Grace Under Pressure

It is very hard to keep your cool when those around you are losing theirs.  It is especially difficult when you as the referee are the recipient of the remonstrations.

But, it can be done successfully, as the referees in this montage so professionally demonstrate.

Remember: model the behavior you want the players to follow.  If you want them to calm down, you have to be calm.

My favorite is the clip featuring referee Michael Oliver.  The player is clearly upset, and Oliver allows him to have his say, all the while making his intentions clear by holding the yellow card low in his hand.  He’s allowing the player to blow off steam and enforcing the Laws of the Game with regard to dissent.  Just good, common sense refereeing.

New USSF Referee Uniform Details

I’ve been in touch with representatives of Official Sports and have some further details about the new USSF referee uniforms.

The new shirt style is a big departure from the outgoing version.  Stylistically, there are a lot of similarities with the Adidas referee shirts, with only the stripes under the pockets and on the cuffs of the sleeves recalling the outgoing design.  This is in keeping with OSI’s design goal of an “updated, sleek look.”

A Brand New Style

Two breast pockets are closed with velcro and utilize a small black pull tab to open.

The right sleeve features the USSF Referee Program logo, complete with updated US Soccer logo.

Collars on the outgoing-style shirt  were prone to not laying flat; the new smaller collar should be less problematic.

The traditional button placket has been replaced with a sleek black zipper.  That the zipper is much more narrow than the button placket adds to the modern look of the shirt.

The side panels of the shirt are a mesh material, which should improve airflow through the shirt.

OSI states that the new shirts are lighter in weight and feature a much more athletic cut.  After seeing the jersey in person, and speaking with referees who have worn them, I can confirm this is the case.  The new shirt is significantly lighter, owing to using less material, and probably to changes to the materials themselves.

Sizing It Up

Sizing of the new shirt is somewhat different, as the cut of the shirt is more narrow in the body and shoulders, and the sleeves are shorter and tighter, according to OSI.  Referees are encouraged to check the sizing information on the OSI website before selecting a size.  Based on the size guide, I ordered a large, while I wore an extra large in the outgoing style. Even if your shirt size doesn’t change based on the new sizing chart, OSI reports that some referees are moving down a size to achieve a sleeker, more athletic look.

There is finally a women’s version of the shirt.  The women’s cut features a tapered bodice, smaller shoulders and shorter sleeves when compared to the men’s version.

Color My World

5 colors will continue to be standard in the new style, with yellow (pictured) replacing gold.  The other colors – red, green, black and blue – are similar to the current style, but a bit “brighter” according to OSI.

Pricing and Availability

The new Pro shirt will sell for $48.95 in short-sleeve and $49.95 in long-sleeve.  Compared to the current shirt, the new shirt price is an increase of $3 and $4, respectively, over the new styles.  The increase of about 7% seems reasonable, given that OSI has not raised prices on shirts in several years. Keep in mind that shipping is not included in the price.

An Economy version of the shirt is available as well, and the feature differences from the Pro version are about the same as the currently style (open, V-neck collar and no velcro closures on the pockets for the downscale version).

The yellow and green short-sleeve version of the shirt is available for order now on the OSI website.  The red shirts can be seen on the site, but are not currently available for order.  Blue and black versions in both long and short sleeves will be available in November.  Long sleeve versions of yellow, green and red are expected in mid-August.

The women’s cut Pro version of the yellow shirt is available now.

Starter Kits

OSI states that all economy starter kit orders will now feature the new style shirt and should start shipping by the end of July.  This will aid Referee Instructors and assignors, as we won’t have to tell new referees which shirt to order; new Starter Kit orders will receive the new shirt.

OSI also introduced a Pro Starter Kit, which features the Pro shirt and pro shorts in place of the Economy versions, as well as the USSF two-stripe socks (3 pcs. total).  The Pro starter kit pricing offers an effective discount of 12% when compared to buying the items separately.

Keep It Short

The Pro version of the shorts are not changing, save for the updated US Soccer logo embroidered on the right leg.  OSI plans to offer a new Women’s Pro Short by the end of August.

USSF Guidance

OSI says that USSF says the current jerseys can be worn through the 2018 season, which is a generous transition period.  I confirmed with USSF crews on youth games will be allowed to mix styles, as new referees will have only the new style shirt.

My Impressions

I like the new style.  It’s current and fresh and fits much more appropriately for officials who should be reasonably fit.  I like the use of the thick/thin stripe as a nod to the outgoing style, which, let’s face it, has been with us for many, many years.  (I don’t count the change from the pin stripe to the thick/thin stripe as a major change).  The shirt is much lighter and comfortable, and the yellow should rarely be in conflict with a team color.  All in all, I welcome these changes as long overdue.

IFAB Website and Social Media Up and Running

The International Football Association Board’s new website is up and fully functional. The IFAB is also present on major social media platforms.

