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Question Number: 30994

Character, Attitude and Control 11/5/2016

RE: Rec Under 15

Philip Sowton of Exeter, Devon United Kingdom asks...

After a match had finished two players were having a private conversation as they left the pitch in which they criticised a referee decision. The referee overheard the conversation and cautioned the players. We don't yet know if the referee issued the caution for dissent or unsporting behaviour.

1. Surely it can't be for dissent as dissent must be directed towards a match official. Do you agree?

2. Do you think a referee can caution for unsporting behaviour for words he overheard but were never intended for his ears?

Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Philip,
Dissent is defined as any comment or gesture showing disagreement or disrespect.
As you're aware referees don't apply the definition that strictly (if they did we'd see true zero tolerance), but there is no requirement for it to be directed at the match official. Being about the official is enough.
We've all heard players make disparaging remarks about the referee or a decision to a teammate with the intention of the refereeing hearing it. Let me ask you this - if a player says to a teammate 'this ref's an idiot', do you think the referee should let it slide? Or 'don't worry about it mate, that was a disgraceful decision, I reckon this ref's betting on them to win' that these remarks should be acceptable?
They're just as damaging and disrespectful as comments said at the referee.
Of course players will talk coming off the field and most referees will let it go to a certain extent - but there's still a line that can be crossed. If the referee can hear it, he can deal with it.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Philip,
Players need to grasp most of us contribute to refereeing because we enjoy the game. Even though on occasion, we may seem to be anal, pontificating, officiously pretentious, no referee strives to create discord albeit there are a few, who do at times, stretch the patience factor for what passes as reasonable behaviour. It is tough to do a good job under scrutiny for every perceived wrong decision no mater how many decisions we get right! But it is a job, it has responsibilities and it has consequences! Reasonable dissent can be tolerated, it even opens our eyes to match conditions we might be missing but the 4 Ps public, persistent, provocative and personal are in effect from pre match to post match on the FOP! Player's private conversations that can be OVER heard by our radar ears, it is most likely they were trying for a ping .

Hurt feelings aside. It is opined that to be an effective referee one develop a thick skin and a stoic composure to ward off or redirect some of the opinionated flack directed our way. In truth, part of being able to function as an official is to effectively deal with dissenting opinions and not let it cross into abuse. Just what is EFFECTIVE for one official? If they have the ability, within their character to ignore the garbage that occasionally spills forth from dissenting players as they leave the FOP many just shrug! Another official's tolerance for what is said and why, about who and when, may well be on a short fuse given how some matches go! Perhaps the effect of what was said is too great to ignore? It really does not matter whether one agrees to what level of insulting or demeaning behaviour is carried forth by the players verbal comments or actions, the referee has the authority to show cards for misconduct even after the match.

Sometimes pride is an obstacle, sometimes a virtue!

I hold that coming down hard on the idea of holding people accountable for integrity of their composure and a sense of fair play while on the pitch, is not the worst thing to occur. Then some of us get prickly and our dander up for any number of personal nuances. As my colleague states dissent is disagreement in a disrespectful manner but it can transpose into OFFINABUS quite easily. They may have poked the bear once to often. Tell them to carry on conversations outside the park but also remind them free speech and being entitled to our opinions to cast aspersions on another is a luxury we often take for granted given the lack of reasonable responses and accountability of actions..


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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Philip
A private conversation that is overheard by others is hardly private. In these such instances I hear player sometimes say that they were speaking to a team mate not directly towards the referee. That is an excuse as it loud enough to be public for everyone to hear which makes it dissent or unsporting behaviour. I am pretty sure that the players may have wanted the referee to *hear* their comments / opinion which probably was disrespectful and not expect any sanction. It was unlikely to be just discussing the game. .
Now perhaps another referee, myself included, may just walk on and ignore players who are disgruntled about the result or decisions during the game. However should a referee take exception to what is said then the referee is entitled to take disciplinary action.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Philip,

1. No, this is not true. There is nothing in the Laws to indicate that dissent must be aimed directly at a match official. Any sign of disagreement with a match official could potentially be classified as dissent.

2. Yes, a referee can caution a player or players for words that he has heard.

Now, as my colleagues have indicated, it doesn't mean that every time a referee hears players saying something uncomplimentary about him, he necessarily has to start cautioning them. Without having heard the actual conversation, the words, tone etc, it is impossible for me to say if I would have cautioned these particular players. However the referee is entitled to do so if he believes that the level of dissent shown is unacceptable.

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