While attending a high-profile rivalry game on April 29th, I witnessed a situation that was VERY similar to the Question posted (below) on your site and answered on April 8, 2010:

If an assistant referee witnesses a foul but does not call it because “he is not closer to the foul than the center ref” and the center ref does not call it, should the assistant notify the center as to what he saw or let the play continue?
Answer (April 8, 2010):
“Closer to the offense” is much less important than angle of view. If the referee cannot see the offense because his or her view is blocked, and the assistant referee can see the event clearly, then the AR must flag if the there is a definite foul or misconduct.
In this year’s copy of the Laws you will find this excerpt in the Interpretation of the Laws of the Game, under Law 6:
Before signalling for an offense, the assistant referee must determine that:
* the offense occurred closer to the assistant referee than to the referee (this applies, in certain circumstances, to offenses committed in the penalty area)
* the offense was out of the view of the referee or the referee’s view was obstructed
* the referee would not have applied advantage if he had seen the offense

The foul (off sides) that was not called by the AR in the April 29th game resulted in the first goal of the match and clearly set the tone, momentum and results of the final outcome.
The AR hesitated in making the call… looked to the Referee for confirmation on the call… Referee shrugged… AR, in position, closest to the action, chose not to make the call.

What is troubling, and I have yet to discover any laws or interpretations of available laws/rules/guidelines, involves that fact that the AR had a clear conflict-of-interest in the outcome of the match played. In no particular order… he was the Host Club’s Area Referee… He is a Club Board Vice President…. He was the Team Manager of the Club Team that received the benefit of the No Call goal. He did not disclose any of these conflicts prior to the game to team officials. (His daughter used to play on the team earlier in the year, but had left the club 2 months prior.)

As the Manager of the team, the individual had a clear understanding that the winner of this particular game, now in protest, will go on to win the Spring League and the Association’s bid to complete in the State’s valuable 2010-2011 Premier League.

I am familiar with conflict-of-interest guidelines involving assignments to games involving family member… but are there rules/regulations protecting the integrity of the game from a situation such as the one described above?

While many long standing elders in our sport agree that the situation should have been avoided right from the start…, at the very least by the Coach who was lined up on the same sideline as its Team Manager in the assignment as AR…., no one is familiar with a similar situation, anywhere, to draw conclusions, support or suggestion on how to proceed.

Was there a law/rule broken in this instance?

Your insight and direction on this matter would be GREATLY appreciated.

USSF answer (May 24, 2010):
We cannot make an official decision on the matter, but a Federation policy would certainly seem to have been broken. A full official decision can be made only by your state association. The Federation Policy is 531-10, cited in full below:

Policy 531-10–Misconduct of Game Officials
Section 1. Terms and References
(A) “Game Officials” includes the following:
(1) all currently registered USSF referees, assistant referees, 4th officials or others appointed to assist in officiating in a match.
(2) any non-licensed, non-registered person serving in an emergency capacity as a referee (under Rule 3040).
(3) any club assistant referee.
(4) any referee development program person performing any official function at a match.
(B) “Referee Development Program Person” includes any referee, referee administrator, referee assessor, referee instructor, referee assignor, or other person serving in such capacity in a line or supervisory position, including members of any referee committee appointed by the Federation, its Divisions, Affiliates or Associates, a State Association, or a competition, tournament or other appropriate authority.
(C) “Hearing” means a meeting of at least five members, one of which is designated or elected to serve as Chairman. The Chairman of a hearing shall not vote except to break a tie vote. Such members, including the Chairman, shall not be the State Referee Administrator, the State Director of Referee Instruction, the State Director of Referee Assessment, a Federation National or FIFA Referee, or any other member of the State Referee Administration.
43(D) “State Association” shall be that State Association through which the game official is registered or referee development is appointed. Where a state has both Amateur and Youth National State Associations, the reference shall mean that State Association which has legal authority within its state to administer the registration of the referee or the appointment of the referee development program person charged.

