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2010 Referee Week In Review - Week 14

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 14 – Ending July 4, 2010
This week brought interesting and thought-provoking scenarios and decisions that provide the backdrop for this week’s analysis and review. Three decisions involving offside, violent conduct and a handling offense in which the referee team is required to quickly determine if denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity is evident will be used as teaching points.

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


Denying An Obvious Goal Scoring Opportunity and Handling: Law 12 – Fouls and Misconduct

This year, “Week In Review 1” first discussed the utilization of the “4 D Criteria” in evaluating circumstances that may involve denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity (DOGSO). The “4 Ds” are:

  1. Distance to goal
  2. Distance to ball
  3. Defender position/location and number
  4. Direction to goal

Through teamwork and communication, within the referee team, the referee must make a quick judgment whether a defending player has committed an offense that meets the “4 D Criteria” and taking into consideration whether the offense denied an obvious opportunity to score. If, in fact, the referee determines that an obvious opportunity to score was denied, then the referee must red card the offender for “denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the player’s goal by an offense punishable by a free kick or a penalty kick.”

Note: Teamwork is important in situations involving DOGSO because ARs (and sometimes fourth officials) may have a better perspective of players and play. The AR may have a better view of depth and distance which may play a vital role in determining if the “4 Ds” have been met and if the opportunity to score is obvious. Referees should make eye contact with ARs to get their input prior to making a misconduct decision (red card or yellow card). ARs can provide input by silently providing input by patting their breast pocket (indicates yellow card) or by patting their back short pocket (indicates red card). These signals must be-established during the pregame meeting amongst the match officials as should the teamwork during DOGSO scenarios.

Remember, DOGSO must involve the “4 Ds” and must deny an obvious opportunity to score. If these factors are not clearly evident, then a foul and appropriate misconduct (if applicable) should be administered. Although a decision that DOGSO does not exist may be the outcome, the referee is not precluded from taking misconduct action based upon the severity of the offense and the Laws of the Game.

Video Clip 1: Kansas City at Dallas (90:48)
Clip 1 involves a potential DOGSO event that requires teamwork, communication and an understanding of the criteria that leads to an occurrence of DOGSO. In reviewing the clip, ask yourself:

  • Is there an obvious opportunity to score based upon the “4 D Criteria?”

This is not an easy decision due to the fact that there is a defender running into the penalty area and it is not clear whether an obvious opportunity to score has been denied. The dynamic movement and speed require the officiating team, on the field, to determine the appropriate punishment. Image 1 provides a good perspective of the defender’s position at the time the handling offense is committed. The referee team must judge whether the defender rushing in would have had a reasonable opportunity to deny a scoring opportunity and whether the angle of attack would have provided the attacker with the opportunity to score. Hence, the decision facing the match officials: A yellow card for unsporting behavior due to the tactical nature of the handling or a red card for DOGSO.

When making the decision, match officials should ask:

  • If there was NO HANDLING, would a goal have been realized?

Image 1If the answer is “yes,” then DOGSO exists. If the answer is unclear or “no,” then a caution is warranted for unsporting behavior. Consideration should be given to the “4 D Criteria” and how they affect the opportunity for an obvious goal scoring opportunity.

When evaluating the running defender’s position, officials should note that he is too far from play to influence the outcome. On the other hand, the attacker is in clear possession of the ball and in close proximity to goal. Plus, the attacker has a positive direction/angle to goal and his path will be uninterrupted. Given these “4 D Criteria,” the best decision is DOGSO and, therefore, a red card should be given.

Violent Conduct (Strikes or Attempts to Strike an Opponent): Law 12 – Fouls and Misconduct

One of the 10 direct free kick offenses is: “Strikes or attempts to strike an opponent.” Most often, striking or attempting to strike results in a red card to the offender for violent conduct. The 2009 U.S. Soccer directive on “Contact Above the Shoulder” provides the following guidance:

Actions aimed at the face of an opponent must be dealt with severely REGARDLESS OF THE FORCE USED if the actions are:

  • Deliberate
  • Intended to intimidate
  • Endangering the safety of an opponent
  • Insulting and/or offensive in nature
  • Potentially inciting further action on the part of opponents
  • Done in a provocative, inciteful manner

The above is not intended to address friendly contact that is not confrontational.

