Soccer Referee Resources
Ask a Question
Recent Questions

RSS FEED Subscribe Now!

Q&A Quick Search
The Field of Play
The Ball
The Players
The Players Equipment
The Referee
The Other Match Officials
The Duration of the Match
The Start and Restart of Play
The Ball In and Out of Play
Fouls and Misconduct
Free Kicks
Penalty kick
Throw In
Goal Kick
Corner Kick

Common Sense
Kicks - Penalty Mark
The Technical Area
The Fourth Official
Attitude and Control
League Specific
High School

Common Acronyms
Meet The Ref
Contact AskTheRef
Help Wanted
About AskTheRef
Panel Login

Question Number: 33537

Other 7/24/2019

RE: Under 13

Tony of Minneapolis, MN USA asks...

This question is a follow up to question 32669

I wrote this comment nearly a year ago to the day and I have the same tournament coming up this weekend. I assume this tournament will still have this 'mercy rule' in effect. It's not a real mercy rule where the game ends, but if a team scores more than certain goal differential, they will begin 'losing' tournament bracket points.

It seems the consensus here was that if this unfortunate situation arises again, I should do nothing because nothing in the rules allows me to stop the game. I cannot issue UB cautions to players trying to score on themselves, nor should I be warning/ejecting a coach if they continue coaching their team to do this. Just play the game out and report what happened, even if allowing that farce to continue leads to bad feelings, distraught players, coaches and parents yelling, possible fights, etc.

Would you all still say that as a referee I could not do anything? Or would it be allowable in this situation to do the actions I did a year ago, which is warning the coach with an ejection if they continue the behavior or just end the match? Perhaps cautioning a players for an own goal attempt would be too much.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Tony
I am reminded of Horst Wein's (RIP) soccer philosophy that we should not bring adult values to Underage games and the right to play as a child.
*Mercy Rules* is an adult value and in many ways some are contrary to the goal of the game. They can work in the appropriate setting and if the opponents manage it in a proper manner without resorting to actions that are contrary to the game such as scoring own goals. Teams can substitute stronger players, play defenders in attack and vice versa, have targets in the game other than goals such as completed passes etc. There are many type of these rules and the most effective ones are the ones that level the playing pitch without resorting to own goals.
As a referee our role is to ensure the game is played according to the Laws of the Game and Competition Rules. I would certainly not caution for scoring an own goal. Anyway teams should manage the situation effectively so that does not need to arise.
I am reminded of the infamous 149-o game in Madagascar where a team continually scored own goals in a protest. Imagine refereeing that game! The other incident of note was where two Real Madrid players deliberately got yellow cards so as to miss the next last group game due to the two cautions suspension rule and then have no worries about missing the second knock out game due to picking up a yellow in the first game. UEFA handed out steep fines and two game bans. I am sure the referee knew what was going on yet he simply dealt with it as in the normal way. The referees in both games simply continued and reported the matters to the football authorities. Had the referee resorted to cautions in the Madagascar the game it might have needed to been abandoned.
Nor would I get involved with coaches that are doing nothing other than coaching their players that does not involve unsporting behaviour.
I would just ensure that any of the consequences such as ill feeling, frustration etc are managed accordingly. We certainly should deal with yelling among coaches / parents etc and that will involve speaking with the coaches. I would be reminding coaches of their responsibility to Fair Play and Codes of Behaviour. If that conduct gets out of hand in an Underage game then action needs to be taken which can include the referee using the powers to remove offenders or abandoning the game should matters get totally out of hand.
Now as referees we have all been involved in one sided games over the years, most times without a mercy rule in place. It can lead to all sorts of unwanted behaviour on both sides. I have in those situations spoken to players about conduct that might lead to unsporting behaviour. I also deal sternly with any disrespect towards opponents such as taunting etc with the appropriate response including cards.
Ultimately we have the role to enforce the Laws and to ensure the safety of players played in an appropriate environment. We have no concern about scores or points or bracket points. We might not like what we see yet we only get involved once the participants begin to behave inappropriately outside the Laws.

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe McHugh

View Referee Joe McHugh profile

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Tony,
Soccer as in life, has lessons. Not every lesson is pleasant, nor is it to be avoided. Some things we simply endure because being taught is the lesson itself. Here you, as referee, should not be trying to undo one lesson by trying to teach your own. As a neutral figure, that is NOT your job. My colleague, Ref McHugh, sums up your duties nicely. Your RESPONSIBILITY is to the players, to ensure their safety and compliance within the stated LOTG. The LOTG also lay out the responsibility of all the participants within the framework of reasonable behaviour in any match under the spirit of the LOTG & fair play. ONLY when those involved ACT inappropriately to one another, their conduct or actions actually constitute unsporting behaviour is their a NEED for you to intercede. Many people critized the USA WOMEN'S recent blow out in a group match not so much as the lopsided score of 13 to 0 but for the celebratory way they reacted when the match was clearly over. It was a harsh lesson for the defeated team but the USA players had a right to be proud of their hard work and readiness to play at the top level. The LOTG actually provide a caution for players who excessively celebrate a goal. The referee chose to take no action because in her opinion no celebration approached that level. I was of the opinion the referee deliberately tried to affect the match by NOT awarding the USA SEVERAL CLEAR PK opportunities in an effort to keep the goal total down by being very lenient in making PK calls. In lower levels of play, with unlimited subs and the luxury of the world not sitting in judgement, teams can find ways to accommodate these strange & unnecessary rule interventions by adopting tactics to manage the situation in a way that does not disrespect the opposition or the game or themselves. As referee just ensure their conduct reflects both the law and the spirit of fair play. Consider that in these trying circumstances you as referee must deliberately avoid awarding CLEAR pks because the team, IF THEY SCORE, would actually be punished? Thus they must deliberately miss? My suggestion to these tournaments is let them play! I belive it does no harm to lose 23 to 1 especially if that 1 goal is earned. Winners and losers is NOT life or death, it is a reality of competition and should not be feared . False humiliation and this pampering of egos has resulted in the political landscape we face in idealogy run amuck . Cheers

Read other questions answered by Referee Richard Dawson

View Referee Richard Dawson profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 33537
Read other Q & A regarding Other

Soccer Referee Extras

Did you Ask the Ref? Find your answer here.

Enter Question Number

If you received a response regarding a submitted question enter your question number above to find the answer

Offside Question?

Offside Explained by Chuck Fleischer & Richard Dawson, Former & Current Editor of AskTheRef

This web site and the answers to these questions are not sanctioned by or affiliated with any governing body of soccer. The opinions expressed on this site should not be considered official interpretations of the Laws of the Game and are merely opinions of AskTheRef and our panel members. If you need an official ruling you should contact your state or local representative through your club or league. On AskTheRef your questions are answered by a panel of licensed referees. See Meet The Ref for details about our panel members.