Authors: Dr. J Ross Pruitt1, Dr. Dexter Davis2

Corresponding Author:

J. Ross Pruitt* Professor Department of Agriculture, Geosciences, and Natural Resources

269 Brehm Hall University of Tennessee at Martin

Martin, Tennessee 38238

Phone: (731)881-7254 Fax: (731)881-7968

For the Good of the Game: What Prevents Soccer Referees from Renewing Their Licenses 


The United States faces a critical shortage of youth sports referees despite a growing interest in many sports. This issue is increasingly gaining attention from sanctioning bodies, referee associations, and researchers. There is a significant cost of referee turnover and implementing strategies implemented to increase retention of officials, especially in soccer. Correct identification of the issues resulting in non-renewal of referee licenses will increase the likelihood of retention strategies being successful. This study builds on existing research by using best-worst scaling to provide a preference share on the factors that result in non-renewal which Likert scales cannot provide. Current and former U.S. Soccer Federation referees in Tennessee were surveyed to determine which factors are most likely to motivate their decision to not renew their referee license. Findings from this research indicate that motivations are different from youth referees compared to adult referees. Youth referees find the cost of refereeing and assigning are resulting in non-renewal of licenses compared to lack of respect and changing work commitments among adult referees. Results of this research can be used to improve retention strategies across age groups.

Keywords: best-worst scaling, soccer referees, referee motivations, referee retention  

Organized sports are an important part of society within the United States as it allows recreational and entertainment opportunities for participants and spectators. Sports officials are often referred to as the “third team” and are a critical aspect to the success of organized sports. In recent years, the popular press has been bombarded with stories of referee shortages (e.g., Conlon, 2022; Medina, 2022; Yurkevich, 2023) and physical attacks (Mendola, 2014; Ortiz, 2015; Weir, 2022; Hamacher, 2023). A majority of states have enacted or are considering laws to protect referees according to the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO) who tracks the status of legislation impacting sports officials (NASO, n.d.).  

Even with increased awareness of the issues of referee shortages, verbal abuse and/or physical assaults, and growing legal protections, organized sports in the United States are still facing a shortage of officials. National and grassroots sport associations have enacted strategies to reduce the turnover to aid in recruitment (Titlebaum et al., 2009) and retention (Warner et al., 2013) of sports officials. These efforts will take time to minimize the impact of verbal abuse and physical assaults that are believed to result in the exodus of sports officials (Warner et al., 2013; Downward et al., 2023). Prior research has explored the factors that result in individuals deciding to become a sports official (Furst, 1991; Kellett and Warner, 2011; Johansen, 2015; Baldwin and Vallance, 2016) and continuing as a sports official (Rainey, 1999; Rainey and Hardy, 1999; Kellett and Shilbury, 2007; Kellett and Warner, 2011; Cuskelly and Hoye, 2013; Ridinger et al., 2017; Da Gama et al, 2018; Giel and Brewer, 2020; Orviz-Martinez et al, 2021; Downward et al., 2023), but the factors resulting in non-renewal of licenses needed to officiate is less clear in the literature.  

The internal and external factors that draw individuals to officiate sports are important motivators to keep renewing their license. When one or more of these factors dissipate or change, an official’s lagging desire to continue can result in non-renewal of the soccer refereeing license. Licenses to officiate soccer are typically renewed annually which requires a conscious decision to continue or not continue. This provides the official with the opportunity to reflect whether the benefits of officiating (e.g., financial, health, social) continue to exceed the costs (e.g. cost to renew the license, additional time away from family, job stress, verbal abuse). As very few soccer referees can rely financially on officiating income alone, the need to balance family, career, and officiating is present. The popularity of youth soccer results in a constant cadre of referees needing recruitment, introductory and advanced training, and retention at the youth and grassroots level. Past research (e.g., Gomes et al, 2021) has used Likert scales and qualitative interviews to determine factors that impact continued refereeing of soccer. This study adds to the existing literature by inviting current and former soccer officials to make a choice among the alternative factors included on the survey instrument. The method used in this study presents a direct ranking of factors not provided in Likert scales. This paper continues with a literature review of the existing literature of factors attracting individuals to officiate sports and what results in the decision to no longer referee followed by a description of our survey methodology. Our survey population included current and former U.S. Soccer Federation referees. Results are then discussed with suggestions for future research presented.  

