The role of domain-generic and domain-specific perceptual-cognitive skills in association football referees

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Abstract

Objectives:

We examined the importance of perceptual-cognitive skills in association football referees.

Design and method:

Using a novel approach, elite (n = 22) and sub-elite referees (n = 21) completed an extended test battery of perceptual-cognitive measures. Participants were assessed using both domain-generic (e.g., sustained attention; working memory) and domain-specific (e.g., pattern recognition) perceptual-cognitive measures within the domain of refereeing.

Results:

A multivariate analysis of variance revealed significant differences between groups on the following domain-specific perceptual-cognitive skill measures, with elite referees performing significantly better than their sub-elite counterparts: overall decision-making performance; anticipation; and recall capacity. No significant differences were reported between the elite and sub-elite referees on domain-generic perceptual-cognitive skill measures. A stepwise discriminant analysis highlighted that a combination of five predictor variables, including four domain-specific and one domain-generic perceptual-cognitive skill measure, significantly discriminated elite and sub-elite referees, with 90.7% of referees being classified correctly.

Conclusions:

Our findings shed light on the skills underpinning perceptual-cognitive expertise in referees and are consistent with the existing findings on expert outfield players. Implications are discussed with regard to testing and training programs for referees and across other professional domains.

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