For several years we have been stressing certain concepts and techniques relating to soccer referee officiating and its instruction, training and evaluation. Some of these have been reasonably well accepted within the refeeeing community, but others, such as our recommendations for movement and positioning, not so. Some others have met with outright rejection in certain quarters, notably in the refeeeing hierachy of the MLS. So it was satisfying to read an article written recently by Héctor Vergara. (The article can be seen here:
He is a FIFA Assistant Referee from Canada, who was appointed to two recent World Cups without being part of a referee team from his own country. In 2010, he was appointed to matches with the Mexican referees Marco Rodriguez and Benito Archundia. This shows that FIFA has high regard for his abilities as an AR. Recall that no US officials were selected for the 2010 WC, and none actually worked any matches in the 2006 WC other than as 4th officials or back-up ARs. This broke a six-World Cup streak going back to 1982.
In his article, Mr. Vergara describes some of the training and instruction he received while in South Africa. One of these concerned the method of hand signalling of the CR. Basically it was recommended that this be done with the palm of the hand facing out rather than facing down, as was favored by some referees. Another concerned the AR and which hand to carry the flag in. Generally it should be in the hand closest to the field, hence when the AR is moving downfield the flag would be in the left hand. But Mr. Vergara reports that it was recommended to transfer the flag to the right hand when the AR was beyond the 18 yard line, and mostly facing the field. The rationale is that almost all of the subsequent signals will be with the flag in the right hand, namely for a goal kick, a corner kick, a foul and offside. Additionally if the ball is cleared the AR will then run towards the center again with the flag in the right hand.
Regular readers of this blog will know that both of these recommendations were made here in our posts during the 2010 World Cup.
Mr. Vergara also mentions that he was pleased that the instruction and training he received were given by people who themselves had extensive experience on the pitch as referees or ARs at the World Cup level. We have perhaps touched on this issue in this blog over the years, but we devoted a large portion of one chapter to it in our book published 10 years ago! It is a principle that we strenuously support, for although it is not as much of a problem as it used to be, there are still many people out there instructing and assessing referees at levels they themselves never reached. This is particularly true at the National Referee level. It is even more troubling when it is realized that there are several people with the required experience and knowledge, willing to participate, but are ignored and blatantly brushed aside.
We can at least take some comfort that FIFA agrees with some of our ideas and concepts. Perhaps we can hope that others will do so also and eventually more of our ideas will be followed. We will be particularly pleased if at least one more of our other suggestions about AR techniques is adopted. This concerns the inane requirement that ARs sprint all out as much as 25 yards to the goal line to indicate a goal kick when the ball has been kicked hard and high or wide into the seats or onto the next pitch, with no decision needed at the goal line about whether the ball has gone out of play. It makes more sense for the AR to simply jog to the 6 yard position, give the signal, and then resume normal positioning. We noticed that this was done by several ARs in the 2010 WC.