Referees inured to abuses from players, spectators

September 18th, 2008 - 2:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Sep 18 (IANS) Players hurling expletives at referees during World Cup soccer matches are a fairly common sight, but TV watchers might wonder how clubs manage to engage these whistle blowers on their payrolls. Pamm Kellett, senior lecturer at Deakin University, who has researched referees abuse, found that they accept most of the comments others would find distressing or disparaging.

“We knew there was something about the culture that allowed these people to understand the abuse quite differently from the way other people would,” Kellett said.

Twenty-two people who refereed Australian Rules football professionally or semi-professionally were interviewed about what they find rewarding about the role despite the abuse they receive.

The results indicated it is how the umpires themselves interpret the abuse - not how we see it - that counts.

“The umpires (sic) seem to learn from the culture of their environment,” Kellett said. “There are important lessons there for all sorts of managers that culture can play an important part.”

Some research participants even held the view that, when a person pays to see a game of soccer, part of the deal is the right to abuse the referees. There also is evidence that the administration contributes to umpires’ attitudes towards abuse.

“We found that in many cases the administrators help set up the culture. They set up the expectation that it is normal for other people to abuse umpires,” said Kellett.

Previous research on abuse tended to focus on the negative aspects of the role such as stress and burnout, Kellett found. Researchers assume refereeing as a negative experience and therefore those who take them up are flawed.

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