Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Here we go again ...

Report: FIFA facing fresh corruption allegations

Zurich - Three FIFA executive committee members have been linked to a secret list of payments in renewed corruption allegations affecting football's world governing body ahead of this week's vote to choose the hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, according to a Swiss report Monday.

The daily Tages-Anzeiger reported that the three officials received bribes from bankrupt FIFAmarketing partner ISMM/ISL a decade ago. It based its reports from a list of payments on the books of the firm which collapsed in 2001. ...

Full story continues here, courtesy of Monsters and Critics.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Strike One?

Thanks to Ken for bringing this issue forward.

Scottish referee strike forces 15 weekend games to be cancelled as decisions row threatens to drag on

A bitter strike by referees has forced the cancellation of almost three-quarters of all football matches in Scotland’s professional leagues this weekend.

The six fixtures scheduled in the Scottish Premier League – the country’s top flight – will go ahead following the last-minute arrival of officials from Israel, Malta and Luxembourg.

But all 15 games in Scottish Football League – the three divisions below – have been axed after more than 30 referees downed whistles. ...

Full story here, courtesy of Mail Online.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Law 18 "strikes" again

This title will make more sense after you read the post from Soccer America titled "Mom slaps ref." In what may be an example of a parent gone wild, which frankly it is, there is also a more subtle message in there for those who are looking.

This story (and those like it) go something like this:

  1. Experienced referee is officiating a local youth game, usually U-14 or below.
  2. Match is going fine.
  3. Referee applies the laws in a way that the youth players are not accustom to.
  4. Players take exception.
  5. Adults take exception.
  6. Players and/or adults emote their concerns (constructively or not).
  7. Referee does not notice or does not adjust accordingly.
  8. Players and/or adults act out.
Now from the onset let me say that this is a pretty general pattern in youth sports and can be applied to just about anything that participants don't like. In this case there is some "magic" in steps 3 and 7 where a referee is doing something players at an age, or really better stated, playing level, are not ready for, and the referee does not recognize and adjust to the level.

I say "playing level" and not "age" as there are some very young players that are sophisticated and coached well that are more prepared than most youth referees in some settings (e.g. Regional Play or some international tournaments such as Dallas Cup). This scenario is not intend to reflect that case. As it turns out, it is the referee who may "act out" in those cases. I will cover that in a future post.

Here, we have the case of a referee who has not adjusted properly, did not recognize, and resulted in upset parents ... to the point of assault and battery.

The "magic" incident was captured in the SA story (interestingly not others that reported it however):
"... playing in a U-10 game in the Atlanta area ... the referee ... didn't stop play after the girl was hit in the chest by the ball and fell down."
The result:
"The mother ... entered the field and slapped the referee because he didn't stop play. The mother left by the time Forsyth County Sheriff deputies arrived. The victim of the slap from the 39-year-old woman was a 30-year-old male referee, whose face was reddened and his lip bloodied." 
The reason the referee gave for not stopping play for 9 year olds:
"According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the ref didn't stop play because the other team was in possession – and waited until the ball went out of bounds."
So ask yourself as referees, are you applying the laws in a way the players recognize and understand? In this case, there may even be a more basic question that needs to be asked ...

Did the players feel safe with the decisions the referee was making?

For me, was the referee technically correct in waiting to stop play?
Yes.

Did they get themselves into trouble by waiting to stop play?
Yes.

So what is a referee to do then, apply the laws as written or modify them for the game at hand?
Both.

Sounds like "double speak" but the referee must apply the LOTG while keeping the interpretations at the level of the players. If not, they will react negatively and put the match in jeopardy.

In this particular case, there is even a simpler message. For a local U-10 match, is a player goes down, stop the play regardless of what else is going on. It is the safest course for these young players.

Finally, while I understand the mom's concern for her daughter. This referee should file the criminal charges, and follow up with a civil suit. Overly litigious? Maybe, but this parent needs to understand the damage she did by committing assault and battery on a match official to herself, and THE game. This would not be about "revenge" (there is no big pay day here folks), but it is about protecting THE game, and ALL of its participants, even the folks in the funny colored shirts.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Send in the Swiss guard

World Cup - Swiss authorities investigating FIFA
Swiss authorities are considering launching a criminal investigation into FIFA over allegations of vote rigging for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, according to a report in the Guardian.

Six FIFA officials were suspended last week over the long-running allegations of vote trading for the right to host the World Cup, and the Guardian reports that the Swiss Federal Office for Sport is considering a criminal case against football's governing body. ...

Article continues here, courtesy of Yahoo! Sports.

Friday, November 26, 2010

It ain't the love bug

Special thanks to Ken for pointing this one out.

Man jailed for driving car at referee

LONDON -- The harshest punishment soccer players can usually expect for berating a referee is a suspension or fine -- not 24 weeks in jail.

But then most players don't respond to the threat of a red card by driving a car on the field and at the official.

Amateur player Joseph Rimmer became incensed by a referee's refusal to award a free kick during a February game between Lonsdale and Harrington in northwest England. Rimmer thought he was about to be penalized by referee David Harkness, so he told him: "If you book me or send me off, you know what will happen." ...

Story continues here, courtesy of ESPN.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thank You

Photo courtesy amoeba.com
On this Thanksgiving Day Holiday (in the US) I wanted to take just a minute to give thanks to you all for the continued support of Kicking Back.

I remain overwhelmed by the response and continued support we receive in our day to day musings about things soccer.

As I sit here today I don't see much of that changing as we continue to make plans for future installments and expanding content of the blog.

For me I will be spending some time to reflect and truly give thanks to so many who make my go round in this life the fun that it is.

For anyone looking to get involved in a match this weekend, here is a state by state listing of some of the tournaments going on this holiday weekend. I for one, will be out on Saturday inspecting a match and likely still quietly digesting.

Best wishes on this day of thanks, and our sincere gratitude to you all for making Kicking Back what it is becoming.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Truer words have never been written

Get a grip FIFA

According to reports England’s bid to host the 2018 World Cup is hanging in the balance because of the British media’s investigations into how FIFA (the world football governing body) is run - the findings of these investigations demonstrating a not insignificant amount of corruption throughout the organisation. The Sunday Times accused both Amos Adamu and Reynald Temarii of selling their votes determining where the World Cup will end up. FIFA have suspended the two offenders, but apparently the whole incident has poisoned many of the other delegates against the England bid – which had previously been one of the favourites. A BBC Panarama programme also investigating FIFA was shown earlier this week, prompting the chief executive of England’s bid Andy Anson to call the BBC unpatriotic because the further damage it will apparently do to England’s chances. ...

