School of Sport, Health and Exercise Science

Referee and Match Official Research Network


The Referee and Match Official Research Network is designed to bring together academics and others interested in the development and associated research concerning the match official within a variety of sports. The network aims to bring together scholars, policy makers and interested parties from a variety of disciplines in order to develop a greater understanding of the experience, operational climate, and coordination of match officials within national organisations and across transnational boundaries.

The lead academic of this research group is Dr Tom Webb. Please see Tom's profile page for further details and his Pure Profile for publications.

Three themes

Working environment and operational conditions for match officials

Image: Flikr

Development and performance across organisational and societal cultures

Image: Flikr


Leadership, management and coordination of match officials

Image: Flikr

Research Network Coordinator



  • Dr Jamie Cleland – University of South Australia
  • Dr Jimmy O’Gorman – Edge Hill University
  • Dr Matt Smith – University of Chichester
  • Manuel Armenteros - University Carlos III of Madrid, Department of Journalism and Audiovisual Communication
  • Dr Géraldine Rix-Lievre - Blaise Pascal University
  • João Aragão e Pina - University Institute of Lisbon (ISCTE)
  • Dr Mohsen Loghmani - Shafagh Institute of higher Education, Iran
  • Dr Denise Hill - Swansea University

Research Students

  • Dane White - MPhil/PhD - When is an advantage an advantage? Referees and the use of the advantage in association football, analysing the impact of probability
  • Lee Markham - MRes - Talent Identification and Development of Football Referees
  • Chris Horton - MPhil/PhD - Modelling Umpire Development in Grass-roots Field Hockey

Industry Contacts

  • Hampshire Football Association
  • Rugby Football Union (RFU)
  • French Football Federation (FFF)
  • Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB)
  • The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA)
  • The Football Association (FA)
  • The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB)

Book in preparation

Webb, T., Cleland, J., O’Gorman, J. & Rayner, M. (Due 2019). Referees, match officials and abuse: Research and Implications for Policy. London: Routledge.

Recent Publications

Webb, T., Rayner, M. & Thelwell, R. (2018). An explorative case study of referee abuse in English rugby league. Journal of Applied Sport Management, 10(2), doi: 10.18666/JASM-2017-V10-12-8834.  

Webb, T. (2017). [Review of the book Spanish football and social change: Sociological investigations, by R. Llopis-Goig]. The International Journal of the History of Sport.

Cleland, J., O’Gorman, J & Webb, T. (2017). Respect? An investigation into the experience of referees in association football. The International Review for the Sociology of Sport. DOI: 10.1177/1012690216687979

Nevill, A., Webb, T. & Watts, A. (2013). Improved training of football referees and the decline in home advantage. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 14, 220-227. 

Rayner, M., Webb, T. & Webb, H. (2016). The occurrence of referee abuse in rugby union: Evidence and measures through an online survey, The International Journal of Sports Management, Recreation and Tourism, 21 (d). DOI:

Webb, T. (2014). The emergence of training and assessment for referees in association football: Moving from the side-lines, The International Journal of the History of Sport, 31 (9), 1081-1097. doi.

Webb, T. (2014). Elite refereeing structures in England: A perfect model or a challenging invention? Soccer & Society. DOI:10.1080/14660970.2014.980740.

Webb, T. Thelwell, R. (2015). “He’s taken a dive”: Cultural comparisons of elite referee responses to reduced player behaviour in association football. Sport, Business and Management: An International Journal, 5 (3), 242-258.

Webb, T. & Rayner, M. (2016). Sportsmanship from a referee’s perspective: A case study of four sports. In T. Delaney, Sportsmanship: Multi-disciplinary Perspectives. USA: McFarland Publishing.

Webb, T. (2016). Referees and the media: a difficult relationship but an unavoidable necessity. Soccer & Society. DOI:10.1080/14660970.2015.1133414.

Webb, T. (2016). 'Knight of the Whistle': W. P. Harper and the impact of the media on an Association Football referee. The International Journal of the History of Sport, 33 (3), 306-324. DOI:10.1080/09523367.2016.1151004.

