Inconsistency of decision-making, the Achilles heel of referees

Alan M Nevill, Alex Hemingway, Rupert Greaves, Alexander David Francis Dallaway, Tracey J Devonport

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


This study assessed whether decisions made by six qualified referees were consistent when watching the live 2016 televised Champions League Final. Referees were paired off into three separate rooms. Two referees watched the game with no supporters present. Two watched the game surrounded by Real Madrid supporters, and the remaining two watched the game surrounded by Athletic Madrid supporters. Referees were asked to decide whether each decision made by the on-field referee was either correct or incorrect. Results identified two types of refereeing inconsistency. The first type was a systematic tendency of the supporting crowds (both rooms) to influence the adjudicating referees to make fewer incorrect (disagree with the on-field referee) decisions (8 and 5) than referees in the "no supporters" room (19) (χ2 = 11.22 [df = 2], P = 0.004). The second type of inconsistency was the home advantage "bias", where the surrounding crowd influenced the adjudicating referees to favour their team, by disagreeing with the decision made by the on-field referee (χ2 = 6.0 [df = 2], P = 0.0498). One explanation for these inconsistencies is that referees adopt a coping strategy of "avoidance", i.e., when faced with difficult decisions, referees simply avoid making unpopular decisions by waving "play on".

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2257-2261
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Sports Sciences
Issue number22
Early online date12 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Decision Making
  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Observer Variation
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Soccer/psychology


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