WineCape's Referee Blog

IMHO – a South African Football referee's view

Referees Dishing out GREEN CARDS for Good Behaviour


As reported recently by the Italian newspaper La Stampa, the Italian SERIE B division, the tier below the SERIE A professional division, will add the green card to the arsenal of cards a referee could possibly flash to onfield players. To reward players who commit acts of good behaviour. Yes. Read that again: a reward ….

Now, having received the OK from EUFA, the football powers in Italy is running an experiment where Italian footballers will soon be able to get a different kind of recognition from referees, apart from the established expulsion (red card) or caution (yellow). A card, coloured green, is to be shown for good sportsmanship and any other “acts of virtue” on the football pitch.

Ramos sent off

Players have long been accused of cheating. The act or ploy of diving and going to ground to simulate a foul in the hopes of conning the referee if there is no – or slight – contact from an opponent, and thus “earning” a foul or penalty is a pet hate by many a watching spectator.

According to Italian officials, the green card idea is to “highlight those players who help to make the game a sporting event and not a battle by primal instincts.”

Mmmm. Colour me a green skeptic. The green card system will be introduced this weekend (first week of Sept. 2015) in SERIE B in a bid, among others ideals, to stamp out diving incidents.  Some commentators already predict the green card system will catch on like other recent innovations; goal-line technology and the spray-marking the grass where defenders must stand during free kicks.

There is no in-game reward for earning a green card, but the player’s name will be noted and a player list  “You-are-in-the-ref’s-green-book” will be compiled at the end of the season.

The green card is a policy to counter the increasing unsporting behaviour witnessed over the last few years. The  “win at all cost” mentality is certainly part to blame for this general malaise in football where players are showing increasingly disrespect to opponents and match officials alike. It must be said referees have a great responsibility in the upkeep of football’s image and sporting principles and, at times, match officials simply fail in their duty in using the existing Laws of the Game to eradicate or lessen such negative witnessed behaviour.

The fact, too, that coaches keep silent when they see their players guilty of such cheating acts, whether diving (simulation) or any other, with usually a tacit grin & nod if their player earned his team a penalty in the process, is certainly a contributing factor why we have not seen less of such on televised games beamed the world over. Unless coaches actively discourage these deceitful acts, it will continue.   (Here’s looking at Bayern Munich & Netherlands’s international Arjen Robben.)

The green card was first adopted in Italian youth leagues via EUFA’s instruction to promote and reward Fair Play as an experiment, but this is the first time the green card scheme will be used at a higher professional level; and it could spread to other professional leagues if EUFA has their way pending assessment reports from SERIE B.

Green cards can be earned for such actions as kicking the ball out of play to stop play when a player is injured (before the referee has halted play), helping the referee make a correct call; and, peculiarly, admitting to having taken a dive in order to win a free kick. Admitting to diving/simulation? A rarity indeed.

There was a notable incident years ago. Liverpool’s Robbie Fowler and Arsenal’s goalkeeper David Seamen springs to mind. However, the match referee did not believe Fowler’s confession that the latter was NOT tripped by the Arsenal stopman.

Diving was previously defined as “unsportsmanlike” behaviour. Since replaced as an act defined as “simulation” under the “unsporting behaviour” section of the Law 12: Fouls and Misconduct, it is, given the wording, a “must-give” yellow card. That is, the referee has no choice but to caution the player if he reckons it was a simulating act.

Diving it is also commonly referred to as “gamesmanship.” The latter an euphemism in my not so humble opinion. I call those guilty of such acts simply cheats.

I was at pains stamping out such shameful acts during my career, notwithstanding the fact that I have called such simulation acts completely wrong after watching my own video self-assessments. But this was a rarity; the odds were, roughly, out of every 10 yellows shown for simulation, 1 was incorrectly judged to be so.

Hint: school yourself on the subject of reading body language; it’s a dead give-away identifying such simulating acts. I have already written helpful pointers for upcoming referees on this very subject earlier in this blog. Pointers that I found valuable in my career.

But the message was loud and clear during my watch; players rarely want to ire a referee whom has a reputation for not tolerating such onfield conning ploys.

Consider the possible application and ramifications of this new system. A player receives a yellow card, adjudged by the match official to have dived in his opponents penalty area.  He admits to his shameful act, how rare it might have been in the past. All good showing the green card after the mandatory yellow, not? 🙂

Say the referee was indeed conned by Mr. Shenanigans. The referee awards the “penalty.” It is taken by his team. The selfsame player gets a guilty pang ( I must stress such acts are very rare,) and he now wants to confess AFTER the penalty kick was taken. One can clearly foresee here that the heretic will, in all probability, not approach the referee to get his green badge. The option to wash his “sin” certainly is available publicly via the referee’s green card, but I am not convinced that this will have any significant impact on players in spilling the beans on a regular basis to stamp simulation out.

