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Michigan Referee Program / Newsletter  / January Newsletter

January Newsletter

Volume 3, Issue 1
January 1, 2022

Yuya Kiuchi
State Director of Referee Development

Welcome to the January issue of the MRC newsletter. How is your offseason going? If you officiate high school or college soccer, you might have had a game or two even in December.

While soccer slows down in winter in Michigan, there is a lot going on in the background. Many of you have already recertified for 2022. Remember that all of you will need to recertify and receive a 2022 badge in order to officiate any match after January 1, 2022. Some leagues will deactivate anyone who have not recertified by December 31. They will only be reactivated after recertifying. So make sure to go to the MRC website and sign up for a recertification class.

While some referees recertify, some referees go through their final stage of the upgrading process. As was mentioned in the November newsletter, eight grassroots referees attended the regional referee class in November to be registered as regional referees for 2022. In the meantime, four regional referees were invited to the U.S. Soccer National Referee camp to be registered as national officials in 2022. You can read more about the camp below.

As always, our January newsletter is full of exciting stories and information. We are featuring Greg, Amber, and Adam Festian for “Referee of the Month.” Brad Barlog is the feature official in “Who’s Who.” We have stories about the retiring mentors, in-person recerts, and mentor recertification clinic. You will also see an article about the John Bieniewicz Award and USYS Young Referee of the Year Award.

Beyond this newsletter, please be sure to follow our Twitter (@MichiganReferee), check out our blog, and subscribe to our YouTube Channel.

U.S. Soccer National Camp

To become a national official is the ultimate dream for many referees in the state. This year, we had six officials registered in Michigan who were invited to the national camp: Nick Balcer, Nicole Green, Jake Brochu, Jacob Little, Christian Little, and Joe Suchoski. While Nick had a schedule conflict, Nicole, Jake, Jacob, Christian, and Joe attended the U.S. Soccer National Camp in early December. The event that took place in Chula Vista, CA, was split into two groups. Christian, Jacob, and Joe attended the first camp that was from December 9 to 11 while Nicole and Jake attended the session from December 12 to 14.

Day 1 of each event consisted of arrival and orientation. The referees were able to meet new peers and old friends. The first half of Day 2 was the fitness test. One needs to pass their fitness test in order to receive a national badge even if they are invited to the camp. The morning started early at 7am with women’s referee test, followed by women’s assistant referee test. There were two men’s referee groups and two men’s assistant referee groups. Referees completed sprints and interval runs while assistant referees completed springs, CODA, and interval runs.

After lunch, all referees were split into four groups of 15 to 20. Four pairs of national referee coaches moved from a classroom to another to give instructional sessions. The topics were: offside, challenges, tactical fouls, and handball. U.S. Soccer invited eight national referee coaches to teach these sessions. Michigan’s State Director of Referee Development, Yuya Kiuchi, was one of the eight national referee coaches invited by U.S. Soccer to instruct at the camp.

Day 3 started with a guest lecture by a coach, followed by the badge ceremony. The badge ceremony is the place where each 2022 national official receives a badge from Mr. Rick Eddy, the U.S. Soccer Director of Referee Development. All the referees who passed the fitness test the day before received the badge, making their 2022 registration as national officials complete.

From Michigan, Christian, Jacob, Joe, and Jake successfully received their badge at the ceremony. When you see any of these 2022 national officials, please congratulate them on their achievement because, as many of you know, they worked very hard to be included in this select group of officials.

Referee of the Month: Greg, Amber, and Adam Festian

Greg, Amber, and Adam Festian
Grassroots Referees

Why did you start refereeing?

Amber: My dad pointed out that one of my soccer teammates was a referee. I was twelve, a goalkeeper, and I thought learning the rules would make me a better player. The opportunity to earn money was nice, but wanting to get better is what kept me interested.

Adam: It was pretty natural for me. Two years after Amber started, I earned my license so we could ref together. I remember how confusing it was at first, but there are referees in Michigan who want you to be good at this and they give you a few minutes at every match to help you get better.

Greg: I took a not uncommon route to refereeing later in life. I coached rec and was a soccer parent, but never considered wearing the yellow striped jersey. Amber was the first referee in our family and she talked me into joining her. For me, it was something challenging to do for fun, but all three of us took it seriously, showed up on time in uniform, got noticed for our work ethic, and opportunities to grow came our way.