Literature Review  

The reasons an individual becomes a sports official are complex, but often include altruistic motivations (Balch and Scott, 2007) and love of the sport (Burke, Joyner, Pim, and Czech, 2000). Furst (1991) and Balch and Scott (2007) state that officials continue to officiate for social and interpersonal reasons along with a commitment to the sport. Kellett and Shilbury (2007) discuss the importance of the social and interpersonal support provided between officials to cope with the stress of officiating sports. The stress is, in part, a reflection of the need to quickly and correctly apply the rules of the sport while being in the proper position to make a decision. Initial training of new sports officials often focuses primarily on knowing the rules of the sport with some field training to practically apply what is learned. Factors that are important to keep beginning officials engaged in officiating such forming interpersonal relationships (e.g., Furst, 1991; Balch and Scott, 2007; Kellett and Shilbury, 2007; Kellett and Warner, 2011; Baldwin and Vallance, 2016) and coping with stress (e.g., Voight, 2009) are not the primary focus of initial trainings.  

Officiating sports is a stressful experience due to the complexity of making quick decisions (Guillén and Jiménez, 2001; González-Oya, 2006; Gama et al., 2018) in an environment where positive feedback for correct decisions is limited. In younger and/or inexperienced officials, the lack of experience in these environments and ability to cope with the accompanying stress can contribute to referees no longer officiating (Cuskelly and Hoye, 2013). Prior research has focused on the connection between stressors and burnout (Rainey and Hardy, 1999; Voight, 2009; Da Gama et al., 2018; Gomes et al., 2021; Orviz-Martinez et al., 2021; Downward et al., 2023) with tools like the Burnout Inventory for Referees developed by Weinberg and Richardson (1990). Stressors experienced by sports officials are not always related to the sporting event but can be representative of other factors in their lives including work, family, and support of the organization for which they officiate (Voight, 2009; Cuskelly and Hoye, 2013).  

Reasons that individuals begin refereeing may not always be the reasons they intend to continue. Kellett and Shilbury (2007) document that the interpersonal relationships developed can overcome nervousness experienced by beginning officials. These interpersonal relationships can be a positive stressor, or an indication of commitment described in Cuskelly and Hoye (2013). These may be social in nature can result in officials who, “are likely to feel somewhat compelled to continue officiating through various social mechanisms” (Cuskelly and Hoye, 2013). The level of organizational support, or the official’s perception of support, can result in an intention to continue officiating (Rainey, 1999; Kellett and Warner, 2011).  

Giel and Breuer (2020) find the altruistic motives are not a significant factor in continuing to referee. This highlights the importance of the social relationships as the stress associated with officiating, balancing family, job, and officiating, the stress associated with maintaining the desired level of performance, or other factors can result in the official questioning their desire to continue. This contributes to the belief often expressed in the popular press that burnout and verbal abuse/physical assault are primary motivators to officials leaving the sport (Kellett and Shilbury, 2007). The ability to reframe the abuse as described in Kellett and Shilbury (2007) may limit the extent to which the perception is reality. Voight (2009) finds the conflict between family and officiating, making a controversial call, conflict between work and officiating, making the wrong call, and verbal abuse from coaches as the top stressors among college soccer officials. The least amount of stress can be attributed to the fear of physical harm (Voight, 2009).  