However, do remember the recanting player’s “act of virtue” must be done BEFORE the restart of the next phase of play (the actual taking of the penalty) for the “foul/penalty” to be annulled, if the referee was hoodwinked. A referee can not change his decision once he has restarted the next phase of play (taking of the penalty kick), according to the current Laws of the Game.

The opposing crowd is likely to take a dim, unruly view on the confessor “coming green” much later in the match too, given  the sinner’s act being the very reason why the opposing team is now a goal short. It’s rare for players even in the newspapers post match – and away from the heat of the battle and the hostile opposing crowd – to admit they have actually conned the referee and thus getting some degree of belated “absolution” in the print media for their honesty, if ever so quizzed on their act of controversy.

Now, do the referee dish out a green card ONLY if a player’s confession was done before the match official restarted play, but none if the confession was a belated one, and offered minutes later during the match?  Rooting out simulation, in such scenarios, seems rather unconvincing to me.

Again, referees simply have to throw the Law book at players and be more vigorous in their dealings to caution such behaviour. The tools to eradicate diving are in the Law book.

There is a prescribed punishment for them, a caution. Football Confederations – and IFAB, the ruling body tasked with the officiating Laws – simply have to keep on giving clear directives to clean the game of this blight. And do take referees off the various panels if certain match officials consistently fail to abide by IFAB instructions.

I doubt that even a financial reward and bragging trophy attach to the green card system will entice these multi-millionaire players to confess in droves. One awaits the assessment reports to see the benefit and exact impact of this experiment.

One can also imagine the football administrators having a field day subtracting green cards from a player’s yellow/red cards received at season end to determine the most pious player in their league.

Furthermore, I doubt the green card is going to be more effective in stamping out cheaters, given the current (evolving) administrative system by some football leagues where, retroactively, players are being cited and suspended if caught diving on match video review replays.

Roy Keane

There’ll be a yellow card, a red card and now a green card, specifically designed to reward good behaviour. What next, a sticker for kicking a ball? “

In my opinion, the green card is quite superfluous. I will be surprised if the green scheme will, suddenly, eradicate or diminish such ills. It is, foremost, up to referees to do their job properly, with a helping hand and concerted campaign by team coaches to lessen such behaviour.

Since football’s yellow and red cards are by themselves not preventative measures, but retrograde punishment for an act deemed unsporting, or for serious foul play, behaving sportingly onfield is easily noticed – and clearly seen – by every spectator. This has been so for decades without the referee getting into the counter-balancing act of being seen to, officially and publicly, reward such confessing sinners.

What’s wrong with the current – and effective – practice where the referee simply thanks the player for his sporting behaviour onfield? Such I have uttered many times in my career in acknowledging players’ sportsmanlike behaviour. It is up close, a personal comment directed at the individual and certainly to be appreciated to a greater extent by the player. This is and was the practice for some decades now. Adding a green badge to the above current practice seems rather… silly, if you ask me.

Is there really a need for the referee to show the green card to, possibly, up to twenty different players because all team players – and possibly some substitutes too –  actively tried to stop a violent brawl among two opposing, fighting players? Or trying to help disperse an unruly bunch of spectators who have invaded the playing field for whatever reason?

One wonders what hard man and ex-player Vinnie Jones might think of such a feel-good, Noddy-Green-Badge-gimmick-scheme, conjured up by the football confederation EUFA.

Vinnie Jones grabbing the nether regions of a player

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The Complete Elite Referee – SAFA continues to miss the boat

“Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come” — Victor Hugo


South African football supporters complain bitterly about the non-improving national football referee skills, and they continue to do so at an increased crescendo.  The South African Football Association (SAFA) has done little to nothing to improve the part-time amateur referees’ lot. Specifically, the attention to PSYCHO-SOCIAL variables in attaining & striving for professionally competent and complete elite referees are severely lacking, and continue to lack.

The “Complete Elite Referee” can be defined as an individual who has achieved optimal balance between technical (20-30%) and the psycho-social (70-80%) dynamics.

