Reffing "unofficial" games

Discussion in 'Referee' started by R.U. Kiddingme, Feb 13, 2013.

  1. R.U. Kiddingme

    R.U. Kiddingme Member

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    Forgive me if this has already been discussed, but one thing I am still uncertain of is the subject of refereeing unofficial games.
    Please refer to the following examples:
    1. You are asked to referee a pre-season scrimmage match.
    2. The crew fails to show at a match, and you are asked to step in.
    3. Not enough players show up for one team, they still want to play so team A forfeits, and team B loans team A some of their players for a friendly, and get tanked off when you leave because they all know you still get paid.

    I don't mind at all in helping out in such cases, my concern is liability, and answers to these question are all over the place...thoughts?


  2. Funkfoot

    Funkfoot Member+

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    1 and 3 - I won't do it. I will no longer work any match where coaches/parents/players don't face any consequences for their actions.
    2 - I have done this, but it was still an official game. There was a referee and then two team-affiliated ARs. I was in the referee database so I still got paid, even though I was in street clothes and a pinny.
    soccersubjectively repped this.
  3. R.U. Kiddingme

    R.U. Kiddingme Member

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    That's a very valid point, you don't want to put yourself in a position where your credibility may be at risk.
    I haven't done 2 or 3, but I was a player in a forfeit game like sit. 3, but the mood of the match was so easy going that nothing came up... but you never know.
    I have done 1, but not at any real competitive level, mostly kids I know and they would listen to me no matter what the situation, so that really isn't my main concern. My main concern is if someone gets hurt out there which is a real possibility, would I be responsible?
    And of course it can be hard to say no in some situations.
    I have been told that as long I bring it up to the assigner and that he assigns me, then I'm good to go.
    But that was not from what I consider a credible source.
    Maybe that's my question...who would be accredited be to answer this?
  4. Eastshire

    Eastshire Member

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    My understanding is only the referee crew assigned to the game is covered by the insurance. If this situation arises, call the assignor. A quick "I'm here, can I work the game?" will result in an assignment and insurance coverage.
    dadman and OMGFigo repped this.


  5. Paper.St.Soap.Co

    Paper.St.Soap.Co Member+

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    You personally have to decide your tolerance for these situations. There will be many referees who, for fear mostly of getting sued, would never, ever, do any unofficial game. Over the course of my career, I have done many games like that knowing full well the situation I could be putting myself into.

    Couple of things that I did when I was doing an unofficial game: Never wore a badge, never even wore an official uniform (good time to use my Adidas kits). I went into the situation assuming I had no respect from the fans, coaches and players and had to earn it. I almost never relied on cards, only personality.

    It's worth noting this is the approach I took when doing unaffiliated games (Ligua Latino), too, and those games were some of the most educational games I've ever done.
    OMGFigo repped this.
  6. DWickham

    DWickham Member

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    USSF insurance will cover work for an affiliated match but scrimmages rarely are league sanctioned. Secondary insurance is available by joining NASO, but I understand that it requires that the match originally be scheduled by the league. (details at naso.org) General liability policies (often available in combination with a home owner policy) can be obtained to cover other "business activity" that you engage in, but few referees have them.

    1. Unlikely to be affiliated or league sanctioned. Unlikely to be covered.
    2. Will be covered. But, call the assignor first. Its why you have a cell phone.
    3. Not covered by USSF insurance, but is covered by NASO.

    IMO, NASO is a great deal. Insurance and Referee magazine for less than (the deductable) $100 a year
    OMGFigo repped this.
  7. Bubba Atlanta

    Bubba Atlanta Member+

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    Anybody have any info on how often referees actually get sued?
    OMGFigo repped this.
  8. Eastshire

    Eastshire Member

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    Every time someone who was hurt at a match sues, I guarantee the referee gets sued. That's not the question to ask though. The question is how often (and under what circumstances) is the referee found liable?
  9. socal lurker

    socal lurker Member+

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    Both are relevant questions -- being sued can take both time and money (the latter can be largely mitigated by insurance, not so much for the former).

