Injured Referee

(Originally published on 7/21/17, “Operation Restore”)

Murray, an adult amateur fan, asks:

If a Referee gets injured and there is no replacement, does the result at the time stand or does it depend on the time the game was stopped?

Answer

Yes, if the Referee is the only official assigned to and present at the match.  Yes, if there are other officials but none is qualified to take the Referee position and responsibilities.  No, if there is at least one other member of the assigned officiating team qualified and willing to take the Referee position.

In matches with a full crew assigned (Referee and two Assistant Referees), one of the Assistant Referees is often designated as AR-1 and this is usually for the purpose of identifying that AR as the official who takes over if the Referee is unable to continue (in which case a volunteer linesman could be sought for the AR-1’s position) or is unable to serve as the Referee but deemed able to swap places with the AR for the remainder of the match.  Alternately, the local rules of competition may specify another method.  If no method is specified and there is no prior designation of one of the ARs as “senior” or first in line to take over, the Referee would usually be expected to designate which AR (assuming that AR is amenable) would take over the Referee’s position.

Are you getting the feeling the assumption is that Referees are not expected to become sufficiently unable to continue to the point of needing a replacement?  You would be correct.  If you are not comfortable with that ambiguity, ask the Assignor or know in advance if there are any rules in place or traditional in your area which govern this sort of problem.

If none of these options is available or acceptable or workable, the match is terminated, after which the resolution of your question is in the hands of the local competition authority (the body under whose authority the particular game is being played).  In any event, full details must be included in the match report.

 

Rules of Competition

(Originally published on 7/18/17, “Operation Restore”)

Mike, a U-12 and under coach, asks:

My son’s U12  team recently won a game 4-3 but scored a goal on a PK which was awarded in error when the opposing GK touched the ball outside the penalty area. It should’ve been a free kick, but the ref awarded my son’s team a PK. The PK was converted and we won 4-3. The next day we received an email from the opposing coach who said he was protesting the game as the ref told him AFTER the game he had awarded the PK in error. The game was over-turned and the game is going to be replayed. Is this correct?

Answer

Yes, probably, on both counts.  First, the referee clearly “set aside a law of the game” which is the official reason for a protest.  It doesn’t require any admission by the Referee that he or she made a mistake to file a protest, merely a recitation of the facts of the case.

Second, it is entirely up to the rules of competition under which your game was played whether a protest would be considered at all.  Most tournaments don’t but, for regular season games, the local league probably does but usually only for an issue which clearly involves a rule of law.  Usually this means that issues which are based solely on judgment, no matter how wrong they might be, are not allowed to be protested.  In this case, for example, deciding if an offense occurred inside or outside the penalty area is a judgment call, but deciding that stopping play for an offense occurring outside the penalty area could be restarted with a PK is governed solely by the Laws of the Game.

Third, once a protest is allowed and decided, again the local rules of competition determine what the person or body of persons who made the decision can do about it.  This could certainly (and often does) include ordering that the game be replayed in its entirety.   The close score could be a factor but often this solution is taken no matter what the score was … on the theory that a wrongfully given PK-which-converted could affect the playing dynamics for the rest of whatever time remained in the match and, literally anything could have happened.  But the decision could also have been to replay the game from the point of the erroneous decision but using the correct restart.

In brief, what you described would not be an unusual decision, but everything depends on the local rules of competition.  This is not something that is determined by some single rule or law that covers the entire country.  We wonder, however, whether either team sought to bring the mistake to the Referee’s attention or whether either of the assistant referees saw the location of the foul and, as would be their duty, sought to prevent the Referee from compounding the error.  Given that a PK is the most ceremonial of all restarts, there certainly would have been time and opportunity to do so.  Just wondering.

 

Ill-Advised Officiating Assignments

(Originally published on 7/11/17, “Operation Restore”)

PJ, a U13 – U19 parent, asks:

Under what circumstance should a 15 yo referee his younger brother’s soccer team?  Is this putting undue pressure on the ref, especially someone that inexperienced?  I’m not saying he would always “rig the game,” but it’s hard for him to process his mates calling him by name to give penalties, free kicks, etc. Sounds like it should be something strongly avoided if not forbidden altogether.

Answer

We’re going to take a risky guess that you are British or maybe an Aussie (based on your use of the word “mates”).  If this is correct, please note that we cannot and do not provide answers or guidance based on how other soccer organizations outside the US implement the Laws of the Game (see our statement of “principles” on the “About” tab).  If you live in the US, then read on because everything that follows is focused on IFAB/USSF protocols.