Full article continues here, courtesy of Cherwell.org.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Finally a traditionalist

The title of this great article says it all:

Michel Platini: 'The referee must decide, not a guy in front of a tv'

The Brian Viner Interview: The Uefa president hits out at Sepp Blatter's stance on goal-line technology, justifies the Financial Fair Play idea but says he is undecided over England's 2018 bid

The temperature in Switzerland took a dramatic dive earlier this week, causing almost as much consternation in the sleek, glass-and-steel headquarters of Uefa in Nyon on the shores of Lake Geneva as might a dramatic dive in a European final. On the morning I visit, a blanket of thick cloud hangs low over the lake, for which one Uefa functionary actually apologises. A day earlier, he says, it was positively warm, with vivid views of Mont Blanc. Now, all is grey, chilly, damp, inhospitable. My hope is that the mood of Uefa's illustrious president, Michel Platini, will not match the weather. ...

Fabulous article continues here, courtesy of The Independent.

Monday, November 22, 2010

No justice ... It's Gerrymandering folks

A good article from The Independent detailing the personal battles that may be responsible for setting back the England 2018 bid. What got me was not the body of the article however, it was what was reported at the end of it. From the article:
Last night a fresh twist was added to the chaotic bid process when it emerged that Adamu and Temarii could be replaced in time for the vote, bringing it back up its full quota of 24, if they accept their punishments rather than go through a lengthy appeal.
You have got to be kidding me. This is rubbish.

Just when FIFA seemed to be marginally getting their act together after the ethics probe they conducted, they do this.

Now, maybe it's a "trial balloon" to see if there is any appetite for this nonsense, in an effort for FIFA to better respond and understand the people who represent the game they are dedicated to serving.

I don't buy that one.

They are shopping for votes.

This one, if true, is the worse kind of conduct in voting bodies ... gerrymandering. After all, who is picking these "new" voters? By all accounts this may be the difference between England 2018 and Russia 2018 as the African block of votes is decidedly not going Englands way.

This one is a lose-lose.

If you pick voters that are sympathetic to England, it would appear to be a "lifeline" for England. If you do otherwise, that "lifeline" looks like it has a boat anchor attached.

I would opine that there is NO ONE in FIFA who is not tainted by this, or at least influenced to the point that they could be added as the last two votes in time for 02-DEC. Ethics committee where are you?

On a final note, it sure seems this is getting to the boiling point in England as more than one commentator is expressing its frustration anger at FIFA and its processes. See this article from The Independent which states in part:
That's Fifa for you, and as a "made" representative I would have long understood the loyalty we display to our own. When Valcke announced the suspensions of the two executive committee members and four other officials last week – after the cash-for-votes allegations printed in a British broadsheet – I would have figured, "They'll be back". Who knows, they may even one day make it to even higher office. I would put nothing beyond Fifa's recovery powers.
While not all the daggers are pointed at FIFA, many are. In this case, as they should be.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bush did it

Credit: http://townhall-talk.edmunds.com
Politics aside, I caught this article from The Telegraph where FIFA gives yet another reason why England may not get the 2018 World Cup.

This time ... Wimbledon.

FIFA has stated in their report that:
It is a Fifa requirement that no other major sporting event is hosted in a host city during the event period and the fact that the Wimbledon tennis championships take place in London during late June/early July could have an impact on the public attention given to the Fifa World Cup.
FIFA seems to be trotting every excuse in the book to have some grounds to tell England "no", or at least give the remaining EXCOMM members enough pause to do so. As I wrote the other day, I do not think England will get the 2018 nod, but unfortunately this would be for all the wrong reasons as they are as good a host as any to do so. I would opine one of, if not, the best next to the US, who still to me inexplicably exited early.

Overall however England got a good report. Some would say better than others in the running for 2018.

We will see however, the clock is ticking, and things still do not look great for England as the BBC continues to ready itself to air its FIFA corruption documentary.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

FIFA Ethics Probe Complete: Justice or Gerrymandering?

Back when FIFA announced its ethics probe into the sale of World Cup votes by FIFA EXCOMM members, and collusion between bidding countries, I was suspicious of getting, frankly, any result.

I have to admit, while I do not believe FIFA took all the steps it should have to remove the doubt from the process, they did more than I expected.

Then again, my bar may have been set so low you could step over it.

From the FIFA media release, the following punishments have been meted out for the vote selling scandal. Note a CHF (swiss franc) is approximately equal to $1 US:
  • Reynald Temarii (FIFA vice-president) was banned from taking part in any kind of football-related activity (administrative, sports or any other) at national and international level for a period of one year. Furthermore, he was fined CHF 5,000.
  • Amos Adamu (FIFA Executive Committee member) was banned from taking part in any kind of football-related activity (administrative, sports or any other) at national and international level for a period of three years. Furthermore, he was fined CHF 10,000.
  • Slim Aloulou (chairman of the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber and member of the FIFA Players’ Status Committee) was banned from taking part in any kind of football-related activity (administrative, sports or any other) at national and international level for a period of two years. Furthermore, he was fined CHF 10,000.
  • Ahongalu Fusimalohi (General Secretary of the Tonga FA) was banned from taking part in any kind of football-related activity (administrative, sports or any other) at national and international level for a period of three years. Furthermore, he was fined CHF 10,000.
  • Amadou Diakite (member of the FIFA Referees Committee) was banned from taking part in any kind of football-related activity (administrative, sports or any other) at national and international level for a period of three years. Furthermore, he was fined CHF 10,000.
  • Ismael Bhamjee (CAF honorary member) was banned from taking part in any kind of football-related activity (administrative, sports or any other) at national and international level for a period of four years. Furthermore, he was fined CHF 10,000.
It is significantly noteworthy that this action from FIFA now prevents Temarii and Adamu from voting on 02-DEC for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. This is a blow to England in 2018 as Temarii has shown his support for their bid (source). Particularly so as Temarii while he has vowed to appeal the decision, will do so after 02-DEC. Very interesting timing to me ... and another sign that things are not going well for England.

FIFA continued its decision by stating that there was not enough evidence to conclude any collusion between bid countries. This investigation was specifically targeted at Iberia (2018) and Qatar (2022). 

