Community Sport Officiating

Community Sport Officiating      
Prepared by  Prepared by: Dr Ralph Richards, Senior Research Consultant, Clearinghouse for Sport, Sport Australia (formerly Australian Sports Commission)
evaluated by  Evaluation by:  Dr Ian Cunningham (PhD), Charles Sturt University (March 2017), and Dr Peter Simmons, Associate Professor, School of Communication and Creative Industries, Charles Sturt University
Reviewed by  Reviewed by network: Australian Sport Information Network (AUSPIN)
Last updated  Last updated: 7 January 2019
Please refer to the Clearinghouse for Sport disclaimer page for
more information concerning this content.

Community Sport Coaching
Sport Australia


The effective delivery of community sport programs relies upon the recruitment, organisation, and ongoing development of three types of support personnel: technical officials, administrators, and coaches.  Technical officials (umpires, referees, judges, etc.) provide necessary guidance and support, so that players (i.e. active participants) and spectators can benefit from their sporting experience.

In all sports the role of an official will involve specific mental demands such as observation, interpretation of events, and decision making. Often a complex process of interpretation of rules and making the correct decision must be executed immediately. In most circumstances community sport officials must make their decisions without the use of video and other technologies to capture and evaluate events. Making correct judgements is part of the officiating process. Because in some sports an official must move with the players to correctly position him/herself to make judgements, there are also physical demands upon many officials, not unlike the demands on competitors.

A large body of research is available about the field of officiating, as well as the characteristics of officials. Some of this research is captured in the research and reading sections of this portfolio.

Key Messages 


Officials have a key role in the management, delivery and effectiveness of sports programs.


Education, training, recognition and ongoing professional development of sports officials has been shown to improve their effectiveness.

The sport sector workforce consists of both paid and volunteer workers. A large volunteer contingent is primarily engaged in coaching, officiating and the administration of grassroots sport and recreation programs. Volunteers represent a significant capability within the sports sector workforce; the largest subgroups identified by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) are coaches (i.e. this category also includes sports instructors), committee members and club workers, and officials (i.e. referees, umpires, or similar). Within the sport sector workforce, approximately 41 per cent of these persons had completed some type of course, training, or qualification relevant to their role.

Who is the typical sports official?

According to ABS statistics, about 1.6 million Australians aged 15 years and over were involved in one or more non-playing roles in sport. This number includes the three largest categories within the workforce – coaches, administrators, and technical officials. ABS surveys estimate that 381,000 persons contributed to sport as an official; approximately 61 per cent of these officials were males and 39 per cent females.

In the 15-24 year age group there were more female officials than males, but thereafter the number of males outnumbers females in each successive age group (i.e. 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, and 55+). The majority (78.5 per cent) of all officials were unpaid volunteers who worked part-time, although 60 per cent received some in-kind compensation for their time and efforts.

About half of those people involved as a referee or umpire were engaged in that role for 13 weeks or less during the year; a quarter were involved for 14 to 26 weeks and a quarter for 27 weeks or more. These figures may be a reflection of the seasonal nature of most team sports. Slightly more than half (51.9 per cent) of all volunteer officials serve for five years or less in their role.

Only about 11 per cent of officials identified themselves as being born in a non-English speaking country; although a more complete breakdown of data for culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) populations was not reported.

Successive ABS surveys between 1993 and 2004 showed a decline of 21.2 per cent in the number of sports officials. These numbers further declined from 2004 to 2010, although the percentage decrease (6.6 per cent) was much less. Similar trends have been seen in statistics from the United States and Canada. The rate of involvement (i.e. number of participatory events and length of service during the year) has also declined over time.  This may reflect an increasingly ‘time poor’ society, particularly among parents who contribute to their children’s sporting involvement by becoming a volunteer official. Other possible reasons for this decline include the lack of: (1) suitable social experiences for officials; (2) training opportunities and resources, and; (3) opportunities for advancement. Many potential officials may perceive that the effort required in becomming a sports official, and continuing along a pathway of advancement, is just too great.

What do the statistics mean for community sport?

The participation trends suggest that sporting organisations need to be vigilant regarding the retention of a viable and motivated workforce of officials (mostly volunteers). The declining volunteer workforce is a major concern for community sport, since the sustainability of programs relies upon a significant proportion of volunteer workers.  Therefore, policies and program strategies must address this issue.  A high percentage of sports volunteers receive training, this means that training programs must be sustained to meet the demand created by a large annual turnover of officials. Effective officiating relies upon knowledge, skills and experience; so training requirements cannot be overlooked and training programs must be relevant. Because most volunteer officials depart within five years, the constant turnover places a great demand upon recruitment as well as training.

Greater recruitment of persons from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CaLD) backgrounds may help to ease the shortage of volunteers and in particular, volunteers who engage in officiating; although statistical information is not sufficiently detailed to confirm this.  Better data gathering will help with future planning. Recruitment of more women into officiating is also desirable as a means of achieving gender balance within the ranks of officiating.  In addition, the retention rate of women in officiating is a concern, as reflected by the declining rate of participation by women in older age groups. 

More information can be found in the Clearinghouse for Sport portfolio, Volunteers in Sport

Officiating in Australia and elsewhere tends to have a high rate of turnover, particularly at the grassroots level of sports. Several factors are believed to combine to cause the high turnover rate, including: (1) stage of life - younger people tend to leave officiating within the first five years of participation, (2) compatibility with other activities and commitment - sometimes too much is expected from too few, and (3) reaction to stressors in officiating.

Sporting organisations play a crucial role in supporting officials through their commitment, encouragement, and policies.   

The sport policy of Governments and the program strategies undertaken by National Sporting Organisations (NSOs) are primarily focused on increasing participant numbers and participation rates in sport; more attention is needed in the area of recruiting and retaining volunteers, particularly technical officials.

Australian Sport: the pathway to success (PDF  - 747 KB), Australian Government (2010). This policy document outlines the reform agenda for Australian sport; including a focus on grassroots sport with these stated objectives.

  • Requiring NSOs to have an increased focus on participation outcomes as part of their funding agreements with the Australian Sports Commission and boosting funding opportunities for NSOs to grow grassroots participation through direct grants to community clubs.
  • Introducing new funding and measures to address the particular issues affecting women’s participation, advancement and leadership in sport.
  • Providing additional coaching and officiating training opportunities for up to 45,000 community coaches and officials and subsidised costs associated with training for 5,000 new community coaches and officials.

This places stress on the capacity of NSOs, as well as the entire sport system, to identify, recruit, train and retain qualified officials to meet expected demand. Future demand can be accommodated by: (1) recruiting greater numbers of officials (with the implied training requirements to service these numbers); (2) increasing the productivity of officials by managing their workload – this may involve creating professional pathways for officials; and (3) increasing the retention of officials to reduce attrition and the need for entry level training. Usually, sporting organisations use a combination of all three strategies. In addition, the role of some officials may be changing due to the use of technology in some sports; for example, the need for timekeepers in the sport of swimming has been reduced by the use of automatic timing systems.

Motivation for officiating

The motivations that drive sports participation as a volunteer official are similar to those that attract individuals to club administration and coaching.  Many persons become officials so they can remain involved in a sport, establish friendships, build the capacity of the organisation, and support the sporting experience of others (i.e. many parents volunteer to support their child’s involvement). In addition, many club-level sports in Australia have instituted programs that introduce club members to officiating on a rotational basis as a way of satisfying officiating requirements within the club.  Senior competitors or parents of competitors may have a club obligation to officiate at intra or inter-club competitions once a month/season/year, for example.

There is very little research on specific motivations to become a volunteer official in community sport, aside from the more general research and information describing volunteering and sports volunteers in particular. 

  • National Standards for involving volunteers in not-for-profit organisations (PDF  - 243 KB), Volunteering Australia (2001). This publication provides a model of best practice in the management of volunteers. The National Standards provide a set of three resources; National Standards, an Implementation Guide, and a Workbook; organisations can use these resources to establish a framework for managing volunteers.
  • Volunteers in Sport, Australia, 2010, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Catalogue Number 4440.0.55.001. Data from the 2010 General Social Survey of the Australian population provides information about various aspects of volunteering and how these may relate to each other. This report provides a detailed analysis of the characteristics of volunteers in sport and physical recreation.
  • Volunteer roles, involvement and commitment in voluntary sport organizations: evidence of core and peripheral volunteers, Ringuet-Riot C, Cuskelly G, Auld C, Zakus D, Sport in Society, Volume 17, Issue 1 (2014). The nature and scope of volunteer involvement in sport is well established; however, research indicates that involvement in community sport volunteering is under threat. Trends indicate that volunteer hours per individual are decreasing and this can have significant implications for the successful operation of voluntary sport organisations and the subsequent benefits for participants and the communities in which they operate. This paper extends knowledge of the nature of volunteer engagement in sport by exploring the categorisation of sport volunteers as ‘core’ or ‘peripheral’ based on self-reported levels of involvement and commitment.

More generally there is evidence that the way volunteers, and volunteer officials, are supported and encouraged by an organisation will have a great influence on their level of satisfaction, continued participation, performance, and retention.  A number of general principles apply to volunteer as well as professional (i.e. those performing tasks as a vocation) officials, and a plethora of research from the business sector can be applied.

  • A meta-analysis of the relationship between perceived organizational support and job outcomes: 20 years of research, Rigglea R, Edmondsonb D and Hansenc J, Journal of Business Research, Volume 62, Issue 10 (2009). The authors conducted a meta-analysis of research studies examining the effects of perceived organisational support on four employee outcomes: (1) commitment to the organisation, (2) job satisfaction, (3) employee performance, and (4) intention to leave. Findings from this analysis indicate that perceived organisational support has a strong and positive effect on job satisfaction and commitment; a moderate positive effect on employee performance; and a strong, negative effect on intention to leave. The findings also indicate that the effects of perceived organisational support are more pronounced for non-frontline employees.
  • Sport officials' longevity: Motivation and passion for the sport (PDF  - 32 KB), Bernal J, Nix C and Boatwright D, International Journal of Sport Management, Recreation & Tourism, Volume 10, pp28-39 (2012). This review examines sport officials’ motivation and passion to become and then remain a referee. This review examined the research evidence that explains why officials continue to work in their sport and the authors tried to determine what motivations were significant factors in their continued service. The findings were clear that officials initiate their involvement because of their ‘love of the game’. Once they became involved, they continued to officiate because of their feelings of commitment to the sport and because of the relationships they developed with other officials and other members of the sporting community. The authors suggest that mentoring programs for new officials may help to develop their feelings of commitment and relatedness.
  • Umpiring: A serious leisure choice (abstract), Phillips P and Fairley S, Journal of Leisure Research, Volume 46, Number 2 (2014). Umpire or referee recruitment and retention is a major issue for many sports. This research used interview techniques to explore the motivations among umpires in Australian Rules Football. There were four key findings from this research: (1) individuals actively chose to umpire, as opposed to other leisure sporting pursuits; (2) individuals derive meaning from their engagement in umpiring; (3) umpires experience feelings of isolation, and; (4) socialisation within an umpire group is important for group cohesion and reinforces continued participation. This research also outlines strategies for recruitment and retention of umpires.

