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Question Number: 34518

Character, Attitude and Control 2/28/2022

RE: Under 19

Jeremy of Sacramento, California USA asks...

I was watching some rugby referee clips and the level of respect they get from players is so great compared to soccer. If any of you are aware of this difference, do you think there's anything that a soccer referee could utilize from rugby referees? Something I'm considering trying out as spring league starts is utilizing the captains more often in the actual game, like if a player has been dissenting me, going to the captain and telling them I am close to giving a caution, or same with a player on the verge of persistent infringement. Give the player a word, then go tell the captain just so they are aware. Would this work in soccer, or is this just a waste of time that would delay the game?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Jeremy
Rugby and soccer officiating are not great comparisons. Yes there are some things that soccer can learn from rugby yet probably managing dissent is not one of them.

In rugby field position is a huge advantage plus there are two ways to score that is the try and the penalty kick. In addition numerical advantage can also be significant.
Rugby players know that if they speak out of turn to the referee that it will result in say the kick being brought forward perhaps into a scoring zone for a penalty or that the kick to touch can be closer to the try line for the lineout. Also to spend 10 minutes in a sin bin is also a huge penalty for a team in the way the game is played.
As a result team discipline is coached as teams know that indiscipline can cost them in scores conceded. Thrown into the mix what conduct is expected from players then dissent is not as prevalent as in soccer. It still is there yet not to the extent it is in soccer.

What I found what worked for me was speaking plainly to players in a way that is respectful. To gain respect one must show respect. I have always gained respect from players as I spoke in a way that was not confrontational. I have spoken to players on say persistent infringement that if I have to speak to them again that there will be sanction with a final word of its up to the player. I did a lot of games with something at stake so I ask players that if they want to play for the rest of the game or for the next few weeks then they need to change their ways as I have no difficulty in removing them from the field of play. Players know that playing short or a suspension can have a huge bearing on future games. It is said in a matter of fact respectful way such as " Settle down 5. I assume
You do want to finish out the game" "Hey 5 do you think shouting at me is going to get me to change my mind. Its a foul all day long. Settle down and play your game" The difficult ones I had was were players were indifferent to any sanction and just don't want to listen to any reason. It can be their character or perhaps settling old wounds from earlier in the season. On those it was simply to caution or dismiss with impunity.

As to the use of the captains that has been tried yet with limited success. Again soccer is unlike rugby in that the captains role in soccer rarely includes discipline. It seems like at the higher levels the use of the captain is waining on the field of play after being tried for a few seasons. Indeed in some case the captain can be the goalkeeper who is well removed from the action. I tend to appeal to the older level heads in a team that I got to know so I might have a quiet word with that player along the lines that his team mate needs to settle down and to have a word with him. Something like "Hey Joe #5 needs to settle down". He might reply that x is happening and I might respond that I will keep an eye on that.
I'm also of the opinion that dissent is like a virus, a word we are all too familiar with at the moment. If it is not dealt with early it spreads throughout the field and it becomes more insidious. Getting on it early can at least halt its becoming a problem for the game. Dealing sternly with benches is also vital as many times the technical staff use it as a tool to try to effect the game from the touchline.

What I am saying is that refereeing is an exercise in communication and that it can and should be two way. I built a stock of phrases that I used in games that worked for me such as "I'm here on my own and I'll keep an eye on that" " It was foul down at that end and its the same foul here as well" " Its a foul all day long. Never was near the ball" " That's not what I saw. 5 clearly pushed 9 in the back" " Do you think that wasn't a foul. You know its a foul"
It also requires that it is dealt with in a manner that keeps a lid on it

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Jeremey,
my colleague makes excellent points outlining the consequences of disrespect in rugby with regards to field position, scoring and the potential advantages an opposing team achieved while you are sitting in disgrace in the sin bin. Yet too there is also a MANLY aspect to rugby , ego perhaps? where diving, cheating & whining are simply not as prevalent in terms of honour! Integrity is not a cloak you can take on or off as you please, it is central to your character. It is a sad condition within the world today, our leaders, and central figures use social media to undermine our faith in one another and society at large! People always have reasons to do what they do but that does not make them valid in outcome especially when the cost to others outweighs personal preferences.

I use a few simple phrases, ", Hi there my name is Richard. I have the pleasure of officiating your match today. I am fair but not perfect. My ARs are 100% off limits to ANY misconduct or dissent, you bring any and all grievances to me in a timely, respectful fashion. I will do my level best to give you a straight answer but with the understanding that we can agree to disagree and move on, there will be no further discussion on the matter, once I render a decision until after the match and again only in a calm and friendly manner." Now I might go into offside or substitution procedures or failure to respect distance on free kicks especially when officiating as a single official as mater of explanation, particularly as I end all intros with, "Is there anything you care to ask me or concerns you have before we get started?

I do believe, or at least I chose to have faith that some level of respect for the position if the official is there to start the match but do grasp that my attitude, composure, knowledge , the ability to stay with play and recognize the fouls play a large part whether Richard the individual is given any respect as opposed to just the position! Just as my colleague has a few tidbits to toss out to appease irritated players, upset coaches or calm a few howling spectators. Your character, body language and demeanour, not just what you say but how you say it! From the tone and timbre of your voice, to the sound and length of a whistle blast, the players WANT & NEED to feel you have their interests at heart. To remain calm, steady, stern with a smile or a no nonsense that ain't allowed, shape up or ship out! attitude. It all reflects the communication necessary to allow a game to finish successfully. Nothing there, Well in, Good tackle! or Oh nasty, far too dangerous my friend, you ain't a faller, you do get a pass to chop the opponent down. Cool the jets. Chill your team needs you on the pitch NOT on the bench! Play! You are better than that. Lets chat later we have a good match on the go here! We good? You good to go? Thanks for the heads up! We'll keep an eye out! Saw what I saw! Missed it Sorry! Did not like it, not going to let it go! Bar is raised, so be careful. Seriously? Just yell timber the next time you chop an opponent down. You thinking that was acceptable, it is not! I prefer to keep you on the pitch but the decision is yours to whether I can.

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