|Glenn, from Eastern
Pennsylvania >Giovanni, how about a discourse on DSC when doing a
game with club lines (I >wont ever call parents AR's).
Sure...... It is Saturday, it is snowing, I have no games, there is
no soccer on TV, if I don't write this I have to go downstairs to the
treadmill or do laundry, so this will be long. I am going to talk about
two one-man position systems, the one-man diagonal and the lateral.
One-man diagonal first. There are two main differences between the
standard DSC and the one-man diagonal: with the one-man diagonal........
a - the referee does not need to keep his AR in sight b - the referee
needs to go deeper than usual to pay closer attention to offside Point
(a) is an advantage - in terms of movement - but point (b) represents an
increased demand on the ref. However, the added freedom that point (a)
gives the referee will help him to achieve the objective in (b). Let's
start from a GK situation: the referee will position itself at the
centre circle, as in a three-man situation, but while in the three-man
situation he will *always* take the side opposite to the lead linesman,
in a one-man situation he will take the same side as the ball. It is
easy to spot in advance where the goalkeeper is going to put the ball,
so crossing the circle (20 yds.) can be done with an easy jog. (In
younger age groups, where the ball is not likely to land at the halfway
lane the ref can move closer to the box, but things do 't change in
terms of width) After the ball is kicked it can reach the halfway line:
a - on the same side of the pitch as the ref, or b - on the other side
In (a) the referee is golden; all he has to do is stay ahead of the ball
and run downfield, paying equal attention to the ball and to the offside
line. In order to do this, he has to stay as wide as possible and as
deep as possible. How deep? Let the play make the decision for you; the
more the ball is contested the closer (depth, not width) you should be
to the play rather than the offside line; if the ball comes downfield
with little or no contest between players, be bold and take the offside
line. The key here is *width*; remember, you are on the same side of the
ball, so you will never be far away from the play; go wide, wider and
widest :-} In (b) the referee is at a disadvantage; so, as soon as he
realizes that the ball is going to cross the halfway line on the side
opposite to him, he has to start a diagonal movement that brings him to
cross the field and get to the same side as the ball. This implies
crossing the center field, but it is fine, absolutely fine; this is a
one-man mechanic....... The idea here is that the referee should try
everything he can to be on the same side of the pitch as the ball when
it crosses the halfway line. Don't be scared; getting to the same side
as the ball *always* implies zero or one diagonal movements across the
field and it is easy to see in advance whether or not the ball is going
to cross the halfway line on our side or the opposite one. Usually there
is no need for anything more than an easy jog to gain this advantage
point. One way or the other, we are now at the point when the ball has
crossed the halfway line on our side; let's go from here....... In order
to decide what to do next, we need to establish a reference point at the
25 or 30 yard line and see what happens to the ball between the halfway
line and our imaginary reference point. If the ball goes straight
downfield we go with it and we try to stay ahead and take the offside
line, or to go as close to it as advisable. Don't make reaching the
offside line a matter of religion; close is close enough. The three
things that really matter are *width, width and width*. HERE COMES THE
TROUBLE........ ......The ball crossed the halfway line with us but it
is kicked across the field before reaching our mental reference point on
the 25-30 yard line......... If the ball goes away from us at any time
after crossing the halfway line and before reaching the 25-30 yard line
we should commit ourselves and cut across the field in the direction of
the opposite corner flag, regardless of how deep or shallow the movement
of the ball is. In one-man system we simply cannot afford to follow the
ball like puppies..... We need to establish our own patterns........
This cutting across the field is the most dangerous moment of them all;
we lose the angle on the offside line and we are in the center of the
field, so we need to get out of the way as fast as possible and sprint,
sprint, sprint. This is the single referee action that requires speed
and stamina; commit to the crossover and go, go, go, Of course, the next
logical question is when to stop, and the answer is: as soon as we are
on the other wing, ahead of the ball and we have regained our angle on
the offside line. This is a *key* point; once you commit to cross over,
do not stop halfway through the movement; go all the way until you
regain the offside angle. What happens if the ball switches back to
where we were coming from, either while we are crossing over or after we
are done with it? Let it go; in a one man system we cannot afford more
than one live-ball cross over at midfield per play, unless we want to
die, and we also have to take offside into consideration..... Let's say
we are lucky, though, and we are on the same side as the ball as it
crosses the 25 line; in this case we can go for the offside line without
further hesitation, take it and call the play from this position until
its end. *Never*, *ever* think of crossing over in the last fourth of
the field, unless you think it is cute being caught with your pants
down, in the center of the field while little Joey is screaming in pain
in the middle of the box or Sammy the Nimble is breezing with the ball
toward the goalmouth and everybody else is screaming "Offfffsiiiiiiiiidee!".
If the ball goes away from you after it has crossed the 25-30 yard line,
push slightly toward the center of the field - as much as you can
without losing offside!! - and don't be scared........ Look at where you
are: you have *all* players boxed in between you and the ball, you have
the offside and the only thing is that you are away from the ball (but
you have a good angle anyway.....). Not perfect, but good
enough......... However, it is true that being away from the ball in the
final fourth of the field is the real weakness, so we should introduce
in our one-man diagonal one element that minimizes this risk. The
element is a careful exploitation of *any* dead ball situation (dead
ball is easier to write than ball-not-in-play). In the offensive half of
the field, every time where the following occurs: a - there is a dead
ball situation, and b - the ball is on the other (vertical) half of the
field, and c - you *have the time*, cross over diagonally and take you
position along the diagonal, as illustrated above, on the same side as
the ball. This is almost mandatory on fouls, when you have to go there,
sort out the mess, set the wall and all those neat things, but it is
also highly advisable on throw-ins. Actually, throw-ins are the one-man
referee best friend, mostly those when the ball is kicked *way* out of
bounds. In those cases there is plenty of time to cross over and rest.
A couple of tips: 1 - on corner kicks on a one-man system, *always*
take the far post, and position yourself on the inside corner of the GA.
2 - don't take the "socref approach" to offside, and don't
spend too much time on endless, mind numbing analysis on the most
irrelevant factors. If he is offside and goes, nail him *now*.... Don't
wait. If you wait, in a one-man situation you nail yourself to the cross
(don't you just *love* these Catholic metaphors). Nobody is backing you
up, nobody is going to give you a late signal if one of those strange
situations happen. Cut the debate before it begins and if he goes, call
it....... So far we have seen a full beginning-to-end play and we have
fully illustrated the diagonal in this context. Unfortunately - as we
know - soccer is characterized by frequent changes of possession that
not even the NF has made illegal (hey, what if one gets injured in the
process, or if his self esteem suffers from being nutmegged......), so
we have to reconcile our one-man diagonal with change of possession
situations. I'll get myself a cigarette, a cup of tea (too early to
booze...) I'll watch some of the Northwestern game - Go Cats! - and I'll
be back with something intelligent to say (yeah, right....). If there is
a change of possession, the actual position of the referee is immaterial
in determining what to do next. Remember, we do not have AR's to keep in
sight, so we can roam freely around the field with the only objective to
get to a better position to rule on the play; as far as our position
goes the two (vertical) halves of the field are exactly the same!! Given
this, as soon as there is a change of possession, turn around and take
off toward the corner flag that is on the same (vertical) side of the
field *as the ball* when the change of possession occurs. Run as hard as
the play requires and keep running toward the corner flag until you have
regained your angle *on the offside*. The most common error here is to
stop when you have regained the angle on the ball. This is not enough,
and using the angle on the ball as our only reference point has two
major drawbacks: a - it leaves you way too central way too often.... b -
it leaves you in a bad position to call offside........ As a matter of
fact, regaining the angle on the ball is meaningless as an objective. A
good angle on the ball is a by-product of a good angle on the offside
and the latter never comes without the former......... So, if there is a
change of possession, identify the "good" corner flag and
sprint in that direction as hard as you have to. Several things may
happen at this point: a - a breakaway. The changes of possession results
in a continuous attack that keeps going until a shot is taken. In this
case, the only thing a referee can do is to continue running straight,
as fast as possible, until *after* the shot is taken. Pietro Mennea, the
Italian sprinter whose 200 mt. world record resisted longer than *any
other* (excuse us.....) was very well known for his
"never-give-up" finish, and once he explained his secret:
"I never ran a 200 metre race; I always run a 210 metre..........".
Too often I see too referees give up once they realize the breakaway is
going all the way, and I see them calling the play from the center of
the field and from too far behind. That's no good; a breakaway is the
most demanding play but also the play when fouls are more blatant and
visible; I personally try to do *everything* I can to minimize the
disadvantage a breakaway puts me at and I do not slow down until the
ball is out of bounds or within the unchallenged goalie's possession. b
- a new play is set up by the team in possession: somebody will look up,
decide what to do next and play the ball accordingly. In this case, the
referee can use this time to analyze his position, the ball's, see where
ball and referee are with respect to the halfway line and apply the
original principles illustrated above c - a mix of (a) and (b) above: a
breakaway stems from the change of possession but it does not go all the
way because the defense interrupts it, the ball goes out of bounds or
whatever...... The best reaction in this case is to follow the breakaway
mechanic until the offside angle is regained or the breakaway is
interrupted (not just slowed down, *interrupted*) and then re-assess
one's position with respect of the ball (same vertical half or opposite
one), the field (defensive half, offensive half, and if so, behind or
ahead of the 25-30 yd. line). The ensuing position will be dictated by
the results of that observation, according to the basic principles. d -
the change of possession is followed by something not well defined, a
struggle for the ball, tackles over tackles, one-on one duels in a
relatively restricted area of the field. In this case the referee must
go as wide as possible to get the best angle on the ball and *then* see
if an angle on the offside is required too. If this is the case, he will
rectify his position going deeper, as deep as needed to get the required
angle. That is basically everything that one needs to know to implement
a good one-man diagonal. It looks effort intensive and physically
demanding, and it actually is, but less than it looks like. The secret
for a perfect execution is not the top speed, but the ability to remain
in constant motion at a slow/moderate pace. In many - too many - cases
the need to sprint is caused by not having executed a proper slow motion
on the previous play. This creates a chain reaction: the sprint tires
the referee, who will try to make up by not moving on the next play, and
this - in turn - will cause the need for more sprint etc. I am talking
here to the referees who took on refereeing at a later age and at an
expanded waist :-}, usually dragged into the sport by their kids
playing. I bet the rent that many of them do not like the sense of
exertion and the physical exhaustion that they feel at the end of a day
at the park. I am no physical trainer, but I would like to invite them
to try this diagonal (one man or three man, it does not make any
difference) and execute it properly, keeping themselves in constant,
slow/moderate pace motion with the occasional outburst of energetic run
when it is needed. I swear: they will work-out more but at a better pace
and they will feel *well* physically at the end of the day. If not, I'll
give you back your money, guaranteed...... A less demanding but less
effective one-man system of control is the lateral. It works more or
less like the diagonal until the ball crosses the halfway line, but then
the referee will never have a live ball cross-over and will keep going
deep and wide on the side he was when the ball crossed the halfway line.
Dead ball cross-overs will always be executed when needed, and they will
be needed more often than with the one-man diagonal. It is simpler and
less demanding, but it does not give the referee good angles in many
situations. That's it.
Reactions welcome email@example.com
[Back to Top]
Play or Not to Play? That is the Question!
Brian Goodlander -
(published in Referee Magazine) - 12/01
beauty of soccer is that it is played in almost any weather conditions.
The athletes and officials must be in good condition and properly
prepared to play in some of the more foul weather conditions.
However, the same two over-riding principles hold fast in all aspects of
the game – safety and fairness. These principles apply to
weather and field conditions as much as they due to whether a tackle is
an excellent play or a free kick.
simple review of the various soccer organization rulebooks demonstrate
that the referee has the authority and responsibility to suspend or
terminate a match if the playing conditions warrant it.
– Law 5 – The Referee. IFAB DECISION 1 - …a
decision that the conditions of the field of play or its surrounds
or that the weather conditions are such as to allow or not to allow
a match to take place.
Advice to Referees 5.11 TERMINATING THE MATCH. The
referee may terminate a match for reasons of safety (bad weather or
Rule 1-7 FIELD CONDITIONS. …Once the game begins,
and until it ends, the determination of whether or not a game may be
safely continued shall be made by the referee.
Rule 5-5 DISCRETIONARY POWERS. The referee has the
discretionary power to: a) Suspend the game whenever, by reason of
the elements, interference by spectators, or other cause, such
action is deemed necessary… Approved Ruling (A.R.) 63
states: “The game is started in good weather, but conditions
rapidly deteriorate and both teams insist on continuing the game.
RULING: The referee has the authority to suspend a game for
reason of the elements.”
The intent of these rules are clear but the specifics
of when and how are vague. Do we stop if I hear thunder? How
much rain is too much? What is too cold and what is too hot?
What about lightning or ice or fog? Are there hard and fast rules
or do they vary from league to league, age to age? Does the
referee always make the decision? What if the field proprietor
decides not to play a game because of the possible damage to the pitch?
These are very difficult and complex questions that are often thrust
into the lap of the referee.
There are some things that the referee can do prior to a match to make
sure he or she is armed with as much knowledge as possible. These
– Make sure that you are aware of the applicable rules for the
competition. The NFHS states that the home school athletic
director can deem the conditions acceptable to play or not to play up to
the beginning of play. Until you start this match, you can not
suspend or terminate a match. In some state high school
associations, waiting periods have been pre-set by the state. For
example, in Ohio there is a set number of minutes that must be waited
after the last lightning strike or thunderclap. These are rules
that the referee is obliged to follow. It is always wise to
consult the match or tournament director on their policy for weather
conditions and safety.
– An early arrival to the field is even more important than usual if
there is currently or threats of foul weather in the course of the
match. Is this a pitch that tends to pool water in certain areas.
Always take the time to inspect the goal areas. They are usually the
hardest beaten and most suspect in the event of bad weather.
Discuss with you assistants and fourth official about how to signal to
you when they see lightning or believe that the match should be stopped.
If there was play on the field earlier that damaged areas of the field,
what is there condition now. If the temperature has dropped to
below freezing, those same ruts can not be frozen into razor sharp edges
that can cause deep cuts on thighs and arms. Don’t forget to
look at the touchline areas. They are often one of the least
maintained areas on the field. Some venues have benches or stands
close to these areas that under normal conditions are sufficiently far
away but under slippery conditions can be dangerous. What
conditions will your assistants be working in? Should you consider
a reverse diagonal to provide them some relief? Understanding the
field conditions before the game can provide you with critical
information about the safety and well-being of the players as the game
– Weather prediction and technology has made tremendous strides over
the last 5 years. Check the weather before you leave for a match.
This can be done by phone, Internet, or television. I have a pager
and a cell phone that can receive weather emergency information
automatically. This is important information for determining if
there is any point in starting the match or how to long to wait for a
small pocket of foul weather to pass.
