You be the referee

Just a few scenarios to think about on a grey morning:

Scenario A:

a1)  The Home team for a U-23 league was supposed to wear their maroon shirts.  The Visiting team was supposed to wear their white shirts.  Both teams have black shorts and dark socks.  The idiot captain for Home sent an e-mail to the team telling them to only bring their white shirt (hey, it is an amateur league, it happens). Game time comes and it is absolutely gorgeous out (sunny, dry, 85, not humid).  Both teams are on the field  in white shirts.  There are no pinnies, and no alternative t-shirts available.  A player says that they have a grease marker for triathlon numbers in the car.  What do you do?

a2)  Does your decision change if the Home team is sponsored by one of the better local microbreweries and there is a pony keg of their most recent successful brew?

a3) Does your decision change if the league is the U-23 Open Women’s League in either A-1 or A-2?

Scenario B:

The game is a U-17 co-ed, recreational level game.  It has been fairly clean and very low skilled game.  The best player on the field is a young woman mainly because she was  willing to use her body  to effectively challenge for the ball and tried to play through contact.  At the 61st minute, she is applying high pressure to the ball and her and her opponent spend the next ten seconds jockeying and bumping each other against the side line.  No foul is called and the ball eventually ends up out of bounds for a throw-in.  Her opponent then says  in a sotto voce “She’s feisty”

What do you do?

Scenario C:

Women’s Open game — what is your generic term for the players when you are trying to address them collectively in the following scenario “XXX, don’t worry, I have the clock”

Scenario D:

Men’s semi-pro game at night in a barely attended stadium.  The weather conditions at kick-off are okay, but by half time a thick fog has settled into the field.  It is 0-0 at the start of the second half. By the 71st minute, both assistant referees have informed the center referee that when play goes into the farside corner where the lights are, they can not see players/shadows/penumbras of players for a thirty yard stretch of the field.  By now it is 4-0.  What do you do?  Does your decision change if it is still tied?

Scenario E:

White is playing Blue.  White is up 3-0 with 15 minutes left.  White #11 gets whacked pretty good in the midfield but distributes the ball to White #3 who has space to run.  What do you do?

My thoughts below:

A1)  As this is an amateur match and both teams have at least eleven, the objective is to get the game in.  The referee should file a match report with the league identifying the uniform problem.  Shirts versus Skins is a viable solution.

A2) Abandon the match and drink beer

A3) I’m not suggesting shirts versus skins.  There is a line between practical and skeevy that I don’t want to find out exactly where it is.  This was the actual scenario.  The home captain suggested that they would run skins.

Scenario B and C both came from an interesting car ride to a tournament a couple of weeks ago.  In the car was me, another guy about my age, a woman a few years younger than me, and finally a twenty-something woman (who has already made an appearance in this series).  We’re driving two hours to a complex for a full day of games.  As referees are inclined, we talked soccer for 90 miles.

In Scenario B, the young referee was in the middle.  She went straight Red for Foul and Abusive Language.  I was surprised at first.   The next five miles was an explanation.  Effectively she and the player were hearing “suck my dick, bitch.”  I get where she was coming from and why it was Red.  Now that I had that conversation, I’ll go Red to for that comment, I just never would have thought about it rising to more than a raised eyebrow in that scenario before hand.

Scenario C had an interesting split in the car.  Both me and the other guy have always used either “Players” or jersey colors (Red, white, gold etc)  for a collective informal grouping of female players.  The woman who is just a few years younger than me uses either jersey colors or “ladies” and the young referee uses “guys”.  The young-in says she uses it as she is seen as a near peer and it is a colloquial utilization.  I get that, I use “guys” as a collective grouping with my peers as well, but it has always felt odd to say that to a group of women who are significantly younger than me.  I think “guys” would work but feel awkward to me.  On the other hand, “Ladies” is something that I can’t get away with.  The connotations of diminution are too strong for a male referee to use in a women’s game.

Scenario D is an interesting challenge for a referee as these are the types of games where people who eventually want to get to the MLS need to do well on.  I was AR-2 and I had informed the center that I was useless  on far left hand side attacks at the 63rd minute.  At that point, I thought the game should be abandoned for safety and the game was 3-0 at that point. No one would have complained.  AR-1 went to the referee at the 71st minute.  The referee abandoned the game at the 77th minute.

