by: John Van de Vaarst
Volume 32 – January 2012
This monthly 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 series is helpful.
All articles address those basic techniques, procedures, practice alternatives, and skills that are often forgotten or overlooked while going through the experiences of soccer refereeing. The short discussions and accompanying tips stress important advice for competent performance.
This month’s article will focus on one area that was found to still be a problem for officials as documented in an assessment survey. Dealing with language is not being enforced in every game as the rules mandate.
For several years now in both the National Federation of High School Rules and the NCAA rules the use of incidental language requires the referee to caution the player. The use of foul, vulgar, abusive language or gestures must result in an ejection. The rules are very clear, yet the enforcement of them still seems to be an issue.
There appears to be several reasons why enforcement of this rule is a problem. It appears that some officials may be intimidated by players and coaches so they do not enforce the rule. The comment “you will never be back here again” looms in the heads of some officials and they do not want to lose the better games. Cautioning the star player for incidental language takes courage which some officials may lack.
The cultural norm of what is acceptable language also comes into play for some officials when deciding if a caution is warranted. Certain words that are vulgar or obscene are now considered normal adjectives or adverbs. This is not permitted by the rules of the game.
In addition to dealing with language, the officials need to make sure they are not guilty of using incidental language when talking to players, coaches and bench personnel. In the heat of the moment an official can use a word or phrase which is not acceptable. This makes it almost impossible for the referee to deal with players who commit the act. As professionals, each referee must make sure they do not use language that could be construed as improper.
There have been numerous sessions at clinics and points of emphasis in various publications regarding incidental language as well as vulgar and obscene language. The NISOA instructional staff continues to discuss this whenever possible. The message is getting out but in many cases not being heard. Each official must take special notice for future games that language is not acceptable. If everyone begins or continues to deal with this issue consistently, the problem should diminish to a manageable level.