Welcome to the May issue of the MRC newsletter. We are in a full swing of the spring season. There are numerous tournaments across the state every weekend. Regional referees and candidates are in the middle of the fitness test season. We took about a month of a break after we released the 100th weekly video. A new series, now called the Video of the Week, started on April 27. Just like the weekly videos, we will release a new video every Wednesday. You can check out the first video here.
We have mentored over 150 referees on their games in April alone. We are receiving many mentor requests, as well. If anyone’s interested in having their games watched by a mentor for some advice, please refer to the “Request a Mentor” article below for details.
As always, our May newsletter is full of exciting stories and information. We are featuring Mark Winogrocki for “Referee of the Month.” Tim Reed is the feature official in “Who’s Who.” We have some reports from a field session in Saginaw and a few of the fitness tests that happened near the end of April.
Beyond this newsletter, please be sure to follow our Twitter (@MichiganReferee), check out our blog, and subscribe to our YouTube Channel.
I started refereeing to see the game differently as I would always watch the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A & MLS and, yes, be one of those people thinking, “what the heck was that call ref!.” But also, as someone who works with computers when not at work, I thought it would be a great way to get exercise.
What do you enjoy the most about refereeing?
I enjoy the most getting to meet all the different referees as I get to experience different styles of referring or even something I can implement in my refereeing.
What are some of your best refereeing memories?
My two most memorable moments were getting my first big assignment, a state cup game on 3/25/21, and the other was my first semi-pro game assignment, a USL Academy game.
What would you like to achieve as a referee?
I hope to achieve at least getting my regional referee badge but getting my national badge and working at least USL-1 or USL-Championship.
What do you do when you are not on a soccer field?
When I am not refereeing, I am either doing conditioning for the fall season or, if it's winter, curling, throwing (delivering is the technical term) rocks down 150 ft of ice, or refereeing indoor soccer is what you can find me doing.
What other things fun about you can you tell us?
As many of you don’t know, I got to go to Qatar and volunteer for the FIFA Arab Cup in November and December of 2021, which was an honor and privilege to be able to volunteer for such a big event. Most of the time I was a part of Fan Support which was checking peoples tickets and their Eteraz (which is their local covid tracking app). Till one night, when I was filling in at a shift a Stadium 974 (which is made out of recycled shipping containers), I got asked to help with rehearsal for closing ceremonies. So I went there the next day and found out I was removed from the Fan Support team and was now a part of Media Operations which I was a part of for the remainder of my time there. I was able to talk to the referees of the finals! So it will be an experience I will never forget.
The first fitness test took place at Fitzgerald High School in Warren on April 23. About 10 referees attended the test with 5 proctors.
The second fitness test took place the day after at Skyline High School in Ann Arbor on April 24. Just shy of 10 referees showed up to the test.
Be Careful What You Say as a Fan
Many, if not all, of us take it seriously when coaches, parents, fans, or players abuse or assault us or a member of our crew. The same is true when someone behaved inappropriately toward our peer officials. But how are we acting when it comes to officials on a match that is removed from your daily life?
For example, when a referee makes a seemingly incorrect decision on an MLS game, an EPL game, a UCL game, or another high-profile game, how do you react? What if the decision negatively impacts your favorite team?
We observe a good number of not-so-appropriate comments made both online and offline in these instances. Just be careful. Not knowing the official personally does not excuse inappropriate behaviors. Not saying something directly at the official does not, either. Even if you are a local recreational referee and the official you are talking about is a FIFA referee, you are in the same community. Talking about mistakes for training and improvement efforts is one. But ridiculing, undermining their integrity, or being involved in any similar behavior is another.
Field Session in Saginaw
Last month, Brad Barlog and Stan Krajkowski, the DDRDs of Saginaw and Flint, organized a field session at Saginaw Valley State University. Tom Coatoam, Tim Reed, and Matt Krause also joined as mentors at the training session.
