Personality characteristics of UK Association Football referees

Dane McCarrick, Sandy Wolfson, Nick Neave

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Personality has often been associated with job performance and satisfaction, particularly with regard to resilience and coping with pressure. However, the links between personality type and sports officiating performance is sparsely researched. Sports officials, notably soccer referees, come under intense public and media scrutiny for their performance, and ‘burnout’ is at a high level. Therefore, understanding how personality may influence job performance in this high-pressure role could influence the support and training of referees. The aim of this study was to explore possible relationships between individual differences and performance level in English Association Football (soccer) referees. Using an independent groups design, 185 soccer referees currently performing at 3 levels (Professional, Intermediate, and Amateur) completed measures of mental toughness, locus of control, assertiveness, and social comparison. For every scale, Professional referees scored significantly higher than the other groups, while Intermediates did not differ from Amateurs. This suggests that referees at the highest level possess critical personality characteristics the others lack. The causal direction of this relationship is uncertain, but implications for training and support of officials with regard to increasing resilience and reducing burnout are noted.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)493-508
JournalJournal of Sport Behavior
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2020


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