Empirical applications of the Tullock contest model are rare, due in part to the non-observability of effort. This paper presents an application of the standard Tullock model in a setting where effort can be observed and explained. A simple contest model is used to predict levels of effort in English soccer, with data on fouls and yellow and red cards used to reflect the effort of teams. Effort levels are found to be higher in matches between evenly balanced teams, and in matches with implications for end-of-season outcomes. The results suggest that the teams’ effort levels are strategic complements.