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?