I have been a volunteer referee for our league for two years, at the U-10 level, which means I have refereed maybe 20 U-10 games total. I know I have “blown” some calls and will probably make more mistakes in the future, fortunately most parents and coaches are kind and generally, it is all good fun.

In the last game of the season this year (a good close game) an attacker at midfield passed the ball forward. I checked downfield and was certain that the most forward attacker was a good six feet offside, with no other defender except the keeper between the attacker and the goal. The forward pass did a slow roll to the offside attacker about 4-5 seconds later and about halfway between the circle and the box. I blew the whistle and indicated for the IFK. When the coach realized what I was calling, loud protests erupted. The coach, the assistant coach, and at least one parent all yelled and pointed at a defender that to me, had materialized out of thin air in front of the goal box. In U-10, we rarely have linesman, much less ARs, so I was alone on this one. While I was moving towards the spot, wondering to myself how I could have missed a defender standing in front of the net and whether I could do anything about it, the coach marched out to the center of the field to discuss the call with me. I told him that I didnÕt see the defender he was pointing to at the critical moment, it was too late now, and even allowing for the possibility, or even the near certainty, that I had made a mistake, I couldnÕt and wouldnÕt change a call based on something that I did not see. I told him that the coach can’t walk onto the field to have a conference with the referee and that he should return to the sideline, which he did without further protest. I then restarted with an IFK for the defense. I did put a comment on my game card about the unusual on-field conference Ð first time that ever happened to me.

Two questions:
1. Is team official reaction a valid basis for changing a decision, where it is contrary to what you think you saw but you strongly suspect that you may not have seen everything?
2. If it is, when should you use this tool, since it also struck me that, if I start changing calls when the coach yells loud enough, the coach is going to yell more, not just at me but at other volunteers — and I don’t think we will get many volunteer referees if coaches spend the game pointing out the “facts of play” during the games.

USSF answer (November 6, 2007):
1. We normally counsel referees that they cannot call an infringement if they or one of their assistant referees have not seen it. Referees should certainly not take the advice of team officials, who are bound to be protective of their own team’s interests. In this case, it would appear that your first glance down the field missed the defender near the goal. If that is true, you would not be the first referee to which this happened and will certainly not be the last. If the defender was actually there when the ball was played — and you suspect that to be true — then the only correct restart is a dropped ball at the place where the ball was when you stopped play.

We suggest that the referee apologize for missing the defender when he or she looked downfield and let the teams know that the proper restart for this mistake is a dropped ball.

2. Very few coaches actually know the Laws of the Game (or even the rules of the competitions in which their team plays). Always acknowledge their “advice” with a smile and get on with the game. You do not have to put what they say into action. However, if the coach behaves irresponsibly, in other words, becomes abusive, you have the authority to expel him or her from the game and include all details in the match report/game card.

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