I’ve let this letter simmer for a couple of months so that my own attitude settles a bit. I would almost prefer that the question not be published, but it brings up issues that need to be addressed at many levels of competitive soccer. We’ve seen too many other youth sports where someone at a game went nuts. Then the situation spirals out of control and people end up hurt (or worse). I would hate to see our youth soccer programs end up in the same mess, but I won’t be terribly surprised when it happens.I have been active in soccer as a parent, coach and referee over the past 12 years. For the event listed below, I was just a parent.
Situation: U16 boys competitive tournament. White is a local team. Red is from out of town. About 5 minutes into the first half, still scoreless, opposing players are battling for the ball near midfield. White pushes red, red pushes back harder â a fairly typical foul for this level. The referee blows his whistle and indicates white ball, DFK. The players start backing away from the ball, getting ready for the kick. So far, all is normal. Before play can resume, the assistant referee closest to the play charges onto the field (8-10 yards), shouting at the red player “what’s your problem?”, bumps the player in the chest a couple of times and finally retreats to his sideline. The referee shows no card to any player, and says nothing to either the player or the AR.
When I complained to the tournament officials about the actions of the referee and assistant referee, they refused to even send an observer to monitor the rest of the game.
White ended up winning the game 2-1.
Questions: Under what circumstance is physical contact permitted between the referee crew and the players? Is it simply to restrain players involved in a fight? That clearly was not the case here. If it had been the other way around, or if it happened between two players, I believe the charging party would have been red-carded for violent conduct.
USSF answer (January 11, 2007):
Under no circumstances should an assistant referee or a referee act in the manner you describe. While some referees have a knack of handling players differently than others, such as being able to use actual physical contact, what you describe is well “over the top.” The AR should have been admonished by the referee and the referee should have included full details of the incident in a report to the referee authorities.