Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Why not the ARs too?

As we discussed back in June in, Sex was the price to fix a match ... and lose a FIFA badge, we saw the reports of the Lebanese refereeing trio of referee Ali Sabbagh and assistants, Ali Eid and Abdallah Taleb, getting tried and jailed for the exchange of sex for attempting to throw a match in Singapore. They never did of course as they were removed previous to ever setting foot on the pitch.

Out today however was a report that FIFA Bans Lebanese Referee for Sexual Favours. This ban for the referee from FIFA is a lifetime and worldwide, effective immediately.

Good on FIFA, this is the right thing to do. 

But ...

Both ARs were only given a ban of 10 additional years each, where the referee was given a lifetime ban. Now, practically speaking, this may have been a lifetime ban as (although I can't find these guys online and their birth dates) another 10 years may have put them over 45, however it was close for the referee as well.

Each referee received the same "favors" per the cited article and were each jailed for the intent to match fix ... so why the difference in punishment?

My opinion ... give them all lifetime and world wide bans for their conduct.

It is often said, and I agree, the referee crew is a team that sinks or swims collectively. An AR has no less culpability that a referee does when it comes to match control or comportment. Certainly an AR has an opportunity to influence a match as they are required to make critical match decisions. We have seen this in recent months at the howling of goal/no goal decisions and the sudden need for GLT.

Given this, why should the ARs suffer less of a fate as the referee? FIFA I believe has again missed an opportunity to say "If you match fix, you are banned for life." While clear for the referee, to not follow through for the ARs gives the impression that (a) ARs are less likely to fix matches, (b) ARs are "worth less" than referees to The Game, (c) there are options other than "life" for such an offense, or (d) some combination of these.

In this case the ARs received the same "spoils" for the attempted match fixing they were all in on. Let them all suffer for their affront to The Game.

FIFA, please take this seriously.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Too Much Dabbling?

Yesterday I reported on Jerome Chanpagne's candidacy for FIFA presidency, and also praised him for at least wading into the waters of trying to make a referee's life easier by creating an "orange card" that would have the effect of putting an offending a player in a "sin bin."

He has also suggested a variety of other changes that can be seen at the article.

In the face of all of these suggested changes, and that of MLB approving expanded replay in 2014 and the NFL tinkering with the thought of eliminating the point after touchdown (PAT), are leagues going too far to change the game they represent?

I think so. Instead of tackling the real issues in sport like PEDs, corruption, professional referees, the respective administrators of their sport want to tinker with silly elements that have been, or not been, part of the game for a long time.

If you want to look at a pioneer for changes to the game, look at Sir Ken Aston with the truly meaningful changes he made throughout his life.

Some changes are necessary with time, such as helmets for football players, and eventually as a result in 1956 penalties called "facemasks" were introduced.

Or maybe in gameplay itself as when icing was introduced in 1937 to speed up play and promote attacking hockey.

As I have stated here before I am not a fan of all the technology into the game to "assist" referees. Man has not evolved to the point that another man can't detect if they are cheating or not, as hard as they may try. Changes to the respective games today seem to be toward the introduction of these technological "advances" to "assist" referees.

While there is a case to be made for the technology assistance from some, fundamental changes to the game, such as how the game is scored should be left alone. Last time something like this was changed in the NFL was 1912 when a touchdown was increased from 5 points to 6. Now 100 years later we need to change this for some reason?

In this day and age, changes to the game are not made for the sake of the game itself I feel, but rather to appeal to the widest television market a sport can attain, or correctly said, allow for as many advertisers as possible. I suspect the NFLs motivation is more in this vein.

While an argument has been made that (in the case of the NFL) these PATs are "automatic"and one notable coach names these as "non-plays" and there should not be "non-plays" in the game, it has been part of the game for a long time, and one that still provide some drama, however rare. Currently the last PAT missed was back in December of 2012. In the current season the conversion is hovering around 99.97%.

Not all that long ago (1932) the conversion rate for PATs was around 67% and teams in needing these point developed specialists to nab the PAT. Why take it away? Why not take away the 2 point conversion as well then? Field goals? Forward passes?

Like any game, I want it to be exciting, and some trains of thought may see the PAT as a non-exciting element of the game today. I respectfully disagree. In fact it heightens the drama as you should want to be there for that moment a kicker misses, or a team produces a trick play and runs it in.

How about this for a change to make the PATs more exciting ... make a touchdown worth 4 points ... a filed goal 3 ... retain the 2 point conversion ... and a PAT worth 1.

Yes the scores will be lower, but that PAT will mean a whole lot more.

Clearly it is unlikely they  will change the point value for a touchdown. Why? Certainly tradition.
So they why change the PAT?

