I was center referee for a U14G Class I Select tournament game this weekend. Standings for the tournament were based on points for each flight’s round robin games. This particular event deducted a game point if the goal differential was greater than four. Shutouts also earned an extra point, but that didn’t factor into this game.

During the course of this game, one team had a clear advantage over the other. At a certain point during the second half, they exceeded the 4 goal differential limit by a score of 6-1. Not wanting to hurt their game points in the standings, they allowed their opponents to score a free goal with no pressure at all–the entire team stood like statues (6-2). They scored another goal and then repeated the process (7-3).

Clearly at this point the team which was behind got very frustrated with these tactics. However, since they were complicit by scoring the freebie goals, I just kept on with my normal referee duties. And yet again, the team scored bringing the score up to 8-3. The losing team put the ball into play, but their players didn’t actually challenge for the ball. The winning team did not want to lose their point, so they dribbled down and scored an own goal against themselves (8-4).

The sidelines got extremely verbal at this point.

The coach of the losing team called his players off to stand on their side of midfield and everyone just stood around. After 10-15 seconds, I told the center forward to put the ball into play. After she did, I blew the whistle and ended the game 2 minutes prior to the actual end time.

After the game, there was a lot of complaints about sportsmanship from the losing team, and a lot of grousing about the rules of the tournament from the winning team. I kept the situation under control, but it should have never gotten to that point.

So my question is this: What is the best way to handle this situation? As referee, my decisions shouldn’t really be informed by the scoring rules of the tournament, but I need to be able to control a potentially inflammatory situation. It’s not a good position to be in.

The center referee for the following game and I talked about the situation later; he had seen it unfold. His suggestion was to issue a yellow card to the captains of the winning team for unsporting behavior once they stopped playing defense and letting their opponents score. This would send a signal to the coach that this behavior is not tolerated. I suppose this could be considered “acting in a manner which shows a lack of respect for the game” but I’m not quite convinced there isn’t a better way.

Any suggestions? (Besides eliminating the goal differential rule for an event of this caliber)

USSF answer (October 2, 2008):
The referee who accepts a game in such a competition thereby accepts the rules of the competition, no matter how incredible they may seem, and has no authority to act in such a situation. He or she simply includes full details in the match report.

That means no cautions for reasons not covered by the Law of the Game, no lectures, no pleading. Just put it in the report. Let the competition authority defend its own rules.

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