Reffing according to the score?

I’ve written about non-competitive games before -- Why So Many Non-Competitive Games? & Preventing Lopsided Scores -- and there remain too many in soccer.

Youth soccer organizers need to realize that it does not benefit anybody to schedule a Division 1 team against a Division 6 squad, such as in cup games, tournaments or futsal leagues. Thankfully, I rarely see the winning team trying to run up the score against an overmatched opponent as they almost always show some compassion to that team.

As many people realize that I’m an experienced official, often the winning coach asks my advice on what to do to not continuously score goals.

My recommendation usually is along the lines of playing back to the keeper at the start of possession, playing low-pressure until around the halfway line so the overmatched team can establish some possession and hopefully gain some confidence, or shoot only with the weaker foot. I’m less thrilled with something that looks obvious such as only scoring on headers and am kind of neutral on playing with fewer players as that’s less participation in the game and that can look obvious too.

Sometimes before these games, I am asked by coaches of an overmatched team to help their team. “Ref, the other team is so much better than us so I would appreciate it if you help us out” and “We only have nine players show up today so I would like your assistance to keep this game from getting out of hand” are actual comments that I’ve received before matches.

So, I simply tell the coach that an official is bipartisan and I ref according to the rules, not according to the score.

I’ve not won friends this way with the losing coaches. One memorable comment came after the end of a 11-0 game played in the girls U-14 age group. With the game in the last minute, as the winning team was going toward the goal, a defender of the losing team tripped her outside the penalty area. I blew my whistle and gave the free kick, which was not scored.

After the game, the losing coach said to me as I was leaving the field, “Ref, we’re getting blown out so why did you call a free kick against us at the end of the game?”

So I responded to him, “And if I did not whistle that trip and the fouled player then retaliated by deliberately fouling the player who tripped her, whose fault would that have been?” It would have been mine as I did not enforce the rules.

Summarizing, referees might certainly feel some compassion to an overmatched opponent but we cannot let this influence our decisions as it will be our problem should game control suffer when we don’t enforce the rules.

(Randy Vogt, the author of "Preventive Officiating," has officiated more than 10,000 games.)

5 comments about "Reffing according to the score?".
  1. Sam Dean, October 9, 2018 at 3:19 p.m.

    If your team will easily win a game, make them pass a certain amount of times before shooting. If the other team touches the ball, the count starts over. Increase the touches if your team can still score easily.

  2. Craig Cummings, October 9, 2018 at 10:28 p.m.

    Keep going Randy and PLAY on. we are not getting any younger,

  3. Bob Ashpole, October 10, 2018 at 1:14 a.m.

    Good article, Randy. Good suggestions.

  4. R2 Dad, October 10, 2018 at 1:53 a.m.

    Another excellent column that could alternately have been turned into a 600 page novel titled, "Dumb Stuff Coaches Tell Me Because They Don't Know League Rules & The LOTG But Should, They're Supposed To Be Real Coaches For Chrissakes, Gawd They Don't Pay Me Enough To Deal With These Twits".

  5. Tony Pizzaro, October 12, 2018 at 10:15 p.m.

    This isn't a complicated issue, I feel it's more common sense. Let's put women's soccer aside for a moment. The boys side in most cases is getting some of the best training possible in the DA and academy programs play for free in some cases. It's not for everyone because a serious commitment for players and the parents. You can forget about other sport because that's pretty much it, soccer, 10 month of it. Most of these players will get D1 scholarships and if there academics are there will be going to college for free. The percentage turning pro or signing oversees will get better over time, but the bottom line is the education. How would you like to get out of college debt free, that's a nice start. 

    The women' side is another story. I don't get it. I'm a huge women soccer fan because I have 3 daughters. We have been on top on the women' side dating back to the early 90's and thanks to what Mia Hamm, Chaistain, Lilly and company creating the opportunities that are here today and believe me they are the ones that created it with there blood sweat and tears to get the venues we have today. There are scholarship opportunities all over America for youth female athletes. Tread wisely though and be choosy were you play, a make good decisions because the competitiveness of the sport is taxing and can pass you by in a blink. Even with the guideline against recruiting you need to get your ducks in a row before you get out of your sophmore year, so your ready, willing and able to make the right decision for college when your junior year arises.
    The problem with high school soccer is just flat out bad. Most of the talent plays because of the friends they see everyday. If high schools would clamp down and get some serious coaching, I think you would see some reconsideration. Yes, you have kids getting put in the paper and there's article after article, but in most cases it's smoke and mirrors. What's the competition there playing against. Kids are getting awarded All Catholic because there a senior, when did that start? Playing varsity use to mean something, now you just have to show up. Years ago these opportunities where not there, especially on the women side. Take the 2 1/2 month and make it worthwhile and prepare for the upcoming season with your club team. There's a few good coaches in every division in high schools, but for the most case, the sport has past them by. Soccer is evolving and as I said, it's very taxing for all of us with travel, time and money. I think it's to early for the girls side, to make the determination with the DA, but I think the women were doing fine with the ECNL and the training centers for recruits, but I guess the powers to be saw something with the DA($). Because I havn't seen any youth female teams playing for free. Although, there partnered with many of the NWSL, they pay, which is to be expected until there filling seats .          

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