Case Study: Keep Your Eyes Off The Ball

When we train new referees, we often tell them this about being an assistant referee: “if you’re doing your job as an assistant referee, you’ll miss most of the match”.

Among their several duties, the trailing assistant referee provides eyes behind the back of the referee, spotting off the ball nonsense that the referee may not see.  As such, it is imperative that ARs not get caught “ball watching”.

FIFA Assistant Referee Peter Kirkup illustrates this brilliantly when he spots violent conduct on the pitch, behind the back of Referee Craig Pawson.

Just as coaches tell defenders, we tell new assistant referees: don’t get caught ball watching!

The iTOOTR Ref of the Year (more than a little late)

At the end of the Premier League 2013/14 season, I started work on a video to celebrate my choice for Referee of the Year.  For any number of reasons, I got distracted and completely forgot about the project.

I recently re-discovered it and decided to go ahead and finish it.  So, here it is, more than a little bit late.

Whether or not you agree with my selection, I thought it would be kind of cool to celebrate refereeing with the kind of high energy video highlights that are typically reserved for players.

Enjoy.  I had fun making it.

Case Study: The Coach’s Bill of Rights

The ridiculous display by Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho brings to mind the role and “rights” of managers – and more broadly – team officials – within the Laws of the Game.

Neither of the words “coach” or “team official” appear in the Laws of the Game proper.  This gives us a clear indication of how the IFAB view the the role of team officials.

It is only within the “Interpretations of the Laws of the Game and Guideline for Referees” that we find any reference to team officials, and then there are only three.

The USSF Publication “Advice to Referees” mentions coaches on a total of 4 pages.

Beyond being “fun facts”, these statistics tell us that the framers of the Laws believe coaches have a very limited role within the game and its administration.

I’ve taken the liberty of assembling these references into a Coach’s Bill of Rights.  I hope you find this helpful in remembering the role of team officials and your management of them during the course of a match.

Of course, referees are obligated to deal with coaches in a respectful and professional manner at all times, including and especially when coaches fail to behave in a responsible manner.

The Coach’s Bill of Rights

  1. Coaches have the right to provide tactical advice to their [own] players, including positive remarks and encouragement
  2. Coaches have the right to remain in their technical area at all times, except when given permission by the referee to enter the field of play to assist an injured player
  3. Coaches have the right to behave in a responsible manner at all times
  4. Coaches have the right to leave the field and its immediate environment if dismissed by the referee
  5. At lower levels of play, the home coach has the right to ensure that the referee’s requirements for a safe playing field are met

Believe it or not, this list incorporates all of the relevant references to coaches or team officials within the LOTG and supporting documentation.

Ref Focus: Mike Dean, Man City v Chelsea

All of the referee decisions from the BPL match between Manchester City and Chelsea, 21 Sep 2014.

After reviewing the video, I believe Dean does an excellent job in administering a compelling match.  One could quibble about where he sets the threshold for the issue of cautions, but he administers them consistently and equitably.

Previously unnoticed is that Dean plays advantage on the goal scored by Chelsea, adding to a long list of goals that have been scored from play-on decisions by this official.

As for the second caution and send off of Manchester City right back Pablo Zabaleta, the video backs Dean’s decision, as Zaboletta clearly kicks out at Chelsea forward Diego Costa.  Costa rightly received a caution for his response.

Also noteworthy is the referee’s significant use of facial expression and gestures to communicate with the players (and supporters and TV viewers).

Ref Focus: Cüneyt Çakır, Brazil v Mexico

Turkish Referee Cüneyt Çakır took charge of the match between Brazil and Mexico in the group stage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.  The match was a 0-0 thriller, with plenty of chances for both sides.

Çakır’s performance in this match seems to have divided opinion in the referee community, with some saying he allowed too much physical play in the first half before tightening things up in the second stanza.

For me, this was a very difficult match to referee, with lots of flopping and rolling players on both sides, two managers who worked the referee and fourth official tirelessly, and loads of end-to-end play in the second half.

Throughout it all, Çakır maintained a smile and a calm, professional demeanor, which is one his hallmarks.  Only when Mexico’s Giovanni Dos Santos was complaining for a caution to be given to Brazil did Çakır change his facial expressions to a more stern appearance.

FIFA rewarded Çakır’s performance in the tournament by appointing him to the Netherlands v Argentina semi-final match.

Respect for John Bieniewicz

It pains me greatly that I have to write another post about a referee brother who we’ve lost to senseless tragedy.

By all accounts John Bieniewicz, a referee affiliated to Michigan Soccer, was a great person and referee whose life was cut short due to on field violence.

Rather than repeating what has been said elsewhere, I’ll refer you to media reports about John and the terrible incident that took his life:

Detroit Free Press:


CBS News:

To honor John, Michigan Soccer has asked referees, players, supporters and all who love the world’s greatest game to change their social media avatars and profile photos to a version of the USSF Referee badge with a black stripe.  You can download a version pre-formatted for Facebook (and will work on other social media as well) directly from iTOOTR, by clicking here.

My plan is to keep this as my profile photo at least until the John’s funeral service.  I’m also asking everyone who posts about John and this tragedy to include the hashtag #RespectForJohnB which echoes FIFA’s “Respect” campaign.

Finally, if you would like to contribute to a memorial fund that has been established for John’s children, you can do so by clicking here.  (Please note that iTOOTR has not researched the memorial fund and cannot say how the funds will be used)

Case Study: Reckless or Excessive Force?

Mark Geiger (USA) and teammates Sean Hurd (USA) and Joe Fletcher (CAN) turned in a third very good performance in the World Cup Round of 16 match between France and Nigeria.  Mr Geiger’s fitness and presence were second to none and the offside decisions by the assistant referees were all 100% correct.

There was only one caution in the match, to France midfielder Blaise Matuidi in the 54th minute, for a challenge against Nigeria midfielder Onazi.  Referee Geiger was about three meters away from the challenge and immediately reached for his yellow card.

For consideration in this case study is whether this challenge was indeed “reckless” as decided by Geiger, or perhaps might have been executed with “excessive force”, which would require a send-off.

I think all would agree that this foul goes beyond “careless” and must be either “reckless” or done with “excessive force”.

Consider the following factors about this challenge:

  • It is a “50/50” (no player has control of the ball prior to the challenge)
  • The France player does not go “over the ball” when making the challenge
  • There was a reasonable chance that France player could win the challenge
  • The challenge is a split-second late (about 4 video frames or roughly .13 second)

Finally, consider the reaction of the Nigeria players.  There is no mass confrontation, no gesturing for a send off, not even a cross word to the referee (that we can see).  Based on what we see, they fully accept the decision of the referee.

Could this challenge have resulted in a send off?  Clearly, we can answer in the affirmative, and I don’t think many would argue, especially after seeing the replays.  This is a case where “in the opinion of the referee” applies.

Whether Signor Busacca agrees remains to be seen.