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2010 Referee Week In Review - Week 22

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 22 – Ending August 29, 2010

Consistency is a term widely used by coaches when discussing officiating. Through constant communication and training with officials utilizing avenues like the “Week In Review,” position papers and directives, one of U.S. Soccer’s goals is to provide a platform to help streamline consistent decision-making. Consistency is not an easy task as every official has a different personality and a different evolution in the game. These factors influence what is seen as well as how it is seen, interpreted and acted upon.

Within a game, teams/players need to sense that the referee is consistent. Players need to understand that similar situations will be dealt with in a similar fashion at both ends of the field. In other words, the referee will apply the same critieria throughout the match. Without consistency, players and teams get confused (as a result of mixed messages) and frustration results which often leads to dissent and game disrepute.

Note: Consistency is not about “make-up calls” or not making another call because an official missed the first call. Match officials can not allow missed or incorrect prior decisions to influence future calls.

In this version of the “Week In Review,” two decisions within the same match will be examined. Additionally, another example of the need for uniformity on a simple but critical restart situation will be discussed in context of the need for consistency by all officials, at all levels.

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


Red Card Tackles and Consistent Interpretation and Application

The terms options and 100 percent misconduct have been at the core of many “Week In Reviews.” These two terms must work hand-in-hand and match officials must be able to utilize the training and education materials provided by U.S. Soccer as well as their “feel” and experience to determine the options when there is not a 100 percent misconduct situation. The ability to “feel” the game and choose the best option often times distinguishes success from failure. If a referee chooses the wrong option, the game can spiral out of control. Similarly, if a referee incorrectly identifies a 100 percent misconduct situation, the game can follow the same negative route.

Over the past three seasons, U.S. Soccer has attempted to provide a foundation for improving the interpretation of the various levels of tackles (careless, reckless and excessive force). Key to driving home consistent interpretation and application have been criteria like:

  1. Mode of contact and area of contact
    • Speed of play and the tackle
    • Intent
    • Aggressive nature
    • Position of the tackler
    • Opportunity to play the ball
    • Atmosphere of the game

Throughout a match, officials must be able to identify and correctly punish challenges based upon the criteria thereby ensuring the 100 percent misconduct situations are dealt with according to the Laws of the Game. When a decision is “borderline,” not a clear yellow card or red card, then the referee has options. At this point, the referee can ask himself: “Does the game need the card?” or “Does the player need the card?” Based upon the referee’s feel for the game at the moment (the atmosphere of the match) and where the referee feels the game is headed, the referee can then decide upon the most appropriate option. In this case, the option is to choose between the yellow or red card.

Clip 1: Philadelphia at New England (28:38 and 35:48)
This clip contains two examples of 100 percent misconduct tackles (at 28:38 and 35:48). The referee misinterprets the first challenge (which is the more severe of the two) and only issues a yellow card. Approximately seven minutes later, the referee is faced with another tackle that meets the excessive force criteria but this time correctly issues a red card for serious foul play. Because the referee was not consistent in his application and interpretation, the frustration level of the players and those in the technical area is heightened.

  1. Red card tackle at 28:38
    This tackle is committed late and the tackler leads with the hard surface of his cleats (mode of contact) and contacts the opponent in the ankle area (area of contact). The player is at a very high risk of serious injury. This challenge meets all the SIAPOA criteria due to factors like speed, the location of the ball at the time of the challenge and the opportunity to play the ball. A red card for serious foul play must be given for similar tackles. This is a 100 percent red card situation and there are no other options.
  2. Red card tackle at 35:48
    Having only given a yellow card for the clear red card tackle seven minutes earlier, the players and technical personnel are surprised by the issuance of a red card for this second tackle. The red card for serious foul play for this tackle is correct as the SIAPOA criteria are existent. The tackle is late and the defender launches his entire body through the opponent after the ball is gone. Despite the correctness of the decision, there is an atmosphere or feeling of “unjust” amongst the players as the first challenge is not dealt with in the same manner as the second. To the referee’s credit, he is well positioned to view the severity of the tackle and this positioning leads to a correct decision.

All in all, the lack of consistent decisions can lead to confusion and frustration by players, coaches, administration and spectators. In this clip, two red cards must be issued. The red cards are consistent with the criteria (SIAPOA and mode/area of contact) to be used to aid in the identification of excessive force tackles.

Whistling the Restart of the Game

Certain requirements of the Laws of the Game are mandatory or required. Many of these situations should be “standard operating procedure.” In other words, they should be a standard part of every match official’s management of the game at all levels. Failure to be consistent in the application and implementation of some of these standard procedures can lead to further problems.

FIFA’s “Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees” outlines several instances in which the referee is required to use the whistle (whistling is a MUST):

  1. Start play (first and second half) and after a goal
  2. Stop play:
    • For a free kick or penalty kick
    • If the match is suspended or abandoned
    • When a period of play has ended due to the expiration of time
  3. Restart play for:
    • Free kicks when the appropriate distance is required
    • Penalty kicks
  4. Restart play after it has been stopped due to:
    • The issuance of a yellow or red card for misconduct
    • Injury
    • Substitution

At the same time, referees are not required to use the whistle to:

  1. Stop play for:
    • A goal kick, corner kick or throw-in
    • A goal
  2. Restart play from:
    • A free kick, goal kick, corner kick, throw-in

A whistle that is used too much loses effectiveness and will frequently have less impact when it is needed to send a message. The tone, volume and length of whistle should vary given the situation and the need of the game at that moment. Consider the message that you want to send prior to whistling and, remember, the whistle is an extension of your personality and management style.

