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An analysis of soccer referee experiences in France and the Netherlands: Abuse, conflict, and level of support

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Abstract

Referee and match official discontinuation in sport is an issue of relevance to sport managers and administrators. Despite this, it is an often-neglected area of sport management research. In this paper, a critical analysis of the discontinuation of soccer referees across two countries is provided, utilizing an intergroup conflict theoretical construct to frame the analysis, drawing on the concept of conflict resolution to consider solutions to the issues uncovered. The distribution and subsequent analysis of an online survey in both France and the Netherlands facilitated engagement with a total of 4,637 referees, comprising 3,408 from France and 1,229 from the Netherlands. Following the thematic analysis higher order themes related to aggression, abuse and support systems emerged. Referees reported that verbal abuse was a frequent occurrence, and that incidents of physical abuse were also evident, indicating a culture of abuse toward referees in both countries. Referees as an outgroup felt marginalized, as players, coaches and spectators form ingroups with shared objectives. Additional findings suggest that the support structures around the referees require strengthening at both local and national level, to address issues related to discontinuation. The authors conclude by discussing the implications of the research on the match official abuse related literature, as well as identifying suggestions for researchers and practitioners. © 2019 Sport Management Association of Australia and New Zealand

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... competing with one another for post-season assignments). Beyond ice hockey, Webb et al. (2020) demonstrated that Association football referees identified as groups, with group members offering support when faced with abuse from athletes, coaches, and spectators. Nordstrom et al. (2016) reported similar patterns for female American football officials within a male-dominated officiating community, who shared stories regarding how mentorship from senior officials as well as a broader sense of community were resources to learn about the profession and overcome challenges such as abuse. ...
... Given sport officials' task interdependence and shared identity (e.g. identifying as an "outgroup"; Webb et al., 2020), researchers can continue to explore the extent to which group processes influence individual experiences and group performance. This highlights the potential to study sport officials' performances as a coordinated effort. ...
... Carron et al., 2002), suggesting that the group processes that influence athletes also influence sport officials. Whereas researchers have yet to identify specific mechanisms to explain how sport officials' cohesion influences their performance and satisfaction, these preliminary findings support the growing body of literature establishing the importance of group perceptions for sport officials (Hancock et al., 2018;Webb et al., 2020). Given that numerous constructs could be the key links between cohesion and performance (e.g. ...
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Since sport officials constitute instrumental groups, their perceptions of, and interactions with, group members likely influence their performance, satisfaction, and retention. This warrants investigation into sport officiating groups. Rationale/Purpose: (1) Examine the relationship between sport officials' cohesion, satisfaction, and performance; (2) Investigate sport officials' perceptions of cohesion across sports; and (3) Explore sport officials' perceptions of group processes. Design/Methodology/Approach: Using a cross-sectional design, participants (N = 228) completed a survey measuring perceptions of cohesion, performance, and satisfaction. Findings: Responses demonstrated consistent positive relationships between cohesion, performance, and satisfaction. Path analysis found that task cohesion predicted performance and satisfaction. Participants rated task cohesion higher than social cohesion, with American football highest and Association football lowest. Practical implications: Officiating organizations can use these results to reconsider assigning practices and develop strategies that improve cohesion, leading to increased performance and retention. Research contribution: Results highlight the need for sustained research to further understand how group processes influence sport officials and their performances. This study is novel as there is a dearth of research on how group dynamics influence sport officials' performances and retention.
... In the case of sports, such out-groups can be the opposing team and/or the referees who officiate the game. Many soccer referees have argued that they felt marginalized during play as an out-group for other involved stakeholders in the game (e.g., players, coaches, and fans; Webb et al., 2020). A relational frame may mitigate this in-group salience by inviting players to also consider the perspective of the referee (Manohar & Appiah, 2016). ...
... Social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1986) provides an explanation of these findings. Soccer referees are often treated as an out-group member by other stakeholders in the game, like players, coaches, and/or fans (Webb et al., 2020). Social identity theory argues that in-group members are often more critical towards out-group members (Tajfel & Turner, 1986). ...
... Social identity theory argues that in-group members are often more critical towards out-group members (Tajfel & Turner, 1986). In extreme situations, referees may even be the target of out-group abuse, with one study demonstrating that 68% of French soccer referees and 51% of Dutch soccer referees experienced verbal abuse at least once in their referee careers (Webb et al., 2020). Previous research on intergroup communication revealed that inviting in-group members to take the perspective of an out-group member can improve out-group evaluations (Galinsky & Ku, 2004;Manohar & Appiah, 2016). ...