The application of more general research to a sport setting must be taken with care, but the similarities are obvious.  Organisations that have policies and procedures in place which support workers (voluntary or paid) through: recognition, training, mentoring, realistic balance of autonomy and authority, regular evaluation and encouragement; are likely to retain and build a skilled and committed workforce.  These general principles are well documented and can be applied in the sport sector.

Retention of officials

Sports officials (particularly volunteers) leave their positions for many and various reasons. Research drawn from interviews with former officials indicates that some common reasons influence one’s decision to leave:

  • Obligations to their full-time career or job take priority over officiating.
  • Poor support mechanisms in place by clubs and sporting associations (i.e. lack of ongoing training, support, recognition).
  • Too much time away from family, friends and social activities.
  • Low pay or insufficient reimbursement for personal expenses.
  • Fear of liability and other legal issues.
  • Lack of opportunities to advance as an official.
  • Mental and physical stress (i.e. injury or too high a workload) that may lead to burnout.
  • Poor sportsmanship exhibited by players (i.e. verbal abuse, etc.).
  • Pressure to perform at a high level of proficiency.

Because sport officials play such a vital role in sustaining competitive sport, they should be viewed in the same way as coaches within the sport system. Officials are not simply service providers, they are an integral part of the sport system and their participation and development concerns are real and must be addressed.

  • Retaining Sport Officials (blog), Sport Information & Research Centre (SIRC), Canada, posted online (23 November 2016). This blog discusses some of the reasons why persons get into officiating, decide to stay or leave, and what sporting organisations can do to support their officials.

In 2009 the sport of Rugby Union in Australia faced an annual turnover of 30% of its young officials (i.e. those with less than 5 years’ experience). In an effort to better understand the rationale of officials to stay or leave, a study that included 142 early career referees (ECRs) with a mean age of 30 years was undertaken. The study used various intervention programs that were designed to increase the actual and perceived levels of organisational support toward referees. Participants in this study were divided into two groups – those who received planned support programs and those who did not. Although factors that influence intention to continue refereeing appear to be a complex mix of socio-economic and cognitive processes, a number of key points were drawn from this study:

  1. Most individuals become involved as an official primarily for social reasons.
  2. Persons with a previous rugby connection (i.e. through school, family or friends) are more likely to be attracted to refereeing and remain in the sport.
  3. The majority of ECRs work at junior club level.
  4. The Australian Rugby Union is generally doing an excellent job in assuring the safety of ECRs in a refereeing environment.
  5. Commitment factors remained relatively stable throughout the season, but official’s stress levels went up and down.
  6. Organisational support strategies are effective in minimising the negative impact of stressors in officiating.
  7. The non-treatment group identified much greater concerns about time pressure and game day performance.
  • Creating communities that lead to retention: The social worlds and communities of umpires, Killett P and Warner S, European Sport Management Quarterly, Volume 11, Issue 5 (2011). The research literature suggests that creating communities is vital to umpire retention. The aim of this research was to identify the factors that lead to, or detract from, a sense of community for umpires. Twenty-two Australian Rules football umpires were interviewed using a semi-structured approach. The results of this study suggest that several conditions impact upon the development of a sense of community for umpires: (1) a presence or lack of administrative consideration; (2) inequity related to the allocation of resources; (3) competition, and; (4) common interest (specifically interactions within the football community and within social spaces).  The perceived outcome of these factors served to either enhance or detract from a sense of community. Implications for umpire education, accreditation, and management that are aimed at retaining umpires are discussed.
  • ‘Retaining early career referees in Australian rugby: A research project in partnership with the Australian Rugby Union’, Cuskelly G, Smith C and Hoye R, Australian Rugby Union (2009). [The National Sport Information Centre / Clearinghouse for Sport holds this report.]

Clubs and sporting organisations can implement programs that appear to have a positive impact on the retention of officials.

First, there is the recognition that officials generally come from the sporting community itself, and enter officiating as one of several ways (e.g. officiating, coaching, administrative positions) of staying socially connected with the sport and their friends. Encouraging social networks will reinforce the official’s value to the sporting environment and culture.

Second, the ‘stress factors’ that an official experience during a season can be significant – programs that help to reduce stress will support officials, such as: (1) clear policies on athlete and fan behaviour; (2) ongoing communication with other segments of the sporting environment (e.g. mentors, ‘chief official’ or manager, official’s association, etc.) and; (3) support for personal improvement and development (i.e.debriefings, education and professional development opportunities, new experiences).

The barriers to participation as a sports official are more specifically researched. There is evidence that certain factors influence officials to leave. Common themes emerge in the literature, which include:

  • stress: there is an element of physical stress on officials in many sports, but there is a significant element of psychological stress due to the nature of an official’s decision making role;
  • burnout: overwork or sameness in the workload over time can lead to burnout (i.e. a loosely defined state of occupational fatigue) and possible physical injury;
  • cost: in terms of both time and remuneration;
  • lack of training and advancement: competency is a strong motivating factor and if officials perceive that they are not progressing, this can deter participation;
  • lack of recognition: either perceived or real, lack of recognition in many forms (awards, mentoring, affiliation with peers) can deter participation;
  • age: discrimination based upon age may be a factor (more data needs to be accumulated to substantiate this);
  • gender: in particular, there are too few opportunities for women.

A team of researchers at Griffith University looked at the state of officiating in Australian sport, specifically with intent to identify sports structures that may present barriers.

Problems and issues in the recruitment and retention of sports officials (PDF  - 517 KB), Cuskelly G, Hoye R and Evans G, report prepared for the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) (2004).  This research used focus group interviews across five sports: Australian Rules football, basketball, gymnastics, netball and rugby league. These sports were selected by the ASC to be broadly representative of officiating domains (e.g., court and field sports; male and female dominated sports; game management and judging/scoring sports).  Subjects were drawn from both inner and outer metropolitan areas and regional centres. A total of 142 practicing and recently exited sports officials participated. Conclusions drawn from interviews highlighted a number of problems within existing sports structures that act as barriers to officiating.  The issues of greatest concern were:

  • Incomplete data on officials makes it difficult for NSOs and State Sporting Organisations (SSOs) to understand the exact nature and extent of problems associated with retention.
  • NSOs and SSOs have little influence in the recruitment of sports officials at grass roots levels (i.e. this is usually the domain of the clubs).
  • The resources allocated by NSOs and SSOs to sports officiating are disproportionately low in comparison to coaching and player development.
  • Compared to metropolitan officials, rural and regional officials incur significantly higher time and monetary costs in officiating.
  • There is poor integration of sports officials within the operation of sports governing organisations.
  • There are significant shortcomings in the training provided for sports officials to deal with abuse and conflict situations.
  • The feedback provided to practicing officials at the grass roots level is generally inadequate.
  • There is an underlying assumption (by NSOs and SSOs) that sports officials are seeking career advancement.
  • The skills and abilities of officiating coordinators is a key determinant in the recruitment, development and retention of sports officials.

There are obvious difficulties in ‘selling a positive image’ of sports officiating, even though the majority of recruitment takes place from within a sport. The media tends to portray sports officiating negatively, focussing on errors made rather than highlighting the essential role played by officials at all levels of sport.

  • Sports officials’ intention to continue, Cuskelly G and Hoye R, Sport Management Review, Volume 16, Number 4 (2013). The capacity of sport systems to provide sufficient numbers of appropriately accredited officials is being challenged by sport policies designed to increase participation numbers. This research asked two questions: (1) do stressors of officiating and commitment predict the intention of early career officials to continue officiating? and, (2) what is the efficacy of organisational support in increasing the intention of early career officials to continue officiating? The results of this research support previous research that stressors and commitment explain intention to continue. The literature review suggests that retention rates amongst sports officials might be improved through the provision of targeted organisational support for officials. Such support may help officials deal with the negative impacts and stress of officiating, while building a stronger sense of commitment to officiating.
  • Officiating Attrition: the experiences of former referees via a sport development lens (PDF  - 278 KB), Warner S, Tingle J and Kellett P, Journal of Sport Management, Volume 27, Issue 4 (2013). This research examines the experiences of former basketball referees so that sports administrators can better understand which strategies might encourage referees to remain active in the sport. Fifteen retired basketball referees were interviewed about their experiences. Various themes emerged that were related to the sport development stages of referee’s careers. During the early stages of the referee’s career they felt that social interaction (with peers and other sports officials), training, and mentoring opportunities were important to their retention. During the advancing stage of their careers they felt that a lack of career advancement and decisions and policies of the sporting organisation were factors that affected their attrition from the sport. Interestingly, off-court factors were reported as more influential in the referee’s decision to leave officiating.
  • Changing the call: rethinking attrition and retention in the ice hockey officiating ranks, Forbes S and Livingston L, Sport in Society, Volume 16, Issue 3 (2013). This study re-examined factors perceived to contribute to officiating attrition rates in Canadian ice hockey officials. Findings showed that new, inexperienced officials were more likely to leave due to stress and psychological factors (e.g., verbal abuse, threats), while more experienced officials identified career and family demands as the main reasons for leaving. Organisational factors were consistently found to contribute to the reasons given for leaving officiating, regardless of the length of time an official had been active. These organisational factors, in order of descending frequency, included: (1) opportunities for advancement; (2) appropriate compensation; (3) assistance to help officials best perform their duties; (4) consideration given to officials' best interests when making decisions that affect them, and; (5) recognition.

The verbal (and in a few cases physical) abuse encountered by officials is a contributing factor to psychological stress. The level and type of abuse directed at female officials in male dominated sports was perceived as being particularly offensive and stressful. There is also a degree of physical stress in being a referee or umpire in sports where sustained physical effort is required (i.e. football codes, basketball, etc.).  Physical stress was also associated with the risk of injury.  Stressful situations, when combined with overwork, produced burnout.  Both stress and burnout factors interact with age and become a limitation to long-term participation as an official in some sports.

