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Question Number: 32666

Character, Attitude and Control 8/22/2018

RE: High School

david of salem, or usa asks...

In my experience as a referee I have noticed that the refs who call games tighter rather than 'looser' tend to have fewer problems overall.

There seems to be this idea at the ages I do, generally youth 16-19 year olds who play high levels, that you should let them play more and not call many of the smaller fouls. But these are ripe age groups for 'give an inch and they take a mile' where things can quickly get out of control if you allow some fouling.

In my experience both as a center and as an assistant in these games, while players may get more frustrated if you call a lot of fouls, even the smaller ones, you also tend to keep much better control of the game and rarely get into the out of hand situations that scares people off of these types of games. The more experienced refs who I have seen 'let the players play' are the ones who end up getting the coaches, players, and spectators on their backs and have games get violent or an overabundance of cards given.

Why should I allow games to be played looser and not just call every foul, even small ones, if the latter method helps you keep control of the game easier?

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI David,
I can not speak to what your experiences have taught you. You may well be right that calling every foul is the correct way for you to handle teen matches. I agree there is a lot of testosterone running around and tempers flare easily.

Although the match is for the players to play. If we as referees exert our interpretive ideas as to what is fair or unfair as a match condition the players must adapt to it given it is our whistle calling the shots.

I recommend all referees staying on top of this from the get go, catch the critical incidents and deal with things effectively before you consider the loosening of strings! Use the card or the warnings WHEN the bar NEEDS to be set! You need to gather in the reigns a bit before you go into a full gallop and respect does follow effort. You start calling fouls from 40 plus yards away right or wrong it will be a lousy precedent! If your matches have 50 plus foul counts when a normal is about 30 it might be ok of the teams that require some harsh lessons but truthfully I do not like it as a normal condition.

I talk to the kids on the pitch when time permits and I stay in touch with the captains as well as the coaches to try and head off the locomotive blow outs. There are times when I will slow a match to a crawl, blowing for bad breath as it were to send a signal of this is getting out of hand, either choose to settle down or we spend time exchanging free kicks.

I do not suggest ignoring fouls, of course you call them when they affect the play but if every touch results in a stoppage I fail to see the good we are doing? Players will accept & tolerate a certain standard of shared responsibility but a referee who stops play for everything will not usually get a thumbs up from everyone. You start calling every ball to hand just in case or every bump just in case or find fault with every throw in or restart you might learn to regret it?

AS to trouble if indeed there is incredible ugliness where violence and just horrid stuff is fostered THAT is much different then a few cat calls and rumblings of those engaged in a spirited competitive match. If you call everything why would that not dictate cards? Surely some tackles will be worse? Some thoughts to persistent fouling? Plus stopping play also allows further confrontation and time wasting. Getting play restarted quickly helps a match flow and stops the dissenting interaction.

I will say though no one should allow blatant fouling and no one should put cards away just because they want 22 players on the pitch! The key in managing YOUR matches is your character and effort as your decision in your matches sets up your reputation. If you are happy with how it is going I can not make you change nor possibly should you. Finding the right balance is as much art and gut as science! My colleagues use the MOT( moment of truth) which highlights those critical match incidents that MUST be caught & dealt with in a professional manner be it awarding a PK or carding a particular foul or simply a correct use of advantage.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi David
Not every game is the same. Some games can be managed easily with limited intervention while others require an iron fist of control. The trick is to know which to use and to do it in a way that control is never compromised. In addition some referees have good control ability and presence which they can achieve with calling every infraction.
In all of my pre match talks I tell the assistants that we will allow the teams to play and to get on with the game if that is what they want to do. If they do not want to do that then the game gets called 'tighter'. The trick is to not allow the game to get out of hand to the point where it is impossible to get the 'toothpaste back into the tube' on control which can be extremely difficult.
I also believe that there are *Moments of Truth* in every game where if a particular incident is not dealt with properly it can change the mood quickly. That can happen at any time in the game.
I recall two seasons ago I was officiating a game and all had gone well for 85 minutes with no cautions and the team were getting on with the game. Nothing of concern and no need to intervene with minor offences ignored. There was a foul at in around 85 minutes and I decided not to caution for it. In hindsight that was a mistake as it deserved a caution and it caused probably 3/4 incidents after that, one of which required players to be separated. That was out of context with the game up to 85 minutes and my decision to be lenient had a detrimental effect on the last few minutes. Thankfully it was only a few minutes as the game ended without playing much added time yet it highlighted the *M O T* premise. The trick is to identify those key moments and to handle them correctly. That is about ability and experience.
In a recent game I identified that the game was getting a bit tetchy. There were a few minor fouls and I decided to be very vocal with the use of advantage signals. It told the players that I saw the fouls yet decided it was better to allow play to continue. Stopping the game for minor fouls when the fouled against team wants to get on with play can be frustrating. From experience stopping the game can also allow all sorts of problems to arise at the stoppage as compared to getting on with the game. It allows players the opportunity to get involved in all sorts when if the game is proceeding players have okay to manage which includes marking, looking for the ball, getting on with play. Also it might not be a foul that causes the problem. In one game as an AR I saw an overrule on a throw in kick off control issue for the referee. Up until that point all had gone well and the TI incident was a moment of truth that caused the game to go south. Stoppages also can allow players to group together in the foul location which is usually detrimental.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi David,
As always, I think that it is a matter of getting the balance right. While I agree that being too lenient can lead to problems, I don't think it's necessarily the case that calling every single little infraction does make things better or, more importantly that it is a better way to go.

You ask why you should not call every little foul if it, in effect, makes things easier for you as a referee. As far as I'm concerned, it is because the game is not about the referee and making their life easier - the game is about the players (and to a lesser extent, the spectators). The referee is there to facilitate a safe, fair and enjoyable experience for the participants, not to make life easier for themselves. A game that is punctuated by constant interruptions for petty infringements can rapidly become an exercise in frustration and could even in some cases lead to problems for the referee as players can start complaining about the excess of unnecessary calls.

This used to be summed up in something known as IFAB decision 8 to law 5 and which went as follows:

''The Laws of the Game are intended to provide that games should be played with as little interference as possible, and in this view it is the duty of referees to penalise only deliberate breaches of the Law.

Constant whistling for trifling and doubtful breaches produces bad feeling and loss of temper on the part of the players and spoils the pleasure of spectators.''

Apart from the part about only punishing deliberate breaches (the question of intent has been largely removed from physical challenges these days) I feel that the main tenets of this principle are as true now as they were then.

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