Many schools, parks, and tournaments are equipped with detection devices
for foul weather, especially lightning. All of us have seen these
things work both excellently and poorly. I can remember a
detection device go off at a field that was bathed in warm summer sun
and perfect playing conditions. We played the entire match without
any dark clouds, rain, thunder or lightning. That night I checked
the radar on the Weather Channel and nothing was detected with 200 miles
of that field. Similarly, I was working a game under fair
conditions when the detection device sounded and the storm moved so
quickly, we barely made it to cover before multiple lightning strikes
blanketed the area. These are just another tool to use to help you
make a very difficult decision.
Young players need to learn to play under less than optimal conditions
but they also have to learn to enjoy the game first. Albeit cute,
we have all suffered through watching two teams of 10 year olds stand
around a puddle of water carefully kicking at the ball stuck in the
center of the puddle. With young kids, temperature is a key
condition to watch. Very hot conditions or very cold conditions
can be dangerous to young players. Include a couple of water
breaks to assure that the kids don’t dehydrate. Encourage them
to drink water when they are not on the field. Adults know the
dangers of not wearing sufficient clothing on cold days and can make the
choice to wear those gloves or not. Young players do not always
realize the dangers and the adult supervision may be caught up in the
game too much to realize what’s happening. Older players kick
the ball harder and farther than younger players. In foggy
conditions, will you be able to follow the flight of the ball and be
able to see the landing zone to look for fouls or misconduct? This
is an important consideration for fairness and safety.
Teams – As
players get older, teams begin to travel. A college team that has
traveled for 3 hours to reach a game site will be very reluctant to not
play due to some inclement weather. These situations require some
consideration before suspending or terminating a match for foul weather.
Can this game be played safely and fairly or do you just not want to get
muddy and cold? Be more lenient with traveling teams than local
matches but never risk the key principles of safety and fairness.
Another factor to consider is the impact of not playing this match will
have on the players, teams, standings, and/or league. Many
tournaments are forced to stay on schedules or play finals in poor
weather and field conditions because of potential interference with
league play or inconvenience to traveling teams. Some games are
not as critical to standings as other games and the league will likely
not replay the games. Other games are critical to standings or are
big rivalries. Patience is important here. Player, fans,
tournament officials, school administrators are anxious to play and are
frustrated by the weather or other conditions that may result in the
game being suspended or terminated.
Score – If
the game is a blow-out, the choice is easier than if the game is a draw
or a close hard fought battle. That said, the principles are the
same. Is it fair to end a match when you may not normally just
because one team is losing badly. Those teams, players, schools
deserve to play the game. The game score is a contributing factor
but should be given less weight than many of the other factors
Plan – If
you decide to play in questionable weather, always make sure that you
have a solid, well thought-outback-up plan. Are the bleachers
metallic? How far away are the cars? The locker rooms?
discussed the why, but what about the how? How do I know when to
consider the conditions unplayable? Here are some ideas for making
– In general, this is not a reason for terminating a match.
Youth players may need a water break mid-way through a half.
Humidity and smog are greater safety concerns. High humidity
and bad smog can cause allergic and asthmatic reactions. Many
areas have smog alerts. Be aware of these situations and be
patient with players having difficulty due to allergies, asthma or
dehydration. One more point is that at higher level games the
number of substitutions are limited so the players exposure to the
high heat is more intense and warrants closer attention.
– Extreme cold can be very dangerous. Pay attention to
the weather forecast and understand the signs of frostbite.
Blue lips or extremities are signs of reduced circulation and
overexposure to cold. Fingernails can be could indicators of
internal body temperatures. If you are warm, it is likely that
the players are doing okay as well. Typically, you should
expect to chilled or cold at the very beginning of the game.
You should warm up as you exert energy to stay with play.
Assistant referees are particularly susceptible to these conditions
as they may stand still for longer periods.
– Rain, in and of itself, is not a big deal. However, rain
combined with other factors can be very dangerous. Cold and
rain mixed can result in hypothermia. Rain accompanied by
thunder and lightning can create vary dangerous conditions.
The impact of a heavy rain is really dependent upon the pitch on
which the game is being held. If it drains well, play on.
If it becomes a muddy, slippery mess, use your best judgment.
Personally, I like to watch how the players are doing. Are
they slipping or are they upright? If they slip, do they fall
awkwardly and risk serious injury or do they just get muddy.
Can the keeper perform their job? Is one end of the field
different than the other?
– I was involved in a game this last year where as the sunset, fog
seemed to appear out of the ground. In the first half it was
kind of fun. It reminded me of one of the B horror movies that
play at the drive-in. At the start of the second half,
however, there was a cross to the area and I could not see the goal
or the keeper. At this point, I signaled the referee and
terminated the match. Fairness and safety are the keys here.
If you stand in the middle of field, can you see the goals? Is
one end different than the other? Will your assistants be able
to call off-sides?
– Snow is a real inconvenience. The touchlines and
markings disappear. Players slip and fall and become wet in
cold conditions. A slight dusting is harmless but if it
impedes the progress of the ball or the safety of the players,
terminate or suspend the match.
– Ice is perhaps the worst condition for the ground. Rather
than a soft landing on grass the player now lands on frozen turf.
This can result in serious injury. Damaged areas of the
field are now more like a bunch of small knives ready to cut any one
that may slip. If the players are older and seem to be able to
control themselves and the ball, then play. But if they fall
and they complain of injury due to the conditions, end the misery.
– Always stay on the conservative safe side of this danger.
Lightning strikes are extremely dangerous and a soccer pitch is a
prime area for being struck. Large complexes have vast open
areas with few trees and typically the players, officials, fans, and
coaches are the highest items in the opening. If lightning
strikes it will be attracted by these higher items. We
recently had a meteorologist at one of our association meetings.
He reiterated, using a number of humorous yet frightening stories,
that where there is thunder, there is likely lightning. If you
hear thunder, look at the sky and see if things are moving quickly
or if there are any bright flashes on the horizon. If the game
is near completion, you may be able to complete the match. If
you or anyone sees lightning, stop the game and get to safety
immediately. As a general rule, wait at least 20 minutes after
the last lightning was seen before restarting the match.
–Generally wind is not a major reason for stopping a match.
However, if you are located in area where tornadoes can occur and
the conditions are favorable for their formation, wind can tell you
a lot about any impending trouble. If you have any reason to
believe that severe weather is close by, terminate or suspend the
match and get yourself and everyone else to appropriate cover.
is very difficult to know when a game should be terminated or suspended
due to weather or field conditions but with some preventative measures
and a watchful eye you can avoid these problems and make the right
decision. Remember that safety and fairness are the paramount
principles to live by.
Goodlander is a USSF Grade 7 referee and an assessor, a high school
referee, and a National Referee for Soccer Association forYouth
(SAY) in Cincinnati. He is also a board member of the South West Ohio
Soccer Officials Association (SWOSOA).
[Back to Top]
by Brian Goodlander -
Referee Magazine) - 12/01
How do you tell an
experienced referee from a fresh recruit? Some say it’s in their
confident nature or superior fitness. Maybe it’s because of the
way the know everybody in the referee tent or at your association
meetings? I say that one way to tell is to rummage through their
referee kit. A new referee will often carry the bare minimum of
items and often not what is really needed, while an experienced referee
sometimes seems to need a Sherpa to carry their bag. What’s the
difference between the two referee’s kits? What’s important
and what’s just a personal luxury?
– I carry two whistles in my bag. My favorite one that I use
in most situations and my spare that is in my other shorts pocket
during the game in case I drop my favorite one. The spare also
has a different tone in case the referee in the next pitch has the
same favorite whistle.
– I also carry two watches. I wear both of them when I am
the referee and only one when I am an assistant referee.
One typically is set to count down and the other to count up.
If I decide to stop one watch, I always let the other run. I
do this since about a third of time I either forget to restart the
watch or accidentally reset it. This way I still have at least
one watch with the right time. Also, I think every referee who
has been working games for more than two seasons has had a watch
battery die in the closing moments of a big match.
– I carry a couple of spare set of cards. Like the watch and
whistle, I carry an extra set on the pitch in case I drop one.
The other ones in my kit are for those rare opportunities when you
find an up-and-coming referee who is using the fact that he or she
doesn’t have any cards so they can’t work the middle of this
Another kind of card I carry is a set of 3x5 cards.
I use this as game cards. Even when I am at a tournament where
they supply game cards, I use my cards then transfer the information
onto the official game card. This helps the tournament officials
read the cards since it should be clean and clear versus my sweaty or
– You guessed it. I carry two writing tools and have some
spares in my bag. It is a good idea to have both a pen and a
pencil since pens don’t like to work in the rain and may freeze in
the late fall and early spring. For those of you that like the
cards that you can write on, a spare marker is a good idea.
– It is always handy to have a flipping coin in your kit since
you may not have any change on you when it comes time for
captains. In a pinch, I have had used the old “which hand
is my whistle in” routine but it seems a little unprofessional.
– As a young man, my father taught me that almost anything could
be fixed with duct tape. This seems especially true as a
referee. I have added numbers to jerseys, fixed poorly hung
nets, kept the socks up, fixed my overstressed referee bag, and a
million other things with a simple roll of duct tape.
– It is always a good practice to include at least one of the
alternate jerseys in your referee kit. Invariably, one of
the teams will have chosen a club color that is the same color as
your jersey. If the rest of the team has an alternate but
you do not, this can be embarrassing and make life difficult for
all involved. If you are just starting out and don’t want
to spend the money, then see if you can buy an old one of a
referee with big bag or check with your association to see if they
have a collection of used jerseys that you can use. Once you
make some money and decide that you are going to stick with
refereeing, reinvest some of it and buy some alternate colors.
– You never know when you may need a few bucks. Maybe the
tournament does not pay until the end of the day and you need some
lunch. Maybe the coaches don’t have the correct change or
you need to figure out how to split the money up with the referees
when you don’t have the right combination of smaller bills.
– Early in my career, I was working a heated youth match when
the ball and my face had an unexpected meeting. This contact
broke my glasses. After a stoppage of play, I ran off the
field and found my nerdy back-ups and continued the match. Now
I where contacts, but during a windy tournament I was working next
to a baseball diamond and got some dirt under my contact. I
was forced to remove my contacts and put on my nerdy glasses again
to finish the match. Contacts are great but don’t forget
to bring some spares, some solution, a small mirror and never
forget those nerdy back-up glasses.
– OK. Now you have all the bare essentials crammed into
that tiny gym bag. You are about to run the middle of a
great match confident that you have any items that you may need,
when the rains come. All my goodies, getting soaked by this
rain. Don’t forget to take a long a full sized garbage
bag. Stick your bag, and your assistants stuff too, into the
garbage bag and tie off the end. Life is good. During
a recreational game some years ago, I found a very different use
for my garbage bag. During warm-ups on these fields behind a
local elementary school, one team of girls suddenly began
squealing. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that there
was a dead, half-composed animal in front of the goalmouth.
I was able to remove the carcass with the help of my trusty
garbage bag and the game continued without incident.
Nice to Haves:
Now that you have the ten essentials items
for your referee kit, lets consider some items that are nice to have but
– Like most everyone else, I started off with the classic cloth
gym bag with one big zipper that opens the entire bag. Now, I
have a nice, sturdy, leather-like bag with my name on it. It
has multiple zippered sections. Each thing has its rightful
place and when I need it, I know where it is. My buddies
jokingly call it “my body bag” due to its size, but I am never
at a loss for something I need.
– As you get older and your body begins to creak, some medication
taken preventatively can help the day and your game go better.
I carry a bottle of Aleve and some sports cream in my bag. You
may need to carry an inhaler or other important medications.
with needle and pressure gauge
– One of the tasks of the referee is to inspect and approve the
game ball(s). About 75% of time, they need some level of
adjustment. I have found it easier and simpler for me to pump
the balls up rather than pass them back and forth with the coaches
until the right pressure is established. A gauge is a good
idea to get the pressure right. I have had players complain
that the ball is too soft or too hard but they can not argue with a
– I carry wet wipes for those hot days to help freshen up and wipe
away the crusty sweat off my hands and face. It is not a
shower, but it is amazing how refreshing it feels.
– Carrying a few of these handy strips are great for fixing
ill-hung nets. They are quick and easy and save you from
wasting large amounts of the precious duct tape.
Jerseys in long and short sleeve versions
– As you advance in the sport, you find the need for more and more
options for jerseys. College has 3 jerseys, NFHS has at least
two options, and the USSF has 3 options. With each of these
options are long and short-sleeved jerseys. It does not take
long to have a large collection of jerseys.
– Just as players often carry more than one style of shoes,
referees may also find this to be helpful. Cleats are great
for muddy and wet conditions to assure firm footing but they will
absolute kill your poor feet on a hard sun-baked pitch. Have a
spare set of turf shoes or indoor shoes can allow you to change to
the right equipment for the job.
– Pretty early, I discovered the need for spare socks. After
working a couple of games in a local tournament with some veteran
referees, we ventured to the referee tent to relax until the
afternoon session. My feet were cold and clammy from the early
morning rain which was now gone. As I looked at my experienced
teammates, they were changing into dry comfortable socks ready to
take on the afternoon in comfort.
– On the same day, I saw those same veterans reach into their
large referee bags and pull out some sandals. I, on the other
hand, was gingerly tiptoeing around the tent in my barefeet as my
socks hung to dry.
– Since soccer is played in all kinds of weather, being prepared
for foul weather is important. A simple pair of gloves can
make a tremendous difference on a cool day. A warm hat is
important for half-time and post-game. I own a rain jersey.
I seldom use it for rain but it works wonderfully under my regular
jersey as a windbreaker. I found that I can referee very
comfortably in quite cold weather with this combination.
It’s half-time and the concession stand is nowhere to be found.
You are tired and need a little boost. For such situations, I
keep Power-Bars in my bag. They are full of sugar and
carbohydrates yet are virtually indestructible. They don’t
get gooey in the heat and don’t shatter in the cold. They
have even improved the flavor. Don’t like them. Try
something else that meets your needs. It can be the difference
between having fun and waiting for the minutes to pass.
– Beyond the warmth, a nice set of warm-ups can provide an
impression of professionalism. Entering a stadium dressed in
your USSF or NISOA warm-up with your teammates and inspecting the
field, let all those watching that you take your job seriously and
here are some items that are just plain luxuries.
Shoe bags are great when your shoes are wet or muddy and you don’t
want to put them in your bag or even your car. A shoe bag
allows you to get them home without risk of making everything else
dirty or stinky.
– This luxury is very important if you have someone else waiting
on you when you pick up the last-minute game or you go into the
second overtime period. A cell phone could have been the
difference between me coming home to a nice meal or to changed
– I recently bought these and love them. I bought a set for
short sleeve jerseys and a set for long sleeve jerseys. They
allow you to fold up the jerseys and pack them neatly into your bag
without them wadding up in the corner of your bag.
– I carry a small Leatherman knife complete with a screwdriver and
small pair of scissors. These have done everything from fix
glasses to cut medical tape, to many other small jobs.