  • Sources of stress among baseball and softball umpires, Rainey D, Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, Volume 7, Issue 1 (1995). This study examined sources of stress among baseball and softball umpires from a sample of 782 certified umpires. Research suggests there are common sources of stress among sport officials. Among the most common sources are: fear of failure, fear of physical harm, time pressure, and interpersonal conflict.  These four factors accounted for 44.4 per cent of the variance in stress levels among the sample.
  • Sources of stress, burnout and intention to terminate among rugby union referees, Rainey D and Hardy L, Journal of Sports Sciences, Volume 17 (1999). This study examined sources of stress, burnout, and intention to terminate among rugby union referees from Wales, Scotland and England. Referees believed that performance concerns, time pressure, and interpersonal conflict were only mildly related to their stress. They also believed that fear of physical harm was unrelated to their stress. A combination of age and burnout (i.e. too great a workload) most frequently predicted their intention to terminate refereeing.
  • Incidence, nature, and pattern of injuries to referees in a premier football (soccer) league: a prospective study, Kordi R, Chitsaz A, Rostami M, Mostafavi R, and Ghadimi M, Sports Health, A Multidisciplinary Approach, published online 20 March 2013. Understanding the incidence, nature, and pattern of injuries can provide important information for educational and preventative efforts. Among the 74 referees studied, 102 injuries were reported during the football season. The incidence rates of injuries among referees during training and matches were 4.6 and 19.6 injuries per 1000 hours, respectively. Muscular and tendon injuries were found to be the most common type of injury, and the most common site of injury was the lower leg followed by the hip and groin. The results of this study are consistent with similar prospective studies evaluating injuries to football referees.

Most sports have strict rules in place to protect an official from unwarranted abuse from players and spectators. Sports also incorporate (or should include) psychological training and coping skills into an official’s training and ongoing support. In many respects an umpire takes on the position with a realistic expectation and an understanding of the role, which includes an awareness of the stress an official may encounter.  Psychological stress upon officials can be managed if the sport recognises this as a potential problem.

  • Umpire participation: is abuse really the issue? Kellett P and Shilbury D, Sport Management Review, Volume 10, Issue 3 (2007). Umpires or referees are essential for the ongoing delivery of organised sport. It has been widely argued that abuse of umpires by players, coaches and spectators is ubiquitous and aversive; thereby exacerbating attrition. In this study, 22 umpires of professional and semi-professional Australian Rules football were interviewed to determine what they think of abusive behaviour, and what they find to be rewarding about umpiring. Findings showed that umpires routinely reframe abuse, considering it to be a normal part of their role. Abuse was not deemed to be a personal attack, and the evidence suggests that verbal abuse is not the greatest factor contributing to attrition. On the other hand, umpires enjoyed the social world they share with other umpires, and view these associations as a key reason for continuing to umpire. This study highlights the important role that specialised training and socialisation of umpires can have in helping them reframe abuse. This research also suggests that the social rewards of umpiring should be stressed, to shape our perspective of the role.
  • Sources of stress and coping strategies of US soccer officials, Voight P, Stress and Health, Volume 25, Issue 1 (2009). Stress from officiating has been found to have a great impact on official’s mental health, attentional focus, performance, satisfaction with their profession and dropout intentions. This research explored how sport officials cope or attempt to cope with different stressors. Questionaries were completed by 200 U.S. soccer officials to accumulate data about sources of stress and ways of coping. The most frequently cited sources of stress for officials included: (1) conflict between officiating and family demands; (2) making a controversial decision, and; (3) conflict between officiating and other work demands. The most recognised problem-focused, coping strategies that officials used were: (1) asking fellow officials how they deal with stress, and: (2) thinking through deliberate actions to manage stress. The results highlight the importance of officials learning, and then implementing, stress management strategies, such as time management, restructuring unproductive thoughts, physiological relaxation techniques, communication training, and mental skills techniques such as self-talk. 

There are few things more stressful than doing a job that one is not trained for. Entry level training for sports officials is necessary to impart the required standard of technical knowledge, including the rules and customs of their sport, but also to acquire the psychological and personal skills that will help an official interact more effectively with others.  Decision making ability, communication, and self-confidence are key skills that an official must develop. The National Officiating Accreditation Scheme (NOAS) was established by the Australian Sports Commission in 1994 to assist National Sporting Organisations (NSOs) in their development of skilled officials. While there was no formal levels structure for the NOAS, a general principles training program was available for use by NSOs as a stand-alone training program or elements of the training program can be adapted to specific NSO needs. In September 2017, after consultation with the sector and in recognition that since the establishment of the schemes adult learning theory and practice has shifted, new technologies are available, participant expectations of the sport experience have changed and parental involvement in sport is different, the ASC officially retired the NOAS and NCAS (coaching) programs.  Sport Australia (formerly ASC) will continue to develop content and programs that assist the sport sector, including the online Community Officiating General Principles as well as other generic officiating resources.

The National Officiating Scholarship (NOS) program approaches the development of officials in the same way that athlete development or coach development programs do. By strategically analysing the demands of officiating in any given sport; and then tailoring a program to develop the personal and professional competencies of officials enrolled in the program; the NOS has demonstrated great success.

  • Aussie sport officials program looking to go global, Australian Sports Commission (ASC) and Australian Institute of Sport (22 July 2015). The ASC’s National Officiating Scholarships program has been assisting sports in Australia for the last 13 years; the program will now be showcased internationally as a model for other sporting organisations to develop a comprehensive officiating pathway. NOS Manager, Ash Synnott, and National Rugby League Referee Development Manager, Steve Clark, discuss their upcoming trip to the United States and presentation to major sporting organisations on how the program has benefited Australian sporting officials, with the aim of attracting interest from US sports (text and video).

Building a Framework 

Moving forward on the legacy of past ASC programs and lessons learnt from the former NOAS and its companion, the NCAS, has led to the development of a Coaching and Officiating Framework Toolkit. The Framework can be used by National Sporting Organisations (NSOs) to address these questions:

  1. What information is available about participants in my sport, and what information do I need to acquire; how can I use this in planning?
  2. How can my sport develop a package of training options that is suitable for the needs of the sport and its prospective and current officials?
  3. How does my sport develop a strategy to deliver training for optimum impact?
  • Coach/Official Framework (PDF  - 333 KB), Australian Sports Commission (2015). This document provides a step-by-step outline that National Sporting Organisations (NSO) can follow to develop a framework for either coaches or officials.
  • Framework Toolkit: A guide for the development of coach and official frameworksAustralian Sports Commission (2017). This Framework Toolkit  and the related Training Program Toolkit have been designed to support national sporting organisations (NSOs) to develop their coaches and officials. These materials are not prescriptive but should be used as a guide to help develop training in your sport.
  • Training Program ToolkitAustralian Sports Commission (2017). Quality training programs are essential if NSOs want to recruit, train, support and retain their coach and official workforce. This toolkit has been designed to support NSOs developing coaching and officiating training programs. 


Improving sport officiating through communication: A cross-sport investigation (PDF  - 990 KB), Cunningham I, Simmons P, Mascarenhas D and Redhead S, research report prepared for the Australian Sports Commission (2017). This project explored what some call the ‘hidden curriculum’ in the education/training of sports officials – improving communication. It takes an in-depth look at player-official interactions, and develops a ‘toolbox’ of communication skills and techniques designed to enhance an officials ‘feel for the game’. Officiating researchers from academic institutions in Australia (Charles Sturt University and Flinders University) and the United Kingdom (Wrexham Glyndŵr University) conducted this research project from 2012 to 2016. Prior to this project there was limited understanding about what characterised ‘skilled’ officiating communication, how poor officiating communication influenced the game, and how better communication abilities were best cultivated in sport officials. The purpose of this research was twofold: (1) understand the attributes and skills involved in officiating communication and player management (across popular team sports), and (2) understand experiences and contributors to communication improvement in sport officials. Interviews and video observation of player-official interactions were used to collect data from rugby, soccer, Australian rules football, basketball, hockey and netball settings. Key findings from this study include:

  • The personal qualities of officials (i.e. attributes and natural traits) were fundamental to effective communication. However, it is difficult to influence these qualities through formal training/instruction. Negative personal traits were: domineering, dictatorial, over-controlling, disregarding players, being submissive or overly friendly, or frustrated and easily offended by players. Positive traits of good communicators were: being approachable, decisive, respectful, calm, confident/firm, cooperative, resilient, showing accountability, and willing to interact.
  • Body language and use of officiating tools (whistle, hand signals, flags) were used to ‘sell’ decisions to players. These behaviours were easier to train and evaluate in officials.
  • Two communication skill areas were seen to be important to officiating, but challenging to train and evaluate. The first skill area was monitoring players to make accurate interpretations about game responses and reactions (i.e. situation monitoring). The second area was adaptive, appropriate and contextualised interactions with players (i.e. skilled interaction).
  • Officials who were seen to be better skilled communicators are said to possess a natural, ‘X-factor’ attribute that is difficult to train in other officials.
  • Officials improve their communication through acquiring more game experiences in diverse situations (e.g. friendly matches, competitive, or tournament contests).
  • Professional leagues use role play/simulation strategies to improve officials’ communication selection and adaptability in interactive situations with players.
  • A variety of other necessary personal and officiating ‘experiences’ were recognised as contributing to communication improvement (e.g. game review, mentor support, informal peer exchanges, skills transferred from other occupations, being a former player, observing other officials, etc.).
  • Players often stereotype officials as weak, uncertain, oblivious, dictatorial, and consequently respond and interact with officials during the game in ways that reflect these stereotypes.
  • Players are strategic in their interactions with officials and use questioning, argument, criticism, intimidation, and praise to influence officials and their decisions.
  • Officials perceive their interactions with players in different ways – as questioning the officials’ competence; as an opportunity to influence a decision; as an opportunity to influence a player’s influence.

Most sports continue to focus officiating communication training on ‘one-way’ skills such as communicating decisions (i.e. whistle use and signaling) and impression management. Sports find interactive communication skills difficult to train in officials, but believe there is room to develop more targeted and refined communication performance skills. There is great value in teaching officials to observe and monitor players to form accurate appraisals about game situations. Officials can learn to better respond to players and game situations with a repertoire of adaptive and appropriate interaction approaches to deal with abuse and conflict situations.

