Referee Nuts and Bolts – April 2011

by:  John Van de Vaarst

Volume 23 – April,  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.

This month the focus will be on rule application and being the ideal official on the field.

Top officials apply the rules consistently throughout the game and wherever the play may be on the field.  It is relatively easy to make a call in the center of the field during the normal course of play.  It is even less confrontational when it is early in the game and little has happened that  could cause controversy.  Having the courage to make the critical call late in the game  separates the top officials from the rest.   One of the main complaints received by the National Federation of High School Association National Rules Interpreter was how handling was dealt with during various times of the game and where the ball was at the time of the supposed infraction.  Handling that could be considered incidental was called in the center of the field but when it was an attack or in the penalty area, the same type of handling was ignored.   This creates inconsistency and criticism from coaches and the fans.  Referees must apply the rules consistently no matter the time of the game or the location of the ball.   Continuing with the handling example, some officials call it a foul if there was incidental handling but the player gained possession of the ball.   This approach avoids coaches and fans commenting on the no-call.   However when it occurs in the penalty area, the referee does not make the call.   This inconsistency only leads to greater problems.   The top officials are consistent, fair, recognize fouls vs. good play and have people management skills.

The second aspect of rule application is knowing the rules that are being played.   The NCAA Rule Book is different than the NFHS Rule Book and the FIFA International Laws.  It is imperative  that  the referee know the rules that are being played.   A misinterpretation of a rule can lead to a protest.   For example, the NCAA Rule on tie games during the regular season is two 10 minute sudden victory overtimes.  The NFHS allows each state to set the overtime rules.   Another example is restarts after injuries.    Each year NISOA publishes a Rule Difference Guide.   Every NISOA member is encouraged to review their copy regularly.  In addition, the NFHS includes this in their rule book.

A question that was asked on more than one occasion is what is an ideal official.   There are many qualities that make one official stand out more than others.  This short article will look at some aspects of a quality official.    First is physical conditioning.  An official who keeps up with play and can sprint when necessary is normally in good position to make the critical call when necessary.   This is the same for the Assistant Referee who can get to the goal line quickly to clearly see if the ball entirely crossed the goal line.  The next aspect that makes an official better is the knowledge of the rules and ready to interpret them properly on the field.  For example, during a heated contested game, there is a scramble in front of the goal.   The shot is taken and goes into the goal.  The Assistant Referee that is on their game realizes that the goalkeeper was near the edge of the goal area and therefore there was only one defender between the goal line and the individual who received the ball and then shot the goal.   Clearly this is offside.   However, this situation could be easily missed if the Assistant Referee was assuming the goalkeeper was in their normal position.   As mentioned in the previous article, a quality official is consistent throughout the game no matter the position of the ball, the time remaining or the score.  A quality official has good communication skills.   This includes communicating with their partners, coaches and players.   People management skills in today’s game goes a long way toward success.  Often times the proper words spoken at the right time can defuse a situation and prevent a caution or ejection later in the game.