Friday, June 18, 2010
The Referee Discount and Referee Bias
Wow, it's amazing how time gets away from you, isn't it? Luckily I now have a whole lot more of it.
On to the topic: The Ref Discount and Ref Bias
A couple of weeks ago I participated in an intense discussion regarding Code of Conducts, specifically the WFTDA Code of Conduct for Referees, required for certification. Let me be clear, no part of this post is intended as a criticism of this document, nor should it be construed as such. This is a publicly available document we should all be reading and signing, I want to discuss thoughts on how we follow it. Specifically one part, "[All WFTDA Referees Shall] Resist every temptation and outside pressure to use one’s position as an official to benefit oneself".
One topic that came up related to this was the common "Referee Discount". Gear is expensive. Travel and Lodging is expensiver. Any chance to reduce any of that, by even a sliver, is probably going to be lunged at and dog-piled on. Is that a problem? Is it a problem when it's specifically offered to you because you're a referee? Is this a violation of the Code of Conduct? We went back and forth, ultimately deciding that no, it wasn't. Gear and things like that were being offered to us not because of our position as Referees, but due to our more general involvement. If Rink Rats wore skates, they'd probably be offered wheel discounts also, it's one more person buying, it's one more person wearing and being seen wearing. So that's not such a concern.
Or is it? Something I've been considering since then is that, as always, we in Roller Derby find ourselves in a unique situation compared to other sports. We require some reasonably niche items AND we're highly invested in the DIY ethos that started this sport. As such, we probably patronize skater-owned companies more often than not. Skater owned companies make derby specific gear or won't look at you funny when you tell them what name you want on the back. Skater owned companies put money back into the sport. Skater owned companies are DIY. But Skater owned companies are owned by skaters. Sometimes operated solely by them. This issue, of the top suppliers also being current participants is unique to roller derby, and while it's fantastic for the sport, we should maybe consider how it could affect the perception of our job as referees.
If I'm offered a discount because I'm a referee by a skater operating their store, and the next day I referee that skater's team? And a fan who saw me get that discount sees me make what is a right no-call, but in their eyes is a wrong no-call on that skater. Was I biased? No, the call was right. Did I risk the integrity of the game by potentially appearing biased? Yeah, potentially.
So what's the solution? Discount gear is money saved, for a hobby that can cost us a lot and repay us little (monetarily speaking) that's important. But what's the point of doing it if we undermine the sport, what have we really saved then? Paying full price and/or third party dealers might be the options open to us. Or maybe there can't be a hard and fast rule. As the Code of Conduct is only a guide, and something we need to find ways to implement ourselves, we once again might be left to our best discretion.