The psychology of the referee in the past, today?
An article by the late Professor Pericles Lytras,
from TEAM-SPORTSMAN magazine (March 20, 1981).
The referee’s psychology
The master of the game has a special and peculiar position, since he is at the same time, judge and judged.
Just the fact that the smooth and trouble-free running of a match is the work and mission of the referee, since it depends to a great extent on him, shows the magnitude and importance of his role and the sport.
The position of the football referee – like that of referees and other team sports – is entirely separate and peculiar, insofar as he is both judge and judged.
Referee since he is the supervisor of the application of the sport’s regulations and at the same time the judge of the actions of the competitors with almost absolute authority over them for 90 minutes.
Judging by the fact that all of his actions are criticized by the high school captain of the match, by the journalistic world and mainly by the sports fans.
In other words, the position of referee is really difficult and responsible and requires:
Good theoretical knowledge of regulations.
Correct reactions of an immediate nature that will make use of his theoretical training.
Good physical condition to attend all phases.
Impartiality and objectivity.
Isolation of public events for or against him.
Cooperation with supervisors.
The events of the world and the players and the referee.
The referee during the exercise of his duties is obliged not to take into account any reactions of the public and the competitors.
In theory this is easy, since the referee is dealing with specific regulations for each case.
In practice, however, his mission is difficult due to the various reactions of the public and the players.
Often the competitor behaves badly towards the referee, while the public, sometimes passionate and charged and sometimes ignoring the true interpretation of the regulations, engages in events that affect not only the specific professional status and status of the referee, but also his personal life (insults against him or against his family).
For this reason, it is common for the fans to become accomplices of a player’s bad sportsmanship and get into trouble with the manager, while the opposite often happens, when the player, obeying the shouts of the stand, reacts badly and in the last analysis impermissible for a professional athlete.
If one could isolate the man from the professional referee during these 90 minutes, he would easily find that he is dealing with a personality possessed by emotions:
Isolation. He feels alone in dealing with all the difficult situations that may arise. Alone against the aggression of football players.
Stress and guilt.
Anxiety from a possible bad reaction and the often incalculable consequences of it and guilt from the fact that it might contribute negatively to a match.
Atonement of a victim. To the extent that arbitration is often called upon directly or indirectly to cover all types of weaknesses of the associations, for example sporting, administrative, financial.
Against these disadvantages the referee has to oppose the correct and direct application of the regulations, his objectivity and his ethics. The issue is difficult because two different approaches are required, which will lead from a different path to the realization of the special purpose.
On the one hand, the level of training of referees needs to be improved, taking into account all the modern findings of science, mainly psychology, and on the other, a change in mentality that wants to see him as a red flag for every failure of his club.
In other words, we must reach a level similar to that of most European countries, where the referee applies the regulations ignoring the stand reactions, is mild without nerves and generally gets along with the players who, due to their education and long experience, respect his decisions, regardless of whether they believe they are wronged and lastly and most importantly there is no concept of compromise and choosing the easy solution.
The refereeing distinctions according to the importance of the match.
For referees it should be taken for granted that all matches are the same thing. Although it seems easy to deal with in theory, in every match in practice things are extremely difficult, because even objectively judged various matches do not all have the same importance to each other.
The match that declares the champion is another, the one that means a change of category for a team, and the one that has no basic importance is another.
Still of special importance for the prestige, prestige and future of a football team, is the derby match. Which rests more on an ethical and traditional basis and less football logic, since even in this match the points of victory, draw and defeat are the same as the others.
At this point the referees seem to share the objective difficulty and for this reason we see some referees wanting to avoid such a difficult refereeing, presenting various reasons of force majeure, usually illness.
Another distinguishing element of refereeing is the separation of football players by some referees into two categories:
The well-known, famous, well-paid, highly publicized, gold-paid and in one word vendettas and the unknown, the many, the unadvertised competitors.
The frequent application here of the phrase “two measures and two standards” which seems to convey in the best way this reality, this complex behavior, (favour for the few and the chosen and apathy for the many that are the basis of the sport) of the referee at this point is not unrelated to some paradoxes that occur in the sport. In this particular case, for example, how can the referee stick to the practice of the famous player, as well as that of an unknown one, at the moment when millions of drachmas were spent on the former, entire sports newspapers were occupied for days and the sports fan world has been properly fanatical, to the extent that he cannot bear the punishment of his indalmation.
This short article does not have an account of the referee’s position. If it seems that way, it’s because we believe that what needs to change first of all is the mindset of the world.
Put an end to this great prejudice against every referee. Prejudice, which is actually rooted not in our specific past experiences, but in the need to protect and prepare ourselves for a possible failure.
By overcoming this basic psychological inhibition, the public – which makes them react badly to the referee – will start a new era for the football ethics of our country. An era where the sports fan will take his impartiality and objectivity for granted.
He will only check him for his correct or incorrect reactions and by judging in this way he will be able to realize that just as every professional and human being makes mistakes, the same happens with the referee.
For his part, the referee, by avoiding pointless, painful for him and the sport, biased refereeing and having the support of the public in his work, will be able to reduce his human errors to a minimum.
By “hitting” the institutions one usually achieves the opposite of the expected results. It is the duty of the state, the administrations and the clubs and the players, to look for ways to educate the public on sports ethics, so as to improve the situation in this area. After all, the Greek referees who referee in Europe, almost always excel.
Why shouldn’t this success with everyone’s help also happen in our country?
Good remuneration of referees, so that there is a strong basis of objectivity.
Refrain from the audience swearing (ma’am en masse) against the referees.
The referees try not to provoke the audience with constant wrong actions.
Mobilization of unions to undertake a crusade to educate the public and avoid actions that only degrade our cultural level.
Strict penalties for players and fans who curse, slap or threaten the referees in any way.
Pericles Lytras (1953 – 2018)
Sociologist – Psychologist