On 6/16/06, you wrote the following:
“In those competitions that do not provide for water breaks, the spirit of the game requires the referee to ensure the safety of the players. Preventing injury from heat exhaustion would fall into that aspect of the referee’s duties. The answer may be summed up in two words: common sense.
“In fact, both the referee and the team officials share in the responsibility to protect player safety. The referee could, at a stoppage called for any reason, “suggest” the taking of water by any players interested in doing so. The timing of such a break and its length would be at the discretion of the referee. Obviously, the referee could decide to take this approach on his or her own initiative, with or without prior consultation with the coaches.
“However, either or both coaches could approach the referee prior to the match and suggest the need for extra hydration, in which case the intelligent referee would be well advised to listen and act accordingly.”
– – In the past few days, a referee has claimed that these instructions have now been superseded by the USSF and that a referee cannot suggest a water break or even allow a break when the ball is out of play – no matter how hot the day or how young the players – unless it is in the tournament rules. Is he correct that things have changed or is the opinion from June of 2006 still valid?
I hope that you can address this quickly with the hottest part of summer approaching. The health or even the lives of some young players might be at risk.
USSF answer (July 13, 2009):
The opinion of the United States Soccer Federation remains the same as it was in 2006: The safety of the players comes first and referees are expected to see to it that players are protected in every way possible.
Addendum: It is possible that you may have been distracted by some controversy over an incident in a professional game. Those are adults, playing other adults, all of them aware of what is going on. Referees are not to order water breaks at professional games and should apply common sense at other levels.