Referee News of Note

November 30, 2007
By TheRef
Once again we skim the headlines looking for news about referees you might have missed, and then make snarky comments about them:

The legal case again the Dane who entered the field during a Euro 2008 qualifier against Sweden has finished. He was found guilty of illegal entry and attempted assault. Attempted? Attempted? OK, full kudos to Denmark's Michael Gravgaard for taking the brunt of the attack against referee Herbert Fandel, but he still got a piece of the ref. And he got.... 40 hours of community service and a suspended 30-day sentence. Apparently he had suffered enough, said the court, which was why no jail time. The civil suit from the Danish Football Association (for roughly $350,000) is still up in the air. Have I mentioned that I'm a big fan of referees suing their attackers?

John Glore passed away after collapsing during a girl's varsity soccer match in Tacoma, Washington in September. He had referees for over 30 years; his son said of him: "A lot of people do it for the money, but he didn't. He loved what he was doing and never wanted to just sit around."

It's a YAAA! AKA Yet Another Abuse Article. In this case, South Wales, Australia. Nothing too special - lots of abuse, things said to 13-year-olds that deserve torture involving toenails, and bits about extended bans from the game. So much for the positive tone of the original article, because one published later in the month goes on about a game where the refs had to wait in their locker room, after being pelted with beer cans. I can no effect at all with those bright and shiny kids (or the "Fucking whores" are they're called in the first article) that are supposed to bolster the ranks of officials in the area. No effect at all. Because the referee shortage has nothing to do with abuse.

On a less sarcastic note, I never heard back from the association in Edmonton about how effective their Liaison Program was. Pity.

It would be YARSA (Yet Another Referee Shortage Article), except this one seems a bit clueless. The solution for the referee shortage: get more referees! Duh. Unfortunately, there's nothing said about what it takes to retain the referees, and why the drop-out rate is so high. Or is Colorado just extra special in that department?

A referee attacked in Hastings, England ended up with a broken nose after sending a player off with a second caution. According to this forum, Timmy-Lee Saunters, the attacker always has a smile on his face. No idea if he still has one, because I can't find out if he was arrested or sentenced (the wuss scarpered when the police arrived).

The comments on this article are more interesting than the article itself, which is about an adoption of silent games: games where the parents are not allowed to talk. Done because of bad behavior, you still see a little bit (although nobody called anyone a "Fucking Whore" in the comment section) in the comments. Who could be the trouble makers, hmmm?

Something I've never had to do: write about a reader. George Wilhelmsen made a very well thought out comment from an article well back December of 2005. He was throttled by a parent at a U7 game. The parent, who was unapologetic, received a lifetime ban, and was arrested with the possibility of a year in jail, although in a follow-up article charges were raised to felony status (some of the comments are truly moronic). A Grand Jury completed the indictment in early November. I could find no resolution in the case. George, I hope you're doing OK.

In the, I really want to do that sometimes department, referee Dinesh Singh is in trouble for flipping the bird after being abused by the fans and the coach. The coach admits to "vehemently" shouting at the official (and if the coach says that, just think about what it really was like). That doesn't excuse the bird, but that doesn't mean they didn't deserve it. The Big West's response (of which a "vehemently" call Bull Shit): "The official should at least have given him the courtesy to discuss the matter." The coach received no sanctions, because he feels "kind of bad about how he acted" (emphasis mine). Oh, I feel for ya, coach - he's a salute to your conscience!

Headscarf Mania Alert: I know not every referee reads this, and I won't be so obnoxious to say they should, although even if they read Referee magazine, they'd know about hullabaloo that this would cause. But we have more banning of headscarves - this time in Florida. The good news is that the league issued a memo in 2002 specifically allowing headscarves - the bad news for all involved is that the coach didn't keep one around for such an occurrence. I know: you should not have to do that - but why go through all this crap when once piece of paper in a folder would solve it? Not only that, you wouldn't have people trying to make political hay out of it, either.

