Hasan Birol Yalcin
Dr. Ercan Polat
Ömer Halisdemir University
School of Physical Education and Sports – Department of Sports Management
Bor Road, 9.km 51700, Niğde – TURKEY
Phone: +90 388 313 0012
Fax: +90 388 313 0014
Ercan Polat is an Assistant Professor Department of Sport Management at Omer Halisdemir University, Turkey; Ugur Sonmezoglu is a Research Assistant in the Department of Sport Management at Pamukkale University, Turkey; Hasan Birol Yalcin is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sport Management at Abant Izzet Baysal University.
Psychological Violence and Pressure Activities Experienced by Football Referees
The aim of this research was to determine the psychological violence and pressure faced by football referees in Bolu and Düzce and to disclose the reasons of the events. Phenomenology, one of the qualitative research designs, was used in this research. Criterion sampling and easily accessible methods were used for sampling. Literature review was carried out and open-ended and semi-structured interview forms were obtained accordingly. Interviews were made with 4 different groups consisting of 17 participants by focus group discussion method. The content analysis method was used in the analysis of the obtained data.
In the research, it was found out that psychological violence and pressure elements faced by football referees in workplaces arise from the internal and external environment of the workplaces. The internal environment of the workplace of the referees was stated under subtopics such as social exclusion, lack of assignment, excessive number of assignments, and assignments below their capacities, etc. The external environment of the workplace of the referees was stated under the subtopics including physical violence, swearing and insults, pressure on the institution of the referee and threatening and creating pressure on the referee through public opinion.
In addition to the aforementioned results, the factors leading to the psychological violence and pressure faced by the football referees were found as legal gaps, incoherencies and frequent changes in directions and, regarding as a rival, nepotism, regionalism, jealousy, etc.
Keywords: Psychological violence, psychological pressure, football referee.
Not enabling suitable work place in an organizational environment causes workers to experience a lot of different variables such as stress, lack of job satisfaction, and burnout (1). Psychological violence and pressure, which are also among the variables, are the factors that affect development and integration of organizations negatively. Especially, psychological violence and pressure experienced in the organization affect organizational culture and atmosphere negatively, decrease performance, and cause negative attitudes, behaviors and feelings among workers (2).
When the literature is taken into consideration, psychological violence and pressure behaviors experienced in organization are also frequently described as mobbing. (3) Describes mobbing as hostile and unethical activities which are usually towards a person in a systematic manner by one or more individuals in working life. When the literature regarding the subject is taken into consideration, psychological violence and pressure concepts are included in many researches. There are many studies including the mobbing activities against the workers in many fields such as education, health and economy in public and private sectors (4; 5; 1; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12; 13; 14; 15 & 16). While there are not many studies regarding mobbing in sports in the international literature, there are also a few studies nationally. For instance, there are studies regarding mobbing activities against physical training and sports teachers, against football coaches (17). However, there are fewer studies regarding only the football referees, who are one of the indispensable elements in sports (18).
In brief, mobbing is described as the negative activities towards one person or more people in the internal environment of a workplace by one or more people for a certain period of time (such as social exclusion, insulting words, physical abuse or similar torture, and sexual harassment (8 & 19). Accordingly, it is emphasized that a mobbing activity is required to be performed within a certain period of time and at a certain time. However, according to our study it can be said that the activities experienced by football referees are not included within the description of mobbing. Since, it is seen that the activities experienced by the football referees are not repeated generally within a certain period of time due to their special conditions. Especially, it has been observed that the people and groups such as athletes, coaches, managers, which are described as the external environment of the workplace, take place in the activities against the football referees before, during or after the match for a short period of time. Accordingly, psychological violence and pressure activities against the football referees are focused in the study and the aim of the study was to determine what kind of psychological violence or mobbing activities they are exposed to, and the consequences of the mentioned psychological violence and pressure activities. Previous research indicates that referees experience stress and scare of physical harm. Most of these researches are related to coping styles, motives, and reasons to become a soccer referee. However, previous studies offer little insights into the psychological experiences of threat and aggression directed at soccer referees (20). Therefore, it is expected to raise awareness in the related subject in the football refereeing community by stating psychological violence and pressure activities, which will be experienced by the football referees that are one of the vital elements of the football sector, and by revealing the reasons of the mentioned activities.
