By Randy Vogt
It's the most basic principle of any game officiated by the use of a whistle: Play stops when the whistle sounds. Players are told to play the whistle and soccer players can be cautioned if they play the ball a second or two after they hear the whistle. So it’s particularly frustrating that two refs during televised games in the past year blew the whistle for a penalty kick, then allowed the goal to stand when the ball went into the goal, not having the PK taken instead.
In the Red Bulls-Portland Timbers game last August, referee Jason Anno blew the whistle for a Red Bulls penalty kick for a handling foul inside the penalty area. The ball then rebounded from Portland defender David Horst’s arm to the Red Bulls’ Tim Cahill, who shot and scored. Cahill’s shot was by the top of the penalty area. As the ball was going toward the goal, Anno blew his whistle for the PK, then allowed the goal to stand. He should have taken the ball out of the net and given a penalty kick instead.
That situation repeated itself in the Brazil-Italy Confederations Cup game this past Saturday. Uzbekistanian referee Ravshan Irmatov blew the whistle and pointed to the penalty spot when Mario Balotelli was dragged to the ground off a corner kick. Then he allowed Giorgio Chiellini’s shot by the penalty spot, that occurred as the whistle was sounding, to stand. Again, the ref should have taken the ball out of the goal and given the penalty kick.
Teams score on penalty kicks the great majority of the time. The only time that a ref should try and play the advantage for a penalty kick foul is when an attacking player has the ball near the goal with an open goal beckoning.
One of the reasons that referees carry the whistle in their hands, is by raising it to their mouths, gives them an opportunity to see if an advantage situation is developing. It would have been great if the refs in these two situations could have waited an extra split second to see if an advantage situation had developed but I cannot fault them for blowing the whistle as fouls were committed and there’s a much higher probability of the penalty being converted than the following shot.
In games that I have refereed, approximately five times I’ve had to take the ball out of the net as I blew the whistle for a penalty kick before the ball went into the goal. The last time occurred two weeks ago. I can honestly write that I was really hoping that all those penalty kicks would be converted. All were except one years ago. I felt bad about that one time but what could I do? I had to forget about it and continue to ref the game.
I’ve also played the advantage several times when, after a defensive foul inside the penalty area, the ball went to an attacker near the goal who had an open goal to shoot at. All times, the goal was scored.
An NCAA game a few years ago was protested as the losing team had video that the ref blew the whistle before the ball entered the goal, then gave the goal. The NCAA ordered the match to be replayed which was the correct decision.
In the situation in MLS last year and in the Confederations Cup this past weekend, the refs created problems by allowing the goal to stand. How can we tell players to play the whistle if the ref allows play to continue after the whistle?
(Randy Vogt has officiated over 8,000 games during the past three decades, from professional matches in front of thousands to 6-year-olds being cheered on by very enthusiastic parents. In his book "Preventive Officiating," he shares his wisdom gleaned from thousands of games and hundreds of clinics to help referees not only survive but thrive on the soccer field. You can visit the book’s website at www.preventiveofficiating.com/)