Why do referees end their careers and which factors determine the duration of a referee’s career?

Christian Rullang, Eike Emrich, Christian Pierdzioch


Against the background that the number of referees has been falling in recent years, the German Football Association (DFB) needs to answer two key questions: (i) Why do referees end their careers, and, (ii) which factors determine the duration of referee careers? We studied these questions using data from a questionnaire study of former referees. Results of estimating linear regression models and a Cox model show that the duration of a typical referee career depends, among other factors, on how a referee thinks that the career developing according to his or her plan, and on whether the referee is successful in coping with insults, threats, and violence. The “survival rate” of a referee increases in the subjective evaluation of the importance of football-specific know-how. Approximately 39 % of the former referees stated that the end of their referee career could have been prevented.



football referee; career duration; end of career; survey data

Full Text:



Cox, D. R. (1972). Regression models and life table (with discussion). Journal of the Royal Statistical Association 72: 557-565.

DFB (2015a). Mitglieder-Statistik 2015. (statistics of members 2015) Available under: http://www.dfb.de/fileadmin/_dfbdam/66210-Mitglieder-Statistik_2015.pdf

DFB (2015b). Schiedsrichter Statistik 2015. (statistics of referees 2015) Available under: http://www.dfb.de/index.php?id=1004747

Dohmen, T. J. (2008). The Influence of Social Forces: Evidence from the Behavior of Football Referees. Economic Inquiry, 46(3), 411–424. doi:10.1111/j.1465-7295.2007.00112.x

Dosseville, F- Rioult, F., and Laborde, S. (2013). Why do Sorts Officials Dropout? Proceedings Machine Learning and Data Mining for Sports Analytics workshop at ECML/PKDD, 1-10.

Dürr, B. (2012). Prügelattacke auf Linienrichter: Totschlag an der Seitenlinie. (Referee assistant beaten up. manslaughter on the sideline). spiegelonline 04.12.2012. Online available: http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/justiz/niederlande-unter-schock-jugendliche-pruegeln-linienrichter-zu-tode-a-870949.html.

Eberle, L., and Neumann, C. (2012). Perilous Pitches: Violence Against Referees Spikes in Germany. Spiegelonline (14.12.2012). Online available: http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/german-football-referees-face-increasing-violence-at-amateur-games-a-872692.html

Emrich, E. and Papathanassiou, V. (2003). Der Schiedsrichter als Regelüberwacher und –durchsetzer in der Institution Sportspiel. (The referee as the keeper of the rules in sports games). Spectrum der Sportwissenschaft, 15 (2), 6-19.

Emrich, E., and Pierdzioch, C. (2015a). Testing economic models of volunteer labor supply: Some empirical evidence for the German Red Cross. Applied Economics 47: 4247-4259.

Emrich, E., Pierdzioch, C., and Rullang, C. (2016). For the Love of football? Using economic models of volunteering to study the motives of German football referees. Diskussionspapiere des Europäischen Instituts für Sozioökonomie e.V. (Working Papers of the European Institute for Socioeconomics) No. 16. http://www.soziooekonomie.org/index.php?id=222

Emrich, E., Pierdzioch, C., Balter, J. (2013). Motive ehrenamtlichen Engagements im Fußball. Eine sozio-ökonomische Analyse und das Problem sozialer Erwünschtheit (Motives of volunteers in football. A socioeconomic analysis and the social-desireability problem). In: Kempf, H.; Nagel, S.; Dietl, H. (2015): Im Schatten der Sportwirtschaft. Hofmann: Schorndorf: 129-148.

Flatau, J,, Emrich, E., Pierdzioch, C. (2015). Zur empirischen Prüfbarkeit des homo (socio-) oeconomicus anhand der Messung der Motive ehrenamtlich Engagements in Sportvereinen (Empirical tests of the homo (socio-)economicus model using data on the motives of volunteers in sports clubs). Journal of Applied Social Science Studies, 4, 451-476.

Frick, B. (2011). Career Duration on Professional Football: The Case of German Soccer Referees. In: L. H. Kahane and S. Shmanske. The Economic of Sports. The Oxford Handbook of Sports Economics I, pp. 487-500. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Furst, D.M. (1991). Career Contingencies: Patterns of Initial Entry and Continuity in Collegiate Sports Officiating. Journal of Sport Behavior (14) 2, 93-102.

Gray, C.E., and Wilson, P.M. (2008) The Relationship Between Organizational Commitment, Perceived Relatedness, and Intentions to Continue in Canadian Track and Field Officials. Journal of Sport Behaviour 30, 44-63.

Hartmann, H. (1964). Funktionale Autorität. Systematische Abhandlung zu einem soziologischen Begriff. (Functional Authority. Systematical Review of a sociological Term). Stuttgart: Enke.

Johansen, B.T. (2015). Reasons for officiating soccer: the role of passion-based motivations among Norwegian elite and non-elite referees. Movement & Sport Sciences, 87, 23–30.

Lützenkirchen, H.-G. (2002). Aggression und Gewalt im Amateurfußball: Wahrnehmungen und Einschätzungen aus der Praxis; Ergebnisse einer Befragung von Funktionsträgern der Fußballkreise im Bereich des Fußball-Verbandes Mittelrhein e.V. (Aggression and Violence in Amateur Football). Köln: Fußball-Verband Mittelrehein e. V.

