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2010 Referee Week In Review Week 8


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 8 – Ending May 16, 2010
This week in review will provide insight into two topics that have not been examined thus far this season: Second cautionable offenses and simulation/embellishment. Additionally, a tackle that lead to a penalty kick in a WPS game will be reviewed by exploring key points that should have steered the referee to recognize that the defender executed a fair challenge for the ball.

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


Receiving a Second Caution in the Same Match: Law 12 – Fouls and Misconduct

The Laws of the Game list seven offenses for which a player, substitute or substituted player may be sent-off. One of these offenses is receiving a second caution in the same match. Often times, it is referred to as the “second yellow card.” A second caution in the same match is given because a player who has previously received a yellow card (for one of the seven cautionable offenses) commits another offense that is cautionable misconduct. When administering the red card for receiving a second caution in the same match, the referee must first show the yellow card thereby letting all participants know that a cautionable offense has been committed. Once the yellow card has been raised, the referee immediately follows-up by exhibiting the red card. This process allows everyone to know that the offense for which the second yellow card is being issued was not a sending-off offense in and of itself.

In U.S. Soccer’s 2009 Directive entitled “Game Management Model: Flow, Foul Selection/Discrimination and Game Control,” the concept of 100 percent misconduct was introduced. The core of managing games involves safety, entertainment and 100 percent misconduct. In review, 100 percent misconduct involves game situations in which the referee must issue a red or yellow card. When these situations arise, the referee cannot ignore them and, for the good of the game must:

  • Administer the appropriate misconduct (yellow or red) to the player(s) in question. 100 percent misconduct situations are those in which the Laws of the Game mandate that a yellow card or red card be issued. These are situations that are clear-cut, there is no gray area (the referee has no options). When 100 percent misconduct occurs, the referee is obligated to deal with the misconduct and cannot use the “big picture” to determine whether a card should be given or not.

Components of the “big picture” like the score, the time and the player cannot influence the referee’s decision to issue a yellow or red card to a player when a 100 percent misconduct situation is presented. For the good of the game, the referee must issue the appropriate misconduct.

Note: Referees cannot use the “big picture” or atmosphere of the game as an excuse or reason when determining not to caution or send-off a player when a 100 percent misconduct situation exists.

The following two clips will provide an opportunity to compare and contrast two situations in which the referees were faced with an offense that could result in a player receiving the second caution in the same match. In both cases, the referee is presented with a 100 percent misconduct (a cautionable offense) but each referee responds differently.

Video Clip 1: Toronto at Los Angeles (60:46)
This clip contains two situations and fouls involving the same Toronto (red jerseys) player. Just over 32 minutes separates each offense.

  1. At 60:46, the referee issues a yellow card to a player for persistent infringement of the Laws of the Game. The cautioned player was involved in two other careless challenges on the same opponent. As a result, the referee felt it appropriate to give a yellow card to the player to send an appropriate message that such conduct would no longer be tolerated. The referee calmly shows, with his hand gestures, that the caution is being issued for persistent infringement as he points to several locations. By doing this, the referee sends a “broadcast message” to everyone that the yellow card was not for the foul alone but for a series of challenges.
  2. As the game progresses in added time (90:00 + 3:00), the same player commits another foul that, by itself, is reckless and judged by the referee to be cautionable for unsporting behavior. The referee shows no hesitation in issuing the second yellow card. The referee’s body language, urgency and confident approach “sells” the decisions to the players. Despite the “big picture” containing the following components, the referee correctly decides that the foul is a 100 percent misconduct situation and sends the player off for receiving a second caution in the same match:
    • Score of 0-0: The referee did not let the fact that there was a close game impact his decision.
    • Three minutes into added time: The fact that the game was almost complete did not deter the referee from doing what was best for the game – issuing the second yellow card and resulting red card.

Video Clip 2: Chivas U.S.A. at Columbus (14:24)
Twelve minutes after being cautioned for unsporting behavior (reckless aerial challenge on an opponent), the same player commits a handling offense that is a clearly unsporting behavior. After issuing the first caution (at 14:24), the referee’s hands are tied and he must issue the second yellow card to the same player at 24:53 as a result of a blatant handling offense (unsporting behavior). This is supported by FIFA’s “Interpretation of the Laws and Guidelines for Referees” which states that referees are required to caution a player who:

“Handles the ball to prevent an opponent gaining possession or developing an attack (other than the goalkeeper in his own penalty area).”

The referee must not consider the fact that the game is only at the 24:53 mark, with a 0-0 score line, and the team would be forced to play the remainder of the game shorthanded. “Big picture” concerns cannot be considered when there is no gray area in terms of the offense committed and the Law mandates the referee issue a card for misconduct.

Hence, the appropriate decision, in clip 2, is for the referee to issue a yellow card for the handling offense (unsporting behavior) which would be the player’s second in the same match and, thus, the caution should be followed by issuance of the red card.

