. (2016). An exploratory sentiment and facial expressions analysis of data from photo-sharing on social media: The case of football violence. Procedia Computer Science, 80, 398–406. Scholar
  3. Buraimo, B., & Simmons, R. (2009). A tale of two audiences: Spectators, television viewers and outcome uncertainty in Spanish football. Journal of Economics and Business, 61(4), 326–338. Scholar
  4. Card, D., & Dahl, G. B. (2011). Family violence and football: The effect of unexpected emotional cues on violent behavior. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 126(1), 103–143.Google Scholar
  5. Castellanos, P., García, J., & Sánchez, J. M. (2011). The willingness to pay to keep a football club in a city: How important are the methodological issues? Journal of Sports Economics, 12(4), 464–486. Scholar
  6. Clark, A. E., Frijters, P., & Shields, M. A. (2008). Relative income, happiness, and utility: An explanation for the Easterlin paradox and other puzzles. Journal of Economic Literature, 46(1), 95–144.Google Scholar
  7. Coates, D., & Humphreys, B. R. (2008). Do economists reach a conclusion on sub- sidies for sports franchises, stadiums, and mega-events? Econ Journal Watch, 5(3), 22.Google Scholar
  8. Coates, D., Humphreys, B. R., & Zhou, L. (2014). Reference-dependent preferences, loss aversion, and live game attendance. Economic Inquiry, 52(3), 959–973. Scholar
  9. Coates, D., Naidenova, I., & Parshakov, P. (2017). Determinants of Russian football club brands. International Journal of Sport Finance, 12(4), 321–341.Google Scholar
  10. Cox, A. (2012). Live broadcasting, gate revenue, and football club performance: Some evidence. International Journal of the Economics of Business, 19(1), 75–98. Scholar
  11. Croson, R., & Gneezy, U. (2009). Gender differences in preferences. Journal of Economic Literature, 47(2), 448–474.Google Scholar
  12. Crossley, A., & Langdridge, D. (2005). Perceived sources of happiness: A network analysis. Journal of Happiness Studies, 6(2), 107–135. Scholar
  13. Diener, E. (2000). Subjective well-being: The science of happiness and a proposal for a national index. American Psychologist, 55(1), 34–43.Google Scholar
  14. Diener, E., Oishi, S., & Lucas, R. E. (2003). Personality, culture, and subjective well-being: Emotional and cognitive evaluations of life. Annual Review of Psychology, 54(1), 403–425.Google Scholar
  15. Dolan, P., Peasgood, T., & White, M. (2008). Do we really know what makes us happy? A review of the economic literature on the factors associated with subjective well-being. Journal of Economic Psychology, 29(1), 94–122. Scholar
  16. Durán, J., Reisenzein, R., & Fernández-Dols, J.-M. (2017). Coherence between emotions and facial expressions. In J. M. Fernández Dols & J. A. Russell (Eds.), The Science of facial expression (pp. 107–132). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Ekman, P. (2007). Emotions revealed: Recognizing faces and feelings to improve communication and emotional life. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  18. Ekman, P., & Friesen, W. V. (1976). Measuring facial movement. Environmental Psychology and Nonverbal Behavior, 1(1), 56–75.Google Scholar
  19. Ekman, P., & Friesen, W. V. (1978). Investigator’s guide to facial action coding system: Part II. California: Consulting Psychologists Press.Google Scholar
  20. Elfering, A., & Grebner, S. (2010). A smile is just a smile: But only for men. Sex differences in meaning of faces scales. Journal of Happiness Studies, 11(2), 179–191.Google Scholar
  21. Eriksson, K., & Simpson, B. (2010). Emotional reactions to losing explain gender differences in entering a risky lottery. Judgment and Decision Making, 5(3), 159–163.Google Scholar
  22. Feddersen, A., & Rott, A. (2011). Determinants of demand for televised live football: Features of the German national football team. Journal of Sports Economics, 12(3), 352–369. Scholar
  23. Foroughi, B., Nikbin, D., Hyun, S. S., & Iranmanesh, M. (2016). Impact of core product quality on sport fans’ emotions and behavioral intentions. International Journal of Sports Marketing and Sponsorship, 17(2), 110–129. Scholar
  24. Forrest, D., & Simmons, R. (2002). Outcome uncertainty and attendance demand in sport: The case of english soccer. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series D (The Statistician), 51(2), 229–241.Google Scholar
  25. Frey, B. S., Luechinger, S., & Stutzer, A. (2009). The life satisfaction approach to valuing public goods: The case of terrorism. Public Choice, 138(3/4), 317–345.Google Scholar
