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Question Number: 21664

Law 5 - The Referee 7/18/2009

RE: Adult, College Adult

Danelle Muresan of Dubuque, IA USA asks...

This question is a follow up to question 21646

Thank you all for the advice, I really appreciate it and I will work on these things... I have one more question if you have time. In the game where I gave 10 yellows and 4 red (my version of Portugal vs. Netherlands, World Cup 06), none of the cards were given for dissent. They were all for fouls (one exception being a red card for foul/abusive language to a player who got two inches from my face and screamed 'You dumb f***ing bitch!') -- what do I do to avoid handing out cards if the players are knocking the heck out of each other?

Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Sometimes players simply don't get the message, and all you can do is hand out the plastic. After all, the laws are there to protect the players, and the cards are there in part to support the protection of the players. If you've drawn the line, and the players persist in crossing that line then all you can do is ensure you remain consistent - and if that means you need to issue a lot of plastic then so be it.

After any game we should be reflecting on our performance - and this is particularly important after a game with a particularly high card count, or a game that started to get out of control. Could we have done more to develop a rapport with the players and keep them onside that way? Were we too strict for the game - or were we too lenient early on? did we over-react to the incidents on the field, or was it simply one of those games where there wasn't much more we could've done?

Were we decisive enough, or did we display enough confidence? Did we allow the players to show too much frustration to the officials, which then led to them taking out their anger on their opponents?

These are just some of the questions I would ask myself after walking off the pitch after what would be a difficult game such as that.

However, sometimes those type of card counts simply happen, we can do everything right and the game still goes wrong.

Most games will contain what's called a Moment of Truth. This is the one moment that determines the outcome of the game. If you have a game that goes out of control, you can often trace most of the problems back to one incident - and it may not even have been a significant one, it may be as minor as a small bit of dissent that may not have been handled well, that allowed the player to maintain frustration and go into a tackle too hard and the game blows up from there - while it may look like the moment of truth was the tackle, it could have been the dissent that happened fifteen minutes ago! If you can break down your match and identify where it started to go pearshaped - and once you think you've done that, look back even further to see if there was an earlier incident leading to it - then you'll go a long way towards figuring out what you could've done better.

That's assuming there's anything you could've done better - often a 'Moment of Truth' will be handled in as well a manner as anybody could expect but it still goes pear-shaped. That's football, and you need to be analytical enough to look back and determine how much of an impact you had on the card count. If not any, then think about if there was anything you could've done to minimise it - could you have talked to the players more to remind them of your presence? Could you have remained closer to play? Not saying either would necessarily have had an impact, just a few ideas.

Similarly, if you can be honest, look back and decide that you've had a good game and it was just one of those matches, then you have every reason to remain confident in your ability.

I've had games with high card counts, and some I know I handled particularly well, some I know I handled poorly and contributed to the problems on the field, and some I know that while I didn't do anything wrong, there was perhaps more I could've done to control the match.

One possibility - if a lot of the cards seemed to have come from particularly aggressive or even retaliatory challenges, then perhaps you may have missed the foul that occurred first that led to the aggression?

I don't know what happened in your game so I'm certainly not suggesting you've missed anything, just throwing out a few ideas for your own consideration and reflection.

If the game is getting a bit out of hand, it may be worthwhile stopping the game for a moment and having a chat with the captains, point out that it's getting out of hand and that if the captains don't want their players to keep earning cards then it would be beneficial for all concerned if they try and get the players to behave themselves so you can actually have a game of soccer and not a card fest - which is something that nobody enjoys.

Oh, and well done on the red card for the abusive player - you certainly don't have to put up with that!

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Danelle,
If you really watched that WC match and understood why that match became so controversial then you will have grasped some essential insights into the game itself.

There were several key moments in the match that set the standard by which the referee felt he NEEDED to intervene and the attitudes the players decided to adopt to win that match. This was the perfect storm of a MUST win result by two teams who were prepared not to lose at any cost! And a referee caught between managing the match and managing a career!

