Monday, October 31, 2011

Back in the dark ... again.

Yes folks you guessed it. I am back in the dark with no access to my own equipment to send the daily rant about all things soccer.

I have amusingly considered getting 100 Socket balls, having my kids spend 15 minutes each with them, and putting them in series to have some power for at least a little while in the house.

But alas, I am powerless both figuratively and literally so please browse the older posts on the right, and we will return when National Grid figures out what is going on.


Friday, October 28, 2011

That's BILLION with a "B"!

Fox Outbids ESPN, NBC for 2018/2022 World Cup Rights

Fox will broadcast the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in the USA after outbidding rivals ESPN and NBC.

Leaders from each of the three networks had travelled to Zurich last week to hand over their offers to world football’s governing body.

In what’s widely being considered a surprise, Fox’s bid was apparently considered the best by the FIFA Executive Committee.

Fox is said to have paid between $450 million and $500 million for the English rights with Telemundo forking out another $600 million for Spanish. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of WFI.

Kicking Back Comments: Yes folks, that 1.1 Billion (with a B) for TV rights to FIFA for a soccer tournament. Big business folks, big business.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Upgrade Kudos

As we have done here in the past, I would like to congratulate Jordan Cavaco and John O'Brien, who have recently been upgraded to Grade 7 (Referee 1st Class).

Well done!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Nice Balls!!!

Questionable title aside, this is really cool on a lot of levels.

Check out the video below:

As first reported in NRAH in a post called Electric Soccer (told you guys I read this blog a lot), is this really, really neat idea.

Not novel from an engineering sense to be sure as energy harvesting technology like this has been around, and in use for some time, but the combination of the engineering principle with the application is outstanding.

A truly remarkable invention from a couple of women from Harvard that combines the universal acceptance of The Game, with a universal need for electricity.

Check out their whole story at

Monday, October 24, 2011

"Fifa members 'pressured into Qatar vote'"

The decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar was called into question by new FIFA executive committee member Theo Zwanziger, with the German saying some of his fellow members had been pressurised by their governments to vote for the bid.

The comments from the 66-year-old president of the German Football Association (DFB) to the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper are significant as he was appointed last week by FIFA to head one of the new committees established to clean up the organisation.

Accusations of bribery and corruption over the last year have dogged world soccer's governing body. ...

See the whole article here, courtesy of

Kicking Back Comments: No surprise to this reader ... but it is amazing how many people want to tell this story, and how relatively well they line up with each other. Something happened folks, no question in my mind. Just when will we get the whole story? Is Jack coming out with a book soon?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

How I Made The Call (from NRAH)

From yesterday, the purveyor of Not Running a Hospital, Paul Levy, posed a soccer scenario from a Columbus Day Tournament for us to make a call.

His description in what he his can be found here at How I made the call.

Let me begin the analysis by saying that I agree with his decision as described. I also offer some thoughts as to some of the comments made, and what the LOTG actually says.

As you can imagine, we find ourselves in Law 12 as you may expect for "Fouls and Misconduct."

First question: Is it even a foul?
In a few of the responses to the question on NRAH, I saw the word "intent." To which I reply, Who cares?! Intent is a relic of the LOTG and was replaced with "careless, reckless, or using excessive force", and cuts a much wider path that referees must act on.

Having intent to commit a foul could reasonably be construed as either, careless, reckless, or excessive force. Note however, what if a player was uncoordinated when he made contact with the GK? Careless? Reckless? What if the player made the challenge when they could not reasonably expect to make a fair play at the ball? Careless? Reckless?

Maybe, and as such may be a foul regardless of intent.

Next Question: What type of offense are we talking about though? Jump? Charge? Push? Strike? Holds? Impedes? Does it matter?
My answer here is, it matters only to the degree between determining the type of kick that would need to be taken. This lies in the difference between dangerous play, impedes an opponent, and basically everything else. Consider this rule of thumb ... If there is contact between opponents, it is a direct kick.

Think about our situation, we had a GK and an opponent attacker collide, this would have to be a DFK if a foul was called. Call it a jump, charge, strike ... who cares ... it is a DFK. This is also one of the reasons why when asked, "What is the call?", I reply "A direct kick", "An indirect kick." To do otherwise invites, "... it was a push, not a hold ...", which in how the LOTG treat the punishment are identical. Don't get drawn into a moot debate.

