Macomb County Referees Association
Articles - Site Last Updated February 23, 2014  


















Code of Ethics for Referees

(From USSF Referee Administrative Handbook)

bulletI will always maintain the utmost respect for the game of soccer.
bulletI will conduct myself honorably at all times and maintain the dignity of my position.
bulletI will always honor an assignment or any other contractual obligation.
bulletI will attend training meetings and clinics so as to know the Laws of the Game, their proper interpretation and their application.
bulletI will always strive to achieve maximum team work with my fellow officials.
bulletI will be loyal to my fellow officials and never knowingly promote criticism of them.
bulletI will be in good physical condition.
bulletI will control the players effectively by being courteous and considerate without sacrificing fairness.
bulletI will do my utmost to assist my fellow officials to better themselves and their work.
bulletI will not make statements about any games except to clarily an interpretation of the Laws of the Game.
bulletI will not discriminate against nor take undue advantage of any individual group on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
bulletI consider it a privilege to be a part of the United States Soccer Federation and my actions will reflect credit upon that organization and its affiliates.

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One Man Diagonal by Giovanni Piazza - extracted from the SOCREF-L archives

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

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To Play or Not to Play?  That is the Question!

by Brian Goodlander - (published in Referee Magazine) - 12/01

 The 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. 

A 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.


 FIFA – 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.


USSF Advice to Referees 5.11 TERMINATING THE MATCHThe referee may terminate a match for reasons of safety (bad weather or darkness), …


 NFHS 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.


NCAA 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.

Preventative Measures – 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 include:

(1)     Know the Rules – 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.

(2)     Pre-game Field Inspection – 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 nears.

(3)     Weather Forecasts – 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.

(4)     Detection Devices – 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.

(5)     Age of Players – 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.

(6)     Traveling 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.

(7)     The Impact – 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.

(8)     The 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 previously discussed.

(9)     Back-up 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?

We have discussed the why, but what about the how?  How do I know when to consider the conditions unplayable?  Here are some ideas for making that decision.


Heat – 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.


Cold –  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 – 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?


Fog – 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 –  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 – 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.


Thunder & Lightning – 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.


Wind –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.

It 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.

 Brian Goodlander


Brian 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). 

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Ready for Anything?

by Brian Goodlander - (published in 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?

 The 10 Essentials:

  1. Whistles – 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.

  2. Watches – 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.

  3. Cards – 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 game. 

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 scribbled card.

  1. Pen, Pencil, Marker – 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.

  2. Flipping coin – 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.

  3. Duct Tape – 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.

  4. Alternate Jersey(s) – 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.

  5. Money – 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.

  6. Eyewear & accessories – 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.

  7. Garbage Bag – 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.

 The 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 not essential.


Bag – 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.


Medications – 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.


Pump 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 gauge.


Wet wipes – 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.


Zip strips – 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.


Alternate 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.


Alternate shoes – 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.


Spare socks – 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.


Sandals – 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.


Foul weather clothing – 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.


Candy Bar – 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.


Warm-ups – 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 professionally.

 The Luxuries:

Finally, here are some items that are just plain luxuries.


Shoe bag – 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.


Cell phone – 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 locks.


Clothing organizers – 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.


Pocketknife – 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.


Sewing kit – 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.


Shoe 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.


Game 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 rules.


Rulebooks – 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 the game.

 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.

 Brian Goodlander


Brian 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). 

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The Job is Not Over Until the Paperwork is Done

by Brian Goodlander - (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 report.

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.

Send-Off/Ejection 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 the match.

Incident Report - 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 proper administrators


Brian 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). 

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How Does This Happen?- The Physical and Psychological Dynamics of Crowd Behavior

by Brian Goodlander - (published in Referee Magazine) - 10/00


I 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

The 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.

Another 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.

The 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. 

If 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 matches.

When 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.


Brian 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). 

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Staying Constructive While on the Sidelines

by Brian Goodlander - (published in Referee Magazine)- 7/00


During 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 around you.

To 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!

As 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 the sunshine.

Now 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.

Just 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.


Brian 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 Association (SWOSOA). 

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What Flips Your Switch?

by Brian Goodlander - (published in Referee Magazine) - 7/00


“Hey 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.

I 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 focus.

The 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 right call?

I 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. 

The 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!


Brian 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 Association (SWOSOA). 

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The Laws of Association Football - as set forth by the players and coaches (humor)

Guide for Referees (we already know the rules)

The Laws of the Game:

  1. 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 immediately.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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 calls them.

    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 allowed.)

    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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. Law X - Method of Scoring

    A goal is scored if the majority of the ball crosses the line.

  11. 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 offside.

  12. 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 this ruling.

    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 IFK.

    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 "high kicking".

    A player may not move if he is standing in front of the goalkeeper.

  13. 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 again.

    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.

  14. Law XIV - Penalty Kick

    It was probably a bad call anyway.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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 retaken.

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.

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In 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 trick.

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 win?

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 principle.

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 outcome.

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 game.

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

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Some 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 times.

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 Laws.

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 decision.

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 players.

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

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Random 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 changes.

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 match.

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 specific match.

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 of sitting.

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

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Dealing 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 financial reasons.

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:

bulletKnow the Laws
bulletBe physically fit/run/remain close to play
bulletUnderstand the game/adjust to match demands
bulletRespect players, team officials, and spectators
bulletCommunicate expectations to players and team officials
bulletProtect players from injury
bulletDeal with players who consistently foul
bulletRefrain 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 skills. __________

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 criticism.

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. __________

Communicate Expectations

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 effective. __________

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 them.

Mike "Skipper" Goblet
Cogito ergo Arbitro
Member of the Masters of Mayhem

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Improving 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 greatest responsibility.

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 considerations.

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 brigade. YMMV.

Mike "Skipper" Goblet
Cogito ergo Arbitro
Member of the Masters of Mayhem
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Mechanics and Interpretation of Play Action

Dear Friends:

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 eager student.

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 continually display.

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 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 intelligently.

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.


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.


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 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 comes ...


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 dancers.)

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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Protecting 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 crisis.

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 paramount.

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 of them.

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 referee).

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 harder.)

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.

Cameron's Diamond

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 cards.

* 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 will happen

- 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 is possible:

"... 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 stoppage."

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.

* Courage

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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