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Question Number: 31593

Mechanics 6/9/2017

RE: Under 16

bob of new york, ny usa asks...

Question about if what I do as a referee is professional or not

Like all youth soccer leagues our league frequently is short of referees for games, and we are required to ask the sidelines (parents) for a volunteer to call balls out of play. I have noticed whenever I need to do this, no one ever volunteers, and you see the look of sheer terror in their eyes and faces when they would need to do that, tell me they are incapable, etc. During these games, if they started to criticize me for foul calls, I would ask the sideline if they are too afraid to call balls out of play, why do they think they know what fouls are? And a lot of times this would shut them up

So what I tend to do now is even when I have a full referee crew, I will tell the sidelines that one of my refs is injured and a parent needs to step up. If one does, I tell them I was kidding. But if no one does, I'll say 'Since you're all too afraid to even call a ball out of bounds, if I hear any criticism of our foul calls, you will be warned and then removed from the field'

I take it this is pretty extreme but it has worked wonders for keeping parents quiet. Is this bad taste?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Bob
Unfortunately criticism from the sideline by spectators goes with the territory. Most times it is not justified and sometimes it reaches beyond an acceptable level that is impacting on the game. In that instances it must be dealt with.
However far too often referees take comments personally and we react in a way that is unhelpful to our performance. Comments can be a useful barometer of feelings and emotions. They may tell us that we are in fact missing something - be it off the ball or over-enthusiastic contact, that we are too far away from play, that we are calling too tightly or loosely - and we should evaluate our match plan if such comments are continual. A quick self-analysis of mechanics and our observations of player actions/responses to contact or our calls can allow us to decide if we may be too far away from play, are attentive enough to off-the-ball contact, are reading play and players correctly.
Now this is a tool that I been using for some time. I do it in a way that looks like total ignoring of calls and blanking out the shouts yet I hear them and I factor it into the match context. Sometimes the reason shouts are made is to influence the referee in future decisions. Many times when it is truly blanked the baseless shouting can be seen to be a waste of time. I focus on the reactions on the field of play to calls / no calls and deal with that rather than getting involved with the sidelines. What happens on the field is key to our performance, not getting worked up about silly shouting or criticism.
I have worked some high profile games that have attracted significant amount of spectators many of whom can be vociferous. When I am in the zone I am able to blank the shouting about decisions by not taking it personally or affecting my game while at the same time using the calls to help my game evaluation. Indeed my concentration and performance levels can heighten when challenged from the sidelines. Yes we will hear loud shouts of * Where are the cards now ref* when only one team has attracted cautions or *Let them play Ref* after a series of minor calls or *Get a grip Ref* . We must realise that comments are often made entirely out of frustration and are reactive and many times not thought out and purely partisan. In any case, the referee must be the mature one, regardless of the comments, and act professionally.
As an observer I would take a negative view of a referee that engages with spectators before the game or for that matter directly during the game. A heavy challenge without a caution can draw the ire of parents, spectators. Now that should not be compared with constant baseless shouting from an individual who is hell bent on disrupting the game.
The second point is that many spectators do not want the responsibility of doing lines. It is not that they are particularly worried about making calls as many times calls are rarely onerous or for that matter making the wrong call is of little worry yet rather the commitment to the full fame. In this part of the world we use club assistant linesmen and even at that clubs find it difficult to get club officials to participate. It has more to do with being restricted and committed to the role rather than any big deal about fear of decision making.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Bob,
we all go through various options when dealing with adversity or problem solving as referees. In BC, particularly in youth matches we frequently refereed as single officials. I found it much easier NOT to ask for volunteers to flag. I simply reminded the teams to PLAY the whistle. To forgive me if I was too far away to be sure but not to stop playing unless they heard the whistle.

It is NOT really fair to ask parents to flag because they are there to watch and support their kids. It is additional responsibility, many feel pressured to accept or worried they can get yelled at lol. There are a few who relish it & are very good then there are some who create issues thinking they know more than they do or will get upset if a referee ignores or over rules.

In a recreational setting I find I can interact with the spectators along a touchline in a very real teaching sense where you could not begin to do the same in a stadium setting. I have great conversations to explain offside, why a foul or ball out might get called or not based on an angle of view, what advantage is, why calling my ball is not a foul. There are a lot of confused parents who like to be better informed.

Referees need to realize what we know is not a secret, sharing information, communication is the key to better understanding & acceptance. Of course time & conditions affect how this can occur but I also have a very strong personality that can deflect or set a reasoned tone with MOST people. I do not RECOMMEND this as appropriate action only those secure in their own abilities.

A referee walks a thin line at times by being accessible versus inaccessible or arrogant know it all to easily manipulated or indecisive. Our saying here Your Match Your Decision Your Reputation is the reflection of what you know, what you do not know, based on the perception of what others think you do know or do not know.

There will always be a cantankerous or obtuse individuals intent on making life miserable for those around them. I often ask the opposing parents in the spirit of fair play & sportsmanship to pick a player from the opposing team that they think best typifies a well rounded player. I also take time to ensure they remove themselves to a safe distance away from the boundary lines & if ARs are present to ensure they are not distracted or interfered with & to ask if they have any questions or would like to have things explained?

This is not something they are used to yet in over 40 years I have had few issues doing so. I can only recall 2 or 3 matches where I could not engage SOME spectators after the game in requesting they act responsibly at the beginning. I am an easy guy to talk to if you are polite and respectful even if we are to agree to disagree.

Once a match is underway the focus on the match is not to worry about some loud passionate comment of a biased fan or concerned parent that you are not doing enough to protect their cherub from the bad guys. The type of comments do change be they a youth match versus teenage to adult but in all cases the referee should not get distracted by the individual comments but still pay some attention to the general buzz. You suddenly note that 3 red players appear to be hobbling bout in distress and you gave no idea why the yells earlier might be seeing something you have not. I was refereeing as single official when the crowd reacted nosily to something but I was with play it was an altercation in BEHIND no vision on it but it was OBVIOUS. Something had occurred the crowd does not react to that degree for nothing. I flipped my head and saw the player hobbling and the look he was giving an opponent nearby was one of intent on paying it back later.

Given we are not concerned with RESULT as to win or lose for some the match can mean a great deal a reflection of an entire life struggle in the case of a national AAA championship match at a high school I watched kids cry after losing an overtime match by a single goal in KFTPM. Its just a game, meant little to those heartbroken players who played the best soccer of their young lives to that point . They lost because a ball hit a goal post and went in instead of hit the post & stay out. All the comments about the referee missing a foul, failing to show a card , missing an offside , awarding a goal kick when it was corner or throw in to blue off a red player matters little in these moments except in the minds of the losing teams supporters who think if you had only seen these things this way life might be different. That is a perception & an attitude that a referee has no control over. Best to stay away from the hurting as pain is pain just or unjust it matters little.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Bob,
I'm not sure I would describe what you're doing as being in 'bad taste' but I would say it's probably unnecessary. As my colleagues have said, a certain amount of criticism from spectators is inevitable and in the end, you just have to learn to block it out and/or get used to it. I should also mention that as a referee it's not your job (and very often not in your best interests) to engage directly with spectators. For instance, the Laws of the Game do not give you any authority to send spectators away (local or competition rules may do this but not usually, in my experience). If you need to issue a warning to spectators or eventually send some away, you would normally get the home team authorities to do this.

You may be able to get away with direct interactions with spectators/parents in a more informal setting, as Ref Dawson mentions and I have even done this myself at times but I'm not sure it's necessarily the best course of action.

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