Deceiving the Referee by Pretending to Have Been Fouled (Simulation)

Players want an edge. Players will attempt to use gamesmanship to cheat the game and influence referee decisions. The use of diving, simulation and/or embellishment is a tool and tactic for a player to gain an unfair advantage. Players have become skilled at disguising their intentional actions so that even the trained eye struggles to differentiate the dive from a real foul. For this reason, an understanding of the attributes of simulation will help match officials identify and differentiate the play acting from a true event involving an unfair challenge and foul. Embellishment is also a concern as it is an extension of simulation. Both are used as actions to deceive the referee and result in a caution for unsporting behavior.

Note: Embellishment tends to be a reaction to minimal contact whereby the player is seeking to ensure the referee is aware of the contact. The contact can be fair or the result of a foul. Simply, the embellishing player is attempting to deceive the referee by making the contact look worse than it was (increasing the visual impact of the contact’s severity).

As early as “Week In Review 15” from 2008, the concepts associated with simulation were addressed. The key remains the referee’s ability to distinguish between a:

Human Act vs. Intentional Act

  • Human Act
    Does the situation involve incidental contact?
  • Intentional Act
    Is there deception involved? No contact or contact intentionally created by the attacker.

Referees must train their eyes, mind and responses. When evaluating a player’s action to determine if it meets the criteria of simulation, consider the following signals:

  1. Location on the field
    Often times, players dive in or near the penalty area. The player is willing to take a chance that his cheating will go unnoticed by the officials and result in a penalty kick or dangerous free kick.
  2. Contact
    It is difficult to caution a player for simulation (unsporting behavior) when there is contact with the opponent. Hence, contact and who initiates it, must be taken into consideration. Do not mistake simulation for embellishment. Embellishment occurs when a player “play acts.” In other words, the player makes a minor infraction seem much grander in scale. Embellishment, is cautionable for unsporting behavior.
  3. Score of the game
    A team that is needing a goal to tie the game or to gain a lead, will attempt to garner a penalty or free kick in the “danger zone” (30 yards or so from goal).
  4. The ball
    Can the attacker get or play the ball? Attackers with the ball who have touched it too far in front of them will go down easily as a defender challenges them because they know they will not be able to get to the ball (it will go over the goal line or an opponent will get it) and they will lose possession.
  5. The attacker’s feet
    As the player is going down, observe his feet. Does the player bring his feet together and drag them along the ground causing him to intentionally lose his balance and go to the turf?
  6. The attacker’s actions before he lands and when he lands
    First, evaluate the attacker’s eyes and head. As divers go down, they are likely to try to make eye contact with the referee. It is a natural reaction for players to look for the decision maker (the referee) and to see where he is positioned. Second, evaluate the attacker’s arms – bracing the fall. Attackers who go down as a result of an unfair challenge, often times do not have the opportunity to brace their fall. Players who plan their fall, will look to cushion their fall by extending their arms out or by rolling on their shoulder.

Remember, players who utilize diving/simulation are cautioned for unsporting behavior.

Video Clip 3: Seattle at New York (69:43)
This clip represents a clear case of simulation and attempting to deceive the referee by pretending to have been fouled. The referee acknowledges the attacker’s attempt and does not call a foul. However, the attacker’s actions warrant a caution for unsporting behavior since the dive/simulation is so clear. The referee must send a message that such behavior and attempting to cheat the game will not be tolerated.

Using the human act vs. intentional act concept, the following associated criteria clearly point to the attacker’s actions being intentionally planned:

  1. Location on the field
    The simulation is inside the penalty area where the player can try to influence a decision to give a penalty kick.
  2. Contact
    Contact is not evident and any contact is incidental. The attacker goes down on his own volition. The opponent does not influence the attacker’s fall to the ground. There is some contact on the edge of the penalty area before the attacker turns to goal with the ball, however, this is standard/normal/minor contact for this level and is not a foul.
  3. Score of the game
    Due to the late time (69:43) in the match and the score being 0-0, the attacker is looking for a break. He is looking for the one chance to get his team the win. A penalty kick would seemingly put his team in the driver’s seat.
  4. The ball
    Due to the location on the field, the attacker’s ability to do something with the ball is severely limited as he is on the goal line and has a poor angle to take a shot. The attacker’s teammates are not well positioned to be on the receiving end of any pass. The attacker has also touched the ball too far in front of him and it is traveling over the goal line for a goal kick.
  5. The attacker’s feet
    Watch as the attacker drags his toes and the top of his boots to the grass to initiate the fall to the ground.

Given these factors, the referee should award a goal kick and caution the attacker for unsporting behavior. In cases where the referee would stop play to issue a caution for unsporting behavior resulting from the dive/simulation, the game would be restarted with an indirect free kick from the spot of the misconduct.

Note: Referees must be aware that situations involving diving/simulation/embellishment can lead to aggravation, game disrepute and eventually mass confrontation. Face-to-face confrontations, amongst players, regularly result from attempts to deceive the referee. Consequently, referees need to ensure they have a positive physical presence when such scenarios occur. Preventative refereeing is vital. A quick display of the yellow card and an even faster signal of the direction of the restart can act as preventative tools.

