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Question Number: 32669

League Specific 8/25/2018

RE: Under 13

tony of minneapolis, mn usa asks...

Had an unfortunate situation in a tournament this weekend that I don't think I handled correctly but would like your advice.

In youth tournaments, frequently there is typically a 'mercy rule' where if a team scores over a certain goal differential, they lose tournament bracket points. In a game today with 11 year olds, Team A reached that differential, up 6-0 with around 5 minutes to play. Team A then decided to just pass the ball around to avoid scoring, but to keep the game active. Coach of Team B got upset about this, had her keeper play a regular field position (as keeper), and started yelling for her players to intentionally shoot to score in their own net in order to cause Team A to lose bracket points.

A player was going to kick a free kick directly into his own net but I yelled at him to not even think about it, and another player received a ball and was running directly to shoot on his net, but luckily missed. I issued him a yellow card and UB, and by this time both coaching staffs were yelling at each other and I told the coach of Team B that if she told her players to do that again, I would send her off (using this as a verbal warning). Then, instead of continuing the game, I decided to end it with two minutes left, as there was no reason to continue with coaching staffs nearly in physical fights over this disgraceful act. After the game, the coach of Team B also took to yelling at and insulting some parents from Team A who were calling her actions disgraceful. The coaches and parents all thanked me and I reported it to the tournament officials.

This is the first time this has happened to me but I always feared it would happen, and I don't know what the proper method is to handle it. It doesn't seem right that as a referee, I would have to sit there and watch as a team displays that poor level of sportsmanship, actively hurting the winning team, and all I could do is issue yellow cards or send off the coach?

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Tony,
sorry to hear of such a pathetic example of adults teaching our kids!
You did what you thought was right & in the best interest of the game so no worries.
The A coach felt it was NOT insulting to the B team to play keep away.
The B coach felt is was disrespectful so he chooses to use a tournament loop hole to punish such disrespect.
In my mind as referee I think both actions stink and I blame the tournament bylaw that set this into motion where scoring too many goals is punished.

If a coach from a dominating team is concerned about embarrassing the other team or complying with goofy tournament bylaw or simply wants his team to pass more that info should be dispersed early within the team set up. Hey we are in control lets get John his first goal or anyone who has yet to score or only shoot from 30 yards out or make 25 passes in a row. Rather than run up the score to a max setting then yell "No more goals just play keep away!, across the FOP is bound to upset some!
Truth is not what it is, at times it is what we perceive it to be!

In tournaments Clean slates should count MORE than running up the score!
so 6 to 0 or 21 to 0 has NO difference in standing on a 6 goal limit
So Team A Team B
9 to 0 = 6 to 0 21 to 1 = 6 to 1
12 to 0 = 6 to 0 25 to 0 = 6 to 0
7 to 0 = 6 to 0 24 to 2 = 6 to 2
they play each other ties 9 to 9 = 6 to 6

Team A advances by a 3 goal difference.

Frustration is factor and pushing the frustration buttons can create emotional responses even in a supposed friendly match. Yet competition is what it is the old standard of you cannot stand the heat get out of the kitchen is appropriate in signing up for a COMPETATIVE tournament victory is not assured nor is the circumstances of getting your butt handed to you by a much better team !

The leagues get that players at age groups have levels of ability thus the creation of up to a multi tier system of teams placed at various levels based on the skill and ability of the very same age groups
house league a,b,c
bronze 1, 2, 3
silver 1, 2, 3
gold 1, 2, 3
But in entering tournaments unless stated they are a tier system the disparity can be a lot!
To assist with advancement or standings you can set a plus minus goal difference from zero to 6 so a team running up the score can not benefit from huge skill deficiencies but I am not in favour of mercy rules for soccer they are frankly stupid! In soccer you score goals. Nothing is more satisfying then scoring a goal so to restrict them is silly. In competition kids need to acquire a toughing that life is neither fair or unfair it simply is what it is. You learn by being beat, not winning is NOT a disgrace but to seek vengeance is! For adults to set such terrible examples for u 11 reeks of everything that is wrong in youth sports. The fact we must turn this same scrutiny to the coaches or the touchlines of belligerent fans or parents is pathetic

Kids GET it, they KNOW when they are in over their heads. I have had many a youth stand in awe wishing their team was as good as the team they were facing having to remind them to get in the way of passing lanes and to learn by their oppositions' play . What a referee must be aware is are the kids running up the score belittling those they play against by insulting or deeming words or actions? Is the losing team getting angry if they are being or feel they are being humiliated thus throwing in some poor tackles?

But lets turn our attention to one team choosing to score upon themselves. That is their choice. You record report and the opposition can choose to do the same or play keep away if that is their desire.
When the B coach asked his team to score upon itself, the opposition A coach could say defend the open B goal and control the ball.

If the B team fouls the A players to draw PKs the A team deliberately misses so as not to score.

If there was a foul by the A team on the B team in the PA no free kick including a goal kick CAN be kicked directly into ones own goal inside the PA it is retake or if the restart was outside the PA is a corner kick to the opposition.

As Referee you could immediate stop the match when this condition began and state as this is not good conduct in the spirit of fair play, it will be reported to the tournament committee there is chance your teams could be punished banned from further play. You can caution players who act reckless or PI carelessly to follow their coaches instructions but it is not contrary to the LOTG to score upon themselves nor defend the other teams' goal, just unorthodox lol . Think a bit the one team DEFENDING to STOP a goal in the other teams net? Given they want to stall waste time to run out the game how cool is that? Lot more exciting then keep away? No?

