Not enforcing rules becomes a slippery slope

The assistant referees were having a lively debate at halftime.

I was the ref of a Division 3 women’s college game. The white team had dominated the first half and was up 3-0 as we approached halftime. In the last minute of the half, a white shot was going into the goal until a maroon defender on the goal line raised her arm and batted the ball down, preventing a goal. I awarded the penalty kick and sent off the defender for denial of a goal.

Regarding the red card, AR1 (the assistant referee by the benches) said, “Randy, you just killed the game.”

AR2 countered, “What was he supposed to do?”

They had a passionate debate for a couple of minutes with AR1 stating that he was concerned that white was so much better than maroon 11 vs. 11 and now they would be up a player so the score could approach the double digits in the second half.

I had the final word and said, “We are here to enforce the rules and protect the players. We do not pick and choose which rules we enforce and which ones we do not for the entertainment of the spectators.”

The white coach put in her subs for the second half and maroon played some of their subs too. White continued to dominate possession but could not score in the second half. In the last minute of the game, a maroon attacker received the ball at midfield and went to goal on a breakaway. Around 35 yards from goal, a white defender was on her heels but was always behind her.

If the defender fouled the attacker outside the penalty area, I would have given a free kick and sent off the defender for DOGSO, denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity. If the foul was committed inside the penalty area, I would have awarded a penalty kick. Additionally, I would have sent off the defender for DOGSO if the foul was holding, pulling or pushing, she did not attempt to play the ball or if it was a red card foul anywhere on the field, as the rules now state.

Perhaps one reason that the defender did not foul was because she knew that I would have no hesitation in showing her a red card, as I did to the defender in the first half.

Enforcing all the rules is obviously important because when you do not enforce them, it becomes a slippery slope as the players quickly pick up on this. Take a boys U-17 game in which I was AR1. The ref correctly awarded a penalty kick at the start of the game when a defender deliberately handled the ball just inside the penalty area.

The ref’s game control suffered as he needed to continue to be decisive and was not. Midway through the first half, a purple attacker was dribbling on a breakaway when he was deliberately held from behind by a white defender just outside the penalty area with only the keeper between the attacker and the goal. The ref awarded a free kick and took nearly a minute to give out the card.

This was in the other half of the field from me and during this time, the white coach said to a sub, “If Johnny receives a red card, we will put you in on defense for Mark.”

Instead of a red card for DOGSO, the ref incorrectly gave the white defender a caution for unsporting behavior.

Seeing that DOGSO was only to be a yellow card offense that game, purple No. 9 fouled an attacker on a breakaway 35 yards from goal midway through the second half and was cautioned. That same No. 9 fouled another attacker on a breakaway in the last minute of the game and was not sanctioned as the ref did not want to send off anybody that game.

I cannot recall ever being part of a game with three DOGSO incidents and a reason for so many was because the players knew the ref was hesitant to show his red card. When I said something to him, he told me that “You might be the ref on other games but I’m the ref for this game.”

(Randy Vogt, the author of "Preventive Officiating," has officiated more than 10,000 games. Go HERE for the archive of Vogt's referee Soccer America referee articles.

12 comments about "Not enforcing rules becomes a slippery slope".
  1. Austin Gomez, March 20, 2018 at 2:29 p.m.

    Randy Vogt:   Very disgusted and disappointed upon hearing the AR-1 state, (nearby at the Team's Technical-Area):  "This Referee killed the Game" ---- (due to the Referee's correctly ENFORCED Red Card being given for a true 'DOGSO' incident to this (maroon-jersey) Player!  No, this (maroon) Player 'KILLED' the Game, (NOT the Referee), by her 'misconduct-type' Action. ....... [By the way, I have officiated many Soccer games where the 'short-handed' Team eventually won their Game ---- but, of course, this Fact is truly Not relevant].  ..........   ARs, (like this one), have a very Bad ATTITUDE towards the Game-of-Soccer and are a true detriment to the Game, (unless they change their 'Mental-Approach' to the Game towards FARINESS in all Decisions ----- rergardless of the 'TIME and the SCORE' of the Game aspects, which do Not matter, whatsoever).  .............  [Just a few Thoughts, Randy]!

  2. beautiful game, March 20, 2018 at 3:39 p.m.

    That's the problem with FIFA and most global referees who become subjective when they should be proactive in enforcing LOTG..