Clip 2: Chicago at Seattle (82:06)
The use of the whistle to restart play after the issuance of a yellow or red card is the focus of this clip but the clip does include a correctly issued yellow card for unsporting behavior due to a late and reckless upper body challenge.

After stopping play to issue a yellow or red card for misconduct, the referee is obligated to use the whistle to signal that the game may be restarted. As a result of this requirement, all restarts after a red or yellow card is displayed should be managed as ceremonial. The fact that the restart is ceremonial means that the referee must take the time to record/write the misconduct information thereby preventing any misidentification later in the game.

In this clip, the referee stops play and correctly issues a caution. As the referee is conversing with the player, yellow card in hand, the game is restarted (without the referee’s whistle) and, now, the referee is out of position and must chase play. An attacking opportunity results. Fortunately for the referee, a goal is not scored. Procedurally, the referee should have simply whistled to stop the inappropriate restart, completed his data recording and then correctly restarted the ceremonial free kick with his whistle.

Using the whistle as part of the ceremonial restart may seem trivial or minor but, as this clip illustrates, it can have significant implications. Use of the whistle to restart after misconduct:

  • Gives the referee team time to record the misconduct information.
  • Allows the referee time to take an optimal position to be ready for the next phase of play.
  • Permits both teams a fair opportunity to ready themselves prior to the game being restarted.
  • Lowers the temperature of the game.

Because the referee is taking formal action on this free kick by issuing a card for misconduct, teams are not permitted to take a quick restart as it could potentially lead to an unfair advantage. Teams relax when the referee is taking official action thus the need for the whistle to get their attention and get them focused on the ball being put into play.

If a team attempts to put the ball back into play prior to the referee’s whistle, the referee must immediately stop play and cannot allow it to progress. The ball should be placed in the correct restart location and play held up until such time as the referee indicates he is ready by way of his whistle.

Note: Match officials need to ensure they do the simple things right as this will prevent future bigger issues. By doing the ordinary things, extraordinarily well, referees can ensure the little things do not fester or grow into issues that challenge the referee’s management ability.

Cautioning After Applying Advantage

Using U.S. Soccer’s “4 P Principle,” match officials can evaluate situations and determine whether application of the advantage principle would benefit the game and the team. “Week In Review 15” provides further explanation regarding the “4 P Principle” but, in general, referees should consider the following when potential advantage scenarios unfold:

  • Possession of ball
  • Potential for attack
  • Personnel
  • Proximity to opponent’s goal

If a referee applies advantage, the referee may still caution a player for misconduct despite allowing play to continue. According to the Laws of the Game, the caution must be given at the next stoppage. If the yellow card is not issued at the next stoppage, it can not be shown later. The amount of time between the application of the advantage and the next stoppage should not play a role in determining whether to issue the yellow card or not. The severity of the offense (whether it is reckless or not) should be the determining factor on whether to caution or not. At the time the offense is committed, the referee should determine if it is careless or reckless. It should be the offense that determines whether misconduct is issued and not the time between the offense and the next stoppage or what occurs before the next stoppage.

Note: Unless a goal is imminent, it is not recommended to apply advantage when a red card offense has been committed.

Clip 3: D.C. United at Chivas USA (29:15)
The referee uses the “4 P Principle” to effectively apply an advantage. Despite the foul occurring 20 yards in the defensive half, the foul is a good candidate for the application of advantage because the team that has been fouled has clear possession of the ball and their potential for attack is very high given the open space in the attack as well as the number of unmarked attackers in a positive position.

Not only has the referee done well to identify and signal the advantage but he also lets all players and spectators know that the player who committed the foul will be dealt with later. Watch as, after the foul is committed and advantage signaled, the referee points to the offender who will be cautioned. The concept of pointing or identifying the player may be supplemented by a quick verbal indication (like: “Number 8, I am coming back to you”) as some players may not be able to see the visual indication.

Pointing to the player to be cautioned when applying advantage is often a useful practice as it sends an immediate message to:

  • The player that his actions are considered misconduct and that the referee will “come back to you” to issue the yellow card.
  • The player that was fouled and his team. By pointing to the player, the referee may prevent retaliation or other players dealing with the foul on their own.
  • Spectators and media that the challenge was severe enough to warrant a caution and thereby reduce potential frustration on their part.

Approximately 30 seconds after the foul and associated advantage, play is stopped for offside. At this point, the referee officially signals for play to be held up and he then issues the yellow card. The card is followed-up with a quick conversation shortly after the player’s emotional response to the card has diminished (this helps to sell the decision and gain the player’s acceptance) and then the resumption of play after the referee’s whistle.

Looking Forward – Week 23
Keep intensity and energy levels above that of the game and players. With game results becoming more critical, the intensity and urgency of the players will reverberate throughout the field. Referees need to be prepared for and anticipate this extra energy and ensure that their levels of urgency surpass that of the players and the game. This must be demonstrated in a positive manner focused on prevention and being in the right place at the right time.