The assessor talked with us after the game and said that he would have abandoned the game by the 70th minute and probably at the point when the first AR (me) told the center that he could not see across the field.  It just was not safe and the teams would not have complained as the issue had been decided.  By not abandoning the game, the referee hurt his promotion chances.

Why am I talking about Scenario E?

This is a simple advantage decision.  Call the advantage and move to keep up with the run of play.  The assessor acknowledged that was the text book answer on my friend’s assessment.  But he brought in the following mitigating factors for why White might want the whistle.  White only had ten players available as their 11th had pulled his hammy in the first half.  It was 95 degrees out, the sun was beating down on everyone, White had no subs while Blue had 5 so Blue was rotating lines every five or six minutes and White had a three goal lead.  They really would not have minded a short break to let them recover a touch while also killing the clock.  A public, verbal “PLAY ON” advantage call is a recognized foul. We as referees always have the discretion to blow a whistle on a recognized foul if in our opinion, the fouled team is better off with a free kick than continued play.  The point is the “better off” equation may at times need to take into consideration factors other than the next three touches.






37 replies
  1. 1
    Dork says:

    1a3 — shirts v. skins, natch.

    ETA: I guess I should read the whole thread, like the part where you suggest this very concept. So my response gors from funny to repetitive. Damn you Ricky.

  2. 2
    Percysowner says:

    Scenario C – To me guys is now a non-gender specific term that means a group of people. However if I thought it might bother someone I probably would use “People” instead, as in “Don’t worry, people, I have the clock”.

  3. 3
    MomSense says:

    Oh my goodness, I have no idea about any of these things. I’m usually one of the people on the sidelines trying to make sure everyone goes home with all of their own gear.

  4. 4
    Elmo says:

    How do you get from “feisty” to “Suck my dick, bitch?” I dongeddit.

  5. 5
    Victor Matheson says:

    Balloon Juice reader with 2500+ games of refereeing experience here including 100 pro matches and 900 college games.

    Scenario A: I agree, do what you can to get the game in even if it is bending the rules. I certainly would never suggest shirts v. skins in a million years, especially not in a women’s match, but I might be persuaded if it were the teams’ idea and there was 100% buy-in from all of the players.
    Scenario C: I use the term “guys” for males and females. “Ladies” sounds demeaning. Use of colors doesn’t always work because I often want to sound like I am talking to both teams and not just accusing one team of some misdeed. I agree that the lack of a good female “guys” term is a failing of the English language.
    Scenario D: If if were a college match, I would try as hard I could to get to 70 minutes in a 3-0 or 4-0 game. Cancel the game at 63 minutes and the game needs to be replayed (at potentially thousands of dollars of cost). Cancel at 70 minutes and the game is official. The choices become harder at 1-0, and this doesn’t apply, of course, when there is more immediate danger like lightning. But I think we might be able to survive 7 minutes of fog to get to a complete game.
    Scenario E: Call the foul in a 3-0 game unless there is a really good goal-scoring opportunity. No one likes to get whacked, especially late in a lopsided game. It’s not about the advantage at that point. It is about game control. And the team up 3-0 isn’t going to complain about unless you really have taken away a good scoring chance.

    Scenario B: Totally disagree. So the next time a player says to me, sotto voce, “Referee, nice call” but what I think the player means and what I am hearing is “Referee, you fucking suck” I should red card? No way. Now I am supposed to be an amateur psychologist about what a player’s comments really mean as opposed to what they actually said? And when the coach/player reports to the league that “My player was red carded for saying ‘She’s feisty'” and my response is “but she meant that in a mean way” I will deservedly get laughed out of any disciplinary hearing.

  6. 6

    @Victor Matheson:
    On Scenario D — USSF rules, so the game was official while playing conditions were decent. We had a young 6 in the middle who thinks he has a shot (he’ll get to the bottom of PRO, don’t think he’ll get further) so he was trying to impress a national assessor with the game.

    I completely agree with your logic on a college game getting to 19:59 left on the clock is an overriding objective in a lot of games. We could probably share a good beer or three discussing ways that the rules have been bent to get to that point plus a story or two about the 12:30AM drive home after a bad D-3 game that needed to get to 70.

    Scenario E — agreed, and I think that was the point that I was groping towards — scoring opportunities matter but game circumstances matter a lot too. The opportunity would have been a good advantage in a 1-0 or 2-0 game in the first half. White really wanted to get to 90 and drink a gallon of water apiece. Temperature of the game was very low, so on a you have to be there basis, game control was not at risk, White #11 just moved faster than his opponent on a lazy challenge with no malice.

