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International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology ; 21(1):33-55, 2023.
Article in English | Scopus | ID: covidwho-2244859


Upon the emergence of the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic (CP), football referees were forced to cope with the interruption of leagues and experience quarantines, with a potential threat to their physical and psychological well-being. This study examined referees' perceptions of the CP change-event, particularly the effects on refereeing engagement and performance, in part to facilitate more effective support. For this study, an online inventory was circulated during January–February 2021 to 198 referees and assistants from Israel and Portugal, asking them to reflect on the CP in the context of their careers, and the potential effects on their refereeing engagement and performance. The results indicated that the CP was perceived as a moderate change-event in terms of significance, severity, and coping, although many participants did consider it as significant. The participants indicated just a minor reduction in their refereeing quality between the 2019–2020 and the 2020–2021 seasons. The main areas affected were training on a grass field, decision-making training, and financial status. Still, refereeing instruction (conducted mainly online) improved. The behavioural effects were more forceful among the non-professional referees, suggesting that Referee Associations must pay closer attention to support these populations. The participants' motivation, refereeing identity, and self-efficacy were actually improved. Finally, the absence of the crowd in matches allowed the referees to be more aware of their actions and better communicate with players and coaches, which related to better performance. These findings further emphasize the social aspect of football refereeing and the importance of having upright management and communication skills. © 2022 International Society of Sport Psychology.