Thursday, March 31, 2011

Is there a referee in the house?

Cobi Jones, Eddie Pope, and Earnie Stewart Elected to National Soccer Hall of Fame Class of 2011

CHICAGO (March 29, 2011) – Cobi Jones, the U.S. Men’s National Team’s all-time leading cap winner and long-time member of the LA Galaxy, Eddie Pope, a perennial anchor of the U.S. defense for nearly a decade and winner of three MLS Cups with D.C. United, and Earnie Stewart, a three-time World Cup veteran, have been elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame Class of 2011 on the Player ballot.

Joining the players in this year’s class are Bruce Murray, a midfielder and forward who was one of the leading stars of the U.S. Men’s National Team in the late 1980s and early 1990s who was elected on the Veteran ballot, and former U.S. Men’s National Team and Kansas City Wizards head coach Bob Gansler, who was elected on the Builder ballot. ...

See the whole press release here from US Soccer.

Kicking Back Comments: In looking at the nominations, I am a little surprised that there are not any referees on the list. What surprises me more is there are no ASSISTANT REFEREES on the list. If you look at the criteria to be nominated:
Builders are nominated by making their mark in the soccer community in a non-playing capacity while sustaining a major and positive impact on U.S. Soccer on a national or professional level for 10 years. Referees must serve as a FIFA referee for at least seven years to be eligible.
Actually there are three things that surprise me. First, as I stated above, no assistant referees were nominated. I can certainly think of a couple right off the top. I can also think of a few US FIFA referees too who served with distinction for more than 7 years. Not even a nomination.

Second, is players get their own category, as they should. They are in a class to themselves unquestionably. Why not referees though? Like administrators and coaches (also in the "builder" category) they certainly have a significant impact on THE game, yet like players compete on the international stage ... as an athlete and have "caps" as do players. Let us not forget folks, they are inside the field too. Yet are lumped into the "builder" category as other non-active participants. Seems odd to me. Oh yeah, they are generally volunteers too don't forget. While players, coaches, and some administrators get salaries for their time ... referees get a game fee.

Lastly in looking at the list of HOF inductees as builders here, how many referees did you notice? Not too many, and only one of fairly modern note, Alfred Kleinaitis. That is quite pathetic actually. One would think if a lifetime is spent achieving a FIFA badge, and you serve for 7 years in that capacity as so many before have, you would at least get a nomination to the HOF. Just a nomination folks.

For all the crap heaped on referees, you would think that US Soccer would offer a laurel every now and then.

Sour grapes ... maybe. But an inexplicable slight on a vibrant community that is part of every single game ... certainly.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"You're Welcome"

As many of you have seen from me in the past, I am an avid follower of Not Running a Hospital. Its author, Paul Levy, is a longtime friend to THE game, as well as an accomplished advocate for those who do not always have a voice.

In a recent post, he opined about accepting gratitude. While granted it is not something a referee hears often, it is something that we need to respond to in the right way as often times truly compelling and constructive conversation may follow.

Trust me ... this has tremendous effect. One very, very early morning leaving Ohio after an MLS game, Greg Andrulis, former coach of The Columbus Crew, was quietly waiting for a flight and we happened to bump into each other. He stopped me and started the conversation with "Thanks ... ." What a great conversation starter. From there we chatted for about 10 minutes and I recall learning more about the MLS through a coaches eyes than I had ever heard or learned before.

My recommendation is to read Paul's article on accepting gratitude, and be ready for that moment to engage in conversation as it can provide wisdom and insight that one may never easily get otherwise.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

No Snood Says FIFA

Matt Reis 26-MAR-2011 v. DC United
Check out the snood
Special thanks to Dr. Rice for sending some of these links along.

So back in February of this year, I opined about "snoods" and why FIFA may be banning them.

Well FIFA has come through and is officially banning the snood as reported here from ESPN on a litany of matters IFAB is currently tinkering with.

Apparently this topic is so emotional that Sepp has hearkened back to his days as a player stating that:
I was a player in both winter and summer weather and I never wore a snood.
He continues on to say that snoods can be dangerous, and are not "part of the equipment" for playing. I agree on both fronts there. Law 4 is very clear on that point, and snoods can create a genuine danger, and should be banned.

Sepp does continue saying "We must pay attention to the Laws of the Game." Well frankly, its not a law yet, and is one that will not be "on the books" as it were until July 1, 2011 when the new law changes are published and given effect internationally. However the timing is funny as a commentator from The Soccer Insiders put it:
By the way, as proof that Sepp likes to make meaningless gestures, the ban doesn't take effect until July 1st of 2011. Yeah, that's right. The middle of summer.
Not intentional, but certainly ironic.