The small sewing kits that are given out on overseas airline flights
or are used for camping can be helpful to repair tears in jerseys or
more likely darn those darn socks.
polish & accessories
– Shoe polish is important to show a level of professionalism in
your appearance. Polishing or brushing your shoes is a common
task during off-games in the referee tent. Today, there are
small polish saturated sponges that are great for quick simple
touch-ups without the mess or inconvenience.
report forms, schedules, maps, telephone numbers
– I carry a small three-ring notebook with blank game reports, my
game schedule, maps to fields, telephone numbers, and tournament
– In the folder of the notebook, I have the rulebooks for the
various leagues that I referee. I try to never get them out on
the pitch but I do like having them for discussions before and after
So the next
time you see an experienced referee followed by a small mule train laden
with packs, he is not headed for the Grand Canyon. He is just
headed to the pitch to do his job. Who knows, he might let you
ride out there on the back of his favorite mule.
Goodlander is a USSF Grade 7 referee and an assessor, a high school
referee, and a National Referee for Soccer Association forYouth
(SAY) in Cincinnati. He is also a board member of the South West Ohio
Soccer Officials Association (SWOSOA).
[Back to Top]
Job is Not Over Until the Paperwork is Done
- (published in Referee Magazine) - 10/00
Like many other jobs,
refereeing has it’s high points and it’s low points. The high
points are when you get the great assignment and perform with excellence
to prove that you deserved the assignment. The low points are
often the paperwork that comes after the match is over. Paperwork
for referees comes in a multitude of forms. Game Reports are often
required for matches. Ejection or Send-Off Reports are common in
high school and collegiate matches. Incident Reports are often required
for recording unusual or dangerous events.
Game Reports - Many
games do not require formal reports. They may use different forms
in different leagues and in different soccer organizations. Some
leagues have a game card that must be filled out and signed by coaches
after every match. Other leagues do not require any sort of game card or
A report that I perform
after every match is a game log. In this game log I track what
teams played, the level of the match, the date, the sex of the teams,
and what referees I worked with during the match. I keep this
information on a searchable spreadsheet and can tell you in moments how
many U15 girls USSF matches I performed in 1998 or any other
combination. It is not important to keep your log on a computer,
but keeping track of the games you have worked is important when you go
for an upgrade, apply for a tournament, or want to “brag” to
your friends about the number and level of games you have worked.
Amateur and Professional USSF matches
require a Game Report with every match. The USSF has a Game Report
form that is very well written and relatively easy to use. There
are a few basic pointers to filling this form out well. Be brief,
clear, legible, use appropriate language, do not include opinions, and
be complete. The form is a good form but a form nonetheless.
Therefore it is important that you are brief and to the point. Do
not use long sentences for information that can be conveyed in a few
words. Clarity is a necessity to drive understanding and goes
hand-in-hand with being brief. If the report is illegible when
received at the main office, it will serve no good to you, the teams
involved, or to the Federation. Use the proper terms when filling
out this report. If you cautioned someone don’t say it was
because he did something stupid. Say that it was due to unsporting
behavior or reckless behavior. Your job in filling out this report
is to provide information, not give your opinion on how the information
should be used. Finally, fill in all the needed information
completely. If you require additional room to convey additional
information about a specific incident, the USSF has a supplemental
report for that purpose. An assessor once told me that it may be
helpful to fill out one of these Game Reports for each match I perform
whether it is required or not. The associated information is
available if needed and in the process I would become proficient at
completing Game Reports. This is excellent advise that I regret I
have not followed. Consider it.
Reports - The National Federation of High Schools and the NCAA both
require a report to be filed with the main office in the event that a
player or coach is sent-off. This allows the Federation or
Association to know that a serious incident has occurred and that the
referee has responded. It also provides a medium for the school to
provide their perspective to the Federation or Association. The
Federation or Association can now respond to the send-off fully armed
with all the information they need to act fairly and justly towards the
sent-off coach or player. Similar to the USSF requirements, this
report should be filled out completely and in a timely fashion following
- An Incident Report is probably the most important report that a
referee can fill out. Why is the Incident Report so important?
Because this is often your official record of your account of the
incident. The incident could have been a serious injury or a
situation that may result in prosecution against you. By having
the report written, dated and signed the information locks the event in
time. During the 2000 National Association of Sports Officials
(NASO) Convention in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Mel Narol, Sports
Attorney, provided some excellent information about the whens and whats
of writing incident reports related to serious injuries. Mr. Narol
stated that three things are need to be done by the referees when they
are involved in a match with a serious injury. (1) Record it.
Who was involved? Get names, if possible. When did it
happen? The 67th minute during a corner kick, for
example. What happened? Describe the event using the
reporting criteria stated above. Where did it happen? What
field, in what city, and where on the field did it occur? Were
there any witnesses? It is best to get the names and phone numbers
of both friendly and unfriendly witnesses. (2) Send it.
Send a copy of your incident report to your local association,
particularly if their secretary maintains such records for the
association members. Send a copy to the league for their
information. Send a copy to any state associations that may need
the information. If it is a high school or collegiate match, send
a copy to both schools. Finally, if the incident was a truly
serious incident and you are a member, send a copy to NASO. (3) Save
it. It is critical that you save the report for any litigation
that may occur. Remember, when dealing with minors the statute of
limitations is 2-3 years after the age of 18 (varies from state to
state). That means if the event occurred in a U-9 match, you need
to save the report until that player is 20-21 years old or 12-13 years
from the incident. Mr. Narol also reminded all in attendance that
it is NOT your job to deal with an injury. The only exception is
if it is a life-threatening situation that you are qualified to handle.
Nobody enjoys paperwork but
it is a necessary evil, and if you took a match assignment, that
assignment is not over until the reports are written and sent to the
Goodlander is a USSF Grade 7 referee and an assessor, a high school
referee, and a National Referee for Soccer Association forYouth
(SAY) in Cincinnati. He is also a board member of the South West Ohio
Soccer Officials Association (SWOSOA).
Does This Happen?- The
Physical and Psychological Dynamics of Crowd Behavior
Brian Goodlander - (published in Referee
Magazine) - 10/00
am not a psychiatrist. But, I am a soccer referee, so I must be
crazy. At least that is what many friends and family members tell
me. Using the well-established analogy that it takes one to know
one, I must be qualified to discuss unusual human behavior. With
this qualification and after a long high school season, I started to
discover some interesting dynamics at soccer matches that can be broken
into two simple categories: (1) the physical and (2) psychological
dynamics of crowd behavior
physical dynamics are associated with the human senses, primarily sight.
How many times have you been working as an Assistant Referee and faced
an easy, no-doubt off-side call, raised your flag and have everyone in
the area react with extreme disbelief. This is usually followed by
helpful instructions from well-intended, but biased observers.
These instructions range from “It’s when the ball is kicked!” to
“Are you watching the same game?” In utter amazement you are
dumbfounded by this harassment following a simple off-side call.
This outburst can not be explained only by a general lack of education
in the rules of soccer and the art of refereeing but also by the
physical dynamics of the crowd. Fans, bench players, and coaches
watch the game of soccer by following the ball. Field players and
referees watch the ball but also predict where the ball is going next
before the ball is kicked or headed and their eyes are already there
before the ball. In the off-side situation, the fans are following
the player with the ball at his feet. The Assistant Referee is
facing the field even with the second to last defender and determining
if there is a likely opportunity for an offensive player to be in the
off-side position. The attacker kicks the ball. The fans
follow the ball through the air. The Assistant Referee hears the
kick, notes that there is a player in the off-side position and when
that player becomes involved in the play, the Assistant Referee raises
his flag to indicate off-side. Meanwhile, the defenders rush back
to protect their goal and pass the off-side attacker while the ball is
in flight. The fans who were studiously following the ball watch
the ball fall to the feet of the attacker who is surrounded by defenders
and are amazed to see the flag raised. This is an example of the
physical dynamics of crowd behavior.
physical dynamic is positioning. The game of soccer is a
free-flowing game that ebbs and flows back and forth across the green
grass of the pitch. The referee team is tested physically by
moving with these ebbs and flows of the game. The fans, bench
players, and coaches are limited in their ability to move with the game.
The reference point is basically fixed. Often, the fans are placed
in tiered seating that allows for a good overall view of the game
despite their restricted movement. The problem is that this raised
seating removes much of the perspective from the game at field level.
Balls that are kicked straight up look like they are moving to one side
or another, distances seem closer, and players look smaller and less
intimidating. Most importantly, the fans can not see the
expressions on the faces and in the eyes of the players. The
referee team has the luxury to be able to move to obtain the proper
perspective to see each play but the added complication of having so
much visual stimuli (action, color, players, other officials, fan
movement, etc.) that it is often difficult to either be in the right
position or to see the proper event when it occurs. With these
limitations in mind, let’s revisit our off-side situation. The
Assistant Referee must first be sure that the player is in an off-side
position prior to the pass and then be sure that the player is involved
in the play. The stationary observers (fans, coaches, bench
players) are likely not located even with the second to last defender
and will have their judgment skewed by the angle that they see the play.
The few number of observers that are in the right location and not
watching the ball fly through the air are more likely limited by the
perspective of their set position to really judge the level of
involvement of the player in the play. This is another example of
the physical dynamics of a crowd.
psychological dynamics of a crowd often act as the fuel to feed the fire
of their misunderstanding of the physical dynamics. One example of
a psychological dynamic is the parent on the sideline watching their
youngster play in a challenging match. These parents usually have
radar lock on their child throughout their entire playing time.
The see every push, every attempted trip, every impedance that the
player may endure during this time. The intensity of these
“fouls” are increased by their natural protectiveness and perceived
lack of safety of their child. The referee team is chartered to
watch every one of the 22 players on the field and spend the bulk of
their time focused on the point of attack. This lack of attention
to their “baby” and the intensification of “fouls” result in
anxiety in the parent that wells up until they finally MUST express it.
the game is a critical game for the team, maybe a tournament final or a
rivalry, the anxiety of all the observers is usually much higher.
The fans are anxious about the play of their favorite player or their
child. The coach is worried about the outcome and the effect of
the win or loss on his/her position as coach. The bench players
are anxious about the performance of their teammates, the success of
their team, and the prospective of how they may be involved in the final
decision. All this anxiety is focused on success for the team.
This focus is so intense that it becomes blinding. Every play,
every foul becomes paramount. Cheers are screamed when the foul is
called in their team’s favor. Catcalls are screamed when they
are not called in their team’s favor. The observers are pushing
their will to the field of play in hopes that it will create an
advantage for their team. The observers’ intense focus and
desire for a positive situation for their team trick their mind into
seeing the play in a manner that helps their team. They truly
believe that they saw the foul properly and the Referee’s decision
must be wrong. The referee team’s job is to be impartial, to see
the game fairly, and to administer the rules in a fair and just manner.
Fifty percent of the observers will disagree with almost every call made
during an intense match. This psychological dynamic of a crowd is
the spark that sets off the fury and madness that occurs during soccer
the physical and psychological dynamics are combined in the frenzy of
hard, physically challenging match, the anxiety and stress in the
observers is great. They scream and yell with great emotion.
This emotion is felt by the players on the field and they are directed
by this emotion. If the screams and yells are positive words of
encouragement, they play will more intensity but with control. If
the screams and yells are negative and destructive towards their play,
towards the coaching staff, towards the other team, or towards the
referee team, the field players will play with more intensity but it
could be mixed with recklessness and violence. How many times have
you noted that players that have a calm coach and calm fans play in a
calm, professional manner and players with an abusive and disrespectful
coach and fans play with fury and abuse? It is in this explosive
environment that the referee team MUST remain calm and professional.
They must maintain their decorum and the respect for the game.
Fouls must be called confidently and with full conviction.
Conversations with players and observers must be limited and done with
respect and with a calm confident voice. Serious or violent fouls
must be dealt with quickly and with appropriate consequences. This
is how the referee team survives and the game is allowed to progress
when the physical and psychological dynamics of a crowd come to boil.
Goodlander is a USSF Grade 7 referee and an assessor, a high school
referee, and a National Referee for Soccer Association forYouth
(SAY) in Cincinnati. He is also a board member of the South West Ohio
Soccer Officials Association (SWOSOA).
Constructive While on the Sidelines
Brian Goodlander - (published in Referee Magazine)- 7/00
my recovery from some recent arthroscopic knee surgery, I began to
consider how an active official like myself can not only stay close to
the game I love but also be constructively active while sitting on the
sidelines. My answer was that you do not necessarily need to be on
the pitch to bring something to the game. There are things that
you can do that strengthen your own skills and the skills of those
strengthen your own skills and knowledge of the game, become a student
in your extra time that would have been spent on the field. Set
some time aside to review The Laws of the Game. Don’t try to
read it from cover to cover. Attack the rule book in small
digestible pieces. Review Fouls and Misconduct one day and maybe
switch to Offside another day. This can be done while you are
either stuck in bed or the family room couch. Another constructive
thing to do is to watch matches on TV or videotape. I prefer
videotape since you can rewind and take multiple looks at fouls and
plays to evaluate what decision you would make. When watching
these matches, try watching some as a referee and follow the center and
his assistants. Pay special attention to the subtle communications
within the referee team. Look at the mechanics, the presentation,
the delivery of the caution or send-off, the small word with the player.
Next, watch some of the games as a player, especially if you have never
played. What formation are they using? Is one team’s
formation different than the other teams? Where are the attacks
coming from? Who is the key player and what special skills does he
or she bring to the game? Is there a designated enforcer on one of
the teams? How do the attacks develop? Does one team slowly
build an attack with solid passing, continually probing for an opening?
Does the other team depend on the speed of their attackers to generate
one-on-one situations in a counterattack? Finally, watch some of
the games just for entertainment!
your recovery improves and you become more mobile, do yourself a favor,
go outside and work those poor muscles. Visit the local fields and
watch some more games. Don’t just go watch your buddies watch the
games that you would have been working. I suggest that you go
watch a variety of games. Watch the short-sided youth games.
Things happen in those games that happen in no other games in the world!
Here is where your knowledge and ability to apply some of the more
obscure Rules of the Game comes into play. I like to watch them to
remember why the game is played - for enjoyment! For the enjoyment
of the players, the fans, and the referees. I also suggest that
you watch some games that are of a level a little higher than your
comfort level. Get a feel for the pace and action of the game.
How is it different than what you are accustom to? What would you
have to do to be able to work this level? How far away is your
center in one of these games? When at these games, don’t forget
to look away from the fields. Feel the excitement. Listen to
the roars of the crowd. Smell the hot dogs (Don’t eat them.
Remember you are less active right now.). Enjoy the fresh air and
it’s time to give back to the game. Work with your local club or
association. Ask if there are some tasks that you may have always
taken for granted that need to be done. Maybe you can assist with
the organization of an upcoming tournament. Maybe the grounds crew
needs some help lining fields. Is there a young and up and coming
referee that you could show the ropes and help them improve their
skills? I strongly suggest that you take the opportunity to become
either an assessor or an instructor. My personal preference is to
first become an assessor then an instructor. I like this order
since an assessor is the purest instructor. He instructs with
immediate feedback at the point where the work is performed. I
spent much of my recovery period working on my assessment skills by
performing multiple Development and Guidance (D&G) assessments.
