Fighting/Reckless Play Part 2

Published on October 6, 2015


By:  John Van de Vaarst,  National Clinician

Part 1 of this article that was posted last month indicated that fighting and reckless play was a point of emphasis in the 2015016 NFHS Soccer Rule Book.  The article focused on pregame responsibilities of the officials, and during the game responsibilities with regard to reckless play.  This month’s article will focus on fighting, spectator problems and post game duties for the officials.

The worst case scenario happens if a player is involved in a fight.  The NFHS definition of a fight is one strike, either open hand or fist.  Any player engaged in a fight must be ejected immediately and the coach and scorekeeper advised of the reason for the ejection.   Should multiple players engage in fighting, it is the officials duty to take notes of who is fighting by recording the numbers.  Officials are not to touch players in an attempt to break up the fight.  Once the coaches gain control of the players, the officials should eject the players involved.  This is a highly emotional time for all involved.  Officials must remain professional and perform the appropriate  duties.  The clock has been stopped at the beginning of the incident so officials have time to confer to make sure the correct players are ejected and the coaches and scorekeeper advised accordingly.  While officials do not want to take too much time discussing the situation, it is imperative that the proper decisions are made.  Once the ejections are noted, the game should be restarted as quickly as possible.  Resuming the game will prevent additional dead ball problems, verbal confrontations by players, etc.

Spectators can have an adverse impact on the players.  Some spectators may encourage players to retaliate, and even fight.   Some spectators feel it is his/her responsibility to question officials’ decisions, yell at opponents and encourage his/her team to retaliate and foul opponents.   Home teams are responsible for the spectators and their actions.  Many schools remind the spectators. through announcements prior to the beginning of the gam about the importance of good sportsmanship and being respectful to the players, coaches and officials.  It is unfortunate that some spectators feel that they must cross the line and make inappropriate comments.  The spectators are under the jurisdiction of the home team.  If the officials feel that a spectator(s) is making comments or acting in a manner that can create on-field problems, the officials are to go to the home coach or administrator and request that they deal with the spectator.   It is up to the home coach or administrator to request the spectator be spoken to and requested to change his/her behavior or be removed from the game.  An official does have the authority as indicated in Rule 5.3.2e to ” to suspend play or terminate the game whenever the elements, spectators or other causes require.”  Normally the head coach or administrator will ensure that situations do not become so bad that the game must be suspended.  Athletic administrators do not want adverse publicity about the sportsmanship exhibited by the players, coaches or spectators.  The on-site administrator will normally resolve spectator problems immediately.

Post game responsibilities begin when the horn is sounded to end the game.  The officiating team should gather together as quickly as possible to observe the players leaving the field and making sure there are no incidents during this time.  Some state associations require the officials to observe the “hand shake” between the teams and if any problems occur during this time report them to the appropriate authorities.  Other states do not want the officials to observe this and leave the field as quickly as possible.  Prior to leaving the site, the referee or head referee must verify the score and any cautions or ejections with the official scorekeeper.  Once the scorebook has been reviewed and determined to be accurate the referee or head referee signs the book.  The officiating team should leave the field together.  It is important that during this time the officials limit conversations between themselves so that spectators or individuals from the press do not hear anything that could be misunderstood.  Officials should not comment to any member of the press on the game or particular situations.  Leaving the field as a team will help prevent any official being cornered by the press or spectators.  Officials’ duties do not end when they leave the field.  The NFHS Soccer Rule Book requires that the “head referee must report in writing any disqualifications and unusual incidents to the proper authorities.”  Some state associations, local conferences and official organizations require a report after every game.  These reports must be completed accurately and in a timely manner.  The head referee must report the facts only and not make any recommendations as to what the state, league or conference should do in administering the matter.

In summary, reckless play and fighting are not part of the interscholastic soccer experience.  Sportsmanship and participation are emphasized by the NFHS.  Officials must maintain game control and take proactive steps to prevent problems during the game.  If problems occur, the officials must act in a professional manner and resolve the incident as quickly as possible.

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