I would be surprised if MLS does not take immediate action themselves and not allow such garments, even absent authorization, or possibly with permission, from FIFA.

While this is good in protecting players safety, what about banning neck chains and the like? These too send the wrong message to the youth players who weekend after weekend try to wear such articles and often cite "... but I saw (MLS player X) wearing that ... ."

While not realistic I know, I would love to see consistency like this for all levels of THE game.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Joseph will meet with MLS to discuss arrest

FOXBOROUGH — Revolution midfielder Shalrie Joseph hopes to avoid disciplinary action by Major League Soccer following his arrest for trespassing at the team hotel in Florida during training camp.

During a post-practice interview yesterday, Joseph also said he is hoping to be offered a new contract and hopes to finish his career with the Revolution. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Boston.Com

Kicking Back Comments: I am not interested in the arrest personally. It is a simple trespass beef and frankly boys will be boys ... even at 32. MLS seemed to have a similar take only fining him $1000 (source).

What is interesting to me are (2) aspects the article touches on.

First is that MLS has denied transfers to Joseph on a couple of occasions as detailed by the story, but yet has been denied a long term contract. Transfers are not unheard of in MLS, just take a look here. While the majority are free, there are some transfers from MLS to foreign clubs, and if for money are "undisclosed." One would figure it would be a good thing to get an MLS player playing abroad, and if they do well, bring some stature to the league.

Second is Joseph's salary. He came to the league in 2003 earning the minimum of about $34000 (source), then after a stellar year signed a four deal (2004 - 2008) worth about $60000 annually. From there he has been earning $400000 on another 4 year deal (2008-2012) and is now looking for a contract.

Lets face it folks MLS is just not on par with the other major sports now as far as salary goes. The other day I opined about how to some MLS is taking the #4 spot from the NHL in so far as popularity goes ... just take a look at these salary numbers (source).

Major League Baseball: $3,297,828 (9.3% growth since 1989, CBS Sports)
National Basketball Association: $5,000,000 (estimate, Forbes)
National Football League: $1,870,000 (estimate, USA Today)
National Hockey League: $2,400,000 (estimate; Forbes)

Major League Soccer: $173,491 (Business of Soccer)

To be sure, $173K on average is nothing to sneeze at, but the gap between the marque players (all 8 of them - only one from the US) and the rest of the bunch is staggering. Credit is due however to the MLS players union for making all of this transparent in their salary reports.
Now, one thing that gets me a bit is the discrepancy between even the MLS league minimum and a referees salary. Here are some recent MLS per match salary figures for a referee:
Level 4 = $850
Level 3 = $750
Level 2 = $650
Level 1 = $550

So even assuming a referee is in tier 4, and does a game a week and a couple of playoff matches at $1000 a piece, we are not even talking about $30000 a good $10K less than an entry level player in MLS. (By the way, NO ONE is doing that many matches in MLS)

So while I believe MLS players generally are not paid enough ... the referees are certainly a far cry from even that. Now granted, most MLS referees have "day jobs" where players obviously don't, but with the "outcry" for better refereeing ... is it worth it to MLS to make more referees "professional" as a couple are currently today? Will we soon see a MLS referee union to negotiate for such things as the players currently have?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Should have kept his day job ...

Photo courtesy of Fox Sports
Reports from the training camp that Ochocinco is attending are pretty clear. This quote from the AP says a lot.
Locked out of his day job, Ochocinco opened a four-day tryout with Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday and by the end of his first day with the Major League Soccer team the star receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals was panting for breath.
He said himself he did not expect to be "Superman" ... but many, I think, expected more than what he has shown.

I for one give him credit for a couple of things. First, he clearly underestimated the fitness level required and kudos to him for going through the paces with an MLS team. He said himself he ate some "humble pie." I personally have taken that ride and I am with him ... it hurts.

Second, childhood fantasy or media stunt, he is making the effort, not just showing up and taking pictures. In a particularly vivid moment when asked if he would play for free, he quickly said,  "Yes. Can I do that?"

So at the end of the day while I believe there is no place in KC's lineup for Ochocinco, there seems to be a genuine part of him that loves THE game ... and would play, if he could, for free.

I doubt however that Peter Vermes is going to give him that chance.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Cry for Help

So yesterday (literally) I was leaving a local indoor soccer facility when a avid reader of Kicking Back, friend, and friend of THE game stopped me. We chatted for a second about a couple of things and he said something really funny, and really insightful.
I would't know Sepp Blatter if he came up to me and gave me a dollar.
I joked for a second that he would actually try to take one from you, no doubt for the upcoming FIFA presidential elections. There was an excellent point in there however worth repeating.

