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A yellow card

2010 Referee Week In Review - Week 18

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 18 – Ending August 1, 2010
This version of the “Week In Review” will examine two missed foul decisions that impacted games. One decision is from a PDL playoff game and leads to the tying goal (to force overtime), while the second is from an MLS match and results in the awarding of a penalty kick. We will review both decisions as it is crucial that referees are able to interpret the fouls correctly and take the correct action to ensure game influencing decisions such as these two are avoided. Finally, a challenge that meets all the criteria for excessive force and endangering the safety of an opponent will be reviewed.

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


Foul or Not?: Law 12 – Fouls and Misconduct

Player offenses can be classified into three classifications according to the Laws of the Game. Match officials need to understand these classifications and their associated definitions in order to correctly interpret challenges and ensure the right punishment is handed out by the referee team.

According to the Laws of the Game, foul tackles fall within one of three classifications:

  1. Careless: No formal disciplinary action is required – foul only (direct free kick)
    From the Law: “The player has shown a lack of attention or consideration when making a challenge or that he acted without precaution.” In other words, the player has not exercised due caution in making a play. This is normally exhibited as a miscalculation of strength or a stretch of judgment by the player committing the foul. Depending upon the severity of the “careless” tackle, a strong admonishment may be required.
  2. Reckless: A yellow card is required (direct free kick)
    From the Law: “The player has acted with complete disregard to the danger to, or the consequences for, his opponent.” This means the challenge is clearly outside the norm for fair play. The more severe the “reckless” tackle, the more the referee needs to consider a strong admonishment (broadcast message) to accompany the displaying of the yellow card.
  3. Excessive Force: A red card is required (direct free kick)
    From the Law: “The player has far exceeded the necessary use of force and is in danger of injuring his opponent.” In these situations, the challenge places the opponent in considerable danger of bodily harm. Keys are that the player faces injury and his safety is endangered.

These classifications are guidelines for match officials. For them to be implemented correctly, referees must:

  • Be well positioned with a clear view of offenses.
  • Possess a feel for the game and what the game requires or players require at that moment. An understanding of the “big picture” is vital when making decisions that provide officiating teams “options.”
  • At time, seek assistance from fellow match officials when they are not 100 percent certain or their assistant may have a better line of vision.

Video Clip 1: New York at Houston (19:50)
This clip involves a reckless challenge by the player in the orange jersey that goes unpunished and the ensuring play results in the awarding of a penalty kick. The focus of this clip is not on the penalty kick and potential punishment therefore but on how a missed foul can lead to a critical game situation.

The referee is seemingly in a good position to see the challenge in this clip. He is 15 or so yards away from the tackle with a good view. Being in a good position must be supplemented by a feel for the game and an understanding of the classifications of fouls. In this situation, the player in the orange jersey commits a reckless tackle that must be accompanied by a caution for unsporting behavior. What factors make this a reckless tackle:

  • The tackler (orange jersey) leaves both feet.
  • The tackler fails to make contact with the ball.
  • The fouled player (blue jersey) has to stop his run for the ball as he sees the upcoming reckless tackle. By stopping his run, the fouled player lessens the force of the tackle.
  • The tackle is not part of the “norm for play.”
  • The tackler makes the challenge with “complete disregard to the danger or consequences” to his opponent. Consider the “area of contact” by the tackler. The tackler is fortunate that the “mode of contact” was with the top of the foot and not with the exposed cleats which would have increased the likelihood of excessive force.

Given these factors, the referee must stop play and award a direct free kick to the fouled player’s team.

Observe, at 20:15 of the clip, how the fourth official attempts to visually get the referee’s attention by taking a positive step of moving along the touchline and making a subtle hand/arm gesture. The fourth official displays good teamwork and feel for the game. By moving along the touchline, the fourth official attempts to stay in the line of vision (or peripheral vision) of the referee for as long as possible thereby increasing the likelihood of the referee seeing/sensing his urgency.

Overall, the referee must see and feel this challenge. Since the challenge occurs in direct view of the fourth official, the referee should not hesitate to make eye contact with the fourth official. This is important as the manner in which the challenge is committed should provide the referee with a “gut” feeling that something outside of a normal, fair challenge has occurred. This “gut” feeling should lead the referee to briefly look to the well-positioned fourth official for some silent input.

Note: Fourth officials should look for positive ways to convey information to referees during the run of play especially when communication devices are not available or not functioning. Visual signals to the referee can be effective tools in communicating the fourth official’s perspective. These visual tools should be subtle and not done in a manner that usurps the referee’s authority. Urgency in body movement or gestures (outside the normal fourth official stand-at-attention look) by the fourth official can convey a message to the referee without drawing too much attention from the technical areas or spectators.

Video Clip 2: Mississippi Brilla vs. Houston Leones (115:00)
In this regional semifinal of the USL PDL league, a goal is scored from the free kick and challenge on the goalkeeper with approximate five minutes left in the second overtime. This goal ties the game and the teams go to kicks from the penalty mark to determine which team will advance.