  26. Gasparetto, T., & Barajas, Á. (2017). Fan preferences: One country, two markets and different behaviours. European Sport Management Quarterly, 18(3), 330–347. Scholar
  27. Hills, P., & Argyle, M. (1998). Positive moods derived from leisure and their relationship to happiness and personality. Personality and Individual Differences, 25(3), 523–535.Google Scholar
  28. Hopfensitz, A., & Mantilla, C. (2018). Emotional expressions by sports teams: An analysis of world cup soccer player portraits. Journal of Economic Psychology. Scholar
  29. Jones, M. V., Coffee, P., Sheffield, D., Yangüez, M., & Barker, J. B. (2012). Just a game? Changes in English and Spanish soccer fans’ emotions in the 2010 World Cup. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 13(2), 162–169. Scholar
  30. Kahneman, D. (2000). Experienced utility and objective happiness: A moment-based approach. In D. Kahneman & A. Tversky (Eds.), Choices, values and frames (pp. 673–692). New York: Cambridge University Press and the Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  31. Kahneman, D., & Sugden, R. (2005). Experienced utility as a standard of policy evaluation. Environmental & Resource Economics, 32(1), 161–181. Scholar
  32. Kerr, J. H., Wilson, G. V., Nakamura, I., & Sudo, Y. (2005). Emotional dynamics of soccer fans at winning and losing games. Personality and Individual Differences, 38(8), 1855–1866. Scholar
  33. Lazear, E., & Rosen, S. (1981). Rank-order tournaments as optimum labor contracts. Journal of Political Economy, 89(5), 841–864.Google Scholar
  34. McNamee, M. (2003). Schadenfreude in sport: Envy, justice, and self-esteem. Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, 30(1), 1–16. Scholar
  35. Nalbantis, G., Pawlowski, T., & Coates, D. (2017). The fans’ perception of competitive balance and its impact on willingness-to-pay for a single game. Journal of Sports Economics, 18(5), 479–505. Scholar
  36. Parshakov, P., & Baidina, K. (2017). Brands or uncertainty? An empirical test of the uncertainty of outcome hypothesis in Russian football.Google Scholar
  37. Pawlowski, T., Nalbantis, G., & Coates, D. (2018). Perceived game uncertainty, suspense and the demand for sport. Economic Inquiry, 56(1), 173–192. Scholar
  38. Rees, D. I., & Schnepel, K. T. (2009). College football games and crime. Journal of Sports Economics, 10(1), 68–87. Scholar
  39. Rosen, S. (1986). Prizes and incentives in elimination tournaments. The American Economic Review, 76, 701–715.Google Scholar
  40. Rottenberg, S. (1956). The baseball players’ labor market. The Journal of Political Economy, 64, 242–258.Google Scholar
  41. Ruiz-Belda, M.-A., Fernández-Dols, J.-M., Carrera, P., & Barchard, K. (2003). Spontaneous facial expressions of happy bowlers and soccer fans. Cognition and Emotion, 17(2), 315–326. Scholar
  42. Smith, R. H., & Van Dijk, W. W. (2018). Schadenfreude and gluckschmerz. Emotion Review, 10(4), 293–304.Google Scholar
  43. Sung, H., Mills, B. M., & Tainsky, S. (2017). From schadenfreude to mitfreude? Estimating viewership loss and rivalrous relationships in otherwise neutral markets. Sport Management Review, 20(2), 159–169. Scholar
  44. Tainsky, S. (2010). Television broadcast demand for national football league contests. Journal of Sports Economics, 11(6), 629–640. Scholar
  45. Tainsky, S., & McEvoy, C. D. (2012). Television broadcast demand in markets without local teams. Journal of Sports Economics, 13(3), 250–265. Scholar
  46. Tainsky, S., & Winfree, J. A. (2010). Discrimination and demand: The effect of international players on attendance in Major League Baseball. Social Science Quarterly, 91(1), 117–128.Google Scholar
  47. Vallerand, R. J., Ntoumanis, N., Philippe, F. L., Lavigne, G. L., Carbonneau, N., Bonneville, A., et al. (2008). On passion and sports fans: A look at football. Journal of Sports Sciences, 26(12), 1279–1293. Scholar
  48. Wang, M., & Wong, M. S. (2014). Happiness and leisure across countries: Evidence from international survey data. Journal of Happiness Studies, 15(1), 85–118.Google Scholar
  49. Zhou, D., & Peng, L. (2018). The relationship between the gender gap in subjective well-being and leisure activities in China. Journal of Happiness Studies, 19(7), 2139–2166.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Iuliia Naidenova
    • 1
  • Petr Parshakov
    • 1
  • Sofiia Paklina
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.International Laboratory of Intangible Driven EconomyNational Research University Higher School of EconomicsPermRussia

Personalised recommendations