U.S. Soccer Centennial Referee Interview: Bob Evans
Former National Director of Referee Instruction and Longtime NASL Official Brought Scientific Method to Game
It is second nature for former U.S. Soccer National Director of Referee Instruction Bob Evans to apply science to everything he does. A geologist by trade for many years, Evans approached soccer in the same systematic manner to play an important role in the officiating side of the sport.
“I’m into research and into analysis – that’s been my career as a scientist,” Evans said. “It’s a natural extension, and I took that same professionalism into the sport of soccer. I wrote the first pamphlet on assessment, wrote the manual for linesmen based on what I did in the NASL, and a couple thousand copies went around. I used my experience as a writer and combined that with my knowledge of the game to create publications because at the time it was the best way to reach everyone.”
Evans grew up in South Wales and traveled to Canada to earn his master’s degree in geology in the early 1960s. At the same time, Evans was still playing the game, but an injury led him to look at the refereeing side.
“I started playing in a Nova Scotia soccer league and was active as a player, but in one league game I broke my leg,” Evans said. “I was out for 12 months before I could play again, but I still went to the games. I was sitting there one day, commenting about refereeing, and it was an older gentleman who told me, ‘With your knowledge of the game and the laws, you ought to take the referee exam.’ I took the exam, passed it and qualified in training.”
Before becoming a full-fledged referee, Evans moved to the United States to continue his schooling at the University of Kansas, where he coached the squad.
“They had to find a grad student or faculty member to run the team, and after a geology meeting I ran them my resume,” Evans said. “The next day, I was coaching Kansas. I didn’t know the college game and their own rules, and in our first game we’ve got our 13 students and went to Rockhurst College in Kansas City, where they had 30 players. I had never seen anything like it.”
In 1969, Evans moved to the Dallas area and registered as a U.S. Soccer referee that fall. It was a bit of good fortune that the North American Soccer League was in its early stages and needed referees and linesmen.
“The North American Soccer League was gathering officials, and I always said that if I was no longer enjoying playing the game anymore that I would be interested in that aspect,” Evans said. “I was still playing for a club called the Dallas Rangers as their goalkeeper. By then, I was a linesman and my referee career progressed from there.
“The NASL was tough competition, with players from all over the world,” Evans said. “There were different styles and players from Central America, Brits, South Americans – I was really captivated by the environment.”
Evans was involved in the league from 1972-85.
“I was one of the fortunate ones,” Evans said. “I was in the NASL for 13 years, and only two other people in the country were there that long – Angelo Bratsis and Toros Kibritjian. It was a bit like a fantasy. I progressed from there and got to the FIFA list.”
Evans was on the FIFA Panel of Referees starting in 1979, and he had the opportunity to work 15 international matches over an eight-year stretch, including three trips to Asia and an Olympic Games.
“I was a research scientist at a major lab in Dallas and I had several weeks’ vacation,” Evans said. “Most international games only took three days, so I’d do the match and come back on the third day.”
Evans decided to cut his international officiating a bit short, leaving the field to serve as U.S. Soccer’s National Director of Referee Instruction from 1987-90.
“I had already been instructing for several years because Eddie Pearson selected me as what you’d call ‘regional referee instructors,’” Evans said. “My referee career was coming to an end – I was about 48, 49, and the age limit was 50. I spoke with Jake McCabe, who was the chairman of the referees committee, and he wanted me to be the National Director of Instruction. You can’t be on the FIFA list, and I said that’s fine. I had done everything I wanted to do and I took the job.”
Along with his written materials over the years, Evans’ contributions have been on the national level as a referee instructor and assessor as he continues to be involved in the game.
“I’m very pleased with the professionalization of the officiating,” Evans said. “PRO is getting officials together every couple of weeks, and that is important. It is something that we used to do in the NASL, sitting down and talking about our games and getting it right. The entertainment of soccer is going to a game to watch 22 quality players in a well-controlled game, and it’s important to deliver these messages to all officials to standardize the game’s interpretations.”