Commentary

Referees should get a vote! And a rulebook would be nice

The best way to figure out who's going to be voting for U.S. Soccer Federation President on Feb. 10 is to read Paul Kennedy's article, "Nuts and bolts: How U.S. Soccer's presidential election will work."

Athletes get a 20% share (by Federal law), and Youth, Adult and Pro factions get 25.8% each, plus 2.6% "miscellaneous."

That seems a reasonable distribution -- but for one glaring omission. Referees.

The latest U.S. Soccer Financial Statement on its web site is from 2016. Here's where the referees are mentioned:

REVENUE
Referee Registration and affiliation fees:
$3,082,803

EXPENSES
Referee program:
$2,736,266

That's a lot of registration without representation.

I pay $50 a year to renew my Grade 8 U.S. Soccer referee license, and in return, a month or so later, I receive my new badge. What I no longer get is a copy of the rulebook.

I kid you not, the U.S. Soccer Federation does not send its referees a copy of the rulebook. It refers refs to the download on its web site.

No matter how accustomed we are becoming to phone, tablet and computer reading, I would wager that the majority of refs would still like to have the printed rulebook.


My first (circa 1977) and most recent badge.

The U.S. Soccer Federation Referee Program does provide some excellent services. Its monthly e-letters and YouTube channel provide valuable info and continued education for refs, and even has Spanish-language videos. And I hail U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati for in 2015 responding to the request to allow us to wear caps to protect us from the threat of skin cancer. The Federation obviously does care about and listen to its refs.

But it should also give refs a vote.

If refs had a vote, I'd ask our representative to get commitments from the candidates to send us a rulebook. I'd ask for the patch to come with velcro (which would alleviate a small inconvenience but would be greatly appreciated). And it shouldn't take so long to get the patch.

Spending another $6 for the rulebook may not sound like a lot. But every little bit helps. After buying all the required gear and paying for registration, you've got to officiate four or five games just to break even.

It's not just about the money, though. The 150,000 U.S. Soccer-registered referees have experience at all levels of the game, and interact with every sector of the soccer community -- players, parents, coaches, administrators.

That makes refs an invaluable source for perspective on the American game -- and deserving of a vote.

12 comments about "Referees should get a vote! And a rulebook would be nice".
  1. Randy Vogt, January 10, 2018 at 6:31 a.m.

    Amen!!! Taxation without representation is tyranny, or something like that. Mike is absolutely right and this is just another instance where the refs are forgotten about until there’s a problem. I've purchased rulebooks the past two years and it seemed silly for me that I should have to buy the book instead of it being provided. It's in my ref case should I need it and I open the book every couple of weeks or so for review, guidance or to check on something. And although I had been wearing a cap on nice days since the turn of the millennium, I was aware that US Soccer had not formally approved them and will forever be indebted to Sunil to understanding the validity of our argument and quickly approving caps after a series of Soccer America articles in 2015. So soccer refs today need not have the same issues with skin cancer on the scalp (and face) that I've had from all those years of reffing in the sun with no cap when I was much younger.

  2. R2 Dad, January 10, 2018 at 9:40 a.m.

    Good point, Mike. I'd also venture to say that since everyone keeps saying that we should discover our style of play, that referees are the ones who help determine what that style is. If officiating rewards thug play, the teams have little incentive to develop skillful ballhandling when it's easier to get the hacks off your back by lumping it forward.

  3. Coach Referee, January 10, 2018 at 11:50 a.m.

    Yes, I want a copy of the Laws of the Game.  I always thought that we were getting away with highway robbery when the annual renewal cost was only $25/year. Then, it jumped to $40 and now it's at $50 and we get no copy of the current Laws of the Game?!?!  Yes, a copy to carry around in my bag is a necessity.

  4. Bill Riviere, January 10, 2018 at 12:09 p.m.

    Mike, You are so right! How do we get this done with USSF?  Do we referees have any representation in terms of personnel at headquarters?  If so, they need to hear what referees think and need.  Maybe the wrong ones are there? Our fees have risen dramatically vs inflation and we are getting less? To be really cynical, smething smells fishy..... 

    A rule book is a must for every referee--especially youth referees.  I carry one in my bag all the time.  The world of online everything needs to stop just before canceling the written rule book!