What is the best part of being a referee family?

Greg: Our first few years, taking the pitch as a family was a lot of fun. As we’ve advanced, that has become a rare occurrence but we bond around soccer and we aren’t above jealousy over who has the best assignment of the weekend. Friends and mentors we’ve met through refereeing have been a gift to all three of us.

Amber and Adam: Having a built-in support system is so valuable. It means we are never wanting for help. Each of us understand how it feels to have a good game or a bad game. The truth is, we can be critical of each other but we pivot quickly to helping each other improve.

Worst part?

Adam: Not being able to get away from the built-in support system.

Amber: Walking up to a field and being asked if my Dad is a referee because our family resemblance is easy to see.

Greg: The olfactory assault of soccer cleats and referee cleats, turf shoes and running shoes left in the backseat of a car for too long.

What is your best experience refereeing?

Amber: I was invited to referee at the State Cup semi-finals and found myself surrounded by referees who shared my love for what we do. I was one of the youngest referees there that year, but I was respected and mentored like everyone else.  Sue and Ron Grobbel held me to the same standards as older refs while focusing on assigning me to games that would help me grow. That opportunity made me want to earn an invite back the next year.

Adam: My favorite experience is when a parent, coach, or player tells me that they appreciate the job I did. Small acts of kindness like these are what encourage me to come to the next game.

Greg: I don’t know a referee that doesn’t love the feeling of a loud and demonstrative advantage that results in a goal, but my best experiences really center around taking the pitch with referees I know and respect, and leaving it all on the field.  After that, being witness to my kids’ achievements tops the list. Amber being selected the Midwest Youth Referee of the Year and Adam displaying a level of poise on the pitch that makes referees and coaches take notice, and makes parents mistake him for a college student, are singularly memorable. All things I never expected when I first earned the badge.

Mentor Recertification Clinic

Andrew Hoard
Referee Mentor and Regional Referee

Our annual referee mentor recertification on Saturday, December 4 was an excellent opportunity to bring all mentors and coaches together. We went over what we did over the last year and the statistics around how many video analysis sessions were held, certification and recertification classes held, field sessions conducted, and performance observations completed. Every mentor had an opportunity to teach about a short clip in six minutes with preparation of only ten minutes. This forced every mentor to think effectively about what points are most important to be covered as well as effectively manage time given to us. Finally, we have been encouraged to provide more opportunities to educate our local referee communities as we (hopefully) come out of the pandemic. If you have any items you wish to be educated about more, please feel free to contact your local District Director of Referee Development, Yuya, or MRC member!

In-Person Recertification Clinics

When we conducted a survey last year asking if referees preferred online or offline recertification classes, about 80% answered that they preferred online classes. Nonetheless, there were some who preferred an in-person class. So all DDRDs were given an opportunity to hold an in-person recertification classes.

One of the successful classes happened in Kalamazoo where Kalani Burghard and Jim DeBrabander taught 40 recertifying referees.

The southwest district also held a session where over 20 participants attended. Luis Aguirre-Rivera and Simon Blackwell taught the class.

These in-person meetings do not always have to be with annual recertifications. If you would like to have an in-person training opportunity, please make sure to talk to your DDRD.

What Do They Do?

Last month, we conducted a fun survey asking you to guess what you thought each of the MRC members did. We have some interesting data!

Carlos: He is a quality manager in the automotive industry. Almost a half of you guessed it right. While some of you thought he was employed by the U.S. Soccer, that is not the case.

Ron: He is an electrical engineer. Again, almost a half of you guessed it right.

Yuya: Most of you guessed Yuya’s job correctly, which is a university faculty member. Some thought he was employed by the U.S. Soccer or was an electrical engineer. You don’t want Yuya to do any engineering work!

Tim: Only one person knew his job, which is a senior programmer / analyst. Some thought he was employed by the U.S. Soccer or was an engineer of some sort.

Jeff: About a quarter of you guessed it correctly. He is an auto supplier sales manager.

Nichole: About a third of you knew that she is an electric generation engineering lead.