To take this a bit further, what if a "high kick" (i.e. a dangerous play) makes contact to the opponent? You guessed it ... a DFK for a kick. Think contact == DFK.

Last Question: Does the position of the GK matter?
Another comment from NRAH on the topic related to the fact that the GK can not be challenged "in his box" (i.e. the penalty area). This folks, is simply not true.

The penalty area marks where the GK has particular rights relative to handling the ball. Specifically where they may play the ball with their hands. There are no other privileges that the LOTG affords a GK.

No you may immediately say "But the GK is so vulnerable, they must be protected." To which I strongly agree and go further to say if a referee does not protect a GK, chaos will ensue.

While these two statements seem incongruous, my rationale lies in what the LOTG says regarding careless, reckless and excessive force.

GK's by their very nature have to take risks unique to other players in the field. While not afforded special protection, the vulnerability they necessarily put themselves through widens what an opponent may do that is careless, reckless, or excessive in nature.

Consider a GK in our scenario who is stretched out reaching for the ball in the air unlike any other player in that penalty area can do. As such they are vulnerable to a challenge from an opponent in a unique way, and as a result the "sphere" of what is reckless, careless, or excessive widens appropriately. It is NOT because the player is a GK in their penalty area, it IS a result of the way a GK is required to play.

Think about this, a GK that within their own penalty area plays the ball with their feet, and plays like any other field player ... is it reasonable to think that GK can not be challenged due to their location inside the field? Certainly not!

So at the end of the day, I agree with the decision made to allow the play, and allow the goal. My additional analysis here is intended to do nothing more than to relate just how difficult such a decision is when made correctly ... as IMHO Paul did in the scenario provided.

Friday, October 21, 2011

You Make The Call (From NRAH)

So if you are a regular reader here, you know that I am a reader, and often "pilferer of content" from Paul Levy's blog "Not Running a Hospital."

His credentials are vast on many topics, and while his focus is in the medical arena on patient driven care, he is also (and relevant here) a soccer referee.

Over Columbus Day he refereed a match and posed an interesting scenario. That scenario can be found at his blog at You make the call.

Note also the comments to his post, those too are illuminating.

Take the time to take a look and form an opinion. I will post his response tomorrow, and my opinion.

You can follow Paul (and I do) at the following:

Thursday, October 20, 2011

You're Going the Wrong Way!

Well if anyone has been watching, the US took a tumble in the FIFA World rankings. While Spain remains on top, the US continues its slide closer to the bottom. At current, we are ranked 34th, between Ghana and Algeria.

As it cited here from the WSJ, the system used in determining who goes where, is convoluted to say the least. Also at the end of the day what really matters is that (a) the US qualifies for the 2014 Cup, and (b) while no goal has been stated by our new skipper, I suspect that anything less than a 1/4 final berth will be a failure.

Well, look on the bright side. We are #2 in CONCACAF ... behind Mexico.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Now Leaving the Reservation ...

Let me being by saying that I believe Franz Beckenbauer is one of the best players in history, and certainly the best German player of all time. Let me continue by saying that I believe his suggestions to "make offside simpler" (for the referees), and do away with send offs for non-brutal fouls is a bit misguided. See here from ESPN for his proposals.

While unquestionably well intended, Franz may have forgotten why those changes went in to the LOTG in the first place. Which is why most of the changes have gone in with recent history ... to score goals, or in the alternative to make the penalty so harsh for preventing them, people won't.

While correct in saying that offside is difficult to judge, his decision to place it on the FIFA agenda for discussion seems to stem from a particular incident (or at least ESPN portraits it as such) and not from a well thought out, and larger campaign of why it was changed in the first place ... again to score goals.

Der Kaiser may also be reminiscing a bit back to his days when sweepers were for the man and the ball, his comment of send offs for "brutal fouls" is somewhat dated. There are lots of sneaky and non-violent methods to prevent goals, and sending players off is to protect that goal scoring bid, not just punish brutal fouls ... and to score goals.