A ten-year-old in Lincolnshire, England was fined £23 and given a 35-day ban for calling a referee a "cheat". You won't find me disagreeing with the action, but wonder why you never see similar bans foisted upon players and coaches in the Premiership. Apparently a 10-year-old is easier to come down hard on, rather than the people he probably learned it from. Read More »

10 Best of 2007: "So why was I given the game?"

November 26, 2007
By TheRef
So here we are again - attempting to fill the void that is winter with a completely arbitrary list of entries that I (and those who emailed me) thought were the most interesting, most poignant, or the most "something else" of the year. Like years past, these articles are often slightly edited for clarity and to clean up grammar and spelling errors. And they'll usually include a bit of commentary about them, now that the actual event has passed and I can think a bit more about them. It goes something like this:

This game may have been the highest I'll ever go as a referee: semi-pro. I can't say if that's a testament to my skill, or to the shortage of referees, but there is it. I've said over-and-over again, aimed for those of you who read this who are not referees, that not only is it impossible for referees to practice (get working on those holo-generators, guys), but the only way to find out if you're ready for a step up is to take a game. In this case, I think the step was a bit more of a leap, but I got through the game, nobody was majorly pissed at my calls, and I learned a lot about what's needed to take that next step - even if I wasn't qualified for this one anyway, which I wrote about in July:

"So why was I given the game?"

I had a dream - I probably still have it - that for one reason or another I'm placed as fourth official on our local professional team; they often use local referees for the position, and I have to go with the fourth because I'd never get a field position assigned to me. One of the officials suffers an unfortunate injury that, while not serious, takes him out of the game, and I get put onto the line. No big game defining calls in my fantasy - just that I'm able to do the game. I think most long-time referees put themselves into various positions when watching a game - would I do that if I was center, or even "I can do that."

Actually getting put into that position, however, is a learning experience beyond the fantasy. Not only is the game very different that what you've seen (and how it looks from the stands - even if you are an experienced referee), so is the pace. It's a learning experience not only in how to call, what the expectations are, but just what it'll take from you physically.

I was put on the line for national amateur league, which is played on a regional basis (call it semi-pro). Basically you take a group of teams in nearby states that play a regular season, and come playoffs (or US Open Cup) the teams that won in the regional divisions play teams from the other regions. Normally, you need to either be a State Referee, or have attended a Pro Referee Clinic to work these games - I've done neither, and even said as much as I was discussing the game with the other officials (both of whom I know and have worked with before). The answer, apparently, is that I was given the game because the referee shortage is starting to hit home: most of the other referees available to do this game were doing local league games later in the evening, and except for Cup play, you're not supposed to turn down an assignment once you accept, even for a better game. In my case, it may have been a little of "let's see if he can hack it" and a little of "hey, he's available." I was not on the original crew that was asked to work this game; I don't think we had a fourth official until late yesterday.

The center and the senior AR did attend pro clinics, and have worked USL games; one was a grade 5, one was a grade 6 with just a few more games before he could start getting assessed for his five... and me (a 7, for those who don't know). So, my job, as I saw it, was to do the best I could and make the most of it. Given the type of game it was - I knew I'd be able to take something with me.

We arrived for the game 90 minutes early, but there were no teams, and the stadium was locked up. The center was annoyed, but I fourthed this team before, and I wasn't terribly surprised. When I was there last time (at a different stadium), because the college hadn't marked anything before the game they had to tape out all of the soccer lines (using two different colors, because they ran out of one), their paperwork wasn't done until after the scheduled start-time, and there was no required referee locker room. The center was used to working actual professional-level games, with actual staff to get the facilities ready, rather than a league where the players aspire to being professional, and there's no money for pre-game preparation. We ended up changing out of blazers into our referee gear outside; the stadium wasn't opened up until after we finished warming up, less than twenty minutes until the scheduled start-time.