Getting back to soccer, a very nice synopsis of law changes can be found here, courtesy of FIFA. Trust me, FIFA has done some dumb things to the LOTG as well, and at times has used the MLS as its petri dish.

I can sum this up in a word (from the early days of MLS):


For those who don't know about it ... imagine a set of (5) kicks per team, a goalkeeper in their net, a player at the 35 yard line, and the rest of the team at midfield. Everybody is in place and waiting. The JAR drops their flag and 22 players run at the ball in an effort to score or defend a score.

It was so absurd and so short lived I can't even find any video evidence of it.

FIFA and MLS quickly got the point how stupid it was, and abandoned the practice.

Tinkering is fine, kick ins for example were actually a cool idea and made sense for the game played with the feet ... but goofing around with the fabric of the game is not.

Just leave it alone guys, please.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Champagne for President!!

For any who have not heard Jerome Champagne will challenge Sepp Blatter for the FIFA presidency in 2015. If he runs again, this would be a 5th term in office Sepp would seek, at age 78.

Mr. Champagne, aside from a fabulous name, has some very interesting ideas about where to take international football next. Many can be seen in this article from the BBC.

One that really caught my eye, was that of an "Orange Card."

Now, let me be clear, the first use of that term I ever heard (and to great effect) was from Herb Silva, the man behind the curtain at US Soccer literally, who has been incredibly influential and effective as making the professional leagues work.

His use, is stunningly different from that of Mr. Champagne, and is that in between card, when you give a yellow and just a bit more, but not quite send the player off. The term has reached such understanding that I have actually said (while holding up a yellow card) ... consider this orange. Trust me the particular player understood.

Now, the use Champagne has in mind is a bit different, but honestly, not bad. I have to give the man credit for actually considering referees in their approach in controlling matches in mind. It is the first time in a while, I have heard a FIFA bobble head actually give a referee some thought.

I look forward to Mr. Champagne's candidacy with great anticipation.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Your Superbowl Referee ... Terry McAulay

So right on the heels of (3) US Referees being names to the 2014 World Cup, we have the announcement of Terry McAulay named to head the refereeing crew for Super Bowl XXXIX. His crew for the upcoming Super Bowl will be Carl Paganelli (umpire), Jim Mello (head linesman), Tom Symonette (line judge), Scott Steenson (field judge), Dave Wyant (side judge) and Steve Freeman (back judge).

In researching Mr. McAulay you get the pretty standard stuff. Was a high school and college official, married, couple of kids, went to LSU, and has a computer science degree.

Where I really got interested is his involvement was the fact that he worked (2) previous Superbowls (LXIII and XLVIII) and in "bottlegate" on December 16th, 2001. A match between Cleveland and Jacksonville. From Wikipedia:

"The Browns were driving toward the east end zone for what would have been the winning score. Browns' wide receiver Quincy Morgan caught a pass for a first down on 4th and 1. After quarterback Tim Couch spiked the ball on the next play to stop the clock, McAulay announced that they were going to review Morgan's catch, saying that the replay official had buzzed him, indicating for a replay review, before Couch spiked the ball.[7] 

In reviewing the play, McAulay determined that Morgan never had control of the ball, thus the pass was incomplete, and the Jaguars were awarded the ball. However, fans in the "Dawg Pound" began throwing plastic beer bottles and other objects directed at and striking players and officials. McAulay then declared the game over and sent the teams to the locker rooms. NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue called the game supervisor to override McAulay's decision, sending the players back onto the field after a thirty-minute delay, where the Jaguars ran out the last seconds under a hail of debris.[7]"

If you want to see some crazy behavior, take a looks at the You Tube clip from that incident below:

So honestly I'm not sure what's worse about this whole thing from the following choices:

  1. The fan(atics) pathetic and frankly dangerous behavior.
  2. TV announcers of this clip making asses of themselves by not only thinking, but actually saying that "... the ref should take control ... of the fans ... by explaining his decision." Soon after saying the referee should end the game, then after he does criticize him for it. I don't even know where to start with that one.
  3. A stunningly stupid move by then commish Paul Tagliabue in ordering his refereeing crew back out into the field, in a hail of beer bottles (yeah but there're just plastic says the announcers), and directly into harms way, to play the last seconds.
I was stunned somewhat speechless by this. 

Not the fan(atics) ... I almost expect this type of behavior at times. Certainly not be the announcers as a rule they spot drivel. However in the commish's decision was really poor to put teams and referees in harms way.

Now very interestingly, I actually read the rule on this (here) and was really surprised at what I saw.

From the law:

Under no circumstances is the referee authorized to cancel, postpone, terminate, or declare forfeiture of a game unilaterally.


