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2010 Referee Week In Review Week 3

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 3 – ending April 11, 2010
Week 3 of the MLS season presented numerous opportunities for match officials to demonstrate their knowledge of the Laws of the Game as well as their understanding of the spirit of the game and law. Two situations will be examined this week that require officials to understand both the letter of the law as well as the spirit of the law. An interesting situation involving interfering with the goalkeeper’s distribution of the ball will be reviewed as will a referee’s management of a free kick just outside the penalty area. Both incidents require an attentive referee who understands the intricacies of the law.

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


Interfering with Goalkeeper Distribution: Law 12

Within FIFAs “Interpretation of the laws of the game and guidelines for referees,” the topic of “offenses committed against goalkeepers” is addressed. There are three areas mentioned relative to such offenses:

  1. It is an offense for a player to prevent a goalkeeper from releasing the ball from his hands.
  2. A player must be penalized for playing in a dangerous manner if he kicks or attempts to kick the ball when the goalkeeper is in the process of releasing it.
  3. It is an offense to restrict the movement of the goalkeeper by unfairly impeding him (e.g. at the taking of a corner kick).

The Laws of the Game instruct the referee to award an indirect free kick to the opposing team if, in the opinion of the referee, a player “prevents the goalkeeper from releasing the ball from his hands.”

U.S. Soccer has further explained and supplemented FIFAs position with directions provided in the 2009-10 publication, “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game.” The guidance provided in this publication states:

“An opponent may not interfere with or block the goalkeeper’s release of the ball into play. While players have the right to maintain a position achieved during the normal course of play, they may not try to block the goalkeeper’s movement while he or she is holding the ball or do anything which hinders, interferes with, or blocks the goalkeeper who is throwing or punting the ball back into play. An opponent does not violate the Law, however, if the player takes advantage of a ball released by the goalkeeper directly to him or her, in his or her direction, or deflecting of him or her nonviolently.”

On April 14, 2010, U.S. Soccer published a position paper which also provides an overview of “Interfering with the Goalkeeper’s Release of the Ball” and serves to supplement the guidance provided in this “Week In Review.”

What does all this mean to match officials?

A player who moves in front of, or attempts trickery to hamper or influence the goalkeeper’s distribution and release of the ball from his hands (from any direction), should be judged to have committed an offense. Feigning or trying to negatively influence a goalkeeper as he attempts to release the ball is NOT permitted. The closer the proximity of the opponent, the increased likelihood that the goalkeeper has been interfered with.

Note: Contact with the ball or the goalkeeper is not needed for an offense to occur. The mere act of attempting to play the ball or influence the goalkeeper’s actions as the goalkeeper releases the ball is a violation.

Note: Helpful to referees is the idea of goalkeeper “possession” of the ball. While the ball is in the goalkeeper’s “possession,” the keeper may not be challenged and the ball may not be played by an opponent. “Possession” includes when the goalkeeper is:

  • Bouncing the ball on the ground. This includes the act of releasing the ball to drop kick it for distribution purposes.
  • Throwing the ball into the air.

This means that an opponent cannot hinder the goalkeeper’s attempt to distribute the ball as the goalkeeper releases it to punt it or drop kick it.

In “Week In Review 22” from 2009, the concept of goalkeeper possession was examined. This will help frame the importance of possession as it relates to challenges on the keeper.

Referees should be aware of cases in which a player attempts to interfere with or block the goalkeeper’s release of the ball, from his possession, into play but is unsuccessful. In such cases, the referee can decide to continue with play if he determines that the release of the ball was not negative affected or impacted. However, the referee needs to use their command presence to address the issue with the goalkeeper’s opponent at the next appropriate moment in the game.

Video Clip 1: D.C. United at Philadelphia Union (68:52)
The referee, in this clip, is faced with an attacker who uses trickery (feigning or simulating) to interfere with and negatively influence the goalkeeper’s release of the ball from his hands.

On the replay, carefully observe the attacker’s action. He steps toward the keeper twice. The second attempt is calculated and timed precisely to correspond to the goalkeeper’s release of the ball from his hands. This should be interpreted as:

“Hindering, interfering with, or blocking the goalkeeper as the keeper attempts to release the ball from his hands.”