Like last time, paperwork (meaning rosters) wasn't ready by either team by game time; we kicked off about twenty minutes late. The good news is that we had a locker room (actually, the locker room for the pointy-ball coaches from the college, which meant we had a fan and a couch (although we couldn't use the actual lockers). The couch was nice - I've been in a referee locker room at a NFL stadium, and maybe there's enough chairs for everyone, let alone something comfortable. We needed it, too (although we got locked out of it for a while at half-time), because it was really hot out: well into the 90's (I don't know exactly, but it was 86° when I got up in the morning, and 96° at last check before I left home for the stadium), humid, and we were playing on the artificial turf with the black rubber balls. I felt like my feet were burning throughout the first half - I checked my shoes at halftime to make sure they were intact.

Biggest learning experience of the day: I may want to do games like these, but I'm just not there physically. Unlike the hot and humid day at Regionals, I didn't run out-of-gas (although I planned ahead and brought a power bar in my bag), but I was seriously worked, and wasn't at the place I needed to be to do the game as I want to be. I was told at Regionals that you need to not run as hard on hot and humid days, so I did cut a couple of corners - if the ball was lazily passed back to the keeper, and there was no pressure, I slowed down and on a couple of occasions stayed with the second-to-last defender. Sometimes this wasn't a heat/energy thing, but rather positional - several times the strikers lined up with the second-to-last defender, looking for the keeper's boot to be quickly countered; I think the USSF would officially want me to stick with the ball (and keeper), but knowing my speed (or, anyone's speed for that matter), and the good possibility of players being offside (there were something like 12-15 in the game for both teams), I opted for position rather than mechanics.

The second half was a little easier - about 30 minutes into the half we could see storm clouds on the horizon, and the temperature started to drop (although the feet still burned), but the teams kept me working hard and gasping for air. The good news is that I did my job, I was able to keep up with the play on the line, but barely. But watch referees and ARs in the MLS and USL - they make it look almost effortless. It's not, but they're always in control of themselves physically and never look tired - I can't say that about myself. I've come a very long way physically in the last seven years, and in this last year in particular; but I'm still trying to overcome 27 years of inertia (and maybe some genetics, given the eating and exercise regemin from this winter that made no difference in my weight whatsoever).

It's a notch on my belt, one I'll gladly take - but one I know will be a long time before I'm qualified to add a second one. Who knows - maybe someday. I'll say this: the dream is not dead, it's just in suspended animation - but I did get to live a little bit of it, and learn what it'll take. Read More »

I went to the gym. I sweated. A lot.

November 21, 2007
By TheRef
Can't say I didn't warn you. ;-)

Actually, the site will be idle (except for the occasional person trying to convince us that the Dual is THE way to referee a soccer match) while I'm taking care of Thanksgiving duties. Have a good holiday, everyone! Read More »

MLS Cup Spoiler: Referees lose $498.45 + shipping

November 18, 2007
By TheRef
WARNING: This is a completely off-the-cuff opinion piece. I reserve the right to change my opinion at any time for any reason. However, being saddled with a potential uniform bill of $498.45 for next season (based on the "holiday special" prices from OSI), this feeling is likely to last a looooong time.

Brian Hall in GreenWhat we were expecting: a new color jersey, green, and after a press release, in a new style. Is the style any good? Judge for yourself. We were all expecting new socks, maybe to replace the "egg socks" that the USSF and OSI released (the one with the USSF logo on the sides), apparently without actually seeing what they'd look like when placed on a leg with a calf muscle.

OK, fine. There's some grumbling - especially at my end, since I think they should have done green before blue (which every other team in the nation plays in). I think, given the age of the current jerseys (about ten years old) that we expected a phase-in of whatever new design came in over time. I mean, it's not fair to drop all four of the previous jerseys (eight when you consider short and log sleeves) in one fell swoop, right?