Article
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Good communication skills are important for soccer referees, but it remains unclear what exactly constitutes good referee communication. In this article, we focus on the role of verbal framing by soccer referees by contrasting the effects of procedural frames (focusing on rules and regulations) and relational frames (focusing on relational aspects) on perceptions of referee competence. We conducted an experiment ( N = 97) in which soccer referees used either procedural or relational frames to communicate about different types of in-game situations (yellow card and offside) to players. Results demonstrate that spectator perceptions of impartiality and confidence did not differ depending on the type of frame used. However, relational (vs. procedural) frames did increase spectator perceptions of respectfulness and communication skills. Soccer referees are recommended to use relational over procedural frames when communicating to players during a match.
... Research from South Korea has focused on female referees in South Korean football, evidencing the growing interest and reach of the subject area (Kim & Hong, 2016;Min-Chul & Eunah, 2016). Studies have also begun to consider some of the concepts related to the abuse of match officials and their discontinuation across different countries, in order to determine whether trends exist across geographical borders (Webb et al., 2020). ...
... The growth in the sports match official literature has seen increased understanding of the challenges faced by this often-marginalised group (Webb et al., 2020). Nevertheless, there are gaps in the literature and there are some emerging areas of research which require greater coverage in this developing subject area. ...
... Match officials offer a rich and unique population for scholars to conduct research, and as such there are a number of potential areas of research that have been identified in this commentary. Despite the growing research base and the positive outlook for future research, match officials remain an "outgroup" in sport (Webb et al., 2020), and therefore research is required to address some of the issues identified here and to continue the evolution of this research area. ...
Article
The purpose of this article is to foster debate and discussion around the developing sport match official research area. To that end the literature in this field is examined and discussed with gaps in the research identified and explored. Areas of future research are suggested as pertinent areas for scholars to focus upon, with mental health, online abuse, gender studies and investigations into the treatment and support for young people who officiate particularly important. It is the intention of this commentary to encourage academics from sport research fields that have not traditionally considered match officials as an area of interest, and to motivate those from disciplines outside sport related enquiry to consider adapting and applying methods to this unique population, in order to continue the development of scholarly activity and collaboration in this rapidly evolving subject area.
... Previous research determine that referees are emotionally sensitive to the influence of the environment and psychological aggressions by viewers, leading them to problems of stress, attention, exhaustion and lack of concentration while performing their tasks [42]. ...
... On the other hand, it corroborates the existence of direct relationships between the level of physical and verbal aggression suffered by referees and their emotional exhaustion and cynicism (H2). The result achieved would be in line with previous research already cited in the theoretical framework [15,41,42], in which it is evident that fans' preferences about teams and players, generates a greater number of aggressions and both negatively affect the mood of the referees, generating exhaustion and stress. Reference [46] states that both aggression and cynicism influence emotional exhaustion, an aspect that is strongly evidenced in this study, that presents a strong relationship between cynicism and emotional exhaustion (regression coefficient = 0.56), and a weaker relationship between aggression and emotional exhaustion (regression coefficient = 0.14). ...
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The aim of this paper is to analyze the interrelationships between the burnout and different psychosocial variables to which the grassroots football referee is exposed, in particular, associated with the influence of the environment and the level of verbal and physical aggression. To this end, a questionnaire was developed, consisting of items from the Maslach Burnout Inventory-General Survey(MBI-GS) and various self-constructed items designed to find out these psychosocial variables. First, a study of the structure of the form was carried out. Second, a structural equation model was designed in order to test the causal relationship between the variables under consideration. The results obtained point to the validity of the proposed theoretical model. It is recommended to initiate training programs for this group aimed at strengthening personal coping and social support strategies, which can help minimize the evolution of this syndrome.
... Without sufficient recruitment and retention there would be a shortage of referees at grassroots level, and a lack of talented referees suitable to officiate at the top level (Webb et al., 2017). The English Football Association (EFA) has recognised the importance of retaining referees, with the discontinuation of football referees attributed to a number of factors such as levels of abuse, lack of support, a symbiosis between work, private life and officiating and satisfaction with officiating (Cleland et al., 2018;Giel & Breuer, 2020;Webb et al., 2020a). ...
... These findings also have implications for referee organisations and governing bodies outside England. Although the focus of this research has been the talent identification and development processes in England, other countries have similar development systems (Webb, 2017a) and therefore similar issues exist, particularly related to the initial recruitment, the development pathways and the support mechanisms in which referees rely (Webb et al., 2020a). ...
