Psychological issues in football officiating: An interview study with top-level referees

Urs Schnyder, Ernst-Joachim Hossner


The present study aims on the identification of problems in the practice of top-level football refereeing. For this purpose, semi-structured interviews were conducted to collect data from 23 European elite referees. Through inductive content analysis, seven higher-order themes emerged: (1) descriptive, (2) characteristics of a good elite referee, (3) difficulties in decision-making, (4) pre-match preparation, (5) communication through headset, (6) decision-making, and (7) decision-making training. On the one hand, the findings underline the practical relevance of existing scientific research; on the other hand, the relevance of some areas of research, for instance, on the role of biases, is questioned by the interviewees’ statements. A particular need for further research could be revealed regarding the development, optimisation, or evaluation of (1) the pre-match preparation, (2) supporting technical devices, (3) innovative training tools for decision-making, (4) the within-team communication, and (5) complementary methods such as mental practice.


Association football, expert performance, psychological characteristics, refereeing, team communication, visual perception

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