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2009 Referee Week in Review - Week 14

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
Week 14 – ending June 21, 2009
As we enter the summer season, hot and humid weather is present throughout much of the country. At the professional level, players prepare to play in all climates because the weather can affect style and speed of play and tactics in the game. However, the impact of weather is significantly heightened in many areas that have greater heat indexes than those faced by teams in the United States.

This past weekend an unfortunate event occurred at the professional level. A referee decided to have an unauthorized “water break” during an MLS match. As will be discussed below, the Laws of the Game do not permit officials to conduct “water breaks.” At other non-professional levels, especially youth levels, the rules of competition may provide guidance for the utilization of “water breaks” when the heat and/or humidity may impact the safety of the players. No such protocol, however, applies to any professional match regardless of the heat or climate.

At the conclusion of this week’s summary, an overview of the necessity of water and hydration is provided as well as the warning signs of dehydration. Officials can use this to assist in their personal preparation as well as a tool to identify players who may be facing dehydration.

Over the next week, over 85 referees from 20 states will be participating in U.S. Soccer’s first Development Academy Playoffs in Greensboro, North Carolina. From June 26 to 29, there will 64 teams competing in under 16 and 18 divisions in order to earn the right to make up the eight spots at the Development Academy Finals Week in Carson, California. Follow the action as well as the referees at


Player Hydration During Games
It is important to remember that different levels (age, skill, competitive nature) of the game have different needs. Often, these needs are a result of preparation, fitness levels, tactical awareness and other factors that influence players’ need for hydration (liquids) during the game. Players, at the professional level, are expected to prepare (mentally, physically and tactically) for all climates including extreme heat and humidity.

Alternatively, certain youth and amateur competitions may recommend controlled stoppages to allow players to hydrate in summer months. This is due to safety factors that may exist as a result of differences in factors like preparation. In such cases, the rules of competition should specify the parameters for such hydration stoppages.

It is noteworthy that the Laws of the Game do not specifically address stoppages for “water breaks.” However, FIFA does provide the following instruction to match officials regarding the drinking of water during games:

“Players are entitled to take liquid refreshments during a stoppage in the match but only at the touchlines. It is not permitted to throw plastic water bottles, bags or any other water containers onto the field.”

FIFA's instructions mean that players may hydrate during a natural stoppage in the game. This hydration must occur along the touchlines meaning that off-the-field personnel may not enter the field to provide liquids to the players. Players must go to the touchline to prevent water bottles, bags or other containers from being tossed/thrown on the field which could hit or injure a field player or litter the field. When players go to the touchline, the game must continue, so players go “at their own risk”.

U.S. Soccer uses FIFA's instructions to provide further guidance to match officials in its “Advise to Referees on the Laws of the Game” (2008 version) in section 19.4:

“Field players who wish to drink water while play continues may do so only from the touchline and without leaving the field. Players may also drink water during stoppages at any of the boundary lines. If water containers are left along boundary lines outside the field of play, they must not interfere with the movement of the assistant referee or block his or her view of the length of the touchline. Under no circumstances may water containers of any sort be thrown onto the field, either during play or at stoppages (including the halftime break), nor may they be thrown from the field after a player has finished drinking.”

The game has sufficient normal stoppages to provide players with the opportunity to hydrate. The fact that water containers may be placed around the field (without impacting assistant referee performance) provides ample opportunity for professional players to drink water as required.

Under no circumstances may referees working professional matches authorize or implement water breaks.

Remember, any such breaks are not intended to be “coaching moments” but merely an opportunity for players to hydrate.

Video Clip 1: Real Salt Lake at Houston (24:36)
This clip shows an unauthorized water break during an MLS game. The referee incorrectly takes it upon himself to make a personal decision to stop the game to give the players the chance to get water. This is not permitted by the rules of competition and should not have taken place. The decision, which stops the game for approximately 1:24, takes away the rhythm and focus of the teams and creates visible frustration for players and coaches. Players and teams do not appreciate surprises and because the break is not permitted by the Laws of the Game nor the rules of competition, the teams are surprised and frustrated which could lead to dissent or other forms of misconduct.

On the goal kick, instead of having an unauthorized water break, the players could have used the time it took for the goalkeeper to put the ball into play to address hydration issues. In this manner, the flow of the game is not interrupted.

Note: The coach should not be permitted to enter the field of play to express his frustration but common sense must prevail. The fourth official should do everything possible to keep all the off-the-field personnel from entering the field but this is not an easy task as the fourth official must also work, with the near-side assistant referee (AR), to manage the players drinking water and the throwing of bottles onto the field.

Violent Conduct: Law 12
Many times the concept of “warning signs” has been addressed in “Week in Reviews.” “Warning signs” provide a sense of a pending problems and should help officials take preventative action or assist with the recognition of a specific act so that the correct action may be taken. Referees, ARs and fourth officials need to utilize the game’s many “warning signs” to aid in match control.

