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2010 Referee Week In Review - Week 20

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 20 – Ending August 15, 2010
The ability of a referee to feel the game and piece together the various scenarios in a game (much like building a puzzle) has been reviewed in multiple “Week In Reviews” during the past two and a half seasons. This feel and the ability to piece together the big picture is one of the vital aspects of being a top-class referee. This version of the “Week In Review” will examine four clips requiring both feel and an understanding of the big picture to successfully navigate each scenario and make the optimum decision (guided by the Laws of the Game).

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


Persistent Infringement: Putting the Pieces Together

Persistent infringement occurs when a player repeatedly commits fouls or certain other infringements. It is not necessary for the multiple fouls to be the same or merely direct free kick fouls. Nor is there a set number of fouls required for the referee to decide that a player is guilty of persistent infringement. Infringements must, however, be among those covered in Law 12 – Fouls and Misconduct or involve repeated violations of Law 14 – The Penalty Kick.

Note: FIFA’s “Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees” states: There is no specific number of infringements which constitutes “persistence” or the presence of a pattern – this is entirely a matter of judgment and must be determined in the context of effective game management.

Although each foul is considered for its own merit (whether it is careless, reckless or involves excessive force), it is important that a referee feel and recognize that a pattern of play or behavior by an individual is unfolding. As the pattern unfolds, the referee should look for opportunities to warn the player (take preventative action) that an issue or trend with their play has been identified. On the other hand, if the pattern is quick and blatant, the warning may be omitted and the referee should take immediate action. Once again, this is about the referee’s feel for the match and an understanding of:

  • What the game needs at the moment;
  • What the player needs at the moment; and
  • Where the game is headed.

All of these components come together and are pieces of the big picture puzzle. There is no magic formula regarding persistent infringement, just the referee’s ability to see how the pieces connect and how their connection will impact the game’s path and, ultimately, game control.

Note: When determining whether there is persistent infringement, the referee should also consider fouls where advantage was applied.

Video Clip 1: Columbus at Real Salt Lake (2:55)
This clip involves a series or pattern of fouls by the same player occurring in the first 32 minutes of the game (2:55, 24:20 and 31:46). While each individual foul is not a cautionable offense, the combination of the three fouls should result in a caution to the player for persistent infringement.

Two of the fouls are borderline cautionable or reckless while the third is just a simple careless foul (24:20). Through a feel for the game, the referee should recognize that the same player is involved in each of the fouls. The referee should also piece together that two of the fouls are borderline reckless (cautionable). However, the combination of all three fouls (the big picture) should be indication to the referee that the player is guilty of persistent infringement.

  • First foul
    The first foul committed by the player occurs at 2:35. It is early in the game. This foul is somewhere between careless and reckless (somewhere between merely a foul or a foul accompanied by a yellow card). As a consequence, the referee has options in dealing with it and deciding whether to caution or not. If the referee decides not to caution, the situation presents the referee with the opportunity to send a “broadcast message” with a strong verbal and visual presence/message that radiates to the other players.

    The referee displays urgency by moving quickly to the spot of the foul. This is vital given the foul is committed in front of the team benches. As he approaches, he has a quick word with the fouler but spends more time admonishing two other players. A stronger message sent to the fouler would send a more convincing signal to him and, thus, be more preventative and possibly better channel the player’s future actions. Notice how the referee indicates (points to his eyes) to his nearside assistant referee (AR) and fourth official to watch the other players as he leaves the spot of the foul to communicate with two other players.
  • Second foul
    At 24:20, the player commits his second foul. This is a simple, careless foul. However, the referee should register that this is the second foul committed by the same player in the first 25 minutes. This information needs to be stored for future reference and to assist the referee in identifying the pattern of persistence.
  • Third foul
    The third foul is committed seven minutes after the player’s last foul. This foul, by itself, fringes on reckless. However, the referee decides that it is merely careless in nature. At this point, the referee needs to put the pieces of the puzzle together in order to form a picture. The picture (three fouls, two of which are borderline cautionable) should indicate that the player has earned a yellow card (for persistent infringement) as a result of his pattern of play.

Not every player who commits three fouls requires a caution for persistent infringement. Three is not the magic number. Ultimately, factors like the timing of the fouls, the aggressiveness of the fouls and the type of fouls committed play a factor in the referee’s determination as to whether persistent infringement exist. But, a player similar to the one in this situation, should be a candidate for a caution given the fact that he has committed a series or pattern of fouls as well as the aggressive nature (borderline reckless) of two of the three fouls. The referee must be able to recognize and recall the prior actions of the player and then sift through how those actions are impacting the game. This is the feel referees need to exhibit as part of their game management tool set.