For those interested you can watch the FIFA ethics committee press conference here, or the post committee press conference here. A French boadcast report is here:



It seems that not everyone is applauding FIFA for how they handled this whole thing. An interesting take from PR Week states in part that FIFA has a long way to go from here. While they have done, okay with the investigation, the whole bid process need more work to fully restore their credibility.

Some other pundits agree with this position too while doing something was better than nothing, FIFA has a big hole to dig out of.

As we now race to voting on 02-DEC, at this juncture the big winners and losers to me are:

Temarii and Adamu: BIG losers. For getting involved in this corruption in the first place and trying to personally gain from THE game. The puny fines, suspensions, and loss of voting are the palest of punishments.

Aloulou, Fusimalohi, Diakite, and Bhamjee: Losers. For getting involved at all. They too deserve what they get, and then some.

FIFA: Losers. The punishment did not go far enough for the crimes committed. They continue to demonstrate an uncanny ability to put their head back in the sand in keeping the bidding and vote process secret.

England: Losers. I still believe that they will ultimately lose the 2018 bid for all the wrong reasons.

Sunday Times: BIG winners. Without their reporting it would have been another year of voting corruption with no one but FIFA knowing.

BBC: Winners. While their airing of the FIFA corruption programme may ultimately cost England their 2018 bid, it is not their fault. It is FIFA's myopic view of the world that everything should revolve around them, and those that don't will be cast out.

Iberia and Qatar: Winners. For being cleared of any collusion. While I don't believe there was none, I believe the threshold should be lower for bidding countries than EXCOMM members.

Unfortunately the biggest loser of all is THE game. While I am confident it will be back in all its majesty shortly after the vote, to be marred with such open corruption continues to erode all the good will built up for so long.

I can only hope FIFA takes a proactive approach to correcting these eroding effects, and becomes a transparent organization in dealing with such critical matters of sport. If for no other reason ...

For the good of the game.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

BBC called "unpatriotic"

For the "you have to be kidding" file, Andy Anson, the now 2018 bid chief for England (Lord Triesman stepped down after accusing Spanish and Russian football federations of conspiring in bribery, and there was this one too of Sir Dave Richards in 2009) called the BBC unpatriotic. Specifically, regarding the timing of airing the program detailing FIFA's corruption:
To do it the week before the vote - I don't think think it's patriotic.
I am still admittedly confused as it was this investigation that led to the FIFA ethics probe, where it is likely that someone will be found to have done something unethical.

Why is it the BBC's fault they legitimately have found a story and are running with it? I would think that everyone would want to hear about vote fixing and collusion between national bodies of this type.

While England (note not the UK as the venues are for England only), has something to lose, I would imagine so to does Anson.

Take a look here, where in 1994 Alan Rothenberg landed a $3 million bonus for getting the 1994 World Cup in the black (way in the black actually). While admittedly this was an operation role it stands to reason there is a pay day here for some folks. Just take a look at some of the numbers ... and remember this was 16 years ago. Adjusting for inflation, that is about $4.3 million today. Not bad.

Any bets on what Anson is getting? I have no idea, but "for Queen and Country" does not pass the sniff test to me.

Either way, as I have stated before, I support the BBC role in this provided they portrait an accurate picture of what is going on.

If FIFA is petty enough to take out any bad press they get on England, shame on them.

Hello BBC ... It's the PM on line 2

World Cup 2018: Government want BBC to cancel Panorama on Fifa corruption

Senior Government figures believe the BBC should consider cancelling a Panorama documentary about Fifa amid concerns that it could derail England's bid for the 2018 World Cup.

Sources close to No 10 have told Telegraph Sport that they do not want the programme to be aired as scheduled on Nov 29, three days before Fifa's executive committee meets to decide England's fate. ...

Full story here, courtesy of The Telegraph.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Happy April Fools! Right??

From the WSJ:

Soccer Body Poised to Dismiss Charges

World soccer's governing body is expected to dismiss a newspaper's allegations of corruption in the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, a person close to an ongoing FIFA investigation said Tuesday.

This person said FIFA's ethics committee is likely to dismiss allegations that some top executives were prepared to let their vote on upcoming World Cup sites be influenced in exchange for offers to fund projects in their home countries. ...

Full story continues here, courtesy of the WSJ.

Kicking Back's comments:
If this comes true, FIFA has "jumped the shark" regarding corruption. In essence FIFA is dismissing the allegations, reinstating the EXCOMM members and going on with the vote on 02-DEC. Why you may ask? Because these members were "entrapped." Not because they are not-guilty, but because of a procedural slight of hand ... as the report goes.

No really ... that seems to be the plan.

Even a member of the ethics committee seemed surprised. From the article:
Burton Haimes, a New York lawyer and member of the ethics committee who recused himself from the favors-for-votes investigation because the U.S. is bidding for the World Cup, said he would be surprised if the allegations against the two executives were dismissed over what he says are procedural grounds, such as whether the officials were subject to entrapment.
How is anyone supposed to take FIFA seriously if this happens?

... and in a similar hilarious note, apparently FIFA is considering the US 2022 bid a "medium legal risk." What does that mean? Well apparently the recent midterm elections has something to do with it as:
In weighing the merits of a 2018 or 2022 bid, FIFA is uncertain about the level of U.S. government commitment to the project in a climate of anti-government, anti-spending rhetoric from Capitol Hill.
See the full story here from Politico along with excepts from the FIFA report.

While it ends well for the US in the report as clearly we have the infrastructure capable to accommodate the World Cup, the political climate is an interesting twist that I did not expect. This too at a time when we find ourselves apparently neck and neck with Qatar in the bid for 2022.

Fasten your seat belts folks, it is going to be a wild finish.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Making Connections

I sell heavy duty carpet for a living. The products are nothing special, and the pay isn't either. My clients are usually the maintenance guys in schools and hotels.

There is this guy I know. He runs one of the most famous hospitals in the country. Not just a department head, I mean the big cheese. He makes a ton of money, more than I will see in my lifetime. I may not even talk to him for a year or more, but I know I can pick up the phone and he will always take my call.

I know another guy. He works for the DEA and gets sent to foreign countries to bring down drug warlords. Pretty impressive stuff. The fruit of his work makes the news all over the world. No matter where he is in the world, he will answer my emails within a few hours

Then there is the guy that owns a chain of restaurants. If I mentioned the name of the place, you would know it for sure. In fact I can guarantee that you have eaten in them. Whenever he is around, we watch a game together.

I once drove two hours out of my way to watch a sheepdog competition. I have no knowledge about sheepdogs and had no clue about what was going on, but I knew somebody who had a few dogs in the competition. He stays in my guest room whenever he comes to town.