Technical Variables (20-30%):

(1) Knowledge of the Laws – textbook knowledge;
(2) Interpretation of the Laws – differentiation between the letter & spirit of the Laws;
(3) Application of the Laws – possession of natural affinity for the job;
(4) Physical fitness – athletic ability of meeting/surpassing the physical demands of the job.

Over the years, SAFA spent 95%+ effort in trying to improve the above variables while hardly recognizing or improving the skill-set of the following major factors to attain the ‘Complete Elite Referee.’

Psycho-social variables  (70-80%)

(1) Confidence & self-esteem – able to stand proud under intense public/ media scrutiny and criticism.
(2) Honesty & integrity – impeccable track record of non–allegiance and strong principles of professional independence of thought.
(3) Man-management skills – able to deal with deviant behaviour without relying always on the Laws of the Game but on people skills as well.
(4) Stable social life — individuals able to form and sustain social relations both within a family and society at large.
(5) Stress management – able to shut out personal challenges & maintain focus.
(6) Pressure management – able to withstand and cope with media/player/spectator and other external influences.
(7) Ability to work within a team.
(8) Personality – instilling trust and confidence in colleagues.
(9) Professionalism while on duty – upholding the correct image of the officiating code.
(10) Train-ability – the referee must be amenable to development advice.

As clearly shown, not only are the psycho-social variables more numerous than technical abilities, but they also speak to higher order demands on the psychological and social entity of the aspiring Elite Referee.

Demonstrably as legio examples will show,  a referee who has no or little synergy between the above two sets of variables simply cannot handle the rigors of top level competitive football.

To continued bewilderment, SAFA as custodian of referee development,  concentrates for years now on the first set of variables, to the exclusion of the second set of dynamics.

Zero synergy between these sets of dynamics also results that most South African referees will lack — and continue to lack — top level referee skills in the foreseeable future. What to do? The solution is utterly simple:

(1) Improve and concentrate also on the 2nd set of major variables, skills and attributes of aspiring Elite Referees.

Polishing at most 30% of attributes influencing referee skill is — and continue to be — a recipe for disaster and disaster management.

(2) Ask the referees what they want and implement their solutions to their voiced problems! 

Stands to reason you would think, not? Alas!

If the above ‘referee  policy’ extract seems familiar to some, let it be known that it was, as integral part of a referee policy concept document presented to SAFA. As far back as 2007, from concerned National Referees Panel members and their then representatives, to SAFA’s National Referee Committee (NRC). With no result.


An objective analysis of how various administrators in this country handled refereeing affairs reveals a stark contrast between their school of thought and the exposition of the Complete Referee above.

Furthermore, the pressure that comes from societal expectations of a referee who “appears on TV” may inhibit adequate performance for a referee who, given South Africa’s specific socio-economic background, happens to be struggling financially. Or whom stays in an informal settlement dwelling that belies his status as a local “celebrity.”

This is an aspect directly linked to the psychological variable of self-esteem. Simply put, a happy and content referee will give the best performance. A referee will be content when he is made part of the process that dictates his career path; when he is a meaningful participant in all related referee fraternity activities.

It is common knowledge — and the author’s unequivocal experience in a decade plus at the top level of South African refereeing  — that all previous and current  administrators of the various SAFA referee structures have tended to regard referees as ‘bird-chicks’ whose mouths are forever open for anything the ‘big bird’ shoves down open mouths, whether palatable or not. A top-down rather then a bottom-up managerial style.

Yet, amongst the top level South African referees over the years, there were always highly qualified intellectuals, some of whom have been more qualified in management and leadership then their leaders. The referee fraternity has been graced by the membership of lawyers, accountants, pilots, school principles, teachers and other highly competent individuals holding management positions at their work places.

The collective wisdom and leadership acumen of these people were seldom, if ever, tapped into by the various SAFA referee structures, let alone receiving recognition.

There has never been a SAFA-accepted administrative and management policy framework, despite such a policy framework presentation to SAFA , a framework that (in the past) was created BY the referees FOR the referees, upon which administrative and managerial future actions could be premised. Hence the clamour for a professional referee charter within the fold of the Association, a groundswell that many countries have taken up where acumen of political will and managerial skill is in no short supply.

“I started an amateur and retired an amateur” — Former South African FIFA Referee, Ace Ncobo

Needless to say, any organisation governed according to subjectively created precedents — in the absence of clear referee management policies, precedent dictates actions — will not have a healthy corporate governance record.

Thus, the referee governance culture of SAFA is, essentially, counter-productive in the quest to achieve optimum professional levels of performance the referees are certainly capable of.

