"X-ray" calls- to make or not to make?

Discussion in 'Referee' started by Stan, Oct 27, 2003.

  1. Stan

    Stan New Member

    Aug 23, 2002
    I made two what I think of as "x-ray" calls last weekend, where I called a holding foul in one case and a corner kick in another case, based on incomplete visual information. Based upon the players' reactions, I now suspect that they were both bad calls. They were both against the same team, and caused me to get a fair amount of dissent. I chose to ignore the dissent only because there was only a minute of so left in the game, and I had to admit that it was to some extent justified.

    In both cases, I saw what seemed to be the effects of the action that I surmised took place, but was on the wrong side of the player to see what they actually did. In the CK decision, the ball bounced in the immediate proximity of the GK, who was facing the goalline with me directly behind him. It looked like the ball's trajectery changed slightly as the ball bounced up in front of him and then went out, so I assumed that it touched him.

    The second call was about a minute earlier, where I saw a defender's arm reaching behind an attacking player, and thought that the attacker was being held, based on what looked to be an impairment in his movement. Not only was there the usual denial, but the other team seemed a bit surprised to get the call, which made me wonder if I was wrong.

    This was a U-15 boys game, which I was doing solo, so I had no AR to turn to.

    This level of game is still at the upper end of my comfort zone, and I am looking for a little advice.

    Generally, is it wiser not to make a call when you suspect something but are not in position to actually see the foul, because there is a human torso between you and the action in question?

    Second, when you suspect that you have made a bad call, what is the best way to extricate yourself from the hole you have just dug for yourself?

    Finally, any suggestions for defusing possibly justified dissent from teenage boys when you have screwed up? I usually have no problem with girls, but I have teenage daughters, and can at least pretend to understand them.
  2. nsa

    nsa Member+

    New England Revolution; Boston Breakers
    United States
    Feb 22, 1999
    Notboston, MA
    New England Revolution
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    If you don't/can't see it, don't call it.
    After you blow the whistle, you still have time to point the opposite way. Alternatively, you can own up to an "inadvertant whistle" and restart with a drop ball.

    Remember that if you did screw up, you can still change your mind before the restart.
    Sometimes a simple, quiet, "Sorry, I may have missed it.", goes a long ways.

    Others opt for a humourous approach, "I usually screw up four times a game. I've still got three to go." Or, "I'll guess the other way next time." (The latter is especially effective after a questionable throw-in or GK/CK call.)

    However funny it may seem, do not call attention to the fact that the player or team has made dozens of bad passes and missed multiple open net goals that your g'mother could convert with the left foot from her rocking chair. :)
    Hah. They've got you fooled. ;)
  3. IASocFan

    IASocFan Moderator
    Staff Member

    Aug 13, 2000
    Sporting Kansas City
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    On the throw-in and goal/corner question, if you and your AR/Linesman aren't sure, waiting for the players to sort it out sometimes works. This weekend, I overruled my AR on a goal/corner decision. I wasn't sure, I didn't think he had a much better look, and both teams were getting ready for what thought was the proper restart. While they were chasing the ball, I suggested that they saw it better than we did. He nodded and nobody was the wiser.

    Warning. I wouldn't do this more than once or twice, and definitely not, if they're both going for the ball on every throw-in.
  4. kevbrunton

    kevbrunton New Member

    Feb 27, 2001
    Edwardsburg, MI
    Chicago Fire
    Nat'l Team:
    United States

    In the first situation, you obvsiously have to make a call. I have had this happen before where from my angle, it appearly strongly that the ball took a deflection. When the GK (and sometimes a defender or two who were nearby) then protested that there was no touch, I simply say "It looked to me like there was a deflection as it came past you. If I was wrong, sorry, but that's what I saw." They usually accept that without further argument.

    In the second situation, don't call what you don't see. From your description, maybe nothing NEEDED to be called, so you don't guess in that case. If something happens that leads you to believe that SOMETHING needs to be called, then make your best guess. There are times during a game where you'll start to feel that things are getting chippy or a couple guys are going at each other too much and those are times where SOMETHING needs to be called for match management reasons. However, if you're not in that situation, don't guess on a call.
  5. nylaw5

    nylaw5 Member

    Jan 24, 2002
    West Coast
    I'm gonna take heat for this.......

    Sometimes you must make a call, regardless of if you had a good view of an incident.

    If you have been around the game for a long time, or even a short time.....there are times when you "feel" a foul. You may not have seen it, but you know something has happened, those are the times that you can act on your gut feeling and blow the foul.

    Will you see everything in a game? No way. But can you make decisions for those incidents that you miss? Absolutely, thats why individuals get to high levels, they develop such a strong feel for the game that they can give fouls, penalties, cautions, and ejections even if they have not seen the whole incident.

    So to the thought that you should not call something you don't "see", I have to respectfully disagree.

    PS - This is in no way an excuse to be bad ref. You must make every effort to see everything and be in great position, this is a last resort.
  6. nsa

    nsa Member+

    New England Revolution; Boston Breakers
    United States
    Feb 22, 1999
    Notboston, MA
    New England Revolution
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    No heat. I'm in complete agreement. Every decision (call or non-call) is based upon all of the details available to you at that moment filtered through your experience and understanding of the LOTG, the SOTG, and that specific game.