It was, while there is a grander canvas with the international game, and it is good to go back to that on occasion, there is also a very vibrant local game that requires some commentary.

They were right.

To that end dear readers, while I have a bunch of things queued up, I am asking here for your help. For those who have been reading Kicking Back for the last year or so, thank you, for those who have to catch up, the archives are located here too to get a flavor. If there is a more local story or topic you are interested in, please let me know, and we will certainly get it some air time.

Send ideas to and we'll send out our roving reporters to cover the action.

As always, thanks for reading.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Bye Bye NHL? MLS to take the #4 Spot in US Sports?

Major League Soccer is Poised to Overtake the NHL as the 4th Most Popular Professional Sports League in the U.S.

As data from the 2010 Census emerges, the cultural demographic of the U.S. population is shifting. It’s only a matter of time until our sports landscape catches up.

For the better part of half a century, U.S. professional sports have been dominated by the four major professional sports leagues: the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League. ...

See the full story here, courtesy of Fox News Latino.

Kicking Back Comments: An interesting article but not really an apples to apples comparison. It would appear Ms. Ortiz conclusions are based largely on the 2010 census data. There are some key points she left out.

First while she compared head to head average game attendance with MLS and NHL, she neglects to account for at least two variables. First, each NHL team plays about twice as many games as an MLS team. Second, there are about twice as many NHL teams as MLS teams. If you account for both of these factors, NHL average per game attendance would be 4x MLS average attendance.

That aside, the individual market numbers are interesting and are more apples to apples as are the general trends of increasing attendance for MLS, and decreasing attendance for the NHL.

All and all this is a feel good piece for MLS which continues to expand in its 16th year, and a feel good piece for Latinos who themselves saw growth as a demographic in the 2010 census.

Both are great things for THE game.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Will kick for food ...

NFL star Ochocinco to try out with Sporting Kansas City

It’s a gimmick. It has to be.

That was the first reaction most had to the news that NFL star Chad Ochocinco would be trying out for MLS side Sporting Kansas City. With a labor battle putting his day job on hold, here was Ochocinco, master of the media circus, delving into a new hobby.

That seemed like the most logical explanation for why Ochocinco, he of the Dancing With the Stars appearance, reality show and engagement to a fellow reality show star, would try to be a pro at a sport he hadn’t played on any organized level in nearly two decades. ...

See the full story here, courtesy of Fox Sports.

Kicking Back Comments: I hope KC and Ocho enjoy the fame for the (4) day training camp. If the past is any indication, Ocho is going to get summarily cut before he even sees a practice match. Anyone remember Sunil Chetri?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Instant replay?

Kicking Back Comments: Take a look at the story below ... it is actually pretty interesting. The first half rails about the FIFA presidential elections and how corrupt they are. Nothing new there folks.

The second part however has some quotes from various EPL coaches and a fan. What astounds me in reading these and doing further research on the topic, is there seems to be an idea that things will be made "right" by the use of replay and other technology.

Now, I have stated that I personally am not a fan of replay or goal line technology. Tools to help referees communicate batter (e.g. radios), you bet, I am a BIG fan of that. Anything beyond that puts us on the slippery slope however. I am failing to see however why the use of technology corrects all THE game's "wrongs" as seen by ... well just about everyone.

One analogy is in the NFL where review is used fairly sparingly. Are we really going to allow Sir Alex and his ilk to openly challenge a referee decision by (as the NFL does) tossing a red flag into the pitch? To what end? He will then argue THAT decision if it does not go his way, as he generally does today. Note further, this is for the "clear" incidents ... but as we know, THE game is generally a world of grey when it comes to Law 12.

Long story short, technology is a wonderful thing that can solve many problems as it has in general society and industry. Comments from the below article continue to solidify the though in me that the use of such technology to "assist" in adjudication of a match will cause more problems, and not solve the one it was intended to solve. A classic case of the law of unintended consequences.

Alan Green: Fifa will keep on stalling over video evidence

Late last week the President of the Asian Football Confederation, Mohammed Bin Hammam, announced that he’d be standing against Sepp Blatter in the Fifa elections on June 1. I wouldn’t get your hopes up.

For a start, he’s so much against the head of world football that he campaigned on Blatter’s behalf in the last two elections and, far from delivering a radical and detailed plan to re-design Fifa — an essential you’d think — and the sport as a whole, Bin Hammam’s announcement was couched only in vague promises. ...

