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Question Number: 17261

Law 5 - The Referee 10/12/2007

RE: Competive Under 14

Mike Worden of Tucson, AZ USA asks...

With 5 minutes left in a game I felt that the referee was calling an unsafe game (assaults, attempted assaults, tackling from behind not called) and I forfited the game. The league was threatening to suspend coaching licenses for 3 years. The term that was used was "abandonment of the field." I can not find the rule any where that uses this terminology. However, I am able to find a lot of information stating that everyone is responsible for the safety of the players. Have you ever heard of this terminology?

Answer provided by Referee Gary Voshol

In the Laws of the Game, the referee abandons a game when one team does not have enough players, or if the field or weather conditions are not safe. If all your players walk off, then there wouldn't be any players to continue the game, so it would be abandoned.

The league is free to make up rules regarding suspensions. Suffice it to say, most leagues take it very seriously when a team walks off. If you felt that your players were in danger, it is your decision to make. As you have found, the consequences may be great.

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Answer provided by Referee Chuck Fleischer

The referee's first duty is to enforce the Laws of the Game and in doing that he ensures the safety of the players. Sadly some referees do not understand that duty or do not have sufficient foul recognition skills to accomplish that task. As coach you have a responsibility to not place your players in harm's way. Normally you do that by teaching the correct way to play The Game. In this match you felt the only option left to you was remove your players. You did.

Now the league wants to remove you. It would seem the league does not have the same opinion regarding the safety of the players as you do.

I did not see the match nor do I know the referee but when there is a safety issue perceived there is a safety issue and the referee is accountable for everything that happens on his field. His opinions regarding facts connected with play are final so when your opinion was in conflict with his you became wrong. When you removed your players you told him how to referee. A better way to accomplish the same thing is stop contesting the opponents and allow a goal to be scored then have your captain refuse to restart play. The match will be abandoned because play can't restart without your team kicking the ball forward. It does the same thing, except you didn't walk off.

There is one more thing to consider, you were incorrect in your feelings.


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Answer provided by Referee Michelle Maloney

A coach who pulls his players off of the field risks the suspension you mention, because it violates the whole spirit of the game and brings it into disrepute. Who's to say a coach didn't pull them off just because they were losing or didn't have their star player, or whatever and blame it on the referee? If you are the coach, there are things you can get your players to do to lessen any impact from unfair play, if in fact the referee is a problem. During the Women's World Cup back in 1999, the USA was playing Nigeria, and the Nigerian team was hacking the US players something fierce, and the referee could not protect them, as she seemed not to recognize what she was seeing. So, after half time, Coach Tony DiCicco had his players basically play one touch ball. They didn't dribble or carry the ball into traffic and they passed before they could be challenged. As one might expect, it reduces the offenses to nearly nil when you can't get near enough to hit, kick or charge the other player and the US won the game 7 to 1. Now, they had the skill to do that, but every coach should anticipate such an issue and have a plan. And, be sure to file a written complaint with the referee assignor. Only they can do something about a referee who needs more experience or training.

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Answer provided by Referee Keith Contarino

Mike, I guess my question would be, why do this with just 5 minutes left? I understand your need to protect your players and am not in agreement with your punishment but I expect they may have taken the timing into consideration. As a legal protest you could have had them stay on the field but refuse to play and let the other team score and just kick off. This surely would have gotten the referees attention or you could have had them just pass the ball amongst themselves and avoid any possible contact. By all means defend yourself and write a letter to the referee assignor.

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