How referees need to deal with dissent from coaches

Over the years, I’ve learned that it’s important to let coaches have their say. I also try and let coaches vent a little more than I would normally allow if they are frustrated by their team’s performance or the score. But a ref cannot control the game while allowing coaches to give a running commentary of the officiating during the match. Coaches would not appreciate it if I gave a running commentary of their coaching instructions and decisions during the game, eh?

More importantly, allowing dissent on nearly every call against that team contributes to an atmosphere in which players stop playing soccer and begin to focus on what the ref is calling, or not, which leads to more robust challenges and more dissent. Refs should deal with dissenting coaches by utilizing the Ask, Tell and Dismiss protocol recommended by U.S. Soccer.

When irresponsible behavior starts, the ref should ask the person to modify his or her behavior. Second, should the behavior not return to an acceptable level, the ref should tell the coach that his or her actions will not be tolerated and must be stopped. Finally, if the unacceptable behavior continues, the ref should take the final step and dismiss the person from the area of the field of play and its immediate surroundings.

If you do not dismiss the coach, you will most likely lose control of the game, in part because you did not do what you said would. Plus, that coach will think that he or she can yell at officials with impunity and will probably do the same to the officials at the team’s next match. In fact, you could be receiving the effects of a coach who is a yeller and possibly a referee-baiter but who has gone unpunished up to this point.

Upon dismissal, the coach must leave the field area for the duration of the match. The locker room or a distant parking lot would be a good place for the coach to go.

Should the coach refuse to leave the field area, simply tell him or her, “Coach, if you refuse to leave the field area, I will be forced to terminate this match because of your actions.”

Then abandon the match if the coach still refuses to leave.

In cases where behavior is overly disruptive, blatant or serious, the ref is always authorized to bypass any warning and immediately issue a dismissal. Examples of this include a coach using offensive, insulting or abusive language or gestures; mocking the ref, an opposing player or coach; or using a racial, ethnic slur, etc.

College, high school and many youth leagues in the United States and Canada instruct the ref to caution the coach with a yellow card and dismiss the coach with a red card. The changes to the FIFA rules for 2019-20 require that a yellow or red card be shown to the coach. This is a positive change as I prefer using cards for disciplining the coaches (just like in disciplining the players) as there can be no misinterpretation as to what occurred. Without the cards, a coach in an arbitration hearing could possibly complain, “I was not a problem at all during the game. I simply asked the ref what the call was and he dismissed me.”

So for 2019-20, think that “ask” is a verbal warning, “tell” becomes a yellow card and “dismiss” is a red card.

Another new change coming this year is if the offender cannot be identified, the senior coach (usually the head coach) who is in the technical area at the time will receive the yellow or red card as that person is responsible for the other team officials. This is another positive change as the only official who is generally facing the bench is AR2, across the field from the coaches. And identifying the dissenting coach can be even more of an issue if the ref does not have assistant referees but club linespersons instead. So, it can be difficult to know which coach said what. Instead of trying to figure it out anymore, the ref simply sanctions the head coach.

Most coaches are very well-behaved. A small percentage of coaches will not be and they need to be controlled. Control them, control the game. Don’t control them, the match will most likely become out of control.

Follow and enforce the rules, and you will be surprised how much support you receive. The league, after reading your game report, will suspend the coach.

You might also receive support from those at the field. After all, people do not like it when others curse or constantly complain, especially if it’s in front of their own children.

The above has worked for me with game control and I’ve only had to dismiss several coaches over thousands of matches.

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

3 comments about "How referees need to deal with dissent from coaches".
  1. Ric Fonseca, May 13, 2019 at 2:35 p.m.

    I'd like to share the following conversation I had several nights ago while having a bit to eat in a sushi-sports bar: A very good friend and avid sports fan 9 mostly fb, bkb, and major league ball. As we were watching the sport news, a soccer report was shown, and ouf of the blue, my friend "now, see Ric, this is why I don't like to watch soccer, too much drama, theatrics, diving,.)  Just then, the scene changed to an NBA gamer, player attempts a 3 pointer, misses, falls into defender and as if like magic he falls and writhes and rolls on the floor.  At which time, time is called, the officials go to the scorers table review the play, determined no foul, and play continues one, but the "fouled" player continues to argue the call, resulting in him getting a Technical.  My friend, then says, now see this is what ought to happen with soccer, review-replay of the incident, etc.  To my surprise I said you know, we do have such an instrument now in play almost workd wide called "VAR", and to my amazement my amigo pauses for a moment, and says, "well Ric, since and if this is case now, maybe I will now see more soccer...."
    I share this with you because of the "new" revolutionary changes occuring in our sport, such as what Ref. Vogt writes about, e.g. having control of the game, etc., yet I found it very interesting to hear my all-sports klnowledable (except for soccer) friends that because of the theatrics - real or phony - that our sport athletes have become so adept and skillfull that some do merit a mention during the myriad of sports award shows that we're inundated with. Nevertheless, I trust that we have at least added or converted a new soccer afficionado!  

  2. Ian Plenderleith, May 13, 2019 at 4:01 p.m.

    Sound and sane advice, Randy. And thank Fifa that we can finally issue cards to the bench from next season and iron out all ambiguities.

  3. Craig Cummings, May 14, 2019 at 11:39 p.m.

    College and high schools have had  the rules for yellow and red for coaches and team benches  correct for years. Good job FIFA.

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