Dissent or Emotional Response

A soccer game is full of conversation. Conversation between players, between players and the referee, between coaches and players, between coaches and referees. Conversation is acceptable as long as it is not personal, public, or provocative and as long as it is done in a professional, controlled manner. In 2009, U.S. Soccer published the “Dissent” directive intended to guide match officials, at all levels, with addressing dissent (yellow card) and language/gestures that could be interpreted as offensive, insulting or abusive (red card).

Referees need to distinguish between and find the appropriate balance between each of the following: A conversation, an emotional response, dissent as well as offensive, insulting or abusive language. Deciphering between the various levels requires a non-emotional referee. It requires a referee who has the ability to view the situation from the outside and be able to “see” how it looks to others and may be perceived by others.

Dissent is committed by words, actions (including gestures) or a combination of the two. To evaluate dissent, focus on:

  • Content: What is said or done.
  • Loudness: The extent to which the dissent can be seen or heard widely.
  • Is it directed at an official: Includes ARs and the fourth official.

The objective of managing dissent is to ensure the authority of the officials is maintained, ensure the spirit of the game is kept and to reduce the likelihood that such behavior becomes widespread.

Referees need to be able to utilize their command presence and personality (including communicative skills) to defuse, calm or neutralize emotional situations. Through experience, referees develop these skill sets and increase the tools they can call upon to address and respond to emotional situations.

Video Clip 2: Los Angeles at New York (58:08)
The home team is losing 1-0. They are playing a team that is first in the standings. There is just over 30 minutes left to equalize. They have been pressuring but unable to score.

This is pressure that referees face on a regular basis and at multiple times in a game. As the pressure mounts, so do player emotions. Every decision becomes increasingly scrutinized. Players fight for every advantage. Referees must have their finger on the temperature of the game and realize that, as factors change in a game, so will the attitudes/emotions of the players and coaches. Consequently, match officials must be prepared to prevent the escalation of emotionalism and find tools to calm volatile situations.

This clip provides a good example of a referee who attempts preventative measures but is forced to caution a player for dissent as the player persists in verbal and visual dissent that:

  • Extends beyond emotionalism through persistence.
  • Is clearly visible and can be seen by spectators and other players.
  • Erodes the authority of the referee if not dealt with.

A player is upset over a correct foul call. The player exhibits his frustration by confronting the referee. The player’s body language (including hand gestures) and facial expression clearly portray his anger. In fact, an opponent attempts to intervene but is dismissed by the angered player.

The referee responds in a preventative fashion prior to deciding to caution the player for dissent. What positive steps does the referee take to defuse the situation and provide the dissenting player some leeway to express his emotions?

  • Remains calm and controlled.
  • Makes eye contact with the player which alerts the player to the referee’s seriousness.
  • Initially holds his ground and then attempts to move away from the player in a manner that does not diminish his authority but acts as a preventative measure and increases the visual aspect of the dissent if the player continues to follow.
  • Uses hand gestures not once but twice. The hands convey a “stop” message that can be seen by the player and others.
  • Draws the final “line in the sand” by increasing his intensity and by a stronger hand gesture.
  • Takes a step back prior to issuing/displaying the yellow card. This creates space between the referee and the player and ensures the referee does not enter the player’s body space and possibly increase the confrontation.

By not responding to the referee’s attempt to defuse the situation and prevent the issuance of the yellow card, the player’s actions move from merely an emotional response to dissent by both word and action.

Overall, good work by the referee in allowing a professional player, in a pressure situation, to have an emotional response. The referee then shows good discrimination, after allowing some emotion and after taking preventative measures, in determining that the emotion continues to persist and has moved to dissent by word and action.

Free Kick Management

Due to the importance of free kicks in the “danger zone” (30-35 yards of the goal) as a result of the increased scoring opportunity from set plays initiated in this area, the job of the referee in managing free kick restarts has become increasing difficult. Players in the defensive wall work hard to cheat the game by refusing to move to the required 10 yards from the ball. Referees have a responsibility to the game to ensure that 10 yards is obtained and maintained until the ball is put into play (when it is kicked or moved by the attacking team). Nine yards is not good enough. The Laws of the Game require the defending team be 10 yards from the ball on “ceremonial” restarts and referees should work diligently to ensure that this is implemented.

Note: U.S. Soccer has published a directive entitled "Free Kick Management” which provides guidance to officials relative to managing “quick” and “ceremonial” free kicks. Match officials should be familiar with the differences between these two type of free kick restarts and how their job is impacted by each.