Phenomenology is one of the qualitative research designs used in the research. Phenomenology is the method of analyzing the expressions, feelings, memories, expectations, and experiences of individuals regarding a phenomenon that we do not know thoroughly (21). Also, phenomenology is used to expose the meaning of experiences that people experience for an event or a topic (22). This research was carried out in Turkey with 17 referees (aged between 28 – 36 years) who worked in different levels in Turkish Football Federation in 2013-2014 season in Turkey. Four of 17 participant soccer referees work as national, 7 of them work as regional, and 5 of them work as provincial referees. The participants also had at least a 10-year football refereeing experience and a 10 to 15-year football experience. “Criterion sampling and easily accessible sampling” methods that are among the purposive sampling methods were used as sampling methods in the research. The purposive sampling is a method that enables studying the conditions which are accepted as having rich fund of information profoundly, and assists discovering and explaining the phenomenon and events in many situations (23 & 24). The referees, who have been working in Bolu and Düzce for at least 10 years and can be accessed easily, were selected as the criterion.
A semi-structured open ended question form was created as a data collecting tool in the research. In the interview form, there are two warm-up questions that include the personal information aimed to prepare the interviewer for the interview, followed by two main questions regarding the internal environment and external environment of the workplace of the referee in the main section and these questions were supported with follow up questions in accordance with the progress of the interview. In the interview, carried out by applying the focus group method, the semi-structured types of questions in the interview form were asked to the participants typically and systematically. Interviewing as a research method is a form of verbal and controlled communication between a researcher and a person who is the subject of the research (25). By using this format, deeper knowledge regarding the perceptions and experiences of the participants was obtained (26). Interviews were made with 4 different groups, including approximately four people for each, and 17 participants in total. All the interviews were performed on a volunteer basis on the desired day, time, and place having appointments with the people who wanted to participate in the research. The interviews were recorded by a digital tape recorder with consents of the participants. The interviews lasted approximately for 50 minutes to 80 minutes, and the total interview period was 4 hours, 10 minutes. Descriptive analysis was used in the analysis of the data. Firstly, the data was transformed into texts by the researcher and tables were formed by listing the answers of the participants for the same questions. Next, the data was organized by summarizing and made ready for the content analysis. Then, content analysis was conducted. The content analysis is a method used for characterizing and comparing the findings or the records of the documents and interviews (27). In the phase of the data analysis, the data summarized and interpreted in descriptive analysis profoundly subjected to the coding process. After the data was coded, themes were formed by gathering the similar data. Therefore, inductive method was used in the processes regarding the analysis of the data. The codes created independently by two researchers were compared so that consistency was achieved between the codes; similar codes were gathered to form the themes. Letter coding was used in order to determine which focus group the interview notes belong to and the codes were formed by giving numbers to the individuals included in each focus group (for example, first focus group and first person: (A, 1)).
The findings regarding the psychological violence and pressure activities that may be experienced by the football referees in their workplaces when the refereeing is accepted institutionally are disclosed in two sections; the internal environment of the workplace and external environment of the work place.
In the first section, psychological violence and pressure activities against football referees regarding the internal environment of the workplace were classified. In this classification, the themes were created as psychological violence and pressure activities applied by the top executives and the workers in similar positions. When the opinions of the participants were analyzed, any psychological violence and pressure activity arising from the individuals at the lower positions was not found.
In the second section, psychological violence and pressure activities arising from the audience, coaches, football players, media and club managers, which are from the external environment of the work place for the football referees were disclosed. Moreover, the theme including the reasons of psychological violence and pressure activities faced by the football referees was disclosed in line with the opinions of the participants.