Using the spirit of the Law as a reference, this clip involves:

  • Preventing a goalkeeper from releasing the ball from his hands; and
  • Restricting the movement of the goalkeeper by unfairly impeding him.

As a result, an indirect free kick should be awarded against the attacker. A caution, for unsporting behavior, is not mandated in this instance and is up to the discretion of the referee. The referee has the option to decide upon the appropriate action: Show distain, warn or caution. The options will depend upon the atmosphere of the game as well as the referee deciding whether the game or the player needs the caution. Because there are options and this is not a 100 percent misconduct situation, the referee must ensure his response matches the needs of the game and the player.

Note: Due to potential incidents like this, it is critical that referees do not turn their back to the ball when it is in the goalkeeper’s possession and opponents are in the vicinity. Assistant referees (ARs) must also be cognizant of such situations and help the referee manage potential infringements of the Law.

Free Kick Management – Referee Involvement

Free Kick ManagementThe management of free kicks on the part of the officiating team is a vital part of the modern game because so many goals result from restarts. The proper execution of free kicks becomes even more important the closer the restart is to the attacking goal (up to 35 yards from the goal). Restarts in this danger zone, require astute management and preventative action on the part of the referee. The diagram at the right, illustrates the danger zone areas. Teams practice restarts in the danger zone. Teams also have free kick specialists who can regularly score goals from this area of the field.

As the 2009 U.S. Soccer directive on “Free Kick and Restart Management” outlined, there are two types of free kicks, each of which has a separate method for managing the associated restart:

  • Quick Free Kick
    The attacking team takes the kick as soon as the ball is properly placed, with no separate signal needed by the referee. The attacking team does not ask for (verbally or visually) the minimum distance to be enforced.
  • Ceremonial Free Kick
    The kick cannot be taken by the attacking team until the referee gives a separate signal – the whistle – under the following circumstances:
    1. The attacking team requests a ceremonial free kick by asking the referee (verbally or visually) for the minimum distance to be enforced.
    2. The referee or AR, with the referee’s acknowledgment, chooses to enforce the distance for game management purposes.

When the situation requires a ceremonial free kick, the referee must make everyone aware that a whistle is required to indicate the restart. This is done by clearly indicating the “wait for the whistle” signal by visually pointing to the whistle no higher than face level and, as appropriate, verbally advising the players in the vicinity to wait for the whistle.

The actions of the referee can also make a free kick ceremonial by the actions that he takes after signaling a foul. Any action by the referee that may be perceived as interfering or being involved with the restart, requires that the free kick become ceremonial.

The U.S. Soccer Referee Department recently released an instructional DVD entitled, “Managing the Free Kick” which explores the concept of referee involvement and how it can play vital role in determining whether a free kick is quick or ceremonial. This DVD is available, at present, through State Directors of Instruction.

The 2009 “Week In Review 22,” also provides guidance relative to “involvement:”

  • The referee verbally or physically (positively using presence) intervenes and gives direction to either the attacking or defending team that may be interpreted as indicating “wait for the whistle.”

Note: A referee, in the “danger zone” who motions to defenders to move back is “involved” as is a referee who begins to move to the 10-yard mark for the wall. Similar actions of “involvement” must result in a ceremonial free kick. Referees must be aware of how their actions are perceived as well as their potential affect.

Note: The referee’s body language and actions can lead players to think a kick is “ceremonial” in nature. A referee must be aware that actions, aside from the “wait for the whistle” signal, may indicate that the restart is ceremonial and a “quick” free kick is no longer an option.

Video Clip 2: Columbus at Dallas (90:00 + 2:00)
The focus of this clip is the referee’s management of the free kick and how the referee’s actions are indications of his involvement and, thus, require the restart to follow the steps associated with a ceremonial free kick.

After the referee whistles a foul, the referee begins moving to the location for the wall (10-yards from the ball). Regardless of whether the attacking team requested the distance or not, the referee’s actions (moving and motioning to the defensive wall) constitute involvement and, therefore, require a ceremonial free kick.

The actions of the referee are confusing and send the wrong message to the defending team. As a result, the defending team is not prepared for the quick restart and the players are not aware that the ball has been put into play. Watch the players in the penalty area. They are not watching the ball and are not prepared because they are awaiting the referee’s signal. Simply, the players are confused by the referee’s misleading signals about whether the kick is ceremonial or quick.

