I’ve been seen more professional referees making a gesture (and probably saying something too) to indicate that while a player may have expected a call, the referee wants to say/indicate that it was “not a foul.”
The gesture is usually a pointing with an outstretched arm to the spot or person. Sometimes there seems to be a motion with the hand to perhaps indicate “get up” to the “non-fouled” player.
Occasionally a more emphatic “baseball-ump-safe” signal is used.
Since I’m seeing these on TV and not hearing what’s being said, I’d like to know what verbalization is suggested for “not a foul.” I’ve used “play on” in these instances especially with younger players, but know that phrase should more be reserved to indicate “advantage.” I’m aware that the upswept arms and “play on” or “advantage” should be only used to indicate the application of “advantage” relative to what would have been actually a foul. I’m looking for clarification on the best way to indicate a true “non foul” situation.
I also believe and have been instructed that “purists” would rather never say anything nor gesture for a “non-call.” But at many levels of the game, both teams may almost stop expecting a call that is not made, so it seems that the referee needs to somehow indicate to “keep playing; I’m not calling anything there!” And, it does seem that more referees are providing some sort of verbal and/or gesture.
What can you recommend for these situations?
USSF answer (March 30, 2009):
The referee should constantly interact with the players to let them know that he or she is in touch with the game and what is going on. This interaction can take the form of speaking, gesturing, always making the correct call or simply “being there” for all the action. (Position is almost everything in refereeing.) How this is accomplished is part of the referee’s personality. Some referees speak with the players all the time, praising them for sporting or good athletic play, or mildly admonishing them for borderline behavior. Some referees will use gestures such as you describe, asking the players to get up when it is clear they are not seriously injured or telling them that no foul has been committed.
When no foul has been committed, the referee should use every reasonable means to inform the players that there was nothing illegal there. This can range from saying “No foul” or “Go on!” or “Nothing there!” or, as you suggest, “Keep playing!” or something similar to get the message across. What a referee should NEVER do in this situation is make the mistake of suggesting that there is an advantage either by saying “Play on” or giving the upswept arms signal for the advantage. The referee who does this dilutes the importance of the advantage signal and confuses the players as to what is a foul (or misconduct) and what is fair play. That makes it harder for the rest of us in managing the match in the next game these teams play.
We are not sure who these “purists” are, who would not keep the players informed of the state of the game, but they do not belong in the refereeing corps.