1-Psychological violence and pressure factors against the internal environment of the work place
In the research, it was observed that the individuals included in the refereeing institution are exposed to psychological violence and pressure activities in three ways in the internal environment of the workplace; by the top executives, the individuals in the similar position, and the individuals in the lower positions. Therefore, themes are presented below under three different titles in this section of the research.
1.1- Psychological violence and pressure activities by the top executives (managers):
According to the findings of the research, the football referees participated in the interview described the psychological violence and pressure activities they face within the refereeing institution as follows: Lack of assignment, assigning in the matches and positions which are below their capacities, unfair assignments, threatening, insulting, nepotism, assignment in difficult matches, lack of objectivity in the match marks, and they also stated that these activities are imposed by the top executives. In accordance with the opinions of the participants, the codes of the theme regarding psychological violence and pressure activities imposed by the top executives are presented in Table 1.
Table 1. The codes of the theme regarding psychological violence and pressure activities by the top executives
|Psychological violence and pressure activities experienced in the internal environment of the work place
(By Top Executives)
|Lack of assignment
Assigning in the Matches and Positions below the Capacity
Assignment in Difficult Matches
Lack of Objectivity in the Match Marks
Work Load and Underpay
According to the findings of the research, it can be stated that the participants experience psychological violence and pressure activities through eight main subjects by the top executives. Activities listed in the table are traced in the statements of the participants as follows: “For example, I want to be referee, but I am always assigned as assisting referee and in low-category matches and thus, they try to demoralize us. As indirect mobbing, we are assigned in low-category matches” (A, 2). “For example, they do not promote me and insult me, either. However, they assign me in difficult matches in the eastern regions. We experience events, the people attack the referees. They assign me in such matches.” (B, 1). “They use us as a bait in the critical matches.” (C, 2) and “The most effective mobbing in the refereeing is the lack of assignments” (D, 2). When the statements are taken into consideration, it can be said that psychological violence and pressure activities are experienced by being assigned in difficult matches or in the low-category matches.
Similarly, a statement of a participant which is “For example, the observers assigned in … are always prejudiced against the referees in the other region and give lower marks in order to increase the marks of the referees of their own sides. Some observers have threated by indicating that they have led to a referee to be fired (A, 2)” shows that the match observers that are accepted as top executives behave unfair, prejudiced and create pressure with threatening statements.
Moreover, the statements “Nepotism has negative effects on the referees in time and the managers outside your group begin to insult you” (C, 1) and “I showed 3 red cards at the last minute in a match and the observer congratulated me, he gave me 8, 4 points and I saw the report. However, the report was changed in the meeting on Tuesday and the point was reduced to 7, 4. My point was changed by the committee. We were exposed to mobbing not to be assigned in the match” (B, 1) show that some psychological violence and pressure activities based on the grouping within the refereeing institution are experienced.
The statements such as “There are trainings on Tuesday and Thursday, we have training in the province per month. You are an amateur in athletic tests in the matches at weekends. But, you are also a professional” (C, 3) and “The payments are low and even, you cannot get enough payment to meet your expenses when you are assigned in a match” (D, 1) show that the football referees have high workload and they are not satisfied in terms of payments.
1.2- Psychological violence and pressure activities for the individuals in the similar position:
As a result of the analysis of the data obtained from the interviews in the research, the participants are exposed to psychological violence and pressure activities by the referees in the similar position as follows: social exclusion, threatening, nepotism, rumors, jealousy, mobbing and pressure based on hierarchical position (Table 2).
Table 2. Codes regarding the theme of psychological violence and pressure activities by the individuals in the similar position
|Psychological violence activities experienced in the internal environment of the work place
(By the workers in the similar position)
Pressure Based on Hierarchical Position
Pressure Based on Nepotism
The participant statement “While a referee is watching the match of another referee, he says to a press member that “this referee cannot be assigned in this match. How has the assignment authority made this decision?” (C, 3) shows that the psychological violence and pressure activities are reflected to the other individuals outside the organization so that mobbing activity is experienced in a broader area.