The decision to not renew one’s soccer referee license reflects the costs of continuing to referee (whether financial, social, or emotional) relative to the benefits accrued by refereeing. We hypothesize that referees will consider not renewing their license prior to the actual decision where the license is not renewed (Rainey and Hardy, 1999; Cuskelly and Hoye, 2013). Factors that motivate the decision to not renew one’s license are presented in Table 1. Included factors represent those included in the literature (e.g., Furst, 1991; Rainey, 1999; Rainey and Hardy, 1999; Burke et al., 2000; Balch and Scott, 2007; Kellett and Shilbury, 2007; Cuskelly and Hoye, 2013; Johansen, 2014; Giel and Breuer, 2020) as well as those from our personal experiences refereeing and coaching soccer. After the factors shown in Table 1 were selected to include in the questionnaire, the staff and mentors of the U.S. Youth Soccer Region III Championships reviewed our factors and accompanying descriptions for thoroughness. Their suggestions are reflected in our final factors presented in Table 1.  

Use of best-worst scaling (Finn and Louviere, 1992) provides the relative importance that a factor can have on a referee’s continued interest in renewing their license. This method provides an improvement over qualitative interviews which can provide insight into motivations for referees, but not a hierarchical preference ranking that can be used by referee associations to assist in retention of referees. An additional benefit of best-worst scaling is the fact it provides a ratio scale for its results unlike a Likert rating scale that may result in the ordinal ranking not being consistent across respondents (Steenkamp and Baumgartner, 1998; Lusk and Briggeman, 2009). This provides greater insight into the obstacles for a referee to annually renew their license which can lead to increased retention efforts and educational efforts by clubs and sanctioning bodies to reduce the impact of factors resulting in non-renewal of licenses. 

Best-worst scaling provides the respondent the ability to select the factor that provides the most and least utility in a choice set which Likert scales do not provide. This approach has significant implications for marketing (Cohen, 2009; O’Reilly and Huybers, 2015; Massey, Wang, and Waller, 2015) to help identify specific factors that consumers find desirable. Use of this method has extended into the healthcare industry (Flynn et al., 2007) and the value of public information (Pruitt et al., 2014). Given J factors, there are J(J-1) combinations a respondent could select for each best-worst question. The choice of the most important factor j by individual i can by represented by λj on the utility scale with the latent level of utility determined by Iij = λj + εij which assumes that εij is the random error term. By selecting factor j as the most important factor and factor k as the least important is determined by the probability for all other J(J-1)-1 possible differences in the choice set.  

Results from best-worst scaling normally occurs through a multinomial or random parameters logit. Estimate coefficients have little interpretation aside from the magnitude of the coefficient. Preference shares for each factor’s impact on lack of interest in continuing to referee is calculated using the following equation preference share for factor.

Respondents were asked if they had actively considered not renewing their U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) referee license in the past five years. Individuals that responded yes, were then asked best-worst questions using the factors that were identified and presented in Table 1. Using PROC OPTEX in SAS 9.4, a quasi-balanced incomplete block design (BIBD) was created. The design had a treatment D-efficiency of 90.78 and a block design D-efficiency of 99.86. This resulted in twelve best-worst questions with six factors present in each question. Each factor appeared six times to each respondent with an example of the best-worst questions is provided in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Example Best-Worst Question


A web-based Qualtrics survey was created that was distributed to current and former U.S. Soccer Federation referees implementing the best-worst questions discussed previously. Through contacts with the Tennessee Soccer Referee Program, we were able to distribute the questionnaire to 3,507 current and former referees. Our ability to contact referees who had not recertified in the previous four years is due to the Tennessee Soccer Referee Program adopting computer software that allows the program to track referees who do not re-certify from year to year. Inclusion of youth referees (between the ages of thirteen and eighteen) was approved by our university’s Institutional Review Board which allows for determination if factors vary by age. Per USSF policy, any email contact from a certified USSF assignor results in the parent/guardian also being contacted1. This resulted in parents/guardians of current and former youth referees also receiving the recruitment email. Initial questions identified if the respondent was at least eighteen years of age and then determined if the respondent was answering for themselves or as parent/guardian of a current or former youth soccer referee2. For youth referees, we included questions that determined if their parent/guardian had provided consent in addition to the minor providing assent. As the parent/guardian also received the recruitment email, email addresses for minors were collected in case the parent/guardian revoked consent necessitating removal of youth referee responses. No parent or guardian contacted us requesting removal of the youth referee’s responses.

