US Crest

Referee Week In Review

Week 15 – ending July 6, 2008


The Fourth of July weekend provided six referees the opportunity to ply their trade in MLS.  Of the six MLS games played, three resulted in ties.  For referees, it is important to note that the game-tying or game-winning goal in three of the six games was scored in the 87th minute or later (one tying goal was scored in additional time).  These late goals point to the fact that referee teams cannot relax at any point of any encounter.  Concentration and focus are as important in the waning minutes of play as they are in the initial minutes of the game.  The fact that the difference between a win and a loss (the three points) can change a team’s position from fifth to second enhances the games as the games take on increased significance.  At present, in the MLS Western Conference, six teams are within three points of each other.

Referees worked very hard to send messages to players early and often in the games.  Player management and interaction were displayed in all games.  Referees used their entire arsenal in addressing players early in the game thereby setting the tone for the way the balance of the game would be managed.  The quiet word, the stern admonishment, and the smile accompanied by the pat on the back were exhibited in early stages of matches.

U.S. Soccer’s Development Academy Finals Week kicks off next Friday at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California.  The nation’s top eight youth teams in two age groups (under 17/18 and under 15/16) compete for the top prize.  All 16 teams will all appear on national television.  The under 17/18 final will be played on July 18th at 8:00 p.m. (PT) on ESPN2.  It will be preceded by three other under 18 placement games.  The final day of the under 15/16 bracket is July 19th with the final and the three other placement games being televised live on ESPNU.  Like the under 17/18 final, the under 15/16 match kicks off at 8:00 p.m. (PT) from the Home Depot Center.

Similar to the teams, the nine referees participating in the Finals week have earned their chance to call a match during the eight days of competition.  The nine officials were selected as a result of their participation in one or more of the four U.S. Soccer Development Academy Showcases that were held throughout the United States.  The referees and two assistant referees will be joined at the Finals by three of U.S. Soccer’s full-time professional referees (Ricardo Salazar, Baldomero Toledo, and Terry Vaughn) and referee staff (Paul Tamberino, Alfred Kleinaitis, Brian Hall, Dick Triche, and Herb Silva).  Instruction and game review/analysis will be part of each day’s agenda.

On Friday, July 11, there will be a Referee Meeting open to the general public at 8:00 p.m. at the Doubletree Hotel in Carson, California (2 Civic Plaza Drive).

  • On the web page, you can listen to weekly podcasts highlighting the main issues from the “Referee Week in Review” document.  On the homepage, look mid page for the tab that says “Podcasts.”


Dissent by Word or Action

Officials were asked to address dissent – especially visual dissent and apply the standards set forth in “Referee Week In Review 14” defining dissent:  public, personal, provocative.  (Click on this link to refer to “Week In Review 14” for further information)

Video Clip 1:  New York at Colorado (80:45)

Watch in this clip how the player not only negatively addresses the referee but also the assistant referee (AR).  The player’s words and tone as well as his body language and the manner in which he approaches the officials clearly demonstrate his attitude and his dissent.  The referee rightfully cautions him for dissent.  The player is failing to show respect for the referee or for the game.  Look at the score.  The player’s team had a secure lead and the game was void of any controversial decisions and no significant decision occurred that would give any indication to the referee that the player’s actions were a “quick emotional outburst” as opposed to dissent. The extended nature and persistence of the dissenting player’s actions makes the player’s intent even more obvious for the referee team.

“Referee Week In Review 14” provided guidelines for officials in determining whether a player’s comments or actions are dissent or offensive, insulting, or abusive in nature. Apply these standards to the video and make a decision for yourself:

  • Public
  • Personal
  • Provocative

In this case, the AR should feel empowered to get the referee’s attention and have the player cautioned if he felt the referee did not see the extent of the dissention.


Additional Time

Once again, the issue of “additional time” became an unnecessary issue due to poor time management by the referee team.  As early as Week 4 of the MLS season, commentary on adding time was provided.  (Click on this link to refer to “Week In Review 4” for further information)  Remember, “additional time” is defined in the Law 7 of the Laws of the Game as “all time lost through:”

  • Substitution(s)
  • Assessment of injury to players
  • Removal of injured players from the field of play for treatment
  • Wasting time
  • Any other cause

Although the Laws state that “allowance for time lost is at the discretion of the referee,” it does not say that it can be ignored.  In one game this past weekend, the referee indicated four minutes of additional time in the second half in a 0-0 game.  As the half came to a close, there was a scuffle on the field that took approximately two minutes to resolve.  At the conclusion of the scuffle, after the fourth official had made the four additional minutes public, the referee added a mere 14 extra seconds.  Hence, the teams and the spectators were denied 1:46 of additional playing time.  With the score 0-0, the additional time becomes more vital.  Remember, in the weekend prior, a result was influenced by a goal scored in additional time.

Based upon the Laws of the Game, the referee should not hesitate to add the time lost through the scuffle and notify both teams that the four minutes will be extended.  The scuffle falls under the “any other cause” category and is not a normal part of time lost in a 0-0 match.