Article
Research question: The purpose of this study was to examine the talent identification and talent development experiences of referees in England. We explored with referees what they perceived to be the relevant strengths and weaknesses of the talent identification and development mechanisms utilised by football governing and development bodies in England. Currently, no research on the talent identification and development of football referees exists anywhere in the world. Research methods: The paper employs a qualitative approach using thematic analysis. Semi-structured interviews with 28 participants across four different County Football Associations (CFAs) in England were conducted. Referees on the development pathway and Referee Development Officers were interviewed. Results and findings: Three overarching themes were identified; recruitment processes, talent identification and development, and support mechanisms. Opportunities for progression were affected by age, provision and quality of training, knowledge of the progression pathways, regional and national differences in both the recruitment and delivery of information regarding talent identification and development, and variability in the formalised support networks. Implications: Organisations who identify and develop referees at varying levels should understand the barriers associated with maximising referee progression. FIFA, UEFA, national football associations, and regional referee organisations are aware of the diminishing refereeing numbers across football, and therefore effective identification and development of referees becomes even more essential. Governing bodies should recognise that the progression pathways in place have a significant impact on referee development and therefore a successful standardised approach is essential both nationally and internationally.
... Moreover, research has also considered the constraints to match official continuation and what governing bodies might do in order to address these continuation rates (Ridinger, Kim, Warner, & Tingle, 2017;Tingle, Warner, & Sartore-Baldwin, 2014). In the context of football, some research provides descriptive and qualitative analysis of the abuse of referee's and their subsequent intentions to leave the sport (Dell, Gervis, & Rhind, 2016;Webb, Cleland, & O'Gorman, 2017;Webb, Dicks, Thelwell, van der Kamp, & Rix Lievre, 2020), However, only Giel and Breuer (2020) offer statistical testing and only in the context of Germany. ...
... The contribution of the current paper is based on answering two unique research questions using multivariate statistical analysis based on the data that is analysed descriptively by Webb et al. (2020). The first research question is: "To what extent are verbal and physical abuse related?" ...
Article
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Emergent research has investigated the impact of abuse on the decision of match officials to leave their sport. The existing literature is largely descriptive and qualitative. Based on large surveys of football referees in France and the Netherlands, this paper investigates the factors that are associated with the verbal and physical abuse of the referees and also the association of this abuse with the intentions of referees to quit officiating. The associations are investigated by estimating the marginal effects from bivariate probit and probit models respectively. Bivariate probit estimation reveals a strong correlation between each form of abuse. Both, unsurprisingly, are also positively associated with years of experience of referees. Probit estimation reveals that both forms of abuse, as well as intimidation from refereeing certain teams, are associated with an increased consideration of referees to quit. As increased intention to quit is also associated with the experience of the referee it is likely that the effect of abuse on referee considerations of quitting increase through time. The main conclusions are that the alternative forms of abuse are not zero-sum and both should be targeted by governing bodies to reduce the decline in the number of football referees. The data show that support of referees, for example through mentoring, can offset stated intentions to quit. Highlights • This study looks at the factors that are associated with verbal and physical abuse of football referees and the association of this abuse with the intentions to quit. • The alternative forms of abuse are not zero-sum and both should be targeted to reduce the decline in referees. • Support of referees, for example through mentoring, can offset stated intentions to quit.
... The absence of crowd noise not only reduces the pressure on the referees, but also may have caused at reducion in the negative behavior of coaches and players because verbal abuse is easier to detect with the absence of crowd noise (Webb 2021). Nevertheless, abuse is a major stressor that threatens the MH of referees at all levels (Reardon et al. 2019;Webb et al. 2020), although it is more frequent at lowerlevels , with players and coaches tending to exhibit more negative behavior at these lower-levels . Increased fear of physical harm due to the crowd's proximity to the field, and lack of a physical barrier and security staff at lower-levels (Cuskelly and Hoye 2013) may have exacerbated the adverse effects on referees' MH. ...
