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2010 Referee Week In Review Week 11


The Referee Week in Review is designed to address the issues facing referees at all levels by using video highlights from professional games as well as the U.S. National Teams. Written by U.S. Soccer Director of Referee Development Paul Tamberino and U.S. Soccer Manager of Assessment and Training Brian Hall, the Referee Week in Review will highlight specific areas of focus and current U.S. Soccer initiatives designed to improve performance and aid in the development of officials across the country.

Week In Review 2010
Week 11 – Ending June 6, 2010
An excellent example of a referee promoting attacking play with a fantastic advantage that leads to a goal will be reviewed as part of Week 11. The referee was able to use U.S. Soccer advantage directives to inject flow into the match and provide an entertaining moment for players and spectators. In addition, a referee makes a good decision regarding “contact above the shoulder” in which the hand was used as a tool and not as a weapon. Finally, a case in which a MLS referee correctly issued a red card for a challenge that involved excessive force due to the tardiness of the challenge and the location of the ball when the boot on the end of a straight leg connects with an opponent.

Week In Review Podcast: For each “Week In Review,” U.S. Soccer produces a related podcast that covers the topics of the week.


Advantage and the “4 P Principle” – Law 5

In 2008, U.S. Soccer introduced the concept of the “4 P Principle” as it relates to the application of advantage. Law 5 – The Referee, empowers the referee to apply advantage when the game requires it based upon the referee’s “feel” and/or “read” of the game. The application of advantage permits the referee to allow play to continue when the team against which the foul has been committed will actually benefit from the referee not stopping play.

The use of advantage is strictly limited to infringements of Law 12 – Fouls and Misconduct. The decision whether to penalize the original offense and not apply advantage must be made within a few (two to three) seconds after the offense is committed. The referee, therefore, is given these few seconds to determine whether the advantage has materialized or not. After these few seconds, the decision to penalize the original offense may not be taken. As the situation warrants, the referee should use these two to three seconds to evaluate the potential for an advantage and if it does not clearly result (materialize), the referee should award the free kick for the original foul.

The referee should evaluate the atmosphere of the game at the time and use the “4 P Principle” to decide whether advantage should be applied. The components of the “4 P Principle” are:

  • Possession of ball
    Active and credible control of the ball by the attacking team/player. There can be no advantage clause without possession of the ball by the attacking team.
  • Potential for attack
    The ability to continue a credible, immediate and dangerous attack on the opponent’s goal.
  • Personnel
    The skill of the attackers and the attacking team’s numerical advantage in front of the ball.
  • Proximity to opponent’s goal
    Relates to the closeness to goal. The closer to the opponent’s goal (less distance to goal), the more effective the advantage and the greater the potential.

U.S. Soccer’s “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game” publication provides further analysis of the application of advantage.

Video Clip 1: Philadelphia at Chicago (73:13)
At 73:21 of the clip, the defending team commits a clear foul. Despite the foul occurring 40 to 45 yards from goal and in the wide channel of the field, the referee uses the “4 P Principle” to determine that the application of advantage is warranted. The result of the referee applying advantage is exciting attacking play and, ultimately, a goal. The referee has used the advantage clause to provide flow to the game and to promote entertaining attacking soccer.

By applying the components of the “4 P Principle,” the referee is successful in the application of advantage. The following summarizes the advantage components for this play:

  1. Possession of ball
    The attacking team will have active control of the ball with no defenders in close pursuit or able to challenge for possession of the ball.
  2. Potential for attack
    The attack, immediately following the foul, is credible and immediate. The only player able to retrieve the ball after the foul is an attacker in the wide channel. The attack is dangerous due to the speed of the play and the fact the defending team must retreat to get goal side of the ball.
  3. Personnel
    There are three attackers rushing into the penalty area to support the wide player with the ball. The skill of the attackers certainly make this a credible attack to goal.
  4. Proximity to opponent’s goal
    Despite the original distance to goal of the foul (40 to 45 yards), there is a lot of real estate (space) in front of the attacker who is tracking down the ball. This player is able to exploit the space and advance the ball into the attacking third of the field.

