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To Whistle Or Not To Whistle?

Things You Didn't Know About Things You Know Well

Referees must make decisions related to games, applying knowledge, common sense and their wits. These decisions must always respect the letter of the law and embrace the spirit of the game. Test your knowledge and see if you can answer the following question.

April 10, 2014

In a U-14 boy’s game, red #5 pushes blue #9, who falls to the ground. Blue #9 rolls around on the ground holding his ankle while yelling at the referee, asking him to caution red #5. The referee decides that blue #9 is faking the injury.   
Players who attempt to deceive the referee by faking an injury and verbalizing dissent at the same time tend to frustrate opponents and sometimes, unfairly, influence the referee into making wrong decisions. The referee should manage this type of negative behavior in a manner that makes it clear to the guilty player and others that such behavior will not be tolerated.    

In this case, the referee should stop play, show the yellow card to blue #9, verbally admonish him in a manner that can be heard/felt by players from both teams and caution him for unsporting behavior (feigning an injury). Then, the referee should restart the game with a direct free kick for the blue team because of red #5’s pushing foul.

The verbal admonishment, in this case, will help the players realize that blue #9 did not deceive the referee. The caution with the verbal admonishment should stop players from trying to deceive the referee for the rest of the game. Players will respect the referee and remain focused on fair play when the referee lets them know that he is willing to manage and punish misconduct.  
(See pages 36 and 38 in the 2013/14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game).

April 3, 2014

Please view the attached video clip, courtesy of USSF, involving U-16 players, and analyze the action. Do you see any wrong action(s) by players? If yes, what would you do as the referee? After you review the video clip and develop your answers, read our response in the answer section below.   

Whistle Stop Video
This video provides an example of a charging foul that is reckless. Just as blue #11 gets to the ball, a white player, running at full speed, charges into him sideways. This causes blue #11 to fall hard to the ground. The referee can look for the following actions by the white player to identify this charging offense as a reckless foul:

  • He is looking more at the opponent than at the ball.
  • He has a chance to play the ball in a fair manner but decides to charge without regard for the safety of the opponent.  
  • He charges the opponent sideways, then turns his back and upends him in a dangerous manner.
  • His action is designed to intimidate. 

Therefore, the referee should stop play, show the yellow card to the white player, caution him for unsporting behavior, and restart the game with a direct free kick for the blue team.

This type of charging is not normal play and it must be eliminated from the game to keep it safe for all participants. The referee can take the following steps to properly manage this incident:

  • Talk to the guilty player when administering the caution, “Be careful. You can hurt others or yourself.”  
  • Be sure to get acknowledgement by asking, “Do you understand?” Pause, and after receiving the player’s response say, “Thank you.”
  • Talk to the fouled player to make him feel safe. Say, “I’ll take care of this.  Please keep playing soccer. Thank you.”
  • For the next few minutes stay close to the players involved in the incident to influence good behavior with his presence including verbalizing awareness as needed.   

(See pages 36 and 38 in the 2013/14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game).

March 27, 2014

In a U-12 girl’s game, blue #5 deliberately kicked the ball to her goalkeeper. The ball went outside of the blue team’s penalty area so the goalkeeper ran after it, dribbled it back into the penalty area, and picked it up with her hands.    

A goalkeeper can normally handle the ball while it is in her own penalty area, but she is not allowed to handle the ball if it has been deliberately kicked to her by a teammate. In this case, the ball was deliberately kicked to the goalkeeper by her teammate, blue #5. The fact that she had to go outside the penalty area to retrieve it does not matter. Therefore, the referee should stop play and restart the game with an indirect free kick for the opponent.  

Referees can help goalkeepers learn and understand the Laws by assisting them before the start of the game or when they come in to substitute a goalkeeper. The referee can remind the goalkeeper by saying, “Remember, you cannot pick up the ball if one of your teammates kicks it back to you on purpose. Do you understand?” In games with younger players, referees have a good opportunity to do more than just referee.       

(See page 37 in the 2013/14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game.)