This project also generated a number of recommendations and suggestions that can be used to help officials improve their communication skills. These strategies could be implemented.

  1. Early communication instruction for officials should focus on a ‘toolbox’ of rote techniques and skills for most predictable officiating tasks (e.g. self-presentation, delivering decisions, explaining decisions).
  2. Sports should train officials to better understand players’ nonverbal actions, intentions, and preferred communication styles.
  3. Officials should be given greater opportunity to self-evaluate their interactions with players and be guided to discuss the less visible or ‘unspoken’ aspects of interaction and game context.
  4. Programs for communication improvement should be geared to making officials’ aware of themselves – about their personal qualities and ability to manage communication to players.
  5. Personality profiling tools can help officials become better aware of their dominant behavioural (or thinking) styles and improve their ability to adjust their interaction style to players.
  6. Sports should integrate training and performance feedback about ‘planned’ and ‘reflexive/or adaptive’ interaction skills, within situations and game context.
  7. More advanced interaction skill learnings within officiating development pathways should consider conflict resolution styles, conversation management, perspective taking and active listening skills.
  8. Current reliance on ‘technique or skill learning’ approaches to officiating communication improvement can be strengthened through holistic and experiential approaches.


A large body of empirical evidence supports the effectiveness of mentoring programs that complement more formal training and/or accreditation programs. Within a sport, developing a support network around officials; similar to the support programs established for coaches; appears to help improve recruitment and retention rates as well as improve new officials' skills.

  • Making Mentors: A guide to establishing a successful mentoring program for coaches and officials, Layton R, Australian Sports Commission (2002, reprinted 2005). Case studies are given on mentoring programs for officials implemented by Gymnastics Australia and Netball Australia. Many benefits are identified in using a mentoring program.
  • Network intervention: Assessing the effects of formal mentoring on workplace networks (PDF  - 454 KB), Srivastava S, Social Forces, Volume 94, Number 1 (2015). Despite the perceived importance of networks for individual success, there is scant evidence on how organisational practices can help employees build interpersonal connections – an important factor in the retention of employees. This article examines the practice of formal mentoring that is widely thought to alter protégés’ networks in a manner that supports individual improvement. Formal mentoring is also believed to help women overcome deficiencies in network access and is therefore proposed as an important means of addressing gender inequality in the workplace.
  • ‘Give and take’, Mintz S, Referee, Issue 451 (May 2014). This article provides tips for sports officials on how to pass on and accept the wisdom of others. Topics discussed include the importance of credibility, techniques for sharing insights, and how to offer encouragement.
    ‘Mentor, don’t muddle with new officials’, Stern J, Referee, Issue 409 (November 2010). The article presents tips for sports officials on mentoring inexperienced umpires or referees to give them the skills they need to succeed. One-on-one interactions, through mentoring programs, can make giving and accepting advice more appealing to the rookie official.
  • 'Officiating recruitment effort produces results', Referee, Issue 395 (2009). This article reports on the recruitment of 61 college students for sports official training by the Capital Athletic, Centennial and Colonial States Athletic conferences and the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association. The joint program, Students of Today, Referees for Tomorrow (START) trains students to become officials for baseball, lacrosse, track and field and softball. A mentoring program features as part of the training.
  • ‘Value of a mentor, Schimf K, Referee, Issue 412 (February 2011). The author shares his experience as a basketball official and how he benefited from the guidance of a mentor. He relates that he began taking the advice of a colleague who he greatly respected, which helped him develop better communication skills and become a better referee. The author offers tips for finding a mentor which may include finding someone outside of officiating, discussing everything with the mentor, and also using more than one mentor.

More information can be found in the Clearinghouse for Sport portfolio, Sport Workforce Development.

There are several concerns related to the ethics and integrity of officials:

  1. compliance with child protection legislation and policies;
  2. behaviour standards;
  3. code of conduct and duty of care;
  4. match fixing and its associated criminal implications. 

Play by the Rules provides background information about how officials can help to create a safe, fair and inclusive sporting environment, particularly for children.  Officials have an important role in managing many of the risk factors associated with competitive sport; such as player safety (i.e. assessing ground conditions, equipment, enforcing blood and concussion rules and making an on-field assessment of injury).

Child protection policies within a sport, as well as State/Territory legislated requirements for working with children screening and police checks, must be applied to officiating as well as coaching.

More information can be found in the Clearinghouse for Sport portfolio, Child Protection in Sport

The Australian Sports Commission has published guidelines that outline accepted behaviour that is in keeping with the spirit of sports participation. The behaviour demonstrated by any one segment of the sports community will have an effect upon all others; officials are in a leadership position and must maintain the trust and confidence of others.

  • Junior Sport: Codes of Behaviour (PDF  - 267 KB), Australian Sports Commission (2006). This document provides Codes of Behaviour for eight stakeholder groups operating in a sports environment.  The Codes provide key principles on which officials (as one stakeholder) and others should base their behaviour. If adopted, the Codes will ensure that young people develop good sporting behaviours as part of their sporting experience, and this may encourage them to remain involved in sport throughout their lives. 

While match fixing does not appear to present a significant problem at the community sport level, it becomes a larger issue for elite competition and professional sports. Match fixing is the arranging in advance of the outcome of a match, or of events within that match, usually for the purpose of making money from betting.

  • Match Fixing (Wikipedia). An overview of match fixing its history and motivations, with particular reference to professional sport.

The Australian Government has established the National Integrity of Sport Unit to provide national oversight, monitoring and coordination of efforts to protect the integrity of sport in Australia from threats of doping, match-fixing and other forms of corruption. Officials, because they control certain elements of a sporting contest, are vulnerable to match fixing influences.

More information can be found in the Clearinghouse for Sport portfolio, Match-Fixing and Illegal Sports Betting

A number of legal issues confront sports officials, principally liability and duty of care. In most cases the rules and policies governing a sport protect the independence and integrity of officials in the performance of their normal duties. However, the incidence of litigation against sporting organisations, and the threat of litigation against officials, has become more common. The law affects all aspects of sport and circumstances in the field can have an impact upon officials. 

  • Do referees face liability for their decisions in sports contests? Yonkers J, Sports Litigation Alert, Volume 11, Issue 7 (2014). The doctrine of assumption of risk is a familiar one in the sports-torts arena. The general rule is that a participant assumes the normal, commonly appreciated risks associated with playing his or her particular sport. However, assumption of risk cannot be used to protect against reckless or intentional conduct or concealed risks. The assumption of risk doctrine can also protect referees in their decision making. This article reviews the case of a high school wrestler in the USA who was injured; bringing legal action against the match referee and the athletic association sanctioning the match. The court ruled that the referee’s refusal to stop a match did not otherwise create the risk, nor did the referee act in a reckless manner and therefore, he could not be held responsible for the injury.   
  • Sports official liability: Can I sue if the ref missed a call? (PDF  - 74 KB), Cadkin J, University of Denver Sports and Entertainment Law Journal, Fall Issue (2008). While tort liability for referee malpractice is firmly grounded in negligence theory, jurisdictions differ as to the appropriate standard of care placed on referees. As an example, in the United States the prevailing standard appears to be ordinary negligence. Contributory negligence, assumption of risk and lack of causation may all overturn a claim. Numerous State jurisdictions have granted sports officials qualified tort immunity to civil suit. When present, qualified immunity requires a showing beyond simple negligence before liability is found. Rather, qualified immunity requires a showing of either “recklessness” or “gross negligence” before the courts will recognise a claim for negligent officiating. Qualified immunity statutes generally refer to liability for physical harm sustained during athletic contests, as opposed to financial harm resulting from an improper call. 
  • Study on civil liability of referees in the sport competitions PDF  - 203 KB), Mohamadinejad A, Mirsafian H and Soltanhoseini M, Journal of Human Sport and Exercise, Volume 7, Number 1 (2012). This article looks at the duties of referees, their responsibilities and civil liabilities arising from breaching their duties.   

Sport Australia (formerly Australian Sports Commission)

Programs developed by Sport Australia (formerly Australian Sports Commission) have gained national acceptance and are delivered in an online format, or as training through State Departments of Sport and Recreation.  Each state/territory jurisdiction provides locally branded programs to help sporting organisations recruit, train, and recognise the contribution made by sports officials.

  • Introductory Officiating General Principles, Sport Australia (formerly Australian Sports Commission). This online course is designed to assist officials in learning the basic skills they will need to officiate effectively.
  • National Officiating Scholarship (NOS) program. The NOS builds a culture of high performance officiating and develops capacity within participating National Sporting Organisations (NSOs) by: (1) supporting officials engaged in high quality competitions by providing an experienced mentor; (2) providing professional development activities to broaden an official’s experience; (3) planning a long-term high performance officiating development pathway, and; (4) upgrading an official’s accreditation or other qualifications. Scholarship recipients undertake an individual development program that may include (but is not limited to) specialist topics such as psychology, media training, nutrition and recovery, decision making, and visual training. They are exposed to a number of learning experiences through their attendance at workshops, seminars and a variety of educational programs. Participating scholarship officials become engaged in the process of identifying and facilitating a professional development pathway.

Northern Territory

NTIS officiating development program. The NTIS Officiating Development Program is targeted at NT Peak Sporting Bodies that has an officiating accreditation framework and pathway. The objectives are to: improve the skills, knowledge and experience of accredited officials participating in the NT; and increase the number of higher qualified officials practicing in the NT Strengthen the capability and capacity of sport organisations to asses, coach, and educate other NT officials. 

NTIS high performance officiating program. The NTIS High Performance Officiating Program (HPOP) will provide opportunities and encourage officials from the NT to aspire and achieve high level national and international standards of officiating within their sport. By bringing officials and mentors together from the various NT sports it is anticipated they will encourage and engage with each other to stimulate development of themselves and NT officials in general. The HPOP would provide the opportunity to: increase the number and quality of Territorians officiating at the highest level through high quality professional development programs; and encourage and establish best practice official development systems within PSBs. 


Get Active Queensland Accreditation Program (GAQAP). This program offers a variety of different sports officiating, coaching, first aid, and general sports courses. State Sporting Organisations conduct the training and officiating courses address the rules, regulations, facility requirements, and specifications of the sport delivering the training. Course participants gain the theoretical knowledge to officiate their chosen sport and eventually become qualified.  Participants may need to be practically assessed by the State Sporting Organisation in their chosen sport.