Last but not least, I know a guy who lived for two years in a dumpster. He has since moved to better digs.

None of these people buy my carpet. I did not meet them through my job. Engineers, Doctors, Cooks, Police, Computer Programmers, Lawyers, Accountants, Salespeople, Army Recruiters, Executives, Pilots, Teachers, and Graphic Designers. And Shepherds. The list goes on and on. I know people in all these walks of life because of soccer. I know people in every state, and from six continents.

And so do you. Soccer brings people of different cultures together more so than any other sport, and perhaps more than any other endeavor. It is truly the world’s game. Where else would a simple peddler such as myself get to meet people like this?

Say it together with me: Soccer is Life

(With special thanks to Ed Rae, who knows more people than anyone.)

No free press?

As the corruption scandal continues to unfold at FIFA, based on multiple reports, the UK increasingly feels that they are going to get left by the wayside for the 2018 and 2022 bids.

A compelling article from Guardian.co.uk here lists the extraordinary measures the UK team is going to to stay in the running.

What is amazing to me is how for the UK will go to get this bid. From the article:
The letter declares England 2018's "solidarity and support" for Fifa's response to newspaper allegations; highlights "representations" to the BBC over a forthcoming Panorama programme it fears could fatally undermine England's chance of winning the bid; and refers to the two executive committee members who have been provisionally suspended as "our friends".
Whoa!

There are two things that strike me there.

First, the willingness to cozy up to individuals that have been provisionally suspended by FIFA. Now, I am all for an "innocent until proven guilty" prospect, but I am also for letting the system do it's work. This move by the UK bid team seems a little too "kissy-face" with FIFA for my liking. In fact they are lying down with the very corruption that is being rooted out.

If the UK bid team believes in these individuals and their innocence, say it ... publicly. None of this note passing, back door, we really want to go to the prom with you not that other girl, rubbish.

Second, the press, specifically the BBC,  is playing a very interesting role in this, and quite a correct one I would opine. They are bringing some much needed sunlight to the whole situation regarding the bid process and have exposed it for how corrupt it truly is. That itself is something. But also is how the press is potentially killing the UK's bid ... even as the UK has not been implicated (yet) into any wrongdoing here. Yet their bid ... a virtual lock for 2018 ... is now being shunned. And by whom? By the FIFA EXCOMM of course.

Well, that's interesting.

Now I'll go out on a limb here.

I'll bet my flipping coin that if the BBC airs their documentary about FIFA corruption, the UK loses the bid. If they refrain, the UK will win it.

From the article:
Dein and the England 2018 chief executive, Andy Anson, recently met the BBC director general, Mark Thompson, and head of sport, Barbara Slater, over the Panorama documentary, which they fear could tip the balance conclusively.
For a little old fashioned arm twisting no doubt.

Truly amazing now how FIFA could potentially use the UK bid team as its puppet to twist the arm of the UK media to try stop the press on a documentary that no doubt will cast FIFA in a poor light, but in the long haul will do nothing but cast the much needed sunlight onto the process.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Upgrade Kudos

As we have done here in the past, I would like again to congratulate the following referee who has recently been upgraded to Grade 6 (State Referee 2nd Class).

Congratulations!

Jose Mendes

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The process that is due

The other day I posted a story about the recent controversy here in the Northeast about the Needham (MA) High School soccer team and the suspension of several of their players due to a hazing incident.

There have been a couple of developments since then based on some feedback I want to tackle.

First, one of Kicking Back's roving reporters was at the scene and reported that the match was very one sided in Brockton's favor. Also Needham took the extraordinary steps of keeping the press away from the players and coaches before and after the game, and refused to provide the press with a roster of the players, or an official record of match statistics.

This is interesting to me. While I can certainly understand keeping press and players separate, as these youths no doubt are not ready for such an experience (heck at 25 I was not ready for my first experience), I would have expected statements from the coaches at least in reaction to the game. Even here however things may have gone bad so I am not too critical on this point. But to not give official rosters or records of the match? Come on.

Second, a number of readers have contacted me about the negative criticism in the press about the students taking their concern to court. It is here I am going to draw a very fine line.

I believe in due process as defined in the 5th and 14th Amendments of the US Constitution, and generally how it has been interpreted over time in both their substantive and procedural capacity. In this case most of the comments would seem to hone in on the procedural aspects of due process due to an alleged curtailment of a liberty, as quite clearly there is no "fundamental right" to participate in a sport as the substantive aspects of due process deal with.

Todd D. White of Adler Pollock & Sheehan represented the suspended players. While it has been reported Mr. White is a "... father of one of the soccer players ...", it is not clear if he is the father of one of the suspended players, or just the father of a player on the team. (source) This distinction is important as the parents of the players who chose to go to court have been criticized quite roundly, and Mr. White may simply be a "hired gun", and one who should not fall into that group. Also as a former soccer player himself for Columbia University (bio), he may just have felt the plight of the girls and taken up their cause. I for one, cast no aspersions at Mr. White for his acting as an advocate. Due process is critically important and if there was a genuine concern that it was violated, it should be challenged in the proper venue.

I do not share this same feeling for the Needham parents who initiated the suit. If Mr. White was a party to that decision, I feel the same way about him too, right up to the point he became their advocate and had to (publicly) put a lid on arguments other than those based in the law. As I stated before, in his role as advocate, I have the highest respect.

This "parent psychosis" was on full display in an open letter to the editor of the Boston Globe by Sharon Lund seen here. In this article we see many folk running to the defense of the suspended players calling the incident a "ritual," and "no big deal." This as the principal breaks his silence on the incident.

Reasonable minds can disagree if it was hazing, bullying, or some other conduct. However in either case the activity was clearly outlawed by the 2010 - 2011 Needham High School handbook which states in relevant part (source):
Under no conditions are there to be initiation rites of any kind. The School Committee disapproves of fraternities, sororities or clubs with similar characteristics in the High School, or in the school system in general; no initiations or similar activities by such organizations shall be permitted within the school system. Should an administrator assess student's actions to resemble an initiation or form of hazing, students will be asked to desist. Should the action continue students will be suspended.
From this, clearly the school has grounds to act, as well as based in section 14 of the NHS Student Athlete Handbook seen here. In fact the staff (coach inclusive) may be charged with a duty to act. Note also that the threshold for due process in a school setting is diminished significantly and reporting of the incident and brief investigation would likely be enough to suspend the players.