A warning sign often evident in games is when one player is on the ground and another player is hovering over him. This is an uneasy situation because players on the ground may be thinking retaliation (kicking or holding an opponent’s leg) and the player standing over the player may be thinking about “sending a message” by stepping on the player on the ground (normally in the area of the player’s lower leg or in the midsection). The standing player often feels confident in stepping on the player because he feels he can hide the action and that it will be interpreted as a natural act (i.e., a step or a jump) versus a premeditated act.

Through an understanding of the various warning signs, match officials can train themselves to recognize the action and make the appropriate decision regarding any potential misconduct. Even more importantly, recognition of the warning signs can be used as a preventative tool to head off problems before they occur.

Law 12 – Fouls and Misconduct, provides six offenses for which a player, substitute or substituted player can be sent off (red carded). One of these offenses is violent conduct. Violent conduct has several characteristics as part of its definition:

  • The use of excessive force or brutality against an opponent when not challenging for the ball.
  • The use of excessive force or brutality against a team mate, spectator, match official or any other person.
  • Occurs either on the field or outside its boundaries.
  • The ball can be in play or out of play.

ARs who see a clear act of violent conduct must bring the offence to the attention of the referee immediately. ARs must provide the appropriate information to the referee so that the referee can take the appropriate action.

Video Clip 2: Seattle at New York (53:56)
This clip provides an example of two incorrect decisions on the part of the referee and AR: foul decision and misconduct. On the positive side, the officiating crew uses appropriate mechanics. Unfortunately, they do not lead to improved decisions.

  • Foul Decision
    As the two opponents are chasing the ball to the end line, the defender (No. 2 in the white jersey) has the inside track and is playing the ball. No. 2 is pushed from behind by Green #1 which causes him to go down initially.

    At this point, the AR must flag a foul on the green jersey player.

  • Warning Sign
    The foul results in a warning sign. Once No. 2 gets up and stands over his fallen opponent, the referee and AR must recognize this as a warning sign for potential problems. Referee and AR focus should go to the both players’ feet. At the least, the AR must recognize the act and provide the appropriate information to the referee.

    The standing player may now feel comfortable taking a chance of stepping on or kicking his opponent because he feels it can be disguised or hidden.

  • Act of Violent Conduct
    Maybe because of frustration in not being awarded the foul, No. 2 steps on the ankle (using his exposed cleats) of the opponent on the ground. This action meets the characteristics of violent conduct: excessive force, ball out of play and not a challenge for the ball. As a result, No. 2 must be red carded.

  • AR Intervention
    The AR begins to quickly enter the field in case the situation requires his presence. This action may have prevented the situation from escalating into game disrepute and/or mass confrontation.

  • Referee and AR Confer
    In order to attempt to make the correct decision, the referee and AR confer and discuss what each has observed with the goal of identifying any misconduct and the restart. The referee does well to keep players away so the conversation is as private and uninterrupted as possible.

    After their conference, the referee team decides not to issue any misconduct to No. 2 – clearly a mistake.

  • Direct Free Kick Restart Incorrect
    Since the original foul was committed by the team in the green jerseys, the officials mistakenly give the direct free kick restart to the wrong team. Notice, a corner kick was not awarded. Go back and watch the clip. You will see that the AR puts the flag up late and does not recognize the initial offence committed by the green team.

    As part of their conference, the referee and AR should have discussed who committed the first foul and ensured the appropriate restart was taken.

In summary, the referee shows good judgment in conferring with the AR to ensure he has all the information to make the best possible decision. Despite their conference, the referee team decides not to issue a red card for clear violent conduct. It must be noted that the offense is 100% misconduct and No. 2 must be sent off despite the score or the time in the match.

The AR does well to move quickly onto the field to prevent escalation. However, he does not recognize the warning signs and, therefore, is unable to correctly identify the violent conduct. Additionally, the AR should have flagged the original foul committed by the player in the green jersey. This early flag may have prevented the subsequent contact and violent act.

Looking Forward – Week 15
Review the various warning signs or trigger points that officials are faced with during matches. Many warning signs are provided in the multiple 2009 U.S. Soccer Referee Program Directives.

Of particular interest is the directive on “Game Disrepute and Mass Confrontation” as it lists multiple warning signs as does the directive on the “Game Management Model.” Consider how you can prevent the actions or what may follow the trigger point.

Here is a partial list of some of the warning signs:

  1. Severity of the initial foul
  2. Zone of contact / location on the field:
    • Near signboards / walls
    • Near benches
  3. Ball is often out of play or not playable
    • Near the boundary lines
  4. Player standing over another player (intimidating stance)
  5. Players putting hand or finger near opponent’s face
  6. Players running into the goal to get the ball after a score

Hydration: Preparation and Warning Signs
Forget about every other question that you have about nutrition until you’ve figured out how to stay hydrated. Being smart about hydration can separate good performance from great performance.

