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Nigel Holman

Thoughtful article as always (I think I'll be more aggressive with my movement into extreme positions as a result), but I need to give a caution for dubious use of the French language: "Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose" seems to be what you meant to say.
["Merci beaucoup" for your comment. The correction
has been made. Ed]

Ted Ring

This is a well considered item and it should provoke a great deal of thought among referees and assistant referees at all levels. You can also include in there the many assessors who observe these matters on a regular basis.
By the way, Nigel Holman also deserves a caution as he missed out two accents in the French quote!
[Reply from EB: Thanks for the comments, Ted. But no caution to Nigel; it is awkward to insert accents into the comments in this Web page, and I was lazy about doing it also. But you are quite correct, and I have now put the accents in place!]


"Although the big competitions and wealthy leagues can afford to have 6 officials assigned to each match, this is way beyond the financial and manpower capabilities of most other competitions."

I don't see this as a real issue. Look at American football. Depending on the level you could have 3 referees or 5 or 7. So if you don't have the money just revert back to 3...no biggie.

It's a good article...I love to get out wide and do so as often as possible while other referees don't. They miss something very important and they tell me after the game about counter attacks. Counter attacks that involve 2 or 3 players with a lot of field and visually makes it so much easier to see fouls even if you're not on top of play.

[Reply from Ed: Dustin, I think you missed the point a little here. It's not just the numbers, it's the concept. In games where 5/6 officials are not available, the CR should cover more of the pitch, and not be restricted to conservative positioning as is now the case. Three officials are sufficient if it is done properly. Also the pressure to have 5/6 officials on other games will increase. In many countries, at the amateur level, ARs are only used on higher level games or in Cup Finals, whereas in the US there are ARs on many U-10 matches! How long will it be before we see AARs in amateur games here?

Leigh W. Davis

Well, with five officials now, we needn't do much more. I'm thinking a couple of guys with sticks and ten yards of chain for the free kick problem, some goal line technology for the positioning issues, and caps (color coordinated with these spiffy uniforms) so Adidas can sell more kit and ---VOILA!---American football!

Wait. No. That's not near enough. Since we're perfecting the beautiful game, we'll need to do some more. We'll be stopping the match periodically for goal line reviews, measuring the ten yards, and conferences amongst the five zebras (can we call them that since they're wearing powder blue?), so we'll have some opportunity for commercials. That will let us bring back the TV time out to maximize revenue. (That'll make Sepp happy!) So now---VOILA!---American football!

Well, no, what will the in stadium fans do during the TV time outs? No problem. A couple of jumbotrons with dot races and some cheerleaders (do they call them that in Europe?) should do nicely. And---VOILA!---American football!

No. Wait. We haven't addressed the pregame entertainment...... On second thought, maybe that positioning memo wasn't such a good idea after all.

[Reply from Ed: It may happen! Seriously though, we can't blame Sepp for this one. It is a UEFA experiment for now.]


"In games where 5/6 officials are not available, the CR should cover more of the pitch, and not be restricted to conservative positioning as is now the case. Three officials are sufficient if it is done properly."

This I absolutely agree with. As you mention the AAR experiment is for things like the Thiery Henry handling foul incident. Now a referee getting wide will 9 times out of 10 catch all of the incidents...just like an AR in the proper position will catch the incident 9/10 on the other side. I suppose UEFA is worried about that 1 in 10 happenstance that the camera catches on big big games. Especially when they teach the conservative positioning. What can we do about what they teach their referees?
[Reply from Ed: Not a lot, but see our next post. As well as getting wide, referees should go deep also. This is the more serious issue. It is not only UEFA that teaches this positioning, it is the gospel here also.]


"It is not only UEFA that teaches this positioning, it is the gospel here also."

God don't I know it. If I even suggest getting wider in a womens game to an extremely fit National Candidate. He looks at me funny and starts arguing about how he'll be out of position if a sudden counter attack happens. It's just disheartening that people can't think for themselves.