These are intended as friendly unofficial feedback to the referee team
and as an opportunity for the assessor to refine their assessment
techniques. As an instructor you will need to refine your
presentation skills and find effective ways to deliver the rules of the
game to a large group of people in a manner that will engage them into
the learning process. No easy task. Just as you spend some
of your spare time reviewing the Laws of the Game for later application,
the new referees are learning many of them for the first time. Be
patient and use helpful examples, not just cool war stories.
because you are restrained to the sidelines of the game, you don’t
have to divorce yourself from the game. Stay involved in a
constructive manner that benefits you, the others around you, and the
game itself. You should be a better referee when you finally get
back on the pitch with your whistle or flag in hand.
Goodlander is a referee for Soccer for American Youth (SAY), a USSF
Grade 7 referee and an assessor, and High School in Cincinnati. He
is also a board member of the South West Ohio Soccer Officials
Flips Your Switch?
Brian Goodlander - (published in Referee Magazine) - 7/00
Ref! Call it both ways!”, “Aaa, Come on!”, “Buy some
glasses!”, “You got a whistle. Use it!” You don’t
have to be a referee very long before you hear everyone of these
exclamations. Every referee has a varying level of tolerance for
this kind of questioning. More mature referees learn to know the
difference between an emotional outburst and a premeditated attack with
offensive or abusive language. Any referee has one phrase, one
act, or one look that sets him/her off. It flips your switch!
It pushes your buttons! It sets you off! Anytime this event
occurs, you see red and the offender may even see yellow (card). I
propose that you need to know what flips your switch and be aware of how
to control your response and when that response is being used to take
you out of your game.
know referees that get taken out of a game by a look. You know the
look. The coach stands at the touchline with his hands on his hips
and slowly shakes his head with his eyes to the sky. I know other
referees that can take endless tirades by coaches but react instantly
and with extreme emotion when their decisions are questioned by a
player. Today’s players and coaches are smarter and more
resourceful. They watch tapes, the scout referees, the listen to
referee’s reaction to dissent or to questioning. They discover
if they can give him the look that flips his switch, he will get so
upset that he will lose his focus on the game and they can gain a
tactical advantage. The wily player may know how far to push
before he has pushed too far. He walks the line not so far as to
be admonished or cautioned but enough to disrupts your thoughts and
beauty of soccer is that it is a game of passion and emotion.
Referees are only human and they clearly have passion and emotion.
No one can check their emotions in the locker room but a good referee
learns to control their emotions and funnel that emotion to focus
further on the match. Late in the second half in a long ball
attacking match, your energy reserves are low and the score is a draw.
The winning team will claim first place and the losing team takes a long
drive home. The intensity of the match increases. You push
through the fatigue and manage to maintain your positioning and foul
recognition, aware that at any moment the game’s moment of truth could
occur. One team is making a strong run for a go-ahead goal.
The attacker avoids both defenders and is one-on-one with the keeper.
The keeper comes out and with a brilliant slide tackles the ball from
the attacker clearing into touch. Your energy reserves tapped, you
still manage to be with 10 yards of the play and signal for a throw-in
at the point where the ball left the field of play. You turn just
in time to see the attacking coach throw up his hands in the air, shake
his head vigorously, mutter to himself and his assistant like a madman.
As you turn to watch the ball return to play, the coach screams “How
can that NOT be a foul! Come on!”. The comment
upsets you greatly and you replay the event in your mind twice in
super-slow motion and never see any foul play. I was right there!
You are awaken from this video clip by a roaring crowd and re-focus just
in time to see the ball hit the net. You look to your assistant
referee and he looks at you. He doesn’t sprint up the line.
He just stands there! You know that that momentary loss in
concentration just cost you big. What did you miss? What did
you not see? What is your next move and how well can you sell the
contend that situations like this can be avoided by having the
self-awareness to know what kind of events, comments, gestures, and/or
actions flip your switch. In this case, the switch was flipped
that caused the referee to lose his focus and re-run the event in his
mind to be sure of the call. All done while the ball is in play.
This was compounded by Murphy’s Law and the end result, whether
ultimately right or wrong, was going to put his officiating skills in
question. Physical fatigue is a huge factor towards mental fatigue
and the referee needs to be more aware of his weaknesses and more
versant in how to control them.
next time your switch gets flipped, make a note (preferably written) on
what caused it and what was the result. Did you lose focus?
Did you caution a player or coach too quickly? Did it effect your
ability to officiate the game? Think about it after the match and
make some scenarios on how you could have handled it better or what you
will do next time. Talk with a fellow referee or your mentor and
brainstorm on the best ways to manage the issue in the future.
Refereeing is thinking but it is thinking about the right things at the
right time. Don’t let some player or coach flip your switch and
shut you down. Be self-aware and keep the focus!
Goodlander is a referee for Soccer for American Youth (SAY), a USSF
Grade 7 referee and an assessor, and High School in Cincinnati. He
is also a board member of the South West Ohio Soccer Officials
Laws of Association Football - as set forth by the players and coaches
Guide for Referees (we already know the rules)
The Laws of the Game:
Law I - The Field of Play
The field shall be in perfect condition. If it is not in
perfect condition, it is the referee's fault, and the referee must
repair any imperfections immediately. The referee shall tell the
league that the field was not perfect, and the league will make
the community Parks and Recreation Department fix the field
Law II - The Ball
Our team gets to kick around the game ball before the game.
Our goalie has the right to veto any choice of the game ball. If
our team doesn't approve of the amount of air in the game ball,
then we may force the referee to change the ball whenever we
feel like it.
Law III - Number of Players
The coach can submit a list to the referee whenever he feels
like it. When we want to substitute, all substitutes shall run
on the field immediately the referee indicates that a
substitution will be allowed.
Law IV - Players Equipment
If our goalie isn't wearing colors which distinguish himself
from us, then it doesn't matter, and the referee is being
officious if he asks him to change. The other goalie must wear
the color of our team. The referee shall check the other team's
equipment before the game.
If the referee in the last game said it was OK, then you
(today's referee) must also allow it.
A team must use at least three different colors of socks.
Under no circumstances may a team tuck their jerseys in.
Law V - Referee
The referee shall agree that the coaches have a far superior
view of the game from the halfway line in front of their benches
and can see all the fouls that occur, whether or not the referee
If a referee observes more than 2/3 of the spectators in an
uproar over his last call he/she must immediately stop play and
submit to an eye exam. If, after the exam has occurred, it is
deemed that the referee does indeed require spectacles, it is
the visiting teams responsibility to provide a proper pair.
Punishment for the second occurrence shall be a warning of
bodily harm by a designated spectator whose name shall be
submitted prior to the match (no substitutions shall be
Upon the third occurrence the referee shall be staked at
midfield and secured with a tether not to exceed six feet in
length (before stretching) but which must be at least two feet
in length, and the spectators shall be awarded five minutes to
discipline the referee as they see fit, provided there are a
minimum of two spectators providing discipline at the same time.
If the level falls below two spectators at any time while the
referee is still breathing, then the referee shall be released
and play will resume.
Law VI - Linesman
If the referee makes a decision we don't like, then the
linesman has the power to reverse the referee's decision. If our
desperate appeals to the referee get us nothing, then it shall
be appropriate to yell at the linesman, because the linesman
can't caution us.
When the other team is offside, our defender will raise one arm,
and then the linesman shall put his flag up. Club linesmen shall
be permitted to yell at the players from the other team, and it
shall be taken personally if the referee reverses the decision
of a club linesman.
Law VII - Duration of the Game
If after ninety minutes have elapsed, and we are leading,
then the game shall terminate immediately. Our coaches watch
shall keep the official time for the game. If the coach does not
approve of the amount of time being added on to the half, then
he shall complain to the linesman nearest him, who shall force
the referee to end the half immediately.
Law VIII - Start of Play
The captains shall conduct a coin toss. The captains shall be
immune from being punished for dissent for the duration of the
game. During a drop ball, the ball need not hit the ground
before it is played, unless the referee decides, for some
reason, to stop play and drop it again.
Law IX - Ball In and Out of Play
The coach is permitted to stand on the touch line, regardless
of whether the linesman's view of the line is obstructed.
Law X - Method of Scoring
A goal is scored if the majority of the ball crosses the
Law XI - Offside
If the linesman flags us for offside, the we shall be
permitted to yell "It's when the ball is played!" at
the linesman. If we fail to properly execute an offside trap,
then we will forget that offside is judged when the ball is
played, and the ensuing goal shall be the fault of the linesman.
A player can't be offside if he receives the ball on his own
half of the field.
A player isn't offside if he moves back to onside position to
receive the ball.
Any attacker who is unmarked is, by definition, to be declared
Law XII - Fouls and Misconduct
If the ball comes in contact with the hand or arm of an
opponent in his penalty area, a penalty kick shall be awarded.
No matter how far I kick the ball away, I can't be cautioned for
delay of game if the ball is still on the field when I kick it.
A player should not be sent off for intentional hand ball if he
was only trying to stop a goal.
It is dangerous play for my opponents to play the ball while
they are lying on the ground. My teams position has no effect on
If the players shoe came off on the shot, then the goal should
be disallowed for dangerous play.
A spectator with a dog on a leash must stay at least one yard
from the touch line; however the dog, since it was unable to
understand soccer rules, may enter the field of play.
When a goalkeeper catches the ball, any nearby attacker shall
run up to the goalkeeper and stand directly in front of him,
within one yard of him, and shall stare at him.
Any ball which last touched a defender before going to the
goalkeeper shall be considered a back pass and penalized with an
A goalkeeper who traps the ball with his feet may only take four
steps while dribbling the ball.
No foul shall be called if a player gets the ball.
Any player who raises his foot above knee height is guilty of
A player may not move if he is standing in front of the
Law XIII - Free Kicks
If we do not agree that the opposing team is 10 yards away,
then we shall inform the referee, and he will move them back
even more. We shall be permitted to delay the taking of a free
kick until we are ready for it. If we take a quick free kick,
and we lose possession to an opponent who was within 10 yards,
then play shall be stopped and we shall take the kick over
A defender need not yield 10 yards during a corner kick if a
colleague of the player taking the kick goes over to assist with
a short corner.
A defender shall be allowed to kick the ball away if he feels
that he needs more time to set up for an attackers kick.
Law XIV - Penalty Kick
It was probably a bad call anyway.
Law XV - Throw In
In youth games, the referee shall penalize every foul throw,
regardless of whether it will result in most of the time being
spent taking throw-ins.
Law XVI - Goal Kick
The defending team can play the ball after it has traveled 10
yards. The attacking team must wait for the ball to leave the
penalty area before playing it.
Law XVII - Corner Kick
If the ball, after being kicked, travels less than its
circumference before crossing over the goal line, it shall be
deemed to have never "come in" and the kick shall be
The Fourth Official.
The fourth official shall assist us in yelling "ref"
when we want a substitution.
The Technical Area.
The technical area shall be marked in such a way as to allow our
coach to follow play up and down the field.
[Back to Top]
the Name of the Spirit (6 Feb 2000) with editing
Some folks seem to put some value in what I write, and I thank them
for the kind vote of confidence. We touch on many areas as we float
from year to year - I began writing in 1994 or 1995 - and many of them
come up at least once or twice each year. One subject which I have
written extensively about is the Spirit of the Game/Laws, a subject
that I am somewhat passionate about.
I'm writing again, in defense of the Spirit this time. Defense of
the Spirit? Emphatically yes. Over a period of time, I have seen a
great amount of what I perceive to be misunderstanding or misuse of
the Spirit to explain or justify a referee's choice of actions,
especially in youth soccer. Metaphorically speaking, the eagle of the
Spirit is quickly becoming a buzzard, used to clean up the carrion of
well-meaning but improper referee decisions.
The Spirit is, in reality, as simple to understand as any concept
humanity is exposed to. Perhaps limiting it to words is the difficult
The Spirit of the Game is that the game by played with few
interruptions; continued whistling for trifling or doubtful fouls
should be avoided.
The Spirit of the Game is that the game should be safe for the
players, that is to say that they players are protected from
intentional acts that are reckless or violent.
The Spirit of the Game is that the game offers equality of
opportunity but not equality of outcome, that is to say that players
are allowed to display their skills and their opponents will not use
illegal means to prevent them from doing so.
The Spirit of the Game is that the game should be enjoyable to all
- players, team officials, referees, and spectators.
The Spirit of the Game is that the level at which a foul is
considered to be trifling is wholly dependent upon many factors,
including age, skill level, field and weather conditions, along with
other non-tangibles such as player discipline.
The Spirit of the Game is that any punishment will be in proportion
to the severity of the observed foul action, that is to say that the
referee must take into account the actual impact of an observed foul
action and base punishment upon that and not solely upon the
punishment allowable in the Laws for that particular flavor of foul.
The Spirit of the Game is that a match should begin with 22players
and that the referee should do all that is possible to complete a
match with 22 players. Implicit in this is an understanding that
misconduct must be appropriately dealt with, and that appropriately
dealing with misconduct can include a quick and direct talk with a
player in lieu of a yellow card.
The Spirit of the Game is that everyone on the field of play is a
player. It is not unusual for a European or South American referee to
say that they play soccer. After all, does not a referee have a
responsibility to be fit, to be athletic, to have a strong desire to
All of these statements are vital to understanding the role of
referees, yet there are more items that are truly vital to fully
appreciating the complexity of the Spirit.
Soccer is a tough, combative, and aggressive sport. Hard play, no
matter how vigorous, must be allowed provided it is not unsporting.
The referee must be an impartial observer, granting favor to
neither team, holding both to the same high standard of behavior and
play. Bob Evans' guidance that the referee is not responsible to
compensate for the mistakes of a player is a foundation of this
The above statements are in no manner a complete summation of the
constituent parts of the Spirit. They are, however, as solid a
foundation as one can find short of hours deep philosophical
discussion. They explain the role of both player and referee.
Many writers freely use the Spirit of the Game to justify almost
any action that a referee chooses. I'll not go back and do a
point-by-point exposition of this posting or that. Nothing would be
served beyond annoying good people and creating opposed camps. This
would not serve any good purpose.
When a referee steps in to ensure "fairness," (a badly
misused and wholly misunderstood term in my estimation) perhaps they
unfairly prevent a player from learning valuable lessons. If they are
commonly protected from the result of their chosen action, how are
they to learn the correct action? Conversely, by insuring
"fairness" for one player/team, does the referee not
perpetrate "unfairness" upon the other player/team who are
acting within the law? Impartiality faces the danger of becoming all
too partial. Such referee interference is decidedly against the
Spirit, no matter what the motivation may be.
