Navigating Role Ambiguity & Conflict: Exploring the Role of the Referee Within the Olympic Sporting Structure

  • Brittany L. Jacobs Nichols College
  • Claire C. Zvosec Louisiana State University
  • Brent D. Oja University of Northern Colorado


This phenomenological study seeks to better understand the role of the referee in the Olympic sporting structure and to deconstruct the apparent dichotomies that exist within this role. Eleven rugby sevens referees each completed a pre and post interview for a total of twenty-two interviews. From the data, four sources of role ambiguity or conflict emerged; (1) remaining unnoticed vs. media exposure; (2) the team vs. individualistic nature of officiating; (3) being a judge vs. being an athlete, and (4) amateurism vs. professionalism. This study discusses how these dichotomies highlight the major sources of role ambiguity and role conflict for rugby sevens officials within the larger Olympic context. Implications regarding increased role clarity, reduced role strain, and referee management are discussed.   


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