Contact Above the Shoulder: Normal and Acceptable Contact

Tool vs. WeaponLast week’s version of the “Week In Review” explored the tool vs. weapon criteria as it relates to contact above the shoulder (contact between the hand/arm/elbow in the head/facial and neck areas). It was stressed that not every contact between the hand/arm/elbow requires misconduct and, at times, such contact could be part of normal play and not even require a foul call on the part of the referee.

Remember, the more the hand/arm/elbow is used as a tool, the less likely the referee is to have misconduct (red or yellow card) or even potentially a foul. The “Contact Above the Shoulder: Tool vs. Weapon” pictorial should help illustrate the concept.

Video Clip 2: Philadelphia at Chicago (19:12)
This clip shows the hand being used as a tool since it involves normal game contact between two opposing players. Although the hand makes contact with the facial region of the opponent, it is inadvertent contact and part of normal contact or actions to play the ball at this level of play.

Watch the eyes of the player in the red jersey as he leaps to head the ball. They are focused on the ball, not the opponent. Second, the opponent challenging from behind, initiates the contact by jumping up and into the player on the red team. The arm of the red team player goes back, for balance, as contact is made with him. The differentiation between this arm being swung back and it going back due to the situation forced upon the player is vital to correctly interpreting this aerial challenge and deciding that no foul has occurred.

It is possible that the referee may decide that a careless foul has occurred due to the contact. Although this would not necessarily be the optimal decision, it would be a decision that could be supported due to the inadvertent injury suffered by the player jumping from behind. As a result, depending upon the referee’s read of the challenge as well as the “big picture” or atmosphere of the match, either no foul or a simple foul would be appropriate in this instance.

Excessive Force Tackle and Red Card

Excessive force:

  • The player has far exceeded the use of force necessary to make a fair play for the ball and has placed the opponent in considerable danger of bodily harm.
  • The opponent’s safety is endangered and is also in danger of being injured.
  • Totally beyond the bounds of normal play.

Any challenge that involves excessive force must result in a red card for serious foul play or violent conduct. A foul committed while tackling an opponent with little or no concern for the opponent’s safety shall be cause for the player to be sent from the field. In making this consideration, the referee should evaluate:

  • Whether the tackler’s feet are on the ground in an attempt to play the ball or raised to go over the ball and injure the opponent.
  • The mode of contact as well as the area of contact as discussed in “Week In Review 9” are critical components in determining whether excessive force exists or not.

Understanding the definition of excessive force and how such challenges differ from those that would be defined as reckless (yellow card) is a critical success factor for a referee at any level.

Remember, reckless means that the player has made unnatural movements designed to intimidate an opponent or to gain an unfair advantage. This means that a player has acted in complete disregard to the danger to or the consequences for his opponent when executing the challenge.

There is often a fine line between excessive force and reckless but referees must be able to visually observe the warning signs or flash points associated with the challenge and be able to differentiate between the two. So much time is spent examining/evaluating criteria (like SIAPOA) and video examples of various types/classes of challenges in an attempt to streamline decision making when there are no gray areas.

Video Clip 3: Kansas City at Toronto (25:50)
The referee correctly identifies the exposed cleats and late challenge as one that involves the use of excessive force because it far exceeds the force or aggressiveness needed to make a fair play for the ball. Additionally, the opponent’s safety is endangered and he is very susceptible to injury due to the mode of contact (the hard surface of the bottom of the boots). The tackler leads with his cleats and connects with the opponent’s thigh with a straight leg. Look at the location of the ball. Image 1 shows that the ball is nowhere near the tackler when contact is made. The ball is on the ground and the challenge is late and nowhere in the location of the ball. Image 1 provides a good visual of the location of the ball as the challenge connects with the opponent. A red card for serious foul play must be issued.

Image 1In this clip, the referee does a good job to place himself in a good line of vision to the play so that he can correctly evaluate the contact and the severity/aggressiveness of the foul. The referee’s position allows him to see between the players as the challenge is initiated.

Looking Forward – Week 12
Match officials must be prepared as the games this upcoming week mark the last before MLS goes on a two week hiatus for the World Cup. Knowing a break is looming, players and teams may take a different approach or attitude toward their last match before a long rest. Referees must not let their guard down and remain focused. The energy, intensity and urgency of the referee team must exceed that of the players and teams.