Many referees have difficulty in deciding whether or not a foul has
occurred. Foul identification is indeed a difficult skill to master,
yet a simple concept - effect upon play or player - is a most
effective tool at all levels of the game, from U-small to O-45. If an
opponent performs an illegal act, the referee must determine the
effect of the action: did it affect play, or did it affect the fouled
player? Simplistically put, if an illegal action has no practical
effect upon the fouled players ability to play or person, at most a
trifling foul (by definition a foul which should not be called) has
occurred. Correct and consistent application of this principle is
assuredly within the Spirit.
Many readers may well be up in arms at this point - so a bit of
pacification may be in order.
Referee actions recommended or defended as being within the Spirit
yet in opposition to the theme of this ever-lengthening epistle
generally are man- and match- management techniques. Man- and match-
management is a world unto itself.
Folks who have quoted Dave Albany's writings as justification for
their actions within the Spirit do not understand that David writes
from the viewpoint of man- and match- management, skills which diverge
from and may run totally counter to the Laws or the Spirit as
described in this posting.
My good friend's writings have limited application - the higher,
exceptionally skilled matches. With close study and deep
understanding, his concepts are useful - but really should not be in
the bag of tricks employed by each and every referee. They are
situational, and are only applicable to those specific situations. For
example, in a very hot and physical match where tempers run high, he
many make bad calls against both sides to cause them to shift their
building anger on him, cooling tension between players. This is not a
trick for referees who are not masters of their art - and supremely
confident in their abilities - as he is.
One can understand and accept a concept such as a one-man dropped
ball in certain instances, yet I have rarely seen a situation where
the situation cannot be managed to a point that the ball becomes out
of play in a non-threatening location. Where I have seen dropped ball
situations, the cause is more often a too-quick whistle on the part of
the referee where a little patience could have seen a far happier
Out-of-position goalkeepers are more often the result of poor
coaching - the coach not having taught and reinforced the importance
of a goalkeeper being in the proper position rather than doing the job
of a ball boy. Is it the fault of the team awarded a corner kick or a
free kick that the defenders are not in good order and arrayed
properly to defend the goal? If the referee allows time for the
defending team to regroup because of the goalkeeper ball-boy, then
allowing time to regroup should then be the order of the day, allowing
defenders to regroup before each and every restart. To do less makes
the referee capricious, inconsistent, and very partial.
Perhaps the most important man- and match- management technique is
consistency. There is always the argument regarding calling fouls in
the penalty area being different from fouls called at midfield. Many,
from coaches, to players, to assessors, rightly (in my opinion)
condemn referees for not maintaining field-wide consistency. The root
cause may be as simple as this. In place of the mantra "call
fouls in the penalty area like you do in the middle of the
field," a new mantra, "call fouls in the middle of the field
like you do in the penalty area" should be used. Most referees
could not do this - their match would spiral, out of control, to
flaming ruin. What we see is, in reality, is either a total lack of
self-confidence or a total lack of courage, normally buffered by the
excuse, "I don't want to be responsible for affecting the outcome
of the match," when they have done just that. Claiming such a
decision is supported by the Spirit is an affront.
Another example can be found in a situation where a defender stops
a certain goal by handling, only to see the rebound from his handling
go to the foot of another player and into the goal. Under the Law and
the Spirit, that player must be sent off, regardless of the fact that
a goal was ultimately scored. His action prevented the goal. Fact.
Discussion is over. In this situation, though, a referee may well make
a decision to issue a yellow card, if, in their view, man- and match-
management is better served. Provided he knew the proper punishment
and made a conscious decision to handle the situation in this manner,
there may be little or no criticism - but the defense in this matter
is based upon management and not on the Spirit.
Management and Spirit commonly travel in the same direction, as
they should. Occasionally, as in the paragraph above, they follow
different paths. Both have the same goal, a successful ending to a
match. Misrepresenting one as the other can be disastrous to a
referee's career through continuous conflict and failure to advance in
both skill and the quality of matches to which they are assigned. We
lose enough referees through normal attrition. We should not have to
lose them through their lack of understanding of the fundamentals. Nor
should the development of the game have to suffer from
well-intentioned yet incorrect application of the fundamentals of the
One more important distinction needs to be made. Occasionally there
is some discussion of referees "making up" rules to suit a
specific situation. This is certainly a "don't try this at home,
kids" comment. Very, very few individuals can hope to practice
this sort of officiating without experiencing problems, ranging from
difficult matches filled with "constructive criticism," to
mega-yellow and red card matches, terminated matches, less appealing
or fewer match assignments, or disciplinary hearings.
Referees must always remember that to properly employ the Spirit of
the Game/Laws, referees must do the right thing, not the feel-good
thing. Doing the right thing requires a deep understanding of the
entire deposit of the Spirit, not simply the parts of the Spirit we
find most appealing.
Mike "Skipper" Goblet
Cogito ergo Arbitro
Member of the Masters of Mayhem
[Back to Top]
thoughts on the art of the referee ...
Referees need to be able to apply laws, not parrot them. More
importantly, referees need to know both when and why to apply them.
Referees who, after their first year, work only by the letter of the
Laws and are safety-wired on auto-whistle are of no use to the
players, coaches, spectators, or their fellow referees. They do not
learn. They do not grow. They hurt the game. They may be referees for
twenty years, but their experience is that of one year repeated twenty
Reading play and players is a skill, perhaps an art, at once easy
and difficult to master. I'm a reasonably good instructor, yet I can
only point out the path. I can't travel that road; that journey
belongs to the individual. To develop those skills you must develop
sufficient experience to move beyond the letter of the Laws. You have
to understand the very concept of the game and the purpose of it's
In greatest simplicity, the concept of the game is that it is a
hard, physical contest to be played between two teams, and that the
teams should have the opportunity to demonstrate their skills without
unfair interference by their opponents. The Laws define how the game
is to be played, and describe examples of unfair play. The referee's
original place in this was to settle disagreements between players.
Players were expected act within the confines of the Laws. Most still
do, fouling in the conduct of play rather than in an attempt to foul
their opponent. In today's game, the referee is to enforce the Laws,
yet must do so through man- and match- management skills and not
through literal application of the letter of the Law.
Soccer is exceptionally physical. Its players must be allowed to
display their skills in an aggressive manner when this behavior does
not place an opponent at a disadvantage by unfair means. It is the
duty of players to develop both in skill and physical fitness. Often
unskilled and physically unfit players are awarded free kicks when
fairly challenged by skilled and fit players. Is this the result of
the referee not understanding the basic nature of the game?
For an act to be worth punishing, putting aside misconduct, I
believe the act must truly affect play AND not be the result of true
50/50 play. Further, trifling, doubtful and advantage must be
considered within the enormous amount of time allotted us to form a
Folks continually complain about not having a library of
"authoritative" interpretations and guidance. They cried
they were without practical guidance although Additional Instructions
Regarding the Laws of the Game was included in their annual copy of
the LOTG through 1996 (and is available again). They cried upon
learning that some people had access to certain Memoranda or
Circulars. They bemoaned not having access to Questions and Answers on
the Laws of the Game (which is now available). They continue to do so
though they have access to Advice to Referees.
These, and similar publications, have always been available to
those who sought them. For referees affiliated with the USSF,
virtually everything is available in the Referee section of the
Federation web site.
The ironic thing about publications is that they can't make a
referee even one iota better. A walking encyclopedia of the Laws and
their interpretation often is not a good referee, while a fellow with
an entry-level knowledge can be a very good to great referee. The
acquisition of knowledge is vital part of referee growth. It is,
however, lower down in the scale of importance than the skills of
mechanics, attention to detail,
man- and match- management, concentration, and a devotion to
protect players' health and safety. These skills must be blended
together and cemented by courage.
A referee must be a person of deep introspection. Constant,
objective evaluation of their role and their impact on the game is
vital. Truly great referees first developed knowledge of self and
aspired to perfect their skills to offer what the game demands of
them. They possess the humility to accept that they are not to be the
center of attraction. They accept that they are to insert ourselves
into the game only as often as the game demands it.
The skills just mentioned really don't rely on the Laws of the
Game. They rely on the referee accepting personal responsibility to
develop the intangible skills mentioned for their growth and improved
service to the game. I suggest many referees are unwilling to spend
the time necessary to learn their part in the game and develop the
skills needed to play that part. Too many curse the darkness rather
than become light bearers.
If referees feel their State does not provide adequate instruction
or clinics, where is the record of strident and continual demand that
their State fulfill it's responsibility? Where are the groups of 3 to
5 referees who attend high level matches to observe that referee's
decisions and the result of those decisions, then invite the referee
team out for a cool, adult beverage over which they might discuss the
match? Where is the drive to visit other states' clinics?
Is weeping and the gnashing of teeth over the seeming inability of
skilled officials to identify obvious fouls righteous indignation? Or
is such behavior a self-serving pat on the back due the weeping
tooth-gnasher believing they are better able to identify fouls than
their colleagues on the field?
Some will not seek to develop an understanding of the nature of the
game. They hurt the game. They turn players and observers against
flow. They stifle development of a player's ability to play through
contact. They establish and fortify in player's and observer's minds
the belief that all contact is foul. They create an atmosphere that
can make the next match a referee's game from hell. Worst of all, they
affix blame on everyone else, including both other referees and
Frankly, I feel such folks should find another field of endeavor.
Back to the point in discussion. It is the referee's responsibility
to observe players, to evaluate their actions, and to form an opinion
as to whether their actions unfairly affect play. They then decide
whether some action must be taken to set right the illegal act. It is
easy to be just - justice only requires that a prescribed response be
made when proof of injustice exists. It is far more difficult to
ensure that the right thing is done. Doing the right thing may be in
conflict with doing the just thing.
How does the referee learn to do the right thing? The only way I
know is through constant study of all aspects of his art, including
the Laws, mechanics, players' actions and reactions, concentration,
and the courage that is vital to the employment of these skills. The
referee is always involved in a balancing act involving flow and
control. Maintaining this balance may require bending of the Laws
beyond a comfortable point. Strangely enough, this bending often leads
to a strengthening of the Laws, not the weakening. This phenomena
results from the player's appreciation of the referee's knowledge of
the game and his willingness to allow them to play while protecting
players' health and safety. They respond to the referee because they
trust his judgment.
The best insight on gaining and maintaining balance is simple:
Never sacrifice control on the altar of flow.
Yet should flow be sacrificed on the altar of comfort? Does a
referee have a right to "comfort" derived from textbook
officiating eschewing the real work needed to play their part?
When I read comments savaging other referees, or complaining that
their "bad example" in not calling fouls negatively affects
the game at lower levels, my reaction is not positive. That position
absolves the referee in that "lower level" match from their
responsibility to make their mark on that match and ensure proper
control. My opinion is assuredly negative when comments come from
officials who supervise referees.
Ignorance of playing styles and a lack of comfort with vigorous
physical contact is understandable when first encountered; it is
almost unforgivable after a referee has encountered such situations
many times. When referee supervisors complain openly, yet practically
do nothing to correct perceived problems, they prove to me their total
unsuitability for such a position.
You'll get no black and white instructions on what to do in all
given situations. Even the best advice may not be sufficient when you
encounter certain player actions. Each referee's response must be
based upon a decision whether their action will be of benefit to the
game, not merely whether it is supported by the written law. You and I
are appointed to manage the players and the match to a successful
conclusion. We must, I repeat must, do this by inserting ourselves
only when truly necessary.
A final, simple, thought. Before inserting yourself, observe the
full impact of a foul action upon the play or player. Where the foul
does not directly affect the play or the player - whether they flinch
or do not - keep the whistle down. Your understanding of this precept
will benefit that specific match, and will contribute to an overall
strengthening and growth of this beautiful game.
Mike "Skipper" Goblet
Cogito ergo Arbitro
Member of the Masters of Mayhem
[Back to Top]
thoughts on officiating at higher levels
The realities that have an effect upon officiating at the
professional levels of sport exist, and whether you or I like it or
don't has zero impact upon that reality. Any time money, especially
great amounts of money, enters into the equation, the situation
What many believe to be "pure" soccer a la American
rule-driven sports exists only in theory. In reality, the application
of the Laws is dynamic, that is to say that application of the Law is
situationally-driven. There are no two matches alike, from Under-6 to
Over-35, although they may be doubtless similar. If we accept this
position, then it follows that what may be deemed a foul in a
high-tension match may not be in an "easy" match. Likewise,
fouls called in a Division 4 Amateur (Adult) match may not even
deserve acknowledgement in a Division 1 match.
What comprises the dynamic forces that create the situations that
drive the application of the Laws?
Enter the human element - the relationship involving players, their
teammates, their opponents, their coaches, the opposing coaches, the
spectators, and the referee. Each of these entities brings their own
expectations, understandings, behaviors, skills, and maturity. Each
has good days and bad days. This interplay of dozens of individuals is
the primary contributor in the dynamics that form each individual
Blend in the situational elements of the match. The importance of
the match. The history between the two teams. The weather conditions -
heat or cold, sun or cloud, dry or rainy/snowing. The field conditions
- the markings, fixtures, team and spectator areas (team and its
spectators on the same side or on opposite sides). The interplay of
these elements is a secondary contributor in the dynamics that form
each individual match.
Add some other elements to the mix. League rules and expectations.
Social/Societal expectations. Commercial expectations (these affect
both youth in tournaments and adults in leagues - some of which can
involve prize money and "amateur" players who are paid to
play). Professional coaches of youth teams introduce some very
interesting elements of their own.
The items mentioned in the last three paragraphs (which are in no
way inclusive of all elements which contribute to the dynamics of
play) are dynamics which impact on every match, dynamics which must be
taken into account by the referee as an important part in determining
the man- and match- management strategy they will employ in that
There are many referees who have never been exposed to these
concepts, and this will become more problematic as the game matures.
The referee cannot be literally (Letter of the Law) driven in their
application of the Laws and hope to remain competent and capable as
the game grows. Right now there are referees so far behind the curve
that the players are making fools of them. The future of the game
depends upon referees who are growing in step with the game. The real
crime in this situation is the utter paucity of real education in many
areas and the unwillingness (driven by the lack of referees, I
sincerely hope) of some National State Organizations to enforce
re-registration qualification standards. Some NSAs at least require
some referees to attend a re-registration clinic, although any
educator will suggest that the brain doesn't do well after a few hours
Each individual referee should be familiar with at least some of
the factors contributing to the dynamics of a match.
Where am I going with this? I am trying to illustrate that there
are certain elements that enter the game at its higher levels which
appear totally inconsistent with the game most of us know.
Some additional concepts must be introduced.