  3. Goal Goal, March 20, 2018 at 4:12 p.m.

    I am curious about officiating and general play here at the youth level here in the United States.  I just returned from viewing training methods in three very well known youth acadamies in Spain.  Of course while observing the training I had the opportunity to watch games both in scrimmage and in division play at the ages of 2000 and 2002 groups.  Saw none of this knock down drag out type of soccer that we witness here in the US on a regular basis.  When there were fouls that were out of line they were immediately called by the officials and the game went on.  None of this intentional fouling that could potentially cause injury to a player.  

    My question is why do we allow it to go on here?  Its almost on the verge of complete disregard for players safety which is one of the prime responsibility of the officials.

  4. R2 Dad replied, March 21, 2018 at 12:04 a.m.

    The unfortunate reality is that officials use dozens of excuses for not applying the LOTG, Randy mentioning one of most frequently given: referee doesn't want to send anyone off (which requires additional paperwork). But there are loads used: ref wanted an "even" match, "sporting" score line, didn't want to hear it from the coaches all game long, didn't want to hear it from the fans, didn't want to be followed to his car, liked one coach more than the other, knew player(s) on one team, had kids on the same club as one of the two teams playing, didn't actually see the offending play, didn't bother to check with ARs to indicate/confirm offense, ref likes to "let them play", "soccer is a physical game". I'm sure Randy knows more choices ones.

  5. Bob Ashpole, March 20, 2018 at 6:31 p.m.

    Great article Randy. I don't think anybody that has never been an official can understand what it is like to center a game. 

     Best explanation of your role that I ever read: "We do not pick and choose which rules we enforce and which ones we do not for the entertainment of the spectators.”

    From a player's and coach's perspective, we want the officials to use Law 12 to keep play safe, and we want consistency in the application of the laws.    

  6. Doug Broadie, March 21, 2018 at 3:15 p.m.

    I tell the referees that they are there to enforce the rules.  I also warn them not to follow what they see the pro refs do on tv as they are there as part of the entertainment of the game, not the enforcement of the rules.  Because they do not call the game evenly, they cause more of the same problems noted above.
    I would also like to know when the last time you saw a foul given for obstruction.  It's still in the rules, but as Phil Shane on BEIN says, he last saw it in 1998.  I've seen several penalty kicks given where it should have been an indirect for obstruction. 
    I listen to the head of MLS referees and can't believe some of the decisions that he backs.  I do wish that the USSF and MLS had asked French and Spanish referees to help with the PRO referees rather than the English who I consider the worst in Europe.  They rarely give reds where they are truely deserved.

  7. R2 Dad replied, March 21, 2018 at 4:45 p.m.

    Mostly agree. What's needed in MLS is FIFA-level officiating in order to encourage skillful play over running and hacking. However, the Nats need to get used to CONCACAF-level jungleball in order to suceed at the international level.

  8. Bob Ashpole replied, March 22, 2018 at 2:03 p.m.

    R2 Dad, coaches devise game plans, players execute them--or not, and officials enforce the laws. Expecting referees to improve the game plan is unrealistic.

  9. R2 Dad replied, March 22, 2018 at 2:43 p.m.

    Bob, I think you're a little short-sighted here. The coaches tell their players to play to the whistle, and take what the referees give/allow. If the referee allows jungleball there is no skillful play, regardless of any game plan. This is partly why our U16-U21 development has been so stunted--officials allowing more physical play (afraid to issue cards = more paperwork) instead of adhering to the LOTG, which rewards skillful play when adequately implemented. So that's why officiating can improve or degrade our level of play. Our country is plagued by immodest coaches and referees who think they're all above average, like they all live at Lake Wobegon, "where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average."

  10. Bob Ashpole replied, March 23, 2018 at 12:29 p.m.

    R2 Dad, my opinion is based on participation in about 800 adult matches over 25 years with many different teams and officials. My opinion may be wrong, but it is not short sighted.

  11. R2 Dad replied, March 23, 2018 at 11:32 p.m.

    Thanks for proving my point, Bob!

  12. Goal Goal, March 22, 2018 at 4:49 p.m.

    R2 that is exactly what I was referring to in my adventures in Spain a short while ago.  Officials there are not apprehensive about calling the game as it should be called.  Certainly it is a physical game but should not be a vicious game as what we see in this country some time.  Thus you see more skill and open play without fear of being stomped into the ground or seriously injured.  If it happens call the file, and issue the card yellow or red based on the seriousness.  What I see in some of these showcases around the country as it pertains to out of control rough  play is very disappointing.

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