‘The referee’s a ******’ - Portsmouth University study finds refs at all football levels are abused by players

A study has looked at the abuse received by football referees. Picture: PA Archive/PA Images
A study has looked at the abuse received by football referees. Picture: PA Archive/PA Images

Portsmouth university study looks at elite sport athletes

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A STUDY has revealed referees at all levels of football are subjected to verbal and physical abuse.

Researchers at the University of Portsmouth interviewed more than 2,000 referees and found how football is played and governed could be on the brink of a major shift, due to an appalling lack of respect shown.

Referees are leaving the game and threatening to leave the game, at least in part, because of the lack of respect and the violence and abuse they routinely face.

Dr Tom Webb

The study, led by Dr Tom Webb and his colleagues from the University of South Australia and Edge Hill University, has been published in the week the FA introduced new mandatory bans for grassroots players who abuse referees.

Dr Webb said: ‘Referees are leaving the game and threatening to leave the game, at least in part, because of the lack of respect and the violence and abuse they routinely face.

‘Games take place every weekend without a referee due to shortages.

‘The FA is now reviewing its Respect programme. The need for an overhaul is urgent if football as we know it is to survive.’

Dr Webb added there needs to be a cultural shift in football, and in society more widely, so ‘it becomes usual to be revolted by shockingly bad behaviour’.

Of the referees spoken to, those with the least experience were subject to the most abuse with some abused at every game. A fifth said they had been physically abused at some point in their careers.

A third called for more severe penalties to deter players and clubs which show match officials no respect.

The research is published in the Journal of Global Sport Management.