Free kicks aren't free. Take a crowd of 50,000 paying an average of
$15.00 per ticket. That grosses $750,000. For argument's sake, let's
say that it costs each person an extra $10.00 for transportation and
miscellaneous things bought at the stadium (very low estimate). That's
another $500,000. To keep things simple, there is no TV or radio
involved. Our total is $1,250,000, or almost $13,900 per minute. Now
these 50,000 came to see their heroes play, not to see players
standing around. If an average free kick takes 20 seconds from whistle
to restart, that free kick has cost over $4,600. No one wants
excessive stoppages for fouls that are not absolutely necessary to
right a grievous wrong or to maintain control. Most referees never
consider this aspect, yet through judicious foul selection at least a
few more minutes of time when the ball is in play can be achieved.
Marquee players draw paying spectators. As we have seen in hoops,
baseball, and many other sports, the true stars of the game do receive
special treatment. An average player may get sent off, but a marquee
may, and I emphasize may, receive a yellow card. A travesty, some
would say. A fact of life, others would say. A matter of economics
still others will say. If the star player won't be playing in the next
match, be it home of away, the gate will be smaller.
Players often become very annoyed with a referee that interrupts
their match for fouls that do not injure them, and exceptionally
annoyed with a referee that fails to protect them from injury. At the
highest level, players want to be allowed to play through fouls that
commonly see cautions and even send offs in other games. Players also
have a very particular sense of justice and, strangely enough, mercy.
When fouls do not involve injury, it is not uncommon for a player to
ask the referee not to send off the fouler.
The game at the highest levels is a very different animal from
Sunday afternoon soccer. The pressures are different, the dynamics are
different, the demands and concerns are different. The game is called
very differently, and will always be. Referees who do not work games
at that level should not model their methods and procedures on what
they observe at that level, nor should they allow players to use the
excuse "they don't call that on the pro level" to compel
them to do so.
Referees should officiate as is appropriate for the level they
serve, which means the 99.5% of matches should not be officiated as
the .5% are. One may discuss the propriety of what one sees, however,
one must also understand that while it is fundamentally the same game,
it is considerably different in its management.
Mike "Skipper" Goblet
Cogito ergo Arbitro
Member of the Masters of Mayhem
[Back to Top]
with Coaches and Spectators
Without question, there are times when each of us come into contact
with some coaches who lack focus, some coaches who do not know the
game, some who attempt gamesmanship, and some who are hostile for
While there are some who would be adversarial for the sake of being
adversarial, the greatest portion are well meaning, caring, and really
want to do a good job. They don't begin their day by planning the ways
and means to annoy referees or create the game from hell. They have
enough to do managing players, parents, and the occasional dog.
Although I have good friends who occasionally take exception with
my beliefs, I hold that the referee himself is responsible for the
creation of many if not most adversarial situations.
I cannot count the number of referees I have observed who are
delivering anything but the service they were hired or volunteered to
perform. Players, team officials and spectators (who commonly provide
the money used to pay us, be it in cash or in kind) have every right
to expect that referees will:
|Know the Laws
|Be physically fit/run/remain close to play
|Understand the game/adjust to match demands
|Respect players, team officials, and spectators
|Communicate expectations to players and team officials
|Protect players from injury
|Deal with players who consistently foul
|Refrain from argumentative and/or vindictive behavior|
Let's look at these individually:
Know the Laws
There is no excuse - none whatsoever - that can explain a lack of
up to date knowledge of the Laws of the Game, the interpretations of
those Laws, the procedures (mechanics) they should employ, and the
administrative policies of the Federation as they apply to referees.
Let me add that truly minor subjects such as not having each and every
circular from FIFA or memorandum from the Federation do not even
figure into this equation - any material which is necessary to keep a
referee updated is available on the USSF web site. There are few
referees who cannot gain access to that web site, either directly
through their own internet access, a visit to the library, or through
assistance of a friend. We are indeed fortunate to have, easily
accessible, the Laws of the Game, Advice to Referees on the Laws of
the Game, Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees, and Fourth
Officials, and the Referee Administrative Handbook.
Beyond this, there are innumerable in-service training modules
available, as well as an Intermediate Referee Course and a State
Referee Course. If your state does not offer these courses, get a
number of officials together and respectfully request that they be
scheduled. It may also be possible to attend In-Service Training or
either course in a neighboring State. I attended the Intermediate
Referee Course in Connecticut while registered in another state.
There are a number of excellent books on the subject, as well as
videotapes. In short, a referee must accept responsibility for their
own development and do what is necessary to maintain and improve their
Physical Fitness/Run/Remain Close to Play
Each of us is aware of what is expected of us in this matter. We
must be physically fit enough to be where we need to be during the 50
to 90 minutes allotted to each match. We must operate by the Diagonal
System of Control (even though we may be the only official assigned to
the match), not the Diameter System of Control (remaining within the
center circle for the entire match). Far too often referees simply do
not have the fitness or display an inability or willingness to run
and/or remain close to play. Even if their decisions are correct, they
do not engender trust. MCI (Long
Distance) calls are never appreciated. (Note: There are some
referees whose experience allows them to manage play from longer
distances, and commonly their demeanor and consistency engenders great
trust and comfort levels from all observers - even their assistant
referees. This ability does not, however, excuse them from the need to
be physically fit, to run, and to remain close enough to play).
A visit or call to a High School or College athletic trainer could
provide you with a training plan to attain and maintain fitness.
Understand the Game/Adjust to Match Demands
Most referees have heard of the Spirit of the Laws, yet lack the
understanding of the game necessary to apply it. Too often they
officiate by the book - which they understand perhaps as poorly,
completely stifling play, annoying all observers, and often
encouraging the very behavior they complain about. They can not
recognize changing frustration levels, nor can they read the players
response to contact. They generally under- or over- officiate, and no
one is happy.
It is also important that referees know and accept their own
limitations. Some referees can not or will not accept that they are
not able to adjust to older/higher skilled teams. When a referee does
not adjust to the demands of faster play and/or highly developed
skills, they do the game and themselves an injustice - and invite the
troubles they complain about. __________
Respect Players, Team Officials, and Spectators
You reap what you sow. In the greatest majority of matches - well
over 95% in my experience - respectful actions on the part of the
referee will diffuse trouble. Taking comments personally, identifying
with and validating comments of people who mean nothing to you, is
YOUR problem. Far too many referees operate in a hair-trigger reaction
mode; any comment, even mildly critical, can hurt, distract, or anger
them. Something like road rage. Now, please understand that I do not
advocate for the referee to ignore anything said to him. I recommend
just the opposite - comments can be a useful barometer of feelings and
emotions. They may tell us that we are in fact missing something - be
it off the ball or over-enthusiastic contact, that we are too far away
from play, that we are calling too tightly or loosely - and we should
evaluate our match plan if such comments are continual. It is uncommon
to experience continual "constructive criticism" if our
employers (players, team officials, and spectators) form an opinion
that we are doing our job.
As a whole, referees are far too sensitive and reactionary. Were
referees to become more responsive, that is to say be attentive to
comments and adjust to them without any display of rancor or
annoyance, far less trouble from this source is likely. A quick
self-analysis of mechanics and our observations of player
actions/responses to contact or our calls can allow us to decide if we
may be too far away from play, are attentive enough to off-the-ball
contact, are reading play and players correctly. This is not a lengthy
debate or discourse - constant comment on one or more subjects should
engender a response of some form in our performance. Even if the
comments are completely baseless, added energy, in the form of
mechanics - moving closer to play, staying up with play, anticipating
play, will normally reduce or eliminate any real "constructive
Additionally, the referee must learn to filter what they hear. The
referee must realize that comments are often made entirely out of
frustration and are (what was that word?) reactive and not thought
out. In any case, the referee must be the mature one, regardless of
the comments, and act professionally. In short, the referee must learn
what not to "hear."
Does this mean the referee should ignore the truly unacceptable
comments or threats to himself or any other person? No. Such behavior
has no place in our game - and is especially unacceptable in the youth
game. Many of us can deal with "industrial language"
intelligently while maintaining personal control, and should do so. We
are not given our powers to belittle or humiliate players, etc. When a
player or team official acts in an unacceptable, stop the game when
appropriate, isolate them from others, and do what is necessary. Do
not threaten, browbeat or attempt to intimidate - these actions will
backfire. Instead, take action - warn, caution (or report misconduct
for team officials), or send off (or dismiss team officials) as is
appropriate. If you warn or caution (report misconduct), tell them
their action is inappropriate and you expect them to control their
behavior, and that further inappropriate behavior may result in a
caution (report of misconduct) or send off (dismissal). Note carefully
that a specific action has not been specified - any inappropriate
action can incur one of these responses from you.
As to comments from spectators, you have no real power over them.
You do, however, have the power and duty to ensure the match is played
in a safe manner and to protect players. This may seem a stretch, but
inflammatory comments can indeed affect both. Should the comments
distract you, then you cannot fulfill your duty. Should they distract
players, they could indeed affect the safety and well-being of
players. One may even extend that inflammatory comments can cause
grave disorder. In any of these cases, the referee can stop play until
the situation is corrected - but must be careful not to try to do this
on his own. In most jurisdictions, the home team coach is responsible
for spectator behavior and protection of the referee. In youth play,
both coaches should be involved. Tell them that play will not restart,
and the match may be terminated, if the situation is not corrected.
Again, do not try to control a spectator yourself. (Don't try this in
semi-pro or pro matches - it will be a cause for much warm-hearted
hilarity and thoughtful observations regarding the referee's ability
to function under such pressure). __________
Respect is vital in all aspects of the game.
The more respect you give in a controlled and almost dispassionate
manner, the more you will receive. __________
As noted just above, communicating expectations is far preferable
to threats and confrontations. The referee must be clear in
demonstrating what he expects in behavior through actions more than
words. In a recent amateur match there was no way that my limited
command of Spanish could explain how I would call the match. They
quickly learned where the go/no go line was drawn. There are times
when communication is "individually universal," comments
ostensibly directed at one player but clearly seen by all players,
most if not all of whom are fully aware of what the individual player
did. Silence kills match control almost as surely as lecturing. The
referee's actions often speak for louder than words, and are far more
Protect Players from Injury
It's our duty. Period. Protecting players is important in all
levels, but is much more important in youth play. When Momma Bear
decides the referee has not protected Baby Bear, the referee is in
deep trouble. When players decide that the referee has not protected
their buddy, they will take this duty as their responsibility, and the
referee is again in deep trouble. This commonly happens when referees
either attempt to model skilled, perhaps professional referee's
responses to contact - or they simply cannot identify injuries when
they happen. Sensitivity toward apparent injuries should be far higher
at the lowest ages - any injury should bring up the whistle. This
sensitivity, however, should not disappear at any given age group -
buy immediate stoppages should greatly decrease unless the injured
player is in grave danger.
When players, team officials, and spectators form an opinion that
the referee will not protect players, there will be very real match
control problems. __________
Deal with Players Who Consistently Foul
I believe that persistent infringement is the least called - and
most in need of being called - form of misconduct in the game. While
many referees have reasonable foul identification skills, they are not
good at maintaining a consciousness of who has committed them. As when
the referee is not seen to protect players from injuries, failure to
properly deal with players who consistently foul will lead to opposing
players taking matters into their own hands. Simply put, referees
don't concentrate on this subject near enough.
I need help in this, so I borrowed a method from another referee. I
will write the number of players who attract my attention on my left
palm, right side for light color shirts, left for dark. When a player
has committed two, at most 3 fouls, I will hold up the restart until I
can "communicate my expectations" to him. No threats, but I
am mentally ready to display yellow at the next offense.
The effect of dealing with only one player who has persistently
infringed is truly amazing on the rest of the players. The calming
effect and trust it engenders in the referee is very great. __________
Refrain from Argumentative and/or Vindictive Behavior
While this has been addressed above in a number of ways, it is
important enough to make a final pass at the subject. The referee must
appear to be in full control of his reactions, regardless of inner
turmoil. Arguing does nothing to improve your position, and only plays
into their adversaries hands. The referee's attention is now away from
the game, his objectivity is damaged, and he is likely to give a
questionable call to that team in a subconscious recoil from another
argument. Communicate expectations, and get on with the match.
Getting even through vindictive behavior is, to my knowledge, very
rare but does exist. I have seen it, and it is very ugly.
This very long message is in no way the end all, tell all
compilation of thoughts on this important subject. I know, however,
that referees who religiously apply the methods will rarely have match
problems beyond momentary incidents - because actions meet the needs
of the players, team officials, and spectators, or have adjusted their
actions/performance as needed to meet those needs.
The individual referee is indeed responsible for most of their
success or failure. Knowledge and application of the methods noted
here can make success far more likely.
You may have noticed that I made a point of saying the suggestions
I offered were not for professional or semi-professional matches -
normally played in a stadium. Yet, I must suggest that we can indeed
influence a stadium full of people - if we use the methods I offered.
I am not the world's finest referee by a half, yet I promise you that
I am able, using these methods, to influence a goodly crowd. I've
never worked Giant Stadium or a similar venue, yet they would likely
have an impact there, also.
In regards to spectators...
The referee most certainly does not have direct power over
spectators. It isn't his field. It isn't his team. Hopefully, he is
not related to the spectators who are causing problems. The referee's
responsibility is to the game and it's constituent parts as defined in
the Laws. Personally controlling spectators is neither a duty or a
power of the referee, especially if controlling spectators involves
verbal sparing. The referee may, however, stop play when outside
interference is such that it is not appropriate or possible to
continue play. If you disagree, could you kindly specify where in the
Laws there is any direction to the referee that he should directly
intervene with a spectator?
In most if not all venues we normally play it is the home team that
assumes responsibility for the fields, control of spectators, and
safety of the referee and his property. The referee suspends play and
informs the home team coach, and I recommended including the visiting
coach in the discussion, when spectator interference of any notable
level occurs. As to a situation where a coach cannot control the
situation, then the referee has a very simple next step. Terminate the
match, submit the report, and move on.
The referee determines when conditions are appropriate for a match
to be played, and does the game no service by either joining swords
with spectators or by ignoring that which may not be ignored. It is,
in my opinion, unfortunate when a referee, for whatever reason,
performs or fails to perform an action that leads to unnecessary
conflict. I hope folks who take the time to study this whole posting
see some wisdom in this position, and are able to use some of the
suggestions to improve their man- and match- management skills.
Many folks suggest, or even demand, that the referee should never
talk to spectators. There are indeed times when you can talk with
spectators, but I suggest verbal one-upsmanship or ridicule are not
the correct tools. I talk with spectators all of the time -unless-
there is serious concern. I enjoy very good relations. I can remember
defusing a potentially hot situation through a definitely
non-adversarial method - the crowd screamed for a tripping call, and
as I passed, I said "I'm sorry, but we disagree one that
one." As I moved further upfield I heard one of them say, "I
don't agree with him, but he sure is polite..."
You give credence to complaints when you attempt to defend your
decisions with partisan spectators, rarely stop the comments, and
often create enemies where none need exist. In most cases my
recommendation as to learn to ignore them for what they are - attempts
to take you out of your game or ignorance.
