Top 10 Questions


QUESTION 1: What is the correct story on family members being a ref or linesman during a game?  Is that "ok"?

Soccer Nation Ask the REF
Soccer Nation ASK the REF

There does not appear to be any official policy regarding who can referee what game, other than the obvious rule that referees must be certified by USSF to officiate at an affiliated game. 

At the very least, the Center Referee must be licensed and certified by USSF (United States Soccer Federation).  For competitive soccer, he or she must be at least Grade 8certified.  The Assistant Referee (AR, or ‘linesman’) must also be certified.  What most people don’t realize, is that in addition to being USSF certified, every referee must have ‘risk management’, where they must undergo a background check which examines, among other items, each referee for criminal history, or other suspect or nefarious behavior. 

If the Center Referee arrives at the field, and does not have AR’s, he or she is customarily supposed to enlist the help of ‘club linesmen’, those individuals (usually a parent) who will agree to raise the flag to signal when the ball is out at touch.  The Club Linesman is not supposed to be given any other responsibilities, particularly calling offside.  The Center Referee is supposed to reserve that call for him or herself.  You will often see Center Referees refereeing by themselves without the aid of club linesmen.  This is not officially sanctioned by USSF or local leagues, but if the level of play is appropriate, the official is usually OK doing this.

Having said this, most referees would consider it unethical to referee a game in which his or her child is participating.  Personally, I refuse assignments where I know my son is playing, both USSF affiliated games and High School games.  In my opinion, it is better to listen to the fallout over not being able to conduct the match because of the lack of referees, than to have to listen to any hint of allegation regarding favoritism.  My advice to any parent is to leave the refereeing to the professionals, and if there isn’t a referee at the match, go home and watch TV.

QUESTION 2: What do you do if you think the ref has made a bad call?  What should a team manager do or a parent? 

Parents' sideline behavior is always being critiqued, but what is a parent to do?  What are the steps?  How do you find out if a ref has a "bad" rep? How about a ref that can barely walk the field cause he is so old?  Or is so young, he doesn't know the rules of the game?

Whoa, I’m out of breath just reading this.  What do you do if you think the ref has made a bad call?  How do you know he/she made a bad call?  Are you a ref?  Are you a ref who is certified to critique the work of other refs? 

Aside from just a bad call here and there, if you truly believe, as a parent, that the referee is not competent or your players are endangered on the field, your recourse is to have the coach or the team manager contact the referee assignor, usually through the club referee coordinator.  Assignors work hard to be sure that the referees assigned to referee a match are registered, qualified, fit, and have the skills appropriate for that level of play.

What is a parent to do?

The two reasons I got into refereeing in the first place are, 1) I wanted to be able to share this game with my son (he started playing at age 5), and I figured refereeing would enable me to do that, and 2) I saw what I thought were referees making ‘bad calls’, and so decided that rather than stand on the sideline and yell at the ref, I would put my money where my mouth was, and sign up to learn the rules of the game of soccer, and become certified as a referee. 

Item number 1) has been very rewarding.  Soccer is really the only sport where the referee can participate as a player without being a player. 

Item number 2) has been a real eye opener.  What’s the old saying?  Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes.  Boy is that true.  Being a soccer referee is hard work.  If you’re doing it correctly, you’re training hard so you can keep up with fast-running players, you know the rules, and you’re making literally tens if not hundreds of decisions during every match. 

I had an epiphany while refereeing some years ago: referees make mistakes.  So I tell myself, and other refs, especially the younger referees, that you’re going to make mistakes.  It’s inevitable.  The trick is, not to make a habit of it.

As to the ref being so old that he can’t run . . . have a heart.  We’re all going to end up there some day, and I’m hoping I’m still able to run the field when I reach that point!  By the same token, referees are encouraged to only accept assignments that are appropriate for their skill and ‘comfort level’.  As to being too young, well, you have to start sometime.  I would suggest encouragement of our younger referees is better than castigating them for either being inexperienced, or not having the greatest law knowledge.  Everyone has to start somewhere.

