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Question Number: 32503

Mechanics 6/11/2018

RE: Level 3 but referee local association games Adult

Ollie Glixman of Sydney, New South Wales Australia asks...

The other week I was refereeing an all age mens div 3 game where the players were aged '18-35. The game was going smoothly as normal until one player threw an unsolicited assault like punch into the opposition's jaw. This caused both sides to crowd around in a heated manner and started to push the offender around. I could see that push was turning to shove so I ran into the pack and dragged the offender out to try and calm the situation down (also to avoid anyone else being sent off for violent conduct). After the game I was talking to another referee who was watching and said that it was not my position to drag that player out of the pack as it was a risk to my safety as most of these players were much bigger than me, and that I should let events unfold without interfering and just write up multiple sent-off reports for any player who continued to fight. I argued that my role as the referee is to keep control of the game and letting that situation unfold would only ruin the remainder of the game and that putting myself at risk means that no one else gets injured. What this referee told me made me wonder if I made the right decision to risk my safety over having control of the game. I just wanted to get a professional opinion on what the right way to deal with that situation is? Cheers

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Ollie
This question was asked recently on the site #32462
While it referenced an assistant referee the same applies to referees.
The advice at the highest kevel is to not get involved in brawls but to stand back and witness what is going on making a mental note of who should be sanctioned. So your senior colleague was giving sound advice supported by formal advice.
A referee if he is quick enough and with the necessarily training / ability might be able to intervene between two players to prevent it escalating but not when it gets into a full scale brawl. A player could decide with the referees back turned to commit more serious violent conduct on a player or indeed decides to punch the referee while he is in middle of the brawl.
This is what UEFA my association has to say on the matter
*** It has been noted that when a referee does not go quickly to the location of the incident, reactions and retaliations often follow and the problem escalates.
If it is not possible to prevent the escalation of a confrontation between players immediately, the referee should observe what happens in detail and he should avoid being physically involved in separating fighting players.
Physical contact by a referee or assistant referee when intervening between players should normally be avoided. Strong use of the whistle might be helpful, but shouting at players should also be avoided.
Referees should not only punish the initial offender(s) where the offence warranted it (recklessness, brutality), but also players involved in further confrontation. The main aggressor(s) should be punished appropriately and it is recommended that at least one player from each team must be given a yellow card. Referees should be particularly alert to players approaching or joining such an incident from some distance who should be identified and given a yellow card. Yellow cards are not considered sufficient punishment where fighting (excessive physical contact etc) is involved.
One assistant should monitor and record events and the other assistant should remain close to the referee. The fourth official should maintain his position between the technical areas while also monitoring the situation.
The referee and the other match officials should communicate with each other before the match re-starts in order to sanction the main offender(s).**

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Ollie,
Your refereeing colleague was giving you sound advice. As ref McHugh mentions, the advice in situations of mass confrontation is to remain apart from the players, observe and take note of the offenders. As he also quite correctly says, by getting in the middle you risk missing other offences being committed behind you and you risk getting physically injured, possibly even seriously, yourself.

I understand and can sympathise with your desire to keep control of matters but there are some situations (mass confrontation being one of them) where as the saying goes, ''discretion is the better part of valour.''

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Ollie,
No one suggests you jump into a brawl! It is sound advice based on regular character traits and the safety aspect of a confrontational situation where few controls are in place should things truly go south.

The key as my colleagues have indicated and as the IFAB advise,

"It has been noted that when a referee does not go quickly to the location of the incident, reactions and retaliations often follow and the problem escalates. "

It appears you did that and headed off the potential conflict as opposed to catching a haymaker as you seeked to intervene? .
Interesting in the action you took worked but the advice remains it was risky so it is recommended you do not?
Pierluigi Collina was an Italian former football referee. He had been named FIFA's 'Best Referee of the Year' six consecutive times and is widely considered to be the greatest football referee of all time. He is still involved in football, as an unpaid consultant to the Italian Football Referees Association (AIA), a the Head of Referees for the Football Federation of Ukraine and as a member of the UEFA Referees Committee. I watched him not only intervene directly but put his fingers directly into the chest and got his face into the player' face who was creating issues, the players backed off yet no one could condone how he managed them but only noted that he did! I am the REFEREE! I GOT THIS ! He is GONE! but I can have you go as well!

He has a book My Rules of the Game (Le Mie Regole del Gioco)
The thing is, there are few like him that could get away with the things he could do!

I get the safety aspect and there are situations where I have felt the undercurrents percolating in a hostile environment to where the safety of my ARs and myself were being considered VERY carefully & I would refuse to do anything except watch & record. Each of us has characteristic approaches to our matches based not only what we know of the LOTG but how to interact in crisis situations o under duress. I think you read the situation well and reacted as a good referee seeking to head of further conflict. I use my presence and voice as well as the authoritative figure and respect a referee can interject and have escorted players about to take a retaliatory pounding off with a very quick red card and no nonsense approach whereby the players can be reassured you have things under control .

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