There were eight specific items I presented in my posting. I
suggest that any referee who studiously applies them will experience
very few problems with their customers. I should think that referees
that focus on only one or a few of the items will not experience
anything like the success that is possible through attention to all of
Mike "Skipper" Goblet
Cogito ergo Arbitro
Member of the Masters of Mayhem
[Back to Top]
Communications with REBAR
Communications between Referee and Assistant Referees is paramount
to effective man- and match- management. Gone (and happily so) are the
times when the Linesman was a useful idiot, treated with less
consideration and attention than the town idiot. ARs play a major role
in the referee team. A referee would be a fool indeed to ignore the
information and assistance of an experienced AR.
Within the Diagonal System of Control I am an advocate of a concept
I named REBAR, and acronym for REferee-Ball-Assistant Referee. The
concept is simple: the referee maintains a position so that the ball
and AR are within their field of view. As with most concepts, this
depends upon the perfect world - which we know does not exist. It is,
therefore, a desired rather than fully attainable result of effective,
proactive, referee mechanics.
The pre-game briefing is indispensable in setting the communication
plan. A clear statement of expectations will define the amount and
type of assistance desired. I generally ask my ARs to get a feel for
my management style prior to intervening, with a strong request that
they inform me of potential problems I can not or apparently have not
seen. I ask them to inform me immediately if the situation is serious
and they know I have not seen it, but to call me over during a break
in play if I had a clear view of the action and took no action IF it
was out of character with other calls I have made in that match.
It should be obvious to all that a new or inexperienced AR may, and
probably will, lack the experience to assist the referee in all phases
of foul and/or misconduct identification; offside may be overwhelming
in and of itself. We must be careful to nurture our ARs, not neuter
them. New or inexperienced ARs may need fewer or less demanding
responsibilities, but with experience and encouragement most will grow
into their role at a steady pace. We must also be attentive and quick
to protect them from the many forms of abuse and dissent which are
prevalent. This protection cannot be provided without constant and
proactive communications, for which the referee has by far the
To appreciate proactive referee mechanics, one must accept that a
referee needs to be constantly mobile. Referees need to be in position
to observe, rather than to follow, play action. Three particular
behaviors will make success in gaining this position more probable;
reading play, effective use of dead time, and (heretical to
cookie-cutter referee mechanics) getting a little wider. __________
Reading play can be taught as a concept, but the true skill is
primarily developed through focused concentration. I define focused
concentration as paying attention to a few important things. Where is
the ball? What offensive and defensive formations are arrayed between
the ball and the opponent's goal? Is it more likely that the attackers
or the defenders will gain control? What is the position of the
defender's forwards? The attacker's fullbacks? These are but a few
When the referee observes a high probability of the defense gaining
control and an opportunity to counterattack, the referee needs to move
toward the new point of attack promptly, not to follow the rapidly
departing ball. This is not a "sixth sense," rather the
application of experience to anticipate the most likely product of the
current play. Observe where the player in possession is looking; if it
is upfield, relocate. Quickly. __________
Dead time occurs when the ball is out of play during the attacker's
throw-ins and at all goal kicks. Many, if not most, referees use this
time as recess. They walk upfield, and are quite often caught out of
position, chasing the ball. The wise referee will jog to the area of
the most likely landing zone, arriving well before the ball. The
referee's attention will be focused where needed. If players are slow
to reposition, the referee will backpedal. If trailing the players,
normal jogging is fine. Arriving before the general mass of players is
of benefit, as the referee can monitor "debates" as they
approach. Proper use of dead time will result in fewer full-speed
sprints and offer a far better position to observe developing play.
Getting a little wider is the most important of the three
behaviors. ideally, the referee wants to be able to see both the ball
and the assistant referee at all times, with the best situation being
to look directly over the ball at the assistant referee. Play is
ideally contained between the referee and the assistant referee. It
should be obvious to all that this best situation is unattainable,
even for Michael Babajanov (this fellow is all legs, with a torso,
arms and head added as an afterthought...). REBAR does not work unless
the referee is outside of play. Although this is not always possible,
containing play between the referee and the AR is generally possible
and should be pursued as a desirable mechanic. __________
Hence, REBAR, the RE(FEREE) looking over the B(ALL) at the AR. In
order to accomplish this, the straight-line diagonal becomes more of
an extended "S," with the top and bottom at the outside
corner of the PA. The referee must shift attention from one AR to the
other by the time they pass the bottom of the center circle in the
lead ARs half, and move nearer to or further from the AR to contain
play. In doing so, the likelihood of losing eye contact is greatly
diminished. During any stoppage it should become a habit for the
referee to quickly scan to the lead AR, and for the lead AR to quickly
scan the trail AR. Clear and positive reinforcement, obvious to the
players, should also be a habit - but not on every play. Make sure the
reinforcement is for an observable action, otherwise both ARs and
players will smell a rat.
Effective use demands the referee gain the player's trust from the
time they arrive at the field of play, as this does occasionally move
the referee further from play, violating the aforementioned
cookie-cutter referee mechanics. The reader must understand that going
wide does not mean they must stay wide - as noted above, they must
close on play when approaching the PA. A marked benefit of this
mechanic is reduced interference with the passing lanes, an endearing
behavior. Blocking the passing lanes generally leads players to accord
the referee the high level of regard, love, and acceptance generally
reserved for skunks at a church wedding.
Works for me, won't gain great support from the cookie-cutter
Mike "Skipper" Goblet
Cogito ergo Arbitro
Member of the Masters of Mayhem
[Back to Top]
and Interpretation of Play Action
This is part of a series of posts in work at this time. The two
areas, Mechanics and Interpretation of Play Action are the first part.
Future posts will look into Foul Identification, Player Management,
and many other areas. _________________________________
This may go a little deep, and reflects one man's experience and
the opinions formed from that experience. I do not suggest that what I
will discuss reflects the best way, or even the right way, to apply
the art of mechanics to this game. I do suggest that what I discuss
has been exceptionally successful in my soccer career of over 1,500
matches at almost all levels and age groups.
I picked up the whistle officially in 1988 when I was 39; I worked
my way to State 1 in about 6 years, and worked constantly until 2001,
when work changed the focus of my attention. I plan to return in the
next few months as time and tide permit. I've written a bit, was a
small contributor to the first ATR, and Referee used some of my
material in a book in 2001. I've had the honor of being invited to a
number of venues to meet and speak with referees, and to serve at many
prestigious tournaments. I have many good friends from soccer, and owe
soccer far more than I have yet given. Humility is one of the
hallmarks of a great referee, and I'm not humble enough, by half.
I had a great benefit "growing up" in Upstate New York.
Most of my matches were a one-man match, with club linesmen of very
dubious quality. Until I came to Florida, I rarely experienced a true
DSC with linesmen, later assistant referees. Doing a one-man match,
you learn quickly that you have no support network and must carry the
whole load. The referee has to use everything in their tool bag to
manage these matches - from U-8 to Over-45. Yes, Mens D1 by your
lonesome. "Ethnic" matches by your lonesome. Now, such a
situation may savage a new referee, so the assignor was (and still is)
very careful in who is assigned to what match. Even so, survival as a
referee depended upon quickly developing the necessary skill sets; it
was a true learning environment which provides a marked benefit to the
I discovered that a great amount of referee problems were
self-inflicted. We don't always offer value for money; we are expected
to be good when paid (begging the question if AYSO folks are expected
to be good for nothing ...). Folks demand a quality product, and when
we do not deliver it is understandable that they may become a bit
cross, and offer constructive criticism. Now, before the reader
assumes I heap all responsibility/blame for all sub-optimal results on
the referee, be of good faith, 'tis not so. Most referees are very
hard working and dedicated toward skill, knowledge, and ability
growth. Referee problems arise from three causes, one natural and the
other, well, unnatural: 1) the steep learning curve from novice to the
beginning stages of competence, 2) the utter reticence of some
referees to seek added training and/or advice, and 3) the inability to
perform at a level appropriate to the match at hand. Time and
experience will correct the first cause, the other two require more
from the referee than they are willing or able to offer.
In order to deliver a quality product, we must learn the laws. We
must understand what they mean, how they came into use, and under what
circumstances they are applied. This information is available in
various forms - Laws of the Game and Additional Instructions (FIFA),
Advice to Referees (USSF), Q&A (FIFA), USSF Memos and Position
Papers - all of which are available through the USSF web site.
Effective clinics, advanced training courses, and a few really good
books are crucial to referee development. Material has never been more
available, and no referee can claim with any degree of fact that they
have no means of developing a solid knowledge of the laws.
Knowledge alone is not sufficient. Referees must next develop a
feel for the game, which is different from the feel of players,
coaches, and spectators. We must study the dynamics of player contact
and interaction, and the verbal and non-verbal signals all players
We all are, or should be, aware that referees should manage a match
using their powers in a measured, or proportional, manner. Our goal is
to apply sufficient control to allow the match to flow with few
interruptions, while protecting players from illegal actions by their
opponents. This includes protecting all players from injuries caused
by illegal actions and violence. To achieve this goal, we must employ
the skills of proper mechanics, interpretation of play action, and
effective decision making.
You can't manage what you can't see. Proper mechanics, which I
describe as the art of being where you need to be before you need to
be there, is a subject which could take up many books. In my mind,
there are two primary
aspects: gaining a good position and field of view.
GAINING A GOOD POSITION
Gaining good position, which results in a clear view of play
action, requires constant maneuvering, interpretation of the ebb and
flow of play, and good use of "dead time."
MANEUVERING: My preferred position is tied to field position. In
the defensive third and in midfield, I want to be ahead of play - I
want play to come to me. In the attacking third, I want to follow
play. Imagine or draw a soccer pitch, including the boundaries, a
halfway line, and with the penalty areas at the top and bottom.
Superimpose a large "S" on the field of play, with the
letter starting at the left bottom corner of the top penalty area,
crossing at the center spot, and ending at the top right corner of the
bottom penalty area. Using this concept as the basis for my patrol
pattern, one can see that I generally go rather wide. Note that
neither this concept nor the straight diagonal shown in most soccer
media are railroad tracks - both are totally flexible to allow lateral
movements to close on play so as to gain a clear view of play action.
This "S" diagonal is also the foundation of REBAR, a
mechanic that emphasizes the need for the REferee to have both the
Ball and the AR within their field of view.
Lest anyone be mistaken by the above paragraph, match situations
often shift patrol patterns dramatically.
Should play move rapidly up the right side of the pitch, the
referee would be advised to go straight ahead, and only fan out a bit
when approaching the penalty area. In this instance, physical location
relative to play outweighs REBAR and going wide. The referee must be
very aware of their surroundings in such a situation, so as not to be
trapped in the passing lanes or to lose any hope of a timely visual
link with the AR.
Temperature of the match, emotionally and/or environmentally may
demand much greater presence. Allied with temperature affecting
players, it also affects the referee, who may need to shepherd their
stamina. Rain, snow, ice, standing water - all of these may also
affect your patrol pattern.
One item which certainly affect patrol patterns may seem contrary
to reason. The referee can't afford to be consistent in being in the
same place every time play is in a given area on the pitch. Players
who know where you will likely be will take advantage of your
predictability to shield fouls and misconduct. Nothing is more
disconcerting to sly, underhanded, players than not knowing precisely
where you are. The patrol patterns are a guide, not a road map. Patrol
INTERPRETATION EBB AND FLOW OF PLAY: When we are able to establish
an effective position, reading the ebb and flow of play is really not
terribly difficult. At its heart is learning not to fixate on a single
spot. In most situations, we have a second here and there where play
action does not demand our complete attention. We can use that time to
scan the field and gain situational awareness. Where are the players,
and what are their match-ups? Are the attackers likely to maintain
control. Do the attackers have numerical superiority? Do the present
defenders have numerical superiority, and where are their forwards?
With that information, when we observe a change or an imminent
change of possession we can determine where and how quickly the
counterattack will develop and maneuver toward that area. Watch the
actions of the player in possession of the ball. Are they looking
nearby, or long? Are they preparing for a long lead pass, or
dribbling? Their actions present this information in a continual
stream. Usually, when the player with the ball has enough time to lift
his head and glance around, so does the referee.
DEAD TIME: There is plenty of "dead time" in every match.
Goalkeeper possession (6 seconds is a lot of time), goal kicks,
throw-ins, and free kicks afford the referee with an enormous amount
to time to reposition. Walking should be avoided when repositioning
for two reasons: 1) jogging buys respect from all observers, even if
subconsciously, and 2) even a few seconds of non-movement when you
have arrived at your chosen position provides a short
"break" and allow you to observe the players from
a comfortable position.
FIELD OF VIEW:
It appears that doctrine or dogma dictate that the referee will
remain within 10 yards of play. I find this too close for an
experienced referee, at least for me. I may be 15 or more yards away
from play much of the time, but will close in when I find it
necessary. The extra distance expands my field of view greatly, and
allows me to observe not only play action but also off-the-ball
action. I am also less likely to enter the passing lanes and thereby
lowers the potential that I will interfere with play. An old rule of
thumb states that if you are hit by the ball once, you are close
enough; if hit by the ball more than once, you are too close. I'm not
certain that I fully support these thoughts, yet they do have some
wisdom in them.
I'm comfortable working at that distance, and rarely experience
constructive criticism from my customers. The key, as noted in the
description of the "S" diagonal and in the last paragraph,
is closing in as play action dictates. When a referee employs
effective mechanics, they will be able to gain and maintain a good
position to observe not only play action but also much of what is
happening on the pitch. As an added bonus, greater teamwork is
possible by maintaining visual contact with the lead AR.
INTERPRETATION OF PLAY ACTION
I suggest there are three phases of in play action: development,
action, and after action. All that follows in this section requires
time, the amount of which is directly relative to the referee's
ability to gain a good position. 2 or 3 seconds can seem like forever
when in position; 10 seconds can be too short when out of position. It
is vital that a referee work to gain and maintain good position.
Failure to do so is the greatest contributor to poor man- and match-
control. While this discussion presupposes the referee is in good
position, the elements are equally valuable when not in position.
For illustration purposes, Red has control of the ball. Their
center halfback is unchallenged while he crosses the halfway line. The
referee is visually scanning to discover the Blue team's formation and
to identify the most likely Blue defenders. He observes two Blue
players moving to intercept Red. The referee can evaluate many things:
speed of approach, focus, fitness, and field conditions. All of this
information is important. Is there a notable difference in speed of
approach of the attacker and the defender? Is the defender focusing on
the attacker and not the ball? Is either the attacker or the defender
observable unfit or tired? Is the section of the pitch muddy, slick,
sandy? Each of these bits of information, along with others I have not
included (such as weather), are used by the referee to prepare for
various potential actions, as I'll narrate below.
Okay, Red has the ball. Where is Blue? Mostly behind me...one
coming from behind him, another moving up to challenge. The one
behind...he won't catch up, not quick enough. The other one is closing
on him quickly, trying to force him out. I'd better move closer to the
touch and back up. Blue's attention is...high - he's looking at the
player, not adjusting to be in position to contest for the ball. Okay,
now Blue is slowing down a bit, still facing Red. He looks like he's
setting a pick, almost. Watch for lower body contact, but don't lose
the arms and hands. Don't ball-watch, the ball can't commit a foul.