There are two levels at which the issues you raise can be approached.  One is the matter of age itself.  Persons can be certified at the lowest grade level as young as 12 though one or two years older than this is not infrequently required by many state and/or local soccer organizations.  Theoretically, therefore, a 15 year old Referee could have been officiating for as long as nearly 4 years — a length of time which could certainly lead to more than sufficient experience if the young Referee was able and willing to be assigned to lots of games each year.  Then there is the associated issue of “age difference” — in other words, someone at age 15 might well be more than adequately experienced to officiate, say, a U-12 match but would almost certainly not be assigned to, say, any match involving players who themselves are 15 and older.  These rules, if they exist, are almost always set at the local soccer organization level, by individual assignors, by the state association for upper level games, or even by the youth official’s parents.  When and where they exist, they must be followed of course. Note that you didn’t specify in your scenario how much younger the team’s players were than the 15 year old assigned to referee the match.

However, the second level at issue here doesn’t involve age but, rather, potential conflicts of interest.  Indeed, the USSF Administrative Handbook, in discussing ethical issues for Referees and Assignors, particularly notes that all officials are required to avoid conflicts of interest — and, short of betting on the outcome of a match, we doubt that there is any situation which is more clearly a conflict of interest than having a family connection with the one or more of the players or team officials being officiated!  Is it officially banned by name?  No, but it is clearly a circumstance to be avoided, either in offering or in accepting an assignment.

Most assignors routinely gather information from referees who want to receive games from that assignor and, routinely, questions are asked about whether there are any teams with which the referee is related to by family. Occasionally, a team might be approaching game time with no official in sight and might plead with a parent or spectator who also happens to be a certified official to “do the game” because, without an official, the game cannot be held (the game becomes a scrimmage at best).  We advise anyone who might be willing to volunteer in such a situation to disclose fully their relationship with anyone associated with one of the teams and specifically to get agreement by both coaches that they accept the volunteer despite the unusual circumstances.

By the way, these two issues (age and conflict of interest) can merge when the Referee, no matter how well trained and experienced he or she might be, is the same age as the players being officiated.  At the same age, the issue is not so much experience as it is familiarity.  Unless it is a tournament far away from home (the players or the referee), it is quite likely that the Referee might know many of the players, not just of one team but of many teams, due to school, social, or other connections.  This is why tournaments will almost always specifically exclude from assignment any Referee who is in the same age grouping as an entire set of teams.

 

 

Coach in Trouble

A Premier League coach from an Asian country asks:

[Revised and summarized]  I’m the Assistant Coach in a Premier League for one of the Asian countries. We had an eventful match last week. Around minute 65, an opposing player made a very harsh tackle against my team’s striker and created a very heated situation involving both teams. I felt the Referee did not control the situation and I ran onto the field to help him control things. The situation became more heated when the Referee only gave a yellow card for the tackle. After the game, I approached the Referee and said ” Hi Referee —  it should be a red card — come on Referee. I hope next time you can make a better decision.” I didn’t use any vulgar words. However, the Referee wrote in his match report that I pulled his hand and used vulgar words towards him. How can I defend myself when there was no video evidence showing either of these things? I was fined by my football federation. How can I defend myself?

Answer

We’re sorry that this occurred and that you feel the punishment you received was not justified.  Unfortunately, there is no way we can assist you either generally or in particular.  We cannot comment on what goes on in other countries, much less on what is essentially an internal administrative matter.  What punishments are assessed after a game is over are outside the scope of the Laws of the Game, particularly where it involves a coach.

What we can say, however, it that you should not have come onto the field “to help [the Referee] to control things” unless you were actually given permission by the Referee to do so.  This would be considered a violation of Law 3 if a player had done it and, if done by a team official (which, as an assistant coach, you are), could be the basis for a dismissal from the field for “irresponsible behavior.”  It is also the case that having any conversation with members of the officiating team after a match is over — particularly if the conversation goes beyond how nice the weather was — is not a good idea.  First, nothing you might say would likely educate the Referee.  Second, you might in fact be wrong.  Third, even if right, immediately following a difficult, heated match, is not a conducive time for “educating” anyone (I’m sure you would agree were the situations reversed and the Referee wanted to talk to you about your coaching strategy!).  We Referees have a saying, “if you don’t want the coach to referee, don’t try to coach the players” and it applies here as well.

Finally, coming onto the field as you did, with the conversation not being documented by film or sound recording, merely sets up a “he said/did, no I didn’t say/do” debate which, on balance, will usually be decided in favor of the Referee.  We cannot comment directly regarding your federation but our experience has been that there are almost always channels for filing complaints after the match using official forms and giving everyone a chance to cool down at least a bit.  Most such opportunities provide for responses and offers of proof or extenuating circumstances.

