Elite Association Football referee training and officiating
: a comparative analysis of refereeing practices in three European Leagues’

  • Thomas Webb

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Association Football referees have been an under researched subject within the social sciences. Association Football more generally, has been researched more extensively, whereas ‘the referee’ has been the subject of research in the natural sciences, most notably in physiology and psychology. As a result of this lack of attention from social scientists little is known about elite referees, their historical evolution, development pathways and structures, training, match preparation and performance.

This PhD thesis offers a comparative analysis of elite refereeing in three countries namely England, Spain and Italy. The thesis provides a comparative analysis of elite refereeing in the domestic leagues identified, as well as UEFA and FIFA and offers a detailed series of recommendations, designed to inform, develop and improve elite refereeing in European and world football.

Initially the thesis utilises an historical approach in order to outline and analyse the inception and early development of refereeing prior to the codification of Association Football in 1863, paying particular attention to referee training, assessment and support until the modern day. Empirical research is also employed in the form of semi-structured interviews with elite referees and those involved with the management, administration and training of these referees. The cultural differences that exist between the leagues, players, fans and media that operate within those leagues are considered as is the impact of UEFA and FIFA and the focus on standardisation and uniformity across domestic countries, principally driven by UEFA and FIFA. This thesis has identified significant aspects of difference in practice between individual referees and the systems that they operate within, contrary to objectives connected with the uniformity and standardisation of match officials.
Date of AwardNov 2014
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorBarry Smart (Supervisor), Richard Thelwell (Supervisor) & Matthew Taylor (Supervisor)

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