Hot and cold temperatures can blur referees’ judgement

Football referees and goal line officials decisions could be affected by climate – research conducted by the University of Bedfordshire has concluded.

The study, funded by the football governing body UEFA (the Union of European Football Associations), found physical performance and decision making of referees and linesmen were impaired when conditions were hot, similar to those likely to be found at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, or cold, as is often the case in Champions and Europa League matches.

Director of Sport Professor John Brewer presented the findings to the UEFA Medical Commission at its headquarters in Geneva.

Professor Brewer said: “These findings have serious implications for the performance of referees and goal line officials who are officiating in challenging climatic conditions. We need to look at ways to help them cope with the conditions that they will face. It could be argued that this even lends further weight to the argument in favour of goal line technology in important matches.”

Professor Brewer pointed out the referees and goal line officials would have to work in extremely hot conditions while taking part in the World Cup in Qatar in 2022. However, cold climates can also cause problems.

Professor John Brewer “The decision making of the goal line officials would also be cause for concern if they are working in the cold conditions seen in the Championships and Europa leagues. Our findings show that they are at risk of hyperthermia and making incorrect decisions, especially in the second half,” said Professor Brewer.

He said pre-match and half time cooling in hot conditions would lessen the chance of a referee making a mistake. He also recommended that all match officials should receive appropriate education in hydration strategies.

For officials working in cold conditions, Professor Brewer suggested that they should be permitted to wear additional clothing and, potentially, for four officials to be considered per match, rather than the current two, allowing each to only officiate for 45 minutes.

Professor Brewer said: “When matches are played in extremely hot and cold conditions, the football authorities should observe the physical condition of match officials to ensure they are able to continue officiating effectively which  may include measuring body temperature at half time.

“The ultimate aim must be to protect the health of the officials, and ensure that they are in the best possible state to make correct decisions.”

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