What Do Players Expect Of The Game Officials

Published on February 15, 2016


By: Don Dennison

NISOA National Clinician and Assessor

The monthly “NISOA Referee Nuts and Bolts” column is written primarily for the college and high school soccer referee. However, any soccer referee who wishes to improve personal performance may also find that this

All articles address those BASIC techniques, procedures, practice alternatives, and skills that are sometimes forgotten or overlooked while going through the experiences of soccer refereeing. The short discussions and accompanying practical tips stress important advice for competent performance. This month’s article will focus on what players expect of the game officials.

The college and high school referees today, for the most part, have at one time played at some level of competitive soccer.  These officials know what it is like to be nipped at the heels and knocked to the ground by borderline tackles.  They have also had the opportunity to have been lectured by out-of-control referees.

It behooves us to look back at what is expected of us by the players.  If you look at the most successful game officials, you will see that they have taken into consideration the player’s expectations of them in their approach to the game. Some areas of concern follow:

USE OF THE WHISTLE:  The “beautiful game” should not be continually interrupted by trifling whistles every time there is a minor infraction.  This is especially true at the higher levels of the college game.  The players want the game to flow uninterrupted so that they can display their skills.  The place for the “tweety bird” is in the cartoons not on the field.  The use of the Advantage Clause can curtail many needless whistles.

SHOWBOATING:  The game is of course for the players, not to show off the abilities of the officials.  The more inconspicuous you remain, the better.  Your signals and verbal communications should be precise and not overly exaggerated. This applies to the ARs as well. Flag signals should be made without excessive flourish.

FITNESS:  I have found that this attribute is sorely lacking, especially in many High School games.  You have to be able to keep up with play.  As the old saying goes, “presence leads to conviction”.  No one is going to believe your call if it is made from 30 yards away. If you can’t physically keep up with the play, get assignments for lower levels of games.

FEEL FOR THE GAME: As stated earlier, referees who have played competitively have an advantage in this area.  Try to put yourself in the position of the player when you call a foul.  Did the fouled player actually suffer a disadvantage?  Did he/she really want the whistle at that time?

COMMUNICATION:  While it is not necessary for the referee to engage in lengthy conversations with players, remaining silent does little good.  When you witness conduct that is unacceptable, even if you do not whistle, have a quick silent word with the player, even as you run by.  It is not improper for an official to verbally congratulate the player for a “good shot” or to tell the keeper “great save”.  In the event of giving a formal caution, you must in a calm voice tell the player what he/she did that was improper and that further conduct of that type will result in an ejection or disqualification.

CONTROL OF EMOTION:  When everything else on the field is in turmoil and matters seem to be getting out of hand, the officials must remain calm in order to restore order on the field.  You must be the calming influence on the players. Screaming at players will only cause an escalation of the situation.

LEVEL OF THE GAME:  The manner in which you officiate a game is dependent somewhat on the level of the game.  Don’t call a college or high school game the same way that you would an under 10 game.  At the lower levels, minor fouls or infractions are frequently called for purposes of safety or instruction.  In a college match, a throw-in at mid-field where the player steps over the touchline may be overlooked, but in a youth match the player will have to learn the proper technique for a throw-in.

CONFIDENCE:  The referee must be totally confident in his/her calls.  You can never show indecision which would undermine the calls that you will make later in the game. Never let the spectators or players influence you.

If you take into consideration the areas of concern noted above, the players will have met their expectations of you and your officiating team.

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