Same reason for implementing the "5 second" modification and doing away with the "4 step" modification for goal keepers ... to score goals. You can't score goals if you don't have the ball.

Let's face it folks, soccer is not a high scoring game, and FIFA recognizes for the marketability of the game, you need goals ... even I agree with FIFA on that one. Laws should be touched sparingly as I think FIFA has is pretty correct now. That said, I am always open to making it better. I would opine however Mr. Beckenbauer's suggestions would not make things better, but actually much worse.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Coaches Are People Too

Image Courtesy of
Anyone see the Detroit v. San Fran (gridiron) football game the other day?

If so, you were treated to some coach on coach bumping and grinding as rookie head coach Jim Harbaugh of the San Francisco 49ers, handed the Lion’s head coach Jim Schwartz his first loss of the year.

Harbaugh can be seen immediately before coming over to slap Schwartz on the back, jumping around like a frog on a hot plate. Not surprisingly, Schwartz took some exception to the treatment, all of which, and the aftermath can be seen here, from NFL films.

Well now what is the referee role here for such boorish behavior one may ask?

Head for the showers? Call the police? What's the call?

Well, first let me say that I don't blame Schwartz one bit. While I appreciate the excitement from Harbaugh, I also think it was way over the top. WAY over the top. That said, there referees have a responsibility here, and can't just turn their backs and head to the showers.

So lets think about it, this is essentially a mass confrontation scenario. What do we do?

While each scenario is different, generally if you can get in between the trouble makers, do so. You can see the referees actually trying to so this in the video. With that you can actually try to talk some sense into the parties and get them to calm down a bit. You can also usually count on help when you start to separate folks like this too especially in big venues like the subject one. In smaller venues, other players usually jump in to help.

After that, take a breath, and when things are not going to reignite, TAKE NOTES! Right there is the time to make sure you get the relevant notes down. You will need them later.

Well, what if you get no help, now what?

Back off, and if you are not in any danger, take notes. Have your officiating team do the same. If there is not a reasonable way to control what is going on, make sure that it gets reported accurately, to the league, or the police as needed.

In no cases however, should you compromise your safety and that of your crew. If the scene is unsafe, get out and when safe, write the details of what happened as you will need to write a report later. No exceptions here, if you are in danger, leave.

At the end of the day here, I expect both coaches to get fined by the NFL, Harbaugh more than Schwartz for starting the whole thing. Then again, Schwartz could have just let it go after the first slap on the back.

Again, coaches are people too and are emotional beings, and as referees we should allow them to be so. When it goes over the top however, they need to be reeled in too, just as you would any other participant.

Monday, October 17, 2011

PES v. FIFA. The Greatest Debate of Our Time? Really?

FIFA or PES? The greatest debate of our time.

The greatest rivalry in the history of video-games cranks up another notch with the launch of Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 this weekend.

As some of you will be aware, Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 will be released this weekend and with it comes the re-establishment of videogames' greatest rivalry. With FIFA 12 already on the shelves for two weeks and being the fastest-selling sports game of all time the boys from Konami will have a lot of catching up to do, both financially and critically.

A quick look across the internet will tell you that FIFA is once again dominating the critical acclaim, scoring about 90% on average with poor old Pro Evo barely scraping 80%. So will the gaming public be acknowledging FIFA as the king of this genre? Not likely as PES fans are a proud stubborn bunch that just won’t let go, and they've good reason for it. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Joe.IE.

Kicking Back Comments: Entertaining to be sure. In fact I used to play the MLS match I was going to be refereeing on FIFA, before the match happened. However, as I tell Jr. every time he tells me how good he is at FIFA 11 ... go outside and kick a real ball.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Look Back In History

Statistics are interesting ...

Refereeing is interesting ...

Combining the two under a MLS guise is really interesting.

Take a look here, to see what I mean. An interesting way to display this info.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Stone Cold Busted

Former Fifa vice-president Jack Warner is caught on tape offering 'gifts’ of £25,000 to Caribbean delegates

Exclusive: Jack Warner has been caught on tape apparently urging fellow Caribbean officials to accept cash gifts from Mohamed Bin Hammam, the disgraced former presidential candidate. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of the Guardian.

