Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
ISSN: 1303 - 2968   
Ios-APP Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
Androit-APP Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
©Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2023) 22, 700 - 706   DOI:

Research article
The Relative Age Effect in the Two Professional Men's Football Leagues in Spain
José M. Yagüe1, Alfonso Salguero1, , Antonio Villegas2, Joaquín Sánchez-Molina2, Olga Molinero1
Author Information
1 Faculty of Physical Activity and Sports Sciences, Institute of Biomedicine (IBIOMED), University of León - Universidad de León, León, Spain
2 Independent Researcher, Spain

Alfonso Salguero
✉ Faculty of Physical Activity and Sports Sciences, Office 125, 24071 León, Spain
Publish Date
Received: 27-09-2023
Accepted: 26-10-2023
Published (online): 01-12-2023

The age difference among individuals of the same group is known as Relative Age. Relative Age Effect refers to the consequences derived from it, such as delayed physical, cognitive and mental development of children born later in the year. The aim of this study was to observe the Relative Age Effect by analyzing players’ dates of birth throughout three seasons in the two professional football competitions in Spain based on the game positions and the teams' classification at the end of the season. The sample was made up of players (n=4097) from both professional competitions (nLaLiga Santander=1864), and (nLaLiga Smartbank=2233). The data were collected from two public-access football statistics websites. The cut-off date was established on January 1, the year was divided into four quartiles (Q1: January-March, Q2: April-June, Q3: July-September and Q4: October-December). Results confirmed significant differences on dates of births’ distribution (p<0.05) for the competitions — LaLiga Santander and LaLiga Smartbank — during three seasons, as well as for player position, with a larger effect observed for goalkeepers and defenders. Significant difference was also observed depending on classification. Results show a clear decreasing percentage of those born in quartile 4 in relation to those born in quartile 1, it can be concluded that the Relative Age Effect phenomenon is present in the Spanish professional football which may lead to an inappropriate talent selection technique in football, with recruitment oriented to the short term, to immediate results, and possibly caused by the early start of the player selection process.

Key words: Birth quartile, talent identification, development, Soccer

           Key Points
  • The relative age effect (RAE) was present in a significant way in (First Division) and (Second Division) of the and the , for the 2018-19, 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons.
  • According to player position (goalkeeper, defender, midfielder and forward), defenders and goalkeepers were those that show a greater RAE.
  • Based on the competitive ranking of each analysed leagues, there was RAE at all performance levels, that is to say the better performance, the greater concentration of players born in the first quartile.
  • It is recommended to review the processes of talents’ selection in football, proposing a long-term strategy that focuses on talent and long-term success rather than just immediate success.
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