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Question Number: 27936

Law 5 - The Referee 10/25/2013

RE: ALL Adult

William of Dallas, TX United States asks...

I'm tired of being accused of being a 'racist' by foreign/ other ethnicity players! (I'm white male). Is there anything OTHER than having a thick skin I can do about this?

Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

Often, the problem begins because the referee has (or appears to have ) all of the power and the players have none. The referee who recognizing that perception can address the adverse reaction by being calm, respectful, and quiet. Little things can set the stage for when you must exercise that power. Of course, no one will be happy when one ethnic team expects a beautiful game without any contact, and the other team expects a smash and carry physical game.

Don't blow you whistle to indicate that the players should stop their huddle and get ready to start play. Walk over to them and ask if they are ready.

Introduce yourself and shake hands with the captains. Don't simply ask what is your number.

Try not to yell. Power can be just as effective when said softly and firmly.

Going back and checking on the condition when someone has been fouled, admitting when you should have or should not have given advantage can establish that you are approachable.

Finally, recognize that the game is supposed to be fun. I had an adult player come up to me after the match to apologize for yelling at me (all match long). He looked at me and said, 'I can't yell at my boss. I can't yell at my wife. I can't yell at my kids. Sorry.'

For 90 minutes, it was ok that he could yell at the guy in the funny gold shirt.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi William
The overarching question in any situation where the 'racist' accusation is allegedly being made is 'did racism actually occur?' Policies, procedures and changes in legislation are increasingly becoming effective protective measures against spurious or unreasonable claims. Soccer is no different.
Most if not all Leagues / Competitions have formal procedures for dealing with complaints including racism and that includes false claims. Referees can and should use these procedures when being unfairly accused overtly of being 'racist'. When the complaint is made it is up to the competition organisers to formally investigate the complaint and make a ruling based on the evidence presented or lack thereof. It is a significant step though to take and one that should not be taken lightly and certainly not without good independent third party witness/es. It is always likely to end unproven when it is one person's word against another.
Sometimes these situations can be and should be handled informally at the game and the referee has to decide if that is appropriate or not based on the circumstances / relationship with the club etc. Even if a formal complaint is not made I would certainly advise that referees should keep a record of these instances. Most important here is whether there were any witnesses to the accusation such as other players, spectators etc. Perhaps when it is all evaluated the 'best' decision can be to ignore the situation in the same way as the referee might ignore the comment that he is biased against a team, incompetent etc. However I would evaluate if there is a pattern here and if it is being done deliberately in order to gain some form of advantage in the game such as being treated leniently with cautions, penalty awards etc. Perhaps an informal word with a referee assignor/ league official might help so that games could be observed and a 3rd party opinion obtained.

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Answer provided by Referee Keith Contarino

William, the first question I would ask is; 'Are your fellow white, male referees also being branded as racist?' If the answer is yes, then,unfortunately, the word is being used all too frequently as has become the custom in this country the past 20-30 years. If the answer is 'no', then clearly there is a problem or at least the perception of one and you need to critically look at yourself to see if you are doing anything, even if only unconciously, that could be construed or misconstrued as you being a bigot. I would be very offended if anyone called me a racist and I would avail myself of whatever measures your League has adopted to defend myself.

That said, I think it important who is calling you a racist. If coming from adults, either coaches or parents, I'd be more concerned than if these were simply mutterings from players disgruntled by a call they didn't like. Players probably believe they can dissent in this manner and get away with it, and they're probably right. If this is the case, you'd do best to either laugh it off or ignore it.

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