Do you execute Law or Apply Law? Part 1

IFAB this summer published a new set of Laws which have been re-written so the world knows the Laws and they designed them to make our lives easier!
I’m all for an easier life but recently I had a lawyer sitting in one of my lectures and she said that the sentences stating that “a goalkeeper is considered to be in control of the ball when bouncing it on the ground or throwing it in the air” means that a goalkeeper can throw the ball 65 feet in the air and be considered to be in control.
The next sentence says: A goalkeeper cannot be challenged by an opponent when in control of the ball with the hands.
What would you do if the goalkeeper throws the ball that far in the air and is challenged by an opponent?
The reason I ask is a simple one: too many referees are stuck at Level 4 and I get told that “but the observer backed them”.
If you’re correct in Law of course the observer must back you, he cannot state incorrect Law. However, you have to ask “did the clubs back me or even understand what I was doing?
Thankfully I’ve never seen a goalkeeper throw the ball in the air to retain control, so it is safe to talk about it but the question you must ask (if you want to get on in the game as a referee) is: what do the clubs want?
In our example everybody would think the goalkeeper can be challenged fairly if throwing the ball 65 feet in the air, so if you give the goalkeeper a free kick and tell them that it is illegal to challenge the goalkeeper they will think you’re mad and punish you via your marks.
Don’t allow that – by all means give a foul on the goalkeeper and probably warn him that’s the last time “I’m getting you out of jail!”
Now you’ve applied Law correctly, you’ve not alienated the clubs and hopefully you’re on your way up. Of course, when you get on Match of the Day and they can refer to those Laws in the 6 hours between the match and the show being aired you may have to do it differently.
In the meantime, apply law throughout with a modicum of “what does the game expect?” rather than just executing Law.

When you think you’ve heard it all before someone says…

I thought after all the time I’ve been refereeing and coaching I’d heard it all. How wrong I am.

At a Senior referees training evening – we had the Chairman of a local Senior League speaking to us and he said something I’d not heard before and something that had me sitting up and listening to.

He said that the people involved in the game thought football was an “action game”.

Now let that sentence wash over your mind and see where it takes you.

Football is an “action game” – and when you think about it clubs don’t practice inaction, do they? They practice acts!

Okay, there are times when we need to slow the game down to allow the boiling tempers to subside, but equally we have to be aware when we’re taking our time and the players (teams) want to get on with the action.

If you want to create an atmosphere where teams can express themselves you have to feel the game and trust that feeling is correct.

The bad news is: you will get it wrong and games will go south because you allowed it to breathe too much. But, if you hold the game with a vice-like grip too much, for too long and against the wishes of the teams you will breed bad feelings towards you.

Remember one of the best words in football is the simple “no” and if a player has done wrong presume (s)he knows it and just by simply telling her/him “no” without stopping the game and incurring the wrath of the teams, you will have the teams on board (without by definition, making yourself the centre of attention).

This will still set the player up; this will still get your message across and this will (more importantly) keep the game an ACTION GAME.

Of course, you could stop the game, call in the skipper and give a diatribe that no one wants or listens to!

The world around football has changed but the game itself has stayed essentially the same – score more goals than them in the 90 minutes.

Clubs say:

We want as much time as possible, in the 90 minutes, to get the ball in their net and we don’t need a big showy referee breaking up the play with shows of authority.

This is what chairman, managers and players of the better side in a contest want from us as referees.  And if we really want to progress we had better deliver it.

The foul mouth player

Last Sunday afternoon I had arrived back from coaching referees at the Charlton Academy when I received a phone from an observer asking for advice.

He had just watched a L7 referee who had conveniently ignored 15 occurrences of the F word from a player at his teammates (I’m led to believe that the F word was the nicest word that he uttered!) and then after 85 minutes conveniently did nothing when this player lunged into a challenge.

Fortunately, the opponent saw the lunge coming and avoided any contact with our foul mouthed player.

Now I know some of you will say that the referee should have dismissed the player for his language so the challenge would never have happened.

I cannot argue with that logic.

Here’s the paradox – both of the teams appeared happy with the performance of our colleague, the L7 referee.

However, when you factor into the argument that his side were losing 10-0 you can begin to understand why he was berating his own side.

The question here is how do you deal with both situations and still maintain control and still keep your career moving forward?

First of all let’s deal with the bad language – rule number 1 is ‘don’t ignore it’ – as a referee who I worked with told me “if you allow a player to act in a certain way he will think it’s okay to continue to act that way.”

So nip it in the bud – now taking action could simply be stopping the game and warning the player, it could of course be stronger.

This action will upset the referees and observers out there who believe that bad language should be dealt by a red card every time, but we’re talking about having a feeling for the game and acknowledging foul language should be curtailed to the acceptance of all of the participants.

So if you ask the player to moderate what he/she’s saying as a first step you are showing an understanding towards the play and players.

If he/she says “but we’re all players here” you can quickly say “I have to also worry about the spectators but more importantly any members of the public who maybe in earshot.”

Let’s move onto the lunge challenge.  There is a misconception among footballers that if there is no contact there is no foul.  You and I know this to be wrong!

If you see a tackle that could endanger the safety of an opponent it is your duty to take action.

The Laws tell you that it must be a red card! If you’re refereeing very senior football the players cannot argue if you show a red card, however as you move down the ranks the players can think “no contact” means “no foul”.

Now you can educate them – and watch your marks head south – or you can educate them and keep your club marks heading upwards!


By telling the player that they could be shown a red card but because you didn’t make contact I’m ONLY showing you a yellow card.

Note I’m talking in colours of cards and I’m telling the player how lucky he is to only been cautioned not sent off!