Richard Marnhout

You know, sometimes you just flat out get beat on a counterattack. That's why good A.R.'s are so important.
If the referee is to go deeper and wider, he must trust that if he gets caught out his assistants can keep an eye on things until he gets down field.
Rather than the addition of more officials, perhaps increased training of A.R.'s to recognize fouls from the unique position, as well as moving away from the still widely held concept of assistant as a mere "linesman".is called for


"it does no good, because as soon as the referee retreats to his distant position, they start over again, mainly safe in the knowledge that the referee cannot see most of what is going on and so will not call a foul, (certainly not against the defenders anyway, and therefore award a PK!) A major exception to this was the foul called by the referee from Mali, against the USA that nullified a goal in the recent WC. If the referee were positioned nearer to or on the goal line, much of this behavior could be prevented by his presence."

How come that UEFA allowed this to happen. They should see this. If a soccer referee is far from the players then no sense at all for they can't observe directly the players movements and can't call a foul if there is. Wearing their soccer referee uniforms is useless.

Ken Couche

Mr. Evans: Just found your blog last night and enjoyed, as I did your book--a standard without a doubt. Also attended years ago a clinic where you spoke on the subj and to our mutual credit, I agreed with what you said. BTW--my son, John Couche, tells me some years ago he did a flight with you at Davis University.

Regarding refereeing, my background is lowly and not important, but I've spent some time with our local league mentoring our refs. We mainly have two types of new refs--kids who have played the game and adults who haven't. In both cases, they go to the same initial training--training btw not aimed at either crowd, and then face, if they follow the books (in general), the assessors, the senior refs, the Advice to Refs, and so on--the OK'd structure, a regimen that focuses on, grades and values, the mechanical side of refereeing, leaving out entirely the philosphical, nature and practical sides of the Game. The result is that even the best refs--and not necessarily only FIFA's who do WC, can only speak intelligently about that side reffing.

I would draw the parallel with flying (my profession). The planes have gotten much much more reliable and safer in the last 50 years. Electronically they are marvels. The simulators are so good, a pilot can do all type specific training in them, including check ride, such that first flight in type might be revenue. Procedures have been developed for a thousand failures, and they scroll on the glass cockpit screens--in fact, the aircraft do most of them automatically. The result is that the modern pilot has little or no practical experience in handling emergencies or himself (or herself) in an emergency. Believe it or not, when the newest jet airliner, the A-380, lost an engine a couple months ago, and with 5 (that's 3 more than required and all pure luck) very experienced pilots in the cockpit, they spent 2 hours trying to figure out what was going on, and were, by their testimony, severely handicapped because the satellite phone failed, so that they couldn't speak directly with the French to ask for instructions.

Back to soccer--all the instructions regarding positiioning, mechanics, palms up, etc., is great. However, we need, I believe, the same quality instruction on that less than easy to describe side of reffing which is to undertand the game and understand what seems "fair." And the backbone of the game is not getting our WC refs a little better. The reffing at the recent WC is only symptomatic of the larger problems in training and the organization attempt to control and manage every little detail. The notion that if one learns a million facts, they'll remember the right one at the right time just ain't right.

We need to change ref training from the beginning, and worry about training club refs, who are the backbone of reffing, and from where all the FIFA's will come from. Why do we worry if some professional game wasn't right, when we know it means 10,000 club games weren't best? We need to teach the sense of the game and the meanings of the Law's (and not from the lawyer's standpoint).

The right position during a set play, where you can see what's going on, and where some real action is vs. chasing the long ball down? Of course the ref should be in close with the former, but when he is worried about the assessor's markdown, or the FIFA committee not wanting anyone tosses in the first half?

Enough rant--I recommend you continue to stir the pot. I'd just like to see USSoccer teach the Game a little more to the new refs and play a greater value on it.

the best, Ken Couche


could not agree more! matching taught "fact"(the right one out of thousands, as Mr. Couche notes) to the precise and actual game situation isn't the solution to effective refereeing. I will appreciate other comments and insights. thanks.

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