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Football referees 'face less criticism from commentators than they think'

Referees face less criticism from commentators than they think Credit: Nigel French/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Football referees do not receive as much criticism from sports commentators as they believe, according to new research. A study carried out at the University of Portsmouth found that professional pundits do not make as many negative comments about the decisions made by referees as the officials think they do.

Dr Tom Webb, a senior lecturer in sports management and development, analysed live commentaries and post-match discussions for 20 English Premier League matches and found the amount of time spent discussing the referee during live commentaries was a total of 37.5 minutes during the entire 20 matches.

And of the 267 total comments made about the referee during the matches, only 29 were judged negative.

Dr Webb said:

"Most people will be surprised by these statistics. We analysed 20 live matches, including the post-match analysis, which is a significant amount of coverage - at least two hours of content per match. The negative comments were minimal compared to the positive or neutral comments. That was really unexpected."

– Dr Tom Webb, Senior Lecturer

However, interviews with referees in previous academic studies have found that match officials believe the media was responsible for much of the pressure they felt.

And an online survey of referees found that 60% reported being verbally abused at least every couple of games.<