In every match that you do you review it to learn from the good and the bad. The match difficulty factors are of course based on the experience and level of play of you the referee as well as the skill and abilities of the participants. The more demanding aspects of elite play are a faster pace and higher expectations. You cannot see if you are not there and you must understand what it is you see or perceive what you could have missed. Your management tools to sell yourself and your decision. The ability to calm and settle or move play along! These are not the same in each match because the choices made by the players are not the same. The ?Let them play? philosophy is only appropriate if that is in fact what they choose to do!

My opinion of the Portugal - Holland match was both teams should be ashamed of themselves. The referee in my opinion tried TOO hard to keep the players on the FOP, quite honestly, he was TOO lenient! Many players did not DESERVE to be on the FOP and their despicable actions were evident for all to see. My arm chair perspective, had two red cards and two additional yellows well before half time and another three red cards and three or four yellows in the second half . If the red cards had come out earlier PERHAPS things MIGHT have calmed down. Who is to say now, after the fact?

These were critical match incidents and in review it would have been insightful to hear the Russian referee's thoughts about what he did and why he acted as he did. Sadly this post game review information is not made available and to that end, unfertunately learning opportunities are lost.

The first caution, yellow card shown was at 2 minutes! As far as reckless aspect of a tackle was it a suitable deterrent? Was it at a standard that set the bar to low?

That stud up tackle into the thigh of Ronaldo was a critical moment and seemed bright red to me.

The tackle of the foot into the chest of the Dutch player after the whistle on offside that went unpunished precipitated some intense reactions.

The Decko reaction to the Dutch not returning the drop ball was a clear message of F.U.

Referees cannot always save players from themselves.
Our character, our presence, body language and verbal interactions, quick reactions, good foul recognition, solid positioning, proper angles, quality mechanics, sharp focus and fitness in staying with play all contribute to successfully reigning in the emotional roller coaster rides of players fighting for victory. Toss in national pride on a world wide stage and the RESULT is contested in a way a neutral referee with concern for the laws of the game, fair play and strict instructions from his peers in the background must surely hope the players do THEIR part.

Players must hold themselves accountable for what THEY decide to do in as much as a referee must decide the bendability of the laws and what fair play standards are acceptable to him, tolerable to the players, compliant in law and true to the spirit of the game!

We often state a referee with integrity sees what he sees. Since integrity is a component within the character and the spirit of an individual only they and their GOD truly can see this. We can hold those accountable and judge them on the excellence of their perceived performance but no one can take away that which we can not truly see.

No two referees officiate exactly alike. Each of us has distinct personalities and approaches to the game that reflect our training understanding, our interpretation of the laws and the life skills we learn in dealing with others!
I can offer you this outlook, controversy, stress and pressure are simply three other words for opportunity, excitement and fun!

Players need to vent! They have so much invested in results. Dissent is a tool you can use to manage your match the same as the yellow card allowed to prevent its misuse. They both explain and define a standard of excellence the player cannot afford to ignore and what the referee must see!

You need to listen but not personalize their emotion! You need to accept that the game is not a power struggle between them and you but rather a directed flow of energy! You are a switch but the players are the current!
The key is you have a variety of switches at YOUR CONTROL.
Cards are a solid on/off big one, but a quick restart, a quiet word, a public word, a smile, a personal rebuke, a glare, a hand motion, an out and out ass chewing. Acknowledge the current is flowing and adjust that dial as needed to light up the match not burn out the bulb or turn out the light.

Leadership with direction is not dictatorship and commands! People often confuse the power of authority as reasons to find fault instead of look for ways to keep things together!
Words are a poor substitute to explain the management skills great referees find to accomplish their mission! Respect and demands are not mutually exclusive. The 22 players on the match road just as drivers in the real world must still follow the laws if they are to reach a destination intact!

