Language in Sports: Communicating With the Referee

How sports players are reported to be communicating in sports with referees in Europe is an interesting topic. In competitions like the UEFA Champions League referees that are linked with the competitions are from just about anywhere in Europe. One recent example is the final of the 2017 Champions League which was played at the beginning of June in the city of Cardiff in Wales. The game was played between Real Madrid, a Spanish team and Juventus, an Italian team. The referee appointed to the match was German.

This same situation arises at the FIFA World Cup. If the Champions League is considered to be the most important club competition, then the FIFA World Cup is international football’s greatest event. The tournament, which features teams from throughout the world, ends in a thirty two team final which determines which of the competing countries will become the world champions. In these events referees are chosen from throughout the world to referee the matches. This it seems could bring about some sports communication issues. In a match played out between Algeria and Germany with a referee from Brazil if a referee has to interject how does he do it?  What language is spoken in referee communication when a player is disputing a referee’s decision?

The 1st thing is that any referee communication between a player and a referee is not usually verbal but a whistle and signals using body language are generally used. Sometimes though verbal communication is necessary but how can this take place? it seems that the world football governing body FIFA (the Fédération Internationale de Football Association)  has 4 official languages which are Spanish,  English, German and French. These days, despite this, FIFA officials must speak English as well as their own mother tongue. They are also encouraged to learn other official languages appointed by FIFA. In the majority of situations where verbal communication is essential English takes preference for referee communication unless the communication can be conducted more easily in another language.

However, arguments at matches can become quite heated. When emotions reach a particularly high pitch referee communication with a player or players is likely to lead to both parties getting into an emotional discussion in their own languages whether they are understood or not.