There are several factors or flash points that make this a “careless” challenge and require that the referee give the defending team a direct free kick:

  • The attacker initiates the contact. The attacker jumps into the goalkeeper, not straight up. The goalkeeper, on the other hand, has a set position waiting for the ball to come down and jumps straight up. Image 1 shows how the attacker’s contact is forcing the goalkeeper’s body to move to the right thus influencing his ability to play the ball. This is a miscalculation of strength and judgment on the part of the attacker. The strength of the jump into the keeper influences the keeper’s ability to play the ball.
  • The attacker’s right arm goes up and into the goalkeeper on the same side the keeper is attempting to play the ball. Image 1 as well as the video clip illustrate how the arm of the attacker in negatively impacting the goalkeeper’s opportunity to play the ball.
  • The attacker never plays the ball. Although the attacker is looking at the ball, he is required to play it and cannot prevent his opponent from playing it. The timing of the attacker’s jump results in miscalculation and is a misjudgment of the timing resulting in the attacker not playing the ball.

Image 1The referee must award a direct free kick for the goalkeeper’s team and disallow the goal as a “careless” foul has occurred.

Aside from reading the flash points of the challenge and understanding the application of a “careless” challenge, the referee could have created a more optimal line of vision to the play by taking a better position at the taking of the free kick restart. By starting wider, with fewer players outside of his vision and to his left, the referee has more options to adjust his position as the ball travels to the drop zone over the approximately 50 yards. This position is a more flexible as it gives the referee a better opportunity to adjust his position and maintain the optimal line of vision. By moving as the ball is played, the referee can ensure he has a clear, unobstructed view of the drop zone.

Communication: The “Old School Way”

Long before there were beeper flags and communication devices to aid in managing soccer games, officials relied on visual cues and verbal exchanges to communicate and send messages as the game required. It is vital to ensure that, with the introduction of beeper flags and communication devices, match officials do not forget the importance of “old school” tools to aid in communicating. Remember, technology can break down and cease to function or fail to communicate the full message. Technology has provided very useful tools but it is not fail proof.

When sending a message, especially a critical message, do not assume it has been received unless there is a confirmation returned. Use of visual and face-to-face verbal exchanges can be critical in supplementing technology. A few examples:

  • A communication system may be functioning properly but the referee is faced with so much commotion that the referee does not hear what is being communicated. Use of visual indications by the assistant referee (AR) can help get the referee’s attention. Move to a location that is better seen by the referee (in his line of vision). Even a quick shout of the referee’s name may be able to get his attention.
  • A foul occurs that requires some form of misconduct and the foul is clearly observed by the AR or fourth official. The fastest method to communicate is the silent visual signal of patting the appropriate pocket. This can be an instantaneous message and does not require the effort to send a message via technology.
  • A challenge occurs that the referee is uncertain is a foul or not. Instead of trying to communicate electronically, quick eye contact with the nearside AR or fourth official and then a responding nod or shake of the head or a hand gesture can quickly and efficient send a message as to whether the foul needs to be called or not. Clip 1 provides an appropriate example of this type of communication.

If an AR has vital, game critical information for the referee and is uncertain whether the referee is making visual contact or is hearing them through the communication devices, they should not rely on technology. An alternative method would be for the AR to isolate himself in an area where the referee has an unobstructed view, sending a “silent signal” to the referee. During this time, eye contact with the referee should be as constant as the situation permits. Calling the referee’s name out may also aid in getting the referee’s attention. The referee must also grasp the opportunity to make visual contact with the AR since, just the players’ reactions, send a message that something else may have occurred.

Note: The various modes of communication and the effective use of each should be addressed in the referee’s pregame meeting. The referee team should address topics like the processes behind getting the referee’s attention when the AR or fourth official has important information.

U.S. Soccer’s 2009 directive entitled “Assistant Referee Involvement” should be referenced for more advice and the handling of “game critical” situations.

Video Clip 3: Chicago at Los Angeles (64:47)
“Week In Review 9” and “Week In Review 13” both addressed the concept of mode of contact and area of contact in evaluating challenges/tackles to measure whether they meet the excessive force criteria.

The tackle in this clip, clearly meets the criteria for “excessive force” not only in terms of the aggressive nature and speed (lunging at the opponent) but in terms of the mode of contact (hard surface of the cleats) and the area of contact (direct contact above the ball to the shin). The referee must recognize that the challenge should be punished with a red card for serious foul play. Images 2 and 3 provide a clear depiction of the seriousness of the tackle.

In this case, the AR clearly sees the tackle and has a red card. The AR is using the communication device to alert the referee of his perspective. Unfortunately, the referee is not receiving the message. After attempting to get the referee’s attention via technology and having received no confirmation, the AR should move to a position where he is in the line of sight of the referee and not obstructed by players. The AR can call out the referee’s name to aid in getting his attention. Taking one or two steps onto the field may be needed as a last resort if that will improve the referee’s ability to see you.

Once the referee has made eye contact and recognizes the urgency in the ARs body language, the AR should motion for the referee and encourage a quick conference and exchange of information. At this point, the AR should communicate the appropriate information and, then, leave the final decision to the referee. This solution incorporates the “old school” techniques of visual messages and face-to-face verbal communication.

Image 2     Image 3

In this clip, play is stopped and the referee team has sufficient time to communicate visually and verbally. This is an opportune time for the referee to make eye contact with all members of the officiating crew.

Looking Forward – Week 19
Communication. Effective communication. For communication to be effective, it must be received and understood. If it is not received, then other methods of sending the message must be explored. The sender needs to have a confirmation to ensure the message is received. Most often the confirmation comes with a verbal or visual response back but it can also be sent via action – the referee changing a decision or making the decision communicated by the AR or fourth official. Do not assume a message has been received unless you have a confirmation. This is vital in dealing with “game critical” issues but is also important when the timing of the situation permits a message to be sent without negatively affecting the game.