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Question Number: 35264

Mechanics 12/2/2023

RE: Select Under 17

Mike Byers of Champaign , IL Usa asks...

I had an issue come up during a recent game that I wanted to get irrespective on. At a recent showcase gane with college scouts, I was center and my AR called a handball in the box and deemed it a DOGSO. From my angle, I could not see the arm extended...

When I asked the AR who the handball was in, he was unable to give a number... I therefore, did not feel I could red card without knowing the player number. Any thoughts on what others would have done?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Mike
Thanks for the question.
There are a two points in here for me that need to be discussed in the PreMatch.
1. In relation to penalty calls what instructions were given to the ARs. I never like ARs to be making penalty flags on their own particularly if I have a clear uninterrupted view of the incident on a handling call where the arm is not extended. In many ways the side on view is not a good angle of view on a handling call with the arm at a players side. If I am on top of my game I should be seeing 99% plus of the incidents and probably responding to appeals. I expect ARs to be following my lead if I’m waving away an appeal for handling or making good eye contact on an incident. The last thing I need is a flag on a call that I am not going to make. Every chance your situation was not deliberate handling as you did not see an extended arm. The game has now developed a tendency to appeal / call every contact on the arm and a side on view of a shot towards goal is no where near good enough compared to a face on view which I assume you had. It could have hit an arm at the players side yet that does not make it handling.

I also advise ARs that location of the offence is important and I do not want flags for offence well outside of their area of responsibility or credibility again if I have clear sight of it. It is not credible for an AR to be flagging for an offence way in the centre or left of the penalty area when the referee may be 15/20 yards away clearly looking at it and an AR is perhaps 30 yards away with a side on view. There will be exceptions when it is necessary for an AR to intervene from a distance when it is plainly obvious to everyone except the referee that a decision needs to be made. Those should and will be exceptions.

I will also take into account the experience of ARs. I am not going to give ARs with limited experience free reign on penalty calls. I am also mindful of the AR that wants to referee the game from the touchline. Both need to be managed correctly in the pre match discussion.
I once saw an AR flag for handling by a goalkeeper just outside the penalty area which would have been a DOGSO red card yet it clearly came off the GKs knee. The referee correctly waved the flag down as he had a better view of it and in my opinion it was a poor flag where it happened with the CR looking straight at it. Thankfully both teams knew the referee was correct so the flag did not cause any real problem other than somewhat damaging the ARs cred on the day.

2. In respect of interventions by ARs I expect them to identify any offender that they deem requires a card. To say that there was a DOGSO red card handling and to not identify the offender should not happen. The AR should have zeroed in on the offender after the offence to the exclusion of everything else. I want an AR to be saying to me the offence by Number X and a suggestion on a card if any. To award a DOGSO penalty and no card damages credibility. To say we are not sure who handled it should not happen.
The learning point is that a referee and assistant should be totally focussed on all card incidents in particular to the exclusion of most everything else with exception of violent conduct. Losing focus on who is getting carded should not happen. I have seen that loss of focus by referees usually caused by getting distracted by dissent, appeals for sanction etc.
Does it happen? Of course it does even at the highest level.
Here is an example
I would be expecting the lead AR to help zero in on the offender on the line when that player gets to his feet particularly if he is making the call on the mike to the referee. I also think the referee compounded his error by not accepting the word of the offending player who owned up. Sure whoever made the call could not have been 100% that the correct player was being sent off particularly when others are owning up to the card. It was proven wrong subsequently and an apology had to issue. That could have been avoided. VAR resolves that now in the Pro game but for grassroots its still the way its always been which is focus, concentration and observation.

As to what should have happened a referee can only make a call based on the advice of an AR when it is unseen by the referee. In your instance assuming you were happy with the advice it is a penalty and no card as the offender could not be identified. Its going to be messy to request the offender to own up particularly as its likely to be a disputed call anyway. It easier to sell no card on a penalty rather than owning up to uncertainty as to who handled the ball. I once saw a protest on a DOGSO red card as the referee was tardy in identifying the offender plus when asked immediately he failed to identify by number the player who handled the ball on the line. He did get the decision correct yet the way it was handled sowed all sorts of doubt in a regular game with a lone official which ended up as a protest. If I had any doubts based on the description of the incident by the AR I might even be minded to not award the penalty particularly if it described what I was looking at and it did not look like handling to me. I have overruled AR flags when I was of the opinion that the flags were not correct.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Mike,

It is important to remember mikes/ head phones & VAR are a whole other level of communication over grass roots where if we FAIL to look in the eyes we miss most anything of importance unless blindingly obvious .

If the AR is 100% certain that what occurred was a deliberate handling by the defender which denied a goal or the opportunity they best have that player ID 100% as well. The AR has created a stoppage and forced you into a decision based on faulty intelligence. As AR, I think it best NOT to flag such a situation but try to perhaps get a lets talk moment before any restart to voice a concern!

The players themselves are often good indicators for who MIGHT have did what.
Did you point to the spot on the raised flag?
Did you whistle play dead or was the ball into touch?
This allows a discussion with the AR before you start signalling and pointing to the PK spot!

No attackers screaming for the call??
How close to the incident and what angle did you have?
You must have seen the players intersection within the PA?
Were there so many defenders challenging surrounding the attacker making ID impossible?

I would have had a private discussion with the AR, recall the fact you looked at it, saw nothing, your AR cannot confirm, thus DB to the keeper if play was stopped for the flag . If the ball was in touch then throw in, goal kick or corner kick. You need to get a lock on those things, better to say oops sorry, than award a scoring opportunity on a mistake! For me to award a PK based on AR input their information best be air tight incontrovertible, especially if I was there and saw nothing! We want to support our fellow officials but we need accurate information.

