Factors contributing to severe discipline incidents in men's soccer

  • Colin J Deal University of Alberta
  • Theo Chu University of Alberta
  • Kurtis Pankow University of Alberta
  • Shannon R Pynn University of Alberta
  • Christine L Smyth University of Alberta
  • Nicholas L Holt University of Alberta


Disciplinary incidents (i.e., verbal or physical abuses of officials) in men's soccer in Alberta have been increasing steadily over the past 5 years (Deal et al., 2016). We were asked by the provincial soccer association to conduct a study to better understand these disciplinary incidents. Hence, the purpose of this study was to examine the factors which contribute to severe disciplinary incidents in men's soccer. Semi-structured interviews (M = 50 minutes, SD = 21.3 minutes) were conducted with 22 participants who were members of three groups: disciplinary committee members (n = 3; Mage = 54 years, SD = 6.51 years), referees (n = 9; Mage = 47 years, SD = 12.75 years), and players (n = 10; Mage = 22 years, SD = 1.90 years). Thematic analysis was used to identify nine factors that contributed to severe disciplinary incidents. These factors were broadly organized around an ecological framework, ranging from distal to more proximal issues. Sociocultural factors included themes of culture (influences of soccer and family culture) and discrimination. Organizational factors represented themes of organizational structure (PSO rules and policies) and procedural issues pertaining to disciplinary hearings. Contextual factors included the physical environment (indoor versus outdoor soccer) and game characteristics (close game, history between teams). Individual factors included the attitudes, behaviors, and knowledge of coaches, players, and referees. The next step in this research will involve working with the PSO to design ways to intervene at different ecological levels in order to ultimately reduce the number of disciplinary incidents in the future.