There are no short-cuts in top level referee development. SAFA either lacks managerial skill and political will to remedy the situation, or worse, could not be bothered.

South Africa has the best developed pro football league in Africa. Sadly, the inconvenient truth (and paradox) is complete referee development is still non-existent.

It is self-evident that SAFA’s  current elite referee development policy of getting the Premier Soccer League’s (PSL) national referees together twice-yearly, for a “polish-up” seminar on such technical dynamics — dynamics that are only 20-30% part of an Elite Referee’s make-up — will not magically instill any higher level of professional standards in officiating. Professional standards the game of football in South Africa deserves.

"Coaches were back in office to prepare for the new season two months ago. The officials went for assessments and fitness tests with only two weeks left before the season kicked off. Now what kind of outcome should we expect?" Ex-Fifa Referee Ace Ncobo
“Coaches were back in office to prepare for the new [PSL] season two months ago. The [match] officials went for assessments and fitness tests with only two weeks left before the season kicked off. Now what kind of outcome should we expect?” Ex-Fifa Referee Ace Ncobo, Aug. 2013.
The result of SAFA’s short-sightedness in not having a holistic approach to complete development of the aspiring elite referee is utterly predictable: most South African referees will continue to lack much needed top-level officiating skills. Indefinitely.

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Referees need glasses!

Ghost goal in Hoffenheim vs. Leverkusen sparks debate for referees to possibly wear Google Glasses


Stefan Kiessling of Bayer Leverkusen scored one of the strangest goals in football with a header that went through the side netting.

Playing against Hoffenheim in the German Bundesliga, Leverkusen’s Germany international Kiessling headed a corner wide of the near post, and could be seen turning away in frustration before Brych awarded the goal. The ball continued its trajectory through a hole in the side netting, unseen by almost everyone, eventually settling inside the goals. Whether the hole in the net was there prior, or whether the ball snapped the side netting lattice, is not clear.

Leverkusen’s players celebrated the goal and even Hoffenheim’s defenders looked dejected as they thought it was a valid goal. Replays clearly showed the contrary. Stefan Kiessling failed to admit — or was confused despite a centre circle consultation with the match referee — that his header had flown wide.

German Bundesliga match, Hoffenheim vs. Leverkusen
The ball about to enter the side netting in the German Bundesliga match, Hoffenheim vs. Leverkusen

Fifa Referee Dr. Felix Brych stood by his initial decision to award the goal, much to the (eventual) dismay and shock of Hoffenheim’s players and staff. Hoffenheim slipped to a 1-2 home defeat and the result propelled Leverkusen to the top spot in the Bundesliga.

Here is the VIDEO CLIP of the incident:

Subsequent to this referee error, Bundesliga referees’ chief Andreas Rettig kick-started a debate that German officials in the future might wear glasses in the Bundesliga. However, Rettig is not proposing eye tests for the men in the middle, but the donning of Google Glasses to allow officials instantaneous on-field access to video replays before making a decision in order to help cut out referee mistakes.

Rettig is encouraging the use of available technology to help make life easier on the field and he thinks the futuristic technology – or a variant of it – would be ideal for helping officials with their decision making.

Bespectacled match officials could become the norm if German Bundesliga referee’s chief Andreas Rettig gets his way
Bespectacled match officials could become the norm if German Bundesliga referee’s chief Andreas Rettig gets his way

“Basically, we are always open to new technological innovations, but it is also clear that we need to address the fundamental decisions more carefully.

 “[We should think about] computer glasses for referees, such as Google Glass. When we think about technical progress, then we must take the next step to discuss whether the referee could wear glasses to see what everyone sees viewers on the couch. There a strong argument against the video evidence, namely that the referee’s authority on the pitch would no longer be overriding. But if the referee [when reviewing incidents on Google Glass] was not relying on anyone or anything external, then he could accurately assess the scene immediately.”

Google Glass is a wearable computer that looks like a pair of spectacles, with an optical head-mounted display that allows wearers to access real-time information displayed in front of their eyes.

“Glass” is a kind of projector that projects a visual layer over reality (augmented reality) directly onto the wearer’s retina and it will, according to internet search engine giant Google, become commercially available to the general public in 2014.

The main element is a semi-transparent prism. Google Glass is a technical masterpiece of innovation as it combines a video camera, phone, microphone, a central processor and even a GPS chip (Global Positioning Satellite), all housed in a very small frame.