While we can’t help in your case, we hope that all team officials will take note of our advice here and respond to similar situations accordingly.

Recalcitrant Coaches

A HS/College Referee asks:

I was officiating a U15G game. Before the game even started, I and my ARs took our positions on the field. I blew my whistle to get the teams to take the field. The Home team came right out and took their side of the field. The Visiting Team stood on the sideline listening to their coach give last minute instructions. I proceeded to wait another 15-20 seconds (to let him complete his instruction) then I blew my whistle a second time … no response. I then waited another 15-20 seconds and whistled a third time and stated loudly and within 10 yards of the team “Coach, let’s get your team on the field” … still no response. I then stepped closer and said “Coach, let’s go,” but he stuck his head up and stated “What???” I said “Let’s go” … but he proceeded to keep coaching. I said “Coach, you have a warning.  Let’s get them on the field” but again only “What??” I gave him a yellow card for dissent.  Is this the correct procedure, or is this a delay of game?

Answer

First off, any answer to this has to depend on a critical issue — namely, who or what was the competition authority?  In other words, (a) what set of rules were you under and (b) did those rules involve any local exceptions?  We ask because, although none of the standard rule sets (IFAB, HFHS, NCAA) has an explicit rule or ruling pertaining to a team failing to take to the field when requested by the referee, each rule set provides different tools the referee can use in such a case.  Moreover, specifically with respect to IFAB’s Laws of the Game as practiced in the US, many local competitions (leagues, tournaments, etc.) have special rules which can and do provide recourse.  Indeed, we are not familiar with a single tournament in this country which does have some sort of unyielding mandate to start and stay on time.

For example, many youth and adult amateur leagues around the US require that a game must start on the scheduled time and that, if a team does not or cannot field at least the minimum number of players at the scheduled time (or within some certain number of minutes thereafter), the referee is authorized either to consider the match as forfeited then and there or to go ahead and start the clock (this would apply to any period of play, not just the starting period) until some point is reached after which the match is considered abandoned by the players.  This can cover not only situations in which a team doesn’t have enough players present to start and either knows no more will appear or is waiting to see if more will appear.  This would also cover the situation you describe where a team refuses to take the field when required (which can also happen at any stoppage — a coach might decide to withdraw his or her team due to disagreement with circumstances or some specific decision with which the coach vehemently disagrees).

So, we cannot answer the core question without knowing the rules applied to the game.  And, if there are such rules, our answer would have to be, first, know what they are ahead of taking the assignment and, second, simply and faithfully follow them.  You might even engage the coach of the team which is ready to play in an effort to advise the visiting team of these rules.  However, if there are no local or competition-specific rules pertaining the scenario, we suggest you look to common sense and what you would do if, at the scheduled time, there was only one team present.  How long would you wait?  What reasonably could you do to ascertain the circumstances for the absence?  If this involved the very beginning of the match, could you adjust the length of the periods of play to accommodate the delay?  Are there following games which would be adversely affected by the delay?  Is it late enough in the day that the delay could result in unsafe lighting?

There is another approach that might be considered.  Even though the opposing team in your scenario is there, technically they are not “there” because “there” is defined as “on the field of play” and, as long as they are not, they are in effect not there at all.  This means that they are subject to any requirement that a game start on time or at least within some specified grace period … and that might become the most potent item of information you could bring to the attention of the recalcitrant coach.  “Coach, the game must begin in [x] minutes.  At exactly that time, I will whistle to start play, note the absence of the minimum number of opposing team players on the field, terminate the match according to Law 3.1, and include full details in my report to [the competition authority].”  Nothing needs to, nor should be, added to this little speech.  Then follow through.  Period.

By the way, don’t even consider formally cautioning the coach in this scenario.  First, it is not permitted under the Laws of the Game.  Second, it will only step on the tail of the dragon.

What’s Under YOUR Uniform? (with apologies to a popular credit card commercial)

A high school/college referee asks:

I have been seeing a lot of players in other sports lately wearing arm sleeves. I would judge this to be similar to wearing tights (compression shorts) which should match the main color or hem of the shirt and if there are more than one, the team should have the same color. Would I be correct in my thinking or are those pieces of cloth prohibited? Does the uniform / sock / undergarment language also address Captains bands or other arm (compression) sleeves?

Answer

First of all, until we begin seeing in soccer what you are seeing with respect to “other sports,” there is little basis on which to offer any sort of definitive answer.  All we can do at this point is speculate within the framework of what we already know regarding the Laws of the Game.

