Offside decisions by expert assistant referees in association football: Perception and recall of spatial positions in complex dynamic events

J Exp Psychol Appl. 2008 Mar;14(1):21-35. doi: 10.1037/1076-898X.14.1.21.


This study investigated the offside decision-making process in association football. The first aim was to capture the specific offside decision-making skills in complex dynamic events. Second, we analyzed the type of errors to investigate the factors leading to incorrect decisions. Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA; n = 29) and Belgian elite (n = 28) assistant referees (ARs) assessed 64 computer-based offside situations. First, an expertise effect was found. The FIFA ARs assessed the trials more accurately than the Belgian ARs (76.4% vs. 67.5%). Second, regarding the type of error, all ARs clearly tended to raise their flag in doubtful situations. This observation could be explained by a perceptual bias associated with the flash-lag effect. Specifically, attackers were perceived ahead of their actual positions, and this tendency was stronger for the Belgian than for the FIFA ARs (11.0 vs. 8.4 pixels), in particular when the difficulty of the trials increased. Further experimentation is needed to examine whether video- and computer-based decision-making training is effective in improving the decision-making skills of ARs during the game.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention
  • Belgium
  • Computer Simulation
  • Decision Making*
  • Humans
  • Inservice Training
  • Judgment
  • Male
  • Mental Recall*
  • Motion Perception*
  • Orientation*
  • Professional Competence
  • Soccer / psychology*
  • Visual Perception*