Similarly, two of the participant statements which are “The stages are announced in a province where I was assigned previously and the referees there say: Why don’t you take part in the province A? Because, there are a lot of matches there. If you aim classification, then go to the province A. They think that I’ll decrease their possibility of being chosen. Regionalism (nepotism) is common among the referees in the provinces. The referees coming outside the province are exposed to pressure in that province.” (A, 1) and “A hierarchy is also present even if it is not similar to the one in the military. The elderly are also taking the first place in the trainings. The new ones remain behind. This situation is accepted as mobbing by the new referees.” (D, 2) reveal that the football referees coming from another province are exposed to psychological and pressure activities.
Moreover, when the statements “I have my name in the promotion list. My referee friends drunk alcohol and harassed me. They said you could not pass the exam and put pressure on me. I memorized the rule book as they had advised, but I failed the exam” (C, 1) and when the following participant statements which are “There are two different groups and they are included in the committee in some periods. Nepotism is everywhere. The referees are urged to take place in that group. Whoever is included in the committee from the groups, the ones in the other groups are threatened” (A, 5) taken into consideration, it can be said that the referees are exposed to some psychological violence and pressure activities such as threatening, mobbing, and social exclusion.
2-Psychological violence and pressure factors against the external environment of the work place
In the research, some psychological violence and pressure factors in the external environment of the workplace of the referees which includes different agents such as audience, coach, football player, media, and sports club managers were revealed. These were listed as putting pressure on the referee through public opinion, interventions including physical violence, threatening, insults, swearing and putting pressure through the institution of the referee. The codes of the findings regarding the theme of psychological violence activities experienced in the external environment of the work place are given in Table 3.
Table 3. The codes of the theme of psychological violence activities experienced in the external environment of the work place
|Psychological violence activities experienced in the external environment of the work place|
|Creating pressure on the referee through public opinion
Interventions including physical violence
Insults and swearing
Creating pressure through the institution of the referee
The psychological violence and pressure activities against football referees through public opinion and IHK (Province Referee Committee) emerge in the statements “Some sports clubs try to create a public opinion pressure on the referees that have a voice in the amateur league through the websites” (B, 4). “The managers generally followed me after the match” (C, 4). “Generally, the club members put pressure on IHK members and referees” (A, 4).
Similarly, the participant statements “We hear swears, the audience may affect us. They prevent my job. There are threats towards us. These apply pressure on the new referees. For example, I was attacked as a public officer in the match” (A, 4) and “The audience put pressure from matches to matches. You are under pressure due to wrong decisions. The previous mistakes are reminded in the next matches. They want us to make decisions for their benefits by means of swearing, insults, in-field intervention, oral and physical attacks” (A, 3) show that the supporters that are among the factors of the external environment of the workplace take role in psychological violence and pressure activities by means of swearing, physical intervention and threatening.
The final participant statements “The coaches objecting to the referees from the bench in front of the football players also affect the football players negatively” (B, 3). “The ones who are not informed and do not have any expectations of this job may engage in violence. Physical intervention is experienced more in low category. They showed us” (A, 4). “Physical intervention is rare” (C, 4) show that the football players and coaches also take place in psychological violence and pressure activities against football referees.
3-The elements causing psychological violence and pressure activities experienced by the football referees
As the elements causing psychological violence and pressure experienced by the football referees, which is the final section of the research findings; legal gaps, incoherencies in the directions and frequent changes, accepting as a rival, grouping, nepotism, regionalism, promotions, prejudgement against referees and the presence of hierarchical structure, imposing sanctions and the importance of the match were found within the theme. The information regarding the mentioned theme is given in Table 4.
