Examining the effect of experience and qualification pathway when forming initial expectancies of refereeing competence

Luke D. Oldfield*, Andrew J. Manley, Richard C. Thelwell

*Corresponding author for this work

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Within sporting environments, it is inevitable that sports personnel (e.g., athletes, coaches, and officials) will continually find themselves developing expectations of others with whom they interact. With this in mind, the current study aimed to investigate how the informational cues of experience and the qualification pathway may affect both athletes' and coaches' judgments of perceived refereeing competence. A cross-sectional betweensubjects experimental design was used using 112 soccer coaches and players. Participants were required to read 1 of 4 refereeing vignettes that manipulated the 2 independent variables of experience and the qualification pathway: experienced/longitudinal, experienced/ fast-track, limited/longitudinal, and limited/fast-track. Following familiarization with the vignettes, participants completed the Assessment of Referee Competence Scale to rate their perceived competence of the referee. Competence was categorized through 6 characteristics: communication, confidence, fitness, impartiality, consistency, and respectfulness. A multivariate analysis of variance revealed the experienced referee was significantly more competent for all characteristics of refereeing competence compared to the limited condition. Although the qualification pathway yielded no significant differences between the longitudinal and fast-track condition, a follow-up analysis of variance revealed that referees associated with the longitudinal qualification pathway (i.e., had progressed through every level) were rated significantly more competent for the characteristic of communication than referees reported to be on the fast-track scheme. These results suggest that referees can harness the information they present to players and coaches before interaction, to help induce a positive first impression. By developing knowledge and skills in impression management, referees are likely to optimize their control of future interactions and reduce the likelihood of interpersonal conflict.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)506-518
Number of pages13
JournalSport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology
Issue number4
Early online date5 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020


  • communication
  • expectancy effects
  • first impressions
  • interpersonal perception
  • sports officials


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