Ref Watch: The best of 2022

The USA's 2022 World Cup officials (L-to-R): Corey Parker, Ismail Elfath, Kyle Atkins, Katy Nesbitt and Armando Villarreal.

* * * * * * * * * *

I decided on the eighth day of the World Cup, after watching 27 games in work mode, it was time to watch with fans. My wife and I went to the Speisekammer, the German restaurant and biergarten on Alameda island near Oakland.

Early in the second half of Germany-Spain, someone again screamed unwarranted criticism at the big screen about the work of Dutch referee Danny Makkelie. As I turned my head and rose slightly from my bench, Holly nudged me politely and said, "Just let it go. It's OK."

That made me realize I had been correcting every patron who criticized the officiating with brief lectures on what the rules actually stated.

Once a referee, no matter how else you're involved in the sport, you keep a close eye on the officials, empathize with their challenge, and get especially frustrated when biased observers cast aspersions without having read the rulebook.

For those of us in American soccer who also pay attention to the referees, 2022 was an especially good year. A record five U.S. officials were selected to work at the World Cup in Qatar: Ismail Elfath, Kathryn Nesbitt, Kyle Atkins, Corey Parker and Armando Villarreal.

Four Americans were selected for the 2018 World Cup and three in 2014, after none in 2010 and in 2006 three Americans were unused standbys. In 2012, U.S. Soccer, led by Sunil Gulati, and MLS, with Commissioner Don Garber, collaborated to launch PRO to manage refereeing for pro level in the USA and Canada. When video review was introduced, PRO guided MLS to what was likely the world's most successful introduction of the VAR.

At the 2022 World Cup, U.S. officials were assigned 35 times to 22 games.

For the Argentina-France final, Atkins served as assistant VAR and the fourth official was Elfath (photo), who had been in the middle for three games during the tournament (Portugal-Ghana, Cameroon-Brazil, Japan-Croatia).

Atkins had seven assignments — three as AR to Elfath and four in the VAR booth. Parker, part of the Elfath team with Atkins, also served as an offside VAR for a game.

Nesbitt, one of six female referees selected to a men’s World Cup for the first time, was part of eight games, including Costa Rica-Germany, the historic game that was officiated by an all-female crew for the first time in World Cup history. Nesbitt served as the offside VAR for the match reffed by France's Stéphanie Frappart and AR-ed by Brazil's Neuza Back and Mexico's Karen Diaz. In addition to her seven games as offside VAR, Nesbitt ran the lines for England-Senegal.

Villareal worked a dozen games as the VAR, assistant VAR or support VAR.

* * * * * * * * * *

On how the recent World Cup was officiated in general, Ahmet Guvener  provided in-depth reports for Soccer America:

The final: Szymon Marciniak's legendary performance

VAR, time-keeping and diversity

Officiating at World Cup 2022, a first look

* * * * * * * * * *

Our 2022 coverage also included excerpts from Ian Plenderleith's latest book, Referee Tales. Beau Dure, another SA writer who also refs, provided a rule quiz upon IFABs latest tweaks as well as "TV commentators' over-the-top VAR criticism has far-reaching impact on ref bashing" and "Constant sideline screaming drowns out 'positive coaching.'

Dan Woog wrote about Becky Pagan paving a way for girls and women to join referee ranks and David Reardon, the San Francisco referee coordinator who created a youth team of refs: GO (Game Officials) FC.

In 2022, columnist Paul Gardner — whose writing on refs and the rules over the decades influenced the 1990 offside change to level is onside, how refs deliver second yellow cards, clarifying the ejection of coaches, and requiring numbers on the front of players' jerseys in World Cup play — continued his detailed critique with articles such as: An extraordinary refereeing oversight and When Video Review gets too clever, it's time to rely on a referee's instincts.

You can find all of Soccer America's 2022 referee coverage HERE.

8 comments about "Ref Watch: The best of 2022".
  1. Michael Saunders, December 27, 2022 at 7:11 a.m.

    Bravo Mike ...  Recall often how being in a room of fans, or even a stadium as a fan myself,  to have that compelling urge to correct those who claim knowledge of the LoG who are loud in their opinion about what happemed on the pitch.... 

    But what strikes me most of all is how those of us who have been in that role will analyze a game from a ref's perspective.  I guess once a referee, always a ref.... 

  2. Mike Lynch, December 27, 2022 at 11:45 a.m.

    Sport is competitive play which means a set of rules govern the play. No refs, no game. Coaches need to encourage their players to give back to the game, not just as coaches, but as refs, too. It's a tough sell to motivate a player to ref when the majority of what they see is criticism. Thanks Mike for highlighting the successes of our refs at Qatar 2022! 

  3. Ben Myers, December 27, 2022 at 6:15 p.m.

    Kudos to our 5 referees at the World Cup!  Kudos to Mike and all the other writers who kept officiating at the forefront and covered the issues extremely well!  This was a job well done by all, and I am sure it will continue on into 2023.

  4. Valerie Metzler, December 28, 2022 at 10:23 a.m.

    Great article!  I'll never forget the game during which I watched with a bleacher full of refs:  On the last day of youth soccer camp at Elizabethtown College, (led by my former classmate, Skip Roderick) I arrived early to pick up my son so as to watch the last game of the camp.  That week also happened to be a week of referree camp!  Thus, I was surrounded by other refs watching and critiquing their collegues on the pitch.  It was fascinating to eavesdrop on their conversations. It made me appreciate referrees even more--even more than the couple of seasons I reffed for AYSO here in Altoona.

  5. John Richardson, December 28, 2022 at 1:44 p.m.

    I get so tired of my occasional soccer watching friends who want to change all the rules cause they think they know better.  From offsides to penalty kick shoot outs.  Just STFU

  6. JR Williamson, December 29, 2022 at 3:57 p.m.

    Great article!  For #13, since the "clarifying" language that described that a ball played into the hand by the feet or head is not typically a handball was removed, are we supposed to interpret that change to mean that we should be considering that scenario now as handball (where we didn't before), or is the intent to just rely on the original consideration language that the ball is played too close to them to get out of the path of the ball (whether it is played by themselves versus an opponent), and therefore no handball?

  7. R2 Dad, January 1, 2023 at 10:25 a.m.

    Certainly not among the best performances was one of the last matches of 2022, Barca/Espanyol. Lahoz, coming off a disasterous WC semi (ARG-NDL), was keeping it together until a poorly decided penalty caused the wheels to fall off. 7 yellows and 2 reds, from the supposedly best ref in La Liga. This has got to be the worst feeling for a professional ref, and to have it happen twice in one month does not bode well for his judgement and confidence going forward.

  8. R2 Dad replied, January 1, 2023 at 10:28 a.m.

    Not 7, it was 15 yellow cards in total, with another red rescinded! Time to fall in his sword.

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications