Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Training and development in sport officials: A systematic review

Cunningham, Ian; Mergler, Jason; Wattie, Nick


Jason Mergler

Nick Wattie


Sport officials make significant contributions to organized sport, yet scientific evidence to inform their specialized training and education at various levels has lagged. While psychological and performance demands of expert sport officials have been well documented, the extent of research about talent and expertise development, training efficacy, and broader developmental trajectories is unclear. This systematic review summarizes 30 years of published findings on the study of training and development of sport officials, including areas of research interest, study designs, and sport official characteristics. A PRISMA systematic review was conducted, utilizing three scientific databases (Web of Science, SportsDiscus, PsycInfo) to identify relevant studies (N = 27). Female participants were generally underrepresented in studies (17%), while football officials were most often represented (79%). Training intervention (59%), retrospective (37%), and cross-sectional comparison (22%) were the main study designs. Expert and near-expert sport officials' training histories and responses to empirically driven isolated-skills training represented the predominant areas of study. Sport-specific, video-based infraction detection tasks were the most frequently used training methods to improve perceptual-cognitive skills for on-field decision-making, however, studies lacked retention measures to on-field performance. Psychological skills training programs were found to have mixed effects and used varied criteria for measuring training efficacy. Physical training showed mainly significant effects on physiological measures and aging influences for on-field performance. More rigorous sport-specific evidence, assessments of training transfer, program efficacy, and macro-developmental trajectory and milestone data are needed to inform training programs and developmental plans.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 3, 2022
Online Publication Date Jan 15, 2022
Publication Date 2022-04
Deposit Date Jan 27, 2022
Publicly Available Date Jan 16, 2023
Journal Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports
Print ISSN 0905-7188
Electronic ISSN 1600-0838
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 32
Issue 4
Pages 654-671
Keywords development, expertise, performance, referee, sport official, talent, training, umpire
Public URL


Training and development in sport officials: A systematic review (427 Kb)

Copyright Statement
"This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Cunningham, I., Mergler, J., & Wattie, N. Training and development in sport officials: A systematic review. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions. This article may not be enhanced, enriched or otherwise transformed into a derivative work, without express permission from Wiley or by statutory rights under applicable legislation. Copyright notices must not be removed, obscured or modified. The article must be linked to Wiley’s version of record on Wiley Online Library and any embedding, framing or otherwise making available the article or pages thereof by third parties from platforms, services and websites other than Wiley Online Library must be prohibited."

You might also like

Downloadable Citations