    Scenario C: I see where you are coming from. We all know the “Hey, Sir….” often means “Hey Asshole” and that usually means very little unless it is prolonged, public whining that puts my 3 year to shame. And in a professional/college/competitive game that is just part of the environment.

    However, going back to your point on E, game control matters. For a bad U-17 co-ed game, sexualized comments are a great way to blow a game up really fast. Speaking as a getting closer to middle aged guy than a young man, “feisty” in that context has minimal sexual connotations. Evidently among younger women, it has significant sexual connotation and a bit of dominance implied within it. The disciplinary hearing might toss the red card (in my state unlikely as long as it is written up appropriately) but the game has a lower probablility of going to shit. Does this type of thought process need to happen in an NCAA game or a pro game — hell no for the very simple reason that those are same-gender games 99.9% of the time. Does it need to happen in a U-17/U-19 National League or DA game? hell no. For really shitty travel ball, different thought processes and game control approaches are needed.

  7. 7
    daveNYC says:

    Speaking as a getting closer to middle aged guy than a young man, “feisty” in that context has minimal sexual connotations. Evidently among younger women, it has significant sexual connotation and a bit of dominance implied within it.

    Trying to keep up on slang so that you can determine what’s abusive language sounds like a hopeless situation. Especially since phrases are going to come into and go out of use over time, not to mention any regional differences that pop up.

  8. 8
    Lamont Cranston says:

    @Victor Matheson:

    I certainly would never suggest shirts v. skins in a million years, especially not in a women’s match, but I might be persuaded if it were the teams’ idea and there was 100% buy-in from all of the players.

    Shirts and skins absolutely sucks. Some people (including me) are just not comfortable running around half naked. In practice what happens is that someone brings it up and then the dissenters go along to avoid confrontation and to actually get to play. That said, I’m not sure there is much of a better solution available in this scenario (other than the keg of beer, obvs).

  9. 9
    Kineslaw says:

    Southerners take all kinds of grief for it, but Scenario C is a great example of why “y’all” is a useful addition to the English language – non-gendered and can include both teams if desired.

  10. 10
    psycholinguist says:

    Senario C shows the obvious superiority of the southern US dialect, as we created the second person plural that’s missing in SAE. “Ya’lll don’t worry, I’m fixin to report the clock”. In Texas, probably would show up as “all ya’ll” with the “ya’ll” often used as singular.

    For you non-southerners, an interesting thing has been happening in Baltimore schools that seems to be spreading, and that’s the use of “yo” as a non-gendered personal pronoun. I’d imagine it will evolve to the plural “yos”

  11. 11
    Central Planning says:

    For scenario B, when I read your description, I took “She’s feisty” to mean she’s good, persistent, and the commenter has respect for her for not letting them push her around. But, I’m a mid-40s white guy and not up on the U17 sports vernacular ;)

  12. 12
    Mnemosyne says:

    For Scenario C, one of the managers at my office prefers the term “folks.”

  13. 13
    The Golux says:

    Regarding Scenario C, Geno Auriemma regularly refers to his players as “guys”, at least when talking to reporters.

  14. 14

    @Victor Matheson: Second question — let’s say you’re in the middle of a men’s amateur game where there is a team that is mostly Latino versus a team of White Frat Bro’s

    What’s your reaction when the WFB tells a Latino player to “go back to Mexico” or “Time to build the Wall”

    Either comment means the game is about to go to shit as someone is either throwing a punch or going studs up into a knee in the next minute….

  15. 15
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Richard Mayhew:

    For a bad U-17 co-ed game, sexualized comments are a great way to blow a game up really fast.

    I think this is the point that some other people may be missing: in a co-ed game, especially if you also have women referees, you need to make sure that the women players feel like the men won’t harass them because otherwise it can escalate very fast, and in a very nasty way.

    (Not a referee, but a woman who has seen “friendly” games of various kinds take a serious downturn if one or two assholes on the opposing team are allowed to start trying to intimidate the women players.)

  16. 16

    @Mnemosyne: Folks works

    @Kineslaw: Hard to do y’all with a hard Northeastern accent but yeah, that works too.

  17. 17
    Walker says:

    B depends entirely on the voice in which it was said. The exact words are not enough to convey meaning.