Section 2. Procedures
(A) Misconduct at a Match
When any game official is accused of having committed misconduct toward another game official, participant, or spectator at a match, or of having a conflict of interest, the original jurisdiction to adjudicate the matter shall vest immediately in the State Association or Organization Member through which the accused game official is registered. In the situation where Amateur and Youth State Associations exist in a state, and the incident of alleged misconduct occurred at a match sanctioned by one State Association, jurisdiction shall vest with the State Association sanctioning the match in question.
(B) Misconduct Away From a Match
When any game official, referee, referee assistant or referee development program person is accused of unethical conduct, misuse or abuse of authority or conflict of interest in any matter in the pursuit of or may affect the individual’s official dealings within and as authorized by the Federation, its Divisions, Affiliates or Associates, a State Associations or Organization Member, or a competition, tournament or other appropriate authority, the matter shall vest immediately in the State Association through which the accused game official is registered or through which the referee development program person is appointed.
(C) Any allegation of misconduct or of conflict of interest by a game official as described by subsection (A) of this section, or of unethical conduct, misuse or abuse of authority or conflict of interest as described by subsection (B) of this section, shall be made in writing to the State Referee Administrator or to the State Association(s) or Organization Member that shall report all such allegations including any allegations against the State Referee Administrator, to the State Association(s) or Organization Members through which the accused game official is registered or through which the accused referee development program person is appointed.
(D) Upon receipt by the appropriate Organization Member of a verified written complaint, a hearing shall be conducted within 30 days from verification pursuant to guidelines established by the Organization Member having jurisdiction as provided by subsection (A) or (B) of this section. The guidelines may include referring the complaint to the State Referee Committee for the hearing. The hearings and appeal process shall provide for adequate due process for the accused person including proper notice of charges, the right to bring witnesses in defense, and the right to confront and to cross-examine the accusers.
(E) The Chairman of the hearing committee shall transmit the findings of the committee in writing to all parties concerned including the accused and the accusers and to the State Association(s) or Organization Member within seven days of the hearing.
(F) Any party subject to penalties shall receive, at the time of notification of the decision, a notice of the rights of appeal and a copy of the procedures and deadline dates required for such an appeal to be properly considered. Time for filing an appeal shall start with the date official receipt of the decision by the party making the appeal.

Section 3. Penalties
(A) The severity of the penalty imposed upon an individual shall be determined by the decision-making body having jurisdiction.
(B) Penalties may be among the following: (1) letter of reprimand;
(2) a fine;
(3) suspension from all active participation in the Federation for a fixed period of time;
(4) any combination of clauses (1), (2), or (3) of this subsection; and
(5) dismissal from the Federation.
(C) Any individual while under suspension may not take part in any activity sponsored by the Federation or its members.

Section 4. Appeals
(A) Any game official who is found guilty of misconduct as defined in this rule may appeal the decision of the hearing committee as follows:
(1) to a Referee Disciplinary Committee jointly appointed by the Amateur and Youth State Associations.
(2) to the Federation Appeals Committee as provided under Federation Bylaw 705.
(B) The party appealing the decision of a committee shall have ten (10) days to file the notice of appeal of a decision. Time for filing an appeal shall start with the date of official receipt of the decision by the party making the appeal.

The standards of conduct for Federation referees are explicated below in Policy 531-11, Part III.

Policy 531-11–National Referee Development Program
Part III–Standards of Conduct
Subpart A–Purpose
To define general guidelines to determine whether members of the National Referee Development Program act within acceptable limits so far as ethical conduct or conflict of interest are reflected in their conduct as soccer officials and members of the United States Soccer Federation.

Subpart B–Policy
Membership as a privilege offered and granted to individuals who perform capably as State Referee Administrators, referees, referee assignors, referee instructors and referee assessors during United States Soccer Federation sanctioned activities. It carries with it an obligation for each individual member to uphold and promote the stated goals and objectives of the Federation and do nothing to bring the Federation into disrepute or work against its goals and objectives. Any conduct which is considered unethical or as a conflict of interest shall be subject to possible disciplinary actions.

Subpart C–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.
(4) I will attend training meetings and clinics so as to know the Laws of the Game, their proper interpretation and their application.
(5) I will always strive to achieve maximum teamwork with my fellow officials.
(6) I will be loyal to my fellow officials and never knowingly promote criticism of them.
(7) I will be in good physical condition.
(8) I will control the players effectively by being courteous and considerate without sacrificing fairness.
(9) I will do my utmost to assist my fellow officials to better themselves and their work.
(10) I will not make statements about any games except to clarify an interpretation of the Laws of the Game.
(11) I will not discriminate against nor take undue advantage of any individual group on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
(12) I consider it a privilege to be a part of the United States Soccer Federation and my actions will reflect credit upon that organization and its affiliates.
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