Monday, September 14, 2009

Contact with Officials

It is said that soccer is a "contact sport" and that's certainly true for the players. But is it true for us as referees, too? Unfortunately, there are times when this is true. Where is the line; how much is too much?

Referees should work at all times to avoid contact with players. It doesn't look good for a referee to put their arm over a players shoulder when talking to them (especially to the opposing team). However, not all contact made by players towards an official is misconduct. There are times when a player might pat your back, for example, for a job well done. But there are several behaviors that are not acceptable. Types of physical contact that should never be tolerated is that which:
  • involves force or aggression (grabbing, pushing, slapping, bumping, stepping on feet, and so forth)
  • the official has sought to avoid by moving away and by making a gesture which clearly indicates any further approach is unwelcome (continued pursuit by a player, if performed in a threatening manner, is included here even if physical contact does not result)
  • is initiated from an unexpected direction and unaccompanied by any warning
  • is delivered in a context which clearly includes disapproval, lack of friendliness, or anger
  • restrains or prevents an official from withdrawing from the contact (e.g., by blocking retreat or holding)
By avoiding physical contact with players we can show that we don't touch them, they shouldn't touch us. Physical contact that meets the above criteria would warrant a red card for Violent Conduct. Consider the nature of the conduct and if it met the level of referee assault. Make sure you include all the details of the event in your match report. Although the above criteria apply mainly to players, substituted players and named substitutes, the same concept is true of coaches and staff. Under no circumstances are we to allow coaches to "chest bump" or grab an official on or off the filed.

For coaches in USSF games we would not show the red card for Violent Conduct, unless your league rules specify that you show a card. However, a coach who makes physical contact with a referee would be immediately dismissed for irresponsible behavior and you must include all the details in the match report. If you are doing a High School or College match, however, a card can be shown to a coach and would be shown in this case. Do not make excuses for this behavior. If a coach enters the field of play (not during halftime or post-game) to confront an official we must have the courage to dismiss them!

If an event like this occurs seek input from your AR's or another erferee you respect as to if you need to file a report for referee assault. Take a look at the videos below for examples of inappropriate contact with officials.

Hand Slap

Grab and Spin


To hopefully avoid these situations take the following steps when you see trouble brewing:

  • Take a few, quick steps away (back) from the situation to show that you are not initiating contact. Hold you palms facing outward, close to your chest and use your voice/whistle to indicate further movement toward you is not allowed.
  • Stand your ground once you have created this space (you should not, in most cases, have to run across the field to avoid the player)
  • If the offender continues to pursue contact or the discussion than deal with it in accordance to the action

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