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Question Number: 20981

Law 5 - The Referee 3/15/2009

RE: Rec, Premier, State Cup Under 15

mike of small town, CT United States asks...

Hey all,

I am a referee in my late teens and have been certified for three years working many different levels of competition. I would like some advice on how to deal with these situations 'properly'.

1. Giving a player a red card. From experience, how do you deal with a player who doesn't agree with the card? (meaning the player given the card) There is no purpose in stepping off the field( if nearby ) as he can follow you if he desires, correct? Lets say he curses at you or throws out a sarcastic comment - it is obvious that you must stay professional, but do you even attempt to reply to a pissed off player? I don't believe not replying is appropriate as you can be conceived the wrong way. Also to a player who simply wants an explanation, do you take the time to give it?

2. A coach which is completely out of line. Obviously coach's are bias and when theres a slightly debatable call (as in it wasn't a clear cut foul...not meaning the referee was most likely incorrect) they will always think they are right. How far do you allow a coach to go?

Ex. #1, I was AR'ing a game where I believe the center was doing an excellent job. The coach was nagging me about every call the center made, nothing horrible though just asking for an explanation which would usually end in dissagreement. Two consecutive fouls in one minute against his team when he says to his assistant coach (loud enough that even the parents on the other side of the field could hear) 'Wow, this referee should not be allowed to work this division!

The center warned him at halftime and left it at that. At the moment of the comment, should he have been warned/asked to leave? The thing is I don't want to get emotions mixed with what actually justifies a coach's ejection. He was already on all three of our nerves and we were waiting for that one comment to get him out of there.
Ex #2 A coach talking to the opposing coach during a game about our performance. Coach A is says something along the lines of 'Do you actually agree with these calls?' to Coach B with an aggressive tone. Coach B just raises an eyebrow and ignores him.

Answer provided by Referee Michelle Maloney

1) Whether he agrees or not is immaterial. Since you can't kill him twice, you will have to write up any further misconduct in your report.

I would recommend one of several avenues:

walk or back toward the benches and your AR/4th, giving the player the arm pointing off the field and/or the stop hand motions;

assuming this is not the captain of the team, enlist the captain's help - it is one of his duties to assist you here;

do not turn your back on the player but move away toward wherever the restart will be, hopefully putting other players on his team or the opponents between you and him.

Do not engage him in conversation or explanation unless there is no threat apparent, and only if you want to. Keep it very brief and use the language of the Laws of the Game.

2) How far do you let it go? Not very far. First a warning, delivered from a safe distance of 10 feet or so, after which you remove yourself quickly: 'Coach, your behavior is unacceptable. If it continues, you will be dismissed.' Second time: 'Coach, you have been dismissed. You have 2/3/5 minutes (your choice) to leave the field or this game is terminated.' Then gather up your ARs and the ball and wait in the middle of the field until he is gone. Then restart the game or leave depending on his choice. This isn't up for discussion with the coach, so do not allow any. The coach is only allowed by the Laws of the Game to give tactical information to his players - and you and your crew are not his players.
Bonus: he'll think twice about this behavior with any referee in the future, and definitely will think carefully if he draws you again.

When dealing with a coach as AR, you can say things like 'I hear what you are saying.' or 'I'll ask the referee at half-time.' Hearing what he is saying is not the same as agreeing with him, but it does allow them to blow off steam, sometimes harmlessly. You should always ask the referee how s/he wants to deal with coach issues in the pregame, and then follow those instructions. If the referee doesn't have a protocol, suggest one - and this is a time to press the issue, for your protection and that of the game.
You can always raise your flag, hopefully at a non-critical moment in the game, call the referee over and share the irresponsible comments of the coach, and emphasize how the coach is interfering with your ability to do your job, and ask that the referee warn and/or dismiss him, depending.

Read other questions answered by Referee Michelle Maloney

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Answer provided by Referee Gil Weber

Referee Maloney's advice offers wise and safe options for dealing the situations you describe. So I'll just add some thoughts to compliment her fine response.

First of all you're at an inherent disadvantage that you can't do anything about. You're a youth referee, and players and, especially, coaches will always look at you with a different attitude than they would an adult referee. Since you can't change the fact that you're young it's essential that you conduct yourself in an adult manner. That begins the moment you come to the field -- in your dress, in the way you walk and talk, and in your handling of the pre-game matters such as checking credentials, equipment, and the field.