Kalani: A half of you knew she was a high school teacher. But some thought she was employed by the U.S. Soccer.

One of the occupation options was realtor. Nobody on the committee is a realtor. It is interesting at least one person thought someone was an electrical engineer. But as you can see, nobody is employed by the U.S. Soccer. Everyone on the committee is a volunteer.

John Bieniewicz Award

Since 2015, the Michigan Referee Committee has sponsored the annual John Bieniewicz Award to honor the legacy of John and the spirit and enthusiasm he brought to the game and everyone he encountered. 

The award is presented annually to the MRC referee who has demonstrated a love for the game of soccer both on and off the field. The chosen referee is an encouraging influence on the outcome of games refereed, players encountered, and referee colleagues. The selected referee goes out of their way to make sure that the spirit of the game of soccer remains the number one priority for all participants of the sport.

John was an extremely positive influence on soccer in Michigan and will forever live in the hearts and minds of those he encountered.  While the award has been on hiatus for a couple of years due to the pandemic, the resumption of full soccer activities in the State of Michigan has given the MRC the opportunity to select a recipient for 2021.

Nominations for this year’s award were solicited during the month of November, with a total of 13 nominations received by the award committee.  After consideration of all the nominees, the award committee recommended a candidate to the Michigan Referee Committee for approval, and it is with great pleasure that the MRC announces the 2021 John Bieniewicz Award recipient – Joshua Abts!

Josh resides in Caledonia, MI with his wife Stephanie and 7-year-old son Noah. He has been refereeing for over 20 years and became a USSF referee in 2012, obtaining his current Regional Referee certification in 2018. He stakes claims to a couple of firsts for recipients of the award, as Josh is the first from the West-side of the state and the first under the age of 40.

Please join the MRC in congratulating Josh, a very worthy recipient of this year’s award.

Beyond “Does the Game Need It?”

Have you ever heard an experienced referee pose the question, “Does the game need it?” while discussing whether or not to issue a caution to a player? Not all fouls and possible misconduct are straightforward. For example, just because a player kicked the ball after you blew your whistle does not mean a yellow card has to be issued every time.

“Does the game need it?” can be a helpful question. But it is also just one of a few questions that a referee should ask themselves. In other words, it cannot be the only question whose answer determines whether or not a card is needed.

Rather than just asking, “Does the game need it?” ask two more questions: “Does the player need it?” and “Does the law require it?” On a one-sided game (let’s say the score is 10-0) with 15 minutes left in the game, would you give a caution to a player from a losing team committing 5 careless pushing offences in the last 10 minutes? If the game is relatively calm and all the fouls by the player are just careless, maybe the game does not need a card. However, a player who commits 5 fouls in 10 minutes in a more common game situation needs a card. Otherwise, as the referee, you are allowing the behavior to continue. The Laws of the Game do not specify how many fouls must be committed before issuing a caution for persistent offences, so one could argue that the law does not require a card. But the player needs a card.

What about on the same 10-0 match, with 20 seconds left in the game, a player from the losing team stops a promising attack of the winning team. Imagine the player already has a yellow card. Does the game need it? Probably no, because the result of the game is already determined and there is not even a minute left in the game. Does the player need it? Probably no, because who wants to see a player sent-off in such a situation. But does the law require it? The answer is yes. The law does not give the referee any subjective wiggle room whether or not to give a card for SPA. When it happens, the referee’s hands are tied. Even if it is the second caution, the card must be given.

Next time you face a situation where you wonder if you need to give a card, ask these three questions.

  • Does the player need it?
  • Does the game need it?
  • Does the law require it?

If you answer “yes” to one of them, you must give a card, even if it is not a popular decision.

Thank-You to Retiring Mentors

While we license numerous mentors every year, we also have some mentors who retire as mentors. We would like to thank the following individuals for their work as mentors.

Tony Buckett
Rich Gilbert
Loren Heun
Bill Howard
Jordan Howard
Andrew Johnson
Matt Keith
Pat Mathieu
Todd McCoy
Gerald Potter
Eduardo Rodriguez
Tim Wells

Thank you for what you have done for the development of Michigan referees. We wish you a best of luck for your future endeavors.