  18. 18
    SenyorDave says:

    I haven’t played soccer since high school, but if I’m a guy in this game and I hear that a male player got thrown out for the “she’s feisty” remark, my first instinct at that age would be to play a whole lot more physical and use my body to challenge for the ball, especially if it were against that player.

  19. 19
    Danr2 says:

    Scenario C: “Players” or “Athletes” or “Team”

  20. 20
    burnspbesq says:

    If you’re uncomfortable with “guys” in that situation, think about using “y’all” instead.

  21. 21
    cervantes says:

    @The Golux: Women’s basketball has a strange tradition of referring to the players as “men.” They say “man to man” defense, and “cover your man,” that sort of thing. This does not seem to bother anybody.

  22. 22
    trollhattan says:

    @cervantes:
    “Man on” is the standard term used in girls soccer by players and coaches alike, and I’ve never heard anybody raise a fuss. I don’t think “ho on” would work.

  23. 23
    Ian says:

    @Victor Matheson:

    So the next time a player says to me, sotto voce, “Referee, nice call” but what I think the player means and what I am hearing is “Referee, you fucking suck” I should red card?

    Do you think of insults directed at yourself (as the ref) the same way as insults directed at opposing players? Because that seems strange to me on several levels.

  24. 24
    ThresherK (GPad) says:

    I might have told the player who said “Feisty”, if I were a ref, “Is ‘feisty’ the word you give everyone who dusts your ass?”

    But I don’t see that being acceptable.

  25. 25
    soccer-dude says:

    @Richard Mayhew

    As a sometime referee and coach for youth soccer, I look forward to your posts in this topic. Thank you for taking the time to relate these stories and analysis. Much enjoyed and educational as well.

    Here is a hypothetical for you:

    Toward the end of a small-sided youth soccer match, the coach of a team losing the match motions the goalkeeper over after the ball advances to the team’s offensive half of the field. The goalkeeper comes over, removing the goalkeeper shirt in the process. Now, without the goalkeeper shirt, which is off the field, but only wearing a normal jersey that was underneath, the goalkeeper joins the attack in the team’s offensive half of the field.

    To use the classic test question format: What is the violation and what is the restart? More generally, what do you do with a ridiculous situation like this? What are the consequences in this situation?

    Any thoughts are appreciated.

  26. 26
    TF79 says:

    B – Count me as also a bit baffled by the subtext for a red card there. I would have assumed either it was an acknowledgement of her hustle, or a “working the ref” sort of “hey she’s throwing some elbows out there, how about a call next time” thing. Kids these days, or something.

    C – Folks or ya’ll work just fine

    D – Call it for safety

    Can we post our own scenarios? Playing in low-skill indoor beer league (most players played in high school, a few college) and I’m at right back. Clean game 15 minutes in and a ball bounces out towards the side boards and I race over to it. Seeing our right wing is up the line in some space, I chip the ball perfectly up the line over the midfielder, and the winger is pushing the counterattack. Unfortunately, during my followthrough, I catch an opposing player coming in late around mid-shin. My foot is higher than normal due to the chip, and he’s wearing tiny shin guards that barely cover his ankle, so I end up gashing him pretty good. We play on, his teammates don’t raise a fuss, but he’s complaining it should have been a red card for the next 10 minutes. I feel like I was neither malicious nor reckless in my clearance (I didn’t leave my feet or anything to get to the ball first). On the one hand, I feel bad about hurting him since it is just a fun beer league, on the other hand, I feel like without the late challenge on his part or the dinky shin guards, this would have been a non-incident.

  27. 27

    @soccer-dude: What age group?

    U-6/U-8 I don’t care.

    Technically it is an auto-caution for removing a shirt and the restart is an indirect free kick. U-10/12 I’ll talk to the coach, U-14 I’m cautioning.

    The keeper can join the attacker whenever they wish to. Once they leave their box, they are just a funny looking field player with no special protections.

    @TF79: You fairly played the ball in a non-careless manner and an opponent who is late on the challenge receives (painful) incidental contact. I’ve got nothing.

  28. 28
    Stan says:

    @Victor Matheson: “Y’all”, “yinz” or “youse” are nongendered and all work well in different parts of the USA.

    “You lot” works in the UK right?

  29. 29
    soccer-dude says:

    @Richard Mayhew

    Thanks for the insight.

