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Question Number: 30910

Character, Attitude and Control 10/17/2016

Chad of Chadville, TX USA asks...

How do you know as a CR the balance between letting players play but not letting the game get out of hand?

I do higher level youth games (like Division 1 State Cup, Varsity high school level) where I usually AR and one thing that concerns me doing centering is where you want to let the players play and keep the flow of the game going, but knowing at that level that if you let them get away with a little bit to let them play through it, it can quickly turn bad with players trying to get 'retribution' against a player for a foul they think was missed on them, or similar 'justice' where players see you are letting some pulling/pushing go so they will do a lot of it

I've had games where I let some go and it gets out of hand quickly and I have to completely change from calling not too much to calling every little thing and they get upset about both, and games where I call every more-than-a-little thing from the start (to prevent out of hand) and they get upset that I'm calling so much

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Chad,
It I a good question it is just sometimes you got to do what you got to do. I have let matches slip away briefly then grind them to a halt to get it back. Refereeing is as much an art as science and there are proven concepts and characteristics that assist a referee in managing matches at all levels of play. Still there are GAMES where what was once tried and true seems incapable of affecting the degree of control needed to keep a match from spiraling out of control. One of the most venerated subjects of match control is the CRITICAL incident points that can occur initially then later through out the match. Events that so impact the match they define its parameters to some extent. We FAIL at those, sometimes there is almost nothing we can do to save ourselves or the match from spiraling away like a black hole. In many cases it is the players themselves who can save us as easily as doom us! I thought the players in the 2014 World cup actually helped saved the match for the referee. Unlike 2006 WC Holland versus Portugal where self destruct was on everyone's mind.

lf we slip and loose our grip on the reigns creating runaway horses, you cannot expect the resulting tug of war to wrestle them down into a brief vicious bone jarring trot where you eventually grinded to a halt, then just rerelease them back into an exciting gallop, your reassurance is required. There is trust to be regained, a gentle cantor. a brisk walk. now the stretch out the legs into an easy gait transitioning into a gentle gallop than all out race to the finish. You can be sure how you act under this pressure will be scrutinized in minute detail. NO matter how good or competent you are as an official you will fail to see certain things at key moments, not always because of a lack of effort or knowledge but through a restricted angle of view. If you DO NOT SEE, it is exceedingly difficult to call it! You miss the cleat delivered to the outside bone of the ankle of striker or fail to notice he clipped his heels together and stumbled and you book "HIM!" for a dive almost nothing you do will win him over as considering you for being a fair neutral official. Yet if he DID dive to catch him out he is ashamed and you are worthy of respect.

To critically assess the performance of another is difficult because as a group we are bad at avoiding the bias of the spectacular, it speaks to how our mindsets are focused on the exaggeration of it looks worse in slow motion thus It looks much worse, and therefore must be much worse, is difficult to overcome. If you watch the 2014 world cup final game at the 27 .07 minute of that match look closely at the height and outstretched leg by #1 Sergio Romero the Argentinian keeper against #7 Bastian Schweinsteiger from Germany. I actually thought this was a PIADM , good thing the player moved out of the way!
37.00 of 2,58.19 video time shows a PIADM incident that went totally unnoticed at 27 minutes inot the match. This WC match had many issues for me that give me pause when we review what is fair or not

A bit later in the match one can only imagine how during the 2014 WC when German keeper Manuel Neuer clattered in to Gonzalo Higuain the Argentinian striker received a vicious knee to the head off and the referee awarded a free kick against him?? He did not even get the throw in off the keeper punching the ball away! That was a seriously WTF moment given this was possibly a PK, red card sending off incident that in my opinion the AR and CR COMPLETELY missed the CRITICAL component. I credit the Argentinian players for keeping within the fair play magnitude of the world watching match but, be under no illusions, that was a game destining critical incident utterly misdiagnosed. I was upset to hear that although the CR admitting he got the decision wrong he felt there was no foul by the keeper. To me, THAT comment is very difficult to accept, as it says to the world that type of tackle is permissible , yet in my opinion it MUST never be so! Sorry I have great respect for WC referees but that WC report card can only be a FAIL, not for the fact the incident went unnoticed or unpunished ,as an opinion during active play, we can all make a mistake, it was the after comments of trying to make what occurred as ok, when it simply was not! I will point out it was more the Argentinian players not the CR who maintained composure.

If you are interested look up the link below

This is a 100% RED card SFP PK incident of a keeper cleaning out a striker!!

