Smith, Mark

Committee Member

Oja, Brent

Committee Member

Morse, Alan

Committee Member

Larson, Milan


Sport Administration


University of Northern Colorado

Type of Resources


Place of Publication

Greeley (Colo.)


University of Northern Colorado

Date Created



259 pages

Digital Origin

Born digital


Referees are a valuable contributor to the legitimacy of a sporting contest. Despite this, abuse in sport has become a growing concern and is regularly noted as an obstacle with which referees must contend. Continued abuses have been associated with referee discontinuation and have been noted as a key factor influencing the recruitment and retention of referees. Sporting organizations, coaches, and players all feel the impact when there is an inadequate supply of referees. Though the continuance of the referee is related to the continuance of the sport itself, little research has focused on the referee.Further, the studies that have considered referee abuse have focused only on the perspective of the referee seemingly ignoring the perceptions of other sporting stakeholders. Thus, the purpose of this study was to explore perceptions of referee abuse through the lens of the collegiate rugby coach. Through a phenomenological research design utilizing semi-structured telephone interviews, the topic of referee abuse in rugby was explored. Purposive sampling allowed for a selection of participants that had adequate knowledge of the phenomenon under investigation. Participants were solicited via USA Rugby utilizing a pre-scripted email provided by the researcher. During the data collection phase, saturation was reached as 15 participants completed two phone interviews. The findings, derived from participant data, identified 12 themes that addressed coach perceptions of referee abuse, the multitude of factors that impact perceptions of abuse, and numerous coach-generated solutions to help curtail the abuse of referees. From these findings, an Ecological Transactional Model of Factors Influencing Referee Abuse is proposed. This model categorizes the factors influencing referee abuse into various ecological levels, beginning with an individual’s personal characteristics (the ontological level) and continuing through their cultural existence (the macrosystem). The model suggests that these factors influence both perceptions of referee abuse and the solutions generated regarding referee abuse. The transactional portion of this model also highlights the interaction between various levels of one’s environment, proposing that the influences of numerous factors may exist at one time and that each of these factors may also influence one another. Future research is required to explore referee abuse in other contexts and to illuminate the perceptions of referee abuse through the lenses of additional sporting stakeholders. Recommendations for such research include the application of this proposed model to other sporting contexts, the consideration of generational differences on abuse perceptions, and a further exploration of cultural differences as related to perceptions of abuse. Violence prevention is currently a primary focus in many realms, including the entertainment industry, higher education, and sport. Studies of this nature help to ensure that referee abuse is included in the ongoing dialogue regarding violence prevention in sport.

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