    This was a U10 AYSO game. I was being informally mentored by a senior referee while I was AR-2. One of the stranger things I (or the senior referee) have seen on any field. In that game, the mentoring referee went and talked to the coach. Not sure the center referee saw anything more than the aftermath of the goalkeeper putting the jersey back on, and the situation was not addressed during the game. My recollection is that this was an early round playoff game that was well decided (say 3-0 with ~10 minutes left). It was pretty clear the coach did not understand the situation.

    I posted the question because the few senior referees I have shared this with have conflicting thoughts on whether or what the violation is and what the consequences are. As an outlier example, one grade 7 thought there was no violation, but that the player could not put the goalkeeper jersey back on without permission.

  30. 30
    soccer-dude says:

    @Richard Mayhew

    Thanks for the insight.

    This was a U10 AYSO game. I was being informally mentored by a senior referee while I was AR-2. One of the stranger things I (or the senior referee) have seen on any field. In that game, the mentoring referee went and talked to the coach. Not sure the referee saw anything more than the aftermath of the goalkeeper putting the jersey back on, and the situation was not addressed by the referee during the game. My recollection is that this was an early round playoff game that was well decided (say 3-0 with ~10 minutes left). It was pretty clear the coach did not understand the situation.

    I posted the question because the few senior referees I have shared this with have conflicting thoughts on whether or what the violation is and what the consequences are. As an outlier example, one grade 7 thought there was no violation, but that the player could not put the goalkeeper jersey back on without permission, and thus had deprived the team of the chance to have a goalkeeper for a little while as a result of an improper “substitution” for the goalkeeper.

  31. 31
    Lee says:

    A3. Having raised 2 girls playing soccer, I’ve learned they think a sports bra is cover enough. I’m pretty sure this is rather standard for female soccer players and not just my mine. I do agree that as a dude I would never under any circumstance suggest it.

    B I can certainly understand the Red in context.

    C This is why ‘y’all’ is perfect.

  32. 32
    Lee says:

    @soccer-dude:

    My oldest was the keeper and also a pretty good forward. It was not unusual for the youth rec league coach to have her leave the box and play forward on corner kicks in close games.

    The first time he would do it against a team it really threw off the other players and usually resulted in a goal for her team.

  33. 33
    soccer-dude says:

    @Lee

    Have seen plenty of keepers play forward in various situations. A few I have coached against. Some I have seen as a referee. This is the only time I have seen the keeper shirt removed, instead of having a funny looking jersey for one of the forward players. It stands out as far different from what I normally see.

    In one adult rec league where I referee, there are a few keepers who consistently play forward multiple times per game. In that league, there are no keeper jerseys, so it gets a little confusing in its own way.

    For all of those instances though, I cannot think of a time I have seen a keeper play forward where it clearly led to a goal.

  34. 34
    Richard Mayhew says:

    @soccer-dude: the aggressive keepers I hate are the sweeper keepers where red cards are possible for dogso at 50 yards out as the keeper just got beat and bear hugged the attacker

  35. 35
    Lee says:

    @soccer-dude:

    This you youth rec (u11ish)

  36. 36
    mdg1111 says:

    Admittedly, I haven’t reffed in years, but when I did, I can’t recall anything like Scenario B where I would have even contemplated a sending off*. If you really believe it had the potential to be a problem, a caution with a serious talking to will have the same impact on the game.

    (*this could be enough if I thought the player was repeatedly infringing on the laws of the game…)

  37. 37
    Victor Matheson says:

    @Richard Mayhew: Absolutely, right with this one. Racial slurs are always abusive in my book even when there are no four-letter words. I have yellow-carded, “How are the ESL classes going?” and I have red-carded “Bagel-eater” (at a predominantly Jewish school, obviously.) I would caution “go back to Mexico” and “Build that wall” but make a big production about it so that both teams know I am pissed about it.

    I also automatically caution anyone who ever asks me how much the other team is paying me even though I frequently ignore, “Hey ref, that was a fucking, shitty call.” Questioning a call is much different than questioning my integrity.

    To Ian earlier, I will definitely stop insults to opponents quicker than insults to me since I know I am not going to retaliate, and the victim of the insults is powerless.

    So, I am still at a bit of a loss on the red card, but the co-ed nature might change it up a bit for me. Feisty typically means excitable, but can mean sexually active or sexually aroused in slang, so if it were a male player telling the female player “She’s feisty” I might tell the little boy to knock it off. If it were a female telling a female she’s feisty, I still probably don’t do anything. Interesting to know what language might set someone off.

Comments are closed.