    There also seems to be plenty of money going into U. S. Soccer's coffers on the backs of referees (approximately $346,500 more than expenses last year).  The question begs to be asked: how does that extra revenue benefit referees?


  5. Bob Ashpole, January 10, 2018 at 12:29 p.m.

    Yes!

  6. Ben Lukas, January 10, 2018 at 1:55 p.m.

    Quick math shows something like 60,000 referees, assuming revenues of $50 per ref per year. Likely this is high, as course income is likely included. But undoubtedly there are tens of thousands of referees.

    Labor practices would indicate a lot of market force if 60,000 referees had a trade association that could bargin with USSF, state associations, etc.

  7. Michael Saunders, January 10, 2018 at 2:30 p.m.

    While I appreciate the accomodation made by the Federation to allow refs to wear a hat, it is beyond my comprehension that the demand for representation has yet to occur.    I also concur with the call for a rule book to be supplied to all referees as part of the fee. 

    The issue boils down to representation by what body or person(s) to work with the Fedearation to represent our views as well as the basic right to vote.   Sounds easy; but it is not.  Guarantee there will be resistence to any idea of a trade association or similar.   Get that done, and enfranchisement will become a reality. 


  8. Wooden Ships, January 10, 2018 at 7:12 p.m.

    Great idea, Rule books too. Referees are chronically overlooked and under appreciated. Without them, no game. R2 you’re absolutely correct. Regardless of the city, state or country I played in, the referees soccer immersion/experience coexisted with the quality of play. 

  9. Ron L, January 10, 2018 at 11:30 p.m.

    Getting representation would be a good thing but how would that happen? Through our SRA?  The SRA is not a representative of the Referees. In fact, the SRA is chosen by the state's amateur and youth associations to make the Referees their servants. We as Referees don't even get to give input to the selection of the SRA.  Its really time for an organization for Referees.  An association that protects our rights as private contractors and can put a fire under those who collect our registration and return nothing.  In some states the SRA uses collected money to take expensive trips to tournaments, Regionals and Nationals, to observe and represent the Referees selected for those events.  The Referees must pay for their trip but the SRA go on the backs of their Referees.  In one particular state, the SRA demands all Assignors to use a specific assigning system or be de-certified as Assignors.  That SRA goes to conferences on the company that supplies the assigning system. Most SRAs have integrity, but I wouldn't count on them to represent me as a Referee.
    Yes, we should have a voice but not the ones currently not representing us.

  10. Ben Myers, January 15, 2018 at 3:07 p.m.

    Mike, you are spot-on with both points.  Why no representation of referees in USSF voting? 

    Are these people thinking that referees will consult their cellphones with 4" screens to read LOTG?  I do have an obsessive friend referee coordinator who carries a large tablet to every match he watches as a spectator, so he can consult LOTG.  At a match a number of years ago, I was able to cite the law about encroachment on PKs, after which he pulled out his tablet and verified it.

    However, I think that $6 for a paper copy of LOTG is way too high.  In high volume, these little books cost no more than $0.50 to print and $1.00 for bulk mailing including mailer.  While we are at it, how about we make sure that more registered coaches have their own copy of LOTG?  Having their own copies might mean that some coaches would actually READ the laws and even fewer would understand them, but that would still be an improvement over the current state of affairs in which coaches show their unconscionable ignorance of the LOTG, and, worse yet, they pass that ignorance on to their players.

  11. Ben Myers, January 15, 2018 at 3:10 p.m.

    One more comment.  In addition to their numerous contacts throughout the game, there are some referees who play other roles as league or state administrators, coaches.  They ARE wired into soccer goings on.

  12. John Gordon, January 18, 2018 at 2:03 p.m.

    Dear Mike, I will show you my 1982 patch AND it cost me a more for both regular and futsal registration in 2018 - with no book for either. A major point that is forgotten - Referees are responsible for maintaining the integrity of the game that everyone sees. We are separate from clubs, leagues, administrators, fans, players. We are the ones responsible for protecting the environment of the game on the field of play so that its fairness, beauty and skill can be enjoyed by all - players & fans. That independance should be respesented by at least a 10% influence in the vote for US Soccer leadership.

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