Refs need to explain some decisions

Hopefully, the person at the field who knows and understands the rules best is the referee. Many youth soccer games have a couple of coaches on the bench with each team and 30-50 spectators on the other side of the field. The spectators are generally relatives of the players––parents, grandparents and siblings.

Of what could be close to 100 people at a youth soccer game, sometimes the only ones who have read the rulebook are the referee and any assistant referees. For the enjoyment and comprehension of everybody else, it’s helpful when the officials briefly explain hard-to-understand decisions, especially with younger players. I’m emphasizing “briefly.” The ref should spend only a few seconds explaining the decision, because soccer is a free-flowing game.

Should there be a disagreement with what the referee explained, the ref should not get into a dialogue about this with a coach, player, and even worse, a spectator. The ref should smile and restart play, maybe saying something like “We will have to agree to disagree here” would help matters in some cases.

After some of my games, people have approached me, especially spectators, and thanked me for providing brief explanations to a few of my decisions. Obviously, not everybody is always happy. That's often because the critics aren't familiar with the rules. 

Examples of rules frequently misunderstood at youth soccer games:

A player on the ground kicking the ball should not be whistled for dangerous play in most cases -- only when it meets the definition "playing in a dangerous manner."

If a player touches the ball, that does not necessarily mean that the play was not a foul.

Offside cannot be whistled if the ball comes directly from a goal kick, corner kick or throw-in. You are also not in an offside position if you’re in your own half of the field.

The second-to-last defender (the one before the keeper) committing a foul is not necessarily a send-off for DOGSO (Denying an Obvious Goal-Scoring Opportunity) as all 4 D’s must be present: number of defenders, distance to goal, distance from ball and direction of play.

I am able to make humor work for me on the field, but the only person that I ever put down with humor (self-deprecating) is myself and never, ever anybody else. Even in jest, it can be taken the wrong way. Humor works for some refs but not for others. The ref should never become the center of attention. Ditto for the coaches.

(Randy Vogt has officiated more than 11,000 games in six different decades.)

11 comments about "Refs need to explain some decisions".
  1. Kevin Sims, March 5, 2021 at 2:44 p.m.

    Randy ... Thanks for all of your columns. "If a player touches the ball, that does not necessarily mean that the play was not a foul." It took me a moment to identify the context and meaning of your statement. Readers, especially those perhaps not intimately familiar with the game or the laws/rules, may require some clarity. 

  2. Jeff Callan replied, March 5, 2021 at 4:16 p.m.

    I believe he is referring to when making a tackle or other play on the ball ... The defender getting a piece of the ball does not necessarily mean that the play (the tackle) was not a foul.

  3. Randy Vogt replied, March 5, 2021 at 7:40 p.m.

    Jeff is correct. Here's an example: Opponent touches the ball but goes through the other player to get to the ball. Ref whistles a foul so player says, "I got the ball!" True, but player fouled the other player first before touching ball.

  4. Bob Ashpole replied, March 6, 2021 at 1:49 a.m.

    My personal philosophy was to never, ever question or protest a referee's judgment in calls to protect the safety of players. That is job number one. Yet these (along with offsides) have to be the most frequent subject of complaints to officials. 

    Without question a timely word helps to manage players. Nothing inflames a match more than vindictive players believing that the officials will not protect them. But I doubt that feedback results in long term changes to behavior.

    Great topic. 

  5. Kent James replied, March 6, 2021 at 4:20 p.m.

    Similarly, the "I used my shoulder" does not mean it was not a foul (some players, even at the professional level, seem to think that as long as they are shoulder to shoulder there cannot be a foul). My explanation was that they have to be on the way to the ball, not knocking taking their opponent out, and then going for the ball.  If both players are going to the ball and they are shoulder to shoulder, they are essentially on parallel tracks, so there won't be much force (and it should be legal).  

  6. R2 Dad replied, March 7, 2021 at 12:30 a.m.

    Kent, I was wondering when Shoulder Barges was going to come up in a column or comments. Even my monthly referee webinars (which are actually quite good, thank you Matthew Buckman) don't spend much time on this, but I do find implementation of the LOTG can be quite uneven at the amateur level. It seems to me that a legal Shoulder Barge can result in the flooring of a player if the timing of the challenge upsets their opponent's footwork. My interpretation is that jumping into another player occurs if one player's feet both leave the ground to deliver a challenge, but illegal is not possible if one foot is grounded during the challenge. You imply there must not be much force with opponents running parallel to each other, but a legal hip check or shoulder barge cab easily upset a sprinting player. Anyway, that is my 2 cents on the matter--am curious everyone else's take on this issue.

  7. Bob Ashpole replied, March 7, 2021 at 11:46 p.m.

    What is challenging is teaching players how to safely and lawfully charge an opponent in the midst of all the misconceptions that coaches and players have about charging.

    A properly executed shoulder charge is about balance and using the strength of the legs to advantage. It isn't about force, impact, arms, or upper body strength. It is about smoothly taking over the ball without any violence at all. A larger size and height are disadvantages. Being shorter means quicker feet and lower center of gravity. That is where the advantage lies.

  8. Kent James replied, March 9, 2021 at 1:36 p.m.

    R2, there can be strength in a shoulder charge (not giving ground) but there should not be much force. If both players are going to the ball, they should be essentially parallel.  There is some gray area here (I am going to your side of the ball to keep you from having access to it, and you might do the same to me), but we are generally going forward, not at each other.  A foul is committed when a player targets the other player, not the ball.  So if I am going north towards the ball, and you run east to hit me with your shoulder, then you turn north to get the ball, that is illegal.  If we're both going approximately north (differing by a few degrees), our shoulders may meet (unless one of us is ahead of the other), and we can jockey for position (as I said earlier, I would try to get to your side of the ball to shut you off), that's all fair.  But once I'm no longer playing the ball, and simply trying to knock you off your path, that's a foul.

  9. Jonas Cox, March 5, 2021 at 3:43 p.m.

    These are great reminders of some rules relatively unknown to the casual observer (I didn't realize that there's no offsides on a goal kick, and only recently I learned, from my son, that a back pass with only the keeper to beat is also not offsides). Probably should laminate these and a few others and hand them out to parents pre-game!

    This year, we had a high school ref call offsides in the box on a player who was wide (opposite side of the play) and in no way connected to the play (and didn't impede or influence the keeper, unless the keeper has incredible peripheral vision!). Ref called it twice, in similar situations. I thought it might be a COVID modification, but refs in subsequent games said the guy got it wrong.

  10. R2 Dad, March 6, 2021 at 10:25 a.m.

    I know I'm beating dead horses here, but under
    rules frequently misunderstood I'd have to include Every Ball That Hits An Arm Is Not Necessarily A Hand Ball /Handling. Yet I've had livid parents harangue to no end because  their little munchkin didn't get a pen. But that was pre-COVID; with the new IFAB interpretation of Handling and DOGSO youth soccer will only get more contentious. I'm forecasting a huge deficit in the referee ranks coming out of this CA lockdown.Some Youth players missed 3 club seasons (spring, fall, spring) and 2 school seasons. Zero new referee training means we missed out on all those new refs. USSF needs to relaunch the sport in my state, but sounds like they're too busy purging the ranks of non-believers.

  11. Craig Cummings, March 10, 2021 at 9:05 p.m.

    Great stuff Randy, I agree with all you said, and have delt  with all of that over the years. I have not refd here  for over 1 year and I do not miss  the parents and coachs yelling at . H S soccer and Club has just started  here in  cal.  South.

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