ANY properly run tournament with a director of ANY sort of integrity could have said coach team reprimanded, fined or expelled and keep the score as it was or set it as forfeit etc.. As it would be a tournament committee decision based on your observations and them talking to the respective coaches. .


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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Tony
The unfortunate consequence of a competition rule to 'help' a team that is weak from getting trounced.
Anyway when competition rules get abused it has allsorts of consequence some of what you experienced here. It is not unique to Underage as I can recall situations in the Pro game where teams abused competition rules to try to benefit from same. I can recall Real Mardrid getting players deliberately cautioned so as to miss the next pool game and clear discipline records for the knockout part of the competition.
As to how to handle it from what I read the genesis of the problem was a number of factors. First the better team put itself in a position too early by racing to a 6-0 lead. It should have known early in the game that the mercy rule limit was at risk and should have amended sooner. That team did not want to take any risk until it got to the limit which was unhelpful to the game. When it became obvious of the mercy rule issue I'm sure instructions not to score were also made. Instead the team should have employed less obvious tactics such as defenders as forwards and weaker players getting more game time could have been made.
Second when the coach of the losing team first started yelling instructions that were contrary to the spirit of the game I would have stopped the game instantly and dealt with it. I would have instructed her to advise her team to keep playing properly and to desist from trying to interfere with the game . I would go as far as to tell her that if the game descended into a sham that it would be ended.
A few points to consider.
A team cannot score on itself from a free kick or indeed any restart. The restart is a corner kick which probably in this situation would have been a good message for the game.
I would not have cautioned the player for the attempt at an own goal. The player was acting on the instructions from the coach and played accordingly. That for me would be the cue to end the game as there is no point in continuing at Underage particularly wth irate parent, spectators, team officials. By that time of the OG attempt I would have informed the losing coach of the threat of terminating the game due to the significant outside interference
I would then inform the competition organisers why the game was abandoned and allow them to deal with it. There is no point in continuing with a fake game and contrary to the whole purpose of playing particularly when matters were getting out of hand.
All in all I believe you got there in what is a situation that referees are unlikely to encounter very often. I think that had you confronted the coach sooner with the threat of termination that perhaps the matter may not have escalated or had it done so the game could be ended sooner. The lesson of not continuing the game is a strong one when a team does not want to contest the game with outside interferences and all types of behaviours. The message is that if do not want to play with it descending into unsavoury scenes then the game ends.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Tony,
What an appalling situation! Really sad to hear of the conduct of the losing team's coach.
As to what you can do as a referee? All you can do is apply the laws and competition rules as written.

FIFA used to produce a document called the Questions and Answers to the Laws of the Game. The last one was way back in 2006, but there are a lot of areas of law that have seen no change and I think there are times when we can look at what was written there and apply it today.

One such question stated:

How should a referee react if, during the course of a match, he realises
that one of the teams is deliberately trying to lose? Should he draw
the attention of the team in question to the fact that if they continue
to play in that way, he will terminate the game in accordance with the
provisions of Law 5?
The referee has no right to stop the match in this case

What that means is that if a team is trying to lose, it's not up to the referee to interfere. I'd say it should be reported and the competition authority can decide if any action needs to be taken, but as far as the LOTG are concerned? Nothing has been broken.

I think it makes sense to apply the same idea here. If the team is trying to score against themselves to force the 'mercy rule', then that's their right. It's very poor from the coach, and it might not be in line with what we want to see, but you can't really do much to protect what you may see as the integrity of the game. There's nothing forcing players to win - scoring an own goal is a tactical decision they choose to make, so that's their right. Again, I'd want to raise this with the competition authorities but on the field? You need to let this happen.

If a player kicks it into their own net from a free kick, it would be a corner kick - you can never score directly against yourself.

But apart from that, you shouldn't have been trying to control the player's actions here and there was nothing that warrants a card being issued. What law has been broken?

While the cautionable offence is 'unsporting behaviour', there's a difference between something that's unsporting, and something that simply isn't sporting. For instance, the game always expects Team A to return the ball if Team 2 kicked it out because a player was down injured, and when that doesn't occur it may not be terribly sporting, but the referee doesn't have the authority to force the players to play in a particular manner.

While nothing explicitly occurred near the end, it sounds like abandonment may have been a good option.

You mention it's the first time you've faced this - I expect it would be the last.

I can understand the winning coach not wanting to score the final goal as he wants the players to have some game time. The first time the coach was telling his players to concede, you could have had a word with the coach and tried to appeal to his better sense - if the game is over in a practical sense, what's the harm in the players treating the rest like a training exercise? Otherwise I'd advise that I would let the tournament organiser be aware of his decision, and then allow the game to proceed as it does - and if the team deliberately scores against themselves, so be it.

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Answer provided by Referee Gary Voshol

This may be the first time you've ever seen a team trying for own goals, and hopefully the last. But it's happened at far higher levels than most of us will ever see.

Because of flaky advancement rules:

As a protest:

As my colleagues noted, you let the game play out however they choose to play it, and then report the conduct to the powers that be. Perhaps the tournament won't allow that club to participate again. Or maybe that team is a local team or friend of the tournament, and nothing will be done. Whatever. It's not up to you.

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