Article
Objective: The purpose of the study was to evaluate the mental health (MH) status of referees who officiate in the Turkish professional football leagues. Method: An online survey was sent to all referees in the Turkish professional football leagues (n = 630) incorporating standardized scales assessing depression, anxiety, and stress. Results: A total of 433 referees participated in the study, yielding a response rate of 68.7%. Younger referees (18-27 years) reported higher depression (p = 0.01), anxiety (p < 0.01), and stress (p < 0.01) scores than older (>38 years) refereees. Depression, anxiety, and stress scores of single referees were higher compared to married referees (all p < 0.01). Lower-level referees reported higher depression (p < 0.01), anxiety (p = 0.01), and stress (p < 0.01) scores than their higher-level counterparts. Higher depression, anxiety, and stress scores were also associated with less income, performance concerns, severe injury history, and inadequate social support. Conclusion: MH problems in referees were associated with a wide range of variables including younger age, being single, refereeing at lower-levels, performance concerns, and inadequate social support. In light of these results, MH assessments should be undertaken with referees to detect which officials are at greater risk of MH problems. Doing so will help to enable appropriate and timely MH interventions.
... This is especially critical for those who participate in high-level competitions. Programs dedicated to football referees and their training exist in all EU countries, for example, in France, Belgium, and the Czech Republic [28][29][30][31]. In the Czech Republic, there is a program for training and advanced training of football referees. ...
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Professional football has been recently characterized by an increase in game speed and complexity. From this, it follows that football referees also need to improve their skills to keep up with players and adequately respond in various disputed situations. The purpose of this work is to increase the performance indicators of physical fitness and activity of referees during the annual cycle. Most referees prefer the game method. For a football referee or referee’s assistant during a game, physical activity is similar to that of runners/athletes. Football referees are engaged in performance that is more intense, as compared to their assistants, at the international level especially. Such conditions are close to extreme and are characterized by an intense physical load dictated by game duration. This study suggested using athletics in comprehensive sustainable training of football referees. As it turned out, athletics-based training significantly improved the motor activity of football referees.
... Conversely, although their movement is limited to half of the length of the field, distances of 5-7 km are covered by assistant referees (AR), with mean match HRs of ~79% of maximal HR achieved (Castillo et al., 2016). Furthermore, as matches are often contested in the presence of large partisan crowds, the soccer officials' decisions receive routine scrutiny from players, managers and spectators alike (Webb et al., 2020). Welldeveloped physical and psychological attributes therefore serve as important requisites of the successful match official (Castagna et al., 2007;Slack et al., 2013), whilst perceptualcognitive skills are integral to successful decision-making within dynamic, time-constrained domains (Spitz et al., 2018). ...
Article
To develop and assess the validity of the Referee Training Activity Questionnaire (RTAQ), a systematic process was employed: 1) item generation; 2) assessments of content and face validity; and 3) assessments of criterion validity. In stage 1, items were generated following semi-structured interviews with an expert panel (n = 8). Following content analyses, the RTAQ was developed and comprised 3 primary sections (12 sub-sections) assessing: 1) attributes perceived to underpin soccer officiating performance; 2) general training information; and 3) specific training practices. In stage 2, the preliminary RTAQ was assessed for content and face validity by a sample of experts (n = 6). Based upon the content validity index (CVI), content validity was confirmed for 8 sub-sections (CVI ≥ 0.78) with 5 sub-sections being deemed invalid (CVI < 0.78). Various amendments were carried out in accordance with participant feedback. In stage 3, the RTAQ was completed by a cohort of officials (n = 25) who subsequently recorded a detailed training diary. Negligible mean biases, wide 95% LOA, and significant Pearson correlations were observed between the RTAQ and training diaries for most training activities, suggesting the RTAQ holds promise as a useful and effective alternative of acquiring insight into the training practices of soccer officials.
... Amongst football referees, research has shown that due to non-accidental violence, many officials are leaving the sport, in some cases rendering amateur levels of play unsustainable. 11 In football, the majority of mental health research has focused on players, with limited consideration given to referees. Unfortunately, such a shallow research pool has resulted in a deficit of knowledge which prevents not only the understanding of mental health symptoms and disorders in this population but also the creation of evidence-based interventions. ...
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The mental health of football referees at amateur and elite levels has received very little research attention, with the majority of mental health research focused on players. Unfortunately, such a shallow research pool has resulted in a deficit of knowledge which prevents not only the understanding of mental health symptoms and disorders in this population but also the creation of evidence-based interventions. As such, the purpose of this commentary is twofold: 1) to outline the importance of why an epidemiological understanding of mental health symptoms and disorders amongst referees is necessary and desperately needed and 2) to discuss how such epidemiological research can be used to design, deliver, evaluate and disseminate evidence-based mental health interventions to football referees. We provide an overview of the behavioural epidemiology framework and how it may be used to guide and execute future research and intervention endeavours.