Say Hello to Zoey!

Zoey Smiley

What is your name? How old are you? And what breed are you?

My name is Zoey, I’m 8 years old, and I’m a Miniature Goldendoodle.

How long have you known Kevin, Owen, and Ian? How did you meet them?

I’ve known them since they adopted me.

Do you help them pack their ref bag?

I used to try and pack myself but they always caught me hiding in their bags before they left.

Do you ever help them train for reffing?

Yes, at night when I go out I like to chase deer or rabbits so they can practice blowing their whistles loud to get me to come back.

Have you ever chewed up any ref gear of theirs?

No, I’m a good dog so I’ve never chewed up any ref gear. I prefer to chew on stuff that gets washed more than once a season.

Can you do a trick? If so, what can you do?

I can do tons of tricks. I know how to sit, lay down, roll over, and shake.

What is your favorite toy?

My favorite toy is my green squeaky toy. I love making it squeak when I chew on it, but I sometimes get in trouble when I tear it and pull the stuffing out of it.

What is your favorite treat?

My favorite treat is whatever meat or cheese they are eating, but they don’t give me anything very often. I also like to make withdrawals of dog bones at the bank drive-through.

What is your favorite game to play with them?

My favorite game is to run around them and have them chase me. I don’t know how they keep up with play during games, because they never can catch me.

What do you enjoy about them being a referee?

I love going to soccer complexes. There are so many new people and dogs for me to meet so it’s always super fun to go.

What don’t you enjoy about them being a referee?

I don’t like when they accept matches at fields that don’t allow dogs to watch because that means I don’t get to go along.

What is something unique that you do?

My favorite part of Christmas and Birthdays every year is unwrapping presents. I can tear all the wrapping paper off a gift all by myself.

What do you like to do when they are not reffing?

In my backyard we have a pond, so after soccer or exercise I always go in for a swim to cool off, even if they tell me not to. In the winter I like to go out ice skating on the pond, I love chasing hockey pucks across the slippery ice.

Meet Our New Regional Referees

Last month, we introduced you to two of our new regional referees: Eric Budd and Mark Lorkowski. This month, please welcome Jared Brzezniak, Jamie Crosby, and Rob Ruta as new regional referees!

Jared Brzezniak

“I started refereeing in 2015 on the west side of the state in Lowell, Michigan. I really enjoyed reffing and upgraded to a Grade 8 referee after my first season. I was a Grade 8 referee for two years and then upgraded to a Grade 7 referee. As a Grade 7 referee, I started getting high level adult games like NPSL or UPSL on a regular basis and my referee career started to take off. Less than a year into being a Grade 7 referee, U.S. Soccer changed the grade system and I became a grassroots referee and this made me consider upgrading to a regional referee. My favorite memory as a referee comes from State Cup Finals where I was an AR on a U14 boys game and the intensity of the match and the atmosphere from the parents created an unforgettable game. I would like to continue my refereeing career to become a national referee.”

Jamie Crosby

“Although most of the upgrade process occurred in 2021, my upgrade journey began 10 years ago when I first certified as a referee. In these first 9 years, I checked off three of regional upgrade requirements. These requirements were being an age of 18 or above, being a grassroots referee for a minimum of 3 consecutive years, and having a game count with at least 50 centers and 25 ARs on amateur adult games.

“After completing these initial upgrade requirements, I applied to upgrade at the beginning of 2021. After the Michigan Referee Committee evaluated my application and confirmed that I met the initial upgrade requirements, my upgrade application was accepted. The next step that I completed was taking and passing the fitness test. The last major step in my upgrade process was passing 3 assessments as the center referee.

“After the completion of the assessments, the final steps of the upgrade process were administrative tasks such as watching modules, taking an exam, and attending the regional upgrade class.

“For those that have a desire to upgrade to a regional referee in the future, my advice would be to focus on the game count requirement now and to challenge your assignors to put you on challenging games that you desire.”

Rob Ruta

“I grew up playing soccer starting as far back as memory serves. When I was old enough, I was asked by my local club to become a referee. I took the class, and in 2009 received my Grade Nine Recreational Referee badge. In the beginning, I saw it as a fun way to make some money as a kid. I held on to my blue badge for just a year before I was encouraged to upgrade. After high school, I stopped playing competitively but continued to referee sporadically through college. In 2017, I became very busy scholastically while working toward my dual Bachelor’s in Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering, and allowed my recertification to slip by.