QUESTION 3: Are boys or girls matches more violent, have more ref calls or cards?

Boy, I’m on thin ice here.  I don’t think there is any easy way to answer this question, other than each match can be it’s own unique challenge.  How’s that for a politically correct answer? 

Seriously, it’s fairly obvious to anyone who has watched soccer that boys matches, especially older boys, can be more violent.  But that is a terrible way to think of soccer.  Soccer is not supposed to be ‘violent’, and in fact ‘violent conduct’ in soccer requires the harshest sanction to the player who engages in such conduct.  However, I’ve also refereed girls matches where there was some pretty egregious behavior.  But let’s distinguish between violent and physical.  In the game of soccer, violent or violence is not to be tolerated.  Physical is part of the game.

Is soccer really the most dangerous sport from a ref's perspective?

Not from my perspective, I played Water Polo.  Let’s face it.  The most dangerous sport is American football.  You have very large, very fast players trying to hit each other, and hitting each other is not only legal, it is encouraged.  Guys have died or become paralyzed in American football.  Ice hockey is also very dangerous.  Water Polo is a contact sport with no padding.  I won’t even go there about rugby.  How dangerous can soccer be? 

QUESTION 4: Throw ins?  What is the best advice never getting a throw in disqualified?  

Law 15: The Throw-In, from LOTG.  At the moment of delivering the ball, the thrower: faces the field of play, has part of each foot either on the touch line or on the ground outside the touch line, holds the ball with both hands, delivers the ball from behind and over his head, delivers the ball from the point where it left the field of play.

Simple, right?  Both feet on the ground on the line or outside the line, ball in both hands, comes from behind the head. 

Most infractions here have to do with either having only one foot on the ground or stepping onto the field to take the throw in.  As long as the ball went completely behind the head of the player taking the throw in, and both feet were touching the ground on or behind the touch line when they threw the ball, it doesn’t matter what happens after that. 

The difference between how to call Throw-ins during a U9 vs a U17 match?

At U9, as the referee, I would encourage players to correctly take throw-ins using solid fundamental skills.  At U17, there are rarely any infractions.  Obviously, you don’t want to deliberately throw the ball to your opponent, but the point of the throw-in is not to gain an advantage, it is to restart the game.

QUESTION 5: Why do some Ref's call a whistle to call half time or the game over when the play has just started? 

I’m not sure what the exact question is here.  If the game just started, and the referee whistled to end the match, the only reason for that probably should be a forfeit.  Even if the other team doesn’t show up for the match, the proper procedure is for the team that is present to take the field with the required minimum number of players (7), and for the referees to take their respective positions, at which point the Center Referee blows the whistle to start the match, and immediately blows (customarily) 3 whistle blasts to end the match signaling a forfeit. 

The referee may in some cases abandon a match, for various reasons, including, but not limited to extreme misconduct by one or both sidelines, a fight or altercation that has ensued, or he or she has had to dismiss a coach, and no other certified coach remains on that sideline.  In abandoning a match, the referee does not have the authority to whistle the game as complete.  He or she is required to simply walk off the field, and report the situation to the league and to USSF.  It is then up to the proper authorities to decide the outcome, either to replay the match, call it a complete game, or decide on other action(s). 

I’m not sure why any referee would start a game and immediately whistle for half time.  If this is in fact what happened, then it is improper procedure.

QUESTION 6: Some soccer players look like they have acting coaches, not just soccer coaches. What should be done if you know a player usually fakes and the ref has no idea?

As a referee, I sometimes find myself being asked to serve as a drama critic.  ‘Simulation’, simulating a foul, or attempting to deceive the referee is considered Unsporting Behavior.  From ‘Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game’, 12.28 “Cautionable Offences”, 12.28.1 ‘Unsporting Behavior’, a player who ‘Fakes an injury or exaggerates the seriousness of an injury’ or ‘Fakes a foul (dives) or exaggerates the severity of a foul’, may be cautioned for Unsporting Behavior. 

