Wednesday, September 22, 2010

To play or not to play, that was the question

A few days ago I was at a match where the conditions were such that the match was "abandoned" as the Laws Of The Game (LOTG) describes it. It got me thinking about the first time I abandoned a match, and what the reasons were, and where in the LOTG supports this action.

An excerpt of a wonderful treatise by Jim Allen can he found here at Ask A Soccer Referee.
We need first to differentiate between “abandon” and “terminate” a match. The difference between terminating a match and abandoning a match is a subtle one, but it is historically correct and supported by traditional practice. (Research into the history of the Laws will reveal this clearly; the IFAB now uses “abandon” almost exclusively, most likely just to confuse us all.) The referee may abandon a match if there is an insufficient number of players to meet the requirements of the Law or the competition, if a team does not appear or leaves before completion of the game, or if the field or any of its equipment do not meet the requirements of the Laws or are otherwise unsafe; i. e., for technical (Law 1) or physical (Law 4) safety. ...
This article is a must read for folks to be prepared for such an event which can happen quite often due to inclement weather. Ask yourself what you should be doing "when lightning strikes." (Sounds like good post material)

There is a second side to this coin, and that is how abandoning a match can leave a referee feeling. This is distinct for the proper reporting and procedures you must follow (note that some are league specific) after abandoning a match.

Some abandonments are easy to deal with after the fact. For example, lightning strikes off in the distance. You abandon. Case closed. Easy peeze. Similarly if a team has only (7) players and one gets hurt, do you abandon? Does it matter if they are only slightly hurt and can return, or when they leave is that it? The LOTG are clear about this, as is the Ask A Soccer Referee article. Abandon when the Laws say so, easy.

Some are very difficult. Players get into a fight? Benches get into a fight? Stands get into a fight? They all get into a fight? Things thrown from the stands? Things thrown from the benches?

All of this crazy stuff seems to fit into the other reason for abandoning a match under the "grave disorder" heading. This can leave a referee feeling empty and often asking the question, "What did I do wrong?"

Of course the answer may be that the referee could have done absolutely nothing to prevent the grave disorder from occurring. There are times when the players just don't want to play, or other events so far out of your control that not even the soccer gods themselves could have prevented what happened.

That should not prevent a referee from asking "why" however, as the answer they work to may indeed may hold some other clues for their match control.

All this for what you may ask? Here are a few concise points.

  1. Understand where the laws require a referee to abandon a match, and be prepared to do so should that scenario arise.
  2. Have an idea in your own head what "grave disorder" is. I have no definition to give except to say that if the safety of you, your team, the players, or spectators are involved, it may be time to call the match.
  3. Discuss these scenarios with your refereeing team and have a plan to deal with it, should the scenario arise.
  4. Write a report to the competition authority no later than 24h after the incident. Be objective, thorough, and precise. DO NOT SUGGEST AN OUTCOME. LET THE LEAGUE DECIDE. You are a reporter of facts only.
  5. Reflect on what happened and how you can improve. If for example the field was under water. Not too much to reflect on. If however the match ended in a fight from the players that would up getting a stadium of fans involved, some reflection may be warranted.
  6. Don't beat yourself up. Lean what you can and move on. These situations are often unique and very emotional for those involved, even the "simple" abandonments (e.g. unplayable field). Use it to improve on the next abandonment that may happen.

In these cases there are often no easy answers. Follow the laws, and keep everyone safe is all anyone sould ask.

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