See the complete story here, courtesy of the Belfast Telegraph.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cute, but not helpful

Take a look here at Don Garber and Sunil Gulati's  recent comments (or complete duck) regarding the FIFA presidential elections.

While both in their own way clearly decided to stay away from the controversy, my question is, why? While Gulati does cite that "Chuck Blazer have got us represented ..." (sic), why not get on board with someone?

Besides, Chuck does not represent the US explicitly, he represents CONCACAF. Now I can see why Mr. Garber would take a pass as while he certainly has a dog in the fight, it proxies through Mr. Gulati.

I can't fathom why Gulati took a pass. He is there to lead ... so please lead Mr. president. Take a stand. Worse case is we get shunned from the football world if you back the wrong guy. Not sure how it can get too much worse ... but I would think we would be willing to get behind someone and take a risk.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Fight, fight, fight !!!

Kicking Backs Comments: You know it's not good when you start with something like this: 
"FIFA will be doomed if Hammam became the president," Velappan told The Associated Press. "It would be very detrimental."

Blatter ally slams Mohamed bin Hammam's FIFA presidency bid

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — A former top official of the Asian Football Confederation slammed Mohamed bin Hammam on Monday for challenging Sepp Blatter for the FIFA presidency, saying the organization would be "doomed" if the Qatari wins.

Peter Velappan, a Blatter ally who was the AFC's general secretary from 1978 to 2007, said bin Hammam's pledge to bring "new blood" into the leadership of world football was "the joke of the century."

The Malaysian's comments underscore bitter divisions that could increasingly become public following last week's announcement by bin Hammam, the current AFC president, that he would run to replace the 75-year-old Blatter.

"FIFA will be doomed if Hammam became the president," Velappan told The Associated Press. "It would be very detrimental." ...

See the full story here, courtesy of the Canadian Press.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Presidential Politics

World Football in Focus - Warner the Kingmaker in FIFA Presidency Battle

(WFI) Controversial CONCACAF president Jack Warner has emerged as the key powerbroker in the battle to win the FIFA presidency.

Warner controls 35 of the 208 federations who will decide the next FIFA president at its congress in Zurich in June, and sources with knowledge of FIFA politics have indicated that he is the key figure in the electoral race. CONCACAF have indicated this week that they will likely vote as a bloc. ...

See the full article here, courtesy of World Football Insider.

Kicking Back Comments: My favorite quote in the article is this:
In a nutshell, Bin Hammam proposes giving huge amounts of FIFA power to confederation heads. The plan, according to one FIFA insider, is “to appeal to the vanity of confederation heads, such as Warner.”
Just classic stuff. What was that tweet from @fakesepp? Oh yeah.

Friday, March 18, 2011

You get what you get, and you don't get upset

Sir Alex Ferguson hit with five-match touchline ban by FA

Sir Alex Ferguson has been banned from the touchline for Manchester United's next five matches and will have to watch the FA Cup semi-final from the stands after being found guilty of improper conduct at a Football Association hearing.

Ferguson has also been fined £30,000 after the FA decided to take a hardline stance over his decision to fight the charge rather than accept he had gone too far in his criticisms of the referee Martin Atkinson after the defeat at Chelsea earlier this month. ...

See the full story here, courtesy of

Kicking Back Comments: When do we think MLS will take a similar stance in protecting its referees from similar untoward barbs from MLS players and coaches?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Another FIFA investigation on the horizon?

From the NYT:
Player Claims of Beating and Threats: A soccer player from Montenegro who fell out of favor with his Russian club said he was beaten into terminating his contract by armed men and feared for his life. A team executive dismissed the claim as “pure idiocy.” Nikola Nikezic, who played for Kuban Krasnodar in the Russian Premier League, outlined what happened in a letter to Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s president.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

MLS: Year 16

MLS heads into 2011 season bullish over its future

Just nine years ago, MLS commissioner Don Garber made the difficult decision of eliminating two of the league’s 12 teams. Major League Soccer was on shaky ground, with the future of the six-year-old league looking very much in doubt.

Fast forward to today. MLS is set to begin its 16th season with 18 teams, two of which will be making their debuts in the Pacific Northwest. Where there was once just one soccer-specific stadium in MLS, now there are stadiums across the country and another will open in the Kansas City market this summer. ...

See the full story here, courtesy of Fox Sports.

Kicking Back Comments: An interesting article to be sure. I'll be honest with you, the first year the league came to be when I was working in it, I though, and actually said out loud to some, that I expected MLS to last 10 years tops and then collapse under its own financial weight. I am glad I was wrong.

