A soccer referee, by definition, is an authority who supervises and governs the play of a match to ensure safety and fairness in accordance of the Laws of the Game. Referees are asked to make neutral, split second decisions based on what they see in the midst of a competitive environment, full of biased influences, and deceivers. The FIFA Laws of the Game, more so than other sports, are prone to subjection because of the word “discretion”, which appears five times in the Laws of the Game. Discretion is defined as the freedom to decide what should be done in a particular situation, and the FIFA Laws of the Game bequeaths referees the freedom to make decisions based on their perspective, understanding, and judgement. The word “discretion” creates a lot of gray area in a rule book that would otherwise be very black and white, and prone to less subjection from players, coaches, and fans. It is our beautiful game, and discretion of referees is an element of that beauty.
With elements of perspective, understanding, judgement, and discretion in a competitively biased environment, the quality of referee performance is subject to all those variables. Too often, players, coaches, and fans expect officiating robots, flawless decision makers. What should be expected are differences of perspective, understanding, judgement, discretion, and competitive bias. It should be expected that referees will make mistakes. Yes, go into each game expecting the referees will make mistakes, because they will just as the players will. When faced with 10 split second decisions in a game, players will make mistakes in technical and tactical execution and players, coaches, and fans (for the most part) are accepting that player’s split second decisions will not be 10 out of 10. Why is our standard for 10 split second decisions by referees any different?
When it comes to youth soccer especially, we need players, coaches, and fans to offer more leniency, understanding, and respect for referees. Professional players play in professional games officiated by professional referees. Developing youth players, play in youth games officiated by developing referees. Verbal and physical dissent of referee decisions is disrespectful, unacceptable behavior, and offers no positive rewards. Players, coaches, and fans should be more concerned with what they can control than what they cannot control. We cannot control referee decisions but we can control our ability to respect, cope, and play through decisions of the referee.
In an effort to further support our association’s mission to provide the North Texas community an enriching competitive soccer association focusing on long-term player development and training as well as a unified, positive soccer experience for our youth enhancing their skills and passion for the game that translates into success both on and off the field in a manner that focuses on long-term character building. WYSA does not permit verbal or physical dissent towards referees by our players, coaches, and fans. We believe the playing environment is the most crucial component of our player development philosophy and referee dissent of any kind has a negative impact on the playing environment and player development. Please help better WYSA this season by making a conscious effort to ‘Respect the Refs’!
Mike Emmert, President