Striking or attempting to strike can be initiated in many different forms: the hand, the fist, the elbow, throwing a ball or other object at an opponent or a head butt. In each case, the referee should consider the fact how the contact is being initiated and the area in which is targeted. For example, contact with a solid object (forearm, hand, fist, forehead) with a soft object (the facial region) often should be interpreted as “excessive force” as the amount of force necessary to injure the opponent is significantly less. Also, consider that when contact above the shoulder is initiated, players do not have the opportunity to defend themselves; as a result, the player receiving the contact is extremely vulnerable.

Note: Match officials should review prior “Week In Reviews” regarding the concepts of mode of contact and area of contact the associated discussions regarding excessive force as these guidelines will assist in determining whether contact is merely a “push” or a “strike.”

Video Clip 2: New England at Real Salt Lake (19:53)
This clip involves violent conduct as a result of a player striking an opponent by head butting him. The player uses his head (hard surface) to contact the opponent in a very vulnerable area (the soft surface of the face). In addition, the act falls under the guidelines provided above and in the “Contact Above the Shoulder” directive. The player’s actions are: deliberate, intended to intimidate, endanger the safety of the opponent, incite further action on the part of opponents and are executed in a provocative and inciteful manner. As a result, the player must be sent off for violent conduct.

Referees can attempt to take preventative actions when similar situations arise. Although the referee attempts to provide flow to the game by allowing play to continue as the goalkeeper gains clear possession of the ball (despite a bridging/tripping foul being committed by the attacker as the keeper goes up in the air to gather the ball), the referee must be cognizant of the actions that follow and their potential impact on the game. In this case, a quick whistle on the part of the referee to stop play as soon as the players go chest-to-chest would potentially prevent further action. Given the attacker’s immediate actions, the referee could stop the game and eventually restart with a free kick for the defense. The free kick could result from the tripping/bridging foul as advantage did not materialize or for unsporting behavior for bringing the game into disrepute (review the “Game Disrepute and Mass Confrontation” directive. This would require the referee to caution the attacker for unsporting behavior and restart with an indirect free kick. By taking either of these actions, the referee is using common sense and is using preventative techniques to manage/control the game.

Once the referee has stopped the game, he should immediately sprint to the area of the confrontation. The referee’s presence could act as a tool to prevent escalation of the situation. Upon quick arrival, the referee could separate or channel the players thereby defusing the situation.

Pursuant to U.S. Soccer directives and guidance, the attacker in this clip should be red carded for violent conduct.

Assistant Referee Positioning Aids Offside Decision Making

The positioning of the AR is vital to making correct offside decisions. This is especially true given the speed and dynamic nature of the game. Correct positioning with the second-to-last defender ensures the AR is able to properly identify player movement and player locations at the time the ball is played by a teammate.

ARs must have the ability to move as close as possible to the speed of play and the speed of the offside line. This enables the AR to continuously have the best possible alignment with the second-to-last defender or the ball which ever is closer to the goal line.

Note: Sprinting and sidestepping ability are key success factors for ARs at all levels. ARs are regularly required to sprint and sidestep and transition between these two modes of movement. Additionally, ARs are often forced to move into a full sprint from a standing or static position. ARs need to train for this type of dynamic movement and running to ensure they are fully effective.

Video Clip 3: New England at Real Salt Lake (44:34)
The attacker who scores the goal is correctly declared offside as he is nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second-to-last opponent at the time the ball is passed to him by his teammate.

The AR is able to make this decision as he is correctly aligned with the second-to-last defender and is able to maintain the speed necessary to remain in the correct position. In this case, play (player movement and speed) does not lend itself to sidestepping and having shoulders square to the field. Due to the fast movement of the offside line, the AR must run forward to maintain the appropriate alignment. Sidestepping would place the AR several steps behind the second-to-last defender and potentially negatively affect the offside decision.

The AR also has the aid of field markings to ensure the correct offside decision is made. In this case, the line marking the top of the penalty area and the grass cutting can help the AR decide defender and attacker position at the time the ball is passed forward.

Looking Forward – Week 15
Focus on communication among the officiating team. Communication begins before the game during the referee’s pregame meeting or during email exchanges. Once the game commences, match officials need to utilize communication techniques established during the pregame meeting. Technology has helped improve decision making but it cannot be relied upon as the sole mechanism for transferring information. Often times, the “old fashioned way” of flag work, hand gestures and face-to-face conferring is the best solution to effective and efficient communication.