While I believe THE professional and international game is still stagnating in the US, it is not without significant effort on the part of MLS and its owners to keep a professional league going for this amount of time. Previous to this was the NASL of 'ole which survived 17 years (source), a far cry from the other professional leagues of the modern day, such as the A-League, or WUSA.

Without these business leaders and owners, I would opine, we as referees would be ill equipped and likely not even considered for participating on the world's stage. I'll be one of the first to say that there are some facets of the business side of sport that are unseemly to me, but the bottom line is we could not be successful without these business aspects. We as referees need at the very least, to acknowledge that fact ... and to be successful at the professional level, embrace it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Baharmast Selected for 2011 NASO Gold Whistle Award


RACINE, Wis. — Esse Baharmast, a 1998 World Cup referee and 1997 MLS referee of the year, was selected by the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO) as the recipient of its 2011 Gold Whistle Award.

“Esse Baharmast represents all the qualities of professionalism in officiating,” said NASO President Barry Mano. “His personal ethic, his hard work and his caring about the officiating community is without parallel. When he was on the pitch, his conduct and capability brought a special credibility to the match. Away from the game itself his influence has been even greater. He teaches, mentors and helps other officials excel. He has a unique talent for that. Esse represents officiating in a way that makes every one of us proud. He is such a credit to our industry.” ...

See the complete NASO press release archives here. Previous recipients of the award can be found here.

Kicking Back Comments: Esse is certainly one of the great referees of our time. Based on his resume and accomplishments is certainly deserving of this laurel.

 Special thanks to C.W. Rice for bringing this forward.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A tip of my cap to the classics

Image courtesy of Mere Cie
For those who read the comments here at Kicking Back, you are often times treated to some cunning insight from folks, and at times very personal exchanges.

I can assure you the folks who put up comments and those in return from me are straight from the heart.

In a recent exchange with refereeing guru, Wally Russell, I learned that he is one of the very few US importers of Balilla, B&D, and Acme whistles.

He recently shared one of the great truths about referees and their art:
If we budgeted more time to reading and correcting body language and listening to and perfecting nuanced whistles tones for effect and match control, our performance as referees would evolve limitlessly....
Just think about that for a second and ask yourself, is how you are refereeing causing ripples in the water? This is a topic we have, and will continue to tackle in the future.

Guru Russell spent many late night hours over chicken fingers and Risk, slowly smoothing out my rocky shores, talking about these and many other issues. For that help and perspective I am forever grateful.

It has been said that a "Balilla is the Maserati of whistles." I would agree as that is what I have used throughout my career, and continue to use to this day. I find there is nothing like it.

As spring approaches and your are in need of a new whistle and appropriate lanyard or chain, stop by Mere Cie. You will not be disappointed with the tremendous selection of classic whistles.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What an endorsement!!

As some may know Mohamed bin Hammam is ready to take on Sepp Blatter against in June for the presidency of FIFA.

There may be some skeletons in his closet however that may be an issue. From Guardian:
FIFA EX-COM VP Chung Mong-joon stating that Bin Hammam represented "a serious lack of transparency, democracy and rule of law". "I am afraid that he behaves like a mentally ill man …"
... and a ringing endorsement from a friend.
... standing by Bin Hammam in 2009: Indonesia's FA president Nurdin Halid – twice allowed by Bin Hammam's Asian Football Confederation to run his FA from inside prison while serving time for embezzling humanitarian aid. Halid: "Mr Hammam has my full support. His vision is second to none!"
I don't know what is worse. The devil you know, or the one you don't.

See the whole story here, courtesy of

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Slow on the uptake?

Fifa denies it was slow to deal with fixing fears

Fifa has denied being slow to react to fears that two international friendly matches were being targeted by match fixers.

The games between Bolivia and Latvia and Estonia and Bulgaria are now the subject of an investigation by the world governing body, who have opened disciplinary proceedings against six match officials.

Officials from the Estonian FA had alerted Fifa and Uefa to their concerns over the organisation of the games two weeks before the fixtures were played in Turkey on 9 February. The games went ahead and a reported €5m (£4.3m) was gambled on the Estonian match, a 2-2 draw. Industry insiders have suggested the "over two-and-a-half goal market" as the key area in a gamble originating in the Far East. ...

Full story continues here, courtesy of The Independent.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Thank you @FakeSepp ... It's a gift that keeps on giving!!

** Reader warning: Some of @FakeSepp's tweets are somewhat off color and free of any political correctness **

If you get the chance though, check it out ... especially the birthday tweets ()

Welcome Ed Rae and Erich Simmons

Just as it is a desire to referee at the highest level, there are those of us (myself included) who desire to assess at the highest level as well.

