As the Billy Slater incident indicates, sport referees have a tough job. They aren’t always treated fairly by spectators and QUT research shows people often don’t understand them.

Liam Clarkson reports.


Referees – they’re often more hated by fans than their team’s rivals.

Scotty Russell is a referee and a QUT researcher.

He’s found fans fail to appreciate how much refs contribute to the theatre of sport.

They have to take split-second decisions, and there is usually more than one right call.

Scotty Russell, QUT researcher: “One of the beauties of sport is that not everybody agrees with the referee. And I think when that’s at the right level, that’s part of the juicy-ness. What we argue over, what we debate.”

Eddie Ward manages Rugby League referees.

He says refs try to make the best choices in every game.

Eddie Ward, QRL Referees’ High-Performance Manager: “In the minds of most people, most people who are watching the game these days, we’ve got to get it right, we’ve got to be perfect. But we’re humans, we make mistakes just like players do.”

This is where most of us make up our minds about referees: on the sidelines.

Out in the middle, referees are under enormous stress to make the right call in real time.

The NRL Bunker, match review committee and judiciary all have the luxury of reviewing matches multiple times in slow motion.

After Billy Slater’s successful challenge, it’s easy to see how tough a ref’s job is.

Scotty Russell, QUT researcher: “It’s difficult being a referee. I think there’s no mistake about that.”

Eddie Ward, QRL Referees’ High Performance Manager: “The majority of the time we get it right. The amount of decisions the referee has to make in a game is phenomenal.”

And their toughest jobs of the year are this weekend.

Liam Clarkson, QUT News.