Decision making and decision communications in elite rugby union referees: An inductive investigation

Ian Cunningham, Mikel Mellick, Duncan Mascarenhas, Scott Fleming

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The application of law, combined with contextual judgment and communication have been shown to be essential skills of the elite sports official (Mascarenhas, Collins & Mortimer, 2005). Further, the behaviours that officials demonstrate to communicate decisions to sport participants have important implications for match outcomes and perceptions of fairness (Mellick et al., 2005; Simmons, 2010). The purpose of the present study was to explore the higher-order decision making and decision communication processes of three international rugby union referees. Semi-structured interviews were conducted to explore the routines, psychological strategies and processing skills they utilise to meet the decision making demands of the game. Interview data were analysed by means of thematic content analysis providing four core themes related to expert decision making processes and decision communications: corporate theatre, pre-game preparation and post-game analysis, refereeing philosophy and approach, and within-game psychological skills. The results of this investigation will provide practice-based information to inform training interventions as a pedagogic tool to assist pre-elite sport officials in developing higher-order understandings of decision making processes and communication patterns
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-34
Number of pages12
JournalSport and Exercise Psychology Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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