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We report on two studies investigating the motivations (ingroup love and outgroup hate) underlying individual participation in intergroup conflict between natural groups (fans of football clubs, supporters of political parties), by using the Intergroup Prisoner’s Dilemma Maximizing-Difference game (IPD-MD), in which group members can contribute to the ingroup and benefit ingroup members with or without harming members of the outgroup. Additionally, we devise a novel version of the IPD-MD in which the choice is between contribution to the ingroup with or without helping members of the outgroup. Our results show an overall reluctance to display outgroup hate by actively harming outgroup members, except when the outgroup was morality-based. Stronger enmity between groups induced more outgroup hate only when it was operationalized as refraining from help.
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Soccer is undeniably the most popular sport in the world. While we know much about its high-profile players and their increasing wealth and global influence, we know little about referees and the ways in which refereeing has changed throughout the history of the sport. This book provides an in-depth exploration of the evolution of the match official. It presents a comparative analysis of elite Association football referees in England, Spain and Italy, as well as offering insights into the involvement of UEFA and FIFA in referee training. Drawing on archive material, the book documents the historical development of refereeing and sheds new light on the practice of elite refereeing in the present day. Including exclusive interviews with elite and ex-elite referees, as well as with professional soccer managers and members of the broadcast media, it considers the current role of match officials and the challenges and controversies they encounter.
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It is often assumed that use of member checks improves the credibility of qualitative research. Published literature mentioning ‘member checks’ was reviewed to identify the purposes and procedures for seeking feedback from research participants, and outcomes reported from the use of member checks. Four themes reflecting underlying assumptions about the purposes of research that have implications for member checks were identified; theory generalisation, representation, participation and change. Member checks are unlikely to be relevant to research focussed on theory development and generalisation. For other types of research, member checks might be justifiable but there was little evidence that member checks improved research findings. Member checks can be useful in specific circumstances such as obtaining participant approval for use of extended quotations or case studies and where anonymity cannot be guaranteed. In evaluation, stakeholder reviews of draft reports can be seen as good research practice. In participatory or collaborative research, ongoing contact might be expected to include member checks.
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In this study, an autoethnographic methodological approach was used to examine my basketball officiating experience as a female. Autoethnography involves situating the self's experiences in the context of the setting and the culture at-large. My experiences as a female basketball official over the course of 250 games are examined. The details of the officiating autoethnography will simultaneously be compared to sport-specific feminist autoethnographies. Further, I argue that the merits of autoethnography combined with the general underrepresentation of females in sports officiating make it such that the autoethnographic approach undertaken in this examination provides support for continued varied qualitative approaches in sport management research.
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Although conflict mediation is implemented in many societal fields by now, it is still uncertain as to which mediation techniques are effective and which are not. Although there is some research concerned with interpersonal conflicts, hardly anything is known about mediation in intergroup conflicts. This study addresses this lack of knowledge. We conducted an experiment on the mediation of an intergroup conflict (N = 103 mediations) in which we evaluated the effectiveness of the combined perspective-taking techniques Controlled Dialogue and Role Reversal. The results confirmed the hypothesis that perspective-taking techniques increase interpersonal liking between group representatives. In accordance with the theory, the effect was statistically mediated by interpersonal empathy and the feeling to be heard. However, there was no effect on intergroup empathy and attitudes. Possible explanations for the missing effects on intergroup relations, as well as the theoretical and practical implications of the study, are discussed.
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An eclectic model of intergroup conflict presents a multilevel, interactive, process-orientated, longitudinal picture of the development, escalation, and resolution of intergroup conflict. As such, the model is congruent with a general call in social psychology for the development of middle range theories that integrate variables from different levels of analysis (Fisher, 1982). In McGuire’s (1973, 1979) terms, there is a need for “miniature systems theories” specifying the relationships among a variety of theoretically important variables. Particularly in the field of intergroup conflict, there is a clear need for integrating existing independent theories into a comprehensive systems theory having both descriptive and predictive power (Thomas, 1976; Sherif & Sherif, 1979). However, once such a need is identified, a related deficiency immediately becomes apparent: the social sciences and social psychology in particular have failed to develop the required research methodologies to test and refine such models!
