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Question Number: 26934

The Technical Area 10/24/2012

RE: Recreational Under 12

Brian H of Kent, Washington USA asks...

I'm sure that my league coordinator and officials' supervisor would take my side on this one, but this was the first time I have ever ejected someone and so I'd like some opinions from more experienced referees as to whether I handled this situation properly. Background information: I am an adult referee in a youth recreational league, in my first season refereeing since I was a teenager. I was the league-assigned referee in a girls 6th grade (age 11) game. Per league policy one untrained volunteer AR is provided by each team and they are only empowered to indicate possession on out of bounds - they may not call offside or fouls. Fields have no specified technical area, and officially coaches are allowed on the entire touch line between the 18s, a rule that I am the first to admit I have been lax in enforcing. The blue team was really outmatched by the red team - they were down 4-0 at halftime.

Early in the second half the red team scored another goal and the blue team's coach was irate that the red team had committed offside, which I never saw and so never called. I did not respond to him, but made a mental note to keep a better watch for offside. About 5 minutes later the red team scored another goal, the blue team coach was again irate that from his perspective I missed an offside call, and he announced his tally of what he perceived to be my mistakes. As I walked over to him to give him a warning, all I managed to get out was 'sir' before he started using profanity and threatening to call the league coordinator. At that, I realized this was a hostile situation, so I ejected him. He got a few more words in, then left the field without further incident. The only words I said to him were 'Sir, you're ejected' and possibly 'that's fine' when he repeated that he would be calling the league coordinator.

I should note that in both of the aforementioned cases, from my position I never saw a red team player that was both in offside position AND 'gaining an advantage by being in that position'. I also note that at the time of the perceived offenses, the ejected individual was positioned at or near where a trained and empowered AR would have been positioned to make an offside call.

In the parking lot after the game I overheard the ejected individual telling the other coach that the league needs better instruction for referees on offside. I noted this in my post-match report, and opined to my officials' supervisor that the league can instruct referees until the cows come home, but if people want improved offside calls what we need is ARs who are trained and empowered to call offside.

Did I handle this situation properly? Is there more I could have done, such as explain my perspective to the remaining coach, who had also verbalized his displeasure but was not nearly as rude or profane about it? On a related note, is it my place as a referee to tell the league coordinator that the teams in this division are woefully unbalanced and that I believe this is not in the spirit of recreational play? Thank you for your time and for this great site.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Brian
First off a missed offside call either way is not a big deal particularly on a one sided game and when the referee is on his own. You gave what you saw and that is all that matters. Even with ARs the call might still be questioned.
The coach then decides to use profanities towards you so you were 100% correct to eject him and well done for doing that in a professional manner in what is a difficult situation to deal with. We all question whether we could have handled these situations better or differently. You did what you had to do which was correct and don't feel that it was you that caused the situation. I suspect that if you asked other referees you will find that this individual may have been ejected before and causes problems for the officials. He very well may ring the League coordinator and he will see the call for what it is. I have spoken to many coordinators over the years and unless they are getting a pattern of calls from every coach they will just ignore it.
Personally I would ignore the post match comments as that is a pathetic attempt to agitate and to cause reaction. Referees should develop what could be termed rhino skin when it comes to comments and unless it is offensive, insulting or abusive I suggest you ignore same. Most times it is said to raise a reaction from the referee and it is best ignored. What should have happened is that the coach should have came across and apologised for his behaviour. Instead he chose to make a comment that was intended to cause you to question your offside calls and to perhaps illicit a reaction which can be used 'against' the referee. I know ignoring it is not easy as we would all like to go home feeling good about the game. Sometimes that does not happen and we just have to accept it as part of the territory and move on. It might be worthwhile if you do not already have one is to find a good mentor who can advise you and to take a call to talk over situations.
As regards unbalanced games that is a matter for the Leagues to deal with and unless there are match issues I would not really bother providing an opinion. The referee's role is to officiate the games under the rules of the competition.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Brian,

It's very concerning to see the way some people act, particularly around such young players.

It sounds like you handled the coach very well - you didn't argue with him, just calmly informed him that he was dismissed. Because he launched into profanity, I don't think he gave you any choice but to dismiss him. Perhaps you could have had a word with him after the first outburst - but I've been guilty of letting coaches get away with a bit too much before I have a word, and hindsight is 20/20 as they say.

Don't worry about the fact that the winning coach also thought the players were offside - I've had players clearly onside, score a goal then tell me they want the goal disallowed because they're absolutely convinced they're offside. I've allowed plenty of goals where the attacking team and supporters thought it was offside, and raised the flag plenty of times when the defence argued the player was onside. So don't take anything out of that.

Don't worry about him complaining about you - referee for long enough and that will probably happen now and then. Coordinators should be used to losing teams complaining!

You mentioned a concern that he appeared to be in a good position to judge offside. I can't tell you how many times I've been an AR, made a decision and people directly behind me have been adamant I was wrong. It isn't enough to be in line - you also have to be looking at the relevant attacker the moment it's touched by a teammate (spectators and players usually don't look at that player until after the ball has been sent through, which is where part of the problem lies), and you also need to know the law.

Him being directly in line doesn't mean he knows what he's talking about with offside, believe me.

On that note, you mentioned 'never saw a red team player that was both in offside position AND 'gaining an advantage by being in that position'' - I'd just like to point out that 'gaining an advantage by being in an offside position' is one of 3 ways a player can become involved in active play, and has a very specific definition of touching the ball after it has deflected off a goalpost, crossbar or opponent. 'Interfering with play' is the most common form of offside infringement.

Even if you did get the offside decisions wrong - so what? Without neutral assistant referees it's impossible to judge these without 100% accuracy (even with neutral assistants it's impossible to be completely accurate). All you can do is the best you can do, and as long as you're doing that, ensuring you're fit enough to be where you need to be and are always thinking about how you can increase your accuracy on these decisions (getting wide might help), then nobody can ask anything more of you. As Ref McHugh points out, it's a one-sided match, so it hardly mattered, really, even if one person couldn't maintain perspective.

I wouldn't worry about the one-sidedness of the game. Unfortunately it looks like the coach in question decided to look for somebody to place the blame on and made a scapegoat out of you.

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Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

First, you were correct to dismiss any coach who uses profanity or obscene language or gestures. The coach has an obligation to behave responsibly, and he failed to do so. No warning is necessary when the conduct is as you described.

Second, after the match, stay away from angry people. No good is served. Get your things and go home.

Third, the match report should only contain the facts. In the XXXX minute you dismissed Coach Y for irresponsible behavior. Coach Y said to you '... .. .. . . ...'
Don't include recommendations. Don't explain why your decisions were right and the coach was wrong. Report what you did and why.

Fourth, your next match with this coach is a new day. Treat the coach with respect and don't bring up the last time. If he's like most coaches, he may apologize. Be professional and accept it. If he doesn't, don't worry about it.

Offside decisions for the solo referee are difficult. The league has chosen not to hire three officials to improve the accuracy of offside decisions. All you can do is bring your best efforts.

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Answer provided by Referee Michelle Maloney

There is no such thing as ejecting a coach under the Laws of the Game. A coach may be dismissed for behavior you described. A fine point yes, but the reports we file in such situations must be as correct under the Laws as possible.

In this situation, whether you missed an offside call or not is basically irrelevant. If you didn't see it, it didn't happen. What did happen is the coach behaving very irresponsibly, for which the dismissal was appropriate. A smarter coach would have ASKED you about the call, perhaps obliquely suggesting the possibility that you'd missed one, whereupon you could honestly ask yourself if that were true and resolve to be more vigilant.

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