Feedback 1
One thing that should help is the new 20 minute video Managing the Free Kick from USSF. Everything we should be doing (if we aren’t already) is contained therein. I have already used it in some clinics over the winter/spring and it got a good reaction. At least in Illinois, it will be part of the required material for all recertification clinics. I’ve also used it in entry classes instead of the slides re mechanics and then discuss from there.

I, too, am saddened and perplexed by how things got to the point that something as fundamental as this requires this level of special emphasis by USSF. On the other hand, it is also true that teaching doesn’t always lead to learning (whether in the classroom or on the pitch.) Players will try to get whatever advantage they can unless we put an end to it. We need to instill a higher level of confidence (“I know the Laws …”) and courage (“… and I will apply them correctly”) in our compatriots.

Many of the referees don’t get to see very many really good referees in action — they are busy covering way too many games. Not everybody has the various soccer channels on TV/cable.

One thing that would help fertilize the grass-roots would be more good, high-level referees work more low-level games. Some of the tournaments and assignors in this area are actively trying to get more State and National refs for the youth and ethnic games. If part of our job is to “educate the players”, we should be using refs who are the best at it at all levels.

Although the reader’s complaint was about a particular issue, I think it is a symptom of a wider problem but some of my suggestions above would apply to any aspect of the game.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond.

Feedback 2
There is a fourfold problem with management of our referees when it comes to enforcing the Laws of the Game.

1. There are referees that are comfortable with their performance and do not try to improve on it (mostly Grade 8 referees). They are not pressured to improve as some assignors are woefully short of referees and will take all comers to fill the schedules. There is the impression that with some assignors, performance does not impact which games or level of games you are assigned. Grade 8 referees do not get assessed so can remain comfortable with their performance.

2. There is no visible distinction (you know, the badge) between a Grade 8 referee and a Grade 7 referee although the effort to remain a Grade 7 is significantly greater than a Grade 8. And it does not seem to impact what games you can get. You might get more Grade 8 to advance if there was a greater prestige.

3. The schedule for some adult leagues do not allow for 90 min games, are single games, and late at night. This does not make them attractive except to “fill the square” or get an assessment. It would seem that USSF affiliation would be affected by inadequate scheduling.

4. With many amateur adult games being filled by Grade 8 referees, you run into the problem of training. They are taught the laws but little to no techniques for enforcing the laws. They also listen to “senior” referees that lead them astray with their inadequate technique/understanding (as you have seen with some of the questions you have received). They may have seen a professional game (MSL, EPL, BL, etc) where the referee did little to get the players away and they listened to the commentators erroneously talk about what should be done.

I have enjoyed working with higher level referees and picking up techniques on how to handle different situations. I have read the Ask a Soccer Referee answers to questions, especially for unusual situations that I have not experienced, which has given me confidence to enforce the laws in the spirit of the game. I also read the Referee Week in Review on on a weekly basis to glean out nuggets for me to use on the level of games I referee. I miss the discussion that came with the “You Make the Call” clips. I have felt that clips from youth games would help Grade 8 referees (and some Grade 7s) versus using clips from professional games. In addition, newscasts do highlights from games to give you a flavor of the game as part of their report. Could we not create a similar report from professional games and youth games where the referee’s performance was being highlighted? Highlights from a good game and ones that have gone downhill would be good for review by less experienced referees.

For the encroachment question – I would verbally tell the players to back off but not interfere with a quick restart. If they do not move and are hit by the ball, I would caution the player and do a restart. Usually after one caution, they get the message. I also look for the path they took to get in front of the ball. If they went out of their way to get there after the ball was set up, then I may stop the proceeding to caution the player (feel of the game/situation).

Unfortunately, it is part of the gamesmanship of the game which needs to be controlled without making each free kick a ceremonial restart.

Two cents from an old Grade 7 referee.

Feedback 3:
The original question is one I have seen so many times over the years that it truly is frightening. The hangup, I think, is in the reliance on the qfk instead of the retreating of ten yards. We, as referees, want the qfk, but the overwhelming majority of FK’s are slow movers, and when the statues start appearing, the ONUS is put on the attackers to ask for ten yards, when the ONUS should be placed on the defenders to GIVE ten yards. That, I think, is the biggest hangup. The attackers have done nothing wrong, and they are being rewarded with a FK. The defenders should immediately retreat and not stand around 2-5 yards from the ball. You can not go quickly with defenders in your path, and well coached defenders will be in your path. If a defender is within 10 yards on the first free kick of the day, I announce very loudly that that isn’t ten yards and you know better than that. And if it happens again, I’m not afraid to pull the card out. I haven’t had to pull the card out yet. But, this nonsense that the only way an attacker is going to get ten is to ask for it, has to stop.

Feedback 4:
For my feedback, I want to focus less on the specifics of LOTG, and more on what we refs can do to make a difference for the game we love.

I was first a ref as teenager more than 30 years ago. Back then, there were no Grade 9 or 8’s. All refs had to pass a written test AND a fitness test. There weren’t a lot of young refs back then; the game was really picking up in popularity for the first time, primarily due to NASL, and I was swept up in the fever along with many others. All of the older refs mentored me. Some more than others, but all had a hand in making me a decent ref. And I was decent, even as a 14 year old kid. I made decisions with confidence and enforced the Laws properly. This didn’t happen because of a memo from Chicago, or even the State, but because a group of older, wiser referees took an interest in my development.

As I recertified for the first time in 30 years last Spring, I was struck as I looked around the classroom at the Grade 9 class (my state requires all new refs to be Grade 9 for a season; a good idea I think). There were so many young people, especially in the 12-14 year old range. I thought about how they would all pass the test, and then would be more or less thrown to the wolves – expected to deal with petulant players, irate coaches, and misinformed parents (I didn’t have to deal with this in the ’70s; parents didn’t know anything about the game and knew they didn’t know). They were so excited to receive thier badges at the end of class. Call me a cynic, but all I could think about was that half of them would drop out after a year or so.

And mostly because they wouldn’t get any mentoring or instruction from the older refs, like I did.

This was one of my main motivations for getting back in. I want to help young refs get better and to demonstrate that good refereeing is not found only at the professional level of play. I plan to go for grade 7, only because that is a requirement to be an Instructor.

I know that many of you do take the time to help the younger refs. I see it on the pitch every week. But we need more of you to help. We need the more experienced teenaged refs to help the new “Blue Badges”.

So, if you are helping younger refs, thank you. Encourage other experienced refs to do the same.

Changing the game, and specifically, the behavior of the players in the restart situation we’ve discussed, will happen because the grass roots refs have made a difference in the development of future refs.