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Intergroup conflict encompasses a broad range of situations with moral relevance. Researchers at the intersection of social and moral psychology employ diverse methodologies, including surveys, moral dilemmas, economic games, and neuroimaging, to study how individuals think, feel, and act in intergroup moral encounters. We review recent research pertaining to four types of intergroup moral encounters: (a) value-expressive and identity-expressive endorsements of conflict-related actions and policies; (b) helping and harming in-group and out-group members; (c) reacting to transgressions committed by in-group or out-group members; and (d) reacting to the suffering of in-group or out-group members. Overall, we explain how sacred values, social motives, group-based moral emotions, and the physiological processes underlying them, shape moral behavior in intergroup conflict.
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Two theorems derived from Blau's recent macrosociological theory of social structure are tested with data on intergroup criminal victimization in the United States. The data base is taken from the National Crime Survey (ncs) national sample for the years 1973 to 1978. The theoretical predictions tested are that (1) the relative size of the same group in different neighborhood contexts is inversely related to extent ofoutgroup victimization; and (2) neighborhood heterogeneity is positively related to rates of intergroup victimization. These predictions are tested with data on the interpersonal crimes of rape, robbery, assault, and larceny for two major parameters in Blau's theory—race and age. The results support the hypotheses and show that while ingroup victimization is highly prevalent in the United States, interracial and interage criminal encounters are strongly and positively related to neighborhood heterogeneity.
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Refereeing a high-profile soccer game requires a unique blend of sports-specific knowledge, physical abilities, and mental skills. While mental skills instruction has been seen as an integral element of performance enhancement in elite sport, the application of sport psychology intervention for referees and match officials is far less prominent. This case study briefly describes the levels of stress associated with refereeing elite soccer matches and the impact of stress on officiating performance and subsequent self-confidence of soccer referees. The work then outlines the program of mental skills intervention that was delivered to an elite soccer referee working within the Scottish professional soccer leagues. The program of mental skills embraced five stages: (1) Education; (2) Assessment/ profiling; (3) Mental skill learning; (4) Application of mental skills in context; and (5) Evaluation, and this article centers on the way in which each of these stages was carried out. The case study describes how the mental skills instruction program was associated with improved refereeing performance, and provides some tentative advice for sport psychology practitioners who may wish to provide consultancy services within the domain of sports officiating.
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Previous attempts to account for the occurrence of spectator aggression have employed one of the long-standing theories of aggression (i.e., instinctual theories, drive reduction models, and the social learning perspective). While support for some aspects of these theories has been documented, a comprehensive analysis of the phenomenon might direct research to more fruitful avenues. Such an analysis is proposed in this review. In addition to incorporating well-documented concepts such as physiological arousal and modeling, this new viewpoint includes the motivational aspects of team or group identification, the cognitive component of categorization, and the esteem-enhancing consequences of aggressive behavior. A model of the variables leading to spectator aggression is presented, and it is contrasted with prior theoretical viewpoints. Public policy implications for aggression reduction among sports spectators are discussed.
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Destructive intergroup conflict saps resources, perpetuates injustice, and wreaks horrendous costs on individuals and societies. Generic principles are developed for analyzing, confronting, and resolving intergroup conflict by drawing on theoretical, empirical, and practical work in applied social science. The principles are compatible with humanistic values and planned social change and are illustrated with reference to three case studies of intergroup conflict. Principles of analysis specify the areas of exploration and the nature of communication required to effectively understand destructive intergroup conflict. Principles of confrontation indicate the qualities of intergroup interaction and the nature of the problem-solving and negotiating processes necessary to successfully address the conflict. Principles of resolution enumerate the requirements and outcomes necessary for intergroup conflict to be transformed to a mutually acceptable state that is self-supporting and self-correcting.
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Stress from officiating has been found to have a profound impact on official's mental health, attentional focus, performance, satisfaction with their profession and dropout intentions. Although some studies have been conducted regarding the frequency and intensity of the major sources of stress experienced by sport officials, no research has attempted to determine how sport officials cope or attempt to cope with these stressors. Through a national soccer official organization, questionnaire packets were administered to over 200 officials. Questionnaire packets included sources of stress and ways of coping questionnaires. The top sources of stress experienced by the officials included ‘conflict between officiating and family demands,’ ‘making a controversial call’ and ‘conflict between officiating and work demands.’ The top acute coping strategies utilized by the officials included ‘thought hard about steps to manage’ and ‘asked fellow officials what they did’ (problem-focused strategies). Other results indicated the importance of officials' learning and implementing numerous stress management interventions, including time management, restructuring unproductive thoughts, physiological relaxation techniques, communication training and mental skill training techniques such as imagery, relaxation breathing and self talk. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.