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Fundamental Soccer Blog

Enforcement vs. Judgment

Nobody is perfect.  Human beings make mistakes.  It is a part of life.  Yet, many coaches, players, parents, and others who attend sporting events expect officials to be perfect.

Like players and coaches, officials strive for perfection.  They do all they can to make the right decisions and make the correct calls to have a perfect game.  No matter how hard they all try, it is very unlikely that they will reach their goal on the field of play.

Do coaches make the best decisions for their team and coach a perfect game?  Do players perform flawlessly, both individually and as a team, during a match?  The obvious answer to these questions is NO, but are these people held to the same standards as the officials?

Officials get paid for knowing the rules and enforcing them as spelled out in the Laws of The Game.  They also are paid for making correct decisions.  Officials are therefore accountable for both judgment calls and enforcing the Laws of the Game.

Incorrect enforcement of the Laws is unacceptable and should not happen.  Officials are paid and are expected to know and study the Laws.  Not following and enforcing them puts the individual’s integrity into question no matter how much experience he/she brings to the game.  Incorrect enforcement of the Laws of the Game are indefensible mistakes.

On the other hand, when officials are confronted with making quick, split-second, and unexpected judgments regarding actions taking place in the blink of an eye.  There is a different issue to be dealt with that is not necessarily included in the rulebook. Everyone will rely on the official to make the best decision he/she can.

Depending on an official’s past experiences and track record, a judgment call may draw little or no attention.  Some may argue that a mistake in judgment calls is not as crucial to the game and should not draw as harsh a punishment as incorrectly enforcing a rule.  This does not mean that one does not work hard to get the calls correct.

It is imperative for officials to keep up with all aspects of the sport.  Whether it is dealing with The Laws of the Game, mechanics, and procedures, or dealing with situations, changes will continue to creep into the sport. Players, coaches, and spectators have to accept the fact that mistakes will be made, and officials must do all they can to minimize them.      

Pat Ferre

US YOUTH SOCCER (2021 Volunteer of the Year) USSF Referee Grade 15 Emeritus USSF Referee Instructor USSF Referee Assessor USSF Referee Assignor District-7 Youth Referee Administrator (DYRA)