Referee Nuts and Bolts – May 2012

The monthly “NISOA Referee Nuts and Bolts” column is written primarily for the college and high school 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 sometimes forgotten or overlooked while going through the experiences of soccer refereeing. The short discussions and accompanying practical tips stress important advice for competent performance.

This May 2012 column includes a discussion entitled:

“A Review of Coach and Team Staff Behavior Restrictions”

By Bob Sumpter, NISOA


Every so often the intercollegiate Referee has to deal with a coach whose behavior violates the rules of the game. Handling such an occurrence correctly is an important skill for the Referee.

Our 2010 and 1011 NCAA Men’s and Women’s Soccer Rules give a good deal of authority to the Referee when having to discipline a team Coach or team staff member. This authority includes dealing with any of the team staff such as: coach assistants, trainers, team managers, bench personnel or other coaching staff members.

Acting Responsibly

Intercollegiate soccer rules basically expect that coaches and team staff behave in the tradition of fair play and sporting behavior, which is inherent in the game (See 12.1.1). When dealing with a coach or team staff member, understand that good behavior is a primary expectation of them.

Keeping Within the Coaching Area

It is also assumed in intercollegiate soccer rules that the coach and team staff should be absolutely confined to the coaching area during the game and to conduct all of their team management responsibilities from that area and/or the bench with the exception of any situation where the Referee allows them onto the field for any given reason.

This is reinforced in Rule 12.14, which states that coaches and bench personnel shall remain inside their respective coaching and team areas (See also 12.4.6). The exception (above) for entering the field further specifies that a coach or athletic trainer may enter the field only if instructed to do so by the Referee; however, it is not permissible to provide coaching instruction to any player while attending the injured player (See also 12.4.7).

Another exception left to the discretion of the Referee (Rule states that a coach or team representative may leave the coaching area during an altercation, providing it is an attempt to restore order.

Defining Responsible Acts

While inside the Coaching Area, coaching is restricted to verbal communication, without the use of aids, with one’s own team and is confined to the coaching and team areas (See 12.14.2). The PENALTY states that upon the first occurrence, the Referee shall instruct the coach to return to the coaching area. On the second infraction, a caution shall be issued. On the third occurrence, an ejection shall be issued.

Authority to Penalize

Our rules give the Referee discretion to penalize misbehavior by coaches and team staff for several types of behavior. The penalties include: Caution, Ejection, and Game Forfeit.

Authority to Caution

Rules 12.5 states that any coach or team staff listed on the official team roster shall be cautioned a maximum of one yellow card per game for committing any of the offenses listed in this rule.

Examples of Cautions

The following selected examples of coach and team staff misconducts cited in Rule 12.5 are:

12.5.2 Persistently infringing upon any of the rules of the game;

12.5.3 Showing dissent by word of mouth or action to decisions made by the Referee (See also 12.4.8);

12.5.4 Using profane language in an incidental manner (See also 12.4.9);

12.5.5 Engaging in other acts of unsporting behavior, including taunting, baiting, substituting illegally (See also 12.4.4 and 12.4.5) or ridiculing another player, bench personnel, officials or spectators.

12.5.6 Delaying the restart of play.

Authority to Eject

The Referee has the discretion to eject from the game any coach or team staff (See 5.5.2). An ejected coach or other team staff shall leave the premises of the field of play to the point that the individual, in the Referee’s opinion, shall not be a disruptive influence on the further progress of the game. That usually means out of sight and sound of the field of play (See 5.5.3).

Examples of Ejections

Rule 12.3 states that the Referee shall eject from the game a coach or any team staff if that individual:

12.3.2 is guilty of violent behavior;

12.3.3 is guilty of fighting; (Per Rule A coach or team staff member shall be ejected if guilty of fighting or leaves the coaching area to participate in an altercation. (NOTE EXCEPTION in A coach or team representative may leave the coaching area during an altercation, providing it is an attempt to restore order.)

12.3.4 spits at an opponent or any other person;

12.3.7 engages in hostile or abusive language or harassment that refers to race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or national origin, or other abusive, threatening or obscene language, behavior or conduct, or

12.3.8 receives a second caution in the same game.

12.1.2 In accordance with NCAA Bylaws, the use of tobacco by team or game personnel is prohibited. Any coach or team staff members who use tobacco during practice or competition shall be disqualified for the remainder of that practice or competition.

12.13 A coach or team staff committing assault on a Referee or other game official (See also 12.4.16).

Authority to Forfeit

Rule 5.5.4 gives the Referee discretionary power to forfeit the game to the opposing team if in his or her judgment: (a) a coach prolongs a discussion with an official or refuses to leave the field at the request to do so (See; or a coach and/or institutional representative fails to submit an official game roster before the beginning of the game (See

Tips on Using Your Authority

  1. Intercollegiate soccer rules allow a good deal of authority over Coach behavior to the Referee.
  2. Your authority is extensive and gives you many discretionary options for correcting inappropriate behavior. You do not always need to impose the strongest penalty. However, be careful of failing to take the stated actions when necessary for behavior control.
  3. Remember that if you decide NOT to penalize a coach or team staff member of one team, then the other team staff may well expect the same should they commit an infraction. You need to consider this in developing your approach to behavior control in your games.