While no one is denying the conduct of the players, and the harm that may come to them with a suspension on their record, I still after much reflection believe that the school acted appropriately, the players got what they deserved, due process was met, and the parents are off the reservation on this one.

Maybe its me, but I just don't see how getting led around blindfolded on a dog leash and getting hit in the face with pies until my nose bleeds builds a team. To take it a step further, I do not see how the coach could condone such conduct either, and if he does not, should be singing from the rafters about it. While I am on the fence about terminating the coach if he is found participating or condoning the activities, I have to believe his affiliation with Needham High School, Soccer Dynamics, and NEFC will become more strained as a result even without being terminated. I say that as a player, coach, referee, spectator, and (maybe most importantly) a parent.

There are a host of differing opinions though, just look here to get a flavor.

While I don't expect this to die down any time soon, the more attention it is paid, the more the local colleges will remember it as these girls, who are yet unnamed, will be remembered.

It would be wrong for such an incident to mar them so early in their playing careers. For the others involved who should know better, shame on them.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Welcome Aboard!

When I was a young(er) National Referee, it was a regular occurrence that we had a tremendous guest speaker opine about aspects of the modern game. One such guest speaker was George Cumming who is an incredible wealth of knowledge, and one I took a tremendous amout away from.

His credentials include (from his blog):
George Cumming was the first FIFA Head of Refereeing and was in charge of refereeing at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney and the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Korean/Japan. Previously he was Development Director for Referees and Education with the Scottish Football Association from 1988 until 2000. He is presently a Senior Consultant with the Asian Football Confederation.
I have included a link to the blog (George Cumming's Football Blog) in the sidebar. As with the other blog's of note, I would recommend taking the time and reading some of the entries as they are very insightful.

Two recent posts from his blog, FIFA must face up to the corruption charges, and World Cup voting must be public, are clear demonstrations about just how wide spread and vitriolic these charges of corruption are, and how badly FIFA needs to get a good hold of what is happening, and expel any found to have committed any wrong doing.

One of my fears however, is in the process that FIFA "throws the baby out with the bathwater," and punish a party (such as the UK) for being in proximity to the corruption, without being a participant in it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

More bad news for the UK ... but it's Becks and friends to the rescue

Copyright DC Comics
Harry Harris reports for ESPN, on how bad things are now looking for the UK's 2018 bid.

From the article:
But it hasn't been appreciated just how bad that might be until one senior FA figure confessed: "The word from within the FIFA executive is that England might very well have blown it completely."
Even more dire is this:
"If you know the way FIFA's mind works then it looks like we haven't got a prayer. Talk about our bid being harmed, well, that is the least that has happened. There has been a huge backlash and the word inside FIFA is that they won't be voting for England.
Sounds like trouble. So in response to this the UK has summoned the services of "the blonde knight", a.k.a. David Beckham. Posing as a mere mortal, Becks will be turning in his cape for a private jet for this trip:
ESPNsoccernet has been informed that Beckham will take on a gruelling round the world itinerary to appear in person in Switzerland, first flying from LA to Australia for a one-match post-season tour with the Galaxy before flying back to London for one day to meet up with the FA delegation, and then onto Zurich.
It does sound like the full court press as:
The 2018 bid committee told ESPNsoccernet that they are unable to announce the full delegation team for the crucial final presentation on December 2, but an insider said: "Yes, I can confirm that David Beckham will be in Zurich, and the FA are calling up all the big guns, such as the Prime Minister, and Prince William is also expected to be there."
Is all hope lost?

Will the UK lose the 2018 and 2022 bids?

What will the US be doing to take advantage of this gaffe?

Tune in next time to find out, as the FA Superheros wade into the FIFA swamp of corruption.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Integrity Strikes Again

Fabulous article on some history of the refereeing in the US and how FIFA may be finally coming around to suggestions made, a long time ago.

You heard it here first (from Ed)

For several years we have been stressing certain concepts and techniques relating to soccer referee officiating and its instruction, training and evaluation. Some of these have been reasonably well accepted within the refeeeing community, but others, such as our recommendations for movement and positioning, not so. Some others have met with outright rejection in certain quarters, notably in the refeeeing hierachy of the MLS. So it was satisfying to read an article written recently by H├ęctor Vergara. (The article can be seen here) ...

Full article continues here, courtesy of For the Integrity of Soccer.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Game Over

That's all folks ... for the Needham girls that is.

The Needham Rockets fell to the Brockton Boxers 7 - 1 in Massachusetts high school soccer playoff action. This after a failed attempt by parents of (5) suspended players to get their suspensions overturned by a Norfolk County Superior Court Judge.

Here is a good report from a local news station (NECN):



While what happened to cause this series of suspensions will unfold in the days ahead, I for one am glad the match seemed to go well for the referees as not a single story referred to the match, except for the score and the circumstances surrounding it.

As more is learned about how the players and coach will be dealt with, I'll bring it here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

In the haze of the Rockets' glare

Over the last 12 hours a story has broken in the Boston area that a local high school soccer team has suspended (5) players and placed a coach on administrative leave for a hazing incident involving two freshmen girls who were reportedly blindfolded and pulled around on dog leashes while hit in face with pies.

Further, a temporary injunction filed by some parents of the suspended players, to overturn the suspension by Needham High School principal Jonathan Pizzi was denied by Norfolk Superior Court judge Barbara Dortch-Okara of Norfolk Superior Court.

In essence, while the game between Needham and Brockton will go on, it will be without the services of these (5) players, and their head coach, Carl Tarabelli.

Now, while I am going to refrain from chastising the (5) players, eviscerating the coach and players' parents who filed an injunction, and congratulating the principal, I will reflect on who needs to be extra careful tonight.

The referees.

Why?

These folks will be under such scrutiny tonight it will be crazy. Even though they have absolutely nothing to do with the controversy, they will become part of it if they are not careful.

How?

Can these players join their team tonight?

Are there specific rules regarding such behavior from the MIAA?

Has the principal given particular instructions about how these players may participate?

Imagine if they are not allowed into the field, but take part in some opening ceremony. Now imagine if a Brockton player takes advantage and has a word or two with a suspended player ... now what?

A fight?
A shouting match?

All caught in HD for the evening news around the country.

National news has already caught this, and without doubt will have affiliates there to interview everyone about this and "how it would have been", regardless of final result, with the suspended players.

