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2010 Referee Week In Review - Week 19

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 19 – Ending August 8, 2010
Last week, "Week In Review 18” focused on no-calls that were, in fact, fouls. This week, we will examine a correct decision to not call a foul due to the fair nature of the tackle. Additionally, a clip of a penalty kick decision will demonstrate that the player cheats the game and the referee by clearly diving (simulation) to earn a penalty kick. Lastly, an assistant referee (AR) provides a good example of keeping the flag down during a close offside decision and thereby gives the benefit of doubt to the attacking side which results in a goal.

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


Cheating the Game and the Referee: Simulation, Diving and Embellishment

Simulation (diving) and embellishment are methods players utilize to cheat the game and the referee. All are forms of gamesmanship and play acting. Players want any edge and they will use these factors to influence the referee into making a potential game-deciding decision.

Referees must pay particular attention to the flash points or areas of the field in which simulation is often attempted. Match officials must pay particular attention as the opportunity to utilize simulation seems to increase based upon many factors. Here are a few considerations (flash points) for match officials to consider:

  1. Image 1When play is in the danger zone (including the penalty area)
    Players look to cheat when they know they can have a significant impact on the result of the game. Therefore, players become more prone to “gain an unfair advantage” when they know the result will be either a penalty kick or a free kick from within the danger zone (see Image 1). The danger zone is significant because approximately one third of all goals come from restarts. By gaining a free kick in the danger zone, a player sets his team up for a reasonable scoring opportunity (either directly from the free kick or from a second ball off the free kick).
  2. Situations involving “contact above the shoulder”
    With the recent added attention on recognizing and dealing with offenses involving “contact above the shoulder,” players have been using this as an opportunity to embellish or simulate contact. In both cases, the player is attempting to get the opponent sent off when it is not warranted by either pretending to have been fouled or by faking an injury.

“Week In Review 8” provides further details on the concepts of simulation, embellishment and diving. But, the key concepts or guidelines included the referee being able to distinguish between:

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.

FIFA’s “Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees” states that: “attempts to deceive the referee by feigning injury or pretending to have been fouled (simulation)” must result in the player being cautioned for unsporting behavior.

Note: It is important for officials to remember that “feigning injury” (faking injury) is a cautionable offense especially when it brings the game into disrepute.

Video Clip 1: Inter Milan vs. Dallas (73:09)
An international friendly game is the focus of this simulation clip. The attacker on the team losing (2-1) takes on two opponents in the penalty area section of the danger zone. Knowing his team needs a goal and knowing there are two opponents marking him, the attacker takes a risk by pushing the ball between the two opponents and then going down without contact. The simulation is successful as the referee incorrectly awards a penalty kick.

There are two key flash points that indicate that simulation/diving is involved:

  • Notice the attacker’s last touch on the ball. The last touch of the ball is too far in front of him which will most likely allow the goalkeeper to gain control and end the scoring opportunity. The attacker identifies that his best chance to gain a scoring opportunity is to fall to the ground.
  • Secondly, as the attacker passes the two defenders, the attacker drags the tip of his boots. The dragging of his shoes causes him to go down quickly and helps to simulate a real foul and actual contact.

Referees must be keenly aware of such flashpoints. Positioning and optimal line of sight to the play can play a vital role in correct identification. Second, the ability of a referee to recognize/”feel” the “intent” of the attacker and the warning signs surrounding the play are important in being able to address the simulation.

In this case, the referee should award the defending team an indirect free kick, at the spot of the simulation and caution the attacker for unsporting behavior.

Fair Tackle: Not a Foul

In U.S. Soccer’s “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game” publication, the topic of “what is a foul?” is addressed. Here is the excerpt that provides assistance to match officials when differentiating fair challenges from those that require a foul be called (careless, reckless or with excessive force):

A foul is an unfair or unsafe action committed (1) by a player, (2) against an opponent or the opposing team, (3) on the field of play, (4) while the ball is in play. If any of these four requirements is not met, the action is not a foul; however, the action can still be misconduct.

Except for a handling offense, it is not necessary for a player’s action to be considered “deliberate” in the sense that the player intentionally set out to kick, push, trip, hold or otherwise foul the opponent. Under Law 12, the referee makes a decision based upon what he or she sees a player actually do – the result of the player’s action – not upon what might be in the player’s mind.

There are two key terms that match officials must understand when determining whether a foul has occurred or not: unfair and unsafe. Officials must have the ability and feel for the game to determine whether the challenge was unfair and/or unsafe. Generally speaking, as it relates to slide tackles, match officials may consider the following when determining whether the challenge is unfair and/or unsafe and, thus, a foul:

  • Ball first or opponent first
    Did the tackler actually play the ball? If so, did the tackler make contact with the ball first or the opponent first? Did the tackler or opponent initiate the contact? Consider whether the contact was incidental. If the referee considers the contact to be incidental, then there is probably no foul.
  • Angle of the tackle and approach
    Did the angle of the tackler’s approach to the challenge put him in a position to fairly and safely win the ball? Or, did the approach put the safety of the opponent at risk? For example, challenges from the side provide a better chance to play the ball than those directly from behind.
  • Speed of the challenge/tackle
    Speed relates to the tackler’s ability to control his challenge and actions as well as to the amount of force that will result from the tackle. The more the force, the more the tackle may be unsafe (opponent’s safety at risk).
  • Height of the leg and/or foot
    A foot that is on the ground is more likely to play the ball. A foot that is raised is more likely to be unfair and jeopardize the safety of the opponent. Also, consider the mode of contact in terms of what part of the leg or foot the tackler uses to initiate the challenge. Is the challenge made with the top of the boot? Or, is the challenge made with hard surface of exposed cleats (bottom of the boot)?