Google Glass might not be used for a replay on every foul, or on a player’s appeal for a penalty, but it might help officials on such incidents as violent conduct. By simply swiping his finger along the rim on the housing casing, the wearer can control the video-taping and replay of such incidents very quickly. With such technology, the referee could himself request a replay to see if a punch was actually thrown, as it is at times difficult for officials to ascertain all the culprits in a big fighting melee.

Ground rules for the use of such aids onfield will be laid down by IFAB, the International Football Association Board, task with all rule changes, as they have done for specific tournaments and goal line technology.

FIFA has already announced that German company GoalControl GmbH  will be the goalline technology (GLT) provider for the 2014 Brazilian World Cup finals following a successful trial at the Confederations Cup in 2013. Prior to the start of every game, the match officials will also carry out their own tests on such equipment, in-line with the operational procedures approved by the International Football Association Board (IFAB).

GoalControl demonstrating the near instantaneous decisions of their technology

GLT will be the forerunner as a technological aid for football officials and it probably would have spotted the above mistake in the Bundesliga match. Whether future aids (e.g. Google Glass)  might be utilized to assist referees in quicker and accurate decisions on-field as mentioned by Andreas Rettig, only time will tell.

However, all future change, as with the existing uptake of goal line technology,  started with a debate. And the debate has started anew.

Google’s co-creator, billionaire Sergey Brin, showcasing the revolutionary Google Glass in 2012
Google’s co-creator, billionaire Sergey Brin, showcasing the revolutionary Google Glass in 2012

Manchester United vs Real Madrid: Stuffed by a Turkey?

Champions League: Manchester United vs. Real Madrid (Knock-out Stage, 2nd Leg, Mar13)


Ad nauseam the media and social networks remind us that Nani’s send-off in the 2nd leg of the knock-out round of the Champions League by the Turkish referee was not with excessive force and that Nani certainly had no intent or any malice (deliberateness) in his challenge to qualify for serious foul play and thus a dismissal. See image file of the incident below.

Nani challenging for the ball. Serious Foul Play (excessive force) ingredients ticked off: High, at speed, right angles, extended stiff leg, studs first, launched into air,  intensity of contact, speed of players.
Nani challenging for the ball. Serious Foul Play — all the ingredients for excessive force ticked off: High challenge, at speed, right angles, extended stiff leg, studs first, launched into air and intensity of contact.

The sequence frames can be seen here:

A clear impression is created in the media the absence of malice/deliberateness from Nani is the only reason why player Nani should not have been send off for serious foul play. Furthermore, most commentators reason that Nani’s resultant kick with his outstretched leg to bring an aerial ball under control did not endanger the safety or health of his opponent when his boot or studs connected with the chest of his luckless opponent.

As always, The Law as a framework and start point:

LAW XII: Any player who lunges at an opponent when challenging for the ball from the front, from the side or from behind using one or both legs, with excessive force and endangering the safety of an opponent, is guilty of serious foul play.

Using excessive force” means that the player has far exceeded the necessary use of force and is in danger of injuring his opponent. A player who uses excessive force must be sent off.

Excessive force. There lies the rub. How do referees judge excessive force?

Most media opinions pontificate, without mentioning the FIFA mandated criteria referees should consider for conditions of serious foul play/excessive force, the Turkish referee made a shocking decision to dismiss player Nani. It certainly was, if the referee’s decision to dismiss the Manchester United winger was based on the malice factor alone. However, there was no malice or deliberate intent to harm his opponent. How do we know this?

Body language and movement of Nani. As can be seen in the CLIP SEQUENCE above, Nani is clearly looking at the ball about to drop into his path — his head turned, looking upwards — and it can be reasonably assumed he is not aware of the close proximity of his immediate opponent.

Note that referees cannot speculate what a player subjectively wants to do to his opponent, i.e. the “Sorry-ref-I-didn’t-intend-to-injure” apologies do not cut mustard. Referees are not mind readers and therefor don’t judge accordingly; they only judge the external bodily actions of players executing their challenges on the field of play, and they judge what those flailing arms/hands, outstretched legs, exposed studs etc. did, or could have done to an opponent.

I mentioned above  “criteria” to judge serious foul play. Before we get to these criteria/factors specifically and what they entail, a quick sidenote to illustrate that malice, or deliberateness to harm, is but only one of the criteria to take cognisance of in judging the seriousness of dangerous play and hence a possible dismissal under Law 12: Fouls and Misconduct (serious foul play)

To debunk the camp of football followers that believe the “absence of player intent to harm (malice) should imply no send off whatsoever” we have to pose the following two-fold pertinent questions:

(1) Should player malice be the only factor/criteria in assessing possible excessive force and thus serious foul play?

