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Recognizing and Dealing with Critical Game Control Incidents

Officials often face a loss of game control when they fail to recognize and deal with certain incidents that happen during their games. Some may seem minor or unimportant at first while others are immediately blatant. In order to properly control a match, officials must recognize and deal with these incidents.

Challenging or Harassing the Goalkeeper: This is a time when players, coaches and spectators quickly react to such acts and expect the referee to show concern and take appropriate action. Because of their proximity to a goal these acts are very noticeable and widely observed.

The goalkeeper is offered some protection under the Laws of the Game but is more vulnerable to body contact due to the intensity of play in front of the goal.
One form of harassment often seen is when teammates of the goalkeeper will position themselves between the attackers and the goalkeeper and will take the keeper’s side in any confrontation. If these situations are not handled properly, and the official does not get involved, the players will get involved and the official may be looking at a loss of control.

Not Respecting the Required Distance during Free Kicks: There are many free kicks awarded during a match and the restarts all have the same common characteristics: the ball must be stationary, the player taking the kick may not touch the ball again until another player has touched it and the defending players must not be within 10 yards of the stationary ball until it has been kicked and moves.

During those stoppages the opponents will intentionally do anything to delay the restart and prevent any scoring chances. The official must know the options available and mechanics to be used in order to properly and fairly handle those types of situations.

Tackles from Behind: In this situation, the tackler usually has little or no chance to play the ball. It is unfair and goes against the spirit of the game. Meanwhile, the player being tackled has little or no chance to see the opponent coming and no way to prepare to avoid or defend against it.

These types of contacts, often dangerous and committed by normally unfair players, usually upset the players being tackled and they initially will look to the officials for protection and justice.

Officials should be calm and direct when speaking to the players who are negatively involved in those incidents. Always make eye contact, say what you mean and mean what you say.

Although experienced officials may have some additional suggestions for incidents they themselves have encountered, the ones mentioned above may be some of the more common ones that all officials will eventually encounter.

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)