Kicking Back Comments: Shocking! (yawn)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Romario "strikes" back

FIFA must be put in its place, says Romario

(Reuters) - FIFA must not be allowed to ride roughshod over Brazilian law when it stages the 2014 World Cup, former Brazil striker Romario, now a federal Congressman, said Monday.

Romario told reporters that Brazilian laws which guarantee half-price entry to football matches for the elderly and ban on alcohol in stadiums should not be swept away for FIFA's benefit.

"If FIFA is not put in its rightful place, FIFA will soon have more power than our president and the World Cup will be the way FIFA wants it and not the way we should do it," Romario told reporters. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Reuters.

Kicking Back Comments: Romario for President! I am with him. As I noted here, this policy from FIFA not only abridges the sovereign law of the land ... but its really crappy public policy from FIFA ... you guessed it ... for a buck. Well $100,313,600 to be more precise. Chump change for FIFA in light of what they make on World Cups. They use the excuse of "investing it back into football", which some of it likely does ... but please ... give us a break with the PR rubbish. Let the elderly see the matches at 1/2 price ... after all, they help build the game that you have the luxury of governing now.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

$32,915,400 to $0

FA reveals true cost of England's failed 2018 World Cup bid

• Total spending was £21m rather than £15m widely reported
• England spent more per vote than any country bar Australia

England's failed 2018 World Cup bid cost £21m – some £6m more than had been widely reported, according to the latest Football Association accounts.

The bid for the tournament ended in disaster last December, attracting only two Fifa members' votes including that of the British Fifa vice-president, Geoff Thompson. ...

See the full article here, courtesy of the Guardian.

Kicking Back Comments: I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Forget THE game, it's big business folks.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Chuck's OUT!

FIFA Whistleblower Blazer to Quit CONCACAF Role at Year’s End

Oct. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Chuck Blazer, the soccer official whose corruption complaints led to a senior FIFA colleague being banned for life, will step down as general secretary of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football at the end of this year.

Blazer, 66, said in a e-mailed statement that he’ll end his two-decade tenure with CONCACAF, one of soccer’s six regional confederations, on Dec. 31. He’ll continue as a member of FIFA’s executive committee and intends to “pursue other career opportunities” in the sport. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Bloomberg.

Kicking Back Comments: As is clear here, I am no fan of FIFA as an institution. Check however is a bright spot in an otherwise black hole. CONCACAF, and selfishly the US, are losing a tremendous advocate.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

"The Great MLS Referee Database Thread"

The subject very, very, interesting thread from Big Soccer can be found here.

Here is the lede from Maniacal Clown:

I hereby declare this new thread to be where we shall discuss MLS referee assignments of years past as well as discuss and work as a community on the database I have created to keep track of all these stats.

I'm going to be posting year by year statistics gradually as I slog through the copying and pasting of SQL queries and turn it into something readable. Don't expect more than one year in one night. I might go insane if I tried to do it all at once.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What does FIFA have against the elderly and students?

Brazil, FIFA fight over 2014 World Cup

RIO DE JANEIRO -- With fewer than a thousand days to go before Brazil 2014, the 20th World Cup, there is a standoff between two heavyweights -- Dilma Rousseff and Sepp Blatter, the presidents, respectively, of Brazil and FIFA.

At the heart of the dispute are the problems of staging the World Cup in a developing economy. For FIFA, the World Cup is low-risk -- it makes its money from the sale of TV rights. Meanwhile, it makes all sorts of demands on the host nation, and in a country such as Brazil there are many competing claims on the public purse. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of ESPN.

Kicking Back Comments: So where did my lede come from? Well in the article, you can find this:
FIFA has been anxiously waiting for Brazil to pass a law bringing into effect a legislative framework for 2014. Brazil has been in no hurry, and is unwilling to give FIFA all it wants; Brazilian law, for example, decrees that senior citizens should pay half-price for public events. Some of the country's 27 states extend the same right to students. FIFA wants no discounts.
Nice, huh. Arguably, the most vulnerable in a developing economy, and no discounts. This too from the fact that FIFA derives most if its revenue from TV royalties.

A new low? Nah, business as usual.