My thought for the referees ... reach out early and often to get clarity from the MIAA. Find out exactly what needs to happen even before you set foot in the car to go to this match tonight. There is too much at stake for these referees to not be prepared for anything happening ... and the media asking about it.

We spoke about this the other day in Know before you go ... . Here is a perfect example. These folks need to know, as guessing and screwing it up has BIG consequences in this one.

These parents have already made it clear they are willing to go to court over a suspension. What do you think will happen if the referees here make a mistake in some administrative task in the match?

Am I over-reacting? Maybe.
I would rather do that however, than explain myself to a tribunal.

Beware the question

As is now typical for me, I was reading Paul Levy's blog, Running a hospital, and ran across this posting of a funny exchange at the coin toss between the referee and other players. It reminded me of a trap I have fallen into many times as a referee, and one I hope to avoid as a lawyer.

It deals with asking open ended questions before a match, and it happens by the referee asking something like, "Are there any questions?"

Don't get me wrong, it is a perfectly legitimate question to ask, just be ready for a reply from the person you pose the question to.

For example, in a scrimmage match with the Revolution I was asked to referee (pictured above), I asked that very question of (then) captain John Harkes. His reply. "What is the fastest land mammal?"

John's expression was deadpan as both AR's chuckled. I (very fortunately) had the right answer. It's the cheetah for all interested, not Joel Silverman on his way to a match, as some have opined. It did wake me up to the fact that these questions can be traps for the unsuspecting.

Now here John, as with the article above, was just having some fun and I took it in that vein. Not every result will be the same however, and if you ask, beware the question.

For me, I have since changed that routine at the professional levels and not asked a question at all and answer as few as possible at other levels. My shining exception is of youth players who are genuinely wanting to learn. For them I will answer anything related to the game.

After all, if you answer one way, you have to follow through the entire match. To do otherwise is to invite disaster.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Smile. You're on candid camera.

For anyone unfamiliar with the reference, back in the late 40's arose a hidden camera television show named Candid Camera, where people would be filmed without their knowledge doing all sorts of embarrassing things, and later, these embarrassing things aired on TV. This is a little different than todays reality television, where people go in to the situation (such as living together on an island) knowing they are going to be filmed, and the antics eventually aired for all.

A soccer match can be like candid camera too ...

At professional matches and the like, you go in with an expectation a match will be filmed and you'll have a guy with a parabolic microphone following you around. It is an easy lesson to learn, as you find yourself at this level tripping over A/V equipment often. It is also a lesson that if you forget, you re-learn quickly as you hear yourself on the tape review after the match saying something inappropriate. Or better still having those comments heard by US Soccer officials during a live broadcast.

I'll tell you that one later ...

Well in this glorious electronic age I remain amazed at the number and types of affordable recording equipment that is used by the every day person to capture their local youth match. It is fair to say that at just about every level today, you can assume the referee will get recorded on video. In fact you should make that assumption. I am also sad to report that some folks will do so for a "gotcha" moment to catch referees too. I have been witness to several such video clips coming into local, state, and regional soccer boards and tournament committees. Also, while I have no direct knowledge, it would not surprise me if they made their way to the US Soccer brass at times.

The author of these clips often opine about the injustice that just occurred in the local U-6 match where Johnny or Mary was just deprived of an opportunity by a referee, and that referee should be tarred and feathered in the town square as they young player is now scarred for life and can not play on the National team in the spot waiting for them to just grow up.

I am exaggerating ... but not too much in some cases. I actually heard a mother say that her 10 year old daughter was the next Mia Hamm and it was the referee's fault a goal was not awarded in a particular case.

At times this video evidence can be useful however as referees and players who intentionally cross a line, need to be dealt with. Video is such a compelling "remembering" device in those cases. I have no pity for those who abuse their authority in any way, and even less if they deny and get caught doing so by a showing of the tape.

So here comes my favorite question ... why am I spouting all of this?

Two reasons, based on an incident that occurred when I was coaching Jr.'s match the other day.

First, if you are refereeing a match at any level, go in with the expectation that you are going to be recorded during the match, and that such a recording may be used, rightly, or wrongly in the future. I say this not to make referees nervous as watching tape is a tremendously successful tool to getting better, just be aware it is occurring. My suggestion is to smile a lot.

In my case there were several video cameras at Jr.'s match the other day recording a very average youth match. (Cue dramatic music)

Second, video tape cuts both ways, and referees are not the only target. As I was coaching Jr.'s team the other day, it was, by all accounts a pretty average match. After the match however a couple of parents alerted me to the fact that, well, both I and the head coach of the team were roundly criticized during the match for some of our coaching decisions. Our provocateur was a parent of a child on OUR team, in this U-10, local league. Yeah. You just can't make this stuff up folks.

So being fairly critical of sources of information I dug in a little, and was presented some video tape with the aforementioned comments in context. Sure enough, it was true.

Now while I personally just don't see the value in doing anything except letting this particular issue drop, it was a further reminder that people are going to criticize anyone who stands up and makes a decision generally. It does not matter if you are a referee, coach, teacher, officer, executive, fry cook, etc.. If you make a decision, be ready to have it questioned, politely or not, as there is always a pin head inquisitive individual out there who will not like it.

Referee's are in this spot often, so I would suggest being ready for it as best you can.

To boil it down to its very essence the message is clear.

Smile, you are on candid camera.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Week 31 in Review: A Must Read for AR's

For those who are unfamiliar, US Soccer puts out a series of instructional pieces every week highlighting events from the previous weeks games. These instructional tools are exceptionally well done and are absolutely necessary to review for all referees.

Weeks 31's material, in part, is particularly useful to AR's. See the full material here, and a video clip below from the Seattle v. LA playoff match last week.



In the lexicon of the LOTG, the player who scored the goal was "Gaining an advantage from being in that offside position."

A complete account of the incident, and the excellent call from AR (Tom Supple) is accounted for in the article, and I strongly recommend that all read it.

There are three points however that the article did not mention that I want to bring up here.

First, is the amount of patience necessary from the AR in making this call. When the shot is first taken, there is, and should not be any flag as there is no one at that time gaining an advantage from their position. Imagine briefly as the time of taking the shot if the AR put their flag up and the ball went directly into the net. There you are standing there with the flag up, after a beautiful goal 20 yards out.

Even if the referee was wise enough to understand in that instant and waive the flag down, you can bet your flipping coin that the defenders will be running over to you and the AR saying "he had the flag up, it's not a goal." This would immediately and quite possibly in a match like this one damage your credibility for the remainder. Take particular note to how early in the match this was ... not even a minute was played.