March 20, 2014

In a U-14 boy’s game, red #10 dribbles into the blue team’s penalty area with an obvious goal scoring opportunity. Just before red #10 takes a shot on goal, blue #5 tackles him with excessive force, making contact with red #10’s leg and not the ball. Red #10 loses control of the ball because of blue #5’s foul.   

Blue #5 committed two sending-off offenses at the same time. One is serious foul play (SFP) for using excessive force against the opponent when he fouled red #10. The second one is denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity (DOGSO), because red #10 was moving towards the blue team’s goal with a good chance of taking a shot on goal. Blue #5 committed the DOGSO offense by committing another offense punishable by a free kick or penalty kick.

SFP is the more serious of the two offenses committed by blue #5. The referee should stop play and check to make sure red #10 is okay. If needed, the referee should request assistance from the red team’s coach to assist red #10. Then, the referee should show the red card to blue #5 for SFP and restart play with a penalty kick for the red team. The referee must report serious foul play as the reason for sending-off blue #5 and should also include details of other misconduct.

(See pages 39 and 126 in the 2013/14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game.)    

March 13, 2014

In a U-14 boy’s game, blue player #3 commits three separate fouls and is cautioned by the referee for persistent infringement. Two minutes later, the referee stops the game because the same player commits a foul, which was his second consecutive foul after being cautioned.

Persistent infringement occurs when a player repeatedly commits fouls or certain other infringements. There is no specific number of infringements which constitutes persistent infringement. The referee should judge and determine persistent infringement in the context of effective game management. Blue #3 was cautioned for persistent infringement, yet committed two more fouls. In this case, the referee should show the yellow card to blue #3 and caution him for persistent infringement. Then the referee should show the red card to blue #3, send him off for receiving a second caution in the same game, and restart the game as appropriate for the foul that was committed.

Referees should execute a caution in a manner that generates desirable results in the player’s behavior for the remainder of the game. To influence the player’s behavior when the referee gives the first caution, a clear and firm verbal message should be given to the player. The referee should check for understanding by asking the player if he understands the problem and explain the consequences of continuing with the unacceptable behavior.

For example, the referee can say, “You have to stop committing fouls. Someone, including you, could get hurt.” Then ask, “Do you understand?” And to explain consequences say, “If you earn a 2nd caution, you will be sent off.” Then, for the next couple of minutes, the referee should influence blue #3 with his presence by being close to him when play is nearby. If the player changes behavior for the better, the referee can say, “Thanks for doing the right thing.”

Also, the referee or assistant referee can alert the coach about the player’s behavior so he can help manage the player. Coaches appreciate it when the referee lets them know that a player’s conduct may earn him a red card, if the coaches have not noticed the risk themselves.   

(See pages 38 and 39 in the 2013/14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game.)

March 6, 2014

In a U-14 boy’s game, blue #9 is adjusting his shirt with both hands as the ball is played to him. He makes a basket with the shirt and catches the ball without touching it with his hands. Then, he releases the ball in front of his feet and kicks it into the red team’s goal.  

Blue #9’s shirt became an extension of his hands as he was holding his shirt into a basket shape. Therefore, when he caught the ball with his shirt, he was handling it. The referee should stop play and restart the game with a direct free kick for the red team from the place where the offense occurred. If the offense occurred inside the red team’s penalty area, then all of the blue opponents must be at least 10 yards from the ball and outside the penalty area until the ball is in play. The ball will be in play when it is kicked directly out of the penalty area.

If the referee believes that blue #9 intentionally used his shirt to gain possession of the ball and prevent an opponent from gaining possession, then, before restarting the game, the referee should caution him for unsporting behavior.
(See pages 36, 38, and 119 in the 2013/14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game.)   

February 27, 2014

In a U-14 girl’s game, blue #4 commits a cautionable offense. The referee decides to apply advantage.  After a few seconds, the ball leaves the field of play over the touchline for a throw-in by the red team. Red #12 quickly gathers the ball, and seeing a possible goal scoring opportunity, she appears eager to perform the throw-in.   

The caution may only be issued at the next stoppage of the game. If the caution is not issued before the next restart of play, it cannot be issued. Therefore, in this case, the referee should delay the throw-in restart, show the yellow card to blue #4, caution her and then restart play with a throw-in for the red team. If red #12 takes the throw-in before the referee cautions the player, the referee should immediately blow her whistle to get the players’ attention. Then, the referee should explain the reason for the delay of the restart and proceed to caution blue #4 before restarting play with the throw-in for the red team.