In the US, these folks are termed "Referee Inspectors" and a description of their role is here from US Soccer, and below:

U.S. Soccer will appoint certain National Assessors as Referee Inspectors. This designation is at the discretion of U.S. Soccer and is reviewable at any time. Referee Inspectors will be empowered to assess all games but specifically at the Pro-Level and international level. In addition, all National Referees and National Candidates must have at least one of their annual assessments as a referee conducted by a Referee Inspector.

It gives me great pleasure to announce both Ed Rae and Erich Simmons as two of the newest US Soccer referee inspectors for 2011.

Please join me in congratulating them on this significant accomplishment!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The caper of the green thong, and the red card.

** Viewer warning: Some video material here may not be appropriate for young audiences. **

Special thanks to Andy and Dick for bringing this one forward so quickly and to Ed and Nigel for their insightful comments.

You might think this was the title of a Sherlock Homes novel gone horribly wrong. It is however a recent incident which occured in the UK.

Dorchester Town player-manager Ashley Vickers was shown a red card for violent conduct after a pitch invasion by a man, sporting only a bright green thong and socks, during the Blue Square South clash with Havant & Waterlooville. A blow by blow article can be found here from Mail Online.

If you haven't seen the video, it is here, and below.

So I have (2) questions for us here:

1. Does the referee have the authority to take this action against the player for what he did to a spectator?

This answer is a clear yes. From the LOTG in Law 12 under "Disciplinary Sanctions" on p. 26 states:
A player who commits a cautionable or sending-off offense, either on or off the field of play, whether directed towards an opponent, a team-mate, the referee, an assistant referee or any other person, is disciplined according to the nature of the offence committed.
In this case the offense must be "violent conduct" as simply no other reason for sending off would lie in this case.

2. Should the referee have taken the action against the player?

Here is where the magic lies. In this particular situation, in this particular match ... probably. As was written over email to me by a particularly knowledgeable source on the topic, it put the referee in an untenable position that he just had to act. It is similar to the player who instead of saying a curse under his breath when he misses a shot, rings the top rafter of the stadium with a stream of curses. Unfortunately, the referee has to act in those cases. This may have been one.

Note however is this the right thing to do for THE game or its participants? Look at the reaction of the players after the send off. The referee just about had to run for cover after he send the player off. That to me does not smack of the right decision for THE game.

Even if players are upset about a send off, their emotions are generally offset by each other. Half generally agree, half generally disagree. Here, we seemed to have nothing but disagreement on the topic. That should be a clue that justice was not served here.

Another email comment from another very knowledgeable and philosophical source stated that if justice is not served, "players may be outraged to the point of assault." It would seem that we come awfully close here and if not for the referees backpedaling ability, one may have indeed occurred.

I would opine that the decision is technically correct in this case, but justice was not done.

Let me hang a scenario out there and see if you still come up with the same answer of a send off ...

Same match, same basic circumstances, except the spectator that came charging into the field, was not to just be a nuisance, but to cause serious harm to you, the referee. In this case before the invader can get to you, the same result of #6 tackling the invader occurs, ending the potential standoff, and saving your behind from that harm.

What then? Do you really send that player off for violent conduct?

If so, you are certainly consistent in the application of the LOTG. But is it justice?

Now ask yourself why is a referee out there? To enforce the laws, or to manage the match to a just outcome?

No answers today ... just food for thought.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Not far enough ...

Love of money endangering game: Pele

Pele, Brazil's greatest footballer, said he believed high salaries and greedy players were a danger to the modern game.
See the whole story here, courtesy of Reuters.

Kicking Back's comments: He is right on several fronts, but does not go far enough. Love of money is also driving THE games caretakers in some cases to do not what is for the good of the game, but for what is good for a very privileged few.

Gone are the days of cheering for a home team made of folks from your hometown. Note this is not an issue unique to soccer at all. Big name talent, here today, gone tomorrow, for another city and a bigger paycheck.

One place you do see "homegrown" heroes is in refereeing. These few folks that make it to "the show" are local heroes to those who take the time to know who they are, and reflect on what they have accomplished.

For me these folks have names like Hasek, Socha, Bratsis, DiPlacido, Dias, Mauro, Resendes, Bennett, Woo and Supple. You don't see these folks trotting off to another city for a bigger paycheck or fancy new sports car. These folks are here to stay in the hometown they helped forge. For me, these are household names that serve as a continued reminder of what can be achieved, right around the block, when you really put your mind to it. Greatness need not change its zip code.