A recruitment email was sent in early March 2023 to 3,507 current and former referees registered with USSF in the state of Tennessee with a follow-up email sent two weeks later. An incentive was offered to each respondent of a gift card worth $100 to a referee equipment supplier or a free registration for the 2023 year. Email addresses were collected at the end of the questionnaire and provided to the Tennessee Soccer Referee Program which was responsible in selecting and contacting the winners of the inducement. We received 107 usable responses for a response rate of 3.05%.

Results Demographic information is provided in Table 2. Total responses did vary by question as respondents were not required to answer every demographic question which were asked following the best-worst questions. Respondents were overwhelmingly male and Caucasian. Approximately forty percent of respondents were less than twenty-five years of age and an additional twenty-five percent between the ages of forty-three and fifty-four. Over sixty percent who responded were no longer refereeing soccer with approximately two-thirds believing they were assigned the appropriate number of matches given their skill and ability level. Those receiving the questionnaire were asked an open-ended question on how many years they refereed soccer. Of the 110 responses, many did not provide an exact number. For those who provided an exact number, the average number of years that survey participants had refereed was 8.63 years. Given responses not included in this calculation that stated they had refereed 10+, 20+, or 50+ years, this estimate of 8.63 understates the longevity of referees in this research. A histogram of responses for this question is presented in Figure 2. More than three-quarters of respondents refereed no more than sixty matches a year with the majority refereeing less than fifteen matches annually. Over ninety percent of respondents only refereed soccer. Nearly seventy percent of respondents had suffered verbal abuse in the past two years with approximately five percent having suffered a physical assault (e.g., touched, pushed, shoved, punched, kicked, or spat on) by a player, coach, fan, or parent. Parents and coaches were most likely to have been the source of verbal abuse with players being the source of physical assault.

As we were able to include youth referees (less than eighteen years old), we conducted t-tests for significant differences in means between those who had actively considered not renewing their USSF licenses for youth and adult referees. We did not test for differences in means in age and educational attainment categories since we compared those less than eighteen of ages to all other ages in this comparison. Differences in the mean at the 5% level of significance (p<0.05) were found in these groupings with less than fifteen matches officiated, whether the respondent felt they were under assigned, assigned the right number of matches for their skill/ability level, and whether they play organized soccer. Table 2 includes these results.

Table 2. Demographic Information

VariableMeanStandard Deviation
Gender (n=111)  
Prefer Not to Say0.90%0.09
Ethnicity (n=111)  
African American0.00%0.00
Native American0.00%0.00
Prefer Not to Say5.41%0.23
Age (n=111)  
Over 6010.81%0.31
Education Level (n=111)  
Currently in Middle/High School27.03%0.45
High School Diploma or GED0.00%0.00
Trade, vocational, or technical school4.50%0.21
Associate Degree4.50%0.21
Bachelor’s Degree27.93%0.45
Master’s Degree15.32%0.36
Doctoral or Professional Degree7.21%0.26
Prefer Not to Say1.80%0.13
Household Income (n=110)  
Less than $40,00010.00%0.30
$40,000 to $60,0009.09%0.29
$60,001 to $80,0008.18%0.28
$80,001 to $100,0005.45%0.23
Greater than $100,00040.00%0.49
Prefer Not to Say27.27%0.45