South Australia

The Office of Recreation and Sport supports a State Coaching and Officiating Centre that provides various courses, seminars and workshops.

Western Australia

The Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries has developed a number of strategies and policies that support the role of sporting officials in WA. Since 1994 there has been an ‘Officiating Advisory Group’ that has liaised with State Sporting Associations and the State Department of Sport and Recreation to actively address issues related to the recruitment, education and training, retention, recognition and promotion of officiating. This is part of the Department's people development strategy.

The sport of Netball has distinctive rules that define the skills of the game and the limits within which they must be performed. The rules of Netball must be interpreted during game situations quickly and with accuracy to maintain the flow and integrity of the game and ensure safety and fairness for all competitors.

Umpiring is an integral component of Netball and essential to the success of the sport. As independent arbiters, umpires must apply the rules to the best of their ability without fear or favour, and make decisions in the interests of the game and its participants. Skilled umpiring enhances the standard of the game by complementing and encouraging skilled play, for the enjoyment of participants and spectators alike.

It is recognised that umpires, like players and coaches, are not perfect. Therefore, they must continually strive to improve and their performance should be the subject of regular analysis and constructive review.

Netball Australia (NA) recognises the significant contribution that proficient and intelligent umpiring makes to the sport. Therefore, the national governing body considers it essential that the neutrality of umpires at all levels is acknowledged and protected, and that umpires are given access to training and support so that they are encouraged to continue umpiring and strive for excellence.

To this end, Netball Australia undertakes to:

  • Support the role of umpires within all levels of netball.
  • Provide a supportive environment for umpires through strong leadership and management at the national level.
  • Implement education, training and mentoring programs for umpires at all levels through Netball Australia’s national umpiring pathway.
  • Promote opportunities for talented umpires to perform and attain qualifications commensurate with their abilities.
  • Educate the media about the Rules of Netball and the role of umpires.
  • Establish appropriate mechanisms for comments and feedback regarding umpire performance.
  • Investigate and sanction individuals or groups that abuse umpires and bring the game into disrepute.

Netball Australia has developed and is implementing a comprehensive agenda for umpire development as outlined in the National Umpire Development Framework (PDF  - 1.2 MB), Netball Australia (2013). The Framework outlines NA’s intention to attract, develop and retain quality umpires at all levels of the sport.

The Framework is complimented by NA’s High Performance Umpire Pathway (PDF  - 1.7 MB), Netball Australia (2013). The Pathway is aligned to the national athlete pathway.
Netball Australia has addressed the major concerns about attracting, developing and retaining officials that are highlighted by research and practical experience.  NA’s strategies are designed to:

  • Give the position of umpire status and recognition within the sport’s organisational structure and provide strong leadership for umpire programs.
  • Create a collegial environment for umpires and provide a clear pathway that sets out education, training and professional development goals. The use of mentoring programs and evaluation protocols provide ongoing support and encouragement.
  • Align the development of umpires with the developmental pathway for players and the structure of the sport.
  • Support the integrity of umpires by having policies in place to act when incidences of unfair criticism or abuse toward an umpire occur.

In some sports, particularly those having a professional league, a member’s association has been formed to represent the interests of officials. These associations are primarily interested in representing the views of their membership, but also have a wider role by supporting the sport on policy matters related to the education, ongoing training, and conditions under which officials practice.  These associations may also address other issues, such as integrity, performance reviews, and recognition of officials. A few examples follow:


  • The important role that officials play in sport, Sport for Life. Sport for Life and many sport partners recognize the important role that officials play in sport. This means the recruitment, development and retention of officials must be built into the long-range planning of each sport organization. While many organizations are addressing the need to provide a positive experience and supportive environments for officials, we must also ensure development is aligned with the sport’s athlete development matrix and developmentally appropriate competition structure.

New Zealand

Sport New Zealand maintains an ‘Officials’ page on their website to provide resources and information for NSOs to develop sustainable strategies for officials from the grass-roots to elite level. Along with club and coaching resources, Sport NZ has identified key learning areas for sports officials. 

  • Volunteers and Officials. Sport New Zealand provides information and resources for sporting organisations and sports clubs to help them support officials.
  • Game Management and Conflict Management. The officiating environment can be challenging and potentially hostile. Dealing with conflict can be tough, even for a confident official, let alone an inexperienced one. Good officiating relies on dealing with conflict professionally and positively. This fact sheet has simple hints and tips to minimise and handle conflict situations.

United States

  • Umpires, Referees, and Other Sports Officials: Occupational Outlook, United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. This Government website provides descriptive information about ‘officiating’ in the US as an occupation.
  • National Association of Sports Officials (NASO). This is the world's largest organisation for sports officials with over 19,000 members, covering every level and all sports. The NASO supports officials by providing education programs, resource materials, advocacy and government relations, and insurance.

Where possible, direct links to full-text and online resources are provided. However, where links are not available, you may be able to access documents directly by searching our licenced full-text databases (note: user access restrictions apply). Alternatively, you can ask your institutional, university, or local library for assistance—or purchase documents directly from the publisher. You may also find the information you’re seeking by searching Google Scholar.


  • AFL umpire mentor program manual (PDF  - 32 KB), Woodman L, Australian Football League (2011).
  • First International Conference, Science and Practice of Sports Refereeing, conference abstracts (PDF  - 32 KB), Blaise Pascal University, France, 22-24 September 2014.
  • Introduction to the special issue: Officials in sports (PDF  - 171 KB), Dosseville F and Laborde S, Movement & Sport Sciences, Volume 87 (2015). The history of sport referees, judges, and officials, began with the first Olympic Games in antiquity. Today, thousands of sports officials (referees, judges, and umpires) work every day in competitive sports. The amount and scope of research, particularly since 2000, on officials and officiating has increased and the empirical evidence accumulated reflects the diversity and complexity of this topic. A special issue of Movement & Sport Sciences published in 2015 aims to highlight the scope of current research and encourage continued scholarship in this area. This editorial overview contains an extensive bibliography of significant research in this field.
  • Motorcycling Australia Junior Officials Policy, Motorcycling Australia (24 January 2017). Our officials are the safeguards of our sport whose contribution remains vital to motorsport operations. MA recognises and values the reciprocal nature of the relationship between the sport and the individuals who commit their time. MA is committed to encouraging and bolstering junior participation with a view to provide young people with an early opportunity to experience officiating. The Junior Officials Policy is a hands-on and skill based initiative that will train and retain young officials and introduce them to officiating at motorcycle sport events in a safe and carefully supervised manner. It will enhance their total understanding of motorcycle competition and provide ongoing knowledge and experience in the sport.
  • Officiating Framework Toolkit, Australian Sports Commission, (2017). This resource will help National Sporting Organisations (NSOs) develop their officiating and coaching pathways. The framework is designed to draw from, and align with, the NSO’s Strategic Plan and support both participation and high performance plans. The planning process will allow NSOs to make strategic decisions about how they allocate resources for training and ongoing support. It will also provide officials with a clear map of training and professional development opportunities and career progression.
  • Referee and Umpire Bibliography (RUB), Charles Sturt University, Faculty of Arts, School of Communication and Creative Industries, has compiled a collection of bibliographical references from peer-reviewed sources on the topic of refereeing and umpiring. RUB provides links to scholarly articles and reports available online. Access to many references is free, some references link to an abstract summary of a subscription only journal; compiled by Peter Simmons and Ian Cunningham.    
  • Social Media Guidelines (PDF  - 66 KB), National Association of Sports Officials (2012). The National Association of Sports Officials (NASO) is a peak industry body in the United States. The NASO has adopted social media guidelines for use by sports officials and organisations.


Motivation for officiating

  • Factors contributing to the retention of Canadian amateur sport officials: Motivations, perceived organizational support, and resilience (abstract), Livingston L and Forbes S, International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, Volume 11, Issue 3 (2016). The purpose of this investigation was to understand what motivates individuals to enter into and remain active in officiating, their level of resilience, and their perceptions of the support they receive from their sport organisations in Canada. A sample of 1073 (806 males, 267 females) active officials from 37 different sports provided individual responses to a questionnaire. Analysis of the data revealed a number of significant differences by age and gender. Younger officials were more extrinsically motivated than their older counterparts. Males displayed higher levels of intrinsic motivation to experience excitement in their role than females. Younger officials also demonstrated higher levels of perceived organisational support than those in older age groups, while females displayed significantly lower perceived organisational support in urban environments and higher perceived organisational support in rural settings than males. Both male and female officials in this study scored highly for resilience, significantly higher than the general population.  These results provide a baseline against which future studies of sports officials may be compared.
  • Reasons for officiating soccer: the role of passion-based motivations among Norwegian elite and non-elite referees (abstract), Johansen B, Movement & Sport Sciences, Volume 87, Number 1 (2015). This study examines the reasons for officiating soccer among Norwegian elite and non-elite referees. Three main categories of descriptions emerged: (1) passion-based motivations (25% of all subjects); (2) social-based motivations (25% of all subjects), and; (3) fitness-based motivations (31% of all subjects). Norwegian elite referees are significantly more passion-based in their motivation than non-elite referees in the lower-level leagues. The prevalence of fitness-based motivations was significantly lower for elite referees than for non-elite referees and social-based motivations had approximately the same importance for the two different groups of soccer referees.
  • Resilience, motivations and participation, and perceived organizational support amongst aesthetic sports officials (abstract), Livingston L and Forbes S, Journal of Sport Behavior, Volume 40, Issue 1 (2017). This investigation examined the resilience, participation motivations, and perceptions of organisational support for officials in the aesthetic sports of diving, figure skating, rhythmic gymnastics and synchronized swimming.
  • Retaining early career referees in Australian rugby: A research project in partnership with the Australian Rugby Union (PDF  - 537 KB), Cuskelly G, Smith C and Hoye R, Australian Rugby Union (2009). This study involved 142 early career referees (ECRs) having less than 5-years experience (mean age 30 years), divided into treatment and non-treatment groups. The experimental treatment was a field-based intervention program designed to increase perceived levels of organisational support. Conclusions from this study:
    • Individuals become involved as an official primarily for social reasons and most do not earn a substantial amount of money. However, a sizeable minority of ECRs acknowledge that financial remuneration is a reason for their continued involvement.
    • Persons with a previous rugby connection (i.e. through school, family or friends) are more likely to be attracted to refereeing.
    • The annual turnover rate of ECRs is approximately 30%.
    • The majority of ECRs work at junior club level.
    • The ARU is generally doing an excellent job in assuring the safety of ECRs in a refereeing environment.
    • Factors that influence intention to continue refereeing appear to be a complex mix of socio-economic and cognitive processes.
    • Commitment factors remained relatively stable throughout the season, but stress levels went up and down.
    • Organisational support strategies are effective in minimising the negative impact of stressors in officiating. The non-treatment group had greater concerns about time pressure and game day performance. 
    [The National Sport Information Centre / Clearinghouse for Sport holds this report.]
  • Why Ref? Understanding sport officials’ motivations to begin, continue, and quit (abstract), Hancock D, Dawson D and Auger D, Movement & Sport Sciences, Volume 87, Number 1 (2015). Attrition among sports officials may be high, some organisations report a drop-out rate of 30% or more. This study surveyed sports officials (N=514) to determine their motivations for becoming an official, and motivations to continue or leave officiating. Initial motivations were cited as having intrinsic and sport specific origins. For continuing officiating, participants cited intrinsic and social motivations. Reasons for leaving included lack of respect, too much stress, and lack of recognition.
  • You want the buzz of having done well in a game that wasn’t easy: a sociological examination of the job commitment of English football referees (abstract), Parsons T and Bairner A, Movement & Sport Sciences, Volume 87, Number 1 (2015). In-depth interviews were conducted with football referees from various levels of the game in England. The aim of this study was to understand why referees become involved and, more importantly, why they remain committed to their role despite the abuse and disrespect which they regularly encounter.      