“After the first spring season passed without any soccer, I felt like I was missing something. So, I decided to recertify for the fall. At this point, I became more curious as to what I could achieve as a referee. I started to focus on developing my skills and knowledge beyond what would be expected of a novice referee in hopes to upgrade to a seven. In the process of gaining the necessary experience in men’s amateur and higher-level youth matches, it soon became the regional badge that I was after. I started attending the annual state referee recertification and fitness test to prepare myself for the next level. Doing so allowed me to network with fellow officials and important members of the MRC that I would not have met otherwise.

“I attended my first MSYSA State Cup in 2018. There, I was surrounded by referee coaches, mentors, assigners, and other high-level referees. They were able to provide the feedback needed to really accelerate my development. By 2019, I met the criteria and was able to apply for an upgrade. I got notice of approval in early 2020 that I would have my regional badge for the following year; contingent on passing the fitness test and completing three assessments. Unfortunately, this was delayed a year due to the effects of COVID.

“This last year as a grassroots referee has been the most enjoyable and rewarding to date. I was able to complete my upgrade requirements, officiate in several national adult and youth events, receive some truly expert coaching, and make new friendships. There is so much that I thoroughly enjoy about officiating that makes it sincerely valuable to me. As a regional referee, I hope to continue learning from my experiences that will enhance my growth and prepare me for the next level.”

Mentor Development Group Has Started

As was noted in the December newsletter, we have started the next cohort of the mentor development group. The participants are: Meghan Brasseur, Tom Corsentino, Ashley Fromson, Leighton Kelly, Nick Raith, Rob Ruta, Pete Loria, Scott Manteuffel, Jim Dyer, Andrew Scott, and Michael Koziara. The group met in early December to learn about the overall mentor tasks. They also learned particularly about the first task as mentors, the video analysis. Video analysis sessions are similar to teaching a referee class. They will have a mock teaching experience in January to learn about various tips and skills to be an effective instructor.

USYS Young Referee of the Year Award

Nominations include considerations as to how refereeing has impacted their roles on and off the soccer field, how their referee experiences have impacted their immediate and future goals, what life lessons they have learned from refereeing, and how this has helped them become a more goal-driven or successful person and how this has impacted their interpersonal relationships. We ask for a community letter to focus on the person’s contributions outside of the world of soccer. What type of leadership does the nominee demonstrate, including the individual’s integrity, work ethic, and character? Congratulations to all that were nominated!

We are grateful that the 2021 Carlos Folino Referee of the Year scholarships, $500 each, once again were funded by the Michigan State Premier Soccer Program.

On behalf of the Michigan State Youth Soccer Association, the Michigan Referee Committee is proud to announce Grace Cherette, and William Cherette, (both from Portage, MI.) as the 2021 Michigan’s Young Soccer Referees (female and male) of the Year. They were selected by a committee that reviewed applications submitted by local soccer clubs and referee assignors.

Both siblings received their award certificates at the Kalamazoo recertification clinic and have since were mailed their $500 checks.

Congratulations to both for their awesome accomplishment!!

2022 Referee Mentors

On December 4, we hosted our referee mentor recertification clinic via zoom. Now we have 51 individuals licensed by U.S. Soccer as a national referee coach, referee coach, or referee mentor for 2022. Here is the latest list of these people.


* denotes a referee coach
** denotes a national referee coach

What is Your Call?

In the December newsletter, you were given a clip that showed a possible handball offence. The survey asked you to identify what action would have to be taken.

The December video was this.

First of all, was there a handball offence? While 10% of you had a no foul, others had an offence. The answer is yes. The arm of the defender is in an unnatural position. It is away from the body. One may argue that her arm would naturally be away from the body when she lunged into the path of the shot, she took the risk by having an arm outstretched when she was putting herself in the trajectory of the ball. Therefore, 80% of you had the handball decision correct.