Table 2. Continued

VariableMeanStandard Deviation
Residence (n=111)  
Urban Area14.41%0.35
Suburban Area66.67%0.39
Rural Area18.92%0.47
Levels Officiated1  
Youth recreational33.46% 
High School16.18% 
Adult Amateur/Recreational10.29% 
Approximate number of annual matches  
Less than 1530.91%20.46
Over 1057.27%0.26
Proper Assigning Level (n=109)  
Under assigned25.69%20.44
Over assigned7.34%0.26
Right number66.97%20.47
Sports Officiated besides Soccer  
5 or more0.00%0.00
Play Organized Soccer (n=110)43.64%20.50
Verbally Abused in Last Two Years (n=109)68.81%0.47
Source of Verbal Abuse1  

Table 2. Continued

VariableMeanStandard Deviation
Physically Assaulted in Last Two Years (n=109)4.59%0.21
Source of Physical Assault1  
Injury of at Least Four Weeks (n=109)11.93%0.33
Attend Continuing Education (n=110)  
Once a year28.18%0.45
Twice a year7.27%0.26
Three to four times a year10.00%0.30
At least five times a year0.00%0.00
Does not attend47.27%0.50
Accepts unsanctioned matches (n=110)12.73%0.33
Anticipates refereeing soccer: (n=110)  
No longer refereeing60.91%0.49
Less than one year7.27%0.26
One to two years12.73%0.33
Three to four years8.18%0.28
At least five years10.91%0.31

1 Question allowed multiple responses and standard deviations are not presented as a result.
2 Denotes significant differences at the 5% level (p<0.05) between youth and adult referees who had actively considered not renewing their license.

Non-Renewal of Referee License

Respondents who answered they had actively considered not renewing their license in the past five years were shown a series of questions asking them to select the most and least important factors impacting why they would not renew their refereeing license. As our sample included youth referees (those less than 18 years of age), we estimated a combined model for all referees responding against the alternative models of youth and adult referees. Each of these models was estimated using a multinomial logit (MNL), an uncorrelated random parameters logit (RPL), and a correlated random parameters logit model. Significant differences were found to exist between youth and adult referees who were considering not renewing resulting in separate models being estimates for youth and adult referees. Likelihood ratio tests favored the use of MNL model for both youth and adult referees.

Youth Referees

Results for youth referees are presented in Table 3 uses Work as the base factor with results. Estimates for the MNL and RPL models are presented with the MNL preferred by use of a likelihood ratio test. Aside from their magnitude, the econometric estimates in Table 3 have no natural interpretation and equation 1 was used to calculate the shares of preference that are presented. The shares of preference for the uncorrelated RPL model were generated from 1,000 random draws using a normal distribution of the mean and standard deviation of a specific factor that might result in a referee not renewing their USSF license. Shares of preference were consistent between the two modeling techniques as there was not greater than ±0.01% difference for any factor. The cost to referee (i.e., Afford) was the number one reason that youth referees had considered not renewing their USSF license. This factor includes the inability to make it to matches for youth referees reflecting the need for an adult or friend to help them make it to assignments. Note that even with a small sample size of youth referees, fifteen of the eighteen youth referees were no longer refereeing. The youth referee’s opinion on how well they were assigned was the second most important factor with the lack of Respect from fans, players, and coaches third (depending on the model used). It should be noted that the fourth most important factor was Game Fees, indicating the cost to benefit ratio for youth referees is contributing to non-renewals. The use of best-worst scaling provides a clearer view of the magnitude of factors resulting in youth referees not renewing their licenses through the direct comparisons with the lack of Respect relatively not as important as other factors.