Physical demands

  • Activity profile and physical demands of male field hockey umpires in international matches, Sunderland C, Taylor E, Pearce E and Spice C, European Journal of Sport Science, Volume 11, Issue 6 (2011). This study investigated the physical demands and activity profiles of international field hockey umpires during match-play. Hockey umpires spent about three per cent of the total match time performing high-intensity running. There was no significant difference in the distance umpires covered during high-intensity running in the first versus the second half, or in the number of sprints performed. There was large inter-individual variability in the total distance covered at high intensity, ranging from 274 to 999 metres. The results of this study show that the performance of the participating hockey umpires did not decrease from the first to the second half. Training procedures should reflect the specific role of the hockey umpire and their physical requirements during a match.
  • Evaluation of movement and physiological demands of Rugby League referees using global positioning systems tracking (PDF  - 214 KB), O’hara J, Brightmore A, Tiull K, Mitchell I, Cummings S and Cooke C, International Journal of Sports Medicine, volume 34 (2013). The use of global positioning technology allows accurate evaluation of the physiological demands of professional rugby league referees. The intermittent nature of rugby league refereeing, consists of low velocity activity interspersed with high velocity efforts and frequent changes of velocity. Therefore, training should incorporate interval work, interspersing high velocity efforts of varying distances with low velocity activity, while trying to achieve average heart rates of approximately 84 % of maximum to replicate the physiological demands encountered in game situations. 
  • Female soccer referees selected for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2007: survey of injuries and musculoskeletal problems, Bizzini M, Junge A, Bahr R and Dvorak J,British Journal of Sports Medicine, Volume 43, Issue 12 (2009). Few studies have examined the physiology, training and more recently injury profile of female soccer referees. This study analysed the frequency and characteristics of injuries and musculoskeletal problems in female referees selected for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2007. Almost 50 per cent of the referees reported having incurred at least one injury during their career that had led to time loss from the game. In the previous 12 months 16 per cent of the subject referees reported having sustained an injury and 79 per cent reported musculoskeletal problems related to refereeing. During the World Cup 39 per cent of referees incurred an injury and 33 per cent were treated for musculoskeletal problems. The most common locations of injuries and problems were hamstrings, quadriceps, calf and ankle. The prospectively collected data found an incidence of 34.7 match injuries per 1000 match hours. It was concluded that top-level female referees are exposed to an even greater risk of injury and/or musculoskeletal problems related to officiating than their male cohort.
  • Impact of several matches in a day on physical performance in rugby sevens referees (abstract), Suarez-Arrones L, Nunez J, Munguia-Izquierdo D, Portillo J and Mendez-Villanueva A, International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, Volume 8 (2013). This study examines the effects of several matches per day on running performance and cardiovascular stress in referees during a Rugby Sevens championship tournament. Compared with the first match, in the third match of the day referees showed a substantial decrease in maximal and average sprint distance covered, total walking at medium intensity, and distance covered during high-intensity running. This study provides evidence of reduced overall running performance by match referees during three matches in the same day.
  • Injuries of football referees: a representative survey of Swiss referees officiating at all levels of play, Bizzini M, Junge A, Bahr R and Dvorak J, Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, Volume 21, Issue 1 (2011). The purpose of this study was to investigate the frequency and characteristics of injury and musculo‐skeletal complaints in Swiss football referees of all levels. A representative sample of 489 Swiss referees was studied. The incidence of match injuries in the previous 12 months was on average slightly over two per 1000 match hours; the incidence of training injuries was substantially lower, at 0.09 per 1000 training hours. The injury rates were similar for referees officiating at either an adult level or a junior level. In comparison with elite football referees, the incidence of training injuries and the prevalence of musculo‐skeletal complaints were lower in amateur referees than professionals. Nevertheless, preventive programs are indicated for referees at all levels, especially when considering the length of a referee's career.
  • Physical and perceptual-cognitive demands of top-class refereeing in association football, Helsen W and Bultynck J, Journal of Sports Sciences, Volume 22, Issue 2 (2004). The aim of this study was to examine the physical and perceptual-cognitive demands imposed on UEFA top-class referees and assistant referees during the final round of the Euro 2000 Championship. On average, referees and assistant referees performed the matches at 85 per cent and 77 per cent of their maximal heart rate, respectively. Over the 31 games, the mean number of observable decisions was 137 (range 104-162), 64 per cent of which were based on communication with the assistant referees and/or the fourth official. To optimise the physical preparation of top-class match officials, the results of this study support the application of intensive and intermittent training sessions, which should place priority on high-intensity aerobic stimuli. In addition, video training is discussed as an additional method for improving match officials' decision making.
  • Physical and physiological demands of field and assistant soccer referees during America's Cup (abstract), Barbero-Álvarez J, Boullosa, D, Nakamura F, Andrín G and Castagna C, Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, Volume 26, Issue 5 (2012). This article reports on research that investigated the physical and physiological demands of field referees and assistant referees during the America's cup soccer competition. Researchers evaluated seven referees and seven assistants and found that both types of referees exhibited similar physical demands as those that had previously been reported by European referees during international tournaments.
  • Physical demands of elite Rugby League referees, part two: heart rate responses and implications for training and fitness testing (abstract), Kay B and Gill N, Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, Volume 7, Number 2 (2004). The findings of the present study, taken together with a recent motion analysis, indicate that Rugby League refereeing is a highly intermittent, variable intensity activity. Significant anaerobic contribution to performance appears likely. It is suggested that training and fitness assessment of referees should reflect their specific demands. Recommendations are forthcoming from this research. 
  • Physiological demands of NRL match officiating (abstract), Hoare K, Journal of Australian Strength & Conditioning, Volume 16, Issue 4 (2008). The article presents the findings of research on the physiological demands of National Rugby League (NRL) match officials. Subjects were 14 full-time rugby league officials. Refereeing entails activities ranging from sprinting, running, walking and standing still. This study concludes that training programs should cover all energy systems, a range of heart-rate exercise intensities, and a recovery program.
  • Science and Medicine applied to soccer refereeing: an update, Weston M, Castagna C, Impellizzeri F, Bizzini M, Williams A and Gregson W, Sports Medicine, Volume 42, Issue 7 (2012). Soccer referees are required to keep up with play to ensure optimal positioning for making key decisions. While the physiological aspects of soccer refereeing have been extensively reviewed, this paper presents a contemporary examination of methodological considerations for the interpretation of referees' match activities, the validation of fitness testing and training protocols, match and training injury profiles, and the understanding and development of perceptual-cognitive expertise. The implementation of injury prevention programs along with the careful monitoring of training and match loads may help reduce referee’s injury incidence.
  • A survey of referee participation, training and injury in elite gaelic games referees, Blake C, Sherry J and Gissane C, BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, Volume 10 (2009). Referees in Gaelic games are exposed to injury risk in match-play and training. The aim of this study was to determine the time commitment to refereeing and training in elite-level Gaelic referees and to establish an injury profile for Gaelic games officials. Forty eight percent were football referees, 25per cent were hurling referees and 27 per cent refereed both football and hurling. Most referees (69 per cent) officiated 3-4 games weekly (range 1-6) and most (62 per cent) trained 2-3 times per week (range 1-7). Annual injury prevalence was 58 per cent for football, 50 per cent for hurling and 42 per cent for dual referee groups. Sixty percent of injuries were sustained while refereeing match play. The majority (83 per cent) were to the lower limb and the predominant injury mechanism was running or sprinting. The most prevalent injuries were hamstring strain and calf strain. Injury causing time off from refereeing was reported by 31 per cent of all referees for a median duration of 3 weeks. This study concluded that Gaelic games injury is common in the referee cohort, with lower limb injury predominating. These injuries have implications for both the referee themselves, and for organisation of the games. 

