Monday, April 2, 2012

Please stop talking ...

So big kudos to Paul Levy in my book for another excellent take on a youth soccer incident. One that I believe he read just right.

Take a look at "When "violent" is not "brutal"" from NRAH.

Let me say that I largely agree with Paul's analysis and appreciate his candor in the matter. After viewing the clip embedded in the article and the article itself I had two similar follow on points.

First, I really dislike the media. I recognize in a way I am part of the institution with Kicking Back, but there is a stark difference. I write to provoke thought through strong and sometimes "tongue in cheek" analysis. I do not like "sensationalistic" commentary.

I have commented about this in the past with some of the reporting that is done around the MLS and is intended to get a headline, not perform genuine analysis. This story strikes me as similar, lots of flash, not much substance. To somehow turn a foul from the back (that was not deserving of the punches thrown by the opponent) into a violent attack where "law enforcement" had to be called in and people were calling for "punishment" under the legal system is just ridiculous. Player lost their cool, yes. Parents behaving badly, yes. Media grossly inflating a "school yard" skirmish, defiantly.

Second, and please put this in the advice column, DON'T TALK TO THE MEDIA as a referee.

Now for those who are not familiar, there is a policy for how to conduct yourself, and it can be found in the Administrative Handbook here on page 43, and states:

Guidelines for Contact With Media

Game Officials should use good judgment based on the referee Code of Ethics when speaking to the media.

Game Officials should:

  1. Not, under any conditions, discuss the politics of the game or the sport. 
  2. Stick to what you know as it relates directly to your personal experience in the game of soccer. 
  3. Relate only factual information about a game. Do not discuss judgment calls that were made. 
  4. Avoid making declarations, which amount to speaking for other people. 
  5. Represent yourself, your state association and the game in a positive and enthusiastic way.
That aside, very little good can come from sharing an opinion with the media as a referee. Listen, I get it, it can be a thrill to be interviewed about something you love to do. I've been there, and made that mistake a couple of times, so I don't fault this referee at all as I am certain this was his first rodeo.

However, don't get caught off guard. This can indeed happen to any of us on any given day, and don't be fooled, reporters are not there to make friends with you when the cameras are rolling, just get a story. After the cameras are off, you're on your own and speaking personally I have found having a relationship with a reporter on a personal basis is not a bad thing. Like most things, it depends on the person.

So, if you find yourself in a similar situation ... heck even without the media, but parents asking "what the heck happened", your responsibility is to make a report to the league. Frankly that is your best response. If someone (other than the league) wants to know what happened, you are better off saying "I'm sorry, I can't discuss this until the league is made aware of the facts", or something to that effect. That of course is not reasonable if interviewed by the police ... but even there ... just the facts, not an opinion.

Don't forget, those who are asking may not be all good faith actors and may indeed twist your words to make a trap for fools. It is not unimaginable to find yourself on a witness stand defending your comments (or video of your comments) in some form of litigation.

You can't get in trouble for not saying anything to media/parents/coaches ... so play it safe, and don't.

Written reports and answering media questions are certainly a part of being a higher level referee, and aspects that we will address later in time as I personally have learned some brutal lessons there.

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