You are mostly water. In fact, if you took the water out of a 180-pound lean body, there would be about 55 pounds left. Because your muscles, your brain, your blood and sweat are mostly water, your body doesn’t work like it should when it is not properly hydrated. You don’t think as clearly, your endurance is compromised and your heart works harder.

When you’re severely dehydrated, sweating stops and your body overheats. The result is fatigue, weakness, dizziness, and collapse, or worse. In fact, every year, deaths in young healthy athletes are linked to severe dehydration.

Sweat It Out
Sometimes you don’t even see sweat, like when you swim. But you sweat whenever your body heats up from working out. Sweat is your body’s cooling system. Evaporation of sweat from your skin cools you down.

When you sweat, you lose fluid from your body. That fluid must be replaced, and replacing fluids takes a plan.

Dehydration: A shortage of fluids in the body.

Don’t Rely on Thirst
You might be thinking, “What’s the big deal? Won’t drinking when I’m thirsty guarantee that I’m hydrated?” Surprisingly, no. During exercise, for reasons not totally understood, humans don’t drink enough to prevent dehydration. You need to drink before you’re thirsty and keep drinking after you no longer feel thirsty.

Drink It In
Forget about the old rule of drinking 8 glasses of water per day. You probably need more than that on most days. Counting how many glasses you drink is only one way of keeping track of what you need. A better way of making sure you’re hydrated is to check your body weight before and after practice. For accuracy, weigh yourself in minimal clothing if there’s privacy, and afterwards, change out of the sweaty clothing before you weigh. The weight lost during practice or competition is not fat, it’s fluid loss.

One pint of fluid weighs one pound. To replace the fluid, drink one pint of fluid (Gatorade or water) for every pound you lost. (One pint = 16 ounces = 500 ml = ½ liter). It is critical to replace this as quickly as possible. Before your next workout, your weight should be back up to normal.

If you can’t check your weight, pay attention to your body for signs of dehydration. Your mouth should not be dry. Your urine should be lemon-colored most of the time.

More than one episode of dark yellow urine is a warning sign that you don’t have much reserve. (Exception: Vitamin supplements can turn your urine yellow-orange, even if you are hydrated.) Loss of appetite, stomach aches, and muscle cramps can be other warning signals of dehydration.

Drink before, during and after working out. Drink a pint or so of fluid a few hours before exercise. This will help make sure you are hydrated and give you enough time to urinate if you need to beforehand.

Keep drinking during exercise. And don’t worry about getting too much fluid. If you’re sweating, your body needs a constant supply. Your stomach might gurgle, but your body will absorb and use the fluid. Feeling sick and cramping have been blamed on too much water when in fact, stomachaches and muscle cramps are usually signs of not drinking enough fluid.

Drinking fluids after workouts is extremely important. Even when drinking fluids during a workout, many athletes become dehydrated. Athletes working out in the heat for several hours can lose 10 pounds. That’s more than a gallon of water.

Hydration Tip: Keep your hydration source full and in plain sight so you remember to drink it.

What Should I Drink?
Your body needs water. But remember water comes in all sizes, shapes and colors. Milk is 90% water. Juice and most soft drinks are 89% water, sport drinks are 94% water, and even pizza is 50% water. And it all counts. Nearly everything that passes your lips provides water for your body, and in fact, research shows that most hydration happens at meals from the combination of food and beverages.

Research also shows that we tend to drink more if the fluid is flavored and if a variety of fluids are available. Gatorade and water are two excellent sources for hydration.

Keys to Hydration
When you have figured out how to stay hydrated, especially when you sweat heavily, you have accomplished the single most important performance-enhancing aspect of nutrition.

Water is your most important nutrient.

Outline for Heat Illnesses
Source: USOC Sports Medicine Division

Heat illnesses are common problems for both athletes and non-athletes in hot, humid weather. Heat Cramps, Heat Exhaustion, and Heat Stroke start from similar circumstances: poor adjustment to hot weather and relative dehydration. These conditions can be severe and need emergency medical attention. All are preventable if certain procedures, such as time to adjust to heat, adequate fluids, and normal dietary electrolyte intake, are followed.

Heat Cramps

Inadequate adjustment to hot weather, heavy sweating; decreased blood levels of electrolytes; fluids and electrolytes not adequately replaced; unreplaced weight loss from previous workout/day.

Clinical signs and symptoms
Muscles in arms, legs, and/or abdomen spasm uncontrollably, accompanied by heavy sweating.

Drink fluids; gently stretch and massage cramped muscles; rest in cool environment; apply ice to cramped area; watch for breathing or heart problems.