Judgement and decision making

  • Decision-making skills and deliberate practice in elite association football referees, MacMahon C; Helsen W; Starkes J and Weston M, Journal of Sports Sciences, Volume 25, Number 1 (2007). This study examined sport expertise as a function of role. The results showed that career referees tend to specialise early, and as they develop they engage in greater volume and types of training. Competitive match refereeing is considered a relevant activity for skill acquisition that does not fit Ericsson’s original definition of deliberate practice. The findings of this study indicate that actual performance is a significant activity for skill acquisition and refinement.
  • Effects of crowd size on referee decisions: analysis of the FA Cup, Downward P and Jones M, Journal of Sports Sciences, Volume 25, Number 14 (2007). Data were collected on the number of first yellow cards awarded by referees during 857 games, over six seasons (1996 - 2002), played in the Football Association (FA) Cup. Overall, a significantly higher number of yellow cards were awarded against the away team, while a non-linear relationship between crowd size and yellow cards was observed. In general, the probability of a yellow card being awarded against the home team decreased as crowd size increased, but was attenuated for the largest crowd sizes. Crowd size may be related to the probability of the home team receiving a yellow card in two potential ways. Crowd noise may be a decision-making heuristic whereby the likelihood that an incident is a foul is increased when accompanied by crowd noise. Alternatively, referees may seek to appease the crowd and are more likely to do so as crowd size increases. The present findings have implications for the training of match officials and for coaches and players as they prepare to play away from home.
  • The effects of physical exertion on decision-making performance of Australian football umpires , Paradis K, Larkin P and O’Connor D, Journal of Sports Sciences, published online (11 December 2015). The aim of this investigation was to examine the relationship between physical exertion and decision-making performance in a small sample of Australian football umpires (N=18) at the sub-elite and junior levels. This study found no significant correlation between decision-making performance and running times. This suggests decision-making performance may not be affected by physical exertion. Therefore, it may be suggested that coaches of football umpires allocate more time to their decision-making development, instead of focusing largely on the physical fitness side, as is currently the trend. 
  • Establishing standards for basketball elite referees' decisions, Schweizer G, Plessner H, Brand R, Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, Volume 25, Issue 3 (2013). Basketball referees' decisions in ambiguous situations are supposed to adhere to common standards. The authors propose that standards can be established by video training-programs. Research conducted with 33 German elite basketball referees showed that feedback during a learning phase influenced decisions in a subsequent test phase. These results provide a starting point for further investigations into establishing standards for referees. They suggest that establishing standards for referees' decisions in ambiguous situations may be a worthwhile approach for improving the overall quality of referees' decisions.
  • Facilitating referee’s decision making in sport via the application of technology (PDF  - 163 KB), Leveaux R, Communications of the IBIMA (2010). The aim of this study was to examine the current uses of technologies to assist referee decision making processes in professional and Olympic sports, to provide the platform for the facilitation of correct decisions. The success of the introduction of the decision support technology is dependent on its usability, appropriate application and acceptance by the officials and the participants of the match. It was concluded that the diligent use and application of appropriate technologies can be used as an effective aid to refereeing.
  • Gaze behaviors and decision making accuracy of higher- and lower-level ice hockey referees, Hancock D and Ste-Marie D, Psychology of Sport & Exercise, Volume 14, Issue 1 (2013). Gaze behaviours are often studied in athletes, but infrequently for sports officials. There is a need to better understand gaze behaviour in refereeing in order to improve training and education related to visual search patterns, which have been argued to be related to decision making. Higher-level and lower-level ice hockey referees wore a head-mounted eye movement recorder and made penalty decisions related to ice hockey video clips on a computer screen. This research recorded gaze behaviours, decision accuracy, and decision sensitivity for each participant. Results showed that higher-level referees (i.e. experienced) made significantly more accurate decisions (both accuracy and sensitivity) than lower-level referees, but referees do not differ on gaze behaviours. The authors suggest that higher-level referees process relevant decision making information more effectively. 
  • Influence of crowd noise on soccer refereeing consistency in soccer (abstract), Balmer N, Nevill A, Lane A, Ward P, Williams A and Fairclough S, Journal of Sport Behavior, Volume 30, Issue 2 (2007). Recent experimental evidence suggests that the noise of a partisan home crowd may influence soccer officials to make an imbalance of decisions in favour of the home side. The purpose of the present study was to test the notion that biased decisions in favour of the home team are associated with increased anxiety and arousal due to increased difficulty of making accurate decisions when refereeing in the presence of crowd noise. Significant relationships were found between decision bias and increases in cognitive anxiety and mental effort with crowd noise. Hierarchical regression indicated that mental effort and cognitive anxiety combined to account for 36 per cent of the variance in decision bias. Results suggest that crowd noise is associated with increased anxiety and mental effort, and that referees attempt to cope with this increased anxiety and effort by giving a more popular decision in favour of the home team.
  • The influence of crowd noise upon judging decisions in Muay Thai (PDF  - 114 KB), Myers T, Nevill A and Al-Nakeeb Y, Advances in Physical Education, Volume 2, Number 4 (2012). Home advantage effects have been demonstrated across a number of sports. This study looked at the effects of crowd noise on the decisions made by 10 Muay Thai officials under two conditions, low and high crown noise. Judges awarded 1.2 more strikes on average in the presence of crowd noise when compared to the no crowd noise condition. Crowd noise influenced some judges more than others; the results from a within subject analysis suggest the differences between noise conditions were statistically significant, as was the home advantage effect. 
  • Influence of players’ vocalisations on soccer referees’ decisions, Lex H, Pizzera A, Kurtes M and Schack T, European Journal of Sport Science, published online 2 October 2014. In addition to crowd noise, a player’s vocalisations during a foul are used as a proximal cue in the referee’s decision-making process. In this study, experienced soccer referees watched video clips of real-match situations that were presented either without sound or with sound where a player’s vocalisations were clearly audible and then made judgements regarding fouls, direction of play and personal penalties. The results revealed that players’ vocalisations had no impact on the foul decisions of the referees. However, once a referee had made a foul decision, the player’s vocalisations led to an increased number of personal penalties (increase in yellow cards) for the foul-causing player.
  • Key attributes of expert NRL referees, Morris G and O’Connor D, Journal of Sports Sciences, published online (14 June 2016). This research looked at the key attributes of National Rugby League (NRL) referees to understand the determinants of expert officiating performance. Fourteen current first-grade NRL referees completed a survey and participated in semi-structured interviews, followed by two questionnaires to reach consensus of opinion. The data revealed 25 attributes that were rated as most important, that underpin expert NRL refereeing performance. Results illustrate the significance of the cognitive category, with the top 6 ranked attributes all cognitive skills: (1) decision-making accuracy; (2) reading the game; (3) communication; (4) game understanding; (5) game management, and (6) knowing the rules of the game. Player rapport, field positioning, and teamwork were the top ranked game skill attributes underpinning performance excellence. Key psychological attributes included concentration, mental composure, and mental toughness. There were only two key physiological attributes – fitness and aerobic endurance. This study provides a hierarchy of attributes that expert NRL referees felt were key to their success; this could be used to structure future professional development initiatives for NRL referees. 
  • Perceptual judgments of sports officials are influenced by their motor and visual experience, Pizzera A and Raab M, Journal of Applied Sport Psychology,Volume 24, Issue 1 (2012). This study examined the relation between previous motor and visual experience and current officiating experience of expert judges and referees. A total of 370 sports officials from soccer, handball, ice hockey, and trampoline took part in the study. Analyses revealed that cognitive judgments are related to motor, visual, and officiating experience to different degrees in the analysed sports. These findings indicate that, depending on the sport, officials should either specialise early in officiating or gather visuo-motor experience as an athlete or spectator first, and then switch roles to become an official.
  • A practical perspective on decision making influences in sports officiating (PDF  - 81 KB), MacMahon C and Mildenhall B, International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, Volume 7, pp153-166 (2012). This article reflects on the sport science research findings related to decision making and decision-making errors in sports officials. The authors suggest that in most cases of error, it is due to missing information which is ‘filled in’ by past experiences.
  • Techniques used by coaches to influence referees in professional team handball, Thierry D, International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, Volume 9, Issue 3 (2014). This study is based on persuasion models and communication approach. It focuses on the means coaches use to influence referees' decision-making during games, and seeks to identify the contextual factors (game period, opposing team, coach yellow cards) that impact the influence processing used. The results show that: (1) contextual factors have an effect on influencing decision-making and communicating disagreements about game situations;( 2) coaches use technical skills more than any other means to influence referees; and (3) during the halftime break, the coaches make argued criticisms of referees' interpretation of play, while during play, coaches can influence referees' interpretation through direct speech not requiring arguments.

Interaction and game management  

  • Athletes’ expectations with regard to officiating competence, Dosseville F, Laborde S, and Bernier M, European Journal of Sport Science, Supplementary Issue (2012). This study aimed to identify the cues upon which athletes rely when developing their expectations with regard to the competence of sports officials and to examine the sources of information, which are given priority in different kinds of sport (i.e. team, racquet and fighting sports). Athletes mostly rely on psychological and personal communication attributes when evaluating officiating competence. Moreover, team players perceived that static cues were more influential when forming their expectations of sports officials than racquet players and fighting contestants. Such findings may have implications for athlete-official relationships and training of sports officials.
  • Communicative displays as fairness heuristics: strategic referee football communication (abstract), Simmons P, Australian Journal of Communication, Volume 37, Issue 1 (2010). This experimental study of soccer players’ reactions to referee decisions finds that communicative displays can influence perception of both the fairness of the referee and the correctness of referee decisions. Displays involving content (explanation) and tone (calm manner) of communication can mitigate uncertainty about decision-makers and their decisions. This paper suggests the importance of teaching referees and decision making professionals about the way people perceive fairness to enhance the strategic communication of decisions. \
  • Exploring player communication in interactions with sport officials (abstract), Cunningham I, Simmons P, Mascarenhas D and Redhead S, Movement & Sport Sciences, Volume 87, Number 1 (2015). This study interviewed team captains from different sports and used video evidence to explore ways players interact with and attempt to influence officials.
  • An interpretive analysis of interpersonal communication: a case study from elite rugby union match officiatingInternational Journal of Performance Analysis in Sport, Volume 7, Number 2 (2007). This paper presents a methodological protocol for researching the communication behaviours of elite match officials in rugby union. The results yielded a taxonomic list of 53 different effective behaviours in referee communication practice.
  • The relationship between emotional intelligence, communication skills and stress among Iranian premier league referees (PDF  - 219 KB), Annals of Biological Research, Volume 4, Issue 4 (2013). This study investigated the relationship between emotional intelligence, communication skills and stress among Iranian soccer super league referees. The results showed that soccer referees in this study had above average emotional intelligence and communication skills. The referee's stresses were mostly related to wrong decisions, physical aggression, and lack of physical fitness.      

