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Question Number: 30869

Law 5 - The Referee 10/7/2016

RE: Select / Competitive Under 15

Brad H of Plymouth, Michigan United States asks...

This question is a follow up to question 30853

Regarding advice from question 30853, Referee Voshol comments:

'When a coach approaches you to talk about how you're going to call something, say, 'Wait a minute, let's get the other coach so both of you know how the game will go.' That quickly puts an end to special instructions from the coach.'

As both a coach and a referee, I am particularly aware of referee's limitations. My U-14 team that I coach is frequently provided fairly young AR's, and sometimes not the strongest center referees. At this level of play, referees do not get 'pregame reports' or other assistance that professional referees get, and are often prone to overlooking and missing items that can have game-altering consequences. I see such pre-game conversations with a crew as me helping them not to make mistakes. Let me give a specific example: We start every game with my goalkeepers taking goal kicks, and they typically drop it near the edge of the center circle. However, once the other team has established that position, we have a play called 'home run' in which my center back (who has a 45+ yard kick) takes the kick and my forwards are offside-positioned for a wide-open breakaway. Twice in games I have had young AR's call offside on this goalkick scenario (and lost a breakaway shot on goal). As a result, I talk with the CR and ARs pre-game to let them know this play will come and remind them 'no offside can occur directly from a goal kick'. This is not a trick play; it is just an uncommon scenario which I inform the crew about. I also have informed referees pre-game who my 'hotheads' are to let them know that I respect their verbal admonishments if my kids start playing stupidly. In almost all instances, I have gotten apprecation from referees for this. Referee Voshol's suggestion to 'share' this information with the other coach will clearly expose a tactical element in my team strategy, and for what benefit?

When I referee, I appreciate such pre-game insights from both coaches, and I recognize that these inputs are often done to keep the referee crew from making game-critical errors. I fail to understand Referee Voshol's rationale in this advice, and look forward to more context in this regard.

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Brad,
although I am certain ref Voshol will respond in his own manner,
each referee is a product of his or her own character and every situation that arises has offshoots of how a particular set of instructions or circumstances could go. I do agree that many officials are on the learning curve of experience but I can not in conscience agree it is in the best interest of a match for a coach to TELL a referee his job anymore than in watching your team doing a drill that I think foolish, to stop it. Instead it would be prudent to engage in a friendly fact finding conversation with the CR and ask him and the ARs about offside as if THEY needed to explain it to you rather than you explain it to them. You can then lead them to admitting they do in fact grasp a long goal kick is exempt from offside criteria. IF they DO NOT and have failed to GRASP this in the training they received to that point. You can mention, Is it not a fact that goal kicks are exempt along with throw ins and corner kicks so if my player was standing in behind the opposition 2nd last defender he would be ok? Also consider I agree your tactical preparation is not a TRICK play where you fool the opponent using verbal deception, you are in fact rewarding the tactical advantage of a powerful kicker. This talk is a private one and the other coach is not privy to the discussion as that is what this is , a discussion of the LOTG not a tactical blueprint for me to sign on to. It is never incorrect to discuss the LOTG only to infer that a referee becomes part of that deception. It is a far cry to approach the referee and say is it ok to hit a ball into play and leave it for my teammate? No deception there! Then to tell me you are planning to use a verbal deception to trick the opponent when the LOTG clearly ask that you do not. It is also a fact not every coach is as fact based as you might be! I agree completely with you that good communication is effective in keeping a match flowing smoothly. It is why I engage in a pregame and specifically ask the two teams if there are any questions they might have aside from stating the obvious MY ARs are off-limits to ANY abuse and to bring all discussion directly to me in a reasonable manner and realistic time frame.

Although I understand your concerns and applaud you trying to communicate I cringe slightly when you say the input is done with the aim of avoiding game critical errors as it is more often in getting an advantageous decision. I refereed an intense soccer final high school championship where a coach though it advisable for me to call offside when my AR who was in fact rather inexperienced 1st year official was flagging, apparently unaware that I had waved him down twice that his flag was incorrect and it was MY decision to stop play NOT the ARs. 'You worry about coaching your team and I will worry about mine.' He had a very good team but they in my opinion were horrific on timing their defending runs and maintaining a line and it cost two very good attempts on goal one resulting in a goal. When coaches tell me how to referee it generally is not a good thing for the match. Not that they have no rights to vent but they are more often interested in getting their way then what I perceive as correct decisions. Yet as in any thing we say or do your match, your decision your reputation is based primarily on your choices and the perception of others.. When I coached my team in the lead up matches to the finals of the commonwealth cup I had several referees make mind boggling decisions that created replays and protests. My trying to set them straight from the touchlines was not appreciated or well received no matter I was 100% correct.


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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Brad
There are many approaches to refereeing the game of soccer. I tend not to engage with teams at all except what is required in the Laws of the Game. I do not really like coaches trying to influence my decision making. I had a coach come to me before a game to ask me for protection for one of his players. I told him that I did not appreciate his approach as I referee in a strict impartial manner and I did not like his request which implied that I was in some way soft on foul play or targeting. I suspect that his real reason was that his player had a habit of over reacting to fouls even when the referee took action against the opponent.
Now in respect of sharing information the context was in a dubious trick play. In respect of tactics or clarification I see no problem with a manager asking a referee for advice / clarification on a rule such as the no offside goal kick the one you describe. That is never shared with anyone nor should / need it be. In a recent game I advised a goalkeeper at half time that a parry was release of possession and that he needed to be aware of that as an IDFK could be called. He had made one dubious parry that was not questioned so I let it slide. I was not going to share that advice with his opponents for obvious reasons.

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Answer provided by Referee Gary Voshol

Regarding the original trick corner play, the coach had the attitude, 'We're going to do something so tricky that I need to tell you about it so you won't be fooled.'

That's totally different than saying, 'I have a player that can blast the ball a long way. Would you remind your AR's that there's no offside on a goal kick?'

As a ref, I wouldn't sabotage your tactical advantage of having a good player. But I would potentially sabotage trick plays where a coach is asking for some special notice of how a play will be called.

One time when a coach did tell me about his special corner kick, I told him I'd seen it before (well, online, but I didn't tell him that) and if it was done correctly it would be legal. That's all - done correctly. I wasn't going to tell him how to do it correctly.

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