Examining the career dynamics of elite football referees: a unique identification profile

Mohsen Loghmani, Graham Cuskelly, Thomas Webb

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Research into the career dynamics of high-performance level match officials across sports is scarce. The present study analyzes the career dynamics of elite football referees from childhood to the elite level, creating a context of life design and a pattern for identifying individuals with potential talent. Twelve international and elite football referees participated in semi-structured in-depth interviews utilizing narrative inquiry. Participants were asked to recall all football refereeing–related experiences associated with their life stories from childhood to obtaining their FIFA Elite Referee (FER) position. Data analysis indicated that there were two common discourses (early and later) in an elite football referees' career which helped to shape their job role with increased meaningfulness, providing invaluable insights for reaching the FER position. The interviewees experienced specific on- and off-field, reactions during their career (early and late) in order to prepare themselves to face challenging and conflict-related situations in football refereeing. Based on career stages, types of job crafting, and job characteristics levels, we developed the unique career dynamic identification profile of elite football referees. Accordingly, we argue that a talented individual needs to undertake individual training and career-based goal setting in their early career, while later in their career the elite referees should move towards collective training and game-based goal setting. The paper discusses the wider implications of the research findings, including their transferability to other societal groups and populations such as public sportspeople, talented individuals, national football federations, referee departments, and concludes by considering suggestions for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)517-542
Number of pages26
JournalSport Management Review
Issue number3
Early online date25 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2021


  • career stages
  • goal setting
  • job characteristics
  • job crafting
  • life stories
  • Sport officials


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