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Question Number: 22850

Fitness 2/22/2010

RE: All Adult

Ryan of Flower Mound, TX USA asks...

Dear Panel,

I have another set of questions regarding referee ethics. We all agree that it is unethical for any referee to accept matches that are outside ones fitness range. But too frequently I find myself with either a center or assistant referee who is not capable of keeping up with play or just refuses do to so. In either case I use my skills and my experience to compensate. What is the best way to handle a situation like that? I have tried coaching up the fellow referee and talking with local assignors is there anything else I should do?

Also, as an assistant referee what is an appropriate course of action to take when a center referee refuses to deal with repeated misconduct by either a coach, substitute, or player observed out of sight of the center official?

Thank you for your time.

Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

These are difficult problems to resolve, Ryan.

Like players who seem unable to recognize when they should retire, some referees believe they can compensate for fitness with experience. They do a disservice to the players and to themselves when they accept games that they no longer can keep up with play. Confidence is a great strength in a referee, but sometimes the same confidence leads referees to believe they can handle the levels they once did, even when they cannot.

A new/younger referee likely will not be able to persuade them and may cause unintended offense. The better course, IMO, is for the younger referee to speak with assessors, assignors and other leaders in the organization. Assessors may have the objectivity and, thus, credibility within the organization to be heard by the referee.

As to misconduct during the match, an assistant referee can only inform the referee. It is up to the referee to decide what to do. The value of a post-game conference, however, includes the opportunity to learn what factors the referee considered? Should you have brought this to the referee's attention then, or waited until half-time or after the match? How could you better have helped the referee in this situation? The post game is not, however, a time to bring your point of view or debate the issue. The referee's decision is final. Yet, it is an excellent opportunity to gain insight.

If the answer is satisfying, you gain some new information that may help you advance as a referee. If not, you've confirmed that there wasn't a good answer to your question. You then face the dilemna of deciding whether you want to work with that referee again.

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Answer provided by Referee Michelle Maloney

Contrary to your assertion, it is not unethical to accept matches beyond your physical or experience limits. It can be unwise, of course, or even foolish but not unethical. A referee's level of fitness should always be a consideration for assignors and in a perfect world, no referee would be assigned to games for which he or she could not keep up with play.

I agree with Ref Wickham that these are difficult questions. It is sometimes helpful to ask a referee, if you are not familiar with them, what types of games do they normally do, and if you are the referee, talk about expectations in your pregame. If someone who is assigned as an AR refuses to do what is asked of them, like keeping up with play, the referee must then decide which is better - to continue with them or to dismiss them and continue without them. In the latter case you must be sure to report this immediately to your assignor. I would only recommend this course of action in extreme cases.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Referee Ryan
I agree with Referee Maloney when she says that it is not unethical to accept matches beyond physical or experience limits but that it can be unwise.
Some of the best referees that I know are not 100% fit. They know that themselves yet they more than make up for that in knowledge of the game and game management skills. I have seen referees who are super fit, good athletes and they struggle with other key aspects of the game. Assignors always have to make game allocation decision based on a variety of factors and fitness happens to be just one. Where it ranks depends on the level of the game. Certainly at the higher levels passing the ongoing fitness tests is a requirement. However at lower levels if game allocation was to be awarded based on fitness levels many games would not allocated a referee.
Also part of an assessor's duty is to advise referees on areas of improvement such as fitness. It does result in marks being deducted because of poor positioning and those that are keen to improve will do something about it. Others unfortunately will not and I simply have to accept that. I expect that in vitally important games that the officials that are allocated meet the standard required for the game.

As regards the CR not dealing with repeated misconduct I would find this unusual. How this is dealt with should always be raised in the pre match discussions and I will tell assistant to try to sort it out themselves. If they call me across I will have a word with the AR and depending on the advice from the AR I will either give a stern warning/caution that if it is repeated the person will be removed or if its serious enough a straight red card/removal.

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Answer provided by Referee MrRef

We can forgive an unfit referee who tries but can't keep up with play. Although far too many of our adult and some of our youth referees fall into this category, without them many games would not have coverage. And despite being unfit, at least they put in the effort to try to do the best job they can. Not everyone is a gazelle.

On the other hand, it is hard to forgive the lazy referee, adult or youth, who habitually hovers in and around the center circle, who only occasionally breaks into a brief trot, who rarely gets into the penalty areas, and who, in all likelihood, arrives at the field only minutes before kickoff time. These referees bring nothing but discredit to themselves and create problems for their officiating teammates.

Typically if they're adults and you're so 'brazen' as to offer suggestions they'll tell you something like, 'Don't tell me how to referee! I've been refereeing for ten years.' Sadly, that's usually not ten years of progressive experience but rather one year repeated ten times.

As others suggest, speak with the assignor. First and foremost he or she bears ultimate responsibility for who is and is not assigned to work the games. If your input makes no difference then at least be confident that you've tried to work through the appropriate first stage channel.

You might then try speaking with a trusted confidant -- a mentor or senior assessor in the area. That person might take it upon themselves to have a look. And if your observations are confirmed then take the matter to that same assignor who paid you no attention. Sometimes you have to hit a particularly stubborn mule several times with a two-by-four before it pays attention.

If none of that works, let it drop. There is no sense beating your head against a wall. Just go out and do the best job you can so that you are noticed for the good things you do on the field.

When you're the referee working with one of the 'sloths' give a thorough pregame and make it very clear you expect that AR to maintain focus and the proper position to judge offside, and to **run** to the goal line every time the ball gets deep into the penalty area, especially, each time it approaches the goal line.

If you don't get what you want in the first half repeat your instructions at halftime. If you still don't get the response you want tell your assignor afterward that you prefer not to be assigned to future games with the 'sloth' who doesn't put out any effort.

As to the referee who repeatedly refuses to acknowledge your communication of misconduct out of his/her sight....Dealing with that situation is actually quite straight forward.

First, have a talk with the referee at halftime. Don't be confrontational, but lay it on the line -- describe exactly what is going on behind the referee's back and ask the referee if he/she still requires your assistance for the second half. If the answer is 'yes' (it's hard to imagine any referee replying 'no') then politely suggest to the referee that he/she needs to pay attention and to consider your input on these critical problems that are going unaddressed.

If things change for the better, that's great. You've gotten the positive response and change the game needed.

On the other hand, if the referee continues to ignore you then finish the game and be done with that referee. Contact the assignor and let that person know what happened. Just the facts. End the conversation with a request that you not be assigned to future games with the problematic referee.

You've done all you can, politely and professionally. Wash your hands of the affair and let others deal with it or not. Eventually unless the problematic referee has a lot of 'stroke' in the local referee community the message will get through and the assignments will change. Or maybe nothing will change.

So be it. Move on. Focus on being the best referee and AR you can.

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