Over 20 referees attended the session. Not only were they able to go over some of the mechanics and other officiating skills, they were able to ask questions to more experienced referees and mentors to improve their skills.
Because of the pandemic, we saw a significant decline in the opportunity to offer these field sessions. In 2021, for example, we only had a couple of them across the state. Those who attended these sessions unanimously expressed how much they enjoyed seeing their friends and training together.
If you are interested in a field session in your local area, please reach out to your District Directors of Referee Development.
Request a Mentor
Do you want to become a better referee? Or are you looking for a few tips so you can be a more effective official on your next game?
Regardless of the motivation and reason, having a mentor on the field to watch you and give you feedback after the game can be beneficial. Now we have a system through which you can request a mentor.
Please fill out this form at least 2 weeks before your game and we will send you a mentor to your game.
Many of you are aware of the referee shortage. This is not unique to Michigan, soccer, or officiating. We are sure you are aware of worker shortage that is happening across the country. We have talked to people involved in other sports. From basketball and baseball, sport officials are extremely short in number. So where do we stand in Michigan? We continue to certify and recertify referees every few days with our zoom classes. So the number is growing. For example, on April 10 alone, we certified over 90 referees and recertified over 70 referees.
As of April 23, 2021, we have 2559 referees registered for 2022. Before the pandemic, our registration was about 4,000. So we are about 65% of where we used to be. We see an increase in the number of officials compared to 2020 but we are still short.
These 2559 officials do not include those who have started their certification or recertification process but who have not finished it. What does the breakdown of these 2559 referees look like?
As you can see, almost 60% of the registered referees are teenagers. We also see a significant drop in registered officials in their 30s. We have just about the same number of officials in their 20s, 40s, and 50s.
What about these teenagers? About 60% of our referees are teenagers, as you saw above. But how young are they?
If we just look at these teenage officials, over a half of them are between the ages of 13 and 15. One of the implications of this is that these referees cannot officiate games of an older age group than themselves. In other words, if a referee is 15, they cannot officiate a U-16 game. Think about how many youth games we have in the state and despite the number of referees, how many referees are ineligible to officiate many of these games.
Another important data point is that among these teenage referees, over 1000 of them were certified for the first time in 2021 or 2022. We have about 200 referees who were certified for the first time in 2020. In 2020 and 2021, we had a very small number of games because of the pandemic. This means that for these 1200 referees, 2022 is going to be the very first season with games like the pre-pandemic period.
Although we have fewer referees, the age and experience compositions have not changed very much. More than a half of the referees have been teenagers even years before the pandemic. About a half of the teenage referees have been younger that 16 years old. We always saw a dip in registration with referees in their 30s. These are nothing new.
For those in their 30s, many start their family. Many are busy at work. They may not have time for soccer. For teenagers, their life changes constantly. They move from a middle school to a high school, and then many will go to college. Or many will get a full-time job. How many teenagers in general keep the same summer job for 5 or 6 years? Not many.
Recruitment and retention continue to be important. Making the certification and recertification process simple and less time-consuming is important but not to the point that referees are sent to a field without training. It would only increase the chance of them having a bad experience with parents and coaches.
Recruiting adults is very important because they do not have any age restrictions as to what age group games they can officiate. When we find a new teenage referee, we try to recruit their parents or guardians, too.
What Do Refereeing and Your Savings Account Have in Common?
Can you see any similarities between refereeing and your savings account? Maybe not too much.
Now, think of this situation. You see an incident that you know is worthy of a caution. But you don’t want to give it. The opposing team players are not expecting a card. Maybe it was delaying of a restart or stopping of a promising attack. It is clear that misconduct happened but you know that you can get away without a card. You can just manage the situation without a card. Maybe you have also heard some experienced referees say, “When you give a card, you need to gain anything from it.” Or you may have heard someone say, “You gave a card but you didn’t gain anything from it.”