Sometimes there is a long time between the application of advantage and the next stoppage of play, and the referee may forget about caution(s) that may have to be issued. The assistant referees should be alert and ready to remind the referee before play restarts when there is a caution to be issued. In this case, it is acceptable for the closest assistant referee to tell red #12 to postpone taking the throw-in, and to then get the referee’s attention to remind her of the caution.

(See page 24 in the 2013/14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game.)

February 20, 2014

View the video clip below (courtesy of USSF) and analyze the action. Do you see any wrong actions committed? If so, what would you do as the referee? After you review the clip and develop your answer, read Whistle Stop’s response.

To Whistle or Not to Whistle Video

White #9 has control of the ball. Red #7 approaches white #9 and kicks him from behind, stomping down on his calf, using excessive force. Although this action is a direct free kick foul, the misconduct involved is classified as violent instead of serious foul play, because red #7 was not challenging for the ball.

Things that help the referee evaluate this as a violent conduct incident include:

•    00:09 – The ball is up in the air, in front of white #9. Red #7 is looking down and does not have a chance of playing the ball.
•    00:09 – Red #7’s leg is stretched out and ends up coming down hard when contact is made.
•    00:10 – Red #7 stops white #9 by kicking him, without regards for his safety.
•    00:11 – Red #7 acknowledges to the referee that he had done wrong by bringing his right hand up with an open palm, showing the referee.
•    00:12 – White #9’s body language projects the magnitude of the offense.

Unfortunately, sometimes teenage players feel that they have to play tough and accept this type of incident without major complaint. Notice that the players nearby did not react to the offense in a drastic manner. However, as the game goes on, players who have been victims of violent offenses that go improperly punished will find opportunities to retaliate.  

Referees need to properly identify and manage violent conduct incidents. In this case, the referee should stop play and immediately request assistance from the bench for white #9. Then the referee should show the red card to red #7, send him off for violent conduct, reassure players that he will control the game to help avoid retaliation and restart play with a direct free kick for the white team from where the incident happened.     

(See pages 38-39 in the 2013/14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game.)     

February 13, 2014

In a U-16 boy’s game, the referee decides to caution blue #11 for committing a reckless foul. As the referee records the caution, blue #11 strongly dissents the referee’s caution for the reckless foul.     

The referee should show a second yellow card to blue #11, caution him for dissenting his decision, show him the red card and send him off for receiving two cautions in the same game. The referee should then restart the game with a direct free kick for the opposing team from where the reckless foul was committed.

Cautioning or sending off a player has the potential to generate additional misconduct issues, sometimes as soon as the player(s) hear the whistle or see the yellow card. Therefore, it is very important for the referee team to have good awareness of potential negative behavior on the part of players, coaches and parents, to quickly manage situations and help them avoid additional misconduct.

In the process of cautioning a player, the referee should try to calm him down in order to help him avoid a quick and emotional second caution that results in a send-off. Before showing the first yellow card to the player, the referee may briefly explain to him what he did wrong and share the expectation for positive behavior. Things the referee could say in similar scenarios include, “We need you and everyone to be safe so you can’t play in a reckless manner.” or “Stop playing like this. You’re going to hurt somebody or yourself.” Then, the referee should check for understanding by asking, “Do you understand?”

Once the referee sees that the player is calmed, he can show the yellow card and caution the player. The referee should be ready to immediately stop negative behavior if the player decides to dissent after seeing the yellow card. Most players react positively to the referee when he explains things in a firm but positive and respectful manner. This approach will help the player avoid a second caution.

(See pages 38-39 in the 2013/14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game.)

February 6, 2014

In a U-10 boy’s game, red #9 is taking a penalty kick. Before red #9 kicks the ball, blue #7 enters into the penalty area. Red #9 kicks the ball, which rebounds back to him off the crossbar. Red #9 controls the ball and kicks it into the goal.    

