Referees prefer football teams of their own culture - that is confirmed by a study made by the psychologists Claude Messner and Benjamin Schmid of Basel University, Switzerland. They have analyzed more than thousand matches of the highest Swisse football league and detected: A team wins - on the average - more often when the referee comes from the same Swisse district, as long as the opponent comes from another part of Switzerland where one speaks another language.
For this reason, Switzerland was the ideal test country as it contains several cantons which have different languages as official mother tongues, i.e. Italian, German and French.
According to the psychologists, as soon as there is a 50-50-decision, the referees tend to prefer the team which shares his own culture. The statistics are obvious: when the referee's culture was shared ONLY by the home-team, this home-team got on the average 1,86 points. As soon as the referee's, the home-team's and away-team's cultures were however identic, the home-team only got 1,58 points on the average.
The scientists emphasized that referees are in general not aware of this cultural preference, it happens involuntarily or unconsciously.
taken from: 'Berliner Zeitung: "Schiedsrichter sind wirklich parteiisch", 18.09.2007'
To my mind, this study seems to be quite interesting. It directly leads me to the question of inhowfar the continental neutrality (based on confederation borderlines) which is used in FIFA competitions is still sensible. I had several discussions with Carlos about this topic, I will never understand why e.g. Cuneyt Cakir is able/allowed to referee a match with Egyptian involvement (u20 WC, BRA-EGY) but at the same time he may not handle matches with e.g. Icelandic involvement.
In addition to this, the continental neutrality probably inhibits the perfomance-principle. Not the best referees are consequently chosen for the matches, their appointments depend on the confederations of the respective team which is in the match. Remember Lubos Michel in GER-ARG in 2006, he was great..
Actually, one does not need such rules because every referee is neutral...but if we need it, I would argue the case for a cultural neutrality. I know that it is difficult to evaluate when the referee's culture could be similar to the teams' ones..