Note: As soon as the referee makes any gesture or movement that may be construed as “involvement,” the referee must immediately make the free kick ceremonial by using the “wait for the whistle” signal. It is the perception (to players, coaches and spectators) of the referee’s actions that is fundamental and important.

Referees must not be influenced by the fact that the unauthorized quick free kick was unsuccessful in generating a goal and, therefore, allow play to continue. Referees are required to immediately stop play if a restart is taken without the necessary signal (whistle) regardless of the outcome and retake the free kick. In this clip, despite the initial stop off the quick free kick, a goal results seconds later – a goal that would have been prevented if the restart was managed correctly (as a ceremonial free kick).

Immediately after the free kick is incorrectly taken, the referee starts to raise his hand to stop play. Although the process leading to the quick restart is improper, as discussed above, the referee should have continued with his thought and followed his gut reaction by stopping the play as soon a he recognized the issue.

How Flow Contributes to Attacking Soccer

Game Management ModelIn 2009, U.S. Soccer introduced the “Game Management Model.” The model’s purpose is to provide a framework for match officials relative to managing and controlling the game. One of the model’s concepts is flow. Flow is:

  • The ability of the referee to manage the game so that the ball is in play by eliminating unnecessary stoppages. By reducing the number of fouls called and by correctly differentiating between the trifling challenges from the careless/reckless fouls, officials can ensure more rhythm to the game.

Note: Every challenge with contact does not mean there is a foul. Much of the contact in a game can trifling, minor or doubtful. A foul must be careless, reckless or involve excessive force. Safe upper body contact is often a good candidate for flow. Simply, all challenges are not fouls.

With the right mix of flow and appropriate foul selection/discrimination, the referee can add to the entertainment value of a game without endangering the safety of the players. Fewer stoppages means the ball is in play longer resulting in the players having more opportunity to display their skills. Remember that flow is variable and often depends upon the age and skill level of the participants.

Video Clip 3: D.C. United at Philadelphia Union (43:12)
The referee identifies two opportunities to enhance the rhythm of the game as he identifies two challenges as trifling, minor or doubtful in nature. The first contact occurs in the defensive third. Both the AR and the referee feel there is merely contact (normal and acceptable contact for this level of play) and no foul (not careless or reckless). By allowing this contact, the ball then advances approximately 30 yards to the middle third of the field. Here, the second challenge occurs.

This challenge (at 39:16) involves upper body contact as two players use their bodies to win the ball. Once again, this is normal contact for this level of play and the referee does well to recognize the opportunity to enhance the game through the application of flow. Since this is not a foul and simple contact, the referee should not indicate advantage. The referee is working hard to move at the pace of the ball and play and does well to put himself in a good vantage point to see play and the players and make sound judgment.

Note: No signal by the referee is a signal. It is a signal that nothing has occurred and play should continue. Referees often overuse the “no-call” signal.

The result of the no-call is a through-pass that finds an attacker who is able to get the ball behind the defense and score a goal. Spectators are provided exciting and entertaining soccer that has been orchestrated by the referee’s ability to identify opportunities for flow.

The AR also plays a role leading up to the goal by keeping the flag down as an offside positioned player makes a run toward the ball but does not “interfere with play” because he does not play or touch the ball that has been passed by his teammate. The concept of “interfering with play” was discussed in 2010 “Week In Review 2.” 

Overall, flow (beginning in the defensive third of the field) and the correct application of offside, lead to a goal and increased entertainment value.

Looking Forward – Week 4
In the first few weeks of the MLS season, there have been several challenges, both aerial and while competing for the ball on the ground, in which the arm, hand and/or forearm have been utilized and contact has been made above the opponent’s shoulder. Match officials need to heighten their awareness of the use of the arm as a tool or as a weapon as discussed in multiple “Week In Reviews” during the 2009 season. The 2009 Directive entitled, “Contact Above the Shoulder,” provides specific criteria match officials can use to identify the different uses of the arm/hand/elbow. Player safety is at risk and officials need to take appropriate action as necessitate by the manner in which the arm/hand/elbow is used.

Special note: In “Week In Review 2,” there was a typo that many readers were able to identify and bring to our attention. Offside was referenced as Law 12 and not Law 11, as is it should have been. Thanks for reading and thanks for your keen eye and bringing it to our attention.