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Question Number: 29565

Law 18 - Common Sense 7/28/2015

RE: High School

Jeff of Des Moines, IA usa asks...

What would you guys say about breaking up a fight on a field if you are a referee who is not actually involved in the game?

At a soccer tournament in my area, our referee tent was right next to a field with 16 year old boys on it. After a team scored a goal, they ran into the goal to get the ball, always contentious to do so. The keeper got in the player's face and they began pushing, while the referees were not paying attention, too busy writing down scores

The matter got broken up quickly, but if this was to happen close to another referee or set of referees not involved in the game, would it be frowned upon for them to run over and break up the fight? Do you just let the referee crew on thei field handle it?

Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

On field stuff should be handled by the referee crew. Anyone from the outside who enters the field will encourage others to do so. But, it can be very helpful to move to the spectator's area, off the field. Voice and presence can often redirect the spectators, leaving the referees free to deal with the players. Having a calm presence near the spectators can prevent a brawl.

Note: under NFHS rules, if three or more join a fight from the bench, the match is over. So, preventing a pitch invasion by the spectators may help keep the subs from joining them.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Jeff,
the referee crew on the field should be way more alert to such activities. Better a shout out then a run out, to get involved! Although if you were in referee uniforms it might be tolerated better than if you looked like a spectator as others could follow you onto the field . Fighting does bring on the, lets crowd around and smell the testosterone kind of activities. You could also intercede off the field to calm and settle unruly spectators or players.
Your aversion to the scoring team running in to get the ball after a goal as a contentious act is spot on! A wise referee with a degree of situational awareness should head off the confrontation with his immediate presence and take ball possession himself, if there is any kind of interaction . Sometimes nothing will occur, sometimes as you noted ,things get heated. A referee and his ARs MUST stay alert at these critical match moments.


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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Jeff
As referee attending games we have a tendency to want to help particularly when something is unseen by the referee. In that capacity we are just spectators and it is up to the referee crew to deal with it. Under no circumstance should spectators get involved in the game even well meaning referees.
Now in these situation when it has not been prevented by proactive refereeing the incident will quickly come to the attention of the referee crew. The referee might not see the instigators yet he can certainly control the escalation.

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