Maintain adequate fluid intake by replacing sweat losses: 15-30 minutes before exercise, drink 16 oz. of fluid; during exercise, drink 8oz. every 15 minutes; and after exercise drink 16 oz. of water/electrolyte drink (i.e., PowerAde, Gatorade) for every pound of body weight loss; increase fitness; wear light colored and/or lightweight (i.e. mesh) clothing; do not use alcohol, coffee, caffienated drinks, or soda pop for fluid replacement.

Heat Exhaustion

Long exposure to hot and/or humid environment; heavy sweating; fluids and electrolytes not replaced adequately; unreplaced weight loss from previous workout/day.

Clinical signs and symptoms
Skin cool, pale and moist; heavy sweating; headache; dizziness; poor coordination; mental dullness; enlarged pupils; nausea; vomiting; fatigue; weakness; thirsty; small urine volume (bright yellow color); possibility of unconsciousness.

Stop activity; rest in a cool area; sponge with cool water; drink water if conscious (replace weight loss with 16 oz of fluid for each pound of body weight); watch for breathing or heart problems; refer to physician attention if recovery does not occur quickly.

Maintain adequate fluid intake by replacing sweat losses; 15-30 minutes before exercise drink 16 ounces of fluid, during exercise drink 8 ounces every 15 minutes, and after exercise drink 16 ounces of water-electrolyte drink (i.e. Powerade, Gatorade for every pound of body weight lost; increase fitness; wear light colored and/or lightweight (i.e. mesh) clothing; do not use alcohol, coffee, caffeinated drinks, or soda pop for fluid replacement; allow time for rest and cool down.


Body’s temperature control system stops working.

Clinical signs and symptoms
Hot, dry and red skin; no sweating; rapid pulse; confusion; dizziness; unconsciousness; rectal temperature as high as 104°-106° Fahrenheit.

Treatment: Medical Emergency!
Immediate emergency cooling (e.g. cool room, put body in tub of ice water, ice cloths with a fan blowing on skin) and transport immediately to hospital; check temperature; watch for breathing or heart problems (may need CPR)

Maintain adequate fluid intake by replacing sweat losses; 15-30 minutes before exercise drink 16 ounces of fluid, during exercise drink 8 ounces every 15 minutes, and after exercise drink 16 ounces of water/electrolyte drink (i.e. mesh) clothing; do not use alcohol, coffee, caffeinated drinks, or soda pop for fluid replacement; allow time for rest and cool down.

Sources: ICSN, International Center for Sports Nutrition
USOC, United States Olympic Committee – Sports Medicine Division
USSF, United States Soccer Federation – Sports Medicine Committee

(Thanks to Mark Stein, ATC, for his help with this project.)
1991 United States Olympic Committee (revised November 1999)

Water Content of Common Foods and Drinks


Item Water content, approximate
Diet soft drinks, tea, coffee 99%
Sprots drinks (Gatorade) 94%
Milk 90%
Soup 90%
Soft Drinks, soda pop, juice 89%
Yogurt 80%
Corn 76%
Baked potato 74%
Cooked rice 73%
Cooked pasta 66%
Taco 59%
Chicken 54%
Ground beef 53%
Pizza 50%


Prepared by the U.S. Olympic Sports Medicine Division and the International Center for Sports Nutrition.1999 U.S. Olympic Committee

USOC Medical Emergency Procedures
Heat Illness Guidelines

Heat Cramps
Musculature spasm of extremity and abdomen
Heavy sweating
Core temperature normal or slightly elevated

Heat Exhaustion
Cool, moist, pale or flushed skin
Headache and dizziness
Strong, slow pulse
Weakness, confusion, and fatigue
Nausea, vomiting

Heat Stroke
Usually, hot, dry, flushed skin
Headache and dizziness
Strong, slow pulse
Heavy sweating, thirst
Fluid and electrolyte depletion
Enlarged pupils
Possible unconsciousness

Heat Cramps
Cease activity and remove from heat
Rest and drink cool fluids
Monitor for change in symptoms

Heat Exhaustion
Cease activity and remove from heat
Sponge with cool water
Slowly administer cool fluids orally if conscious
Monitor for change in symptoms

Heat Stroke
Activate EMS
Remove wet clothing and sponge with cold water
Monitor symptoms
Remove from heat

Heat Cramp/Heat Exhaustion
Contact consulting physician if complications occur or symptoms do not resolve

Heat Stroke
Activate EMS

Follow Up
Heat Cramp/Heat Exhaustion
Maintain adequate fluid intake, adequate rest and cooling periods, acclimatize to environment, physician release if indicated

Heat Stroke
Physician release to activity
Maintain adequate fluid intake
Adequate rest and cooling periods
Acclimatize to environment

Notify Head ATC or designee and appraise of situation

Notify the emergency contact of the patient if they are a minor