Second, on the amount of time played, everyone has to be ready FROM THE FIRST WHISTLE for anything. [In fact before hand in matches like this as there can be shenanigans that occur well before the first whistle that the refereeing team has to be prepared for.] We have all been in matches that we want to "work our way into". Not so here! (25) Seconds into the match the AR was faced with this, and nailed it. This was absolutely a game critical incident that the AR got right, and no doubt, saved the game with. Again from above, imagine if a goal stood there.

The critical point is, especially for ARs, there is no down time, and you always have to be ready. First minute, last minute, overtime ... always. This is one of the particular challenges of being an AR. A referee has significantly more flexibility in what they can do and how they can manage things. No such luxury for an AR. Offiside is offside, there is no talking your way out if it, and there are no variations of it.

Finally, after the call was made, look at the excellent support that the referee, Ricardo Salazar, gave to the AR, Tom Supple. Hard whistle, run to the spot, point to the AR, and restart. Perfect support for an excellent call.

For anyone looking, the US has some of the very best AR's in the world, and I would opine has for some time. This example plainly demonstrates just how good they are.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

FA killed the video star

For all who looked in the last couple of days at Nah Nah Nani, you may have noticed a change.

The video is gone as the FA has claimed a copyright violation.

Strange huh ...

Not really I think. In fact I am surprised it took this long.

To me while I am all for protection of intellectual property rights, and being trained in the law I understand that it is necessary to patrol such marks to effectively enforce them in the future, I do not think this is why the video was pulled.

If so, this one would not be available:



Right?

How about this one?



Nope, not that one either ... Hmmm, that's odd. What could it be?

My guess, the FA is deathly embarrassed about this one and while it can serve as a great lesson for those who view it, they are not looking at the larger picture, and pulled it.

Too bad actually, as it is a good lesson on many fronts.

Here was the live look ... also still on You Tube:



I don't expect any of these to get pulled any time soon.

Finally, and just to rub salt in the wound, here is a post game interview with Harry Redknapp, manager of the Spurs on the incident by ESPN back on 30-OCT-10:



I don't expect this to get pulled either, but Harry while threatened with getting pulled himself, or at least fined substantially, was let off free with a rap on the knuckles and a lecture from the FA about the responsibility of the manager.

For me this compounds just how embarrassed the FA is about the whole thing.

Next time I've saving the video.

Nah Nah Nani

Kicking Back gives special thanks to Steve for bringing this one forward for publishing.

For those who have not seen this bizarre goal between Man U and Tottenham back on 30-OCT-2010, take a look below, or at the link here.


A disclaimer - My answer here is not a "book" answer. While I will answer the more technical aspects of this catastrophe, I will not cite chapter and verse the LOTG, but rather reference it, this will focus more on management than rules of THE game.

In this clip, we are treated to a chain of events where several mistakes were made by the players, and I would opine the referee. Lets review the sequence of major events:
  • Man U #17 (Nani) received a ball in the Tottenham penalty area and was possibly fouled by Tottenham #4 (Kaboul) at the corner of the 6 yard box, in front of the Tottenham net.
  • The ball is picked up by the Tottenham GK (da Silva Gomes) and placed at about 12 yards from goal. His demeanor indicated he believed there was a free kick.
  • From the video and reports the referee had not stopped play in any way, and the JAR had not indicated anything.
  • All the players (all that can be seen in the video) react as if the play was stopped and a free kick was about to be taken.
  • Nani jogs to the ball, steps up, and shoots the ball into the net while the GK looked to about to take what seemed to be a free kick.
  • Referee and JAR allow the goal making it 2 - 0 Man U in about the 86'.
  • Understandable protests erupt inside the field.
Now, take a close look at the video, at 0:30 and 0:34. The referee, Mark Clattenburg, pretty clearly signals something strikingly resembling a play on signal. This first signal seemed to be at the GK (as Nani was on the floor) and the second one seemed to be at Nani as he was looking in that direction.

So that's what happened. What do I think?
The referee blew this one - badly.

Why?
This whole episode did not comport with the spirit of the game, despite complying with the LOTG.

Now, technically, if the referee or JAR believed there was no foul by either Kaboul (trip), or Nani (offside or handball) and allowed the play to continue, the result is a valid goal. No stoppage. Goal. There is no reason for another result. Shame on the GK for putting the ball down, and bravo for Nani for taking advantage.

If a foul was called on any of the above, the restart should have been for the foul. It would stand to reason that the referee did not call one, as he allowed the goal to stand. Reports of the incident agree that no foul was called.

So now what? Do we allow such a goal to stand as referees? One that while technically correct, is against the spirit of the game? Where is the spirit of the game enumerated in the LOTG?

It's not in text, and that's why this is such a difficult decision.

So a couple of folks may be leaning back in their chair and saying, "So we are supposed to not allow a goal, not based in the LOTG, but some ethereal aspect that is not in text anywhere, called "spirit"?"

Yes.

This is the type of decision that turns a person who "enforces the rules", into a referee that is respected by players, coaches, and those who love the game.

It's easy to enforce the rules really. The most difficult part is to manage the players in such a way as to let them know you have THE games best interest at heart.

Letting Man U score a goal in a way that openly takes advantage of such confusion is contrary to the spirit of THE game, and as the referee was the cause for some of that confusion, part of this is on him.

So now what? How does a referee legitimately restart the game in such a case to nullify the goal? Making something up out of whole cloth is just as detrimental to the spirit of the game as is what actually happened.

  1. If they believe there was a foul, call the foul. In this case Nani may well have been legitimately busted for handling when he got up off the floor. Restart there. This may very well have been what the GK was reacting to.
  2. Drop the ball. Law 8 allows the referee to drop the ball if the ball is in play and required to stop play for any reason not mentioned in the LOTG. This situation could be such a reason. Now I will say, this would be a tough sell at the EPL level ... but just as allowed per the LOTG.
For me, at the heart of this issue is the question if a player should be allowed to use the LOTG to circumvent the spirit of THE game.

My answer is a clear no. Exceptional referees apply the laws to obtain the right result for THE game, not just follow them like a set of directions that can result in unjust results, such as this goal.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Has England Lost the 2018 Bid?

See this article from Guardian.co.uk stating that the UK bid team is starting to place some blame on the UK media that unearthed the corruption for votes scandal that rocked FIFA last month.



I have to be honest though, "unearthed", and "rocked" are really not the right adjectives as this was going on in plain sight, and by all accounts had for some time.