Recall that the IFAB is now its own legal entity, separate and apart from FIFA. The primary responsibility of IFAB is to act as the steward of the Laws of the Game, to include updating, revising and publishing the Laws as necessary. In fact, the 2016/17 Laws of the Game are published directly by IFAB (they were previously published by FIFA).

Links to all things IFAB:

Facebook Page:
Twitter: @theifab

Gear Review: RefsWorld Gear Organizer

When wrapping up a new referee certification course, I always emphasize the need to stay organized.  When you’re on the field for three games (or more) on a weekend day, it’s easy to lose track of all the bits and bobs you need on the day.

The Organizer from RefsWorld fits the bill nicely, and appears to be the only organizer created specially for referees.  (For me, the gear organizer from Official Sports always felt like a shaving kit with an extra piece of nylon attached to it.)

The black nylon case features a tri-fold design, and is kept closed by a sturdy velcro strip.  When opened, each of the three panels are covered with containers, all with see through plastic coverings, and each closed with either a zipper or velcro strap.

The entire left panel is comprised of a single container, perfect for storing law/rule books and other large, mostly flat items.  The middle panel features two small rectangular pouches at the top – perfect for storing your cards – while the bottom of the middle panel features another large pocket for medium-sized items.  Finally, the right panel features two long and narrow rectangular zippered pouches, where my whistles and writing implements found a convenient home.

I managed to get the 25 items shown the gallery below in the Organizer, with room to spare.  Only my SPINTSO referee watch gave me a problem; it’s so large an inflexible that the Organizer wouldn’t close when I tried to include the SPINTSO.

The Organizer is well built and the see through plastic on all containers makes finding what you’re looking for a snap.

RefsWorld is an Australia-based referee gear manufacturer and supplier, and the The Top Ref is the exclusive North American distributor.

Only the relatively expensive price (USD 17) keeps the Organizer from receiving a perfect 5-star review.

2016/17 IFAB Laws of the Game Now Available

The 2016-17 IFAB Laws of the Game are now available for download.  If you want to skip the summary and go straight to the download, you can click here.

The Only Thing That’s Changed Is Everything

Publisher.  Document organization.  Formatting. Download options.  Law titles.  Law content and wording.  Apart from those small items, not much has changed!

The new Laws are published directly by the International Football Association Board and not FIFA.  The IFAB is now setup as a Swiss corporation in its own right, separate and apart from FIFA.  As a result, the new IFAB logo is prominently featured on the cover, while the logos of the IFAB members – including FIFA – are displayed below the IFAB logo.

As previously reported, the Interpretations are now incorporated directly into the Laws themselves.  This makes the interpretations part of the Laws and makes it much easier to use the Laws book as a reference guide.

All of the graphics and fonts have been updated with a more modern look.

The IFAB website (and here on iTOOTR) now offers downloads of the Laws in three formats: PDF, Word (DOCX) and E-Book (coming soon).

Two new sections of the book summarize and detail changes to the Laws for 2016/17.

New Law Titles

The names of three of the Laws have been updated to reflect changes to the Laws themselves.

Law 3. Was: The Number of Players.  Now: The Players

Law 6, Was: The Assistant Referee.  Now: The Other Match Officials

Law 10.  Was: The Method of Scoring.  Now: Determining The Outcome of a Match

Law Changes and Clarifications

In total, there are 57 changes and clarifications to the Laws.  These range in importance from very significant (changes to misconduct application for denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity) to relatively minor (that a match shall not continue if a team is reduced to fewer than 7 players is now officially part of the Laws rather than a suggestion of the IFAB).

Among the more interesting changes not previously mentioned:

  • Interference by a substitute or team official will result in a direct FK for the opponents (Law 03)
  • Ball must “clearly move” to be in play for all kicked restarts (Law 08)
  • Attempted violent conduct shall be punished with a send-off, even if no contact occurred (Law 12)
  • Striking an opponent in the face/head when not challenging for the ball shall be punished with a send-off (Law 12)
  • Impeding with contact results in a  Direct Free Kick (Law 12)

There are many other changes (52 others, in fact), so fire up the downloads and get to studying!



In Memoriam: Robert (Bob) Evans, 1939-2016

I learned today of the sad news that American refereeing pioneer Bob Evans died Tuesday, March 30th, 2016, at the age of 76.

Bob was one the true pillars of American soccer refereeing, and had a significant hand in creating the U.S. Soccer Refereeing program.

He was born in England, grew up Wales, and moved to Texas, where he spent much of his life.  He became a naturalized American citizen, and one of the first American FIFA Referee Instructors.  He refereed in the original North American Soccer League and received many, many awards through his distinguished career.

