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Referee Musings

Musings of a former TN SRA "Al Baer"

Rule Number 1

I have a saying that I use when trying to convey the message that an AR should never try to overrule the referee, it is “Rule No. 1". Rule No. 1 is: "The referee is always right". Rule No. 2 is that if the referee is wrong, refer to Rule No.1”


That is an oversimplification to some degree but conveys the message that an AR should not try to insist his decision is correct. In the long run this can undermine the authority of the referee.


This matter should be discussed at the pregame so that everyone is together. If the referee does not bring it up, the AR should. There are some general rules in place about this, which should apply if the discussion does not cover them.


On touch line decisions the referee will make the decision in his quadrant. If he does not know then he should make eye contact, and get some input. In the AR’s quadrant the AR should signal and make eye contact and conform his signal if necessary. The same approach should be used on goal line decisions.


The referee should generally not want to overrule an offside decision since the AR has a better view. There may situations where the referee will want to play advantage and wave the referee down.


If this occurs, it is good for the referee to give a highly visible thumbs up gesture, to be sure the credibility of the AR is not compromised. Neither person should allow what he does to diminish the other.


With foul calls there is more to consider. I saw a game where the ball was stolen in front of the AR and sent down field quickly. The ball stayed in the other end for over 5 minutes, went out of play3-4 times and the AR held his flag up the whole time.


He was insisting he be recognized. The foul was not serious. After the game stopped and restarted, the referee could not have changed anything so it was time to move on.


Flags for offside, fouls and boundary line decisions should be dropped when the incident is no longer pertinent to play. Leaving the flag up serves only to embarrass the referee. Pull it down when it loses meaning.


There is one time where the flag should stay up. When there is misconduct requiring a card the referee needs to handle it. However, if play stops and restarts pull the flag down since the referee cannot do anything. If play stops, it may be appropriate to call his name to take care of the problem..


I was faced with a situation where the referee called a PK that I thought was in error and my view was better than his. I put my hand over my patch calling him over. He chose to wave me off. So be it. I referred to rule NO. 1. The consequences of an incorrect decision were his.


The referee team should work to complement each other with the referee as captain. The AR’s need to follow his lead. And remember a good pregame can prevent miscommunication issues.


Al Baer

Toughest Games

Most referee associations pick their best referees to control games between the best skilled teams. In many ways this makes perfect sense since there is more at stake. The champion is going to come from that group.


But in many ways these are not the toughest games to control. Players in those games have great confidence in their skills and do not need to foul. On the other side teams with weaker skills know they need to foul to succeed.


I owe my fairly rapid rise and refereeing style to working games between average teams that chose to compete by being physical. All 3 were in areas away from my home and refereeing games between 2 of the 3 were always difficult to control.


This was on-the-job training at its best or worst. I had to learn to survive. Examples of problems were abundant. One game stands out in particular. During the game A8 stole ball from B4 with little or no contact.


B4 was nonetheless frustrated and kicked A8 in the ankle long after B4 had passed it. It was not absolutely vicious so it did not demand a red. Several factors led to gave a red anyway.


The 2 teams had a history of very physical play and I did not want to be involved with that. Team B expected a red card and there was a good probably of retaliation if I did not. It had nothing to do with the play and was just a case of assault.


As I was walking out the stadium I saw A5 shouting at B7 in the parking lot. B7 just wanted to get in his car with his date and leave. There was no one else than me so I walked between them and told B7 to leave which he did. I knew I had no real authority as a referee, but it was up to me.


This is the kind of environment that existed. The better skilled teams were different, so I had to learn some additional skills. They fouled less often and they could play through more contact.


That made refereeing different. The games were less difficult to control, but more difficult to officiate the way teams wanted. They wanted less interference from the referee and more opportunity to make things happen for themselves.


When refereeing less skilled teams, advantage was not so useful. The teams were not able to take the ball and do something with it. The definition of a foul was also different. The weaker teams want more of the contact considered fouls.


For me it was difficult for me to “unlearn” calling the game close and giving more advantage. Advantage was easier. The actions and body language of the teams told the referee whether they wanted to continue playing. It happens quickly so if you just look to see if the players are still going, you know if they want advantage.


I always leaned toward calling the game closer since that is what I learned first. I never quite got advantage 100% but I did improve.


Al Baer