Players will circumvent the rules when allowed

The headline above applies to older kids’ games as well as adult games as they have the understanding to know when they can take advantage of the ref. Not so much little kids although even some of the little guys and gals will go around the rules when allowed.

And a perfect example: The Players’ Equipment rule states that every player must wear a jersey, shorts, socks, shinguards and footwear.

Yet it was a weekday night and there was one game of teenage boys at the field. Several of the players on one team were not wearing shinguards. The proper response for the officials was the players needed to have shinguards in order to play. Nobody without shinguards could play and if there were not seven players with shinguards on that team, the game could not be played.

The league president was there and wanted the game to be played, even if that broke the rules, so he convinced the officials to do the game by allowing the kids without shinguards to play. Bad move by the officials, even if they wanted to be “nice guys.”

Wouldn’t you know that because players were allowed to play without shinguards, then other kids in the following weeks in the same league tried to play without them? The league president was still fine with that until I told him, “Every soccer player in every soccer game in the world wears shinguards as the rules specify they must wear shinguards. If a player without shinguards breaks his leg, I would love to take that case if I’m a lawyer. Your league will get sued and the refs will get sued and the kid’s family would probably win that case.”

So the question came up, why couldn’t the league give kids shinguards so they can play?

A ref colleague who’s a lawyer commented, “The responsibility for the provision of shinguards should fall on the player and team, not on the league. By providing shinguards, or other protective gear, the provider may be placing him/herself in a difficult position when it comes to liability should an injury occur to the player as a result of either defective gear or gear that is not sufficiently protective for that particular player. Rather than create such potential exposure, I believe it would be best to assure that the player/team be fully responsible.”

Yet there would not have been so many e-mails going back and forth about this important issue if the league president had not leaned on the refs, who incorrectly said the kids without shinguards could play. If people see an opening when refs do not enforce the rules, then others think they don’t have to follow the rules as well. After all as refs, what you allow you eventually encourage.

I’ve seen other examples when players circumvented the rules and the refs were actually OK with that. One assignor became livid when he heard one of the refs he assigned state, “We don’t follow the rules around here.” So if a ref does not follow the rules, what exactly does a ref do?

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

9 comments about "Players will circumvent the rules when allowed".
  1. Bob Ashpole, September 13, 2019 at 10:21 a.m.

    From the headline I thought the story would be about cheating to win competitions. It is not. Some people, including apparently some adults, don't prioritize the safety of the participants. One expects poor judgment by teenagers, but not adults.

    Safety is "job one" for all officials and should be for all coaches and league officials too.

  2. Randy Vogt replied, September 13, 2019 at 1:21 p.m.

    Bob, there are unfortunately many adults in the game who don't emphasize safety. Regarding the article above, had a similar equipment issue in a recent D3 women's college game where several players wanted to wear ear rings, saying they could not take them out. So I simply said, "If they don't come out, then you cannot play." They came out. The increasing lack of shinguards worn by the players in the league written about above until told they could not play was my most visual way to demonstrate that players will try to circumvent the rules when allowed. But Bob is correct, this also applies to trying to go around the rules to win games.

  3. Beau Dure, September 13, 2019 at 2:34 p.m.

    Could the league escape liability if it granted a voucher for shin guards for new players? Or maybe just take that into account for financial aid? 

    The earring thing came up at a tournament this spring. The boy said the stud couldn't come out because he just had it pierced the day before. Well, don't get your ear pierced the day before a tournament.

  4. uffe gustafsson, September 13, 2019 at 5:20 p.m.

    The other part of uniform is HS soccer is played during the winter in CA. And most players wear a long sleeve shirt under the team shirt and that’s been an ongoing issue as in all long sleeve color have to be the same for the whole team. Every year this becomes an issue, since it’s not part of our uniform and each player bring their own long sleeve.

  5. Randy Vogt, September 14, 2019 at 8:06 a.m.

    So I should point out as Soccer America added the table on compulsory equipment above, one rule that is ignored in almost all youth soccer games is tape covering the socks must be the same color. This is one of the instances where, as Ahmet Guvener advocates, there should be two different sets of rules for grassroots and pro soccer. A few years ago, I was assigned to be an AR for a BU12 state championship game back when U12 games were played on a large field. The ref insisted in enforcing this rule and the kids with different-colored tape on their socks had no other choice but to remove the tape so they could play as they didn’t have other rolls of tape. Needless to say, their coaches were not very pleased.

  6. Bob Ashpole replied, September 14, 2019 at 9:24 a.m.

    Originally there were provisions for flexibility for enforcement, but the new versions seem to have lost sight of the necessary flexibility. They focused on updating the Laws, but the section on Modification seems more restrictive rather than less.

    For instance there is no longer any modifications allowed for women's play. There is also an inflexible limit of substitutions at five. The way the modification is worded may be unintended, but it would not allow more than five at any level of play. Youth is the only exception.

    What I think as the worst is that only the national federation is given flexibility, not the organizers of competitions (e.g., scholastic soccer), the national youth organizations, or the state organizations, much less the clubs and participants.

  7. Ric Fonseca, September 15, 2019 at 1:40 p.m.

    I wasn't going to comment on this topic, still, I used to also be confronted with the shinguard situation, so when a player or several players didn't have them, by some sort of soccer "milagro" lo and behold, they be checking in with the AR, who saw they were wearing them,and it wasn't until after the game when I saw the players remove them - in the form of a reader's digest size magazine.  Letyour imagination run wild here.
    On a related issue vis-a-vis the LOG, how many of you remember how the NCAA, really, and I mean REALLY, circumvented the very LOG and have them conform to them AND, NCAA - AND of course the local high school regs; as for California having high school competition in winter, heck 've seen game officials wear long sleeve sweat shirts.  Oh, and I must also regale you with another LOG tid bit concerning community/junior college LOG here in my Golden State, that seamlessly transition to using FIFA LOG years, now decades, before NCAA (not that this gigantic dictatorial intercollegiate athletics dictatorlike organization) even considered using FIFA.  The person responsible for employing FIFA LOG, was none other than another local So Cal referee, by name of Dan Goldmann - whom I alse remember that he was a science professor at Santa Ana (Community) College, and also called NCAA as well as weekend affiliated and unaffiliated games, and who just happens to be a great friend of another Ref, George Noujaim.  So, shall we just say: PLAY ON!!! 

  8. R2 Dad, September 16, 2019 at 12:52 p.m.

    My least/most favorite violation of the LOTG happened at a tournament, U12s so I didn't think anything curious would occur. Obviously the free kick taker had friends/coaches/relatives that were more cyncial! Free kick in the attacking 3rd, spotted the ball, pointed to the whistle/Wait For My Whistle, and walked off 10 yards and--critically--turned by back for a few seconds to line up the wall. Cheeky kid decided to roll the free kick forward a few yards so when I turned back to the ball it was magically only 7 yards from the wall!
    With olders you continue to face the ball--I just didn't expect this from the little guys!
    Yes, I know cardable offense but I didn't see it and wasn't going to make the game all about me. Lesson learned!

  9. Randy Vogt replied, September 17, 2019 at 10:50 a.m.

    R2, the kid was perhaps not so smart as he should have placed the ball back so it was more than 10 yards from wall when he took the kick. This must have been a few years ago when U12 played on large fields as now it's small-sided and opponents need to be eight yards from free kicks.

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