First, a couple of disclaimers. I did not see the match. All I saw was several minutes’ worth of the worst of the violence (for such it was!) Nor have I ever assessed the referee. What I am going to do is to try to show that there are techniques that referees can use to ensure that they will not miss or ignore the kind of thing you saw on the video.
Second, every one of the incidents on the video—the provocations, the retaliations, the punches and hair-pulling, the elbows to the face, tackling over-the-top—was worthy of disciplinary action. Make no mistake about that. But wiser refereeing would have prevented the violence from escalating after the first incident . . . if the referee had seen the first kick, punch or elbow. So is that the fundamental question? Did he not see what was happening? Or did he simply ignore what was appearing in front of his eyes?
If he saw, but chose to ignore the incidents, he was guilty of serious lack of judgment. Surely no national referee (for both the federation and NISOA) would consider the fouls and assaults “trifling”? Would he permit mayhem for the sake of flow of the game? I don’t think so.
In my reasoning, therefore, we are left with the possibility that the referee was too far away, was unsighted by congestion of players, or had the wrong “angle of view”. In other words, he didn’t see the problems. This we can fix, but non-existent judgment is a fatal condition for an official. Soccer euthanasia would be kinder for the sport and the players.
So let me offer some suggestions for any referee who is not seeing what is going on. Consider three elements:• Closeness to play
• The angle to the incident
• Number of players in view
The first is obvious and has been preached by referee-instructors and assessors since the extinction of Cro-Magnon humanity. (Although some of the scenes from the BYU-New Mexico contest were savage enough for primitive battles past.)The second is a complication on closeness, because we know that the angle from which you see infractions can tell you more than mere closeness about what they are. In baseball they preach the mantra to potential umpires: “Angle before closeness”. If you haven’t seen the DVD “Angle of View”, then make an effort to get it. There’s no copyright problem, and copies can be freely made for Mac and even a PC. Get it and play with it for a few hours; it may change your movement on the field. It should!
The third is something I (and others) have been teaching for a few years, because when I was still refereeing, I had found it useful to remember to get as many players in view as I could, especially at set-pieces. And with the speed of the modern game, a referee who is positioned behind play (not too far!) can see more players than if he or she were in the middle of the attack, or ahead of the ball. I will venture to guess that this was the problem in the BYU-New Mexico game.
So there you have my two-cents’ worth. One flaw is fatal; the other can be fixed. But the disaster we saw will be repeated if the referee doesn’t work at it. And that will not be good for the game.