But Bob’s greatest contribution to the game, at least as far as this referee is concerned, is his seminal book on how to referee entitled “For The Good Of The Game”.  Co-authored by longtime colleague Ed Bellion, this book is now out of print, but I encourage you to search for a copy and buy it.  It is truly indispensable.

As a nascent blogger, I mentioned Evans and Bellion in one of my early posts about alternative corner kick positioning.  I never dreamed that Bob Evans himself would actually comment on my post.  But when he did, and was supportive of my position (which was really his position), well, I thought “that’s it then; no need to continue blogging because it will never get better than this!”  It’s a moment I will always remember.  You can read that post here.  Scroll to the bottom to see Bob’s comments.

May you Rest in Peace Mr. Evans.  Thank you for your many wonderful contributions to our game.

You can (and should) read a full biography, written in part by Ed Bellion, here.

Major Changes Coming to 2016/17 Laws of the Game

The Laws of the Game are set for a major overhaul in 2016/17.  They won’t be officially published until May, but I’ve been scouring the Internet for clues, and have been able to come up with a fairly clear picture of what’s ahead.


For the first time, the Laws of the Game will be published by IFAB, the International Football Association Board, the organization responsible for updating the Laws for many years.  This means the IFAB logo – and not the FIFA logo – will be featured on the cover. 

This is the result of IFAB being formed as a legal entity separate and apart from FIFA.  IFAB exists solely for the purpose of setting the Laws of the Game.

The Laws had not seen a comprehensive rewrite in many years.  IFAB selected retired English referee David Elleray (pictured above) to oversee the rewrite.  Among other goals, Elleray has said the rewrite should make the laws “clearer” and less subject to contradicting interpretation.

Administrative Changes

Until now, the Laws were actually two separate publications: the Laws “proper” and a separate section called “Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees”, or simply “The Interpretations” to most referees.  Under the rewrite, these two separate sections are merged into a single publication.  Interpretations are discussed within each Law itself.

Referees in the USA may be familiar with this approach, as it has been utilized for years in the NCAA and the NFHS Soccer Rules publications (both of which vary to some extent from the LOTG).

The Laws will now be gender neutral.  Instead of using only masculine pronouns, the revised Laws use language that does not refer to one gender.

The Laws will be much briefer.  In the current edition of the Laws and Interpretations, the document clocks in at over 20,000 words.  The revised Laws will be about 10,000 words.

Law Changes

The most significant change to the Laws is the removal of the controversial “triple punishment” requirement.  In the current Laws, if a defender fouls an attacker in the defender’s own penalty area, and the referee determines that the defender should be sent off for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity, the defender (and their team) is subject to three punishments:

  1. The defender is sent-off (and the team must play with one less player)
  2. The attacking team is awarded a penalty kick.
  3. The defender is subject to a further suspension (which varies by league, but ranges from 1 to 3 games).

Under the revised Laws, if the defender is making a legitimate attempt to play the ball and simply mis-times a tackle, for example, the defender will be cautioned instead of sent off. This only applies to fouls committed inside the penalty area, and only when the referee determines there was a legitimate attempt to play the ball.  If the defender should, for example, grab the jersey of the attacker, the defender would still be subject to being sent off.

Further, if the foul occurs outside of the penalty area, the defender would continue to be subject to a send off, consistent with the current edition of the Laws.

Other changes to the Laws include:

  • A kick-off may now be kicked in any direction, including backwards
  • Players who are injured as the result of a reckless or excessive force challenge (resulting in a caution or send off to the offender) will not be required to leave the field of play to receive treatment, if treatment can be handled expeditiously
  • Goalkeepers who come off their line during a penalty kick will be cautioned if the kick fails, in addition to the kick being re-taken
  • If the kicker of the penalty kick violates the Laws, the kick will no longer be retaken and play will be restarted with an indirect free kick for the defending team
  • If opposing players are off the field of play (through the course of normal play) and one commits a foul, play will be restarted with the appropriate free kick, on the touchline or goal line.  Under the current Laws, play restarts with a dropped ball, as only misconduct and not fouls can be committed off the field of play.  The example given by Mr Elleray to illustrate is when a pair of opponents go off the field during the run of play, and one grabs the other to prevent him/her from re-entering the field of play.  The team of the player whose shirt was grabbed will now be awarded a free-kick on the appropriate boundary line.  Note that this could result in a penalty kick being awarded.
  • Offside restarts will be taken from the point on the field where the offending player was when they became offside.  Under the current Laws, the restart would be taken from the point where they were originally in an offside position.  (Editor’s note: it will be interesting to see how the Assistant Referee mechanics might be updated to handle a situation where a player starts a play from an offside position in the attacking half of the field and then becomes involved in active play on the defending half of the field)

There are other minor changes to the Laws, but I’ve attempted to list what I believe to be the most significant changes.  There’s certainly enough change to ensure 2017 recertification classes will be have plenty of discussion points.