Hometown heroes all, and true defenders of THE game to the last.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

34th Annual Needham Invitational

It's that time of year again folks ... youth soccer tournaments!

One of my first and best experiences with youth soccer was at a Memorial Day Tournament. It was an incredible experience for me. Mild spring days, freshly cut grass, groups of referees, and good youth competition. You just could not go wrong.

It hearkens me back to my patch collection ... that I still have yet to do something with. Amazing memories.

The other day, I received the below email from the Needham Invitational Tournament. One that I have attended many times, and one that rivals the best youth tournaments in the US.

The folks who put on this tourney are top shelf, as is the tourney itself. If you have the time, I can make no stronger recommendation than to participate as a referee, assessor, volunteer, or spectator. It is an experience you will never forget.


The largest and the most prestigious tournament in New England the Needham Invitational Soccer Tournament which is held Memorial Day weekend May 27,28, 29, and 30. It is on its way of becoming the one of largest tournament in US.

1. Over 600 teams
2. Over 40 fields
3. Over 400 referees

The player participation includes teams from throughout the United States and Canada. Referees are drawn throughout United States including Virginia, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine, and this year we will have referees from Switzerland, England, Canada.

Aside from the fields and the players, the success of any tournament is measured by quality and commitment of referees. Last year over 70% of Massachusetts grades seven and under referees were at this tournament. Including assessors from all over New England, Baltimore and Washington DC.

The Needham tournament committee is also announcing we will Continue the mentoring program throughout the tournament special referee and assistant referee clinics will be added to the program including Academy to be announced in near future.

Additionally the Needham referee committee this year has added several new features to its program.

A- Centralized assigning. All Referees will be assigned out of two locations Waltham, Medfield.
B- Each site will have assigned referee Marshall to help support every referee
C- Food and water will be provided on every main site
D- We will implement a bonus program not only for high school students but also college students.
E- We will provide tournament T-shirts and other memorabilia.
F- One of the most competitive payment structure for referees and ARs in Massachusetts

Our objective is not only to appropriately covered the games but most importantly to use the tournament to develop referees to their highest level possible, by appropriately assigning them with other experience referees that could mentor and develop the individual. 

Reminder: you must be certified referee in order to referee in Needham tournament if you are out of state referee please send your reference’s lakoghlanian@fgxicom

Please go to the website below and sign in. Reminder if you have already signed up you do not need to do anything.

Needham referee committee

Monday, March 7, 2011

I'm with Sepp on this one

English FA could have sanctioned Rooney, says Blatter

NEWPORT, Wales (Reuters) - The English FA would have been within its rights to sanction Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney following an elbowing incident last week, FIFA President Sepp Blatter said on Saturday.

The FA said it could not retrospectively take action against Rooney for elbowing Wigan Athletics' James McCarthy in the back of the head in a Premier League match because, under FIFA rules, as referee Mark Clattenburg had already given a foul against the England man for obstruction, they could take no further action. ...

See the complete story here, courtesy of Reuters.

Kicking Back Comments: For my money Sepp has this one exactly right. There is no reason that a league should not jump in to further sanction a player, even if that player was already dealt with by the match referee. The FA's move to not further sanction Rooney for delivering an elbow to McCarthy is deplorable. Then to further compound the story by saying that they were really just protecting the integrity of the decision of Mark Clattenburg is just cowardice on the part of the FA.

Granted, no referee likes to have such a situation occur that the league has to step in and take further action. In my day it happened to me personally a couple of times. When I got over myself that I should have seen the whole incident and dealt with it differently ... the bigger picture prevailed. That picture was it was better to get it right than to just let it go.

As referees we certainly try to get it right all the time. But alas, sometimes we miss ... not often but we do. At the professional and international level while there is great scrutiny of referees, there is also great opportunity for leagues to stamp out the type of behavior Roo engaged in here. Leagues can also mete out much harsher punishment that a referee ever could, and really put some bite into a sanction.

I'm with Sepp, and say let them. Adding onto a particular sanction to further enforce a point started by a referee does nothing but drive that point home to the owner of the actions, and other players who may consider the same in the future.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Chuck slams FIFA ... again.

Fifa member Chuck Blazer slams World Cup organisation

A Fifa executive member has attacked the number of South American and African places for the 2014 World Cup.

Chuck Blazer, secretary-general of Concacaf, is angry North America, Central America and the Caribbean have not been given an extra spot in Brazil. ...

Full story continues here, courtesy of the BBC.