Table 3.  Relative Importance of Factor Impacting Non-Renewal of Youth Referee Licenses

FactorEconometric EstimatesShares of Preference
Youth Involvement-0.761***-0.763***0.0270.026
Social Aspects0.271***0.2700.0740.074
Family Commitments-0.865***-0.859***0.0240.024
Lack of Opportunities to Advance-0.189-0.1880.0470.047
Cost to Referee1.123****1.130***0.1740.174
Game Fees0.913***0.915***0.1410.141
Lack of Organizational Support0.524**0.529**0.0960.096
(Base Factor)  [0.000][0.015]
Log Likelihood-625.138-624.910  
McFadden’s LRI0.0940.149  
Number of Respondents1818  

            ***, **, and * asterisks represent the factor is significantly different from the Work factor at the 1%, 5%, and 10% level, respectively.

a Numbers in parentheses are standard errors.
b numbers in brackets are standard deviations.

In addition to the shares of preference presented in Table 3, we generated Pearson correlations from the individual specific RPL estimates shown in Table 4. Several factors had correlations with at least ±0.3 with another factor. Given the limited number of responses, care should be taken when viewing Table 4, but it provides an indication of how youth referees view these factors influencing their decision to not continue refereeing. The more likely a youth referee viewed the lack of Social camaraderie, the higher an injury might factor into a non-renewal decision. Importantly, the lack of Social connections had a strong direct relationship with their views of Organizational Support provided to them. Concerns about how many games the referee was assigned had a positive relationship with Game Fees being an important factor in the decision to not renew the license. Game Fees tended to have large (positive or negative) correlations with many factors that were included in this research.

Table 4.  Pearson Correlations Between Factors from Individual Specific RPL Estimates of Youth Referees

Respect (1)1.000          
Youth Involvement (2)0.0071.000         
Assign (3)-0.1400.1771.000        
Social (4)-0.1760.410-0.3011.000       
Injury (5)-0.007-0.439-0.4940.5051.000      
Advance (6)-0.211-0.8320.0180.2220.2121.000     
Age (7)0.1640.8740.100-0.248-0.448-0.9191.000    
Cost (8)-0.043-0.159-0.2640.2270.079-0.0730.0961.000   
Game Fees (9)-0.1230.7250.476-0.569-0.737-0.5380.694-0.0461.000  
Organizational Support (10)0.097-0.338-0.1720.5140.5440.189-0.3320.249-0.6691.000 
Family (11)-0.326-0.753-0.0300.4890.5640.723-0.860-0.025-0.6100.5311.000

Adult Referees

Results for adult referees who had considered not renewing their USSF license are presented in Table 5. As with youth referees, a MNL model was preferred to an uncorrelated RPL model with the estimates from both models presented. Unlike youth referees, the lack of Respect experienced by adult referees is the primary reasons resulting in the non-renewal decision. Work commitments or a change in them was the second most important factor. Nearly two-thirds of adult referees who had considered not renewing their license were no longer refereeing; fifteen were considering not renewing in more than the next two years with only four considering refereeing at least four more years.

Table 5.  Relative Importance of Factor Impacting Non-Renewal of Adult Referee Licenses

FactorEconometric EstimatesShares of Preference
Youth Involvement-1.571***-1.582***0.0280.028
Social Aspects-1.313***-1.312***0.0360.036
Family Commitments-0.688***-0.688***0.0680.068
Lack of Opportunities to Advance-0.828***-.833***0.0590.059
Cost to Referee-.481***-0.474***0.0840.084
Game Fees-0.350***-0.348***0.0950.095
Lack of Organizational Support-0.510***-0.514***0.0810.081
(Base Factor)  [0.000][0.014]
Log Likelihood-2843.485-2838.531  
McFadden’s LRI0.0660.097  
Number of Respondents7777  

***, **, and * asterisks represent the factor is significantly different from the Work factor at the 1%, 5%, and 10% level, respectively.

a Numbers in parentheses are standard errors.
b numbers in brackets are standard deviations.

As with the youth referees, Pearson correlations for the adult referees are presented in Table 6. A greater response rate among adults compared to youth referees provides more robustness in the correlations that are presented. It is interesting to note the strong negative correlation between Game Fees and Assign (-0.591) suggesting concerns about pay is not tied to assigning. Concerns about Game Fees and the ability to Advance had a strong positive relationship (0.607) indicating adult referees view the pay for higher level games isn’t a strong enough incentive to advance. Those referees who rated the inability to Advance highly was negatively correlated (-0.611) with concerns about being over or under assigned (Assign).

