Referee Nuts and Bolts – August 2009

By Bob Sumpter, NISOA

The sixth volume in this monthly series contains additional short articles addressing NISOA Referee skills and information that is potentially helpful to those members who wish to improve their levels of personal Soccer Referee performance and competence.

In this monthly series, each article covers a single, well-defined topic, along with advice about the importance of the information presented to your success.

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1. Who supervises the team?

You know that a Coach who is ejected by the Referee from a college game, or who is disqualified from a high school game, must leave the vicinity of the playing field and is prohibited any contact, direct or indirect, with the team during the remainder of the game.

This raises the question of whether or not another adult authorized representative of that school’s team is available to take over the direction of the team for the remainder of the game.  Neither the NCAA rules, nor the NFHS Soccer Rules deal with this possibility directly.

In the NFHS game, situations not covered under the rules are usually left up to the State High School Association to determine the proper application and procedure for the Referee to follow should a situation not covered by the rules arise. It would be well for the Interscholastic Referee to check on the State policy before the beginning of each season.

Tip: Make sure that before your season begins you have an accurate statement of your State Association Policy and Procedure on team management in the case where a coach has been disqualified and an authorized school representative is not available to assume management responsibility for the affected team.  This is an important issue.  It involves not only participant safety, but also participant conduct, game control, and liability if any problem occurs when a team is not properly supervised.

Another Tip: In the absence of any guidance, or clear policy and procedure, the action that both the Intercollegiate and Interscholastic Referee should take in the event of an ejected or disqualified a Coach, IF NO ADULT AUTHORIZED SCHOOL REPRESENTATIVE IS DESIGNATED to supervise the affected team for the remainder of that game, is to terminate the game, and file a written report of the incident and your action.

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2. A simple, but important, offside mechanic

Here’s a suggestion that is both simple but also an important technique to apply when indicating an offside.  The mechanic is to STOP MOVING when you see an Offside, and decide to signal the Offside infringement. This tip is specifically for the Assistant Referee when officiating using the Diagonal System of Control.

There is nothing more annoying to a player, or to a Referee, during a game when, as an offside is called, he (or she) looks over to the Assistant Referee who signals for that offside and sees that the Assistant Referee is still moving down the line while holding the offside flag signal upright.

It makes the Referee or the affected player(s) believe (rightly or wrongly) that the Assistant Referee does not really know where, or if, an offside has really occurred, and makes both the Referee and the affected player(s) lose confidence in future actions by that Assistant Referee.

It reduces not only the credibility of the Assistant Referee in the perceptions of the other players, but may well lead to dissent, disregard, and lack of reliance on any thing that Assistant Referee may signal thereafter in the game, or outright hostility against the Assistant Referee.

Just as importantly, it may cause the referee to doubt the assistant referee’s ability to correctly judge an offside.

Tip: When you, as an Assistant Referee, make a signal for an offside, stop moving, either at the same time as, or just before, raising the flag.

Tip: The Referee needs to cover this mechanic in every pre-game briefing of the Referee Team as a reminder.

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3. Taunting

Taunting an opponent is an act of misconduct.  Taunting can be either verbal or by gesture (including body language.)  It is a control problem for Referees.

Taunting involves words or gestures that are meant to: (a) insult, intimidate, debase, degrade, bait, shame, or goad an opponent, or (b) incite an opponent into retaliatory misconduct, or (c) to cause the taunted opponent to make a playing mistake unfavorable to his or her team, or (d) to cause the taunted opponent to risk his or her team losing the game through retaliatory misconduct.

The way to best control this problem is to handle the very first instance quickly and firmly.  Do the same with any subsequent act of taunting, without fail. Doing so definitely reduces the possibility that you will have to handle any more instances in that game.  If ignored, or if the Referee delays acting on instances of taunting (for whatever reasons) it tends to become a serial misconduct problem.

Serial misconduct is not uncommon.  It normally comes about when a Referee is perceived to not punish misconduct firmly, fairly, promptly and consistently.  All players want the same treatment.

So, what might happen?

If the first act is not handled, the player who taunts feels that he or she not only got away with the misconduct, but might be able to get away with it again.  This obviously leads to problems with that player.

As team mates see that a taunting player goes unpunished, they could well feel encouraged to try the same type of unfair play.  If that happens, you now have multiple incidents to correct.

If that happens, the effect on the game could involve the opponents getting the idea that they too would be allowed to taunt without punishment because of Referee reluctance to address that type of misconduct.

Tip: Handle the very first occurrence of Taunting. If you fail to handle the very first instance: (1) the taunting player feels he or she might be able to get away with it again, (2) team mates might try to do the same, and (3) opponents, having seen the Referee not handle the incident, might also try the same. You do not want to be the cause of a game control problem because of your lack of action.

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4. Do you really need to memorize the names and descriptions of violations (i.e., fouls) and misconduct?

My answer is a definite “YES!”

The heart of the matter is that the referee needs to react to and decide on these infringements as soon as committed. The longer the elapsed time between the infringement and the referee action, the more the participants feel that the referee is indecisive and uncertain of the proper enforcement of the rules.

The referee must learn to react to these infringements quickly.  Memorizing the names of the various violations and misconducts listed in Rule 12 can help you build up a reflex response that recognizes and reacts to these infringements more quickly.  That’s because it helps eliminate the short, mental hesitation that may take place when in your mind you have to recognize the name (i.e., specific type) of the infringement first, and then take action to penalize as required.

It is estimated that about 70% to 80% of the referee’s focus in a game is on unfair play.  Since that may be so, reacting and enforcing becomes your number one game control concern. Game control should always be your major concern.  Remember a violation or misconduct must be seen to be handled and not ignored, because these are unfair acts and are required by the rules to be penalized. The bit of practice it takes to memorize the names of these infringements is worth the effort to master.

Finally, if you are to submit a written post-game report on misconduct for which you have cautioned or ejected a player, the terminology must be correct.  Far too many players in the past have not been dealt with by the game authority because the Referee cited an incorrect term for the violation. There is no reason for such failure.

Tip: Memorize the names of all of the violations and misconduct listed in the rules!  It is the most important first step in learning how to react quickly on the field.

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5. The penalty kick: move away from trouble

It’s not unusual that after awarding a penalty kick a Referee will run over to the penalty kick spot, retrieve the ball, and either place the ball on the spot for the kick, or hand the ball to the player taking the kick.  Neither act is a good mechanic!

Once you’ve awarded a penalty kick, there’s usually a chance that trouble might develop for you.  At least half of the players (i.e., the team, against whom you’ve awarded the kick) will probably be upset with your decision. A number of those upset players will be inside or near to the penalty area in which the kick will be taken. If you advance into the midst of upset players at that time, you may place yourself near enough so that upset players may confront, dissent with, or argue with you about the call.

You can avoid the potential problem by not moving into the midst of upset players, but instead moving off to the side of the penalty area from which you will oversee the kick.

That move has two advantages. First, it takes you away from most upset players.

Second, if an upset player then advances towards you to argue, dissent, or otherwise show misconduct towards you, then that player takes on sole responsibility for whatever misconduct you might decide to penalize, since by your action of moving away to a “neutral area” you have attempted to help defuse or avoid a potential player misconduct problem. You can then be reasonably sure that whatever misconduct occurs, you were not the cause.

Tip: After calling for a penalty kick, move off to the side of the penalty area from which you intend to oversee the kick.  Avoid approaching any players.

Tip: Should a player then approach you to argue, dissent, or confront you over the penalty kick, discipline that player promptly and firmly.  That player has gone out of the way to commit any misconduct against you that occurs.