Webb, T., Cleland, J. & O’Gorman, J. (2017). The distribution of power through a media campaign: The Respect programme, referees and violence in association football. The Journal of Global Sport Management. DOI: 10.1080/24704067.2017.1350591

Webb, T. (2016). Referees and the media: a difficult relationship but an unavoidable necessity. Soccer & Society. DOI:10.1080/14660970.2015.1133414.: 

Webb, T., Thelwell, R., Dicks, M. Nevill, A. (2016). The Impact of referee training: Reflections on the reduction of home advantage in association football. Soccer & Society. DOI:10.1080/14660970.2016.1267626.

Webb, T., Wagstaff, C., Rayner, M. Thelwell, R. (2016). Leading elite Association Football referees: Challenges in the cross-cultural organization of a geographically dispersed group. Managing Sport and Leisure. DOI: 10.1080/23750472.2016.1209978.


Webb, T. Elite soccer referees: Officiating in the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A. Routledge. (Published April, 2017). (Research Monograph)

Conference Presentations

Webb, T. (2017). North American Society for Sports Management. Oral presentation. Violence in the workplace? Analysing soccer referee experiences and abuse through a longitudinal lens.

Sport and Social Justice (Political Studies Association). Oral presentation.
Cultural Leadership of Elite Association Football Referees. (2016).

North American Society for Sports History. Oral presentation.
A Career in Football Refereeing: W. P. Harper and the Beginnings of Mass Media Attention. (2015).

First International Conference on the Science and Practice of Sports Refereeing. Oral presentation. (2014).
Standardising Elite Association Football Refereeing: An Historic Problem, no Easy Solution

North American Society for Sports History. Oral presentation.
‘The official game’: the connected emergence of the referee in association football, rugby union and American football. (2014).

European Sociological Association. PhD conference and workshop. Fully funded application process.
“Open your eyes ref!” Can the old clichés be discarded? Elite association football refereeing: a comparative analysis of England and Spain. (2011).

North American Society for Sports History. Oral presentation.
‘Under pressure’: Elite association football referee responses to systemic and structural changes. (2011).

Invited Presentations

  • Manchester Metropolitan University. Research Presentation. (22/06/17).
  • Blackburn Rovers Football Club. (27/02/2015).
  • University of Caen. Research Symposium. (23/05/2016).
  • University of Chichester. Research Presentation. (14/10/16).

Current Research Projects

  • The Respect programme and referee abuse in association football
  • Referee database project: How can data and trends inform refereeing practices?
  • Referee and umpire abuse in rugby union and cricket
  • The search for respect: Examining effective association football referee behaviour at grassroots level
  • The working practices and operational environments of referees from a transnational comparative perspective
  • Human error as statistical white noise? The case of incorrect decisions made by professional football referees in the English Premier League

Public Media Engagement

BBC 5 Live Daily (23/12/2016) – Invited contribution to programme on football referee abuse (

BBC Sport Website (06/11/2016) – Report on research (

BBC 5 Live Investigates(06/11/2016). - Contribution to programme on research related to Umpire Experiences and Abuse in cricket  (

Skysports (06/11/2016) – Report on research (

The Telegraph (06/11/2016) – Report on research ( 

BBC World Service, World Football Show (22/01/2016) – Guest on Programme: Discussion of research

Daily Mail (2016) Report on research

BBC Hereford & Worcester (25/01/2016) - Discussion of research (2016) – Report on research (2016) – Report on research (2016) – Report on research

BBC Radio Lincolnshire, (22/01/2016) - Guest interview about research

BBC South Today(24/01/2016) – Live discussion of my research about football referees.

BBC 5 Live Investigates(06/12/2015). - Contribution to programme on research related to Referee Abuse in football and the Respect campaign (

Times Higher (2015) - Survey into abuse of football referees, conducted by Dr Tom Webb for UoP in conjunction with Edge Hill and Loughborough Universities, featured in an article

BBC Radio Solent(07/12/2015) – Guest interview

The Telegraph (21/03/16) – Report using the research

The Telegraph (22/03/16) – Report using the research

The Telegraph (22/03/16) – Report using the research

The Telegraph (20/07/16) – Report using the research

The Telegraph (21/07/16) – Report using the research

The Times (24/02/2015) - Contribution to article about football refereeing and media pressure.