Lützenkirchen, H.-G. (2003). Fußball und Gewalt. (Football and Violence) In H.-J. Kerner and E. Marks (Eds.), Internetdokumentation Deutscher Präventionstag. Hannover. Retrieved from http://www.praeventionstag.de/nano.cms/dokumentation/details/19

Mascarenhas, D. R., Button, C., O´Hara, D., and Dicks, M. (2009). Physical performance and decision making in association football referees: A naturalistic study. Retrieved from http://epubs.glyndwr.ac.uk/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1001&context=ses

Mascarenhas, D. R., Collins, D., Mortimer, P., and Morris, R. L. (2005). A Naturalistic Approach to Training Accurate and Coherent Decision Making in Rugby Union Referees. The Sport Psychologist, 19, 131–147.

Nevill, A. M., Balmer, N. J., and Williams, A. M. (2002). The influence of crowd noise and experience upon refereeing decisions in football. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 3(4), 261–272.

Owen, D. W. (2016). Violence at children’s football game “out of control” says Leicester ref. Leicester Mercurry (27.02.2016). Online available: http://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/Violence-children-s-football-games-control-says/story-28815391-detail/story.html

Rainey, D.W. (1995a). Sources of Stress among Basketball and Softball Umpires. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 7, 1-10.

Rainey, D.W. (1995b). Stress, Burnout, and Intention to Terminate among Umpires. Journal of Sport Behavior, 18, 312-323.

Rainey, D.W., and Hardy, L. (1999). Sources of Stress, Burnout and Intention to Terminate among Rugby Union Referees. Journal of Sport Sciences, 17, 797-806.

Rullang, C., Emrich, E., and Pierdzioch, C. (2015a). Wie häufig werden Schiedsrichter Opfer von Beleidigungen, Drohungen und Gewalt? Ergebnisse einer bundesweiten Umfrage unter aktiven Schiedsrichtern. (How often are referees vicitms of insults, threats and violence? Results of a nationwide survey of active referees). Leipziger Sportwissenschaftliche Beiträge, 56(2), 44–66.

Rullang, C., Emrich, E., and Pierdzioch, C. (2015b). Mit Zuckerbrot und Pfeife – Die Bedeutung unterschiedlicher Autoritätsformen im Rollenselbstbild von Schiedsrichtern (With a Carrot and a Whistle – The Importance of Differnet Forms of Authority in the Role Self-Perception of Referees). Sport und Gesellschaft – Sport and Society, 12(3), 215–239.

Sabaini, D. (2001). How to get & keep officials. Special Report, The National Association of Sports Officials. Available at: http://www.naso.org/Resources/SpecialReports.aspx

Taylor, A. H., and Daniel, J.V. (1987). Sources of Stress in Soccer Officiating: An empirical study. In: T. Reilly, A. Lees, K. Davis and W.J. Murphy (eds): Science and Football: Proceedings of the First Wolf Congress of Science and Football. pp 538-544. London: E& FN Spon.

Taylor, A. H., Daniel, J.V., Leith, L. and Burke, R.J. (1990). Perceived stress, psychological burnout and paths to turnover intentions among sport officials. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology 2 (1), 84-97.

Teipel, D., Kemper, R., and Heinemann D. (1998). Physiologische Beanspruchung eines Schiedsrichters im Fußball. (Physical strain on referees in lower and higher divisions) In. G. Bäumler and G. Bauer (Hrsg.), Sportwissenschaft rund um den Fußball. (Schriften der Deutschen Vereinigung für Sportwissenschaft, 96, S. 79-86). Hamburg: Czwalina.

Teipel, D., Kemper, R., and Heinemann D. (2001). Psychische Beanspruchung von Schiedsrichtern in niedrigen und hohen Spielklassen. (Psychological strain on referees in lower and higher divisions) In. D. Teipel and R. Kemper (Hrsg.), Nachwuchsförderung im Fußball. 15. Jahrestagung der dvs-Kommission Fußball vom 17.-19.11.1999 in Jena. (Schriften der Deutschen Vereinigung für Sportwissenschaft, 118, S. 219-225). Hamburg: Czwalina.

Titlebaum, P., J., Haberlin, N., and Titlebaum, G. (2009). Recruitment and Retention of Sports Officials. Recreational Sports Journal (33), 102-108.

VanYperen, N.W. (1998). Predicting Stay/Leave Behaviour Among Volleyball Referees. The Sport Psychologist (12), 427-439.

Vester, T. (2012). Neue Maßnahmen gegen Gewaltvorkommnisse auf dem Fußballplatz im Amateurbereich: Eine Forschungsskizze und erste Ergebnisse. (New policies against Violence on amateur Football Courts: A scientific sketch and first results). Neue Kriminalpolitik, (3), 92–97.

Vester, T. (2013). Zielscheibe Schiedsrichter: Zum Sicherheitsgefühl und zur Opferwerdung von Unparteiischen im Amateurfußball (1st ed.). (Referee as target: To the feeling of safty and to the victimization of officials in amateur divisions). Schriften zum Sportrecht: Vol. 31. Baden-Baden: Nomos.

Vester, T. (2014). Immer häufiger, immer brutaler? Ein Überblick zur Entwicklung des Gewaltaufkommens im Amateurfußball. (More often, more brutal? A Review of the development of violence in amateur football). Kriminalistik, (10), 572–576.

Voight, M. (2009). Sources of stress and coping strategies of US soccer officials. Stress and Health (25) 1, 91-101.

Wicker, P., and Frick, B. (2016). Recruitment and Retention of Referees in Nonprofit Sport Organizations: The Trickle-Down Effect of Role Models. Voluntas, 27(3), 1304-1322.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.15203/CISS_2017.006

Article Metrics

Metrics Loading ...

Metrics powered by PLOS ALM


  • There are currently no refbacks.