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Abuse is not a zero-sum game! The case for zero tolerance of match official physical and verbal abuse

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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 number of football referees. The data show that support of referees, for example through mentoring, can offset stated intentions to quit.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Sport Science
Early online date21 Feb 2021
Publication statusEarly online - 21 Feb 2021


  • Abuse is not a Zero-Sum Game

    Rights statement: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in the European Journal of Sport Science on 21.02.2021, available online:

    Accepted author manuscript (Post-print), 264 KB, PDF document

    Due to publisher’s copyright restrictions, this document is not freely available to download from this website until: 21/02/22

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