Training and performance

  • Elite refereeing performance: developing a model for sport science support (PDF  - 362 KB), Mascarenhas D, Collins D and Mortimer P, Sport Psychologist, Volume 19, Issue 4 (2005). This article identify a framework for referee training and selection, based on the key areas of effective performance. The authors conducted content analyses on Rugby Football Union referee assessor reports, referee training materials, performance profiles from a group of English premier league referees, and a review of published research on sports officiating. The ‘Cornerstones Performance Model of Refereeing’ emerged and featured four key areas: (1) knowledge and application of the law; (2) contextual judgment; (3) personality and management skills; and (4) fitness, positioning, and mechanics. 
  • Factors underpinning football officiating excellence: perceptions of English Premier League refereesJournal of Applied Sport Psychology, Volume 25, Issue 3 (2013). The purpose of this study was to identify factors perceived to underpin football officiating excellence. From the data analysis eight higher-order themes representing factors perceived to underpin football officiating excellence were identified. The higher-order themes included (1) mental toughness attributes, (2) support networks and services, (3) effective game management qualities, (4) multifaceted pre-match preparation, (5) performance-level enhancement, (6) opportunities to thrive, (7) personal characteristics, and (8) superior physical components.
  • The impact of specific high-intensity training sessions on football referees' fitness levels, Weston M, Helsen W, MacMahon C and Kirkendall D, American Journal of Sports Medicine, Volume 32, Number 1 (2004). In comparison to the amount of literature that has examined match demands of football referees, there has been little attempt to assess the impact of high-intensity training. This study looked at the cardiovascular strain of specific high-intensity training sessions and also their impact on referees' fitness levels. After 16 months of intermittent high-intensity training, referees improved their performance on the Yo-Yo intermittent recovery test by 46 per cent, to a level that is comparable with professional football players.
  • Service quality attributes specific to the performance of officials (umpires and referees) at an Australian recreation center, Sifkus P, Howat G and Crilley G, World Leisure Journal, Volume 47, Issue 1 (2005). The purpose of this study was to identify specific attributes of officials' performance and to examine their impact on participants at an Australian public recreation centre. This exploratory study adds another dimension to the current dearth of research on the performance of sport officials, and provides information relevant to the recruitment and training of officials.
  • A Video-Based Training Method for Improving Soccer Referees’ Intuitive Decision-Making Skills, Schweizer G, Plessner H, Kahlert D and Brand R, Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, Volume 23, Issue 4 (2011). The authors present a video-based online training tool for improving soccer referees’ decisions. It assume that referees’ decision-making mainly relies on intuitive processing. For improving intuitive decisions, feedback on the correctness of decisions is essential. Referees participating in this study watched videos, made decisions, and receive feedback. Evidence of the training's effectiveness was obtained in two experiments with soccer players and expert referees. Immediate feedback on the correctness of decisions without further explanations was sufficient for increasing decision accuracy.      

Special topics

  • How psychology helps football referees, The British Psychological Society, published online (18 May 2012).  This article emphasises the importance for referees to have certain psychological attributes in order to achieve a high level of proficiency. It details the components of training and the process for the selection of referees. It also discusses several psychological skills that a good referee must possess as identified by various experts.
  • Officiating in aesthetic sports, McFee G, Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, Volume 40, Issue 1 (2013). While discretion plays a part in umpiring or refereeing in all kinds of sports, it is especially important for aesthetic sports; such as gymnastic vaulting, ice-skating or diving; where the manner of execution determines victory. Impartiality remains a concern, of course, not least because the training for judges or umpires might tend to favour particular styles of performing key movements. Rules will sometimes be best explained as attempting to modify what is rewarded in such sports.
  • The relationship between mental health with job stress, quality of work life, and self-efficacy among referees (PDF  - 302 KB), Nazari S, Tojari F and Esmaeili M, International Journal of Sport Studies, Volume 4 Number 5 (2014). This study aimed to determine the relationship between mental health with job stress, quality of work life, and self-efficacy among 432 male referees and 137 females referees (N=569) in the sports of football, basketball, volleyball, badminton, track and field, and karate during the 2012-13 season. Results from this study indicated that, in general, greater job stress among referees was associated with anxiety, depression and dysfunction. Given the significance that job stress has in the prediction of mental health, the authors suggest that sporting organisations need to pay more attention to stressors in the referees' job and implement supportive measures.
  • ‘Women can’t referee’: exploring the experiences of female football officials within UK football culture, Forbes A, Edwards L and Fleming S, Soccer & Society (2014). The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of female Football Association officials who officiate in amateur men’s and boys’ football matches in two UK counties. The women used various strategies to overcome the hostile attitudes that often greeted their presence on the football pitch. Moreover, they continuously negotiated their identities as females and football officials in a space where men and masculinity are prevalent. 


  • 'Sports officials and officiating: Science and practice', MacMahon C, Mascarenhas D, Plessner H, Pizzera A, Oudejans R and Raab M, Routledge (2014). This book covers the key components of the official’s role, including: training and career development; fitness and physical preparation; visual processing; judgement and decision making; communication and game management; psychological demands; use of technology, and; performance evaluation.
  • 'Successful sports officiating (second edition)', National Association of Sports Officials (NASO), Human Kinetics (2011). This is a handbook for officials at all levels and across all sports to learn the basic principles of officiating and how to apply them. Written by a team of experts and practitioners in the art and science of officiating.

Other reading

  • Bias of judging in men's artistic gymnastics at the European championship 2011, Leskošek, B, Čuk I, Pajek J, Forbes W and Bučar-Pajek M, Biology of Sport, Volume 29, Issue 2 (2012). The purpose of this study was to establish the validity and reliability of expert-panel judges officiating the execution of exercises in men’s artistic gymnastics at the European Championship in 2011. Overall bias was established in terms of average over-scoring or under-scoring of each judge compared to the final score of the judges’ panel. National bias was expressed as average over-scoring of gymnasts of the same nationality as the judge’s. Both types of bias were mostly small (± 0.1 point). However, statistically significant and also substantial (over 0.2 point) bias was found in some cases. Compared to other competitions, it seems that bias is becoming smaller over time and is also smaller in competitions of higher importance. Analysis of possible consequences indicate that national bias may be especially problematic in the qualification round, where it may prevent some competitors from qualifying for apparatus finals.
  • 'Eye Training 'Lens' Itself to Better Judgment', Volz D, Referee, Issue 427 (May 2012). This article suggests some exercises and software programs can be performed and used by sports officials to improve their visual performance, which is essential in making the best and most accurate judgments. Exercises include eye palming and the ‘Dynamic Visual Acuity Exercise’. Software include Vizual Edge Performance Trainer and Vizual Official from Vizual Edge.
  • 'FIFA funds $40 million Referee Project', Referee, Issue 377 (March 2008). The article reports on the $40 million Referee Assistance Program funded by the soccer governing body FIFA. The project was designed to train referees at all levels of the sport. It mentions that $35 million of the fund will be allocated to the grass-roots program in which referees will be trained at the level of national football associations. It adds that the remaining fund will be directed to training referees for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
  • First International Conference on the Science and Practice of Sports Refereeing, Clermont-Ferrand, France, 22-25 September 2014. (abstract)
  • Is the quality of judging in women artistic gymnastics equivalent at major competitions of different levels? (PDF  - 633 KB), Pajek M, Cuk I, Pajek J, Kovac M and Leskosek B, Journal of Human Kinetics, Volume 37 (2013). The reliability and validity of judging at the European Championship in Berlin 2011 were analysed and the results compared to a different level gymnastic competition – Universiade 2009 in Belgrade. Based upon the analysis, the researchers concluded the quality of judging was comparable at the two gymnastics competitions. However, further work must be done to analyse the differences in vault and floor apparatuses. 
  • NBA to use virtual reality to enhance training of officials, Leung D, SportTechie, published online (5 March 2017). The National Basketball Association (NBA) will leverage technology to develop methods to train officials, including the use of virtual reality. Virtual reality is part of the NBA’s plan to strengthen its officiating program in which technology will be used to enhance performance, training, development and recruitment of referees. The NBA will also use a data-driven game review system to create objective measurement standards for referees and track progress regarding decision accuracy and errors per game over multiple seasons.
  • Officiating in aesthetic sports, McFee G, Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, Volume 40, Issue 1 (2013). While discretion plays a part in umpiring or refereeing in all kinds of sports, it is especially important for aesthetic sports; such as gymnastic vaulting, ice-skating or diving; where the manner of execution determines victory. Impartiality remains a concern, of course, not least because the training for judges or umpires might tend to favour particular styles of performing key movements. Rules will sometimes be best explained as attempting to modify what is rewarded in such sports.    
  • Promoting Sportsmanship in Youth Basketball Players: The Effect of Referees' Prosocial Behavior Techniques, Arthur-Banning S, Paisley K and Wells M, Journal of Park & Recreation Administration, Volume 25, Issue 1 (2007). Competition and winning at all costs in youth games are beginning to replace the development of skills and values, building friendships, and respecting the sportsmanship aspects of the game. Leagues focusing on building values such as sportsmanship rather than simply on elite competition can help in this process. One underutilised resource in developing sportsmanship is the officials who oversee the game environment.
  • Retaining Sport Officials (blog), Sport Information & Research Centre (SIRC), Canada, posted online (23 November 2016). Sport officials play a vital role and should be viewed in the same way as coaches within the sport system. Officials are not simply service providers, they are an integral part of the sport system and their participation and development concerns must be addressed. This blog discusses some of the reasons why persons get into officiating; decide to stay or leave; and what sporting organisations can do to support their officials. 
  • Strategic interaction in player-sport official encounters, Cunningham I, Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences, Volume 155 (2014). Video recordings of player-official interactions were sampled from soccer (n=2), rugby union (n=2), rugby league (n=2), basketball (n=2), netball (n=1) and hockey (n=2) officials. Interaction episodes depicted exchanges between officials and players including initial impressions or first encounters, displays of varying officiating competence, decision communication, as well as instances of interpersonal conflict between players where officials intervene. Semi-structured interviews were used to explore the players’ attitudes of player-official interaction. Discussion topics included the nature of the interaction situation/occasion, possible antecedents and consequences of the encounter, unspoken goals and motivations of interactants, alternative courses of action, and interpersonal style or approaches used by players and officials. The findings provide new ways to understand the complexity of officiating communication and help officials to more skilfully monitor and interpret interactions with players.    
  • Why standardized vision testing, training is crucial for sports officials, Seiller B, Ophthalmology Times, published online 15 April 2014. The proliferation of instant replay in professional sports can confirm or reverse an umpire rulings, this reinforces the notion that officiating is crucial to the integrity of sport. Research has been scant on the correlation between officiating and visual performance. Officials have similar visual demands as athletes and therefore, officials should have visual skills comparable to athletes.    
  • Why we need an integrity program, Dodge D, Referee, Issue 358 (August 2008). This article discusses the importance of a sports officials’ integrity program. The elements of an effective program are identified, including written standards of conduct as well as policies and procedures promoting ethical behaviour, an appropriate organisational structure, and proper education and training. Several recommendations on developing a model sports officials’ integrity program are included.

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