What is interesting though is the UK bid team, I would opine, starting to sense trouble and looking to place the blame on someone, anyone else ... but the bid team.

From the article:
One senior bid source said today: "It is a fact that England's chances have been damaged among Fifa executive committee members. If the Panorama is broadcast that will damage our chances further."
Trouble for the country that was seen to be a lock for the 2018 World Cup.

Why did the US get out so soon?

The US Bid team may have blown it big time by getting out so quick when the water started getting a little warm. While it seemed clear from the article that the US was not involved in what was being reported regarding the corruption, why didn't we wait just a little bit and see what happened? After all, how much $$ was US Soccer really spending to keep the 2018 bid alive that would be used for 2022? Were we told to "get out?"

What happens if FIFA goes Russia in 2018 ... who is to stop them from going to the UK in 2022? It would seem unlikely that FIFA would go UK in 2018 and US in 2022.

Stay tuned, the UK bid team may not be the only one with egg on its face in the coming weeks.

In a laugh out loud moment, Mohamed Bin Hammam both proclaimed his innocence, and stated that "... setting traps are unethical ..." on his blog located here.

I'll tell you something though, looking at the blog and his website, I want to be a FIFA EXCOM member too. For a more home-town look, Chuck Blazers (US FIA EXCOM member) blog is here.

Wow ... and I though college games paid well.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Upgrade Kudos

As we have done here in the past, I would like again to congratulate the following referees who have recently been upgraded to Grade 7 (Referee 1st Class).

Congratulation to you all.

Wyckoff Nissenbaum
Nicholas Grimard

Alex Wallach-Hanson

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The colors man ...

Image from officialsports.com
From previous posts I have shared that I do like men's suits and the accouterments that go with them. Also from the other day I spoke about working a match with a couple of very good referees, one of which is FIFA AR Tom Supple.

After receiving the assignment and my starting to work through my fear of running a line after 10 years, we had our first team decision to make ... what to wear.

Now, in some cases this is really easy. Take a look here at an old assignment, it pretty clearly spells out who is wearing what. Easy peasy.

In our case, we knew the teams, and had a rough idea about color, but wanted to be sure so a conversation broke out over EMail that went into great detail about what color to wear, what style shirt of that color to wear, sleeve length, what shorts to wear (logo, no logo), what socks to wear (stripes, logo) ... on and on.

At the end of the day Tom, who was serving as the referee, was right to say simply, "Come dressed, and be comfortable."
Again, easy peasy.

Now, what of the poor referee who has no such guidance? There are (5) colors of new styled shirts, (4) colors of old styled shirts, and (2) sleeve lengths of each. We also have (4) types of socks and (3) types of shorts. That is close to 500 different combinations of uniforms. This does not even include the NISOA variants. YIPES!

So what is a referee to do?

Here are a few thoughts.

  1. In January of 2008, US Soccer put out a memo regarding the New OSI Uniforms. If there are questions, a referee should refer to that memo. A very nice answer to a question is also here, at Ask A Soccer Referee.
  2. If you are going to a particular competition and it was not announced what shirt to have, just ask. This will avoid any miscommunication when you are reaching into your kit only to discover you do not have the required shirt.
  3. Ask to borrow a shirt. Referees are pack rats sometimes and have multiples of the same shirts for a variety of reasons. If you don't have a particular shirt, your partners may.
  4. Be comfortable. While guys like me aren't happy unless they are wearing long sleeve black shirts in 110 degree weather, that may not make sense for you. Look the part, but be comfortable.
Case in point. While I had mis-matched socks from the others (no logo), and the referee and ARs had different sleeve lengths, we were all dressed professionally, did not conflict with any player or goalkeeper, and looked the part.

With that, we already won half the battle.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

AAR's ... And what can happen with their involvement

See the following article at For the Integrity of Soccer penned by Ed Bellion, with a very interesting analysis of the use, mis-use, and possible areas of abuse for these newly minted Assistant - Assistant Referees (AAR).

An excerpt is below just to whet your appetite:
So now we have the absurd situation of having ultra fit referees, but not allowing them to use that fitness, by instructing them to adopt conservative positioning. At the same time there is the tacit acknowlegment that the CR cannot see what is happening near the goal line from these positions, and so the AARs are appointed! Although the big competitions and wealthy leagues can afford to have 6 officials assigned to each match, this is way beyond the financial and manpower capabilities of most other competitions. Many are unable to provide even ARs or 4th officials as it is.
A very good read, from a very smart (former FIFA) referee.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Role Reversal

So there I was minding my own business, when all of a sudden, an assignment came in.

I held my breath a little and a wave of fear came over me.

It was not because it was with a FIFA AR.
It was not because it was between two good teams.
It was not because there were former professional players coaching.

It was because I was assigned as an AR.

Now without going into the gory detail, while I have been fortunate enough to be an AR up to and including International friendlies, I was asked to specialize as a referee very shortly after becoming a national referee, and just held a whistle. So in essence, at the moment I received this assignment as AR, I had not held a flag for 10 years, give or take.

Fear turned into panic.

This emotion was not for concern that I had forgot in which direction to run on the line, or that my knowledge of Law 11 has suddenly vanished, it was over the knowledge that there is particular skill and fitness necessary to run an line well. These skills take practice. Just being a referee does not cut it to be able to run a line well.

While I won't get into the technical facets here (that will be for another time from a true expert such as FIFA AR Tom Supple), it is sufficient to say these referees are part of the team necessary to maintain match control. Further, they suffer the same as the referee themselves, as is clear from this article where AR Steven Craven resigned his post as professional AR in Scotland over reversing a penalty decision between Celtic and Dundee United.

As with any highly skilled craft, it is absolutely necessary to regularly "sharpen the saw" to stay at peak performance. A brief story to illustrate.

In 1990 as many are aware, we had a single referee representing the US. Vincent Mauro. In the weeks leading up to departing for Italy, Vinnie took the initiative and asked to serve as AR on a series of matches. Recall that at that time, there were not FIFA ARs yet, so the referees were the ones who ran the lines. His actions in preparing made him that much better than others for what he was going to be asked to do ... and he was ready.

While obviously I was not asked to be an AR at a World Cup match, I sure could have used some practice before taking the field the other day. While not completely horrible, to me, and my FIFA friend, it was pretty clear that my saw needed some sharpening.

So by way of a life lesson, keep your skills up to date. You just never know when you are going to be called on to use them.