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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 34708

Other 9/25/2022

RE: Rec Under 14

Adrienne Antonio of Yuba city, CA USA asks...

Is there any rule preventing conflict of interest for referees?

I coach U15 the ages are 12, 13, and 14. We had a recent game that the referee was a coach of a team in our same division that our team beat. That coach/referee allowed the other team too inflict many fouls and did not blow the whistle to stop the game when my players were injured. I had boys getting elbowed in the chest and back, another was rammed by two players in the box no penalty shot, my goalie blocked a shot and was stepped on trying to get up and injured and I yelled to stop the game he did not and allowed the other team point to count.

This is my first year coaching but I have played soccer my whole life and never have I seen blatant bias towards players.

Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Adrienne,

This is down for each local football or referee's association to manage rather than any universal rule, and how tightly it is managed may depend, in part, on how competitive each league is.

Assuming there is any level of competition (eg there are points and a ladder/table), I would agree that referees should generally not referee a competition that they play or coach in.

Part of refereeing isn't just about being fair, but it's about being seen to be fair. I would agree that there is a conflict of interest here - a referee shouldn't be on a match where they have an interest in the outcome. Even if it didn't impact their job on the day, it raises questions and that should be enough.

Perhaps they do tend to avoid it in this league as well but there may have been an issue of availability and the assignor thought it might be fine. It's possible the appointment was made in error too. I would always declare any teams with an interest - not only those I was involved in, but that of close family members. On the rare occasion I'd still referee a family member (and I have performed as Assistant Referee on my own comp a small number of times) - each time it was due to availability (and I had enough trust from the assignor that my judgement wouldn't be compromised).

As for the keeper being down, this is a tricky one - there's no more requirement to stop play for a keeper being down than any other player, although it makes sense to have some consideration for the young age and the nature of their position. If it all resolves in a couple of seconds then I also wouldn't be stopping play - it's unfair to take the attack away because a keeper is staying down for a few moments (and remember, the laws only require stoppage for serious injury). If play has gone on for some time, or maybe the ball has gone out and they need to restart an attack, then I'd probably consider stopping play.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Adrienne,
It might be availability issues?
in many house or city leagues the actual teams participating must put forth a referee from their group to be able to even play given there is often a shortage of individuals willing to be abused on a weekend pitch lol . ROC, bylaws & league directives. generally, deal with officiating policies!

Although I suggest we try to agree to disagree and table disruptive discussions for less emotional post game times I too as a coach & player have fundamentally disagreed with the conduct and actions of referees and requested disciplinary actions for, what ,in my opinion, were protestable or unsafe situations. If you observe blatant conduct that you are upset about then video, write and record your findings via complaints to those in charge of the league to look into such things , Sour grapes might be their assumption but REAL concerns should always be addressed and settled!

Perception being what it is, we look tend to look for conflict because it might be conflict. Granted I agree with my colleagues it is not unwise to avoid it, if plausible, but integrity is something an individual chooses to have. It is a gift of self respect and it CAN NOT be taken away from someone just because we might disagree with a call, It must be lost by the unsavory actions of one who has no established principles or morals. To assume a cheat because a call is wrong or perceived as unfair, One can be disappointed but that does not make our judgement correct!

It is a difficult decision to take or refuse a perceived contentious match, haveing, refereed thousands of matches in my own defense I know my mistakes or errors of judgement were rarely personal but dictated by not seeing an event clearly, factored in with my current levels of training, experience and understanding of the LOTG. I have at times suggested that I might not be the best official to do a match for any number of reasons but if the match had no other options. I have no issues to explain or challenge any assumptions as to my character or integrity. I simply talked to the teams, coaches. even spectators. I listened, trying to understand their concerns and offered only that I was fair not perfect but they would get my best efforts.

Without seeing the actions it's hard to evaluate the foul potential . Injuries are not always considered serious and with play allowed to continue as a variable opinion, disagreements are compromised by the age, skill and level of competition.

Say a hard shot that a keeper mishandles and is then injured diving into the foot of a striker trying to shoot the rebound. When its u 12 girls or u 21 men's there is a variable moment of advantage of wait and see but the shot headed into the goal does not require a whistle ahead of the check on the keeper who is bumped on the play. Yet we are well advised to stop quicker for youth and lower levels when it comes to possible injury! Whereas a keeper diving to save the ball crashes headfirst into the post a whistle likely sounds immediately at any level. If a keeper is targeted unfairly by the opposition generally teams will respond in kind should a referee fail to intervene in conflicts. We can only speculate that contact was inadvertent or unseen

Tolerance for what is acceptable is a varied menus within the game and I too have been yelled at and for, actions that upset me. I get dissent, but a referee with integrity sees what they see from where they are at any given instance.


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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Adrienne
Thanks for the question
I would say no matter where in the world referees are advised to avoid any possibility of the accusation of bias. It is not a place a neutral match official wants to be and no matter how impartial a referee might be there will always be accusations of bias on any decision. Here we instruct referees not to accept any appointments for a team that they were associated with or for any team that has relations playing with or connected to. There will always be exceptions for a variety of reasons most commonly availability.

Just recently I was talking to a referee who was assigned a game for a team that he was previously associated with. He was in fact more concerned about the reaction of his local club personnel that he knew rather than the opponents. He declined the game and he was reassigned to another game. He is a good referee and his integrity would be above reproach yet he knew no matter what he did it would not sit well with either team. I also know a referee who was accused incorrectly of refereeing a game where it was incorrectly alleged that a close relation was playing. It was more to do with a spat with technical staff about a clash of colours before kick off that continued into the game on every questionable call. The referee had no connection to the team just a name sake yet bias was the basis for the complaint which was not the case.

Mark Twain is quoted as saying "Give someone the reputation as an early riser and they can sleep 'til noon.” and no doubt the the opposite of that is true. If one tries hard enough one can always find fault / perfection no matter what.
So perhaps what you witnessed was just poor refereeing rather than bias and I can assure you it is easy to find poor refereeing. In situations where there is a shortage of officials it is now not unusual to find players and coaches who also officiate. In the past it was frowned on to do anything other than referee yet times have changed. Many who do this lack the experience of full time refereeing and all that goes with that.

As to injuries at Underage I advise referees to stop the game immediately. Safety is the number one priority and referees will never be challenged about stopping the game on an injury at underage. I was recently made aware of a situation where two players from the same team collided and one stayed down injured. The referee did not stop play immediately and it turned out that the player had broken his wrist when his team mate fell on him. Cue an unpleasant situation for the referee rather than if he stopped it quickly nothing would have come of it from a refereeing perspective. It turned into a formal complaint and all that entailed.

As to what you describe about the goalkeeper these can be difficult in a "bang bang" situation. The goalkeeper may be down yet the ball can be in the goal in an instant which then stops play anyway. I once recall a head injury situation for a player and as the ball and the player fell , the ball was kicked into the goal. Game stopped by the goal yet the team was making out it was a head injury which it was yet the game was stopped instantly anyway.
So each situation will be unique and there is no one size fits all answer. I agree with Referee Wright about goalkeeper situations yet we also have to mindful of GKs or for that matter any player being down "injured" on any minor contact when the ball is spilled or lost looking to have the game stopped.

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