Now, do you have a card? The most popular answer was a yellow card for SPA. On the other hand, 20% of you had no card and 10% of you had a red card. None of you had a yellow card downgraded from DOGSO. It is good that nobody had a downgraded yellow card because the offence was a handball offence. There is no downgrading of a card with handball.

Because the shot was taken, a goal-scoring opportunity was not denied. The opportunity was taken. The shot was traveling to the goal with a GK in place. Therefore, this not a denial of an obvious goal, either. There was no DOGSO or DOG situation. However, because the shot was on goal, a yellow card for SPA must be given. Unless the referee deems that the shot to be off target, this yellow card cannot be avoided, even if it was a second yellow card.

Therefore, the correct answer was a handball offence with a PK and a yellow card for SPA.

This month, we will talk about tactical fouls. What decision do you have? Access the video here.

You can submit your answer here.

Who’s Who in Michigan: Brad Barlog

Brad Barlog
DDRD (Saginaw/Flint) and Referee Mentor

When and why did you start refereeing?

I started off refereeing as an AYSO volunteer official when I was 12 years old. When I was playing travel soccer, one of the officials told me I could get paid for reffing, and the rest was history. I got certified in USSF when I was 14 years old as a “blue badge” official and worked my up to eventually become a State, now Regional, referee. I didn’t get really serious about refereeing until after high school when I tore my ACL. Instead of risking injury by playing again, I decided to get serious about refereeing. I owe my thanks to Eduardo Rodriguez and Larry Gagna who watched me ref my first USSF games at a youth local tournament back at home who said I have the potential to be a great official. After that, Ron and Sue Grobbel helped me through the process, along with Carlos Folino and Francisco Chico Villarruel.  From there, I have never looked back.

What you enjoy the most about refereeing?

I think there are two major things that I enjoy the most about refereeing. The first one being the camaraderie and friendships that I have made because of refereeing. By traveling to tournaments across the U.S., to doing our local levels of competition, I have made so many friends along the way, some even I can call my very best friends due to refereeing. The second major thing I enjoy most about refereeing is giving back to the sport I loved growing up as a kid. To be able to referee games where it is the sometimes the “World Cup” for some of these players brings a smile to my face. Just seeing how much time and effort some of these teams train to make it to the top, is an honor for me to referee them.

What are some of the best memories from refereeing?

I have had a lot of great memories from refereeing. I think the first one was being selected to attend the National President’s Cup in 2014 as a referee. From there, I was selected on a final as the referee for the U17 girls that game. I can still remember the game to this day, as it went to double overtime, and eventually kicks from the mark. It was a team from Alaska vs. a team from California. Being able to be the referee in that game was one I will never forget. Another memorable moment for me was being selected as a referee for U.S. Youth Nationals in 2018. It was always has been my goal since I started to be able to have my name on the screen and be selected to attend. I will never forget refereeing in 100 degree weather as the referee and the only color our crew could go was black because of the team colors. Those are the moments I will never forget.

How else you are engaged in soccer beyond refereeing?

Recently, I was just appointed to be the DDRD for the Flint/Saginaw area. I am also a mentor and for USSF. I love giving back to other up and coming officials in our state, and watch them grow and flourish as I did as an up and coming referee. I am also the President of the Saginaw Valley High School Soccer Referee Association, which is our high school soccer referee association for the Saginaw Bay and Northern Michigan area. We have about 90ish referees covering about 40ish high schools, which keeps me very busy. I also try to watch as much soccer as possible on tv, and of course always rooting for the third team.

What do you like to do when you are not on the field?

When I am not on the field refereeing, I am probably still at a sporting contest. Currently, I am the Assistant Athletic Director at Saginaw Valley State University. I am in charge of all of our home contests for all of our sports. This occupies my time a lot, but one I enjoy so much. I am so lucky and fortunate to be able to watch sports as my job and get paid for it. When I am not refereeing or working, I like to ride my bike, hang out with friends, or just lay on the couch and watch tv.

Do you have any advice for new referees?

My main advice for new referees is never give up and have a passion for what you are doing. For me starting out as a brand-new referee, I never thought I would be in the position in my referee career that I am in today. There were some years I wanted to throw in the towel because I felt like I kept getting passed up, but I stayed with it and achieved some of my goals. The second part is you have to have passion in being a soccer referee. Whether you want to stay at your local level, or move up the ranks, you need to love what you are doing, or else need to find something else to do. Refereeing should be something you want to do every time you get assigned a game, and for me it is actually a stress reliever. To be out on the field outside, involved in the sport I love to be around, is priceless to me.

