By: John van de Vaarst
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 series is helpful.
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 the weather related delays and how officials should respond. Weather related events are fairly frequent during the spring season. Officials should ensure player safety at all times.
The first weather situation that all officials should be aware of is lightning. The NCAA Rule Book has extensive information about lightning in Appendix C. If 30 seconds between seeing lightning flash and hearing its associated thunder, all individuals should leave the field. No game is so important that it should b continued when lightning is in the area. Players, bench personnel, officials and spectators should leave the field and proceed to a safe area. The game should not be restarted until 30 minutes after both the last sound of thunder and teh last flash of lightning is at least six miles away and moving away. If lightning is seen without hearing thunder, lightning may be out of range. This is especially so at night when lightning can be seen from further distances. Rule 7.6, Inclement Weather Policy, Expiration of Time, provides detailed information on when the game can be restarted. At the intercollegiate level no game can be restarted more than three hours after the originally scheduled start time unless mutually agreed upon by the teams.
Appendix E of the NFHS Rule Book provides guidelines on handling contests during lightning disturbances. The NFHS guideline is that when thunder is heard, or a cloud-to-ground lightning bolt is seen, the thunderstorm is close enough to strike the location with lightning. Play is to be suspended and all players, bench personnel, officials and spectators are to take shelter. Once play has been suspended, the officials are to wait at least 30 minutes after the last thunder is heard or flash of lightning is witnessed prior to resuming play. There is no time limit on when the game cannot be restarted. Availability of adequate light can be a determining factor. The coaches and the home administration should be consulted when there is a lengthy delay regarding the ability to resume play.
Another weather related event that can impact an intercollegiate or interscholastic soccer game is rain. If the field begins to have large amounts of standing water and is no longer safe to play on. the game should be suspended. This is a safety issue and players could be injured during these types of conditions. The decision to suspend a game or continue because of standing water is strictly up to the officials. A note on this is during an interscholastic game if the game is suspended prior to half time it is not a complete game and must be replayed. Once half time occurs, the game is official. This means that the referee making the decision to suspend a game should consider doing so before half time if the field is in poor condition. In intercollegiate games, the game is official if it has progressed to the 70th .minute.
Extreme heat is yet another condition that officials must be able to deal with properly. If there is extreme heat, the officials have the right to suspend the game so that the players can take a break for water. The officials must be aware of the elements and react accordingly.
In summary, there are many reasons to suspend a game for weather. The above represent some of the more common occurrences. Officials should use sound judgment and, if there is any doubt, suspend the game for reason of the elements.