Soccer Referee Resources
Ask a Question
Recent Questions

Previous You-Call-It's

VAR (Video Assistant Referee)

Q&A Quick Search
The Field of Play
The Ball
The Players
The Players Equipment
The Referee
The Other Match Officials
The Duration of the Match
The Start and Restart of Play
The Ball In and Out of Play
Determining the Outcome of a Match
Fouls and Misconduct
Free Kicks
Penalty kick
Throw In
Goal Kick
Corner Kick

Common Sense
Kicks - Penalty Mark
The Technical Area
The Fourth Official
Attitude and Control
League Specific
High School

Common Acronyms
Meet The Ref
Contact AskTheRef
Help Wanted
About AskTheRef

Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

Panel Login

Question Number: 29867

Mechanics 10/28/2015

james of new york, ny usa asks...

Whether a center or assistant referee, I generally refrain from verbally calling out things such as 'watch the pushing/holding/arms/etc'. I feel that if a foul is occurring, I should call it rather than giving players 'warnings' like this, or if there is a bit of contact but not foul worthy, I do not say anything.

I have seen it happen too often where a referee gives these verbal warnings rather than calling fouls and it can make the game start to get out of hand

Should I be more lenient in calling out to players to watch their movements? Or is it better to just call things as they happen?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi James
There is nothing wrong in communicating with players and giving advice such as to be more careful, to calm down, to warn players about not getting involved with opponents, spectators.
In a recent game I could sense the player going to foul the opponent and sure enough the foul happened which caused a ruckus. Now there was no way I could intervene and it just had to happen. There are apocryphal stories of referees making decision before fouls and if they did happen would be exceptional.
So for me nothing wrong in talking to players to assist in the game being played in a fair and sporting manner.

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe McHugh

View Referee Joe McHugh profile

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi James,
we like to use buzz words like proactive and reactive, situational awareness doubtful and trifling, game management? These are concepts and like any good concept proper application requires an understanding of the why it is used! Each referee is an individual character with strengths and weaknesses. If silence and presence are your mantra then you have no worries. What works for you is a realization of yours and others experiences have led you to a different path. For me I am very vocal! I try to feel out the attitudes, promote fair play and encourage both teams to have fun and enjoy themselves

Communication is much more than just a buzz word but a truly practical tool whereby players will come to trust you have their best interests . Opposing players who are grabbing, pulling, raising arms into each others faces are often engaged simultaneously just as often as one will come in from the outside to clean the other off their feet. Some simple commands or warnings to drop the elbows, let that shirt go,, watch the arms are more of a warning to both. I promote them to talk to their teammates I have called out, "Who is up for it"? on incoming high lobbed balls trying to get the teams communicating with each other.

If there are fouls where by their nature you are considering advantage be sure the advantage is reality based and properly signalled to make those aware YES I SAW it as FOUL not that I asked they stop it!

If you feel the slight grab the soft push was a trifling matter be sure you gauge the attitude and tolerance of the player on the receiving end felt he rather play though it then be awarded the foul? I will agree if you continually are saying do not foul or quit pushing or holding, as a coach I could begin to wonder why my players were being continually disadvantaged and you felt it was not worthy of a call? I would expect to have my players do the same!

I can only say this in conclusion. Do what is comfortable to you! Be consistent. Your Match Your Decision Your Reputation!

Read other questions answered by Referee Richard Dawson

View Referee Richard Dawson profile

Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi James,

This is a good question, and I believe the amount a referee talks to the players in this sort of potential foul scenario is a personal decision. What works for one referee may not work for another.

I want to clarify one point though; referees shouldn't give these verbal warnings instead of fouls. Is it possible that the referees you're referring to simply have an overall higher tolerance than you?

The benefit to talking to players like this is that it can help remind players that you're watching and prevent them escalating holding/pushing/charging into an actual foul. This not only helps the game flow (and keeps the referee out of having to intervene), but reduces the chance that a player will take offence at a foul and retaliate, so it's done for the players. This is a bit different to, say, warning a player in an offside position not to play the ball because no opponent would be affected by that infringement, as opposed to a potential injury (or aggressive retaliation) if a player is dragged to the ground (I definitely wouldn't be warning a player in an offside position not to play the ball, by the way, I just wanted to point out a difference).

On the other hand, some would argue that talking too much reduces the impact when you do want to say something, keeps the referee too involved through constantly reminding players of his presence, and that commenting can also invite argument. I tend to side with the first camp rather than the second, but it's worth seeing all sides of the picture. It may be worth experimenting to see which works for you.

Read other questions answered by Referee Jason Wright

View Referee Jason Wright profile

Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

In the beginning, referees struggle to identify and call the foul.
But, as they gain experience, they learn that the art of refereeing is entirely about managing people; By our actions, words and presence, we persuade them to behave within the bar that the referee sets based on these players on this day. Players will adjust their play to what the referee allows. Talking players through trifling fouls helps them understand where the bar is located. The experienced referee can be proactive to prevent fouls and misconduct. The referee can be more than a police officer or judge who punished infringements of the law; the referee can be a facilitator of an enjoyable match.

It was a surprise for me to discover that the few referees who reach the highest levels learn that words that worked in the amateur level don't persuade professionals. Their struggle is to recognize the things that do not have to be called and those that must. They manage the players with what is known as command presence; but is generally using every tool to project an open, calm, human, yet complete master of each moment.

At all levels, the words that the referee uses use can be important. 'Easy' can be misunderstood to be coaching or not to go 100%. It can lead to negative reactions. By contrast, 'Steady,' says 'I'm close, don't do anything stupid.' And, the players will adjust.

My personal favorite, however, is 'let go.' When you call the foul, inevitably a teammate says 'You idiot, he told you to let go.'

Read other questions answered by Referee Dennis Wickham

View Referee Dennis Wickham profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 29867
Read other Q & A regarding Mechanics

The following questions were asked as a follow up to the above question...

See Question: 29870

Soccer Referee Extras

Did you Ask the Ref? Find your answer here.

Enter Question Number

If you received a response regarding a submitted question enter your question number above to find the answer

Offside Question?

Offside Explained by Chuck Fleischer & Richard Dawson, Former & Current Editor of AskTheRef

This web site and the answers to these questions are not sanctioned by or affiliated with any governing body of soccer. The opinions expressed on this site should not be considered official interpretations of the Laws of the Game and are merely opinions of AskTheRef and our panel members. If you need an official ruling you should contact your state or local representative through your club or league. On AskTheRef your questions are answered by a panel of licensed referees. See Meet The Ref for details about our panel members.