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Question Number: 32025

Mechanics 11/15/2017

RE: Select Under 19

Matt of Bristow, VA USA asks...

This question is a follow up to question 32019

I disagree slightly with your ability to punish something you did not see. There are various tools that a referee may use to ascertain what happened. It would not work every time and should not be used every time, but why not ask the offending player, 'Why did you do that?' Shy of abusive language, it would be hard to justify a red card, but you could easily use it to justify a yellow card.

I was refereeing a mid-level U15ish girls travel match a few years ago and a very similar situation happened. Immediately behind me, I heard a sound made by one body part contacting another body part. It was not contact with a ball or the turf. When it turned around, the player who had just released the ball was on the ground potentially injured. I blew the whistle and checked on the potentially injured player. Then I asked the opponent, 'Why did you do that?' She responded that she was just trying to get the ball. Keep in mind that I had seen the other player pass the ball and had time to turn my head so that I didn't see what actually took place. At that point, it might have been completely innocent. Her response was 'I guess I was just trying to get the ball,' with a somewhat guilty demeanor. My response was to award a yellow and a DFK restart. Had the guilty player responded, 'Did what?' I would have started with a drop ball due to an injury stoppage.

On a related note, I've had instances in younger age groups recreational games where I wasn't sure if a player touched the ball or not as it was going out. If the situation lent itself to it, I've asked the player (U10ish at the oldest) if she'd touched the ball. Either way, I'd thank her for her sportsmanship and make the call accordingly.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Matt
There is not a referee who has guessed a decision based on the circumstances of the situation. I am of the opinion that the referee in a recent WC qualifier guessed on deliberate handling based on what it looked like without actually *seeing*. The answers given were based on an adult game of a missed incident and we know that most adult games that players will rarely own up to even the most obvious. I have had players own up in situations where it was purely done in my opinion to make mischief, to create problems for the game and be seen favourably by opponents that they know. At Underage it can work yet little is at stake. Asking young players to own up can work and certainly U10s are not going to be cunning enough to act dumb and are not really bothered about decisions. Indeed they could play the game without referees if so inclined. The same can be said for some in older age groups as well.
Now I heard of a situation where a referee sent off a player for violent conduct based on probable cause. Everything pointed to VC by a particular player and the referee sent him off. It was detective work of putting together all the facts and arriving at a decision. The decision was not challenged and it dealt with the guilty party.
Players can not be certain that the referee has not seen an incident by a glance around or whatever. However it then boils down to the referee being comfortable in writing a report not based on what he saw but what he believed happened. That is an integrity issue and being somewhat wooly in the description with limited facts. Facts can also be gleaned after the game from those present with a casual question of views on the sending off. After match conversations with people I know has worked the other way with me where I know I missed an incident and it confirms my suspicion. I then try to work out what I could have done differently to have seen the incident.
Sometimes it is just not possible and that is part of the game without technology. The Premier League has many examples of unseen VC being dealt retrospectively with video. In those games there are 4 officials.
So while it will work in some situations I believe that as players get older it will not. If the referees question is overheard by opponents they can then ask why action is not being taken as it makes the assumption that the referee has seen it.
So I would be cautious about using it. The down side might be more troublesome than the perceived upside.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Matt,
While you might get away with this at youth level, I would say that basing your decisions on what players tell you is a risky proposition. Certainly at an adult or professional level, players are not going to volunteer information that will get them into trouble. Also, a player's perception of what happened may be flawed and almost certainly, not based on a true understanding of the laws. For instance, in many youth games that I refereed, players would apologise profusely to opponents for what were completely fair tackles. The players in question very probably thought they had committed a foul when in fact, they had done no such thing. If asked, ''Why did you do that?'' they would almost certainly respond with a guilty demeanour despite having done nothing wrong.

Then, as ref McHugh mentions, there is the question of what to put in your report. Are you going to lie and say you saw something that you did not - or are you going to admit to penalizing a player (and don't forget, in the reference question, we were talking about a red card offence) based only on hearsay evidence?

As I say, it's a potentially risky strategy and one that will not always necessarily lead to the correct conclusion.

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