Refereeing Technology

Ken Wikle
Emeritus Regional Referee

Innovations in officiating soccer have proliferated in the past 10 years. When I started refereeing in the late 70s, the most innovative addition to refereeing was the fuchsia alternative referee jersey. If one of the teams was wearing black, you could wear this jersey to distinguish yourself from the players. It didn’t last long. I can’t remember what I did with mine. Perhaps the Salvation Army got it. Wearing a pink diamond patterned referee jersey was quite a “fashion statement,” but the players had no trouble telling the referee from their teammates. Now referees carry a bag full of alternative jerseys: five different colors to choose from. This provides lots of choices to distinguish the officials from the players and additional sales for uniform companies.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, the introduction of yellow and red cards was a relatively new introduction to soccer officiating, having been introduced by an English FIFA referee, Ken Aston, in England in 1976. They were having trouble in international games with players understanding when they were being “booked” (the currently the equivalent of being cautioned). A universally understood communication of being booked needed to be added. He got an idea one day on his way to a game as he was sitting in his car looking at a red traffic light. When a referee displayed a card, a yellow was a booking and red was an ejection. No matter what language a player spoke, the player and everyone else in the stadium would know what the referee meant when he displayed one of these cards. Everyone was using red and yellow cards when I started. With a black uniform, a whistle, linesman flags, and red and yellow cards, you had all the equipment required for officiating soccer. 

The only other experimentation a referee could engage in the late 70s was the brand of whistle used. I prefer a plastic Acme Thunderer, a whistle you can roll to emphasize your calls on the field. Talking with your whistle is very effective with an Acme Thunderer. Even Wiley Coyote would agree! I experimented with an Italian made Ballila whistle and found it much too piercing for youth and amateur games. Players would complain about its sound. Maybe it was better used in a professional game competing with the din of thousands of spectators. The addition of the Fox Forty “pea less” whistle about 1990 brought a new innovation and is now the favored whistle for many referees. A Fox Forty is difficult to roll taking this feature out of the game.

Lately, international soccer has undergone a wave of technology to assist referees, the most expensive being VAR (Video Assistant Referee) and GLT (Goal Line Technology). Use of VAR and GLT in international soccer has, in my opinion, improved the accuracy of decisions, assisting referees to make the “right” decision. Goal line technology has almost completely eliminated the controversy of whether a ball has entirely crossed the goal line inside the goal, a problem that used to occur at least once during every World Cup tournament. Due to the high cost of VAR and GLT, they are not used for youth and amateur games. Even Concacaf is not using either for World Cup qualifying this year. Referees still have to depend on the AR being closed enough to the goal line to judge whether the ball crossed the goal line.

Beeper flags and wireless headset radios for AR/Referee communication are in more use now and allow instant passage of offside and other important information from the AR and fourth official to the referee.

There are other lesser expensive technology items few of which I have invested myself. In future columns I will give a description of them and informally review.

Michigan Referee Committee

State Referee Administrator (SRA): Carlos Folino
State Referee Chairman (SRC): James Wheeler
State Youth Referee Administrator (SYRA): Ronald Grobbel
State Director of Referee Development (SDRD): Yuya Kiuchi
State Director of Assignors (SDoA): John Corbett
State Director of Futsal (SDF): Richard Gilbert
Manager of Performance Observation (mgr.observation): Tim Deters
Manager of Field Sessions (mgr.field): Jeff Dornseifer
Manager of Video Analysis ( Nichole Kramer-Kiuchi
Manager of Pedagogy (mgr.pedagogy): Kalani Burghard

Email addresses are the title in parenthesis plus

Please reach out to us!

If you have any referee-related stories to share or someone you think should be featured in this newsletter, please reach out to us at

MRC announcements

If you know anyone who would like to become a referee, we offer numerous grassroots referee classes, as well. You can find relevant information here.

Contact one of us on the Michigan Referee Committee if you have any questions.

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