Presence Leads Conviction

Published on January 13, 2015


By:  John Van de Vaarst, National Clinician

It would be an interesting statistic to determine how many times a game or a season a fan, coach or even a player makes the following statement:  “how can you make that call from that far away?”  Officials must maintain a flow of play so that he/she is a close to play as possible.  The long standing phrase of “why chase them, they will come back” does not make for a good official.  This article will focus on the various systems of control used in interscholastic soccer officiating and how important it is for the official to be as close to play as possible.

In the dual system of control the two referees must move up and down the field so that both are relatively near to the play and can observe the players with relation to the ball and situations off the ball.  During dynamic play the referees must move up and down the field with the play.  In addition, when the ball is on the opposite side of the field, the referee must move towards the center of the field so that he/she can see clearly and not have his/her vision obstructed by players.  On restarts the referee must position himself/herself in a manner that will allow for one official to observe the restart and the other the players involved.  For example, a direct free kick from approximately 30 yards from the goal line is awarded.  The lead official should move up quickly to observe offside and be in good position to determine if a goal is scored.  The trail official must move up the field to assist with managing the kick and possibly encroachment.  Again, if the kick is on the far side of the field, the official must pinch in to see the play clearly.  Another example is a corner kick.  The lead official must be on the goal line to determine if the ball goes wholly over the goal line.  The trail official must be up close, if possible on the edge of the penalty area, so he/she can assist with fouls and possible misconducts.  The trail official must also be ready to sprint back if the play reverses just after the taking of the corner kick.  The lead official must also be ready to sprint up field to assist with foul recognition since his/her partner will have to observe the play of offside.  The penalty kick is very similar from the standpoint that the lead official must serve as goal judge and the other official must be in the penalty area to signal for the kick to be taken and observe any encroachment or other problems associated with the kick.

The diagonal system of control utilizes a referee and two assistants.  The assistant referees remain off the field near the touch line in one half of the field.  An assistant referee must be able to sprint to keep up with the second to the last defender to observe offside as well as keeping up with a break away or a play that was the result of a quick change of possession of the ball and the referee is working diligently to catch up with the play.  On corner kicks or other restarts where the assistant referee is serving as a goal judge, he/she must be ready to sprint up the field when the ball changes possession and the defenders move up quickly.  Failure to do so, could result in a missed off side call during a critical situation.  A referee assigned to the diagonal system of control must have the stamina to move for the entire length of the game.  The referee moves on a diagonal path while still staying close to play.  Often times the referee must sprint to keep up with play, especially on a long pass to open space.  The referee must anticipate play so that he/she remains in the best position possible.

Some state high school associations have adopted the use of the double dual system (three whistle system).  This system is a combination of the dual and diagonal systems.  Two officials work near the touch line similar to the dual system and the third official functions as a referee in the traditional diagonal system.  Since all three officials have whistles, all have equal jurisdiction.  While this system allows for better field coverage, again the officials must always strive to be in the best position possible to recognize fouls and misconducts.   The two officials near the touch line must move up and down rapidly with play while still remaining in good position to observe offside or situations when the ball is near the goal line.  The official who is working on the diagonal must be in good position to observe fouls and deal with players if necessary.  Since there are three officials on the field, each must be able to remain in good position without getting in the way of play or players movement.

In summary it is imperative that officials are physically fit so that they are in good position to call a foul or recognize misconduct.  Also when an official is in good position, there is less opportunity for a player or coach to dissent about the decision made.  In other words presence leads conviction.

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