Our sport and expectations are changing constantly. If we have a situation like delaying of restart or stopping of a promising attack, the fact is that misconduct happened. Management is about prevention but not about wiggling your way out of a card. You must give a card. Technical decisions must be upheld.
But we all know that there are situations, especially on local or recreational games, where we know the game would be difficult to handle if we give a card. Sometimes referees knowingly make a mistake to make the rest of the game easier for them. While we do not endorse this approach (because a good referee must be able to do the right thing and still be successful), we know it happens. This is where the concept of your savings account come in.
If your bank account has enough money, you can afford to have some extra expenses. If your overall match performance is good, then you can afford to make a small technical error. Just like you won’t go bankrupt after unexpected expenses if you have enough saved up, your performance won’t be compromised because of a mistake if you are doing the right thing the rest of the game.
During a post-match debrief, we have heard referees say, “I knew I was supposed to give a card but I didn’t want to.” In that situation, the missed caution is marked as incorrectly not given, because that is what happened. But it does not mean that the referee’s overall performance was below expectation. At the same time, if the overall performance was borderline insufficient, then a missed caution can tip the scale to the level of unsatisfactory match performance.
What is Your Call?
In the April newsletter, you were given a clip that showed a possible pass back offence. The survey asked you to identify what action would have to be taken.
There were two popular responses. Slightly over 55% of you had a legal play. Just shy of 40% of you had a pass back offence with an indirect freekick without a card.
The correct answer is that this is a legal play. What makes this a legal play? The defender clearly kicked the ball last and his goalkeeper caught the ball with his hands.
In order to assess a pass back, the goal keeper must play the ball with their hands or arms. This criterion is met in this video. The next criterion is if the ball was kicked. In other words, did the defender use his foot or the rest of the body? In this video, it was his foot. So this criterion is also met. Remember that there is no pass back when the ball is passed to the goal keeper with someone’s head, chest, knee, or shin (although some other offence may happen, including trickery). The next and last criterion is if the pass back was deliberate. We never know the intent of a player so we cannot consider it. But did the defender deliberately kicked the ball to the goal keeper? Or did the defender played the ball to keep it away from an attacker and made a heavy touch on the ball?
The answer is the latter. This is why this is not an offence. As a general rule of thumb, in order to call a pass back offence, referees are recommended to identify a clear sign of deliberate kick to the goalkeeper. Note how this last sentence alone has three considerations included: “deliberate” “kick” “to the goalkeeper.”
This month, we will focus on your law knowledge again. But this time, we will focus on a penalty kick. You can find the video here.
I began officiating in 2001 for two reasons. The first was I love the game. The second and probably more pressing reason was that for my young children to play, officials were needed. I believed that officiating was a better fit for me than coaching. I fell in love with officiating instantly.
What do you enjoy the most about refereeing?
The comradery and friendships that I have made between other officials is the driving force for me to continue officiating.
What are some of the best memories from refereeing?
Easily my best officiating memory was having my first referee mentee being assigned a MHSAA State Final with me.
What made you a successful referee?
My success as a referee can be attributed to my eagerness to learn, ability to stay relevant and never quit trying to improve.
How else are you engaged in soccer beyond refereeing?
Teaching officiating classes and field sessions, mentoring new / less experienced officials, and assigning officials keeps me tied to the refereeing world when I am not out on the pitch myself.
What do you do when you are not on the field?
When not officiating, I enjoy as much time as I can with my wife, 3 grown children, and 2 grandchildren. My wife and I also really enjoying riding our motorcycles.
How you spend your time during the offseason?
Offseason, is there such a thing? I enjoy hunting, cutting wood with my Dad, snowmobile racing. Those all get “sprinkled in” while not officiating.
Do you have any advice for new referees?
Stay up to date on the laws and law changes. Be that expert. However, even more important is to know how to interpret them and apply to the Spirit of the Game. It is important to have a commitment to continuously learning. Be open to suggestions from others, watch for things that someone else does well and adapt them to your style and methods as you see fit while keeping your own identity. Most of all though, find ways to have fun and help make the beautiful game of soccer better, safer and more enjoyable for others!
