Many referees, particularly those newly-minted and inexperienced, run into situations in which they are not certain about what to do and where the line should be drawn in dealing with team officials:
* When is it appropriate to ask the coach to leave the field?
* When is enough enough?
* How much abuse must I and my assistant referees (and the players) take?
According to Law 5, the referee “takes action against team officials who fail to conduct themselves in a responsible manner and may, at his discretion, expel them from the field of play and its immediate surrounds.” By no stretch of the imagination do most, and certainly not many, coaches or other team officials behave irresponsibly. However there are enough of them that referees need to have a plan of action. This article is designed to help referees at all levels do that.
Here are some examples of irresponsible behavior, directed by coaches or other team officials at referees, assistant referees, fourth officials, players of the opposing or their own team, and opposing coaches:
1. Screaming at or verbally or physically abusing the officials or any players or other participants for any reason.
* a youth coach “who begins to scream at his players when the game begins and does not stop until long after the game is over. With every touch of the ball by his team he gives (screams) instructions to the players off the ball as well as the player with the ball. With every touch of the ball by the other team he is giving (screaming) specific instructions to each player on his team as fast as he can get them out of his mouth. Much of what he says is negative and all mistakes are pointed out and players are taken to task. He is a physically intimidating person who loves to argue about anything and most area referees just stay as far away from him as they can.”
* ordering a player who has made a mistake to “drop and give me ten” (pushups) right there on the field.
* Speaking insulting words or making offensive gestures * making unwanted contact with opponents
2. Interfering with the game in any way, such as:
* yelling out instructions to do something illegal or giving deceptive instructions.
* when coaches become actively involved in helping their team deceive the opponents, such as saying that player “x” should do this or that and clearly intending something else to occur (as discovered after the restart).
* clearly instructing the players to line up within the required distance and “have the referee move you.”
* instructing his/her team, both on the field and on the bench, to jump up and down, waving their arms, and scream at the top of their lungs.
* giving tactical instructions to other players when invited to enter the field to see to the injury of a player.
* presuming to give the officials instructions on how to make or signal their calls.
* insisting that an opposing player be cautioned or sent off.
* throwing objects in protest
* kicking chairs
* striking advertising boards
* persistently and flagrantly protesting decisions by an official * interfering with the performance of assistant referee or fourth official duties * refusing to return to the technical area * entering the field of play without the permission of the referee * failing to deal with team spectators who loudly and persistently harass or insult the referee team
There is a widespread trend within the nation and the soccer community toward eliminating abuse of young people by any adults. The referee is certainly empowered to ensure responsible behavior by the team official in that regard. The method chosen would be up to the individual referee. The first action to consider is a quiet word with the coach or other team official to let him or her know that the behavior will not be allowed to continue.
WHAT CAN THE COACH OR OTHER TEAM OFFICIALS DO?
Under the Law, only one person at a time is authorized to convey tactical instructions from the technical area — in most soccer games this term includes the team area, where they have their bags and chairs. The coach and other officials must remain within its confines except in special circumstances, for example, a physiotherapist or doctor entering the field of play, with the referee’s permission, to assess an injured player. The coach and other occupants of the technical area must behave in a responsible manner. Team officials are also encouraged to promote sporting behavior by their players and supporters.
As a practical matter, particularly at the youth level, any POSITIVE coaching is allowed. Whether at the level of the least experienced players (and coaches) or at the highest levels, any case in which the coach behaves irresponsibly will result in the coach being dismissed. (Two examples from among many: ranting at the referee, overt participation in deception of the opposing team.)
Beyond the reasonable expectation that the referee will call a good game, the coach has no “right” to anything in the game of soccer, other than the right to conduct him-/herself responsibly during the game — from within the technical or bench area — while offering advice to his/her team’s players.
A referee who allows coaches or other team officials to parade around the field or shout abuse at players in the guise of instruction, in contravention of the requirements in Law 5 that coaches behave responsibly and that referees not permit anyone other than players to enter the field, should be ashamed.
A coach may do nothing during the match about any decision of the referee.
If it seems necessary, the coach may submit a report to the appropriate authorities after the match. To do anything else during the match would likely be considered irresponsible behavior, for which offense the coach would be dismissed by the referee.
WHAT CAN THE REFEREE DO?
First and foremost, live up to the reasonable expectations of the coaches, team officials, and players that you will call a good game. Do not invent your own rules.
Coaches and other team officials are expected to behave responsibly. (See Law 5, The Technical Area, and Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees, the only three places in the Laws where team officials are mentioned.) The intelligent referee will generally disregard coaching comments, unless they become openly disrespectful of the game and of the refereeing crew. The referee’s first line of defense (unless the behavior is REALLY egregious) is to warn the coach who is behaving irresponsibly. This is the equivalent of a caution, but no card is shown. Then, when the behavior persists (as it usually does, because most coaches who behave this way fail to understand that they must change their errant ways), the coach is expelled from the field for failing to behave in a responsible manner. Please note that under the Laws of the Game, no card may be shown; however, showing the card may be a requirement of the rules of the competition. Let us emphasize: There is no requirement for a warning or a quiet word; that is at the discretion of the referee.
Unless the matter is particularly grave, the referee would usually wait until the next stoppage. However, if the situation is indeed grave — as any case of abuse would be — then stopping the game and drawing attention to the matter is an excellent tool in and of itself. Proactive steps such as the admonition of the coach will usually prevent players who become disgusted with their coach’s behavior from acting out and thus becoming subject to punishment themselves. It sends a clear message that the referee is serious about the matter. In such cases, the referee would stop play with the ball in the possession of the abusive coach’s team (if possible), advise the coach or other team official that this behavior is irresponsible and must stop if the coach or other team official wishes to remain in the vicinity of the field. If this warning is not effective, then another stoppage and the expulsion of the coach must follow. No cards, please, unless the rules of the competition require them. Also, do not engage in extended discussions when doing this in any circumstances: State the message in a calm and firm manner and leave.
In all events you should prepare a supplemental game report or letter to the league on the matter. You might also suggest in the report or letter that they send someone to monitor a couple of games. The letter could be written in such a way that says perhaps the coach was having a bad day, but it should suggest that it might be beneficial to the children involved if someone from the league dropped in for a game or two just to make sure.