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Question Number: 31953

Law 5 - The Referee 10/29/2017

RE: Adult

matan of Tel Aviv, Israel asks...

Regarding selective enforcement of the rules by a referee:

could a justified complaint be raised against a referee who decides to enforce a rule which is rarely used, especially in a specific set of circumstances which are substantial to the end result of the game?

for example - ordering an indirect free kick from within the penalty area when the goalkeeper held the ball for more than 6 seconds. circumstances were that it was the 90th minute and the team given the indirect kick was behind 1-0.

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Matan,
generally No. a decision even if you disagree with it if it is based in law and the restart is correct chances are no protest will succeed that does not mean you can not complain. I remind you of the USA woman awarded an INDFK against Canada for the exact same thing then a PK right after as the ball struck the arm of a defender in the wall. It was a tough pill to swallow. I recall Christie Sinclair voice her concerns similar to yours and she was punished for it which basically infered the referee had cheated Canada . She ignored the fact the referee had warned the Canadian keeper already and the fact the free arm that contacted the ball was raised up and away from the body on the resulting PK.
Complaints against a referee are for the most part simply part of the game of those requiring a victory or result where as the referee as a neutral party is not attached to sentiment. If you ask or hold the opinion a referee has questionable integrity that is your right as an individual, it does not make it true but perception is what it is regardless of truth. Referee are not perfect they cam make mistakes but one must reasonably conclude that MOST of the time it is because of their angle of view and their interpretation of the events is different, possibly an error or omission of data, something unseen or not correctly identified but NOT a deliberate attempt to thwart one team over another. I often say your match, your decision, your reputation is the experience factor which adds or removes credibility over the long term. There is a reason why mentoring and assessments occur over referees career.
Yes it is theoretically possible for a referee to be bribed and shamefully we know that it has occurred, thus if one why not all? I grant you FIFA has not covered itself in glory with the stench of corruption, which then permeates into the lower ranks. I do think though there is a genuine attempt to hold referees accountable to a very high level.

However I also give you this video of my mentor Esse to counter the argument of integrity being suspect of what I feel is the best of the best and a lesson for us all.


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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Matan
Protests are not possible on matters of opinion although complaints can always be made. The only protest that can be upheld and likely to succeed is an error in the application of the Law such as an IDFK award instead of a retake of a penalty kick.
Most high level games have an observer present who marks the referee on a range of measures / competences such as application of the law, match control, fitness, communication etc. Refereees that preform poorly are usually not promoted or demoted to a lower division for a period and none like that on their refereeing CV.
Referee Dawson has given the most recent example of the IDFK award in a high level game that was entirely justified. Just because it is rarely called does not mean that it should not be used particularly when a goalkeeper is stretching the time taken to the very limit and beyond. Add in tardy restarts, general time wasting and a referees patience with a team can be tested to the point of dealing sternly with its time wasting behaviour such as using the law to its fullest.
I refereed a game recently where the winning team did all in its power for the last 10 minutes to waste time, slow the game down etc. I ended up booking 3 players for time wasting and I played 4 minutes of added time. I also had to speak with the goalkeeper and had he starting abusing the tine I would have used the law to deal with it. Now the team won and they were still none too pleased. Had they lost I would have been public enemy number 1. Their focus was in the cards, the time added on yet they did not see anything wrong with their poor play, tardy restart attitude etc.
So without sounding to be on the side of referees I get to read many complaint / protests against referees. What strikes me about all those complaints is that the complaints are matters of opinion such as the referee awarded a dubious penalty, he failed to caution / send off, sent off for a questionable foul, did not stop the game for an injury, he added on more time than was required etc. Generally there is a dislike of the referee and his decision making. So there is a major psychological reason teams blame referees for a loss and to not admit a team actually lost the game through their own poor play, bad decision making. By blaming the officials many can deny the team actually deserved the loss / draw. In other words, it is more acceptable to ignore the loss if it can be blamed on the referees, rather than the teams poor play. Post match interviews of managers in the PL usually end up blaming the referee for some decision that was not seen, disallowed offside goal, whatever rather than missed chances, poor defending, etc
I played the game at a high level, lost many important games yet I could never ever *blame* the referee for a loss. We lost / drew because we played poorly not because of the referee.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Matan,
I'm afraid the basic answer to both your questions is no. If a referee's decision is one that can be supported by the law then there would be no justification for a complaint or an appeal over the outcome of the game merely because the call is one that is rarely made or because of the circumstances of the match at the time.

It is only when a referee makes a call than cannot be supported by the law that such a decision could be appealed against, as in the example given by ref McHugh, where a referee incorrectly awards an IDFK for an offence at a penalty kick where the only allowable decision was actually a retake.

As ref Dawson mentions, there have been cases where a referee has been shown to have been involved in match-fixing but even in those cases the complaint or appeal is not based on the fact that a call was not justified in law but on the fact that the referee was proven to have been corrupt. Thankfully, such examples are rare and even then, I only know of one where a replay has been ordered - the one he refers to.

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