Notice that the word dives is used.  Dive, take a dive, fake, flop, simulate, various phrases have been used to describe what is essentially attempting to deceive the referee.  This is a very subtle infraction that is difficult for many referees to detect, simply because they have not had the training, or may, in some cases, be reluctant to call because of the way it may appear to spectators on the field. Nowhere is this more evident than when a player ‘takes a dive’ in the box.  They are clearly looking for a penalty kick. 

When the referee detects ‘simulation’, the proper mechanic is to whistle to stop play, caution the offending player, and award an Indirect Free Kick to the opposing team at the site where the infraction occurred.  This offense can be punished anywhere on the field, not just in ‘the box’.

QUESTION 7: Why do some players fake on the field?  Even the pros seem to fake injuries or exaggerate them.  As a parent of a young soccer player, should I tell my child not jump up and take his time?  What should we advise our children to do?

As I mentioned above, faking or exaggerating an injury or foul is considered unsporting behavior.  If your child is not injured, and they know it, they should not fake it.  Particularly since if everyone is faking it all the time, what happens when there is a real injury that requires medical attention?  I’m not sure what people don’t understand about Unsporting Behavior.  Would you teach your child to be unsporting?

What you advise your children to do is up to you.  If a player is injured, they should not be encouraged to just ‘jump up’.  The referee should beckon the coach to enter the field of play to attend to his or her player.  In youth soccer, any player who is seriously injured should not be moved, and help should be summoned. 

If I believe the player is seriously injured, I will call for an ambulance.  Some years ago, during a Girls U19 match on a hot summer day, I had a player taken off who appeared to be extremely lethargic and unable to move.  I called 9-1-1 suspecting heat exhaustion.  I was right, although it wasn’t that serious.  I would rather be given a dirty look by an emergency responder for a false alarm than risk a child’s health and well being.

QUESTION 8: When do players take a "knee"?

There is no protocol for players to take a ‘knee’.  You see this in Rec soccer, and I suspect that the practice originated with AYSO soccer, where if a player was injured, all other players took a ‘knee’ in being sympathetic.

QUESTION 9: Why do Ref's call the game so differently?  Isn't there a standard?  Why do some Ref's really give the losing team advantages?

All referees take the same Grade 8 entry-level course. 

All referees are required to re-certify every year, and many referees choose to simply re-certify each year as a Grade 8.  Others choose to upgrade to State Referee, which requires additional training. 

In addition, re-certification as a State Referee has more stringent requirements than does Grade 8.  In addition to a yearly requirement of a minimum number of hours of clinic, a written examination, and a physical fitness test (12 minute run, 200 meter run and 50 meter sprint), State Referees have to do a maintenance assessment yearly, where their on-field performance on a challenging game is viewed and critiqued by an assessor (a Ref certified to critique other Refs). 

Grade 8 referees have no such requirements.  Obviously, there are different referees on different games, representing a range of skills and individual styles.  While refereeing is, in theory, standardized, the reality is that the differences in skill level and differences in individual refereeing style will often express different results on the field.  It’s not supposed to work out that way, but sometimes it does.

As to giving the losing team advantages, this is something referees are not supposed to do.  I can recall sitting through a clinic, where it seemed that the only message was, simply ‘don’t feel sorry for the losing team’.

QUESTION 10: How do you thank a Ref for doing a good job?  What is the protocol?  How to you let his boss know if was great?

It is perfectly appropriate to say something like ‘Good job, Sir’, or ‘Good job guys, thanks for coming out’.  It means a lot to referees when they hear this, because more often, they hear negative or disparaging remarks about their performance.  As to ‘putting in a good word’ for the referee team, every club has a referee coordinator, and sending them an e-mail lauding the efforts of the referee team will probably find its way to the referee assignor who assigned the referee team to that particular game.  Feedback is always appreciated, both negative and positive.  Assignors are always monitoring the performance of their referee teams.

Comments (0)
First Name
Enter Your Comments
Maximum 3000 characters
Click to reload image
click the image to reload it

« back to blog