Table 4. The codes regarding the elements causing psychological violence and pressure experienced by the referees
|The Subjects Causing Psychological Violence and Pressure|
Incoherencies in the directions and frequent changes,
Accepting as a rival
Prejudice towards referees
Presence of hierarchical structure
Insufficiency of the penalties (football player, manager and trainers)
Importance of the match
DISCUSSION and CONCLUSION
According to the findings of the research, the football referees experience psychological violence and pressure activities in terms of assignments in the matches by making use of directions of the top executives and the gaps in the regulations. Especially, the statement of one of the participants saying “The most effective mobbing activity for the referee is the lack of assignment in the matches” is extremely substantial. In addition, assigning the referee in the matches above or below his capacity is another aspect of mobbing in the assignments. Another condition accepted as psychological intimidation is promotion criteria that change every year and legal gaps causing the football referees to be exposed to mobbing within the organization. For example, the participant’s statement “We were not promoted as we were young in 2006, and as we were old in 2007” shows that the football referees cannot achieve their aims because the directions are changed frequently, although they were competent enough. When the statement “No matter how many trainings and lessons you participate in, you may not be assigned in the match. The directions cause this” is taken into consideration, the legal regulations and directions lead the top executives not to assign the referees in the matches as in the form of psychological intimidation. When the literature is taken into consideration, (5) emphasizes that the arbitrary application of legal managing authorities is one of the vital mobbing activities within the organization. In addition, (3) and (7) indicate that one of the effects of psychological violence and pressure activities in the organizations is the lack of assignments or assignment in critical matches and thus, the workers are affected negatively in terms of their profession. Moreover, (28) states that excessive assignment or assigning in very simple matches in the organization is one of the psychological violence and pressure types against the individuals. Similarly, (29) emphasizes that assigning in the positions below the capacity leads to being fired from the workplace. When the statements of the participants are taken into consideration, it may be stated that the arbitrary applications are made in the assignments and the football referees are exposed to psychological violence and pressure activities by the top executives.
Although the football referees have a lot of training programs, matches and various written and athletic exams, a fair payment is not provided for them. Therefore, it can be accepted as a mobbing activity in their working environment. In addition, the football observers that are described as top executives evaluate the football referees coming from other provinces in the matches and they are exposed to unfair evaluation in order to provide opportunities for their own football referees in their provinces to be assigned more in the matches. (5) State that the unfair treatments decrease the faith among the colleagues and create a fear-dominant environment. In addition, the statement “some observers have threated by indicating that they have led to a referee to be fired (A, 2)” shows that there are oral threats. (7) States that oral threat is one of the mobbing activities on the victims. These kind of activities may especially indicate a negative effect on the working motivation and successes of the football referees. In this context, this condition can be regarded as one of the reasons of psychological pressure.
Rivalry among the referees, upper classification targets of the football referees and increasing financial gains as a result of these aims, and grouping and personal problems among the football referees because of association elections are found in the research. Considering the mentioned grouping or personal problems of football referees, it may be deduced that the referees experience psychological violence and pressure activities such as social exclusion, threat, rumor and mobbing in the organization. (30) Indicate that psychological intimidation strategies in the organizations comprise descriptions that include changing the jobs negatively, assigning so as to affect the performance negatively, exclusion, humiliation and attacking via mocking and spreading rumors. When the statements of the participants are analyzed, it is observed that the football referees experience psychological violence and pressure activities. Although the football referees serve in the same organization, their tendencies of accepting their friends as rivals cause conflicts and thus, mutual polarization arises. Moreover, the hierarchical structure is also seen among the football referees. The older referees have more rights and privileges when compared to the new referees. For example, the trainings are performed in an order which is designed considering the seniority of the referees and thus, junior football referees are exposed to pressure. These can be easily noticed in the statements of the participants.
Even the jealousy that is among the reasons of psychological violence and pressure activities is based on the personal problems of the individuals and it may also be experienced because of the authorities of the organization and the subjects like promotion. Therefore the organization must be fair and behave carefully in such subjects that will create conflicts between the individuals (31). When the statements of the participants are evaluated in this context, it can be said that the top executives are not fair and not careful especially in promotions and match assignments. In this sense, the factor of jealousy that is one of the reasons of psychological violence and pressure activities is experienced among the football referees. Similarly, (5) states that the victims encounter mobbing activities arising from the jealousy.