    In a perverse way, referees being insured can increase the liklihood of being sued. Personal injury attorneys (like other plaintiff attorneys) look for sources of funds -- and insurance is one of the most attractive targets. Even with a very low chance of actually losing, the insurance company is going to factor litigation costs into its decision process as to whether to make a settlement offer and how much. The reality in this country is that a very small portion of lawsuits ever get decided by judge or jury -- the overwhelming majority are settled because the costs and risks of litigation make it unattractive to fight to the bitter end.
    OMGFigo repped this.
  10. Paper.St.Soap.Co

    Paper.St.Soap.Co Member+

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    That's a little sensationalist. I've been involved in five situations over my 15 year career that I was aware of a lawsuit. Only once was I even mentioned in the lawsuit.

    When someone is suing the bigger question is not who was at fault but rather who has money. Given the option, most people will end up trying to sue the league or some other body with more money than a lowly referee.

    Again, not saying people shouldn't take steps to protect themselves, I'm just being realistic.
  11. Rufusabc

    Rufusabc Member+

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    Any scrimmages that I have ever done have been assigned. I guess the teams scrimmaging wanted the real deal.
  12. Bubba Atlanta

    Bubba Atlanta Member+

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    Yeah, it really is the question. If I had to guess, I would guess that referees are hardly ever found liable even when they do get sued. But every time one does get sued, somebody has to pay the lawyers to defend the case, and that's real money.

    But I would also guess that it's very seldom that referees get sued in the first place.
  13. Law5

    Law5 Member+

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    You are covered by USSF's insurance policy for any game/scrimmage/etc. between USSF affiliated teams. You are covered even if you are not the assigned referee or even a USSF registered referee (e.g. club line or parent pressed into service in the absence of any referee.) So, yes, you are insured for #1 and #2. IMHO, in #3, you are not, because team A is not there, in the sense that they don't have enough members of their team present to play a game. Is team A "there" if only three people show up? USSF's insurance company may decide otherwise.

    As Bubba said, it isn't whether you are sued and have to pay. It's how much it will cost you to either pay less or not pay at all. If you get sued, it will cost roughly $8,000 to $12,000 to get to the point where the parties settle without going to trial, in a routine case. If you go to trial, we're talking $30,000 minimum. In the roughly 23 years I have been a referee, I know of only one referee who was sued for negligence. He was quickly dismissed as a defendant, after he was able to document that he had asked that an obstruction that was only slightly off the field be moved before the game but the school refused to move it. The biggest threat of litigation is not "My kid got hurt, so I'm going to sue you for destroying his (potential) pro career," but rather the health insurance carrier that covers the kid suing to recover their expenses to fix the kid.
  14. Bubba Atlanta

    Bubba Atlanta Member+

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    I joined NFHS the other day. (Georgia HS refs don't automatically get membership.) I didn't study it closely, but I remember being struck by an impression that the insurance coverage extended way beyond regularly scheduled inter-school games. I need to go back and look at it again.
  15. Bubba Atlanta

    Bubba Atlanta Member+

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    Here's that NFHS insurance language I was remembering. Note the parts I've bolded.
    http://www.dissingerreed.com/nfhs/officials

    Now, exactly what that might mean in the context of the current discussion, I would not venture to hazard a guess. But it's interesting - especially as individual membership is only something like $35.

    Also, if it's a match - sanctioned or otherwise - for which you're not getting paid, there's a decent chance you might have some liability coverage under your homeowner's or renter's policy.
    dadman repped this.
  16. ChomskyReferee

    ChomskyReferee Red Card

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    Whoa whoa whoa. He allowed the game to be played after the school refused to move an obstruction he thought was dangerous? Cancel the game, walk away, right the report, they'll play it at another field.
  17. fairplayforlife

    fairplayforlife Member

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    I'm not so sure about this one assuming you mean even if the game wasn't officially assigned. I can think of multiple ways in which you are not going to be covered. I don't usually like quoting my JA but as this most recent answer while he was still backed by US Soccer. Feel free to look at older answers on this same page that seem to contradict this statement based on their exact wording but no offense to Mr. Allen, but his contradicting and flip-flopping could be why he was dropped.

