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2010 Referee Week In Review - Week 16

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 16 – Ending July 18, 2010
A busy week of soccer in Carson, Calif., came to a climatic end as the champions for the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Finals were crowned. After 10 days of the highest level of youth competition, eight selected referees and eight assistant referees returned home. Despite the competitive nature of the Development Academy Finals’ games, MLS matches still presented their standard teaching points for officials of all levels. This week’s analysis will include excellent work by an assistant referee (AR) to correctly judge a dynamic offside situation, a handling decision that is becoming more commonplace in games at all levels and a recognized flash point that leads to the identification of violent conduct.

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


Offside: Correctly Judging “Interfering with Play”

The offside concept of “interfering with play” has been the conversation piece for many “Week In Reviews.” The Laws of the Game give three reasons an offside positioned player may be penalized for being in an offside position when the ball is touched or played by a teammate. “Interfering with play” is one of the three reasons and it is defined as:

  • Playing or touching the ball passed or touched by a teammate.

ARs must be able to use the wait and see technique to judge whether a player has “interfered with play” when there are several attacking players that have the opportunity to play or touch a ball that is passed by a teammate. Wait and see is vital given the fact that there may be a mixture of onside and offside positioned players with the opportunity to play a ball. Elite ARs are able to exhibit patience in the decision making process. Patience leads to more time to make the decision and more time to see which player (onside or offside) actually touches or plays the ball.

Note: When using the wait and see technique, match officials must be cognizant of the potential for collision and injury due to a late flag. This is especially important when the collision may be with the goalkeeper who is running toward an on-rushing attacker. These players are at risk for injury and ARs must be able to identify this risk and limit the use of wait and see thereby preventing the potential for serious injury for this type of play.

Despite the number of players in offside positions or onside positions, ARs must not make the offside judgment until the ball is played by a teammate of the player making the touch/pass. If the ball is played/touched by an onside player, the flag should remain down. If the ball is played/touched by on offside positioned player, the flag must go up as the player “interfered with play.”

Video Clip 1: Los Angeles at D.C. United (88:39)
Focus, concentration and awareness are illustrated by the exceptional work of an AR in this clip. A fully focused AR must be able to identify the following when evaluating the potential for offside:

  1. Offside positioned attackers: Three attackers are inside the penalty area and in an offside position at the time the ball is passed by their teammate.
  2. Onside positioned attackers: Three attackers are outside the penalty area but in an onside position at the time the ball is passed by their teammate.
  3. Offside positioned changes direction: Offside player runs away from the goal but then turns as though he may play the ball.

With such a dynamic situation, the AR must not only be well-positioned but must have the visual concentration and awareness of players and their actions and movements. Finally, the AR must also be aware if any offside positioned player actually “interferes with play” by playing/touching the passed ball.

In this case, through the use of the wait and see technique, the AR correctly identifies that the ball is touched/played by an onside player (No. 2) and, thus, keeps the flag down. This initial decision is immediately followed up by another offside/onside decision as the ball, after it is touched by the onside player (No. 2), goes to another attacker who is behind the ball at the time it is touched by his teammate. As a result of this player being behind the ball, the AR makes another correct onside decision.

Handling the Ball: In the Wall on a Free Kick

In recent years, more and more players are extending their hands and/or arms from their body while being positioned in the wall during a free kick. The movement and extension of the hand/arm occurs frequently, by players positioned in a wall, when these players jump in an attempt to block the free kick. Given this practice is becoming more common, U.S. Soccer is providing the following guidance which supplements the 2009 “Handling the Ball” directive:

  • Before the taking of a free kick, the hands and/or arms must be in a set position. Any movement of the hand and/or arms once the free kick is taken, where there is contact with the hands and/or arm and ball, is to be considered deliberate and therefore an infraction. A hand that is set (position established) before the kick to protect the face and/or groin may not be moved in any direction. This includes, forward, to the side and/or above the head. If the player jumps, this shall be considered a deliberate movement and, therefore, the consequences of the movement must be penalized as handling. The static position of the player and the motionless positioning of the arms, only works when the player is in the set position. Any movement means that the player does not need to protect himself as he is able to move and therefore NOT able to use his hand or arm to address the ball. Any movement which initiates contact between the hand/arm and ball is a violation and must be considered a deliberate handball (“making yourself bigger”) which must be penalized by a direct free kick and a ceremonial restart. If this occurs in the penalty area, then a penalty kick must be awarded.

Key to correct interpretation is the referee’s ability to recognize a set, pre-established position of the hands/arms. The referee must then be positioned to see whether any movement of the hand or arm occurs resulting in contact with the ball. Contact with the ball in conjunction with movement (jumping while in the wall means movement has occurred) results in a handling offense that must be penalized with a direct free kick or penalty kick if it occurs in the penalty area (and is committed by the defending team).

Video Clip 2: Los Angeles at New England (64:52)
The referee correctly awards a ceremonial direct free kick for handling as the player in the wall jumps up resulting in contact with his arm. Although the player sets his arms (in front of his face and groin) prior to the original free kick being taken, by virtue of the player jumping, the contact with the ball shall be judged as deliberate and therefore must be punished with a direct free kick. The player in this clip moves his arms from their preset position.

Off-the-Ball Misconduct: Kicking an Opponent After the Ball is Gone

Referees need to guard against watching the ball or immediately following the ball when it leaves the area after a challenge. Referees must recognize warning signs or flash points and remember that a “watched ball never fouls . . . players do.”

When a challenge occurs and one or two opposing players are on the ground, the referee must recognize this as a potential flash point. In other words, the referee must realize that the potential for extracurricular contact exists between the two opponents. Once this identification is made, the referee should keep partial eyesight on the two opponents and refrain from immediately turning his head and/or body away from the players on the ground. By taking focus off the two players too quickly, the referee may miss any off-the-ball action(s) that can bring the game into disrepute.

While the ball is traveling to its next destination, the referee can also move but should do so while continuing to monitor the flash point area. Turning too quickly can lead to missed infringements of the law or unpunished misconduct.

Note: As the referee leaves the flashpoint area, he can use his voice to let players know that he is watching and that he suspects a potential issue.

Video Clip 3: New York at Columbus (88:19)
Although the game has only a few minutes remaining, the referee must not let his guard down. The referee, in this case, is well positioned to make a judgment that a sliding tackle is fair (the ball is played) for this level of play and, therefore, does not whistle a foul. With two players on the ground and their bodies/legs/feet tangled, the referee identifies a potential warning sign or flash point. As a result, the referee continues up field but also maintains vigilant focus on the two tangled players.

After the ball has progressed up the field, the player in the yellow jersey (as he gets up from the ground) kicks/cleats his opponent in the chest. The yellow jersey player hopes that he can disguise the violent conduct as an attempt to get back to his feet (stand-up) and hopes that the referee has turned his focus away from the flash point area (two players on the ground). Fortunately for the game, the referee has not turned his vision to solely track the ball and has kept sufficient focus off-the-ball. This off-the-ball vision, leads to a correct red card for violent conduct and a direct free kick.

Looking Forward – Week 17
Identification of warning signs or flash points is vital for effective preventative refereeing. Match officials must be able to “feel” the game and recognize signs of pending issues or problem areas. Once a flash point has been identified, the referee can take preventative action. Action can be taken that prevents the flash point from occurring or becoming a reality.