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Question Number: 29850

League Specific 10/24/2015

RE: High School High School

EdO of N. Huntingdon , Pa. U.S.A asks...

Attended a highschool playoff game. There were 3 referees 1 in the middle 1 each in the opposite ends. All 3 had whistles. I'm wondering that would it be better if they would have had one referee and two linesmen. My concern was either they don't understand the offside rule or they weren't in a good position to make the correct call. There had to be at least 12 offside calls on our team. Although, the other team was using the trap really well. I feel that having linesmen, they can be in a better position and have a better view of the position of the players. What is your view on this system

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Edo,
Given there is a format of the 3 whistle system permitted I can only assume the deeper referees at each end are acting as the ARs would to some degree. Equal in responsibility in being able to whistle play dead, better be no egos easily bruised if one was to disagree with the others. I do not know if appositionally they stay with the 2nd last opponent at each end of the field?

As to the intelligence or understanding of the LOTG . We all start somewhere along that learning curve, so without watching and quizzing those responsible, I have no idea whereabouts they might fall on that lifelong education curve of experience and wisdom.

It stands to reason if one team is tactically using the trap to defend, there will a larger number of offside decisions to be made! I coached a team in using that tactic to defend against very strong competition in the Commonwealth Cup with great success. Only because of the ARs intelligence in rewarding our efforts for thankfully actually understanding the offside criteria. We won against stronger opposition, twice in shootouts and twice by single goal margins, thanks to being better defensively to get us to that stage!

Many offside calls are not difficult, those that are, we are told when in doubt keep the flag down if unsure. It would be rather difficult for me to know an offside was incorrectly applied and not to want to counter such a decision as CR, but as equal authority, not sure what I might do or even how they broach a divergence of a decision? Being closest is one way I guess, but off on a side view or a long view can provide a clearer picture. It will be obvious, publically, if the referee who whistles play dead is forced to change a decision more than once, or even if there is a very important goal being brought back or allowed, those watching are going to have questions.

In a recent USSF pro match the referee incorrectly awarded a PK, the AR had a, ahem, talk, and the decision was reversed, with a drop ball out . It was the CR decision to listen to the AR, but I have to wonder, in the 3 man whistle system, if there is a disagreement, SOMEONE, must step in and take the final decision? Two or three adamant opposing referees, is not going to go well I would think?

I would be interested to know!
How a dispute is handled amongst the three referees?? I have to think the centre referee must have the final go to?
How many fouls in total are called? Breakdown of total and by each of the three and the type of fouls or infractions they be, including cautions and or send offs! How is advantage applied if one of three are too quick on the whistle? The problem I see with 3 whistles is the same level of LOTG understanding and application being applied or is each calling a different type of game ? The concept of the whistle versus the flag has a definite impact! Play MUST stop, no matter if there WAS reason, to not stop!


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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

NFHS Rules allow for a three referee system. The system has a centre referee and two side referees, all with whistle and all equal in decision making. Now the control pattern of the Side Referee is like that of an AR with one of areas of focus being on offside, The side referee whistles for offside.
Now the SR should be well positioned to judge offside. If a team is using offside as a tactic then there is going to be multiple offside calls. On very tight call being level with the 2nd last opponent will give a better viewing position. However on many offside calls, close to the line by the SR is sufficient to make the offside calls. As a referee that has to act alone in many games I can make offside calls from even a front on view. In a game I might get one or two that are tight calls where my position does not allow for the best call to be made. that just goes with the territory of acting alone.
I also find when teams do not deal well with opponents playing offside that has little or nothing to do with the officials positioning or knowledge.
I officiated an Underage game recently where one team was well tutored on playing offside while the other was not. Anyway it turned into an offside fest for one side and none of the offside decisions were difficult to make even with my position in the middle. It would have made no difference whether there was an AR or not. Anyone watching the game would have seen a frustrating number of offside none of which had to do with my knowledge of offside or positioning.
I might add that when offside becomes a feature of a game teams must be coached and adjust their tactics accordingly. That can mean more dribbling with the ball, less through balls, forwards coming short, midfielders making long runs from deep etc. However that rarely happens and I see players making what are patently poor runs that always are likely to get called offside.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe Manjone

NFHS Rule 5-1-1 does permit the three whistle system and the three whistle system does provide for adequate coverage of offside. It also allows the side referees to be in position to assist in calling fouls and controlling the game. As a former PIAA approved official, I am aware that Pennsylvania has used to three whistle system for a long time, and having also extensively used it and assessed both methods of officiating, for highs school play where safety, education and sporting behavior are priorities, I prefer the three whistle over the referee and two assistant referee system, and also the dual system that are approved by the National Federation. I do not know the problems that occurred in your game, but in all referee systems, especially the three whistle, the proper training of officials, a comprehensive pre-game conference, and excellent communication among the officials are essential. Perhaps, if the errors did occur, one or more of these essentials was missing. However, lack of one or more of these essentials can and does occur with officiating crews of the other two high school approved officiating systems. Hopefully, future officiating crews that you encounter will fare much better. I do hope that your team makes it to state championships this year.

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Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

The 3 whistle (aka double, double) system is not used in Southern California. It was tried a few years ago, and then abandoned - largely at the request of the coaches who believed that it did not significantly increase the quality of foul decisions (the primary reason it was adopted), but appeared to decrease the quality of offside decisions.

Great referees can make any system work. Poor referees cannot. For most of us in the middle, the issue comes down to training and experience. It is a challenge to switch systems from the diagonal system (used exclusively in matches affiliated with US Soccer federation) to systems used only in high school. But, the challenge can be met by referees who hustle and practice.

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