Well before VAR was instituted I recall two very peculiar incidents, once the FAR AR saw something missed by the near AR as well as the CR on a handling call that was incredible as the attacking player broke down & admitted it occurred.
What happened was the attacker grabbed the loose jersey of the defender from in behind and lifted the defender's right arm into the ball. Now the near right sided AR was in his corner looking access could never see it. The CR was just left of the middle of the Penalty arc but the players involved were sideways facing over at the left edge of the PA maybe 3 yards in.

The FAR left AR on his touchline view just a yard or so over midline had excellent vision and an unobstructed view correctly identified the sneaky action. So when the CR whistled and indicated the PK there was no DOGSO criteria but decided the handling was blatant so it was his 2nd caution and thus a red card send off was being pursued . The FAR AR was running in quietly trying to get the CR attention letting him know he had something to say. , while the player was angrily arguing with the CR that it was unfair! If not for the intervention of the AR he would be gone and his team reduced to ten. The Attacker was pointed out by the AR who sheepishly admitted it was so. A few spectators (albeit not neutral) on that side of the pitch were also hollering as well giving credibility to the ARs totally unbiased intervention.

The 2nd one was I think the 4th official who correctly saw the ARM that punched the ball in the PA was the attacking player in behind reaching under the shoulder of the defender whose arm was actually in behind him.

Now these incidents are definitely unusual but they do reflect the integrity of the officials who diligently try to get the decision correct even if they might look silly or wrong. A CR should always give weight to a neutral AR or 4th as a source of information
Not withstanding the excellent advice my colleague Ref McHugh noted on pregame instructions it is important how neutral information makes its way to the CR .

EYE contact, ARs & 4ths can indicate we need to talk, point to mouth hand wave or tapping a flag along the leg indicating I know something I think you should know & have PRIVATE conversations. Card tap, front shirt pocket = yellow, back pocket = red these too are all gestures that if the officials are in sync can communicate silently.

Credibility to lines of sight and areas of responsibility that needs to be sorted in the pregame.
The let me make the call when I am right there is not without merit but the overriding instruction is let's get it right! Get me the necessary information BEFORE a restart .

Over zealous ARS or dismissive CRS, must set egos aside and work on establishing good protocols to not look like you are at odds on the FOP! Yes the CR has the power to over rule and wave off the ARS but it is not a good look if there is resentment and attitude displayed, especially if it happens on more than 1 or 2 occasions.

When you referee with inexperienced or newer ARs, try diligently to gain their understanding of the game and their knowledge of offside and foul recognition . Expect a supreme effort to stay with the 2nd last opponent or the ball and ask them to support your decisions. IF I am making a mistake or unaware of something important you get my attention before any restart using the eye hand wave or tap the flag along the leg trying to get the eye contact. We will have private discussions. Assist but do not insist. I want your input and to advise me of things I might not be looking at but give me room to work. If I am in the area, you can let me take the heat for any call. Offside is your domain but ONLY if you are 100% do you raise the flag for offside. Please do not to get offended if I wave you off on any call, we can discuss mid or post game any decisions made! As my ARs you are 100% off-limits to any abuse. I will acknowledge with eye contact and thumbs up at every opportunity.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Mike,

This is a tough situation. The short answer is - there's nothing you can do, aside from checking with the far AR. You know somebody should be sent off, you don't know who - so you're stuck. Some refs will advise doing things like calling the captain over and ask who it was, that sort of thing. I personally find such approaches problematic - there's a pretty good chance the captain will say he won't know, then ask for a volunteer. You might get one, but it makes things a complete farce - and then, if they appeal the red card, the simple question is - did you see that player commit the offence? And your only answer is 'no' (given that you'd need to report this entire situation, they might even dismiss the red card without a hearing).

Yes, it's unfair that the other team should be playing against 10 players, but having to deal with a referee error is always 'unfair'.

The question is - how do we preven tit? My esteemed colleagues have given good feedback about the responsibility of ARs in the PA. I always advise an AR that I only want them to flag in the PA if I'm lookng to them for help, or if I'm so completely unsighted that I don't even know I need help. In your situation, what should be happening is that I see a potential handball, I'm unsighted, I look to the AR, they look to me, see me making eye contact, then flag. I blow the whistle, they run to their PK position.

If you are positioned to the left of play, as you generally should be, then looking to your AR will still allow you to keep this player in your field of view - and it only takes a glance to your AR.

Personally, I think consulting with the AR after they've raised a flag should be an extremely rare event. They've raised a flag, so they believe a foul has occurred. If I'm going over to question this decision, then I'm stating I don't trust them (though if it's an inexperienced AR, then maybe I don't!). I should already be in position to judge whether it's DOGSO - I've probably instructed my AR to tap their shorts pocket to indicate a RC, so they've probably done that. Assuming this is how it occurred, I don't see the need to discuss with the AR. Of course, I may need to consult to determing the DOGSO.

If you need to consult, make a note of the player's number. You may need to lock your eyes on that player and not take your eyes off them until they're identified.

Your AR should also be doing the same thing (once they've made the appropriate eye contact with you). It isn't a bad idea to even quickly grab out your pen and write the number down on your hand so you don't both forget it after the conversation.

Both of you should have focussed on identifying the player. In the event that one of you is completely unsighted and identification is impossible, that's where the other is important, so this should never happen. It has happened to me on a couple of occasions, and each time I know how and where I erred.

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