Kate, an adult amateur coach, asks:
At what point after the game does a referee’s jurisdiction end ? I am the secretary of a club and have received a suspension notice from our regional governing body. The referee saw 2 players mouthing off at each other in the car park approximately 20 minutes to half an hour after the game had ended. There was no physical contact . I have been told the players have been suspended and the matter passed to an arbitrator .
Under the Law and in accordance with standard mechanics/policies from US Soccer (which, from the language of your inquiry, suggests to us is not your governing body), the referee’s authority after a game lasts while the referee remains “in the area” of the field. This is normally taken to include only the immediate environs – which, in turn, generally extends roughly about as far outside the field as a bit beyond the depth of the team areas. Unfortunately, the Law/policy on this presumes a high level game played in a stadium so all that we said operationally means in such circumstances that the referee remains responsible until the officiating team exits the field into the stadium. In practice and for everyday games where there are no changing rooms or stadiums, this becomes much looser.
However, we are more concerned about the passage of time in your scenario. Short of a general melee involving whole teams, there is no reason for an official to remain in the area of the field for discipline matters for more than 10-15 minutes – even if the referee had to remain in the general area due to another assignment following soon after the game in question.
All this resolves into a fairly clear but at times indeterminate set of levels of concern. Cards can only be shown to players or team officials during the match. Once the match is over, the referee is responsible for including in the game’s official report to the competition authority any misconduct by players or team officials only while the persons committing misconduct and the referee are both still “in the area of the field” and only for a relatively short time — everyone has places to go and things to do so there is no good reason for sticking around. At this second level of responsibility, the referee can include a general description of the misconduct plus a statement of what card and under what category of misbehavior that card would have been given had the conduct occurred during the game itself. After this, the Law envisions no referee responsibility as a referee for any conduct by anyone. Of course, depending on the behavior, there are civil or criminal remedies that parties can pursue.
Personally, we would suggest that the behavior in question occurred too long after the game and too far away from the field to remain clearly within the responsibility of the referee. Of course, a league organization might well decide that it wishes to deal with behavior that, in their opinion, might reflect negatively on the organization’s reputation and might wish to gather information from the referee, not as a referee but as an ordinary witness to the event.