Table 6.  Pearson Correlations Between Factors from Individual Specific RPL Estimates of Adult Referees

Respect (1)1.000          
Youth Involvement (2)0.0631.000         
Assign (3)-0.304-0.5781.000        
Social (4)-0.105-0.0520.0171.000       
Injury (5)0.1530.533-0.587-0.1241.000      
Advance (6)0.3000.387-0.6110.2170.4181.000     
Age (7)-0.172-0.2300.089-0.192-0.115-0.2871.000    
Cost (8)0.2750.179-0.4600.0280.1960.542-0.2821.000   
Game Fees (9)0.0460.444-0.591-0.1240.4010.607-0.0150.3361.000  
Organizational Support (10)0.129-0.036-0.055-0.0690.049-0.334-0.0930.007-0.1971.000 
Family (11)-0.255-0.2790.574-0.136-0.543-0.3380.147-0.483-0.3230.0361.000


Concerns about retaining sports officials are a pressing factor for many sports with referee abuse a concern among leagues and official associations. Factors influencing the decision to not renew referee licenses are not well understood in the literature. Prior research has focused on qualitative factors impacting the renewal decision which doesn’t quantitatively rank factors included in the research. This research surveyed current and former referees who had actively considered not renewing their referee license with a majority no longer refereeing soccer. There were significant differences between youth and adult referees in the factors that had led them to consider not renewing their referee license. For youth, the cost to referee and concerns about being over- or under-assigned were the top two reasons for considering not renewing their license compared to adults who were more concerned about the lack of respect and work commitments. For both age groups, concerns about organizational support were significant factors as it relates to continuing refereeing.

Our study is limited by the small sample size, but it is an important look into the factors that resulted in a majority of referees no longer renewing their U.S. Soccer Federation license. While we do not focus on the well-being of referees as in Downward and Webb (2023), our findings are consistent with theirs that a zero-tolerance approach will aid in adult referee retention. This reinforces the need for organizational support (Rainey, 1995; Voight, 2007; Ridinger et al., 2017; Downward and Webb, 2023), but also requires training by those organizations on what to include in post-match reports to have the backing. As over 75% of respondents in our survey did not attend more than one continuing education session annually, sanctioning bodies and referee associations need innovative ideas to aid in reaching this objective.

Future research should focus on expanding this to referees who have not recently considered non-renewal of their referee licenses. This portion of the referee community will likely have different factors motivating their continued renewals as was demonstrated by the differences observed in this paper based on the age of the referee. Identification of the factors that aid in retention of these referees may aid in development of strategies to limit the impact of factors discussed in this research. Given the nature of soccer in the U.S., future research should better control for the differences in length of refereeing and level officiated (e.g., recreational versus club). With the number of young referees who work matches in the U.S., the skills necessary to be successful may not have been developed to handle the stressors commonly associated with officiating (Rainey, 1995; Rainey and Hardy, 1999; Burke et al., 2000; Voight, 2009; Gomes et al., 2021). A more diverse respondent pool, in terms of locality, gender, and ethnicity, is also needed to better understand why referees continue to engage in a stressful avocation.


The authors express appreciation to Don Eubank, State Referee Administrator for Tennessee Soccer, for sending the questionnaire to soccer referees in the state and providing the incentive for respondents to complete the questionnaire. We also thank the staff and mentors of U.S. Youth Soccer Region III for helpful feedback on an early draft of the questionnaire. The authors are grateful for the helpful edits and suggestions from Marco Palma on an earlier draft of this paper.

Conflicts of Interest

J. Ross Pruitt is an active soccer referee with the U.S. Soccer Federation, Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association, and National Intercollegiate Soccer Official Association.


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