OSI 2008 JerseysApparently, yes. That's exactly what the USSF and OSI did. We now have, five colors of entirely new jerseys based on the design we saw at the MLS Cup, including new shorts (same short as before - just with the updated logo) and new socks (I don't know if the egg socks are officially gone or not). No idea when the old jerseys will be officially phased out (like the fuchsia ones were when the pinstriped jerseys we have now first came in), but if you go to the Official Sports website, you can't buy the old pinstripe jerseys anymore, except in the Clearance section.

You're going to hear a lot of people being really annoyed about this, and I'm going to jump in. The USSF and OSI, while raking in the bucks, is really going to tick off a lot of people, because aside from green, we had no warning on that whatsoever. Now, if you look back at my previous thoughts on the green jersey, I said something to the effect of, if OSI uses a different fabric in their short-sleeved jerseys that breathe better (like the Adidas jerseys do - which are a joy to wear), that I'd happily fork over a large chunk of change. That doesn't appear to be the case, either: according to OSI's site, the new jerseys are wearing to misnamed "Coolwick" fabric - which is just short for saying "we hold all your sweat in the jersey, don't release it back to the atmosphere, and just make those hot and humid summer days under the sun that much more miserable.

I don't expect people to shell out the $498.45 it'll cost for a full set of ten jerseys, which, depending on which specials you order, include socks and shorts. Most referees don't have a full set of the eight we have... er, had. But those of us who enjoy doing higher level games like Regionals, what do we do? Pack 18 jerseys so we can go into either system in case the center wants to do old or new jerseys, or if someone only has one set? I enjoyed working that one semi-pro game (add fourth officials, I've done three): if I want to continue, I pretty much have to buy a complete set.

The sad thing is, USSF/OSI could have done this a whole lot better, with a whole lot less pain. They could have introduced the green, and the new socks, as planned, and left the other four jerseys alone. And following the MLS Cup, announced that they would be phasing in the same design in a different color once every one or two years, and go in the order of introduction. I'd space it out like this: 2008, green jersey; 2009, yellow jersey; 2010, black jersey; 2012, red and blue.

Is phasing them in over time so hard to do? Can't there be a little compassion for our wallets and budgets? Can't they just mug us instead? It may not hurt as bad. Read More »

It's that time of year again

November 15, 2007
By TheRef
So far nothing has come from working indoors. After a couple of tries I got in touch with the old indoor league I have - apparently they lost one of their venues, and have a glut of referees (which is pretty typical for the winter). I'm on the sub list, but don't expect a whole lot of games.

Every once in a while I run into a guy I've worked with, and he did games at a local walled indoor place I've tried to get into for years (I didn't even both last year, after some issues with being given the runaround - but what the heck, I'll let them know I'm available again - I just won't put much effort, or hope, into it.

I'll get a couple of games at this sports-specific high school this winter, though (they're a couple of hours away, but the fields should be full-sized and the games 80 minutes): one in a couple of months, and a second the following month. I know the assignor from Regionals, so maybe I'll get more, but even if I don't, it'll be two more full-field games than I got last winter.

Speaking of Regionals, I added a list of the diary entries from my latest trip, in the Feature Articles section, as well as the "Best of" list from 2006 (much belated).

To segue on that segue, I'm putting together my annual list of the best articles of the year. If there are any you think should be added, drop me a line or insert a comment here. As soon as I run out of things to say aside from: "I went to the gym today. I sweated. A lot.", I'll start pumping them out, to get us past the six months of winter without soccer. Read More »

Rudeness and Disappointment

November 11, 2007
By TheRef
I ran into some people I know watching a women's NCAA soccer game - I don't see a whole lot of them during the year- I always want to, but the schedules never mix (and I just don't get the reminders like you do for the professional ranks). After missing three weeks of the season, I have to admit that I'm in a bit of a funk - I watched the referees come out, most of which I knew, and I couldn't help but think, "I'm just not going to be there". Most have been a referee for less time than I, are younger, and are in better shape (yes, I've put in the effort, but there's more than 25 years of inertia to fight, and even though I'll keep working for improvement, I'm fairly certain I'll never get to that stage - heck, at the moment I'm wondering if I'll ever get invited to the NISOA chapter to do community college games).

