Communication and perceptions of fairness: A study of football players in Australia and Malaysia

Peter Denyer-Simmons, Lee Kuok Tiung

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It is important for communicators to understand fairness because people who perceive fairness tend to behave more cooperatively, and people who perceive unfairness behave less cooperatively. Leung (2005) says that perception of fairness is influenced by styles of interpersonal treatment and processes in all cultures, but the factors that influence fairness are not necessarily generalisable across cultures. Fairness is central to expectations of sports referees, however little is known about the relationship between different communication behaviours and perceptions of fairness, either across cultures or in the sport context.Simmons (2007) interviewed teams of Australian football players and identified the qualities of competence, dependability and respectfulness as the constituent characteristics of referee fairness. His study found that players attend to a range of communicative displays they associate with the fairness of the referee including athleticism, confidence, calm and accountability (Simmons, 2007). This paper reports an experimental study that measured Australian and Malaysian player reactions to displays of referee anger, calm and explanation, and interviews with Malaysian players. The triangulated findings contribute to understanding of the understudied field of communication, culture and fairness. They are generally consistent with some major theories of cultural differences in communication (Hall and Reed-Hall, 1990; Triandis, 2009).Perceptions of fairness and decision correctness among players from a high- context, eastern, collectivist-oriented culture (Malaysia) were significantly (p<0.05) more positive when communication of a decision was calm (communication tone). Malaysian players were not significantly (p>0.05) influenced by the provision of an explanation (communication content) for the decision. Perceptions of fairness and decision correctness among players from a low-context, western, individualist-oriented culture (Australia) were significantly (p<0.05) more positive when an explanation (communication content) was provided. The display of calm significantly (p<0.05) influenced Australian perceptions of the fairness of the referee, but did not influence perception of the correctness of the decision.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationi-Come?2010
Subtitle of host publicationCommunication and Society: Challenges and Engagement
EditorsHassan Abu Bakar
Place of PublicationMalaysia
PublisherUniversiti Utara Malaysia
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9789834415044
Publication statusPublished - 2010
EventInternational Conference on Communication and Media (i-Come) - Malacca, Malaysia, Malaysia
Duration: 18 Jun 201020 Jun 2010


ConferenceInternational Conference on Communication and Media (i-Come)


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