This one will get interesting as the days click by, and no agreement is reached.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

FIFA kicks Myanmar out of WC qualifying

FIFA kicks Myanmar out of qualifying for 2018 World Cup after crowd violence

ZURICH — FIFA has kicked Myanmar out of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup as punishment for crowd violence at a 2014 qualifier in July.

Fans threw stones and water bottles onto the field during Myanamar’s game against Oman on July 28, forcing the referee to abandon the match. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of the Washington Post.

Kicking Back Comments: Is FIFA too heavy handed here? Should the players be striped of an opportunity due to the negligence of the fan(atics) or National Federation?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sad Yet Funny Commnetary

See it here, from Not Running a Hospital.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Just a High School Match?

We started discussing yesterday about a match that I refereed earlier in the week, and my field position. Just as background, this was a high school level match that wound up as a 1::1 result. Evenly played, no major headaches.

Specifically we looked at "getting off the diagonal" and how it was necessary to be near play and get into the field more. To illustrate this point we used a GPS plot of my last match, which can be accessed below:

Now, if you hit the "View Details" button, you are going to be treated to a few other things too.

First is a summary of what went on:

I was a little blown away by the distance and calories frankly. Looking a little deeper, I saw something that should be self evident for referees ...

... we don't run at one speed. And in fact we are all over the map and need to be able to go from a stop, to a sprint, in a hurry.

If you look at the speeds also, you can see the average moving speed was 4.3 MPH and the top speed was 10.9 MPH. Note also that I was walking or stopped for about 23 minutes of the match.

Another indicator of effort was my heart rate ...

... which peaked at about 189 (not the theoretical max of 178 for me [220-age]), and averaged 172bpm. Note this does not include the half time interval where it was recorded in the 120's.

So what is the take away? Be ready to RUN for 90 minutes regardless of match!

It does not matter what level it is, or what competition you are at, a referee needs to be ready. This match was a well skilled, garden variety hight school match, and I had to run 9km, which is equivalent to fullback Mauricio Sabillon from Honduras in his 2010 World Cup match (source).

While fitness in not everything, a referee needs to be ready with fitness like this, even in their own backyard to be able to handle such matches appropriately.

Whatever you do, DON'T get lulled into think "it's just a high school match."

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Stuck on the Diagonal

Over the next couple of days I am going to share some thoughts on mechanics, technology, and fitness as it relates to a match I refereed the other day.

Today is a small discussion about not being "stuck on the diagonal." We hear it a lot when dealing with mechanics of the Diagonal System of Control (DSC). As a referee, and an assessor, you can draw pictures and diagrams until one is blue in the face, yet it is still hard at times to visualize one's own performance in this area.

Why you do not want to be "on" the diagonal all the time is clear ... the play generally is not there and a referee needs to be close to play to best judge it, or mete out punitive actions as necessary. Nothing looks more horrible to be than a referee having to sprint 20 yards to give a cation to a player standing still.

Enter technology to help ...

Garmin, arguably the world leader in GPS technologies, makes a series of pretty amazing devices, than can be used for some pretty amazing things. I use the Edge 500 on my Cannondale Synapse as a bike computer, and it is a-m-a-z-i-n-g. Combined with Garmin Connect, it is really one of the most revolutionary pieces of equipment I own.

Now, Garmin also make another really neat toy, the 405CX, among others that combines GPS and fitness monitoring similar to the Edge 500 for cycling. I happen to wear it the other day during my match, and what did I see:

I have opened up the access so all can see, and I will get into the fitness aspects tomorrow, but for now, look at the motion track (click on Aerial for a field view).

Even better look at this plot from Google Earth:

Now, looking at this I notice a couple of things right away.

First, I had reasonable coverage of most of the field (red track).

Second, I seemed to stay out of the penalty area, and the ARs diagonals (blue lines near touch lines), unless there was a reason to be there.

Third, I seemed to be sufficiently off the diagonal to be considered not "stuck" on it.

Finally, I seemed to NOT cover the opposite corner of the JAR very well (shaded in yellow). Not true of the SAR side as I seemed to be there a fair amount.

Here is where a referee can use technology to really help their match. Next time I am out (which is next week), I will do this again (and share) and try to improve on getting into that corner.

With a tool like this, one can be aware, and understand what may need to be augmented, from match to match.