Harold Schumacher vs. Patrick Battiston (1982 World Cup semi finals)

Germany versus France 1982 World Cup semi finals THAT was ( in my not so humble opinion at all) a RED CARD SEND OFF OFFENCE PK restart. Patrick Battiston the French striker pushed the ball past the German keeper Harold Schumacher who charges at Battiston driving his hipbone directly into Patrick's head and face who is absolutely crushed and immediately going down unconscious, packed off to the hospital and the referee made no call! Heck the restart was a goal kick and the Germans never even considered giving the ball back unlike the French versus Brazil in 1998 World Cup finals when the French keeper Fabien Barthez crashed with Ronaldo Lu�s Naz�rio de Lima the great Brazilian striker who is winded and dazed crumples to ground with Barthez on top of him. The resulting restart was a throw in, taken by the French who turned the ball back over to Brazil even though in my opinion Ronaldo was at fault for the collision. Again no call on anyone by the officials

NOWHERE within the laws of the game says that a collision between two opposing players MUST be a foul on one of them. The LOTG do address that either one of course COULD be guilty of an offence and accompanying misconduct causing the referee to stop play and restart it with a free kick as well it addressing the fact that BOTH players from different teams could simultaneously offend causing the referee to stop play and restart it with a drop ball.

It maybe true that at a recreational youth or park level this incident could and perhaps should be called differently. Our kids safety and the desire for those who want to be able to go to work the next day would be the common factor. No one and I mean NO ONE should referee recreational soccer with the same degree of tolerance displayed at the World Cup! No one should be offering this video as the black and white of what is or what is not be tolerated or allowed. The divergent opinions on this incident from referees at all levels on play are a clear indication that FIFA and the National associations must address this in house and give a unified, clear understanding so at the seminars and training programs to reflect a pragmatic sensible scale of WC ok , pro level sort of ok, Recreational or Youth perhaps not ok.

Something to consider is in my humble opinion there were four or five far more serious incident's in this same match!

I enclose the tags below who knows how long they might be available but they show multiple angles of the incident


Now if you have access to 2006 match between Holland and Portugal refereed by the Russian referee it had 16 cards. It is a MUST watch if ANYONE has a copy please make it available . I felt several early yellows could have been direct red, a missed red in the PA and the bar set early for what was unacceptable as cautionable was perhaps set too low . That said this was the players NOT helping the match much different than 2014. Here the black hole opens and swallows them all.

The composure of a referee to hold fast to the LOTG and catch the first critical incident then slowly relax so we can release the spirit o those laws is often challenged by the intensity of those playing. You need to be aware of the battles that develop between opposing players. 12 red on the defence with red 16 striker coming together regularly with one or both hitting the dirt. A new sub who is lightening fast changes it up for the defence or a tie and they get through the other team presses for a win.

Part of the issue as competitive levels rise is the expectations, we indulge them to where they think they are perhaps a great deal more skilled or knowledgeable in their opinion than others. You are not incorrect, to a great extent, YOUR tolerance for what is permitted under the LOTG and what the players are willing to accept as fair that in truth is likely slightly foul is a balance act much like a high wire act, you must move cautiously along to keep your footing but we like a bit more excitement and expect a few daring maneuvers.

Players with a big physical presence will try to dominate more skilled flashy players and that is where you as a referee earn your keep. If BOTH teams are the same style of play it is easier to push that envelope than say a big verses small physical push around. Soccer is a contact sport despite the cries of foul when players lose out but mass and physics aside it is not a fault or blame the opposition for being bigger stronger or faster or more skilled but what constitutes as FAIR PLAY is YOUR domain.

As referee you can:
-Be there in the CRITICAL instances, do not allow flare ups without dealing with them in SOME manner be it a warning, or hey captains or hey you seriously you really want to go there and choose the colour of cards appropriate to the events if warnings are not cutting it
- Stay close to play, be a presence. ON the ground MOVE IT! AWAY with you!I am right here blue. It certainly isn't the wind stretching that jersey no sail boating on grass! Better hope that is his finger, if you keep backing in like that.
Use whatever you have to impress upon the players that you are close and aware of what is going on but do not tell them directly hey quite holding or pushing because if you are not playing advantage, you are saying to all, this is trifling, given YOU are NOT calling it to stop play simply warning, that will irritate many who say if you are seeing this call it for crying out loud!

- In these matches do AWARD advantage, be QUICK and loud, with clear concise signals that show you saw it but have decided the teams are better off to keep going and that you are not responding to the touchline shouts because they can see you got this! Then GET the feedback from the players, "You ok with that?" "Do you want to play though those types of fouls?"
Communication is key, not a two way non stop do this, do that but with an open ear, listen. Reflect what it is you are hearing back, as well as seeing with well placed inquiries to see if what you see and feel is what they are experiencing. Aside from the public verbalization use up the close up and personal approach. A quiet lean in with a private word of respect, hey are you ok? You are too valuable to your team, calm down they cannot afford to lose you. If I missed something I am sorry. Not saying you must admit anything but appearing with compassion and humanity is not weakness.