Note: It may not be just one factor that makes the challenge a foul but a combination of the factors. In addition, if, after the tackle is fairly made, the tackler uses the foot of body in a careless or reckless way or with excessive force, then the referee must take appropriate corresponding action.

Video Clip 2: Columbus at Philadelphia (61:30)
This clip represents an excellent job by the referee and the AR identifying a hard challenge as a fair challenge. The result of the player’s action is a fair and safe tackle where the player is focused on playing the ball. In judging this tackle, the match officials should consider:

  • The ball was played first. The tackler does not go through the opponent to contact the ball. Player-to-player contact occurs after the ball is played by the tackler.
  • The lack of speed or force in the challenge. The defender is close to the opponent and ball when making the tackle. As a consequence, the challenge lacks force or aggressiveness. The tackler is in complete control of his actions.
  • The angle of the tackler’s approach is from the side and the opponent has the ability to see the challenge/tackle and react accordingly.
  • The tackler’s leg and foot is on the ground. The tackler leads with the top of his foot/boot thereby reducing the risk of endangering the opponent’s safety.

Given these factors, the referee and AR are correct in identifying the tackle as fair and safe and by allowing play to continue to the throw-in. The officiating team uses good judgment and exhibits a feel for the match and the situation as it unfolds.

Offside Decision Leads to A Goal

With soccer typically being a low scoring game, every opportunity match officials have to enhance attacking opportunities by injecting flow into the game or by giving the benefit of doubt to the attack on close offside decisions, increases the enjoyment for spectators and players alike. U.S. Soccer continues to encourage ARs to use several key philosophies when interpreting offside scenarios and, thus, encourage attacking play:

  • Give the benefit of doubt to the attack
  • If in doubt, keep the flag down
  • Use the “wait and see approach”
  • Have patience in flagging when several players have the opportunity to “interfere with play”
  • If the furthermost attacker is even with the second-to-last defender, keep the flag down (even is onside)
  • Better a late flag than one that is early and incorrect

Remember, as it relates to “wait and see” and exhibiting patience prior to flagging, ARs must be cognizant of any potential collisions or the potential for injury if play is allowed to continue when a player is in an offside position. In such cases, a quicker flag is required in order to prevent the potential collision/injury.

Video Clip 3: Chivas U.S.A. at Toronto (31:06)
In this clip, the AR correctly gives the benefit of doubt to the attack. The AR demonstrates an understanding of the attacking philosophy as it relates to offside decisions and keeps the flag down thus rewarding the spectators with a goal.

This is a difficult decision requiring focus and concentration on the part of the AR as the ball is quickly touched by an attacker without a “real” play. The AR is able to quickly process the last “touch” by the attacker and visually identify that the goal scorer is even with the second-to-last defender. In order to correctly apply the attacking philosophy and make the correct no-offside decision, the AR must also be perfectly positioned (directly aligned with the second-to-last defender), with his shoulders square to the field, as he is when making this decision. Image 2 shows the position of the goal scorer and the AR at the time the ball is “touched” by an attacker.

Image 2

Looking Forward – Week 20
The referee team’s game responsibilities are not completed until all match reports and associated paperwork are submitted. Accuracy of reports is vital. Leagues use match reports for justifying player suspensions and often for recording yellow cards for potential suspension due to accumulation. As a result, accuracy can play a critical role in player discipline. Prior to submitting any report, the entire officiating team (referee, both ARs and fourth official) must review the report and ensure that the player names, player numbers and reasons for any misconduct are correct. Report submission is a responsibility of all officials assigned a match.

In order to facilitate accurate reporting, consider the following:

  • Each match official should record all cautions and red cards issued during the game. Referees must record the information prior to restarting the game and the Laws of the Game require a ceremonial restart (whistle) after issuing a card. ARs and fourth officials should record information as soon as possible after the card’s issuance. (Note: It is important to prevent all officials writing concurrently which would result in potentially not being able to see any further action on the field.) If an AR or fourth official is uncertain as to who has been issued misconduct, ask the referee at the next reasonable opportunity when the referee is in your area.
  • Compare notes at halftime. As part of your halftime discussions, review the details of any misconduct.
  • After the game, prior to completing the match reports, compare notes again. Review player numbers, names, times and reasons for misconduct.
  • All members of the officiating team visually read the match report and literally or figuratively (depending upon the league requirements) “sign-off” on the contents of the report.

Remember, prevention is better than cure as it relates to report writing and submitting reports which become “official” documents.