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Question Number: 22649

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 12/16/2009

RE: Rec Other

Rick of middleburg, FL USA asks...

I am the team coach/referee for a 9-11 year old 3v3 soccer practice league. I was recently refereeing/coaching a match against a team of kids who were constantly pushing with outstretched arms, and shirt pulling. Each time one of the players on our team came out on a substitution, he/she said the other team was pushing and shirt pulling. I finally started calling the other team, and even instructed them on what they were doing wrong. These are practice games, so I thought I should teach during the games. The coach/ref for the other team told me that I should drop it and let the kids play without saying anything. I don't condone kids on outr team playing like that. What should I do in the future?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Rick
The simple solution is to award a free kick for every push, shirt pull, trip etc that you see. If the coach does not want players to be advised then so be it. It is then up to the coach to teach his/her player not to commit fouls and to be penalised accordingly.
The alternative is to ask say a local referee to assist by refereeing a number of practise games with the instruction to call all infractions.
Young players at this level have to learn what is a foul and the consequences of same which is a free kick or penalty. The learning can be the harder way without advice or the easy quick way which you have espoused.



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Answer provided by Referee Gary Voshol

It sounds like your rec league has coaches as referees for the games. At that level, it's probably sufficient. I doubt the league has also said, 'Referee the game, but don't call any fouls.' When you are the ref you should be blowing the whistle when the players (on either team) hold or push. Since it's a recreational practice league, you should be informing the players why you stopped play. If the other coach doesn't want you to explain things to his kids, then stop doing so. Let them be frustrated until their coach tells them what they did wrong. But that's not good for the players, so maybe a word with league officials is in order.



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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Soccer is played with varying tolerance levels for certain fouls depending on the age/grade of the players. Watching the elite soccer and you'll see just how lenient referees are on holding and pushing.

At this level that's fair enough; the players accept it, the fans accept it. It's just part of the game, and I think most people prefer allowing it to some extent. At lower grades, there simply isn't the same level of competitiveness, nor are the players as capable - physically or mentally - of dealing with this sort of play, which means it's more likely to be considered a foul.

At the very young ages, they really shouldn't be doing this at all. I do find that there's a big difference between U/9 and U/11 though - even U/12(higher grades) I find can play some very rough football with a lot of this sort of 'professional' behaviour of holding and pushing, and the referee needs to balance his own views of what should happen against what he believes is an acceptable level for the league. I only say that to balance out my early comment regarding the behaviour of very young ages.

99% of the time though I would certainly strongly encourage referees to be quite strict with blatant unfair player at these ages - even moreso with the lower grades. They should be taught to play cleanly, not taught to come close to foulling as possible. The parents want to see their children protected - at these levels, I'm a firm believer that soccer needs to be SAFE, FAIR and FUN, and the referee has the job of ensuring that is respected - as much as he can within the laws of the game.

If players are being pushed around by dirty players then it not only stops being safe, but it stops being fair. When this happens, it also stops being fun - the players don't understand why the other team is allowed to do the wrong thing and win the ball doing so. After all, aren't there laws that they're supposed to abide by? This can ruin their enjoyment of the game and ultimately drive them away.

At these ages I fully support - nay, strongly encourage - all referees to take on a bit of a leadership role with the players and explain to them what they've done wrong. I believe you've absolutely done the correct thing in doing that, and I've found that parents truly appreciate a referee who takes the time to do that.

As an official referee, if a coach told me that he didn't want me doing that I almost certainly wouldn't be changing my behaviour. I'll let him coach how he wants (within reason), and I'll referee how I want (within reason). I may have a chat to him to explain my position, but ultimately I'm acting within my boundaries as a referee.

This isn't so easy for you - the opposing coach may see it as undue influence from a rival coach, and the lack of official authority on your part (I'm assuming the matches are refereed by coaches who are unqualified referees) doesn't help matters much - and the often informal nature of these competitions means there's often more pressure on resolving a situation.

I'd probably have a chat with the coach in question, find out why he has an issue with what you're doing and explain that by doing so you're hoping to encourage the players abide by the laws of the game, because stopping play every 30 seconds for a foul makes for a dead boring game and also removes much of the very-important ball time from these players, thus minimising their own enjoyment as well as their benefit from these games.

Any good referee will talk to players, and this happens all the way up to professional leagues. Some people have the peculiar notion that referees shouldn't speak, and perhaps this guy is one of them. Or perhaps he's coaching his players to play like this and doesn't see a problem with it - or he may have another reason for it. It's disappointing when a coach like this only wants to teach the players how to win, rather than be good sportspeople.

In the future, please continue to do what you're doing - referee according to what you consider to be fair play under the competition rules and explain to the players what they're doing wrong. If anybody complains, then have a chat but also remind him that as the match referee, you need to talk to the players to control their behaviour. If it's a particularly dirty team, it may be worth having a chat with the league officials.

If a player pushes or holds (pulls is included in this) an opponent then it's a foul. At these ages, I'd be inclined to be very strict - that is, if there's any effect on play whatsoever, I'd blow the whistle. If there isn't an effect on play but it's blatant, then either award the foul anyway or simply tell the player to keep his hands to himself. At this age I certainly think you can afford to be rather strict.



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Answer provided by Referee Steve Montanino

I think the problem is that the coaches are also the referees. This problem is avoided if you have an independent arbiter. The way you have it set up allows for differences in coaching to impact the way the game is called and when the two of you disagree, then you have a problem.



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