Referees blessed with wit, charm and a sense of wellness that emanates all around started out the same as you. The assets of a whole personality complete with a secure grasp of the laws and the spirit they embody, confidence, compassion and courage need a fit, active focused alert body and mind to allow a game to unfold and not become a contest of wills.

Any good referee can smile!
Great referees can get the players to smile!

I encourage you to go forth and have fun. Take joy and excellence onto the pitch. Self respect is a gift to yourself that no one can take away! Remember a referee with integrity sees what they see. It is hard not to be enchanted by the sage wisdom of the referees who can say with ironic sarcasim wit and dignity, " I plan on being here 90 minutes, do you?" The game is fun just remove those who can not seem to find it!

Look these old responses over as to the mindsets some will have and the thinking in behind those who disagree!

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Answer provided by Referee Michelle Maloney

One of my mentors told me there are games where nothing you do will make a difference. He also told me the way to solve one of those games is to figure out how to interrupt their slug fest or whatever and either put the game back on track or end the game because there are now less than 7 players on one or both sides. His historical game had already run through his considerable toolbox of personality, tightening up the level allowed for contact, dispensing of necessary yellows, etc. yet the game continued to get uglier.

He finally called the captains together again, over by his bag, took out his yellow card and laid it on his bag. Fellas, I'm done trying to baby you guys. Either you play the game right or you'll sit. Pass it on. And then he backed it up with a sending off for the first idiot who challenged him. (Note he did not ask them for cooperation, simply stated what was going to happen if they did not, and demonstrated his courage to do it if challenged.) The game made it to full time, albeit without a full 11 on both sides.

Not a recommended course of action, obviously, but some games demand extreme measures. I cannot emphasize enough the comments of some of my colleagues regarding rewinding the game and playing it again in your mind. Think about the teams and how they wanted to play - did you facilitate this within the Laws or did you insist they play the way you thought they should?

Was the level for a sending off set too high? It is the rare referee who is willing to send off a miscreant in the first few minutes of a game, like Sandy Hunt in the China v Australia WWC game, but having the courage and confidence to be able to do so reduces the gamesmanship players try to use against the referee.

And there are referees who have the courage to give a YC for PI against a player who is consistently fouling an opponent in a tactical manner meant to totally disrupt their rhythm even when that player is deliberately keeping the fouls at the just barely careless level. That player has to tone it down now or suffer either another yellow for subsequent PI or USB and cost his team numbers on the field.

What do you do to avoid handing out cards if the players insist on knocking the heck out of one another? First, watch what happens when there is contact. Do the players react with a look to you, or do they keep playing? Some teams are just more physical than others, and if they are both physical and accepting the battering, let it run until they get tired and/or the battering reaches a critical level where they are no longer accepting it, and then deal with it at the lowest level possible to keep them playing happily.

The hardest games are where one team has a really physical style and the other team hates being jostled. This is where you have to call two games in one, but my answer is too long already. Review your games, continue to ask other referees, get experienced referees you trust to watch you, and give you feedback. Find a highly qualified mentor, and do what they say, even if it feels wrong at first. Keep at it.

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Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

There is a story about a similar match with Esse Baharmast (whether or not true, Esse stories always ring true). After so many yellow cards, he took the card out of his pocket and made a public display of throwing it off the field, saying: if this isn't working, I have only one option left. (Of course, he had a second yellow card still in his other pocket.)

With college age players and early morning matches, you may be seeing the effects of alcohol the night before. Sometimes, lots of cards come out in the second half, and this is a hint that there may have been two few cards in the first half. Sometimes, however, the players don't want to play soccer. When the match is on the edge of disaster, the referee may need to kill the life remaining in the match: calling every foul no matter how trifling, insisting on the exact blade of grass 's restart, strict enforcement on substitutions, and converting every free kick into a ceremonial - - just to keep the match from going over the edge. It takes all the fun of our game, but lets it end peacefully.

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