Don't give people, especially coaches, a chance to think, 'Oh, no. We've got a kid referee again this week.'

Once the game begins here's what I'd suggest.

If a player is sent off and doesn't agree you should not be surprised by the fact that the player thinks it's not right. Follow the proper mechanics and dismiss the player as Referee Maloney describes. If the player asks why he/she is being sent off explain it to the player -- very briefly. There is no harm in doing that, and the player really should understand what he/she has done that's gone so far over the line.

That said, this is NOT the time to debate. Explain and then again point to the touchline. If the player persists say only this: 'You asked for an explanation and I gave you the courtesy of explaining what you've done. This is not a debate.'

And that's it. Follow Referee Maloney's suggestions if you have further resistance from the player.

Now as to coaches. Remember the following:

1) Coaches will try to 'work' the referee. Sometimes they'll do this in a good natured way and sometimes they'll be downright obnoxious.

2) Coaches are there to advocate for their team and against the opponents. Some do this in a proper manner and some do not.

3) This may be the most important point. Coaches are allowed to disagree, but they are not allowed to dissent. There is a HUGE and FUNDAMENTAL difference.

Coaches, like players, will see the game differently because they want to win. When things go against them they will be upset and may shout something at you or the ARs. To complain about a call is not a problem as long as it's done in a non-confrontational manner. So shouting to the AR, ' Come on, linesman, that wasn't offside,' is not a big deal and shouldn't raise an eyebrow. That's simply seeing things differently and disagreeing.

But when the coach tells the referee to, 'Go stick the whistle where the sun doesn't shine,' that's no longer disagreement. That's dissent (or worse), and that has to be addressed.

The key for referees and ARs is to establish a reasonable threshold for disagreement, and not to set the threshold too low. It is not an effective game management policy to jump down the throat of a player or coach the first time that person says anything in anyway contrary to your decision. Now, that is NOT to say that you allow that person to get in a cheap verbal shot. Far from it.

But you need to have a level of tolerance that allows players and coaches to vent emotionally within reason because it is an emotional game, and it's a frustrating game when things are not going right for one's team.

So, if as AR you need to deal with the coach then talk to him -- politely but firmly. Let him know that you heard the comments and you don't need to hear any more from him. Do not threaten, but also do not get into a discussion. Again, it's not a debate.

As for the coach who shouted loud enough that the parents on the other side of the field could hear him say that the referee should not be working that division... well that's over the line, and that is more than simple disagreement. That's trying to embarrass the referee and show up the central authority. The referee needs to deal with that coach with a strong warning and then dismissal on repeat of ANY further dissent.

Let me give you two examples of things I've said to coaches recently and how I handled their comments.

1) U-17 boys. Red #21 is fouled hard in the spine by Black #22 four minutes before halftime, and directly in front of the parents. I caution Black #22 and make it very obvious to everyone that I as NOT happy with the force of the challenge directly into the spine. Parents don't say a word.

Two minutes later Red #21 scores, and as he's headed up field he goes by Black #22 (the player who had just fouled him hard) and makes some obviously provocative comments.

I go up to Red #21 and caution him, and I tell him why. His coach shouts, 'What was that for, referee?'

And very loudly, so that both benches could hear it I replied, 'He was taunting the player I just cautioned.'

The coach knew his player was stupid, and everyone else (especially the opponents) knew that I recognized the verbal nastiness and was not going to tolerate it. (I also knew that these teams had a 'history' from their previous match, so I wanted everyone to know that I was watching for this sort of thing.)

No complaints from anyone.

2) Another U-17 boys game. About 30 minutes into the first half a player brought down an opponent with a tackle across the knee. It as not a nasty challenge and the opponent was not injured, but it clearly was very badly timed and could have resulted in injury. I cautioned the player.

His coach shouts out very loudly, 'But that was his first foul.'

I said back to the coach, 'Yes, but it was very high.'

The coach said again, 'It was his first foul.'

And I replied, 'It was across the opponent's knee, and nobody gets a free first shot like that.'

The coach did not say another word.

So in both games the coaches advocated for their players and questioned my decisions. But I quickly squashed their disagreement so that it could not escalate into dissent. And I did that with brief but clearly reasonable explanations that left the coaches nowhere to go with their disagreement.

Hope this helps. :o)

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