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Referee Abuse, Intention to Quit, and Well-Being

Paul Downward, Tom Webb & Peter Dawson

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There are growing levels of abuse toward match officials in sport as well as general problems of their recruitment and retention.

Purpose: This study analyzes the role that physical and nonphysical abuse has on association football referees’ intentions to quit and their personal well-being.

Methods: Drawing on pooled survey data of association football referees from the UK and Canada, this paper employs probit, ordinary least squares, and treatment effects regression analyses to explore the casual relationship between the physical and nonphysical abuse faced by referees, their intention to quit and their wellbeing.

Results: Although physical abuse is less common than nonphysical abuse both affect the intention to quit and well-being of officials. Moreover, those that do not contemplate quitting also face reductions in their well-being.

Conclusion: The research recommends a zero-tolerance approach to all forms of abuse of officials in sport and identifies that organizations have a duty of care for the well-being of their officials.

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