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2010 Referee Week in Review - Week 28


As the conclusion of the regular season approaches, the emotionalism and intensity of games is at its highest point. Often times, it seems as though every decision or no-decision carries with it a different response by players and coaches. As a result, preventative work is needed on the part of the entire officiating crew. This week will highlight two excellent examples of prevention and “feeling” the game which help avoid escalation or future problems. Additionally, a tackle that is committed over the ball will be examined to determine what makes it a red card offense.

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

WEEK 28 COMMENTARY

Prevention and Intervention at the Appropriate Time

So often, refereeing discussions are concerned with the “result.” In other words, the focus is on what happens after the whistle is blown or what happens after a tackle is executed. However, effective officiating is about prevention. Prevention, deterrence, avoidance and anticipation are all key components to successfully navigating or directing a game.

The ability to intervene and to time the intervention according to the atmosphere of the match or in order to make a positive mark on the direction of a match is a key characteristic in effective officiating. Referees, assistant referees (ARs) and fourth officials can all have this positive impact if they read the game and time their preventative work appropriately. Preventative refereeing is much more effective than curative refereeing.

Basically, match officials need to take action that stops somebody from doing something or from something happening. Through a “feel” for the game, officials must have foresight. Referees must possess the ability to anticipate or determine the future before it happens and take appropriate action to steer the game in the best possible direction so that the outcome is positive.

Preventative work can be exhibited in many forms. A few examples include:

  • Making the first foul seem bigger
    Early in the game, set the tone in a positive manner. Send positive, early messages that can be felt by the all game participants.
  • Strong control of the penalty area on restarts
    Prior to a restart occurring, especially early in the match, take preventative action by controlling the holding and pushing in the penalty area. Use the whistle, voice and physical presence to assist you in establishing your presence in the match.
  • Read the “warning signs”
    Anticipate player responses to situations and prepare yourself mentally and positionally to prevent. Fouls in front of the technical areas or near the signboards are often signs of potential issues. 
  • Channel players to neutral areas
    In cases of potential game disrepute or mass confrontation, use your physical presence as well as verbal (including the whistle) to separate players without making inappropriate physical contact. 
  • Preventing time wasting
    Through communication, physical presence and demonstrative action, take early action to ensure players and/or teams do not delay the restart of the game (waste time). Communicate early and often.

Clip 1: Los Angeles at Philadelphia (29:48)
Relatively early in the game, the referee takes preventative action in several ways while managing two restarts from throw-ins. In both cases, the referee’s management of the restarts is key to avoiding future problems or issues.

Note: Restart management, especially when the “drop zone” is inside the penalty area, is an important factor in overall game control. Restarts can include throw-ins, free kicks and corner kicks where the intended target is a group of players inside the penalty area. Pushing, holding, stepping on the opponent’s foot, contact above the shoulder and other offenses are often used to gain an attacking or defensive advantage.

Here is a summary of many of the positive preventative measures taken by the referee in this clip:

1. First throw-in

  • The referee indicates the restart (throw-in) location with his hand/arm. Concurrently, the referee’s body position is in line with the throw-in location. Ensuring the correct position for a restart becomes more important as the location moves further into to the attacking half of the field of play.
  • The referee does not allow the throw-in to occur until the second ball is off the field of play.

2. Immediately following the first throw-in as play moves to the corner flag

  • The referee anticipates a potential foul in the corner area by moving closer and imposing his physical and verbal authority/presence on the players thereby ensuring his presence is felt. It is important to note that this position may, at times, be too extreme and leave the referee vulnerable to a counter attack or a long pass across the field. But, in this case, the risk facing the referee is mitigated due to the fact that it is one attacker versus two defenders.

3. Second throw-in

  • Two of the same players involved in the preceding corner challenge engage in shoving in the penalty area as they jostle for positional advantage. The referee makes his presence known by whistling to get their attention. 
  • In an attempt to send a “broadcast” message, the referee then calls the players aside, separating them from their colleagues. By isolating the players, the message to them is much bigger and the warning can resonate to all other game participants.

Preventative action, like this, on the part of match officials can act as a deterrent and prevent future action which may be much more difficult to manage. Early intervention to manage restarts targeted for the penalty area can pay dividends as the game progresses.

Clip 2: New England at Houston (39:02)
While clip 1 explored preventative work on the part of the referee, clip 2 will highlight excellent work by an AR to intervene and prevent the escalation of a potentially volatile situation. At the same time, the referee’s reading of the warning signs and his immediate response also plays a critical role in avoiding further issues.

Both the referee and the AR read the warning sign presented by the situation: hard foul involving lots of body contact and holding. Once they “read” the volatility of the situation, they both respond with urgency and take preventative measures:

  • The referee and AR both sprint to the scene. The sooner they arrive, the better chance they have of preventing escalation. In this case, it is acceptable for the AR to enter the field approximately 15 yards because his presence will have a positive affect.
  • Without making unnecessary physical contact with the players involved, the referee and AR channel the opposing players in different directions. The AR escorts one player to a neutral location creating distance between this player, the “hot spot” and the opposition. 
  • Both players are correctly cautioned for unsporting behavior as a result of their game disrepute.

Overall, quick response and urgency by the referee crew prevents the situation from escalating from game disrepute (involving two players) to mass confrontation (multiple players) which is much more difficult to manage.

Law 12 – Fouls and Misconduct: Revisiting the Concept of “Mode and Area of Contact” 

“Week In Review 9” first introduced the concepts of “mode of contact” and “area of contact” as they relate to the evaluation of tackles potentially involving excessive force and endangering the safety of an opponent. These concepts were introduced to supplement the SIAPOA criteria that has long been utilized to evaluate potential red card challenges.

Here are a few key concepts for review:

  • Excessive force does not always equate to or translate to speed or power. Force can be directly related to area of contact and mode of contact. Aggressiveness and force do not only relate to speed. 
  • Each of the six SIAPOA components do not need to be present to have a red card. Referees must consider the mix and the weight of the components. 
  • Certain body parts are more susceptible to injury and, when contacted, are more dangerous to the player. Therefore, the likelihood for injury and endangerment to the player’s safety is increased. 
  • Match officials need to evaluate the body part initiating the contact (mode of contact) as well as the location of the contact (area of contact).

Area of contact relates to:
The contact area on the opponent. Different areas of the body are more susceptible to injury. Hence, less force is needed to cause damage to the opponent. There may be less aggressiveness or speed associated with the contact.

Mode of contact relates to:
The player’s or tackler’s mode of contact with the opponent is an important factor. Hard surface areas require the use of less force to cause damage to an opponent. The referee must evaluate the body part initiating the contact as well as the location of the contact.

Clip 3: New England at Houston (25:02)
The tackle in this clip presents a good example of how the area of contact and mode of contact play a role in the evaluation of excessive force and the determination that a challenge requires the issuance of a red card.

This tackle places the opponent at a very high risk of injury based upon the area and mode of contact.

  • Area of contact
    The hard surface (or cleats) of the tackler’s boot connects with the area just below the knee of the opponent. The foot is raised and over the ball. In addition, the challenge is not well timed or controlled as the tackler lunges toward the opponent leading with his cleats. Watch as the opponent’s leg buckles at the time of contact.
  • Mode of contact
    The hard surface or cleats of the boot are used to make contact thereby placing the opponent’s safety at high risk. There is speed and force involved considering the lunging nature of the tackle.

Overall, a red card for serious foul play is warranted.

Looking Forward – Week 29
Teamwork and cooperation to prevent and deter will be vital as the last few games are played. Anticipation by reading the game’s warning signs and ensuring a preventative approach is utilized versus a curative approach.

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