Kicking Back Comments: Where is the fury over the lack of referee's from the region in 2010? I have to say though, he does seem to want to mix it up a bit with his own ilk ... that is, at least in the press.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Our Neighbor to the North

Kicking Back's Comments: In an unsurprising (but good for CONCACAF) move by FIFA, Canada has been selected to host the 2015 Women's World Cup. It was disappointing that where there were seven bidders originally, only Canada remained after Zimbabwe dropped out on March 1st, making FIFA's decision a Hobson's Choice

While our FIFA Women's panel is not very large, it is led by one of the best (IMHO) woman international referees, Kari Seitz. I am interested to see, who will be picked for this prestigious tournament, and equally interested to see if Pia's salary goes up in 2015, her World Cup Year.

FIFA passes off to Canada

FIFA HAS KICKED the ball into Canada’s corner. Now it’s up to Canadian soccer to do something with it.

Thursday’s announcement that Canada will host the 2015 Women’s World Cup was hardly unexpected since the Canadian Soccer Association was the sole bidder remaining from the seven that originally showed interest, but its selection will have a ripple effect across the country. ...

See the full story here, courtesy of

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Hold that line!

Law-makers set to continue goal-line testing

Soccer's law-making body is expected to approve more experiments with goal-line technology systems on Saturday, but there is still a long way to go before any hi-tech device helps a referee make a decision.

A year after goal-line technology was rejected by the International Football Association Board (IFAB), the item is back on the agenda following tests carried out at FIFA's headquarters in Zurich under the auspices of the Swiss-based technology research institute EMPA.

Although all 10 systems trialed failed FIFA's stringent tests last month, there has been a notable shift in the board's attitude towards using a hi-tech system. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Yahoo Sports.

Kicking Back Comments: *Yawn.* You mean to say that FIFA (IFAB) can't make a clear decision. Shocking. Now I have already gone on record as saying that I don't like the goal like technology idea as THE game is human ... however it would appear that technology is getting in the way of making this work. I say that both from reading the story, and also from a recently retired FIFA AR who saw the tech in action and stated that it just does not work well.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

No money for you?

The other day I opined in "Show me the money!!", that if the Federation spent the kind of money they pay their coaches, to pay a small group of referees ... truly professional referees ... we may increase our chances of getting through to a World Cup (and advancing) soon. While this is only one aspect of the problem, it is one significant aspect. A second is the "right" appointments to be seen and taken seriously at the international level, and a third is the political will & backing to help FIFA and CONCACAF make the right choice.

Even more striking that this topic (which is fodder for another day), was the difference in pay between the coaches of National teams in the US.

Take a look at Bradley's base pay of $449,025. This dwarfs Sundhage's base salary of $207,667. Some may say this has to do with it being a World Cup year ... but ... that would seem to be well compensated for in the bonus Bradley obtained, $345,000. While not explicit for World Cup performance, it would stand to reason it is.

Why such a difference in base salary? They are both National teams? They both represent the US? Why?

Is the women's game "less valuable" than the men's? US Soccer may seem to think so.

Now, truth be told, I am a capitalist at heart and have no issue if one is better than another at negotiating a salary. If that is really only the issue Pia needs some big help. My suspicion is that there is more in play here and the range of salary is not as great. I openly admit I could be wrong ... but such a wide gulf gives me pause.

It is odd to me too on another level. I would think that while US Soccer is trying to gain international acclaim for the mens program, it has international acclaim for the womens program. Remember the US WNT has placed in the top 3 for every single World Cup, and two of those they were Champions. This is compared to the MNT with the closest was 3rd place in 1930 ... and not all that close since (an exception being 1994 IMHO).

I would think that is worth something to US Soccer. Certainly pay bonuses on performance in World Cup years, but pay a base worthy of assuring the US continues its foothold in the women's game. Alternatively, reduce the men's base salary and pay out a larger bonus on performance ... where it really counts.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Can't blame the referee here ...

Federation to take organizers before FIFA over botched tourney

The Nigeria Football Federation has threatened to take the organizers of the Green Bowl Soccer Tournament to FIFA for failing to notify it of the tourney's postponement. The Super Eagles were already in the United Sates before receiving news of the postponement of the tourney also known as the 2011 United States' President's Holiday Celebration Soccer Tournament. While describing the fiasco as an embarrassment to the country, NFF president, Aminu Maigari lambasted the tourney's main organizer, US-based Nigerian licensed agent, Pius Oleh and instructed the NFF secretariat to make a detailed report of the fiasco to football's world governing body, FIFA.

"This is untenable. How can he tell us that there was a ticketing problem after our team had travelled that long distance to play? How can he tell us that he did not know there was a problem until our national team arrived in America?" demanded Maigari. ...

See the full story here, courtesy of