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Question Number: 25254

Law 5 - The Referee 7/26/2011

RE: ALL Levels conceptual question Other

Michael Pratt of Naperville, IL USA asks...

Doing a US Soccer sanctioned youth tournament and during the pre-game inspection the referee instructs all the female players to remove their jewelry as required by Law 4, tournament rules, etc. He also tells them that if they step on the field improperly equipped that he will give them a CAUTION.

A player steps on the field improperly equipped and the referee as promised issues a caution for UB (the catch all).

Though I know it is now important for the referee to back up the threat of CAUTION for this infringement on Law 4 that was stated during the pre-game but is this an appropriate use of the referee's power?

The context is to settle a disagreement between the assignor (me) and the referee who insists this is appropriate control to bring the 'jewelry' problem under control.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Michael
What does the Law say

'' The players are to be inspected before the match begins and substitutes before they enter the field of play. If a player is discovered to be wearing unauthorised clothing or jewellery during play, the referee must:
# inform the player that the item in question must be removed
# order the player to leave the field of play at the next stoppage if he is unable or unwilling to comply
# caution the player if he wilfully refuses to comply or, having been told to remove the item, is discovered to be wearing the item again''
The ATR says
'' The willful refusal by a player to remove illegal equipment (including items of jewelry), having been previously warned that such equipment cannot be worn on the field yet continuing to do so, is considered unsporting behavior.''

Now I disagree with referees that simply give this blanket instruction to players before kick off. Some might not be listening, some could be elsewhere. The referee should inspect EVERY player and ensure the player is properly equipped. If I find a player wearing jewellery then I see that as my fault having missed it in the pre match inspection.
Now if the referee asks a player to remove jewellery and he find the player wearing it again then a caution is appropriate. Otherwise he simply asks the player to leave to correct the illegal equipment. Play can continue while this happens.

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Answer provided by Referee Keith Contarino

Hi Michael. I'm not in favor of referees making proclamations at the pregame. As Ref McHugh rightly says, some players are paying no attention and some may not have arrived in which case the AR should have done a better job of inspection. This kind of attitude on the part of the referee reeks of pomposity and throwing one's weight around and really isn't needed.

Did the referee have the power within Law to caution the player? Yes. Did the referee have the authority to announce to the world that he would caution anyone stepping onto the field wearing jewelry? Sure, but he's coming off sounding like an ass and I side with you in this matter. Referees don't need to be drawing lines in the sand at pregame. Far better to ask the player to leave and correct the problem.

The jewelry "problem" has been created by inconsistent referees who for some reason continue to allow players to wear jewelry or tape over earrings. It's not going to be corrected by acting like a bully.

all that said, we work for you. I have an excellent rapport with the local assignors but realize that if any assignor doesn't want to give me any games, he/she doesn't have to. Since this referee seems to believe throwing one's weight around is a good idea, feel free to do the same and simply tell him to stop this silly idea of automatic cautions. You have Advice,USSF, and this panel on your side

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Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

Does the referee have the power to caution for jewelry? Yes.

Is it dumb to make pregame statements and enforce automatic cautions. Yes.

If the referee doesn't notice jewelry until after a player already has a yellow card, does she want to have an option not to send off the player? It's harder to do so if you've already promised a caution and it is the opponent who waits to inform the referee about the jewelry until there is a tactical advantage to rat a key player for the other team.

My experience is that referees who make promises to the teams that X will result in an automatic caution don't help their match control. Players don't listen. Players who do listen only seek a tactical advantage. The referee often proves to be weak at many critical decisions. My advice is 'don't be one of those referees.' (I'm sure that there must be a fine referee who make such statements, but frankly, I've not worked with any in the past 12 years. )

Compare how a teenager responds to a private reminder during a 'walk about' to remove the necklace - - it isn't a source of ridicule from teammates that a public one does; the referee may be viewed as someone who notices everything; the referee already has begun establishing a rapport with the players - - - with the referee who treats them like they are eight year olds! Which is more likely to enhance credibility? In my opinion, the more effective method to deal with a prematch inspection is the quiet one.

Note: Law 4 does not provide for a caution for wearing jewelry on the field. It says that if the player doesn't remove or correct it, instruct them to leave the field to do so. Moreover, the USSF instructs that what is cautionable as unsporting behavior is the 'willful refusal' to remove jewelry having been previously warned ON the field [emphasis mine] yet continuing to do so.' (ATR 4.3).

PS: I'm intrigued about the notion that a referee is arguing with an assignor over best procedures. My experience is that if I want to work for the assignor, I need to listen to what the assignor wants.

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