Situation: Missed It!

By: Ed Rae, NISOA National Assessor, Massachusetts

The Referee admitted to some perplexed, angry, antagonized college players that he: “Missed it.”

During dynamic play, after a save, an attacker -illegally, obviously & deliberately – punched the ball out of the opposing keeper’s hands. Immediately the attacker scored from the clear, blatant larceny. The outcome? Outrage—rightly so, by the Keeper. Outrage-rightly so- at the Referee. Outrage-rightly so-was the entire defensive team response.

The referee was up-field at the time, eager to get in position, for the expected punt. He was unsighted. He had turned his back, to rush up to the next position. The Assistant Referee nearest, also inexplicably (just a ho-hum play?) did not view the action, and was vigorously protested by the defense. Trail AR was never looked to.

All the blank staring, Referee could say, to the victimized team, lamely in a whisper, was, “I missed it.”

What should the referee do? What would prevent this in future?

Here, poorly advised positioning means that the referee must consult with both assistants. Better to face the keeper and backpedal so as to be fully sighted at every moment of the play. Preferably by using designated signals and communication discussed in the pre-game Referee Team briefing, the AR’s might have helped. The Referee might have stressed that the AR’s look behind the Referee’s back, whenever he was facing away.

When it became obvious after the score, that something weird took place, the Referee might have to talk with the assistants. Conferences among the Referee Team during the game are not recommended routinely, but only in rare cases.  If one of the officials saw it, the referee will have a free kick coming out, for the deliberate handling infraction. Most observers would say it is clearly unsporting and issue a caution to the attacker (yellow card.)

If no official saw the infraction, then credibility is lost. Shame on the Referee team. Dissent(ugly!), hard feelings, and perhaps some sort of rude, retaliatory reaction will result. Benches of course respond negatively too. Now touchline officials must deal with that also. If this is a tight game, the rocky remainder of the game will see crumbling control, no doubt. It is natural for the victims to be unpleasant, seeing so flagrant a foul. It spits on the spirit of the game. Obviously this is a serious-perhaps fatal- failure. The ability of the Referee Team to finish the game, at certain levels, would be unsure.

All this comes about because of a failure to see a tipping point in such a routine event, and in such a seemingly benign game to that moment. In such an ‘in-control’ match. In such a banal event-Goalkeeper punt. Oh my!

In the future, Referee vigilance is vital in all action, when the keeper is involved. Preventive measures that might work in such a situation: (1) both the Referee and the near Assistant can talk to both players; (2) the Referee can stay close, face the restart or punt-always-perhaps at a sharp angle to view close contact potential, (3) In the pre-game Referee Team Briefing stress the need for “hawk-eyes” on emotional flashpoints near goal, near the keeper, near any occasion of escalating intensity-when the game situation or pressure-to-score looms.

Many mistakes by Referees occur when otherwise ordinary events are taken for granted and when he attitude is: oh just consider it routine. In fact “routine” is elusive, in competitive situations. It only can be probable if the referee is near, and on watch. Players then often behave. The close-by Referee can quickly intervene upon illegal play; to quickly and effectively establish a sense of justice.

Remember: Vigilance, vigilance, vigilance is the byword: anytime, at any level, whenever keeper-forward contact is possible. The Referee needs to “be there” and in clear view: not more than a few feet from the sparking spot. Getting in position for the next play anticipated is a fool’s errand, if a physical confrontation looms. Keep the keeper with the ball up close and personal. Get in there. Be present for duty.

“Presence lends conviction.” —legendary Referee, Eddie Pearson.