I reminded myself, while we were talking, that my goal as a referee is to do the best games I'm capable of doing, and having fun doing them. I enjoy the challenge of reffing at a high level, and the more I do that, the more I understand the decisions of ultra-high level referees like Sandy Hunt to just retire rather than drop a level or two; the challenge isn't there. Not said was that I'm afraid I'm peaking before I want to.

I haven't heard back from the indoor league I used to work - I don't know if it's because the coordinator hasn't checked her email, she's not the coordinator, or she's not interested; do I think I was the best referee in the organization? Yes. I also gave the biggest damn about reffing correctly; but we also butted heads on more than one occasion when she tried to dumb down the league. It's going to be a loooong winter if I can't pick up the whistle somewhere.

I also found out that assignments for the high school state tournament were handed out (because one of the people there has got an assignment, probably for the sixth year running - it feels like it, anyway). Not that I'm physically able to do it, anyway, but they didn't even send out rejection letters. Now THAT'S class. I know nobody likes rejection letters, but it keeps us from hanging on and keeping dates open in our schedules. No respect from the high school organization or the National Federation of High Schools. None. Read More »

Ending the season on a whimper

November 10, 2007
By TheRef
I'd be amazed if I had another game this season - and by all accounts, I shouldn't. The good news is that it happened in the fall, during the high school season, which, if you've read this at all, is my least favorite portion of the outdoor season - and I won't have to worry about reffing in sub-freezing temperatures.. OK, still not great news - I may dislike the NFHS and in particular the people who are supposedly "role models" for our children (and that frightens me that they are), but summer is short and I want all the games I can do and do well. But the reality is that I can't do either right now.

After the last game I wrote about here, I wrenched something in my back while at the gym, with my trainer even. We don't know if it was something that already existed (and the training session was the proverbial straw), or something I just didn't do right. But I ended up spending the next two weeks unable to exercise, let alone referee. Now you know why I've been spreading out the entries of late. ;-)

Once I started to feel a little more up to reffing, or at least wanted to try and see if I was up to it, I asked my assignor to give me a single game, but ended up getting two. I don't know why I didn't turn it down, but I didn't. They were both pretty low-level games - but I could tell during the first one that I wasn't up-to-snuff. I was still more than adequate for the first game (a girl's line), but I stunk on the center on the boys. It was unseasonably hot and humid, and my back was in a lot of pain, and I just could not run. Now, apparently it didn't seem that bad - my senior AR said he didn't notice anything - but I could. Despite a small field and really slow players, I just couldn't move, and I could feel things getting worse.

So I bailed. I knew that if the game picked up any pace, that I would let the game down, or might even get hurt worse, so I asked my AR to step up (which he did very well), and I, after apologizing to the coaches (one of which was understanding and sympathetic, the other of which was your typical high school jerk), went to the line. I think I was right in my assessment, the game did pick up as the time wound down. But despite my correct assessment of my physical situation, it's never a proud moment. But it was the correct one.

The good news is that I'm now able to go back to the gym, and after another week, I'm back on full weights. I had to turn down another batch of games (another double-header), and given that, my chance for any playoff games (let alone the state tournament) is done. But I'd rather be healthy and get ready for the summer season next year, when it really counts.

I'm considering asking to work at the indoor league again, albeit at a much reduced rate. One day a week, no more than three games - just enough so I can do some reffing and keep from going stir-crazy; the gym helped last year, but it just wasn't enough. I know the games will still probably be ultra-sanitized, but it'll be something. Read More »

Regionals Diary 2007

November 10, 2007
By TheRef
I was privileged enough to be invited back to participate in the US Youth Soccer regional tournament; all those who won their respective State Cups, or got in from winning the Regional League come here to fight for a berth to the national championship. It's tremendous soccer, and plenty of the joy of victory and the agony of defeat for referees as well Read More »

"There was half-a-foot of air between them!"