(2) If not, should player malice be the most important criteria in deciding if a player played with excessive force/serious foul play?

Answer: Absolutely not. To both posed questions. Why? Below is a graphic sequence of events for those that hold  the viewpoint the malice factor should be the only, or most important, criteria for a dismissal under serious foul play.

Incident (No Malice):

We have a player in the above clip doing a bicycle/scissors kick, and we can see he is, most probably, not aware of the close proximity of his opponent. And if he was aware of his opponent, it can be argued he was trying to play the ball only and not kick his opponent senseless in the execution of his overhead kick.  Thus, no malice on his part — or deliberateness — to injure his opponent can be made in this incident.

As can be seen in the above clip, he kicks his opponent, in the face, 6-7 feet off the ground. Are we now to reason that there was zero danger to the safety of his opponent? Or to reason that the above kick did not, or could not have, endangered his opponent’s health seriously because one criteria is absent, i.e. zero malice/intent/deliberateness on the player’s part? Of course not.

Therefor, referees cannot look at player malice as the sole defining criteria of potential dangerous challenges. Referees have to appraise additional criteria, the seriousness thereof, and assessing whether such challenges use excessive force. These additional criteria, according to Fifa’s instructions, are

*** Angles of player movement–[right angles potentially more severe injury]
*** Extended/stiff leg(s)– [Potentially more force used]
*** Launched off the ground– [gives greater speed and potentially harder impact]
*** Actual point and/or height of contact– [more vulnerable/exposed body parts]
*** Speed/intensity of contact — [increased danger the faster the speed of players]
*** Possible malice present– [judged by player’s body language/movement]
*** Atmosphere of match? [bad-tempered, highly contested match or played in good spirit w/ good sportsmanship]
*** Opinion of the Referee– [view/angle to incident and what he is aware of, or believe to have seen]

Lastly, Fifa’s instruction in a recent seminar I attended: if the referee has any doubt, aka as “orange card” incidents: Start with red card/dismissal, and find compelling reasons to not send the player off.

Are we now so sure Mr. Turkey made such an abysmal and clearly wrong decision given all above criteria to be considered, as mandated by Fifa? Could the referee rather have decided that non-malice -and possibly the match atmosphere – be the  overriding criteria?

Did the referee attach more weight to the other factors mentioned above? Obviously he did. Nani was dismissed. The Law empowers him with the words: In the “opinion of the referee” in conjunction with the FIFA instructed criteria for a dismissal under serious foul play.

Turkish Fifa Referee Cüneyt Çakir: EUFA had "no problem" with the dismissal of United's Nani for serious foul play (excessive force).
Turkish Fifa Referee Cüneyt Çakir: EUFA had “no problem” with the dismissal of United’s Nani for serious foul play (excessive force).

It is not such a watertight, black and white, open-and-shut case as the football media has made out to be with Nani’s dismissal, and so eagerly trumpeted as such. For one, the social and news media, including most football pundits, certainly don’t inform their readers on all pertinent criteria, as instructed by FIFA, as to how referees should assess these incidents under serious foul play/excessive force. Non-malice is but one factor in the referee’s appraisal and decision-making process.

A degree of judgement, how critical you might think it is, referee Cuneyt Cakir did exercise, as empowered by Law 12 and the relevant mandated FIFA additional serious foul play criteria, and for that reason UEFA’s Referee Committee did not disagree with his dismissal decision made, overseen by the watchful eye of none other then Pierluigi Collina, present at the stadium on match night.

USA and Canadian Soccer establishing “PRO” Ref structure

Professional Referee Organization created to manage officials in North America


Congratulations to the USA and Canadian soccer federations for creating and forming the Professional Referee Organization (PRO)  on 6 March 2012. Their goal is simple: to set worldwide standards in football officiating. Heading up the PRO structure is English Premier League referee Peter Walton, a veteran of nearly 200 English Premiership matches since 2003.

The 52-year-old will assume the new fulltime post of General Manager of the organization. His appointment starts on April 2 and he will be based in New York City throughout the Major League Soccer (MLS) season.

Peter Walton heading GM PRO
English referee, Peter Walton, the GM of newly created Professional Referee Organization (PRO) from April 2012 in the USA & Canada

The PRO will incorporate several of the new initiatives introduced last year – a referee command center in New York, the use of video analysis, real-time evaluations of match officials and in-stadium professional match evaluators.

