One Month of the Season Gone – Now What?

By:  John Van de Vaarst, National Clinician

The intercollegiate soccer season is one month old and it is now a good time to look back on how the season is progressing and what can be done to improve it for the remaining two months.  Overall, feedback from coaches and administrators, and assignors has been very positive.  NISOA members are doing their jobs in a highly professional manner.  However, there are a few points worth noting that could be improved.

Positioning by assistant referees is at times a problem.  In a highly contested game, the assistant referee gets caught watching the game instead of staying with the second to the last defender.  The play reverses and the assistant sprints in an attempt to get back into position.  However, there is a close call on whether the attacker was offside.  The assistant makes the decision from at least two yards behind the play.  The assistant determines that the player was not offside, play continues and a goal is scored.  A look at the play on video clearly indicates that the attacking player was just offside and should have been penalized.  If the assistant referee was concentrating and keeping good positioning the problem would not have occurred.  It is most important as an assistant referee to maintain concentration and good positioning.

The NCAA has specific rules on re-entry for substitutions.  Officials must be aware of every situation.  For example, in the first half a player is substituted for because the player was injured.  The opponent was cautioned for unsportsmanlike conduct for the foul.  Can the injured player reenter the game in the same period?  Yes.  The player may re-enter and neither the injured player nor the substitute is charged with a substitution.

Another substitute situation that can lead to confusion deals with the goalkeeper.  The goalkeeper is replaced by a substitute and the original goalkeeper becomes a field player.  Later in the same period the coach has the original goalkeeper to substitute for the current goalkeeper.  Is this permissible?  No.  Once the original goalkeeper changes positions, the rule for that position applies.  This will only happen in a rare situation and the referee crew must be cognizant of all the substitution rules.

Re-starts after the game was stopped for an injury must be done properly.  If the game is stopped for due to an injury and there was no other foul or dead ball situation, the game is restarted with a drop ball.  The exception to this is when the goalkeeper is injured while in possession of the ball.  In this case the game is restarted with an indirect free kick at the point of the stoppage by the defensive team.  Many officials have missed this nuance to the rule and improperly started the game with a drop ball.  This could lead to a protest.

Overtime substitutions must be administered correctly.  There are no re-entries in either overtime period.  On occasion, some coaches believe they can have a reentry in the second overtime.  This is not permissible and the coach must be advised that there are no reentry in overtime.

Ejection reporting must be done accurately.   Fighting carries a more severe penalty.  Officials must take their time when notifying the scorekeeper and clearly report what the ejection was for and the correct number of the player(s).  Also, when reporting ejections the official must use proper terminology.  For example, a player cannot be ejected for dissent.  The player could be cautioned for persistent misconduct after receiving a caution.  Again improper administration of the card could lead to a protest.

Halftime intervals are 15 minutes.  They only way this can be shortened to 10 minutes or less is by prior consent of both coaches and the officials.  If one coach wants to shorten the halftime and the other does not the 15 minute halftime will be held.  The officials cannot intercede and change the halftime rules except as noted above.

Overtime cannot be waived.  The rule book clearly indicates that two sudden-victory overtime periods shall be played.  The coaches cannot decide not to play overtime.

In summary, the above are only a few examples of situations that can become problems for officials.  Being a student of the game, knowledgeable of the rules, interpreting properly and utilizing proper mechanics will greatly assist each official during the game.