How referee body language affects the perception of performance

How referee body language affects the perception of performance.

I recently watched the new documentary “The Referees” which follows a number of FIFA referees through the Euro 2008 finals. The film is a great record of the stresses and pressures put on the top officials in the modern game at the highest level. It also reveals some mighty large egos!

As a referee at a local level, I can identify with the challenges of getting it right in every game. The film gives some insights into what is in the minds of the officials at key moments in games as we can here their miked up conversations. Yet the top officials keep their doubts (for the most part) hidden. How do they do this? Through confident non-verbal communication.

In the Empire Magazine review of the film, the reviewer says the defining shot in the movie is “an Italian linesman practising his flag-waving in front of a dressing room mirror. Absolutely priceless.” The reviewer has got it completely wrong. The assistant referee is actually checking that his flag technique is clear, unambiguous and, most importantly, delivered with confidence. Every decision that assistant gives is going to be scrutinised. He has to convey that he is absolutely sure of the decision (even if some of the conversation we hear suggests he is not).

Check out this clip of research into what footballers want from a referee;

 

The research confirms that players want the referee to be;

  • competent
  • dependable
  • respectful

Notice how players decide on this based on a number of verbal and non-verbal (mostly visual) clues. This is consistent with the work of Albert Mehrabian, who showed that body language and tone of voice are the most important factors in someone hearing the right message and,crucially, believing, it.

So, how do we do this? Here are a few tips to help;

  1. Make strong eye contact when you are speaking to a player.
  2. Once you have made a decision, be quick and clear with your flag or hand signals.
  3. Talk to players as you expect them to talk to you – be firm but respectful. Never swear. Use your tone of voice to convey authority, not arrogance.
  4. Where you can, give players clarification on your decisions, but state this as fact from your point of view. Don’t allow your doubts to surface. Then move on, whatever you have decided it has gone.

Follow these few rules and we can all be perceived as more competent, dependable and respectful referees. Whether we are or not depends upon accurately knowing and applying the Laws of the game.

Advertisements

3 Responses to How referee body language affects the perception of performance

  1. It’s really entertaining if we normally talk about matters such as that.

  2. “Love is much nicer to be in than an automobile accident, a tight girdle, a higher tax bracket or a holding pattern over Philadelphia.” ~ Judith Viorst

  3. Pingback: Body Language Part 2 « Refereeing the Beautiful Game

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: