This is not a situation I have encountered, but came to mind when reading “Subbing the Referee” (March 8, 2011). My question relates to a different hypothetical, inspired by the answer given.

It has been established that a CR cannot be subbed out and should remain the CR throughout the match. It was established elsewhere that a CR who is injured and cannot continue may be replaced by the fourth official or senior AR. But what if a CR, for whatever reason, does not wish to continue, but sees no cause to suspend, abandon, or terminate the match? Sounds weird, I know, but I strained myself to think of just such a situation:

CR is working a match when his very pregnant wife (sitting at pitch-side) goes into labor. The CR is physically able to continue the match, but feels obligated to go with his wife to the hospital. The CR appoints the fourth official (4O, I call him) to continue in his stead and finish the game.

Let’s make the following assumptions:

1. We know that the Laws do not have allowances for this or any other personal matter; match officials (CR and company) are well-aware that they are expected to give the match the highest priority when they choose to accept the match, and in an ideal world, the CR might not have accepted the assignment knowing that his wife is due any minute.

2. We assume that the league director was aware of the circumstance and didn’t have any problem with it; maybe this CR was the best in the league and the director was willing to take the risk for this championship game… or something.

3. The director designated the 4O to be the CR’s first alternate in care of incapacity, pursuant to the second bullet point in this page:

In the event that the CR is able but unwilling to continue the match, or even if he just “walks off the job” as it were, can or should the 4O take over as CR? Should the match be considered abandoned and replayed with a new CR who isn’t going to put other obligations ahead of his game?

I’m split, as the incapacity clause might be invoked if the CR, due to his wife’s medical condition, is found psychologically incapable of continuing – a condition not unlike a physical incapacity. But it’s also a stretch, since the CR here is voluntarily choosing to abdicate his authority to the 4O. What would you do?

USSF answer (August 14, 2011):
We are not familiar with the term “CR,” but presume it to mean the referee.

Unless the game involves only a single referee, with no neutral assistant referees or fourth official, your citation from the Notes at the end of the Laws of the Game regarding who will succeed the referee who must leave the game for any reason before the game has been completed is correct. The competition authority, i.e., the people who make the rules for the competition, determine which match official will take over if the referee has to relinquish control of the match. The reason for the departure is immaterial; if the referee must leave, whether for physical or mental health or for any other legitimate reason, then he or she must be replaced by designated match official.

If the game is officiated by that single referee mentioned in the previous paragraph, then the game must be terminated and a full report sent to the appropriate authorities.

We certainly hope that no referee would leave a match simply because of “other obligations” — beyond the pregnant wife or seriously-ill relative/partner. To do so would be a violation of the first three points of the referee Code of Ethics (see below), for which the referee could be severely punished by the refereeing authorities.

Code of Ethics for Referees
(1) I will always maintain the utmost respect for the game of soccer.
(2) I will conduct myself honorably at all times and maintain the dignity of my position.
(3) I will always honor an assignment or any other contractual obligation.

The only possible problem that might arise if the referee leaves is choosing the correct restart when the game is halted for referee departure. If it was for any reason not stated otherwise in the Laws of the Game, it would be a dropped ball.