We are our own worst enemies. I realized this during a tournament this weekend. As decent people, we desire to please others. This often conflicts with our position as referee. It is true that when we make a decision on the field, we disappoint about half the people involved in that particular game. However, we are obligated to make decisions that are supported by the LOTG, without regard to the popularity of that decision.
This weekend, I worked a local tournament. I was crewed with 3 other referees. They all have a great deal of experience and I respect their knowledge and abilities. We had 2 incidents that I observed that illustrate the point I made above.
First, in a U-12 game, we had a situation that instigated a conversation about Denying an Obvious Goal Scoring Opportunity by Foul. A ball was played to a player near the top of the penalty area. The player dribbled straight at the goal, unopposed. in the middle of the penalty area, he beat the goalkeeper who immediately pulled the player down from behind. The ball was at the player's feet. He was heading directly to the goal and he had no other defenders in his way. In this particular situation, the attacker's team mate put the ball in the net before the referee stopped play.
I was off that game. I joined into a conversation between AR 1 and the referee as they were coming off the field. The AR was making his point that, had the ball not gone into the net, the goal keeper clearly had denied a goal scoring opportunity and had to be sent off. In the case of what actually happened, the goal keeper should have been cautioned. The referee was making the case of the players only being 12 and was saying he would have a tough time sending off in this situation. I agreed with the AR. The player had to go had the goal not been scored. I pointed out to the referee that had the players been, say U-17, he would clearly have no problem sending off the goal keeper. I also pointed out the LOTG is clear and makes no reference to age. My suspicion is the referee was uncomfortable with dishing out a severe punishment to a young player. However, this is an obligation of our position as referees.
The other situation involved a coach behaving badly. One of our crew had to leave early so a replacement was sent to our field. The rotation of the crew put a relatively inexperienced referee on a U-12 game. Having seen this referee work before, I felt he'd have no problem with the game itself. However, we had heard that the coach of one of the teams was a notorious problem in the technical area. AR 1 was a very experienced referee. I was AR 2.
I observed this coach starting problems in the technical area shortly before the half. The referee went over and spoke with him at least twice. At half time, AR 1 commented that the coach must be dismissed if he continues. The referee seemed to agree. Shortly into the second half, the coach was causing problems again. From my vantage point, I could only see the referee and AR 1 speaking with both coaches. I could not assess the severity of the situation. I was told later that AR 1 advised the referee to dismiss 3 times.
If a referee fails to deal with poor behavior in the technical area, it will not be long before the teams on the field start to misbehave. That is exactly what happened in this game. Not only was the coach a problem, his team starting acting out as well. The cautions started. The referee was losing control. Fortunately, we got through the game. However, because this coach was never dismissed, he will continue his behavior at other games and cause problems for other referees.
We must deal with irresponsible behavior firmly and quickly. Remember, when behavior is a problem, the coaches are not your friends and your action is not a conversation or debate. The poor behavior must cease immediately or the personnel must be dismissed. The "Ask, Tell, Dismiss" policy has always worked for me. See the "Ask, Tell, Dismiss" video here.