Keep moving, keep position, keep field of view. Get ready, here it
Where is Blue looking? What is his body position? Is he moving or
set? Okay, Red is right there...and Blue sticks out a leg to try an
upright tackle. Solid ball contact, he trapped the ball well. No foul
contact, arms in, no thigh follow through. Red is off balance,
stumbling, but Blue has the ball. Time to move...
Not too quick, now. Scan upfield, does Blue have a target?
Remember, the ball does not commit fouls, but is a good reference as
to where fouls may occur. There, across on the far touch, there's a
dance going on. (When the ball is lofted up high, don't look at it.
The players will tell you where it's headed. Look for pairs of
opponents bumping-grabbing-pushing each other - these are the
Before you move your complete attention to the developing play,
quickly scan back, what's Red doing. Hmmm, not good...he's coming up
behind Blue and - and - and he just smacked him on the back of the
head. Quick look upfield - no developed attack on the left wing,
whistle up, deal with this before it gets out of hand. Tweet!
PUTTING INTERPRETATION OF PLAY ACTION TOGETHER: What I described
above may take, say, 5 to 15 seconds. Any given match may have a
hundred or more of these play action sequences, each unique. A series
of short film clips, sewn together to produce a match. If we look at a
match in this fashion, it can be exhilarating! We leave the Dick Tracy
world behind us and begin to see "our" match, the match no
one else sees.
I believe that any referee who can understand and apply the
concepts expressed above will gain a few steps on the players, and a
few miles ahead of their peers who do not. I trust my thoughts will be
of some utility to you.
Mike "Skipper" Goblet
Cogito ergo Arbitro
Member of the Masters of Mayhem
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our Young - Bulletproofing Referees
When I first published this in 1998, I suspected it would be
somewhat timeless. It appears so. We have many concerns about
retention of referees, yet we cannot solve a problem by attacking the
symptom and not the disease itself. Coaches and spectators generally
need more than the "Momma Bear/Poppa Bear" incidents to set
them off. They react, and occasionally respond, to many elementary
errors performed by the referee (age not being the major player as
many would have us believe.) Let me explain ...
Regardless of all instruction a referee receives, of all mentoring
in foul identification and development of the ethos, logos, and pathos
a referee must possess, there are many aspects in match management
that the referee has sole control over. All of them contribute to more
peaceful and enjoyable experience. A failing or lacking of even one
may lead to the problems that bring so much concern to this subject.
If we can embed the following items into a referee so that they
become autonomic, we will likely see a marked reduction in this
The First Impression:
When a referee takes time to prepare for a match, many steps will
be undertaken. On the surface, they may seem to be too simple to be
important ... however, I guarantee that attention to these few points
will lead to a better reception by player, coaches and spectators.
Take time to relax and focus - work to eliminate any stressors.
When one is concerned by events at home, at school, or at work, they
cannot give their full attention to officiating. Developing focus is
Referees must be sure their uniform is first-rate - clean, in good
repair, badge firmly attached and not pinned on, shoes clean and
polished ... and make sure of this before you leave for the match.
When you step out of the car (whenever possible), be dressed and
ready to go. No matter how good you finally look, being half-uniformed
when you enter the field just doesn't cut it.
Always inspect the field of play first, and at a jog if possible.
Check the appurtenances of the field carefully ... and noticeably.
Remember that checking the field is more than looking along the touch
lines and goal lines, and a detailed check of the goals and nets.
Check the whole field; there may be glass, rocks, canine fertilizer
present (bring a number of Baggies in your kit). You don't have to
clean it up yourself, but you need to bring it to the attention of the
home team. If you find small items, pick them up yourself and dispose
Watch the players as they warm up. Are they organized? Do they give
indications of being poorly disciplined in their routine? Check the
shoes and ears of players as you pass; it will prepare you for the
team check in.
Visit both coaches, but do it at the same time. See if they have
any concerns, the referee should discuss those match management
activities where their help will be useful - such as substitutes wait
for a signal, all substitutions are done from midfield, etc. (This can
prevent the subtle gamesmanship coaches often attempt to use on the
When checking the teams in, check each player pass (and coach pass,
if the league requires adult passes be checked) against the roster and
the picture against the player offering the card. Mark the roster with
jersey numbers if this has not already been done. (You could give the
roster back for the coach to do so, but what is the gain?)
Collect your fee (where this is done on the field) from each team
only after completing the above.
Gather up the game ball and confirm it is at proper pressure for
the game conditions (hard ground a bit softer, soft ground a bit
By doing these few things, you prove to all watching (and they are
watching) that you are a professional behaving in a professional
manner. These few things build more good will than anything else you
can do -- and you have built the good will before the first whistle.
Nothing I have experienced has explained the most important
elements of positive match management better than Cameron's Diamond.
(John Cameron, well known by referees at the Dallas Cup and USA Cup,
is a former FIFA referee and until recently was Director of Referee
Instruction for New
Zealand.) His lecture at USA Cup forms the core of these following
four points, which are interconnected so as to form a diamond -
their's is a symbiotic relationship, totally interdependent. John is
adamant that each form the core of referee development; to be
successful, a referee must:
* Be Knowledgable in the Laws of the Game.
As any long-term list member is aware, there is far more to the
game than the written 17 Laws of the Game. Any referee must go far
beyond a mere reading of the Laws; they must seek out knowledge as to
the cause of each Law, and the accepted interpretation of each Law.
(We are indeed fortunate to have Jim Allen's and Dan Heldman's
excellent work, "Advice to Referees ... " available to us.
Many of us would have given all we had to have possessed this
compendium of interpretations at the beginning of our
careers.) Book knowledge is useless on the field of play, except to
establish a foundation upon which individual referees base their
decisions. Players, coaches, spectators all have a right to expect
their referee to have a mastery of the facts, and of how the facts
should be interpreted to ensure some element of consistency.
* Practice Intelligent and Effective Mechanics.
Presence lends conviction, or, MCI (Long Distance) Calls are not
accepted. This is the most important of a starting referee's tools.
Until a referee develops the sixth sense required to read play and the
subtle nuances that players display, presence by itself can quell most
outbursts. As a test, watch a few youth or amateur matches and observe
the level of cooperation or criticism engendered by the referee's
mechanics. Knowing where to be (which is part of the Entry-Level
Referee Course) and the importance of being there when needed is a
primary skill, which all referees must develop.
The greatest difficulty in utilizing, and the greatest enemy of,
good mechanics can be laid to ineffective use of "dead
time," that is to say, any time when the ball is out of play.
Case in point: How often does the ball cross the goal line to a point
which guaranties a 15 second or more break in play? Not uncommon, but
too many referees don't make good use of this "dead time,"
either in jogging to the landing zone, having a quick word with a
player who is in need of "counsel," or checking in with the
ARs? What generally results for many if not most referees in a mad
dash to catch up with a rapidly-departing play instead of a calm
viewing of the play as it approaches the referee's position.
All too often referees plant themselves in the precise location
where play is likely to pass through. They miss a good bit of
important play action; being in the center of a play almost by
definition puts a good number of players out of the view of the
referee, and normally out of the view of the AR. While too many
assessors may shun the suggestion of "go deep and wide," the
suggestion has quite a lot of merit, and should be considered by the
referee that desires to develop proper and useful mechanics.
Beyond the mechanics of field positioning, the mechanics of
signaling have great importance. If the whistle sounds and players
turn to see the referee close at hand, and that referee is displaying
a firm and confident signal, such as a direct free kick, little is
likely to be heard. Without firm and confident signals, the players
begin to suspect that the referee is not all that sharp, or is
uncertain. Both lead to trouble ... It isn't enough to know what one
should do, one must give evidence through correct, prompt, and
defining action. When a referee is close to play and demonstrates
confidence, players will comply.
One of the greatest causes of failing in this is simple laziness,
and that can't be corrected with words or a pack of yellow or red
* Give Total Concentration
Any one of us can become distracted, be it by dog, passing plane,
loud sound, interestingly packaged person, or hyper-sensitive and
unwise attention to the chant of the touchline choirs. Such
distractions can and must be ignored. The greatest threat to
concentration comes from complacency bred from supposed familiarity
with the teams playing, the division they are playing in, or the
referee's self-assumed capacity to deal with "anything this age
group can give me." Distractions and complacency are mortal
enemies of concentration. Also, do not forget one of the first
thoughts found in this message - home, school, or work problems. It's
hard to concentrate when worrying, pondering, or fuming over persons
and events in your life.
Even after ridding one's self of every distraction, complacency,
and problems, unfocused concentration is almost useless. Unfocused
concentration would be similar to standing on a given street corner
and waiting for an auto accident to occur; statistically accidents
- and one corner may have more accidents than another, but an
overall view of traffic patterns would give far more useful guide
where accidents are likely to happen.
With knowledge of the Laws, and intelligent and effective
mechanics, one can be where play is moving in time to become the
observer. Any given play has at three basic elements; development,
action, and aftermath. Referees should be able to focus on the general
area of the ball, or where it is going. With that space in mind, the
ball becomes secondary. One must then look for the likely suspects,
generally one or more attacker and a similar number of defenders. By
watching the approach of both parties, the following thought pattern
"... Okay, there's the ball, and here comes Red #10. He's
strong with his left foot, and coming up the left wing like this he's
a threat. Now, who is going to challenge him. Blue #7? No, he's 10
yards behind, no threat. Ah, there's Blue #3, coming in from the right
side. What can happen here? He could charge him off the ball, may
tackle ... Blue #3 likes to come in hard I better watch this one
closely. Okay, it's a charge, looks fair. Red #10 is keeping control
--- Hey, there it is, Blue #3 has him by the shirt, we got holding.
Now, let me see what happens ... Good cross! It's in the air, let me
swing a little out to keep Red #10 and Blue #3 in vision for a second.
A push by Blue #3 ... . Should I deal with this? No, good play
developing, let it go, but let's have a word with Blue #3 at the next
All of the above paragraph takes far less time in actuality than in
print, but it indicates one possible thought process - and the one I
use. This continues throughout the dozens or hundreds of plays in a
typical match; after all, a game is nothing more than a more or less
loosely-jointed plays ... . It is an illustration of the sort of
concentration which is a must for referees who respond to, rather than
react to, player actions.
Knowledge of the Laws, Intelligent and Effective Mechanics, Total
Concentration ... this seems like a recipe for a White Badge, or at
least National Badge. Unfortunately, no, unless the last of the four
points of Cameron's Diamond is as strong as the first three.
How to define courage? Integrity? The harder right over the easier
wrong? I suspect it is displayed in all of the prior points, and all
of the prior points depend upon it's presence. To apply the Laws of
the Game and their proper interpretation demands that the referee
expose himself to criticism from the uninformed. Courage results from
sure knowledge, yet sure knowledge cannot be displayed without
courage. Mechanics require courage when the referee inserts himself
into the thick of play (and sometimes the courage to put out effort
when the tank is empty), yet without knowledge of intelligent and
effective mechanics all courage is of little use. Concentration is
almost a study of courage, wherein one fights impulses to respond to
distractions or unknowing criticism, yet courage alone cannot provide
the insight gained through fierce concentration.
To my way of thought, Courage means doing what you know to be
right, doing it from a position up close to play, without obvious
regard to criticism (yet evaluating what criticism is heard and asking
oneself if there could be any validity). Remember, doing what is right
can range from no foul, to no call, to trifling, to advantage, to
cautions, to send off. Each and every one can be correct, depending
upon the opinion of the referee.
Knowledge, Mechanics, Concentration and Courage. Each depends upon
each other for support, none can stand without the others. From this
true symbiosis comes a confident and capable referee.
But does this work in with a Zero-Tolerance Policy?
Well, yes. If any referee was to employ these developed abilities,
these skills, many if not most of the problems alluded to by concerned
folks would be greatly lessened.
I believe most of the criticism and catcalls arise from a lack of
knowledge of the Laws on the part of the players, coaches, and
spectators, and an impression that the referee a) is not protecting
their child; b) is only there for the money; c) is spineless and
uncertain; and d) doesn't care. Each and all of these concerns are met
through the judicious application of the all of the principles (the
pre-game duties and Cameron's Diamond). I cannot guarantee that all
problems will depart when these principals are applied, but most will
- regardless of the age of the practitioner. It is the responsibility
of the experienced referee to lead the way for the newer, the younger
referee. Remember, practice does not make perfect, perfect practice
makes perfect ...
It is not uncommon to see youth drop out in any given activity. Why
should we in soccer believe we alone will have a great retention rate?
What is true in Scouting is true in Little League, in Youth Soccer,
and in paper routes. Young people want, need to experience many
things. It is common to see them move on. While unfortunate criticism
does claim victims, and such criticism may be accorded part of the
cause for any new referee, youth or adult, to leave refereeing, it is
but a part. Much more of the fact lies in incomplete preparation and
an almost criminal abandonment of new referees, especially youth
referees, once they have fledged and left the coop. One positive
reinforcement can make up for much criticism. Observations from
experienced referees can correct serious flaws in performance. If
there is an evil cancer decimating our new ranks, it is the lack of
after-certification guidance, not the amorphous evil of criticism,
much of which is due to perceived failings in the referee.
As to dealing with insulting and abusive officials, what Mike Short
(Director of Referee Instruction in the Albany, NY area) calls
"Skipper's Mantra" approaches the Zero-Tolerance policy on
the face of it, but only on the face of it. When a coach crosses the
line (without, of course, going beyond the pale), a quick visit and
the words "Sir, dissent is misconduct; if you continue I will
report you to the league." Then, whoosh!, the referee disappears,
with no discussion. Should the coach continue (and I have rarely seen
it go beyond the first visit), a second quick visit and the words:
"Sir, I am reporting your misconduct to the league; if you
continue, you will have to leave." Whoosh! again. I have never
had to reach the final stage, which is, "Sir, you must leave; if
you do not do so, the match will be terminated." If the abuser is
a spectator, call both coaches together and tell them the match will
not continue unless the spectator displays better behavior/leaves.
Isn't that the same?
No, because a) the mantra rarely goes beyond the first stage, and
b) because application of the pregame and Cameron's Diamond set a
stage which, frankly, precludes such problems. As to upset if someone
asks for time, a general answer of "less than ten minutes,"
or "less than 5 minutes" is sufficient.
Knee-jerk dismissals are not beneficial to the game, or to the
referees asked to enforce them. In reality, no one is served, and the
potential learning the new referee will gain from having an
experienced referee observe their work is still missing. If you want
to discover a far more likely reason why referees depart, look there
and to the lack of the training I discussed above. Without sound
training in the reality of the game and confidence in their abilities
gained from positive, informed observations, it's truly amazing we
keep more than we lose!
Let's deal with the disease, and not the symptoms.
Mike "Skipper" Goblet
Cogito ergo Arbitro
Member of the Masters of Mayhem
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