    "As scrimmages, games between these teams could not be sanctioned by the Federation, even though all the teams and players are (theoretically) affiliated with US Youth Soccer. Because the games are not sanctioned, the referee may not be covered by USSF liability insurance, and that is a point that should be considered by every referee who is asked to officiate a non-affiliated game.
    This is a matter to be decided by your state referee committee and perhaps even higher authority."

    http://www.askasoccerreferee.com/?cat=30

    When the game doesn't come through official assigning channels you have no way to go back and say that you were told by your assignor everything was in order. You went of your own accord.

    By the same token if the assignor gives you a game but isn't willing to officially put it on the books then you should be suspicious of something being amiss. I have unfortunately run into some assignor/referees that will run two man systems on "friendly" games between top level teams and not think anything is wrong. Just because you don't where a badge doesn't mean you can't be traced back to being a USSF referee.


    I agree as others have for #2 that unless you call the assignor and actually get assigned, you are a club linesman, no matter your level of experience or readiness for the game.

    Mr. JA in an older post seems to think #3 is covered. Not sure I agree with him for many of the reasons people have stated here. He confuses me so much.
    OMGFigo repped this.
  18. sjquakes08

    sjquakes08 Member+

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    I'm not sure how many actually get sued (I've never known anybody who has), but my dad is a lawyer and has told me that there is essentially no chance that a referee will actually be held liable. He recalls cases (in other sports) where even when there is clear safety problems with the field (his example was a time where someone broke their ankle sliding in to home plate in a baseball game where the plate was elevated about an inch above the ground, despite the fact that it's supposed to be flat), the players are still assumed that they are doing what they are doing at their own risk.

    I think the referee paranoia about being sued gets to the point of laughability sometimes on this site (not referring to this thread), like when people think they will get sued because a player is wearing a rubber band around his wrist.
    stanger repped this.
  19. R.U. Kiddingme

    R.U. Kiddingme Member

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    1.2 SAFETY:
    "No part of the field surface or the goals and flagposts may be dangerous to the players. If the
    field conditions are dangerous or unsuitable for play, the referee must refuse to officiate the game and,
    unless there is a possibility that the problem can be corrected, should leave immediately after
    announcing his decision to both sides."
    Yes, when the duties are clearly spelled out, I would think the sueing lawyer could simply show this bit to the judge and make easy work of it.
  20. ChomskyReferee

    ChomskyReferee Red Card

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    Exactly. Reminds me of last year when I refused to start the game because a piece of metal was sticking out of the back of the goal. They said they'd tape it up at halftime, I said I wouldn't start the game. Suddenly there's tape everywhere and an infant couldn't bash their head against it and hurt themselves. Got the game in on time.
    dadman repped this.
  21. kayakhorn

    kayakhorn Member

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    Not all matches we cover require a USSF registered assignor. From the 2011-2012 Policy Manual, Policy 531-8 Assignment of Game Officials:

