Category Archives: Advice Posts

Club Lines Person

The Club Line Briefing

The Club Line Briefing

Up until this year, all SJ small-sided matches were staffed with single referees. Occasionally, full-sided matches would also have a single referee. Even with the use of full crews on many small-sided matches this year, we may still find ourself working a match as the only appointed certified official. In addition, occasionally, a crew member does not show or is injured and there may only be two appointed referees present. In these situations, we use club lines people. A club lines person is a volunteer from the spectators present who assists the referee with ball off the field decisions. Read the rest of this entry


Competition Rules, Law 18, and “Gotcha” Refereeing

Yellow Card

Sometimes referees need to be cautioned

We have an obligation to know and apply the Laws of the Game (LOTG). It is helpful to know that the historical role of the referee was to be the independent judge to whom the teams would “refer” any disagreement. The expectation in the middle of the nineteenth century was that gentlemen (organized sports being the province of the privileged) should be able to play a game with minimal involvement of the judge.

Over time, this role began to be referred to (no pun intended) as the “referee” (well, maybe a little intended). And over time, unfortunately, the need for the referee became greater. That the referee is still the person that gets involved (or interferes, as a coach might put it) only as necessary is embedded in the Laws of the Game in concepts such as “trifling offenses”, “advantage”, and “if in the opinion of the referee”. This last term, commonly designated IITOOTR, is to give the referee the leeway to NOT get involved when it is appropriate, or get MORE involved when it is necessary.

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Getting Ready for Spring Soccer

Spring is Just Around the Corner

Are you ready for some Futbol?

You should also be checking through your gear and uniforms to make sure that you are ready to hit the ground running. I have an expectation that a new referee with the Fall season under his or her belt will have one or more alternate jerseys and a long-sleeve yellow. As a self-employed professional you need to invest in your business if you want to grow your business. Here is a good starting list for your second season of work:

  • The Basics (beyond or enhancing your starter kit):
    • Two pairs of referee shorts (no white-trimmed basketball shorts)
    • Long-sleeve yellow jersey
    • Short-sleeve black jersey (can be worn with LS black sweat shirt as alternate cold weather jersey)
    • Third short-sleeve jersey (green is a popular choice)
    • Two pairs of 3-stripe and two pairs of 2-stripe socks
    • Extra/different whistle (not a pea whistle)
    • Second (back-up) watch with timer
    • Second (back-up) pair of black shoes (different sole surface, e.g. turf versus flat, cleats versus turf, etc.)
    • Black duffel/gym bag
  • Cold-Weather Gear:
    • Black long-sleeve sweat shirt/cold shirt
    • Plain black windbreaker/jacket
    • Black knit hat and gloves

SPRING TOURNAMENTS: There are several in-season tournaments in the Spring. I do not assign any that occur on what would otherwise be a league weekend. If you are looking for tournaments, a good place to start is the NJ Youth Soccer Tournament Directory at Read the rest of this entry

Referee Crew Teamwork

El Hadji Diouf ..complains to the Assistant Re...

El Hadji Diouf complains to the Assistant Referee! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the November meeting of the SRANJ, National Referee Coach Barry Towbin provided a presentation on referee crew teamwork. He led a discussion of the referees in the room around several topics critical to successful referee teamwork. Barry challenged referees in the room with questions and used their answers as well as their comments and questions to augment his presentation.

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No Pass – No Play – No Exceptions


(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For all USSF sanctioned competitions that we work, we must make sure that the participants have a valid pass for the competition. In addition to being used to validate that the rosters and players match and are in order, the pass may be required as the “entry ticket” to enter the pitch in competitions with limited substitutions. In competitions with unlimited substitutions, the player still must have a valid pass at check-in (and for late arrivals, before they enter the pitch).

With one exception, the passes for any one match must be the same for both teams and for all participants on each team. Some teams have passes from more than one registration authority (such as NJYS and US Club). In some cases the same two teams will play each other under one set of passes, and then play again another time under the other. We cannot allow mixed passes, even for coaches. Both teams and all participants play under one set or the other – never mixed.

The exception: EDP will permit an official friendly match in which one team has US Club passes and the other USYSA passes. This friendly MUST be approved by the EDP league administrator (you should have an email to that effect). All of the players on one team must have the same passes. If these conditions do not exist, do not officiate the match. Collect your fee, write up your report, and submit to your assignor and competition authority.

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Referee Positioning

This diagram represents a Diagonal system of c...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have a tendency to overreact when given advice or feedback about my weaker areas. When I got the typical feedback early in my career that my whistle needed to be stronger, I worked on it to the point that feedback now is the opposite. Last year I was advised that my whistle could be quieter in some situations – players three fields away were stopping play!

I have heard the comments we all do at association meetings and recertifications about avoiding the “referee retention circle” (center circle). In the past I have also received direct guidance, advice, and/or feedback about my positioning. As a result, over the years, I have worked to get wider and go deeper on my diagonals. I have also tried to follow the general advice to always be able to see play and one assistant referee. In attempting to meet these objectives, I had adopted some bad habits (from good intentions) that result in suboptimal positions for the current play, reactive rather than proactive movement for the next phase of play (consequently having to work too hard), and extreme positions (wide or deep) that exacerbated the first two problems.

Last year, Mark Geiger (at the time NJSDI) gave a USSF presentation at a SRANJ meeting about some new concepts on referee position that are evolving. These concepts address the issues I mention above. I am attempting to absorb the material and work it into my toolbox. This weekend, I will be using a tournament and feedback from colleagues to fine-tune the approach. Like any attempt to break habits, I expect it to be rough around the edges at best, if not downright clumsy and awkward. I will report back on my experience. In the meantime, here is the positioning presentation:

Positioning – Revised


Managing Injuries

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(Photo credit: goatling)

State Referee Emeritus (and NJSDI) Derek Von Langen delivered a USSF presentation on managing injuries at the May meeting of the SRANJ. He discussed the Laws of the Game that reference injury management, and then presented the USSF position on injury management in youth and amateur soccer. He stated that the Laws of the Game state that a referee shall stop play only for serious or severe injury. What constitutes serious or severe is up to the referee’s judgment on that day in that match. It will depend on the age and expectations of the players.

With youth players, and even with most amateur players, safety is the overriding concern. For U-10 any time a player is on the ground from a possible injury, we shall treat it as serious and STOP THE MATCH. As the players get older, we might wait a moment to see if they get up, but if there is any doubt, we STOP THE MATCH. For any obvious severe or serious injury, we MUST STOP THE MATCH.

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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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IFAB Decision on Head Scarves

From US Soccer:


The International Football Association Board (IFAB) has completed its evaluation of how to implement its decision to allow headscarves to be worn under certain conditions.

As this is a temporary measure and subject to change based on reported experiences, it is not at this time being made part of the Laws of the Game, but FIFA has issued a directive with the following guidelines which are in effect immediately.

Law 4 – The Players’ Equipment

The headscarf must

  • be of the same color as the jersey
  • be in keeping with the professional appearance of the player’s equipment
  • not be attached to the jersey
  • not pose any danger to the player wearing it or any other player (e.g., opening/closing mechanism around neck)
  • only be worn by female players

U.S. Soccer’s Advice to Referees

  • The phrase “same color as the jersey” can be expanded to mean the same main color as the jersey
  • The inspection for safety of any headscarf should be focused on the objective of allowing the scarf to be worn unless it is clearly unsafe and cannot be made safe
  • This language confirms that male players cannot wear headscarves under any circumstances