Scope of the Conference

Despite their importance in sports performance, referees received little scientific attention in the decades prior to the year 2000. Since then, research on sports officials has begun to proliferate, with investigations into stress, decision making and judgment, communication and physical performance. Sport refereeing is becoming a scientific field in its own right (Dosseville & Garncarzyk, 2007; Dosseville, Laborde, in press). However, a citation analysis reveals very little connectivity between the different studies into sports officials (Hancock, Rix-Lièvre, Côté, in press). The aim of this conference was to provide researchers studying sport refereeing with a discussion space in order to increase and improve the scientific network in this area. This network have to answer new queries and to meet the practical challenges of sport refereeing.

Referees are often subject to criticism from various sources: the media, the staff of sports clubs, coaches, and supporters –not sure whether criticisms are ‘correct’/justified or not. Many rules of sport are complex and ambiguous, which leads to differences in interpretations. Furthermore, refereeing in naturalistic settings is not a robotic application of the letter of the law. The referee must take into account the entire game context, to “sell” decisions, and to balance flow and control issues (Mascarenhas, Collins, Mortimer, & Morris, 2005; Mascarenhas, O’Hare, & Plessner, 2006). As referees are often interactors –i.e., they are in interaction with the players on the pitch– (MacMahon & Plessner, 2008), they must balance the need to make decisions and enforce the rules, with the need to move about the performance space, and manage the athletes and ensure their safety. In such a complex task, it is challenging to determine the optimal methods to measure, teach, refine, and enhance performance.

Few researchers have studied the complexity of sport refereeing in naturalistic settings (c.f., Rix, 2005; Mascarenhas, Button, O’Hare, & Dicks 2009). More research is needed, therefore, to understand and to identify the barriers and facilitators to elite refereeing performance. Several studies have already proposed and evaluated the interest and the impact of referee training programs (e.g., Mascarenhas, et al., 2005; MacMahon, Starkes, & Deakin, 2007). In order to continue and grow this area of work and the application to on-field performance and demands, additional study is required.

Given the state of the research on sports refereeing at present, the scope of this conference had include a broad range of work which will contribute to a greater understanding of refereeing performance and/or provide some directions for the development of this area.