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SOCCER REFEREE DECISION-MAKING: 'SHALL I BLOW THE WHISTLE?'

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Author(s): Andrew M. Lane | Alan M. Nevill | Nahid S. Ahmad | Nigel Balmer

Journal: Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
ISSN 1303-2968

Volume: 5;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 243;
Date: 2006;
Original page

Keywords: Soccer | bias | home-advantage | stress | performance

ABSTRACT
Evidence points to the existence of a home advantage effect in soccer with referees giving more decisions to the home team being a plausible explanation for this effect. The purpose of the present study was to use qualitative methods to explore the factors that influence experienced referees when making decisions. Five experienced referees volunteered to participate in semi-structured interviews of 30-40 minutes duration. Examples of questions/probes included 'Are there times when it is difficult to make a decision on whether there was a foul or not? When? Why?' and 'Do you worry about making the wrong / unpopular decision? What affect does this have on you?' Content analysis identified 13 inter-related themes that describe four higher-order themes. The themes 'accuracy-error', 'regulations', and 'professionalism' form a higher-order theme labeled 'ideal-decision making'. The themes 'opinion', 'concentration', and 'control' represent a higher- order theme labeled 'individual factors'; 'experience', 'personality', and 'personal life' represent a higher-order factor labeled 'experience factors', and crowd factors, player reaction, environmental factors, and crowd interaction represent a higher-order factor labeled 'situational factors'. Findings from the present study offer some insight into difficulties and coping strategies used by referees to perform consistently in professional soccer. Future research could use quantitative methods to test the relative contribution of themes identified above to the decision-making process in referees. At an applied level, practitioners should develop strategies that accelerate the process of learning to cope with performance-related stressors such as the crowd noise

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