Video Clip 4: Houston at Real Salt Lake (32:13)
This clip involves embellishment on the part of the attacker. The attacker “play acts” as though contact were made above the shoulder when, in fact, a foul at the professional level has not been committed. The attacker is not going to get to the ball (the pass is too long) so the attacker goes to the ground simulating a foul and embellishing the location of the contact.

The referee should stop play for the embellishment (unsporting behavior) and caution the attacker while restarting with an indirect free kick at the spot of the misconduct.

The assistant referee is over-involved in this situation. First, since the attacker creates the contact and goes down when he realizes he will not be able to get to the ball, the assistant referee (AR) should not flag a foul. Secondly, signaling misconduct (as the AR does) against the defender is inappropriate as the free kick should be awarded to the defending team. Before indicating a foul and misconduct to the referee, the AR needs to “feel” the game as a referee would.

The AR must possess the ability to read and assimilate the same signals that the referee would consider before deciding whether a foul and/or misconduct has occurred. For example, the ball is passed too far, the supporting defender will get to ball before the attacker, and the location and area of contact to the attacker and how the contact is made (arm/elbow low and not swung).

The referee should work harder to place himself in a better position to observe the embellishment through more anticipatory movement. Watch the referee at the beginning of the clip. The referee is not moving his feet and does not anticipate the next phase of play by moving in advance of play when it becomes obvious that the attacking team will have clear possession and will pass the ball forward. As a result, the referee is not as close as he could be to make a better decision.

Note: A well positioned referee, with a better angle of vision, should feel empowered to overrule the AR’s flag in circumstances where he feels the flag is unwarranted. In such cases, the AR should lower the flag and continue on with the appropriate position. ARs must not take this as rejection but as the referee’s interpretation of game control. This should be a learning topic for half time and full time referee crew discussions.

Foul or No Foul, Fair or Unfair

A lot of time has been spent thus far this year on differentiating different challenges. In no place is it more important for the referee to possess the ability to decipher the fair from the unfair than it is in the penalty area. It is vital that the referee be positioned with the optimal line of sight to all incidents in and around the penalty area given the magnitude of a penalty kick decision and its potential impact on the game.

Along with good sightlines, the referee must be able to distinguish a fair tackle from a tackle that is careless, reckless or committed with excessive force.

Video Clip 5: Sky Blue F.C. at St. Louis Athletica (9:00)
In this clip, a fair challenge results in a penalty kick. Although the referee is well positioned, she does not recognize the characteristics of a fair challenge that should have resulted in the awarding of a corner kick instead of a penalty kick.

What makes this tackle fair?

  • Ball was played
    If a referee has any doubt as to whether the ball was played, he should observe the direction of the ball. Does the ball change direction from after it was last touched by an attacker? Or, does it continue on the same direct path? A ball that changes direction most likely means the defender made contact.
    In this clip: The ball was played before any contact. Watch as the ball changes direction by over 30 degrees.
  • The angle of the tackle
    The direction from which the opponent approaches the attacker and the tackle. Is the tackle directly from behind (increased likelihood of contact with the opponent before the ball)? Or, is it from an angle that gives the defender opportunity to make first contact with the ball?
    In this clip: The tackler is not directly from behind. She is to the left, the same side as the ball as it is cut by the attacker.
  • Location of tackler’s feet
    If the feet are on the ground, there is an increased likelihood that the tackler is playing the ball over the tackler knowing there is no chance to get the ball so they raise their feet/foot to ensure the attacker does not get by.
    In this clip: The tackler’s feet are on the ground to play the ball and not the opponent. She does not raise the feet as she commits herself for the challenge.
  • Location of the ball
    Is the ball in a location in which the opponent can play it without going through the attacker?
    In this clip: Watch as the attacker cuts the ball to the left thereby exposing it to the tackler. The tackler uses her left foot to win the ball on the left which means she does not have to go through the attacker to play the ball.

This represents a fair challenge for the ball. The components of a safe, fair and controlled challenge have been executed by the defender.

Looking Forward – Week 9
Management of injuries plays an important role in player safety. Referees need to be diligent in ensuring trainers and medical staff (coaches in games without this staff) have sufficient time to assess an injury and then have the player removed without jeopardizing the player’s safety or health. Players are not to be treated on the field but flexibility to manage this to the benefit of the player is available to the referee depending upon the level and/or age of play.

Once it is safe for a player to be removed, they and the medical staff or coaches (if permitted), should leave at the nearest point around the field. It is not necessary to leave at the halfway line in front of the benches. Referees should help to identify this point to the participants.

Note: Anyone entering the field to deal with an injured player may not use this time to coach players or argue with the referee. Additionally, referees should not put themselves in a position/location in which they are vulnerable to an upset coach or player. Referees should remove themselves from any potential “hot spot” while the injury assessment takes place and then return once it is becomes clearly evident the player can leave the field or to follow-up with personnel on the field attending to the player.

Finally, it is important to remember to immediately stop play for any serious injury especially to the head region.