A referee must contact the comissh office to get direction. A referee can not do it on their own.

I can almost, almost, see the point when it comes to weather, but fan disorder like this, and you have to call a guy x miles away watching on TV and he says "get back out there."

That seems a little crazy, and even worse, distrustful of the assessment of the refereeing team. After all, they trust them with an outcome of the game, but not a decision to continue it or not?

As referees, do we have this authority? If so, where in the LOTG does it lie?

Well for those who did not know, we do, and it can be found in Law 5 which states a referee has the power to:

Stop(s), suspends or abandons the match, at his discretion, for any infringements of the Laws.

This is true for all levels of the match and it happens at nearly all levels of the match. Just take a look.
I would think this one ended well before the military helicopter landed on the field.

How far would you tell the commish to pound sand if they said "get back out there" in this case? 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

For Immediate Release: Northeast Regional FUTSAL Tournament

Once again Massachusetts is host to the largest futsal tournament in the US with over 150 teams!!!

On January 18, 19, and 20 2014 the Northeast Regional Futsal tournament will be held at University Sports Complex in Hanover (645 Washington St, Hanover, MA 02339).

Matches will start at 8:00 am and finish by 9:00 pm on Saturday and Sunday. 
Monday will be the finals.

Check here for updates!!

In the mean time to see some amazing futsal action, take a look below.

Congrats to US Referees Geiger, Hurd, and Boria

Referee trios and support duos appointed for 2014 FIFA World Cup

The FIFA Referees Committee, meeting in Zurich yesterday (14 January 2014) under the chairmanship of Jim Boyce (Northern Ireland), has appointed 25 referee trios and eight support duos representing 43 different countries for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.

FIFA has implemented a comprehensive programme to ensure that the referees for its flagship competition are in peak condition come 12 June. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of

Kicking Back Comments: While not unexpected, it is always welcomed to see a US face in a World Cup. Hearty congratulation to Mark, Mark, and Eric.

This is an accomplishment that so few will ever have. Enjoy the fruits of your hard work.

To look at the full list of referees going to Brazil is not so shocking both in geographic location, and by name. The full list of referees and alternates can be seen here (.pdf).

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Put an asterisk by his name too

I'll begin by saying, as I have in the past, I am not a "baseball guy." I have demonstrated this several times and been rightly corrected by JAFO on a variety of topics. With the whole A-Rod steroid thing, I just can't help myself though.

My ire is not for A-Rod, who while completely unlikable, is accurate in saying he did not test positive for PEDs. This is however similar to the NFL policy on recreational drugs, as a well announced test after training camp that you would have to be a dope (no pun intended) to fail.

I'm also not living in a fantasy world as one of A-Rods lawyers implied David Ortiz was using PEDs. My response is the same ... duh, of course he is.

I could go off again as I did in the Lance Armstrong affair and talk about robbing due process and other procedural issues that really let the leagues ... if they want ... investigate such matters.

Problem is of course, they don't want to, unless it suits them.

This is where my vitriol lies today ... to Bud Selig, the current commissioner of MLB.

To me, it seems clear that part of the reason why A-Rod is being singled out so severely is to preserve Bud Selig's name as he retires as commissioner. While conjecture on my part, the timing does line up.

After all, he is 100% sure that he is retiring in 2014 and is looking for a "Mariano Rivera-esque" 30 ball park farewell tour. (I'd be careful with that one Bud, you may not get what you are looking for) Selig has been the MLB commish for 21 years and stands as the 2nd longest tenure in the game.

He is certainly not without his controversy, including his Brewers ownership and was an active participant of removal of the, then seated, commissioner, Fay Vincent. (source)

Vincent certainly helped define Selig's tenure however when in 2006 with the Barry Bonds PED controversy swirling he stated Selig was "... an observer of a forum beyond his reach." (source)

Selig from that point forward owned the issue, and was seen as essentially neutered to deal with it due to the strength of the PA.

Now to his credit, he got the players (or their union) to agree to drug testing over time, over their very loud objections, and again to his credit, started to build some credibility back into the game itself. Some of this is an illusion of course as the testing protocol was hardly strict ... or unknown to the players ... but it was progress.

Enter around that time Michael Weiner the new MLBPA by all accounts both had no ego about his position, and put the game first. A man after my own heart, an one that tragically succumbed to a brain tumor and recently passed away. Before he did however he recognized PEDs were bad for the game, potentially worse for the user and worst for the non-user who's struggling with the question "to do it" or "not do it." He allowed the staunch anti-PED player to have a loud voice. Selig had no confidence of the players, Weiner did. (In a separate note, if you want to research what a man of integrity is like ... look up Michael Weiner.)

In the agreement reached with the PA and the league, a mainstay was confidentiality regarding any details of infractions and outlined a play by play protocol for any such issues.