Some things are easy.  For example, don’t worry about captain’s armbands.  They are permitted and don’t come under any provision of the Law beyond the restriction that they must not present a danger to anyone (though we would be hard-pressed to contemplate an armband that might even faintly be considered unsafe!).  This, of course, assumes that it is not being worn over the sock.  Like anything, however, which is not part of the required uniform described in Law 4, it should be inspected — or at least given a brief glance.  Law 4 also includes “arm protectors” as part of the category it calls “protective equipment” and states that they must be “non-dangerous” (which is a wordier version of “safe”) if made of “lightweight padded material.”  Conceivably, if something worn on the arm did not specifically extend below the sleeve of the jersey but, rather, started from below the jersey sleeve, it could be considered as falling in this category.

The difficult question regards something worn on the arm that does begin from some point under the jersey sleeve and then extends downward on the arm.  This would give every appearance of being an “undershirt” which would then become subject to the rule about its color being the same as the main color of the shirt sleeve.  The sticking point here is that, without having the player undress to some point, there would be no way of telling whether this type of armwear was part of a true undergarment or just a sleeve extension.

Our recommendation, should you find yourself facing such a situation, is to treat armwear that starts under the sleeve and then continues on the arm as an undershirt and apply the Law appropriately.  If it begins below the sleeve, treat it as an arm protector and limit your concerns to whether it is safe.  Finally, you always have the option if things start to look sticky to point out to the player that, if the armsleeve is not a true undershirt but is otherwise not in conformity with the undershirt rules, simply pull it down far enough to show skin, thus demonstrating that it falls under a different rule.  Keep in mind the core objective of the undershirt rule is to standardize jerseys … and anything which appears to be an extension of the jersey.  Also remember that the wearing of anything other than compulsory equipment may be a topic covered by a local rule of competition.  The final thing to remember (so much to keep in mind!!) is that many technical violations may be considered trifling: choose to insist on those things that really matter (but include details of situations like this in your game report).

FOOLISH REFEREES AND HIGH SCHOOL RULES (WHICH I ABHOR)

PLEASE: NO MORE QUESTIONS ON HIGH SCHOOL RULES!!!
Question:

I watched a HS game last night in Wisconsin and Team A won in overtime and a number of the boys celebrated on the field by chasing the goal scorer as he ran towards his fans. A couple of them had removed their jerseys in celebration and the referee singled out one of them and yellow carded him for “unsportsmanlike”. This was his second yellow of the game so he also produced a red card. The ref literally chased him off the field to card him (after the game was over). Does the team have any recourse in terms of an appeal so that this player can play in the next game? What is the rule regarding carding a player after the game is over and the players are no longer on the field of play?

Answer (October 18, 2013):
As I consistently state in my answers (and the “About” section of the site), I do not answer questions regarding high school rules or referees. The rules are from another planet and some high school referees seem to have joined the migration.

Under the Laws of the Game, the rules the world plays by, the referee has no authority to punish players for purely technical offenses such as removing their shirts that occur AFTER the final whistle. (Look at all the international and professional games where this occurs on a regular basis.) Violent behavior or related actions, yes, but not removing the shirt. Please note, however, that if time had not actually run out when the disrobing and chasing occurred, then the referee was correct. On the other hand, if the game was truly over, then you should take this matter to the AD of the school for him or her to resolve.

COPING WITH TOURNAMENT RULES: RTFM! BUT ALSO USE COMMON SENSE

Question:
My GU15 team played in a tournament this weekend with 30 minute halves. First off the referee declared he was starting his watch before either team was on the field. My team took the field, and the other team took an additional minute and a half to enter the field in which I assume the referee was still continuing the time. I had started my watch when the referee initially declared he had started time. 28 minutes into the game and my player is fouled just outside the 18-yard box. I call a sub and get another player on the field. My player takes position to have a shot on the free kick and the referee blows for halftime before the kick is taken and before he blows the whistle to allow my player to take the shot, and at 29 minutes. Is this allowed, from what I understand, the ball must be in play to call a game or halftime. The play was dead in result to the free kick. Was the referee right to be able to call for halftime?

Answer (May 30, 2013):
There are a number of possibilities in this situation, but I shall list only the possibility most flattering to the referee:
Because they have scheduled too great a number of games on too few fields–and do not want to engage more referees or more fields, both of which would cost more money–many tournaments instruct the referee to start the game precisely at the time specified in the tournament program and to end the game in time for the field to be cleared immediately for the next game. The referee is allowed no flexibility in the timing. You will likely find this in the small print of the tournament rules.

