A Question about Crew Support
As a result of my recent email about AR responsibilities, I received the following question:
When you stated “Support the referee if questioned by coaches/players – NEVER indicate that the referee made a bad call!”, what if I were to signal a foul that clear to everyone but the center waved the call off? How can I support the center ref if he disagrees with my call, especially if I am on the coaches’ side and as the game continues the coach comes over to talk to me during play? They will probably ask why the center did not agree. What should I say?
That is a great question! (And somewhat ironic that it comes at the time of the retirement announcement of Sir Alex – one of the most famous referee bait-ers)
Here is how I would deal with it. I would start with the basics. In the pregame, the referee would have told me to signal for a foul that he could not see that he would have called had he seen it, and one for which advantage was not appropriate. He would have told me to make eye contact before signaling the foul. He would have told me “If I wave you down, it isn’t personal.” The assistant referee assists, he never insists.
So, if all of these conditions occurred, (and assuming he was not playing advantage) then the referee decided that he had a good enough look to decide it was not a foul on this day at this time. My response to the coach would be: “He had a different angle. I will check with him when the half is over.”
I would also make sure that I did not turn my attention from my responsibilities and I would make it clear to the coach that there would be no further conversation. If the coach persists and interferes with my ability to perform, I will at the next stoppage call the referee over – NOT to answer the coach’s question, but to provide the coach with the “TELL” in “Ask – Tell – Dismiss”. Coaches are not entitled to explanations but may be provided them if they ask respectfully and do not interfere with the match.
At the end of the half, I would ask the referee about the call. From his answer I would learn that he saw something I did not or that I saw something he did not, and the two of us would either determine how to minimize the situation in the future or I might conclude that I am working with someone who just doesn’t get it! What I don’t want to be is the AR who the referee concludes just doesn’t get it. The lesson here is that the conversation is between the crew members on their time and terms – the coach doesn’t get to broker the conversation!
The other lesson is that the members of the crew must ALWAYS support each other. If a coach or player senses that we are not on the same page they will exploit that to everyone’s regret. We can also be assured that the coach who treats us like his or her best buddy when lobbying the center about the “missed call” saying what a great referee we are will throw us under the bus in a heartbeat the next time we make a call against his or her team.
I am curious about your opinions to this scenario. What do you think? How have you handled this situation? (everyone encounters it sooner or later)
P.S. This “not on the same page” often happens with regard to handling fouls. More experienced referees tend to call far fewer deliberate handling offenses than newer referees. Most contact of ball to hand is simply that. I have had coaches scream “hand ball” every time a ball bounced up and hit the hand at the side of a ten year-old! In this situation, the wise assistant referee adjusts to what the referee is calling that day.