    Section 1. Registration Required Prior to Assignment
    No one shall officiate as a referee or assistant referee in any match under the sanction or
    jurisdiction (direct or indirect) of the United States Soccer Federation who is not registered with
    the Federation for the current year unless that person is a visiting foreign referee who has been
    properly accredited by his or her national association.
    Section 2. Unregistered Referee in Emergency
    If, because of unforeseen circumstances, a currently registered referee is unable to
    officiate or does not appear for an assigned match, a person may then be designated at match
    time to act as referee in the emergency for that one match.
    Section 3. Use of Club Linesmen
    When neutral assistant referees are not assigned or fail to appear for a match as assigned,
    the match referee may seek the assistance of club linesmen whose duties shall be as delegated to
    them by the referee.
    Section 4. State Assignor Coordinator
    A State Assignor Coordinator (SAC) shall be jointly appointed, for a fixed term, by the
    State Associations of the state based on a recommendation of the State Referee Committee
    (SRC) or the State Referee Administrator if there is no SRC. The SAC shall be responsible for
    the coordination of referee assignments by the referee assignors within the State Associations
    and shall not assign games nor have the authority to reassign referees who have accepted
    previous assignments.
    Section 5. Minimum Game Requirements
    Each registering State Referee Committee, or State Referee Administrator if there is no
    State Referee Committee, with the agreement of the state associations is allowed to set a
    reasonable minimum number of games required by referees, registering within its jurisdiction, to
    maintain yearly referee grades of 5, 6 or 7.
    Section 6. Assignor Code of Ethics
    The SAC and referee assignors shall adhere to the Assignor Code of Ethics and ensure
    that all referees receive equal consideration for match assignments consistent with the states
    minimum game requirements and the referees ability and desire for advancement.
    Section 7. Registered Assignors
    No one shall assign or appoint a referee, assistant referee or fourth official in any match
    under the sanction or jurisdiction (direct or indirect) of the Federation who is not registered as a
    Referee Assignor with the Federation for the current year. A state association, league or
    tournament may appoint an unregistered assignor in an emergency who may not serve past the
    end of the current Fiscal year without becoming registered. This section does not apply to an
    assignment to any youth recreational or house league match.
  22. fairplayforlife

    fairplayforlife Member

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    I think you are missing the use of the word "emergency" a scrimmage or not wanting to find/pay qualified or enough referees is not an emergency. It is laziness and cost cutting at its worst. You can play all the soccer you want even as an affiliated team but if you don't want to pay or get sanctioned refs then officiate for yourself, don't drag referees into your mess.

    Also, the authority in those situations still comes from a sanctioned league or association. I would need to see what they mean by rec or house league matches. Plus they could just be saying that the allowance for sanctioned referees is simply not allowed for those matches because the section doesn't apply.
  23. Bubba Atlanta

    Bubba Atlanta Member+

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    If what we're talking about is whether you have insurance coverage or not for any particular match - that's more likely to be governed by the language of the insurance policy than by the Policy Manual.
    Law5 repped this.
  24. Chas (Psyatika)

    Chas (Psyatika) Member

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    Location:
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    Club:
    Crystal Palace FC
    The good way:
    1. Ask them to alert their assignor that they need a referee, and get assigned to the scrimmage.
    2. Ask them who the assignor is, and get assigned to the game.
    3. Bye bye! Explain that you will be severely sanctioned if you officiate a match, then report the match as not played.

    The "not-so-good" way:
    1. Grab a UEFA Champions League Referee uniform (no place to put a badge) and stress to the club that they will have no recourse if they have an issue with your performance, since it's not an official game.
    2. Get the game started as soon as possible, then get the assignor info at halftime! (No badge in the first half)
    3. Sorry...this is still a "bye bye!" situation. The difference between this situation and the previous two are that this was a sanctioned match (unlike #1), you were actually assigned to it, and did not start it for a legitimate reason (unlike #2).
  25. Law5

    Law5 Member+

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    Note the use of the word "school" in the previous post. The defense attorney can simply point to NFHS Rule 1-7 "Up until the moment the game begins, it is the responsibility of the host institution or game management to judge whether or not the condition of the field, the elements and other conditions affecting the safety of the field of play allow for a safe game to begin."

    The referee, in this case, asked them to move the extra goal even more than 10 feet away (see the field diagram on page 9, even though that diagram is NOT actually part of the NFHS rules, as such), but they declined. As I understand it, the player who was injured was chasing a ball across a touchline and ran into, not the posts, but the back bar that supports the nets, knocking out a tooth.

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