It is seen that some psychological pressure and violence activities cause individuals to be misunderstood. As a result of these misunderstandings, individuals are being treated in a prejudiced manner and thus, it is very easy to seek mistakes (29). Accordingly, the football referees may experience a prejudiced treatment and behaviour by the supporters, football players, coaches and managers, which are described as the external environment of the work place. Furthermore, when the statements of the participants are taken into consideration, the football referees feel doubts and fears in the working conditions due to the psychological violence and pressure activities such as threats, physical violence, swearing and insults and public opinion pressure by the audience, coaches, football players, managers and the media, which are described as the external environment of the workplace. (20) Stated that themes are classified as: “perceived sources of threats and aggression, reactions to threat, managing stressful situations, and motives to referee. Psychological and physical violence are perceived sources of threats.” For example setbacks and decisions that are directly opposite of the views of players, coaches, and spectators (i.e., parents) are important sources of threat. (32) Points out three sources of aggression which are soccer players, coaches/trainers, and spectators and the main problems included threat, physical and verbal aggression. (8) Emphasizes that a hostile working environment comprising humiliating and attacking words, offending criticism, personal harassment, physical abuse and threats cause individuals to be in a doubtful condition in terms of both working environment and the social environment. Moreover, it is known in the media that after the match, the referees quit as a result of the psychological pressures of the supporters, managers, media and other elements in the external environment of the work place. However, the referee may make mistakes as a human being. On the other hand, they have to quit their jobs due to the pressures.
When the opinions of the football referees participated in the research are analyzed in the general framework, it can be found that they are mostly exposed to psychological violence and pressure activities by top executives such as lack of assignment in the matches, social exclusion, assignment in low categories, lack of objectivity in the evaluations of the matches through regionalism and they are also exposed to some behaviors by their friends in the same position such as mobbing, rumor, threats and exclusion. Also, the football referees are exposed to psychological violence and pressure activities by coaches, football players, media and supporters such as physical violence, swearing and insults, pressure by the institution of the referee and threatening. In the research, it can be said that the reasons of activities are legal gaps, incoherencies in the directions and frequent changes, accepting as rival, grouping, nepotism, regionalism, jealousy, promotions, prejudice towards referees and the presence of hierarchical structure.
According to the results of the research, it can be said that psychological violence and pressure activities experienced by the football referees may be prevented by improving favorable attitudes towards referees and creating a positive atmosphere in the refereeing organization. Moreover, when the average age of the football referees are taken into consideration, the younger individuals are generally included. Considering the age range of the football referees in the Düzce and Bolu which is in the average of the young population, it can be said that the psychological violence and pressure activities by the experienced may affect the football referees more than the individuals in other sectors. (32) State that the younger referees experienced greater prematch worries and had greater trouble of concentration as a result of the harsh behaviours of the older referees. Accordingly, (33) states that the social, emotional and physical results of those kinds of behaviours are utmost importance for the young people, and they must be protected against the environment and relations including swearing. Therefore, a comprehensive attitude must be improved for taking measures and actions against that kind of behaviors. At this point by (20) successful communication seems to lower antagonistic behavior among players and coaches. Moreover, it is thought that supporting the organization culture by establishing positive fellow relationships among football referees is vital for creating a better organization atmosphere.
APPLICATION IN SPORT
The study aims to raise awareness among the stakeholders of the field of football by determining and revealing the reasons of the potential psychological violence and pressure activities which can be experienced internal and external environment of the organization by football referees who are the substantial participants of football sector. In the light of the research findings, it is thought that promoting the attitudes (fairness in promotion, raising consciousness of supporters, footballers and trainers, rewarding the achievements, etc.) to create positive atmosphere inside and outside the referee community contributes to diminish the psychological violence and pressure activities experienced by referees.
A part of this work was presented as a Poster Presentation at the 3rd International Science, Culture and Sports Congress.
Congress Date: 24th-26th May 2014
Congress web page: http://www.iscsconference.org/tr/
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