The Effect of Swear Words on Referees

Do swear words have predictable effects on football referees? A team of Austrian scientists tackles that question in a study called May I Curse a Referee? Swear Words and Consequences.

Stefan Stieger, of the University of Austria, together with Andrea Praschinger and Christine Pomikal, who describe themselves as “independent scientists”, published their report in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine.

Referees enforce the laws of the game set forth by the sport’s governing organisation, Fifa. The pertinent regulation is Fifa’s law 12 (Fouls and Misconduct), whose very last section – section 81 – simply says: “A player who is guilty of using offensive, insulting or abusive language or gestures must be sent off.”

Stieger, Praschinger and Pomikal performed their research in two steps….

So begins this week’s Improbable Research column in The Guardian.

BONUS:  An interview with the referee who supposedly invented the red card and the yellow card: