Monthly Archives: March 2013

Four Minutes – Three Fouls – Two Cautions – One Objective

English: David Silva playing for Manchester City

English: David Silva playing for Manchester City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There was an interesting sequence of events in the first half of Manchester City’s 4 – 0 win over Newcastle in the EPL Saturday. Background: Manchester City and Newcastle are at opposite ends of the table, and Man City still has an outside chance at the Premier League title. Newcastle is struggling and does not have the talent possessed by Man City. In the 16th minute there was a clumsy challenge by Newcastle’s Cisse on Man City’s Lescott resulting in a free kick.

The sequence: in the 26th minute, Newcastle’s Sissoku slides into a 50-50 ball near the half line as Man City’s Zabaleta is approaching the ball from Zabaleta’s right. Sissoku arrives just after Zambaleta clears the ball, and fouls him. The tackle looked bad in slow motion, as Sissoku slid studs-first into Zambaleta’s ankle. Man City players and bench personnel complained about the tackle. Referee Neil Swarbrick was in a good position to see the play. He made it clear to everyone that he saw the play and that it was a fifty-fifty challenge. He then had a very strong word to Sissoku to take it down a notch.

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The Language of the Laws

Referee & Madlung

Referee & Madlung (Photo credit: Kate_Lokteva)

Over the first few weeks of the season I have had the opportunity to observe or work with several dozen referees. Each had strengths as well as areas for additional development, as we all do. One of the more common areas for improvement is verbal communications. This is also one of the easiest areas to improve – but it takes a little effort!

As referees, we can be our own worst enemies by the words we choose to communicate. For example, after a coach complains that his player was pushed, having been illegally charged from behind, we should not say “It wasn’t a foul because the player did not use her hands.” If you did not see the charge to the back, simply say that, but advise the coach you will watch for it (and watch for it!).

Above is an obvious example of digging yourself a hole. There are other situations, however, that can best be avoided by using the “Language of the Laws”. Examples:

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Handling Deliberations in Sunderland

Referee Chris Foy had his hands full in Sunderland with three different handling incidents.

Chris Foy shows Mark Bunn the red card
Norwich City’s goalkeeper Mark Bunn, #28, walks off the pitch after receiving a red card by the referee Chris Foy, left. Photograph: Scott Heppell/AP

In the 30th minute, a poor header by a Norwich defender about forty yards out sent the ball backwards into no man’s land about twenty-five yards out. Norwich keeper Bunn comes out of the penalty area towards the ball as it is approached by Sunderland attacker Graham. Bunn jumps into the air as the ball hits in front of him. He has his fists to his face with his elbows extended in front of him. The ball catches him on the right elbow and his chest while he is in the air. When a player leaves the ground and contacts the ball with his arms, it is deliberate handling (the player deliberately moved his arms to a position they would not normally be). Referee Foy awarded a direct free kick for the deliberate handling.

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The Referee’s Role in Determining an Offside Offense


(Photo credit: fchmksfkcb)

Our colleague Mark Mittelstadt suggested this topic after watching the West Bromley Albion – Swansea City EPL match Saturday. It reminded me of an embarrassing moment early in my career.

In the first high-level regional tournament I ever worked, I was AR1 with a National Referee in the middle. My attacking team had a corner kick on my corner. I set up for it even with the goal line as two defenders were on the posts. The attacker mis-struck the ball in the direction of the penalty spot. The two defenders immediately came off the goal line towards the ball. I moved left with the second to last opponent and noted the kick taker was now offside. An attacker and defender converged on the ball and it returned to the kick taker. I popped the flag. One problem… the ball had come off the defender, not the kick taker’s teammate. The referee recognized what happened and waved me down. (In my defense, it appeared that the ball had been returned by the kick taker’s teammate.)

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SIAPOA: USSF Guidelines on Serious Foul Play

Red Card!

Red Card! (Photo credit: Stéfan)

With the Nani send-off in the Man U-Real Madrid UEFA Champions League match on March 5, it may be a good time to review the criteria for judging Serious Foul Play. The following was originally published by US Soccer in its “Week in Review” series on May 6, 2010.