Answer: During the taking of a penalty kick, if a teammate of the goalkeeper enters the penalty area (encroaches) before the ball is kicked, and when the ball is kicked it does not enter the goal, the penalty kick is retaken. Therefore, in this scenario, the referee should stop play when the ball goes back to the kicker off the crossbar and explain why the penalty kick has to be retaken. Then, the referee should ask blue #7 not to enter the penalty area before the ball is kicked, and have the penalty kick retaken by the red team.

If blue #7 had not entered the penalty area before the ball was kicked, red #9 would have touched the ball a second time before it had touched another player. Therefore, in this new scenario, the referee should stop play and award an indirect free kick to the blue team.

(See page 46 in the 2013/14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game.)

January 30, 2014

In a U-14 girl’s game, the blue team is winning by one goal with one minute left to play in the second half. The referee awards a free kick to the red team and blue #3 picks up the ball and walks away, resisting on having the ball taken from her by red #10 who gets frustrated.    

Answer: Once the free kick is indicated by the referee, the red team has the right to take the kick immediately. The blue team’s players have the obligation to leave the ball alone or show good sportsmanship by giving it to the red team. Therefore, blue #3, who deliberately picked up and carried the ball, is guilty of delaying the restart of the game because her actions could be denying the red team its right to a quick restart.

In addition, by resisting to give the ball to the red team immediately, the blue team player may cause the red team player (and others) to get frustrated. A frustrated red team player may take physical action against the player with the ball and you may end up with several players involved in a melee, where a number of players may shout, push, etc.).

Therefore, to avoid potential player frustration and a possible melee, as soon as blue #3 grabs the ball, the referee should approach her and verbalize, "Give me the ball.” or “Put the ball down.” followed by a “Thank you." The referee would then continue managing the free kick.  

If after the referee asks for the ball and blue #3 decides to keep wasting time, then the referee should show the yellow card to blue #3, caution her for delaying the restart of play, and restart the game with the free kick for the red team.

(See pages 38 and 125 in the 2013-14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game.)

January 23, 2014

In a U-8 game, the referee stops play as he signals that a foul has been committed. The referee realizes that he has signaled in the wrong direction before restarting the game.

Answer: If the referee stops the game for an offense, he can change his decision for the restart as long as the game has not been restarted. In this scenario, the referee should get the players' attention, tell them that he made a mistake in signaling, and signal in the correct direction. Because young players are often learning about the game, and to support the Spirit of the Game, the referee should allow the defending team to get in position before restarting the game with a direct free kick.

January 16, 2014

In a U-19 boys' championship game, blue #10 takes a shot on goal from 33 yards away. Red #3, who is standing just inside his penalty area makes contact with the ball, attempting to kick it away to a teammate. However, the ball goes back into the penalty area where the red team's goalkeeper picks it up. Blue #10 yells, "He can't pick it up ref!"

Answer: The goalkeeper may pick up the ball because blue #3 did not deliberately kick the ball to him. Therefore, the referee should allow play to continue. If any red team player yells, "He can't pick it up!" or "Pass back to the keeper!" the referee should say, "Keep playing. The kick was not deliberate."

Referees need to constantly evaluate the game action and think about possible verbal challenges from players and others. The referee needs to keep learning the Laws of the Game and their proper application in order to feel confident about his decisions. The confidence generated from knowledge and experience will help the referee to not overreact in similar scenarios due to yelling or screaming by players and others.

(See pages 37 in the 2013-14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game).

January 9, 2014

In a U-10 girls' game, red #12 scores a goal. Before restarting the game with a kickoff, the referee notices that red #12 is wearing a piece of jewelry with a rough side, which could be dangerous to other players.

Answer: All jewelry is forbidden and must be removed before the game starts. In this scenario, the referee did not see red #12's jewelry during the players' inspection. The use of jewelry is an infringement of the Laws. However, in this case the infringement is considered trifling and the goal is valid.

Therefore, the referee should ask red #12 to remove the jewelry and restart the game with a kickoff for the opposing team. It is important for the referee and assistant referees to carefully check the players' equipment and pay attention to jewelry and other items that may be dangerous to players.

(See pages 22 and 70 in the 2013-14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game).

To Whistle or Not to Whistle - 2012
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