The PRO model allows for more financial funding toward the referee program, hiring of more experienced technical staff to educate  referees, increased training opportunities for officials, additional identification and training opportunities for up-and-coming officials and increased investment toward sports science.

“We’ve always understood that the development of referees is an important aspect to the growth of the game in the United States,” said U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati. “PRO is another step toward the improvement and professionalization of our top referees. With the additional resources and funding provided by the formation of PRO, we will continue to build upon the progress we’ve already made.”

Said MLS Commissioner Don Garber:  “Thanks to collaborative work with U.S. Soccer and the Canadian Soccer Association, officiating in MLS made significant strides forward in the past year. The overall level of MLS refereeing is good, and the creation of the Professional Referee Organization is the logical next stage of development. MLS and U.S. Soccer proudly welcome PRO General Manager Peter Walton, who will utilize his exceptional experience as a referee and as an administrator, along with substantial resources, to help MLS achieve its vision of setting the worldwide standard in officiating.”

U.S. Soccer and Major League Soccer (MLS) took significant steps in 2011 to create a U.S. Soccer professional referee department and relocate to New York. Seven new rookie referees were introduced to MLS last year, participating in almost 20 percent of the league’s regular season games. The use of quantitative analysis and video were used to evaluate USA referees  in real time at the newly constructed referee command center in New York, helping upcoming and existing referees substantially.

Approximately 45,000 new referees enter the officiating ranks every year in the United States, and U.S. Soccer Federation will continue its efforts to put more online educational resources at their disposal. A PRO Advisory Board also will be established as Peter Walton, and other members, will meet regularly to monitor the progress being achieved by referees.

Having the political will, forethought, managerial skill and acumen, a sense of pride in officiating excellence and actively supporting match officials 100% in becoming professional full-time, as well as the business acumen to formalize the pro referee structure in such a relative short period of time is an example for all countries, not least my country, headed by the South African Football Association (SAFA).

As one learned soccer scribe was quoted succinctly in an European football magazine on the still-born South African pro referee structures, dormant for the past few years:

It is essential for the credibility of the game to keep up officiating standards, but attempts to bring in professional refereeing remains stymied by a power struggle between the South African Football Association and the PSL.  SAFA control refereeing and want to keep it so. But they have no money. The PSL [ Premier Soccer League] have the money to pay salaries and set up structures but obviously want the control if they are to spend the cash.  Talk of a professional [referee structure] has been going on for years now with little progress.  It is time SAFA and the PSL set aside their political cat fighting and work together on this urgent matter.

Let’s hope SAFA and the Premier Soccer League (PSL), the entity that manages the top two leagues in South Africa, can get their act together to follow the USA example. Soon, before this decade is out.

Fifa and IFAB’s latest Law changes for 2011

Missed criterias, clothing bans, triple punishment and vanishing spray

The International  Football Association Board (IFAB), the lawmaking body tasked with authorizing changes and amendments to the Laws of the Game, convened for its 125th Annual General Meeting in March 2011, in Wales.  Their rule changes sanctioned will come law on 1 July 2011. Up for consideration were some of the following vexing issues:

Goal Line Technology:  

FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter announced that none of the ten companies which had been invited to test their technology had so far been successful in meeting the specific criteria set out by the IFAB meeting on October 20, 2010. IFAB therefore agreed to a one-year extension of Goal Line Technology tests. Blatter explained:

If you have no system which is responding to the criteria that has been fixed by this entity, you cannot just jump in.

We must first have the answer to our basic principles – accuracy, speed – which means the immediate delivery of the result – and a system that is not too complicated to implement. And we haven’t achieved these three things so far with our independent laboratory.

Therefore, it is a question of one year. What is one year? It is nothing. Just a little bit of patience is needed. But it was a very positive approach in the meeting …. and there was not one single person there, despite the fact that we had a lot of special guests today, going against the tests.

The ten systems all had to demonstrate they were 100% accurate and that they could transmit the result of a goal being scored, or not, to the referee within a second. Blatter said the issue of Goal Line Technology would be brought back to the attention of IFAB next meeting – March 2012, in London – when a final decision will be taken.

Chuck Blazer

FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer, one of the body’s delegates to IFAB and General Secretary of CONCACAF said:

“It has got to be reliable, quick and affordable and nothing has worked at the moment. If anyone can meet that criteria I continue to be open to it. I don’t have a problem with keeping the testing open until we get something that works.”

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke mentioned that the world governing body are “ready to pay”  for further goal line technology tests. The goal-line system developed by a British company, Hawk-Eye, was not one of the tested systems. FIFA has given the British company the assurances that they are still under consideration.