There are many effective methods that referees can utilize to move the wall the required distance at the taking of a “ceremonial free kick.” Here are a few keys to successful execution:

  • Ensure the ball is placed properly and do not allow the attacking team to move it. Do not turn your back to the ball.
  • Use the “wait for the whistle” signal.
  • Move to the 10 yard location for the wall. This can be done intuitively or by quickly back stepping to the appropriate distance from the ball.
  • Ensure 10 yards is obtained from all directions.
  • Attempt to face the “drop zone” as the wall is being managed. Do not turn your back to the majority of the players who are off the ball and jostling for an advantage.
  • Make eye contact with the players in the wall as you move to the appropriate restart position. This acts as a warning and shows the players the seriousness of your approach.
  • Whistle for the restart.

There is a lot for referees to manage on “ceremonial restarts.” Yet, it is critical that the referee have a practiced routine that minimizes the down time (the time the ball is out-of-play).

Video Clip 3: Los Angeles at New York (79:21)
The referee has awarded a free kick approximately 31 yards from the goal (in the “danger zone”). The referee takes an effective position to manage the restart as he lends his presence to the “drop zone” while being able to maintain visual vigilance on the two players in the wall and action around the ball.

As the free kick is taken, the referee correctly identifies a handling offense committed by a defender in the wall. The defender jumps up from the wall and deliberately handles the ball as defined in “Week In Review 16.” Once the referee has called the foul, he moves to the restart position (the location of the handling offense) and begins the process of implementing a “ceremonial free kick.”

Observe the referee’s process for managing the “ceremonial” restart:

  • The referee back steps to measure or delineate the required 10 yard distance from the ball.
  • As the referee back steps he is maintaining a view of the “drop zone” as well as the ball. This includes the time that he is at the end of the wall encouraging them to move the appropriate distance.
  • Upon getting the 10 yard distance, the referee moves across the front of the wall and not only makes eye contact with the defenders but also visually reinforces their responsibilities with hand gestures.
  • The referee takes an effective restart position that allows him to manage the wall, the kicker on the ball and the “drop zone” without interfering with players.

The referee could have improved his effectiveness by ensuring the defensive player to the wall’s right was further back. Referee’s can use the field markings (football lines) or grass cuttings to assist in executing the 10 yard distance.

Referee Urgency: The Game Needed It

Feeling the game comes in many forms whether it be identifying persistent infringement or sensing trouble spots or trouble situations in a match. The ability to anticipate these “flash points” or warning signs is vital to preventative officiating. For example, feeling a situation or “flash point” can lead to a referee modifying his position or to initiating communication with a player(s) all in the hopes of prevention.

A referee’s presence is often a key component of urgency. The speed and energy a referee uses to get to a spot or to be around the ball or play can play a vital role in helping to channel player behavior in a positive, preventative manner. Players can feel or sense a referee’s presence and this can influence their decision-making process.

Video Clip 4: Houston at New England (90:00 + 1:56)
Almost two minutes into added time, a throw-in is being taken by the team winning 1-0. The throw-in is deep into their attacking half. The thrower plays the ball toward the corner flag. This is a warning sign or potential “flash point” for the referee. The referee senses that the attacking team will work to hold the ball near the corner flag in an attempt to waste time, get a corner kick, get another throw in or be the benefactor of a foul.

As the clip unfolds and the throw in is played toward the corner, the referee can be observed increasing his work rate. He is not standing and watching. He is moving with the ball feeling a potential “flash point.” This anticipation allows him to be close when calling a foul and then the referee exhibits even more urgency as he recognizes a second “flash point:” Two players on the ground and attempting to get up.

Anticipating a potential flair up, the referee sprints to the spot of the foul where the players can see him and sense his presence. Although the referee’s urgency and movement results in his being in an nonstandard position, it is a position that makes sense for that moment. It is a position that the game and the players require the referee to take. It is a position that is taken due to its preventative nature.

Looking Forward – Week 21
Last week, the focus was on completion of the match report and ensuring it was accurate and that the entire officiating team reviewed and confirmed the information contained in the report. This week, the focus is on team rosters (line up sheet) and ensuring they are completed accurately by the teams at the time of submission.

Match officials should ensure the eleven starters are clearly indicated and that the substitutions are correctly listed. Names and numbers must be legible. Officials must know the rules of competition. Line up sheets should be signed by a team representative and any changes to the official line up sheet after they are turned in should be made by team personnel and initialed.

Match officials (including fourth officials) should not make any changes to the line up and should not make any assumptions about eligible players or who is starting or who is a substitute. All changes should be made by team management. If rosters have been exchanged between the teams and/or given to press individuals, each of these groups should be notified of any modifications.

Note: Rules of competition determine cutoff times for changes to rosters.