November 7, 2007
By TheRef
People don't like divers. Read enough articles about soccer and it's clear that pretty much everyone considers it a serious blemish on the game. Fans want us to call dives, but as referees we're in a tough position to determine what's an honest-to-god dive that deserves a caution, and what's legitimate contact that's not a foul (and maybe someone trying to make a meal out of - which could be argued as card-worthy as well). I've admitted to having issues calling it myself (I want it to be that 100% obvious flop, and you just don't get it that often); it's usually much easier to just waive the player up and tell him loudly that he won't get that call today.

But then there's that rare situation when you see it just right. I had my second game working the local university's men's club team, this time the second squad, versus another in-state college (nowhere near the mammoth size of the home team), and in the second half a player, carrying the ball into the penalty area, flopped. And I knew. I knew we had a dive, and with no hesitation I blew the whistle and carded the guy.

Here's something you don't read in those articles about punishing swimmers on the soccer pitch: nobody likes being carded for diving, and nobody on his team does, either. A card for diving is not saying, you're being overaggressive, you missed your challenge badly, or even you've lost your temper - it's saying you're a cheat, and saying it blatantly. One of the things I harp on regularly is that soccer (and reffing it) is a game of angles, and I had the perfect angle for this call: I saw six inches of space between the players before he flopped oh-so-prettily, and I made sure everyone knew that. But that call also caused issues for me the rest of the game; mostly a little more back talk, and a frustration foul (well after the whistle had sounded) that earned the visitors a card. Was it worth it? Hell, yes. Man and game management sometimes needs to take a back seat to crime-and-punishment, and this was definitely one of those occasions.

The irony is that, not too much later, the same guy I booked for simulation earned himself a legitimate penalty kick, for doing what he should have done the first time: drive toward the goal. Considering the ensuing penalty kick was skied very high above goal, I think him actually trying to score himself, instead of drawing a PK, may have been his best option. Read More »

Two Late

November 4, 2007
By TheRef
I know I'm a bit of a... stick up the butt referee when it comes to doing my job. When I did indoor, I was the only one to always wear a full kit and I'm (almost) always 45-minutes to an hour early at a game. I don't expect people to be that way (although it's great when they are), but it is nice when officials show up 20-30 minutes before a game, so you can have a proper pre-game, rather than, let's say, late.

I had two games today, both high school games, but at different schools - both of them had referees who showed up late. The first game, I don't know why. The referee accepted the game, but when I called the assignor asking about his whereabouts, she said she already talked to him, and he was on his way. Given that it was a boys game, the coaches elected to wait for him, rather than start with a dual - good choice. Apparently he was at the other end of the city - but again, no idea why.

The game was good - the visiting team had a flair for the dramatic, scoring both of their goals with less than a minute in each period. No real issues - although apparently two kids were accusing each other of swearing at the other one; the center talked to both coaches and said that he hadn't heard anything, but if he did, they'd be sent-off immediately - both coaches took heed (and with the good intentions that it was conveyed with - a nice change) and pulled their players - at least one got back into the field of play with a message that he had been "talked to".

The second game was my center - and the high school was about as local as can be - two blocks from my home. But since I don't have any kids in the system (or any kids for that matter), there's no conflict of interest; just an enjoyment of the 30-second commute in my car (yes, I took my car - a habit I developed in case I need to make a quick getaway) back to my home and a shower. In this case, when the third referee didn't show up (and another call to the assignor that started with, "Hi, it's me again!"), we did start with a dual. It was a girls game, and neither team were high up in the rankings (or, to be terribly nice - much skill, although I endeavored to work hard on it nonetheless). He eventually showed up; he apparently went to the wrong school, and we went back into the standard DSC.

One nice thing about always being at a game 45-60 minutes early - if I'm late, everyone knows there's a problem. Read More »