Paraphrasing a “Week In Review 4” recommendation:

  • Due to circumstances that occur DURING the indicated “additional time,” referees are supposed to extend the time to accommodate time lost.  If the referee decides to play a significant amount of time over the originally indicated amount, the referee should make every effort (given game situations) to communicate the additional time to both teams.

Simulation or Diving

Simulation, diving, embellishment, gamesmanship, play acting.  Whatever term that is used, the action should be addressed by the referee.  Players who employ this tactic not only ruin the enjoyment of the spectators but are attempting to cheat the game and influence a potentially game-deciding ruling from the referee.  Furthermore, simulation also often raises the frustration level of opponents resulting in face-to-face confrontations.

Remember, the ultimate goal of players is to get the referee to unfairly punish the opponent.  As a consequence, simulation is a prime candidate for cheating. 

As a potential act of simulation confronts the referee, the official must quickly consider the following guideline:

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.

Referees must train their eyes, mind, and responses.  When evaluating a player’s action to determine if it meets the criteria of simulation, consider the following signals:

  • Location on the field

Often times, players dive in or near the penalty area.  The player is willing to take a chance that his cheating will go unnoticed by the officials and result in a penalty kick or dangerous free kick.

  • Contact

It is difficult to caution a player for simulation (unsporting behavior) when there is contact with the opponent. Hence, contact and who initiates it, must be taken into consideration.  Do not mistake simulation for embellishment.  Embellishment occurs when a player “play acts.”  In other words, the player makes a minor infraction seem much grander in scale.  Embellishment, is cautionable for unsporting behavior.

  • Score of the game

A team that is needing a goal to tie the game or to gain a lead, will attempt to garner a penalty or free kick in the “danger zone” (30 yards or so from goal).

  • The ball

Can the attacker get or play the ball?  Attackers with the ball who have touched it too far in front of them will go down easily as a defender challenges them because they know they will not be able to get to the ball (it will go over the goal line or an opponent will get it) and they will lose possession.

  • The attacker’s feet

As the player is going down, observe his feet.  Does the player bring his feet together and drag them along the ground causing him to intentionally lose his balance and go to the turf?

  • The attacker’s actions before he lands and when he lands

First, evaluate the attacker’s eyes and head.  As divers go down, they are likely to try to make eye contact with the referee.  It is a natural reaction for players to look for the decision maker (the referee) and to see where he is positioned.  Second, evaluate the attacker’s arms – bracing the fall.  Attackers who go down as a result of an unfair challenge, often times do not have the opportunity to brace their fall.  Players who plan their fall, will look to cushion their fall by extending their arms out or by rolling on their shoulder.

Remember, players who utilize diving/simulation are cautioned for unsporting behavior.

Video Clip 2:  Chicago at Columbus (70:00)

Watch the clip and pay particular attention to the attacker’s actions.  How does the criteria above help the referee identify the action is simulation/diving and, thus, a yellow card?

Mass Confrontation – toward opponents by multiple opposing players
A frequent and negative aspect of soccer is when multiple opposing players merge on each other and become intertwined in pushing, holding, and shoving.  This swarming of players can lead to violent conduct (like pushes/strikes to the face) and thus referee teams must be prepared to react and deal with the confrontation.

“Week In Review 10” provided detailed steps referee teams should utilize when mass confrontation occurs between opposing teams.  The key step was the formation of a triangle around the confrontation that provides the referee team the best possible vantage point to monitor the situation and the participating players.  As soon as any two player confrontation expands to multiple players, the officials need to ensure they are positioned to identify the most serious player actions so that the correct punishment can be handed out. (Click on this link to refer to “Week In Review 10” for further information)

Video Clip 3:  Houston at Real Salt Lake (89:00)

The referee team in this clip has the opportunity to utilize the triangle to manage the mass confrontation between the players.  As the foul occurs, the referee sprints to the area of the foul.  Initially, only two players are involved.  But, quickly, others become involved causing the confrontation to escalate.  At this point, the referee and AR need to step back and observe while the fourth official monitors the benches.  The far side AR can join the other two officials to make the third point of the triangle.  All three should monitor the situation and take notes.  In this clip, notice how the referee and AR are so involved that they lose a broad perspective.  Additionally, in the background, watch how the fourth official runs in and takes a position next to the AR.  Again, too close and overly involved – as instructed previously, he must be by the benches preventing their participation and entry onto the field.  Once the situation settles and players are in neutral areas, the referee, ARs, and fourth official should meet and identify the culprits and decide on the official actions to be taken.  Notice how the closeness and direct involvement of the AR and the Referee can cause them to miss much of the action and, thereby, hand out the wrong punishment.  A broader, wider, and calmer perspective will lead to clearer identification and better decisions on the part of the entire referee team.


Handling Mass Confrontation

As game intensity rises, player emotions will rise and more heated situations are likely to occur on the field.  Referees, ARs, and fourth officials must be prepared for such confrontations.  Anticipate player actions and attempt to prevent confrontation by quickly moving to spots of fouls.  Once an incident escalates to several players, the referee team needs to form the “triangle” around the action and observe.  As the situation settles, the officials need to correctly identify the culprits and hand out the appropriate misconduct.  Follow the procedures established in the “Referee Week In Review 10.”