In addition, no matter what the tournament rules may be, referees should NEVER take away a scoring opportunity from any team. That should be a no-brainer.

SLIDING TO PLAY THE BALL

Question:
My son plays u9 soccer and has been sliding as an offensive move to shoot the ball. They keep saying that he is slide tackling…which I believe is a defensive move..can you help me determine the difference, so the organization can discuss what is permitted. I think there is some confusion between the two.

Answer (May 13, 2012):
Unless there is some well-intentioned but totally unauthorized (and unfounded in Law) prohibition on slide tackling in the rules of the competition in which your son plays, there is absolutely no rule that a player cannot slide tackle for the ball. The concern in the Laws of the Game (the rules the world plays by) is that all play shall be fair and safe. As long as the sliding tackle is carried out safely, with no danger to the opponent, then it is not illegal.

As to sliding to shoot the ball, it is hard to imagine how anyone would consider that to be illegal. In order for a play to be called a foul, it must have been committed carelessly, recklessly, or with excessive force.

The referee must judge whether the tackle of an opponent is fair or whether it is careless, reckless, or involves the use of excessive force. Making contact with the opponent before the ball when making a tackle is unfair and should be penalized.

“Careless” indicates that the player has not exercised due caution in making a play. It does not include any clearly accidental contact.

“Reckless” means that the player has made unnatural movements designed to intimidate an opponent or to gain an unfair advantage.

“Involving excessive force” means that the player has far exceeded the use of force necessary to make a fair play for the ball and has placed the opponent in considerable danger of bodily harm.

MANIPULATING SUBSTITUTIONS

Question:
Question Regarding Substitutions at the U13 Level: Our league plays under this local rule, “The XXXXXX Soccer Association follows FIFA laws of the game as modified for Youth by the USSF and USYS. The League operates in accordance with the policies of YYYYY State. All coaches and players shall become thoroughly familiar with the FIFA laws of the game as modified for Youth by the USSF and USYS.

In addition to the substitution rules as modified for Youth, a coach has the right to request to substitute a player who has received a yellow card at the time the card is given and 1 for 1 substitution are allowed for an injured player coming off the field.”

Situation is as follows: Team A with a 1 goal lead, late in the game.

Team A repeatedly substitutes during every stoppage of play in the final 10 minutes of play. With approximately 2 minutes of regular time remaining another substitution is made and the referee clearly watches his game clock, and then announces after the substitution, that 1 minute of “stoppage time” will be added. Next stoppage, with under a minute remaining in regular time, another substitution is requested and denied by the referee. In the added time, another stoppage occurs with the same request and it is also denied.

Naturally, Team B scores in the final seconds of stoppage time to draw the match. There is naturally now some controversy as to the referee’s decision to disallow the substitutions. The question is that it appears that the substitutions were within the laws of the game and advice to referees regarding substitutions should have granted the substitutions, however the unlimited substitution clause in the USYS gives the referee an apparent decision point contrary to the advice? In addition, the referee felt that the substitutions were often “not prepared”, although they were all field players and not ever the GK.

Rule 302. SUBSTITUTIONS Section 1. Except as provided by USYSA or its State Associations, substitutions shall be unlimited except where specified otherwise in the rules and regulations for a special competition.

Section 2. Substitutions may be made, with the consent of the referee, at any stoppage in play.

Could you please provide an opinion? This is not an isolated incident as subs are frequently denied in the final minutes of either half, however, it only creates controversy when seemingly, possibly affected the outcome. (would you expect a question otherwise? 🙂

My answer (April 18, 2012):
Disclaimer: I am no longer allowed to prepare and publish items as officially approved by the U. S. Soccer Federation, so this answer will have to do. It is totally correct under the Laws of the Game and common practice in the United States and the rest of the world.

The referee, while clearly having the best intentions in trying to prevent further gamesmanship by Team A, has misapplied the Laws of the Game.

Except for situations in which the substitution is requested just as the ball is ready to be put into play, referees may not ignore or deny permission for a legal substitution that is properly requested. Although Law 3 requires that the referee be “informed before any proposed substitution is made,” this does not mean that the referee can deny permission for any reason other than to ensure that the substitution conforms to the Law. Even if it seems that the purpose is to waste time, the referee cannot deny the request, but should exercise the power granted in Law 7 to add time lost through “any other cause.” Rules of those competitions that permit multiple substitutions and re-entries can sometimes lead to confusion.

Unless the rules of the competition specifically forbid adding time for such gamesmanship or any other reason, the referee should follow the guidance in Law 7 for adding time.