Soccer has never been more popular in the United States. Tens of millions Americans watched the 2014 World Cup and 2015 Women’s World Cup, MLS is experiencing record attendance and my own father Bill Vogt, more of a football and baseball fan, could even tell you the secret signals between referees and AR’s. Take a wild guess who he learned those from!
The games that all these Americans are watching use FIFA’s rules. Yes, there might be some modifications for youth soccer but these are the rules used throughout the world.
Except if you were to tune in to a college game or high school match that uses different rules from the “Laws of the Game.” There are even subtle differences between college rules and high school rules. Yet over the years, college rules have slowly evolved to resemble the FIFA’s rules a little more.
In New York, both high school and college soccer are played during the fall, when I also ref games under the umbrella of U.S. Soccer. I often have to remind myself during each game the set of rules I am enforcing.
While I doubt that either college soccer or high school soccer would take the bold and correct step of dissolving their rules committees and simply adopting the FIFA rulebook, I have a suggestion where they can keep their rules committees yet align much more with the rest of the world. To do that, they would stop using the scoreboard as official time and let the ref have official time on the field. The scoreboard would start counting up to inform spectators of how far we are into the game.
When MLS first kicked off in 1996, it experimented with official time on the scoreboard but soon found out that it works much better with the ref having official time on his watch.
Last year, nearly 5% of my college and high school games had a goal disallowed by the buzzer of the scoreboard. If I had the official time on my watch, I would have done the common sense thing and extended the half a couple of seconds while the ball went into the goal.
With the scoreboard as official, there’s the added problem for the officials of determining if the ball crossed the line before the period was over. Plus, when the ball is at midfield and the scoreboard has a couple of seconds left, teams stop playing, which looks really bad. They don’t do that with the when the ref keeps time as they never know exactly when the ref will end the half.
By making the ref’s watch official, the NCAA and HS Federation could get rid of many of the responsibilities of the timekeeper and the rules of when to stop the clock.
They could also change their rule that when a throw-in does not enter the field, it goes to the other team as it was thought the winning team was deliberately throwing the ball outside the touchline to waste time. With the ref having official time, the ref could simply add time. It makes sense that you should not award the throw-in to the other team as it was never in play.
Same deal with cautions, which stop the scoreboard clock. There’s a NCAA rule that allows the ref to keep the clock running in the last five minutes of the game when the ref believes a member of the losing team deliberately got cautioned to stop the clock. You cannot make this stuff up!
(Randy Vogt has officiated over 9,000 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 "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.)