Thank you, Tim.
Guidelines Regarding Dissent
In my last column, I encouraged referees to take charge of their matches and punish dissent when it occurs. Referees no matter what their age or experience are in charge of the game and need to perform their duties as if they are “In Charge.”
After some more thought, I felt that referees could benefit from some more guidance on how player, coach, and spectator misconduct is manifested, especially when it comes to verbal dissent (dissent can also be committed nonverbally). In my experience verbal dissent is the most common form of misconduct referees deal with in youth soccer.
FIFA/IFAB gave referees the power to caution and send off team officials with the display of cards a few years ago. In Michigan youth soccer games, this power has existed for years.
If you look at the IFAB Laws of the Game, under Law 12, you find information about warning, caution, and sending-off of team officials.
These are my possible scenarios and conclusions. But this of some examples below.
A coach says “Offside Ref!” loudly enough to be heard on the opposite touchline by players on the field, spectators, and the other officials. This comes under the category of public. The referee should consider if the coach was just enthusiastic and/or impatient, was showing minor disagreement, or was dissenting.
A coach says “That’s a foul, Ref!” or “Are you going to call that?” If considered public, this is the same response as the example above, ask the same questions with above. Maybe we consider a warning or a caution.
A coach says, “You are pathetic!” This comment is personal. It may also qualify as abusive and insulting in the Laws of the Game. In that case, this behavior warrants a send-off. If the referee opts to only caution, then a question to be asked is if the referee downgraded a serious offense and gave the coach a break that was not deserved.
Any comment about the officiating that includes a swear word whether public or not should result in at least a caution. A profanity directed at the referee is abusive and certainly is provocative and offensive. Use of swear words in the presence of youth players by a coach is unacceptable and irresponsible. Use of particularly foul language in an abusive manner should be a send-off. The details of this use of language could certainly be included in your game report.
A coach says “I’m going to get you after the game!” This is a clear send-off. It is a threat to the referee’s safety and is certainly abusive. The referee should show the coach the red card and maintain a safe distance from this coach who may have lost his temper and could decide to act on the threat immediately. In youth games, a person with a risk management card should take charge of the team for the rest of game. If nobody with a risk management card is available, terminate the game. The coach should be safely removed from the field area and the referee should make sure there is a neutral witness to accompany them to their car after the game.
There are some relatively harmless, sarcastic comments that coaches use. While these imply that the referee is not up to the job, referees should not over-react by sending-off a coach for one-time use of these comments.
The referee is not obligated to warn a coach first before cautioning or sending them off. If the offense is serious enough according to the guidelines in the laws, a direct send-off can result. Referees have to recognize the offense accordingly and react appropriately.
Any of the foregoing behavior directed at either Assistant Referee or a 4th official should be treated the same as if it were directed at the referee.
When should the referee address such behavior? A stoppage of play is oftentimes best for addressing a coach for dissent. However, for a very public, personal, and/or abusive incident, the referee may stop the game while the ball is in play. Don’t punish a team who is on attack near the penalty area. Stop the game, in the center of the field, if possible, and handle the coach’s misconduct.
Any of the previous examples committed by spectators should receive the same response when they are public except that the referee must go through the coach. Coaches are responsible in all youth leagues for the behavior of their spectators. The referee cannot show cards to spectators but can have them warned by the coach or removed. Coaches who refuse to control their spectators runs the risk of their match suspended or terminated. If spectators interfere with the game and their coach is unable to control them, the referee may abandon the match and report such to league authorities.
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 (mgr.video): Nichole Kramer-Kiuchi Manager of Pedagogy (mgr.pedagogy): Kalani Burghard
Email addresses are the title in parenthesis plus @michiganrefs.org
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 email@example.com.
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.