    However, my advice to an inexperienced referee is to only call what you see and know because their grasp of the LOTG and the SOTG is underdeveloped. With some of the fouls or handling you can tell by the guilty look on the player's face, but lacking other clues I'd opt for no call and just work harder to be in a better position for the next one.

    When confronted with an incomplete picture we have to "decide" one way or another. I recommend "deciding" upon the least dangerous option (goal kick and throw-in for the defense).

    IASocFan's suggestion of letting the teams sort it out can work at times, but more and more teams are taught to chase every ball out of play in an attempt to swing the ref's decision.
  7. Statesman

    Statesman New Member

    Sep 16, 2001
    The name says it all
    Once you get out of the unpredictable skill levels of youth or recreational adult leagues, the players will practically call the game for you. Sometimes it is difficult to go into a game with no prior experience with the teams and call it the way they want it. All you can do is just feel out the play and watch the player reactions.

    I just refereed Dutch soccer for the first time last weekend. I don't watch much Dutch on TV and don't know that many Dutch soccer players, so I had no idea how they played. Turns out they didn't want hardly anything called. They would sling a guy around in circles and chuck him a few yards without a second thought. Jumping into an opponent was a common way to win the ball. The game was played more rugby-style than anything with bodies flying all over. In the end I only gave two cautions for dangerous slide tackles and called about 20 fouls. The guys had a great time, some were a little beat up with swollen bumps here and there, but all with a smile on their face. It wasn't pretty, but it was the way they wanted the game called.

    Moral of the story is that sometimes you do just have to go with your gut. Other times the players will make the calls for you. Whatever the situation, never fear making a bad decision on the field. A soccer god once told me, "Don't watch for specifics, just referee the flow. If the flow gets broken, blow the whistle. If the flow keeps going, don't blow the whistle. Sometimes there will be a foul, other times there won't, but so long as you aren't the one breaking the flow everybody will be happy."
  8. penquinref

    penquinref New Member

    Jan 21, 2002
    new jersey
    Statesman... this is one of the best pieces of advice I have gotten, this is my fourth year reffing, and as I move up to higher, more skilled(?) levels, this has been a concern, walking that line between managing the game and "leting them play". I have fallen on the side of keeping the flow, (more so in adult and higher level youth games) but this really validates my instincts!

    Thanks, Penquinref
  9. uniteo

    uniteo Member+

    Sep 2, 2000
    Rockville, MD
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Yeah I'll give you heat for this. What gives you the right to make game changing calls based on what you feel an incident looked like?

    At first I couldn't believe that someone would actually come on here and ask, "should I call a foul I suspect but don't see?" But then I see all these posts from people saying yes...unbelievable.

    A matter of possession on a ball out of bounds is one thing. But awarding free kicks based on a supposition is patently unfair to the participants of the game. And a penalty or FK can be a game changing decision.

    Call what you see, not what you think you see.

    From a personal standpoint, I'm a big guy, if I collide with another player they're going down, regardless of who initiated contact, but I always get called for the foul.

    As a coach I'll have a lot more tolerance for a ref who says "I didn't see it so I can't call it" than for a ref who incorrectly calls an offense because it looks like it should have been one.

    remember that the best games are the ones in which a ref is least visible. Are you worried you'll miss one? I've got news for you, you're probably missing a lot more than one, there's a lot going on out there, but don't try and make up for it by calling stuff you don't see.
  10. whipple

    whipple New Member

    May 15, 2001
    With the exception of the visible bit, your points are excellent. If a referee stays on top of the game and in tune with the play, what he sees should be more than enough to manage the game and ensure a fair outcome. Except for very unusual circumstances, you don't need to make it up.

    I would, however, disagree with the visible aspect, though I think I know what you mean. I feel that effective officiating involves a high degree of presence or visibility, but a minimum of intervention or interference, unless play must be stopped or an offense recognized, but, until such time, all focus should be on the game and the players.

  11. uniteo

    uniteo Member+

    Sep 2, 2000
    Rockville, MD
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Right, visible in a symbolic sense. Obviously the ref should be close to play throughout the game. Hopefully though, he'll be part of the background normally. And of course he'll be noticeable when calling an offense, but again, in the best games these turn out to be momentary interruptions that do not disrupt the flow of the game.
  12. blech

    blech Member+

    Jun 24, 2002
    i could be wrong, but i seem to remember a thread some time ago that dealt with a similar visibility issue in connection with whether a goal was scored. maybe someone can dig up a link. what do you do if the ball is in the goal, but you didn't see how it got there, or something like that? can you assume that it went between the goalposts?

    i'm reminded of an old baseball tale from the early 1900's. as i heard it, they only had one umpire at the time rather than the crews they have now. ty cobb was on first, and a ball got lined down the first base line. the umpire went out toward the pitcher's mound in case there was a play on the batter at second. cobb meanwhile decided to try to score, and the throw ended up going to homeplate. cobb beat the throw and scored. the defense appealed at third, claiming cobb didn't touch the base, and the ump called him out. cobb went into a rage: "how can you call me out? you were facing the outfield." the umpire calmly replied: "you got home too fast".

    is it a good practice? no. in an ideal world, you'll be in position to see what happens. if you can't see it, hopefully you'll have ARs who are in position to fill the gaps. but sometimes, you can figure out what happened even if you didn't see it, and you just have to do your best.

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