PLAYERS bending the rules, fans baying for blood and trial by technology - who would be a referee?
But now the women and men in the middle have some support of their own with the world’s first Masters degree for sports officials right here in the Capital.
Edinburgh Napier University will be leading from the front when its new MSc Performance Enhancement in Sports Officiating course kicks off in September.
“To our knowledge there is nothing out there at the moment, both in the UK and in the rest of the world, that provides this sort of education for referees and sports officials, so we’re very much seeing this as a welcome addition to the officiating world,” said course lead Dr Duncan Mascarenhas.
Based in the School of Applied Sciences, the programme is designed for national and international level referees and umpires.
Students will complete 90 per cent of the course online, enabling participants to study in their own time.
Under the watchful eye of Dr Mascarenhas, Associate Professor in Sport and Exercise Psychology and Coaching, year one will see key topics such as communication and game management studied alongside leadership and organisational management.
There will also be an opportunity for peer, player and coach analysis as well as self-reflections to identify areas for personal development.
Students will have the chance to continue onto year two, where topics of study include dealing with high-pressure decision-making.
Using theories developed in the military, fire-fighting and NASA space control, it will allow students to learn about the principles of decision training.
Year three provides an opportunity for students to undertake a programme of independent research within a chosen area of practice, led by a supervisor with expertise in the area.
The course acknowledges technological advancements such as football’s Video Assistant Referee (VAR) and the ever-growing trend of social media scrutiny.
Developers of the course point to a growing demand to provide referees and umpires with ongoing training – similar to the level of scientific support players have access to.
Stewart Harris, chief executive of sportscotland said: “Skilled, committed officials and volunteers are vital to the delivery of sport in Scotland.
“We recognise the significant contribution they make to helping people take part in sport for life at our national coaching, officiating and volunteering awards each year. They really are the people who make sport happen.
“Talented officials are the flagship of integrity and fairness in sport and just like the athletes they support, they must be given the opportunity to develop and progress within their chosen sport.
“The masters degree offered by Edinburgh Napier University is a fantastic contribution to the development of a world-class sporting workforce and it’s great to see Scotland leading the way in sport once again.”