On fouls are they wanting to get on with it or content to sit and take time on set plays? You use reason, form a practical evaluation of the players, demeanour. their interactions , you need to read their desires. facial, body language, listen to their communication with each other even their dissent against you tells you something. Talk to them on occasion and when you can, laugh with them, if it is within your character to do so. Give the players as much CLARITY as you can when situations occur such as a non handling call where they would scream except your immediate THERES NOTHING THERE! ACCIDENTAL! beats them to the punch. Late whistles and non whistles both can hurt you if those looking on feel you missed something important or are letting things slide too much. IF they are glaring at one another your face should be there in the middle forcing them to look around you. Get to those FLASH points! If you do not have good foul recognition or LOTG understanding almost nothing you do will save you. You MUST have a solid baseline of the game to effective manage those who are likely far more skilled than you.

Nothing gathers respect then when a referee shows effort to stay with play and is well versed in the LOTG and has the interest of the players at heart. Be stern when being stern is appropriate, have a laugh now and then.
HOLD the players accountable, gather the captains; I can slow this to a crawl if you guys are going to hack the crap out of each other so get it together and play soccer not whack a mole or I call bad breath and we walk this home! Yes, there will be moments of frustration but no player can argue a referee whose ONLY concern is their safety and wellbeing.

I use the, I am Fair not perfect speech a great deal, my interest is in a safe fun match where we can all go to work tomorrow. I call what I see and apologise if I see it differently then you, but play the whistle, stay safe and do not expect everything to go your way. PLAY the bloody whistle not bloody the game by these churlish antics.

Best advice give it your all, show the effort and commitment after all your hard work, training and preparing, apply the LOTG correctly. Respect the players, use integrity as your shield. Chances are their respect will come, not by all and not every time but reputation is built on the day to day made choices with THEIR interests in mind, THEIR safety, as it is THEIR game, unless they FORCE you to take it away momentarily . Then you step up to the plate and deal with what the job demands, if we did almost nothing at all except be where we needed to be as often as we were required to do so you might be surprised at how little we are required if the players' decisions take into account we are there watching but not tempting us to interfere !

It is crucial we empower the players to UNDERSTAND that it is by THEIR choices they make us disappear or reappear at will.
A well played match is in part a shared victory for the game itself, regardless of the outcome. If you consider a match spiralling out of control like a drowning man you as a referee lifeguard swim out and ask him to stay calm and float on their back so you can pull him to safety but he panics, you can both go down.

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Answer provided by Referee Gary Voshol

It's a delicate balancing act that you can only learn by experience. And gaining the experience to learn what the teams are telling you by their behavior.

It sounds like you are on the right track. I know I've had games where I had to tighten up or could get looser. I'm sure it made me look as inconsistent as heck. But in my mind that was what the game needed at that point.

In my experience the older level games are a bit easier than the younger. The hardest to decide for me was U12B. Sometimes they were content to bang off each other all afternoon; sometimes they wanted each little bump to be a foul. And when you get one team that likes the latter and the other the former, it gets really interesting!

I remember one U12G game that was coached by a younger woman who had gone to school with my sons, and I remembered reffing her team when she was HS age. I reminisced with her after the game, and then asked about the level of play. I said that I thought they were pretty physical for that age group, but they seemed content with trying to work through the contact. 'Well, you call what you see.' Oops, my read of the game was out of whack with their expectations.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

This is a measure of good refereeing of knowing the balance in such situations. Famous former rferee Collina always speaks about the referee preparing in advance for the game and anticipating what may happen. We know that some teams do not show good discipline and when games ae allowed flow these teams can react negatively. My approach has ben always to allow teams the opportunity to play and if they fail to do that then the game goes into what I call lock down mode in that every foul is called and cards come out much more readily.
I recal a game last season where I had been feeling quite pleased having got to 80 minutes with no issues or cards, no waring signs that I could detect and I had multiple cards plus two sendings off in the last 10 minutes. My review of the game could not figure out the refereeing *Moment of Truth* that caused the game to decend into a card fest. Smetimes it can be not dealing with a simple foul, other times it can be building frustration with poor play etc.
So sometimes it can be easy to get the toothpaste back in the tube while other times it is nigh impossible with the referee having to deal with he remainder of the game in *lock down* mode and so be it. If teams want to play then let them. If not then so be it and the referee enforces the law sternly.

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