We have completed maintenance on DiscoverMagazine.com and action may be required on your account. Learn More

Does cursing at the referee make a penalty more likely?

Seriously, Science?
By Seriously Science
Jan 29, 2014 6:00 PMNov 20, 2019 2:19 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Photo: flickr/Ingy The Wingy

When you're a soccer player, verbally abusing the referee is probably not the best idea--in fact, according to the soccer rulebook, it's an automatic red card. But is this always the outcome in a real game? Here, a group of researchers from Austria surveyed soccer referees to find out whether they would actually give red card after being cursed at. The subjects took a survey that included a list of 28 swear words, and they were asked how they would respond if they were called these names during a real game. Turns out that the type of insult was a major determinant of the response: "sexually inclined words or phrases" were more likely to earn a red card than "terms insulting one's appearance." With the Superbowl coming up, we wonder whether these results are applicable to other sports as well?

May I curse a referee? Swear words and consequences. "The purpose of this study was to determine whether male and female soccer (football) referees would execute the Laws of the Game despite players' verbal abuse. Law 12 (Fouls and misconduct) instructs the referees as to how they should react when a player, substitute or substituted player expresses a swear word. The player should be issued a red card. Referees (n = 113) were presented with 28 swear words and asked how they would respond if this situation occurred in a real game (red card, yellow/blue card [blue cards are used in juvenile games, player leaves field of game for 10 minutes], admonition, no reaction). The selected words were divided into categories (such as pertaining to intelligence or sexual abuse) indicating different degrees of insult. Approximately half of the referees would have responded to players saying swear words in a game by issuing a red card (55.7% red card, 25.2% yellow/blue card, 12.1% admonition, and 7.0% no reaction). The response was independent of the referees' qualification and experience. It was found that the insulting content of a swear word determines the referee's decision. Referees would apply Law 12 only in one half of the cases, depending on the insulting content. The findings are discussed in the context of game management. Related content: NCBI ROFL: World Cup Week: Vuvuzela – Good for your team, bad for your ears.NCBI ROFL: World Cup Week: Celebrate FTW!Red sports teams are more likely to win.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.