Buddy blew it big time when he went to 60 Minutes on the A-Rod stuff.

I am struggling to even understand why MLB went to the media other than Bud's ego, and desire to "put a stamp" on "his legacy."

Really, MLB admitted to buying, even possibly stealing evidence and trashing a man and whatever due process rights and reputation he had all while violating the standing agreement with the PA.

For the good of the game, or for the good of his ego?

Similar to players who rightly should have an asterisk by their name for breaking a record when using PEDs, so should Mr. Selig for feathering his ego before protecting what he is charged to do. He may never have taken PEDs, but his performance was certainly altered by them.

Monday, January 13, 2014

A NHL Life

Often times I use other sports as a way to make a general message. Today is no different.

The NHL produced a series of video starting in November of 2013 called NHL Life. They are available on You Tube and at

Episode 2 in the series focuses on Tom Kowal based out of Calgary who has been with the league since the 1999 season and is below for your enjoyment.

This is well worth the 5ish minutes to view there are some powerful messages in there.

What I found funny was a few of the comments from You Tube shown immediately below. Many folks who are interested in getting to the professional level sometimes think there is some secret sauce that gets dabbed on folks. I'm here to tell you, there isn't.

You want to be a professional, yes you have to practice your craft more than anyone else to be the very best you can, but, you have to be an open, thoughtful, compassionate human when doing so.

Without these traits, it will be hard, if not downright impossible, to be the professional you may want to be.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Don't become the show

If your a geek like me the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is a place to see the new and upcoming as well as hear from some of the sectors CEOs like Yahoos! Marissa Mayer.

During the show, Samsung had scheduled an unveiling of its new 105" Ultra HDTV, and contracted Michael Bay (see here for full credits), director extraordinaire, to MC the introduction, along with Samsung Executive VP Joe Stinziano.

Take a look at the video below to see the results.

Now, while this could be a discussion about preparation, which is what I personally believe caused this meltdown. Or a discussion about lateral thinking, which there was none here, as when asked the question what were your thoughts, he could have simply said that Transformers (the movie series he directs) would look *awesome* on this TV.

My comment is about Mr. Bay becoming the show, when that is the very last thing he should have done. Now, in this case I also don't believe that it was intentional, but none the less, based on some of the reports, talk is not about the TV, it is about the person. See Samsung's 4K HDTV Reveal Upstaged by Michael Bay Meltdown, as an example.

Being a good referee requires being visible only when necessary, and not making the show about you. Folks are there at all levels of The Game to watch the players, not the referee. Now there are times when the referee inadvertently gets more attention that they should, and I believe that the able is just such a case. When you discover this, work to become invisible again as soon as you can.

There are also cases for very short periods of time a referee must be the focus to take some energy out of the game, and serve as a check valve for some of that pressure.

There are however for more insidious cases however when a referee make The Game about themselves from start to finish. For me, such a referee does not serve The Game at all, only their own egos.

If your goal is to stroke your ego by being larger than The Game, my advise is to try a new line of work, because you will not last long as a referee.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A New Year ... and then some

I have to say I am mostly happy to be back ...

Mostly because it was great to unplug for a few weeks and "take a breath" and also evaluate our year ahead.

I leave 2013 with very mixed emotions as it would have been my last year on The List should I have attained such an honor. It also reminds me just how full of crap FIFA is to cap the age at 45 as I think a pretty compelling case can be made (actually based in science) why the very best referees should be able to work to 50 ... as FIFA used to allow. We will save that for later this month.

It did force me to reflect on my career as a referee and what would have been my forced retirement and my actual retirement from the collegiate game and celebrate Jr. getting geared up to become a referee in early 2014.

It also was a time of recognition from an active career as a referee, to one of a referee coach, assessor, and instructor. It is clearly time to give back for me.

Now before I get all misty, I am still refereeing, actively, just not as much as I used to. Also, my *focus* is no longer my refereeing, but others.

Kicking Back is going to change a bit too in this regard as in looking back at my musings over the last years, it has increasingly stepped away from analysis, and more toward bashing (FIFA).

While I don't intended to stop that practice, especially with some of the lunacy coming from Sepp these days, I think it is important to get back to what Kicking Back was initially intend to be, a thoughtful commentary on sport and how that intersects with refereeing of all types.

To accomplish this however I will be writing a little less in an effort to go a bit deeper in topics so please bear with me as we change form right before your eyes.

I do however reserve the right to rant on occasion about the lunacy that is going on on the international stage ... in fact ... Fridays are that day ... Free-for-all Friday's where there will be little content and big rants.

It is a World Cup year after all, so let's see where we go.

Next up, year 5.