Red Card Challenges: Endangering the Safety of the Opponent and Excessive Force

Match officials must be constantly diligent in their effort to ensure player safety and deal with incidents of 100 percent misconduct. For example, referees must be able to successfully identify those situations that clearly meet all criteria for endangering the safety of the opponent and the use of excessive force (both components of red card challenges). To assist officials with deciphering red card tackles, U.S. Soccer has established the SIAPOA criteria:

  • Speed of play and the tackle
    The faster the tackler is moving, the greater the force and likelihood of endangering the safety of the opponent. Additionally, speed also equates to less control of the challenge and the less likely the attacker can cleanly win the ball.
  • Intent
    The intent of the tackler. Was the tackle intended to send a message or to cleanly win the ball?
  • Aggressive nature
    Did the tackler lunge for the ball with one or both feet? Consideration should be given to the distance between the attacker and the tackler at the time the tackler leaves his feet. The further the distance, the less control the tackler has of his actions and the less likely the tackler is to play the ball. Are cleats up and exposed to the opponent?
  • Position of the tackler
    In particular, his legs (height of the tackler’s leading leg and the follow-up action by the tackler’s trailing leg).
  • Opportunity to play the ball
    Was the ball within playing distance? Or, was the ball already past the tackler at the time the tackler’s feet came in contact with the opponent. Tackles from behind and from the side (outside of the peripheral vision of the attacker with the ball) increase the likelihood contact will need to be made with the attacker prior to playing the ball.
  • Atmosphere of the game
    Referees must consider the overall temperature of the match and the player in question. Has an aggressive attitude been displayed to that point? Is frustration amongst or between the players evident?

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IFAB 2013 AGM Decisions

Assistant referee during the match FC Barcelon...

Assistant referee during the match FC Barcelona-RCD Mallorca. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In relation to the Laws of the Game, IFAB approved a clarification of the wording of Law 11 (Offside, Interpretation of the Laws of the Game). The IFAB agreed that the current wording is not precise enough, regarding “interfering with an opponent/gaining an advantage.” The new approved wording can be found in the agenda on (see below).

Brief reports were also provided on Additional Assistant Referees, and the decision approved last year related to Law 4 (The Players’ Equipment) with regards to the headscarf – to allow a trial, non-mandatory period – the IFAB reiterated that a final decision will be made at next year’s Annual General Meeting.

Finally, a proposal to review Law 8 (The Start and Restart of Play “Dropped Ball”) was postponed for further consultation, with a new proposal to be presented at the 2014 Annual General Meeting. An agreement was also made to form a working group to review the full Laws of the Game to improve clarity where appropriate.

Amendments to the Laws of the Game taken today by the IFAB come into effect on 1 July 2013. Read the rest of this entry

Houston-DC United DOGSO?

English: Pat Onstad of Houston Dynamo making a...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the 39th minute of the Houston – DC United match of March 2, Referee Baldomero Toledo awarded a penalty kick when Houston’s Clark was tripped by DC’s Kolb. The video can be seen here:

There are a number of things we can learn from the sequence.

Toledo was caught up field when the ball was quickly cleared by Houston and a DC defender that might have slowed the counterattack slipped and fell. Toledo was actually back-pedaling in the opposite direction almost twenty yards away when Clark broke free. He then began a shallow diagonal sprint from attacking right to attacking left. This unfortunately left him directly behind the players 35 yards deep when the contact occurred. After the contact, Toledo waited for the follow-up shot that was smothered and then blew the whistle. This allowed him to close the distance to about fifteen yards when the whistle blew. He then continue his sprint towards the foul as Houston tried to take another shot on goal, ending up in the PA at about the time everyone was looking around for what he was going to call. The lesson here: continue our run when we are caught out of position, especially when selling a call is enhanced with proximity.

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South Jersey Thunder/Lightning Policy

This applies to SJSL and SJGSL games. Other competitions may have different rules, but must be consistent with the USSF/NJYS policy.

Revision (2/27/13)

Lightning/Thunder Policy
For Referees

In accordance with USSF and NJYS guidelines, in the event that lightning/thunder is observed in the area:
1) All league sanctioned games in the area are to be stopped by the officially assigned game referee;
2) The game clock is stopped;
3) Players, coaches and spectators are to be directed to leave the field;
4) The game may not be permitted to resume for thirty (30) minutes after the last observed event.

If an additional lightning/thunder event is observed during the stoppage period, the thirty (30) minute clock is to be restarted.  In no case should a game be restarted less than 30 minutes after the last observed lightning/thunder event.

The maximum stoppage period per game cannot exceed forty-five (45) minutes.  In the event that the required stoppage period has reached or will reach forty-five (45) minutes, the game is to be terminated.

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