Referee Nuts and Bolts – January 2011

By:  John Van de Vaarst, New Jersey

Volume 20 – January 2011

This monthly column is written primarily for the college and high school soccer Referee. However, any soccer Referee who wishes to improve personal performance may also find that this series is helpful.

All articles address those basic techniques, procedures, practice alternatives, and skills that are often forgotten or overlooked while going through the experiences of soccer refereeing.  The short discussions and accompanying tips stress important advice for competent performance.

The January 2011 articles focus on gamesmanship and dissent.

20.1  Gamesmanship is the art or process of winning games by questionable methods without actually violating the rules.  It is the use of ethically dubious methods to gain an advantage.  Coaches and players are getting better and better and using the art of gamesmanship to gain an advantage.  The use of gamesmanship before, during and after the game is becoming more prevalent as games become more competitive and reaching the post season becomes a more difficult task.  Coaches use gamesmanship techniques to intimidate the officials with the hope of receiving the benefit of the doubt later on during a critical situation.  Players use gamesmanship to intimidate opponents and attempt to sway future referee decisions.

Before the game a coach may use types of gamesmanship by making a variety of statements to the official.  Examples include:  ” we play an offside trap, please watch for it.”  “Last time we played this team they were very physical and held a lot, I hope you will deal with this situation today.”  “I am glad you are here today.  I know you can control this game and not allow all the retaliation we had last week.”  These are just a few of the types of comments that can cause a referee crew to get off their game and have problems during critical situations.

During the game coaches have the ability to make comments that seem to discredit the referee’s ability but are really meant to gain an advantage later in the game.  “Call it the same at both ends.”  “That is the fourth foul by the same player.” “Did you forget your cards today?”  These are some examples of how a coach can try to influence the game.  A referee must recognize this and not fall into the intimidation trap.

Players can use comments to gain an unfair advantage as well as coaches.  “Number 24 is holding me off the ball, please watch it.”  “That was a hand ball.”  Actions such as diving, fating an injury are other examples of gamesmanship.  Referees must be aware of these actions and deal with them appropriately early in the game so the problems do not escalate.

It is important for the officiating crew to recognize gamesmanship.  Coaches and players comments need to be ignored or if serious enough dealt with.  Allowing gamesmanship to continue can result in an unpleasant game for all involved.

20.2       Rule 12.5.3 of the NCAA Soccer Rules indicates that “showing dissent by word of mouth or action to decisions by the referee” is an offence that merits a caution.  The National Federation of State High School Association’s Soccer Rule book , Section 8, Misconduct, Article 1c indicates that “objecting by word of mouth or action to any decision given by an official (dissent)”  by a player or coach shall result in a caution.  Dissent can be verbal or an action.  Verbal comments that are derogatory to the officials should not be allowed in the game either at the high school or intercollegiate level.   The key for the official is to decide what is dissent, what is gamesmanship, what is an attempt by a coach to motivate their team and what can be ignored without future problems.  These skills come with game experience and game management.  It is important for the officials to deal with dissent at the right time.  Just like any other offense that is cautioned the officials must determine if the yellow card will help with game control or create additional problems.  The key is to maintain the management of the game and utilize the caution where appropriate.  At times, a quiet word to the coach or player may defuse the situation.  An officials personality comes into play and can be used to their benefit.

Dissent can also be a gesture.  Hand signals that indicate disgust by the player or coach toward the officials can be considered dissent.  These situations must be dealt with the same as verbal dissent and when appropriate the individual must be cautioned.

Verbal dissent is not limited to the English language.  Some players and coaches who speak a foreign language may say something in that language that is dissent.  If the official recognizes what is being said, it must be dealt with quickly and efficiently.

Lastly, officials must recognize the difference between dissent and hostile or abusive language, harassment, or obscene language/gestures.  This is especially so when the comments are discriminatory in nature.  This type of offence results in an ejection not a caution.  Ignoring these situations could lead to player retaliation and loss of game control.

Recognizing dissent is like the old adage.  Walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, chances are it is a duck.  As an official you must recognize the intent and when appropriate deal with it in a timely and professional manner.