By Randy Vogt
In soccer, most people are actually very logical and realize that referees cannot get all their decisions correct. Yet it’s very important that the officials get the great majority of the calls correct, particularly with the situations in the hot areas.
If I asked Soccer Americans to name the two hot areas of the field where it’s vital to make the right decisions, I think that most would know that one of the hot areas is the penalty area. After all, a decision here often leads to a goal or disallowing a goal. If it’s a penal foul committed by the defense inside the penalty area, it’s a penalty kick, most of which are converted. If it’s a foul or offside committed by the attacking team, the free kick is in the other direction, sometimes after a goal is disallowed.
The other hot area of the field is by the team’s benches as the team’s coaches are there as well as their substitutes (if they are not warming up).
When I started refereeing in 1978, there was a referee and two assistants, who were called linesmen at the time. Pro soccer than added a fourth official and UEFA has added additional assistant referees in the past few years. How interesting that these additional officials were added in the hot areas of the bench (fourth official) and by the goal (additional assistant referees).
It’s a pet peeve of mine but I have seen far too many referees allow much more contact, especially by the defense inside the penalty area, than they allow at midfield. I agree with Soccer America columnist Paul Gardner that too many referees favor the defense. I am still told by a number of refs in pre-game instructions to “make sure that we do not allow an illegal goal” while they do not mention to “make sure that we do not disallow a good goal.”
We have probably all seen refs applaud the AR for raising the flag in making a good offside decision. I try to also applaud the AR when the flag is left down as the player running onto the ball was onside while the player in the offside position is not interfering with play, an opponent or gaining an advantage.
I have never been an additional assistant referee but I have been a goal judge in the old Major Indoor Soccer League. The concept is the same although if I screwed up in the MISL, I did not have millions of people suddenly know my name and that has happened with the AAR who goofed (during the Ukraine-England game). So that he can escape the limelight, I need not put his name here but he was the ref for the Austria-USA friendly last November in which the AR did not see that a USA shot had just gone over the goal line.
I have been a fourth official which I do not enjoy as much as being a referee or an AR as I like to run. But no matter which position I am assigned, I always try to do my best.
Whether the ref has the help of AR’s, a fourth official or additional assistant referees, it’s very important to be vigilant in the hot areas.
(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/)