Hawk-Eye, the most established technology, having already conducted stadium testing at Reading in England, declined even to take part in FIFA’s experiment prior to the 125th AGM, apparently in anticipation of the difficult testing environment. Their version of the specific technology needed a stadium environment for their cameras. Hawk-Eye remains confident its system would pass Fifa’s tests – the company is in the process of being taken over by a larger company and it will be eager that IFAB will give them some  guarantees that IFAB will want to continue with goal line technology in the future.

The ten technology Companies had only a few months to attain Fifa’s criteria of 100% accuracy and relaying results back to the officials with speed – and it proved too difficult a task for them.

IFAB is made up of representatives from each of the English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland’s FAs, plus FIFA, the international governing body for football. Each UK association has one vote and FIFA has four. IFAB deliberations must be approved by three-quarters of the vote, which translates to at least six votes. FIFA’s approval is necessary for any IFAB decision, but FIFA alone cannot change the laws of the game and requires the support of at least two of the UK members.

The Welsh and Northern Irish Football Associations, which until now had backed FIFA in opposing any goal line technology, about turned their stance and are now also leaning towards supporting more tests on goal-line systems.

Fifa has announced a timetable for goal-line technology during 2011. Companies, interested in presenting their goal-line systems, need to declare their interest before 3 June 2011 to Fifa headquarters in Zurich and have to formally apply one month later with a $20,000 registration fee.

Germany's GK, Neuer, fails to save England's shot by Lampard in World Cup 2010, a catalyst for FIFA to re-evaluate their stance on goal-line technology.

Presented systems will be tested during the first phase between September and December 2011, and all systems reporting a 90% or higher accuracy in simulated match conditions would be invited back for the second phase of testing, being conducted between March and June 2012. The second phase will be more rigorous, entailing the evaluation of the qualified systems under different weather conditions, shock resistance, immunity to electronic interference and under different types of playing surfaces. Trails will be held behind closed doors and manufacturers can choose their preferred stadium for conducting such tests.

Ben Buckley, GM of the Australian Football Federation, offered his federation's services as guinea pig for FIFA's goal-line technology tests.

Australia’s Ben Buckley has already offered Fifa his willingness to help out evaluating and testing goal-line technology within the Australian Football Federation. Said Buckley in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph:

“We believe the infrastructure of the [A] League is of high enough quality to give it a meaningful trial. [Australia] took the initiative on using video technology to penalize simulation retrospectively, and pleasingly you now see very, very little of that in our game. Everyone wants to see the correct decisions made by the officials, and this seems to be a way of supporting them in that.” 

AAR’s during the EURO 2012: 

Europe’s (EUFA) president, Michel Platini, wants extra officials behind each goal line instead of technology. (Getty Images)

A presentation was also made to IFAB on the use of  Additional Assistant Referees (AAR’s) behind each goal line and IFAB approved  the continued experimentation thereof in the  EUFA Leagues and sanctioned it for the upcoming European Cup, EURO 2012, to be held in Poland and Ukraine.

Vanishing spray: 

The English Football Association (FA) asked IFAB to consider the use of ‘vanishing spray.’  The usage of coloured vanishing  spray is common practice in Brazil and South America where officials use a spray on the grass to prevent the defensive wall encroaching on the 10-yard gap at free-kicks. The spray evaporates after a minute. The small canisters of spray are carried by referees in velcro clasps during matches. The CONMEBOL football federation was granted approval to trial the use of vanishing spray in their football associations.

Law 12 – Fouls and Misconduct : ‘DOGSO’s ‘Triple punishment’: 

The punishment of players, when send off for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity, coupled with a penalty kick if this occurs in their own 18-yard area, as well as the follow-on administrative expulsion – guilty players may have to sit follow-on matches out due to specific league rules with regard to red cards offenses) was discussed. IFAB ruled that this issue, as well as the possible usage of radio communication  in the technical area should be postponed and referred them both to FIFA’s Task Force Football 2014 team.

Snoods, Undergarments and Performance clothing  worn underneath playing kit: 

IFAB ruled neck warming scarfs (snoods) are not permitted as from 1 July 2011

Snoods, or neck warming scarfs and/or hoods, are to be outlawed as from 1 July 2011 under Law 4 – Player’s Equipment. IFAB also clarified and re-iterated that the colour of  the increasing popular usage of performance clothing (leg tights or baselayers), if worn, must match the colour of a player’s shorts.   //

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