Wednesday, June 1, 2016


On equal pay, U.S. Soccer has a chance to right FIFA's wrongs

When five players -- Carli Lloyd, Becky Sauerbrunn, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Hope Solo, on behalf of the World Cup-winning U.S. women's national soccer team -- recently filed a federal complaint charging U.S. Soccer with wage discrimination, it quickly became apparent, for the 10,849th time in my life, that I should have chosen law school after college (or at least paid better attention in accounting classes).

I won't attempt to dissect the legal nuances of the players' Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filing, but instead I will get to the heart of the issue, because this is clear: The women deserve more. The question is how much.

I spoke recently with both sides -- U.S. Soccer's chief financial officer Eric Gleason and spokesman Neil Buethe, and the players' legal counsel Jeffrey Kessler and Rich Nichols -- to get their perspectives. If one thing is certain in all of this, the issue is complex. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of ESPNW.

Kicking Back Comments: This is a great article from Foudy who anchored many of the reasons why the WNT is what it is today. I truly appreciated she agreed with the facts (MNT and WNT salaries have been about equal for the past 8 years or so), did not let US Soccer off the hook (why does the WNT have to win every game to make the same), and places some blame in FIFA where it in part lies. Sounds familiar huh?

While I do start getting off the bus is when she speaks about "systemic discrimination." I take her point and believe there is an argument to be made in there somewhere, but not in that way. Where she comes closest is raising the turf issue ... which I have commented on here, was a disgrace for FIFA ... as any World Cup and any national side should play on a natural surface. See my article "The case of Dr. Turf and the Cowardly Judge" for a recap.

Another area that I start to get a bit skeptical on is how the women's game is treated around the world. Not because I disagree with the premise as it is treated in an inferior way, but that it is the responsibility of US Soccer to fix that ... or while their charter, for FIFA to fix that.

Foudy agrees with the latter and less the former is seems and cites the billion dollar reserve (yes that is a B) FIFA has and may be able to do something about. I am less certain frankly.

I believe as she seems to intimate that the WNT will get more this time around and believe that US Soccer should follow suit and provide a bump ... for the time being. While I don't go so far as to say the current WNT is an anomaly, both teams should have pay based on a revenue and a results component. So for years that the WNT does great as it is now, they get rewarded for the performance, and additionally as a function of their revenue. Same for the men.

So for my money Foudy presents the most rational arguments I have seen in a while. In this season of crazy politics, she gets my vote for 2016.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Great Article from @dutchreferee

See the whole article, "7 tips to stay focused for 90 minutes" here, at Dutch Referee Blog.

I'll add a #8 alongside the very worthy (7) points he makes.

#8 - Visualize.
In preparation for a match visualize the match and decisions you may have to make. Picture entering the field. Air is warm, sun is out, and you can smell the fresh cut grass. Visualize inspecting the teams before the match and having a nice pre-match conversation with a coach or player. Feel the thrill of that first whistle to start the match. Imagine that hand ball that a player tries to get away with on your blind side. Picture in your mind that goal by the #10 and before pointing upfield, looking to your assistant to verify it was a good goal. Go through cautioning a player for that hard challenge that has no place on this day. Finish by visualizing the final whistles and shaking hands with your teammates ... all of them ... players and referees alike who worked for 90 minutes together for a good match.

Imagine the good and the bad and how you are going to deal with it that day. Play it in your head before you walk into the field. If you find yourself waining during a match, replay that part to bolster your focus and confidence.

Then do it. 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

"I could have done more ..."

US Soccer Star Abby Wambach: 'I Could Have Done More' to Fight Pay Inequity

“Maybe I was a little too scared.”

On the soccer pitch, Abby Wambach was a leader. Now, five-and-a-half months after she retired from the game after a 30-year career, she says she’s ready to keep leading – this time in the fight for gender pay equality.

In a painfully honest speech Thursday before some 6,500 at the Watermark Conference for Women in Silicon Valley, she, in effect, apologize for not having done more to help the cause when she played on the women’s US Soccer Team. “I turned this chapter and was like, ‘Gosh, I could have done more. I should have done more,'” she said, adding, “There’s so much frustration in my bones, because I could have done more.” ...

See the whole story here, from Fortune.

Kicking Back Comments: While Abby continues on her apology tour (and I mean no disrespect there, this is a good thing for everyone) she took time to comment on the EEOC issue. Her comments seemed to be a bit scripted and had less vitriol than her former teammates. As one of the highest paid on the WNT her thoughts did ring a bit hollow, but was much more on point than her teammates. Her comments about feeling shamed about such issues I do think are powerful and throughout this matter shame, nor respect should be used as a weapon again the other party.

This is not about respect ... it's about money. Those two things do not lead to the other. I personally know a millionaire who is a truly unethical wanker and have met nearly penniless people who are people I would trust.

Beyond that, this article is crap as while it points out some facts regarding pay, it clearly continues to be a cheerleader for the WNT, regardless of what the reality is. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Equal pay my ...

As I have bloviated about here a few times now, the whole WNT equal pay issue is a bit of a red herring (a logical fallacy) that is IMO nothing more than a way to put pressure on US Soccer regarding the upcoming case regarding the CBA for the WNT.

There was a spectacular piece in the NYT regarding an objective, and I mean truly objective, look at the comparison between the MNT and WNT pay.

You can see the whole article, Pay Disparity in U.S. Soccer? It’s Complicated, here, courtesy of the NYT.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • MNT for their history is more revenue generating than the WNT. Note this does not include sponsorships and broadcast rights. Since 2012 however the MNT has brought in a factor of 2 more revenue if we include this point. Factor of 2 folks.

  • Top (12) paid players in US Soccer are, (6) men and (6) women, all over $1M.

  • Best paid women made about $1.2M since 2008 and in some cases made MORE than the men in similar positions on the MNT.

  • It is only until you get to about the 25th position on the roster do this tip away from the women and it does dip big time.

  • Equal work? Nope. WNT qualifies in 2 weeks time when the MNT takes 2 years and many more matches.

  • What about those bonuses for the men (in general) v. the women? Well, go talk to FIFA, and guess what, they base it on revenue too.

  • Per diem and sponsorship appearance work? No question, as I have stated earlier should be equal, and in fact I think the appearance fees should be bigger for the WNT right now as they are coming off a HUGE win and have a chance at same in the Olympics. This is the one point that is correct in Carli Lloyd's horribly misinformed article in the NYT. Whoever advised her to write that should be ashamed of themselves as she is now left looking really silly.

Bottom line? I am for equal pay when there is equal business worth. [Don't get me going about human value. A cardio-thoracic surgeon makes less than Hope Solo. Equality?] Certainly equal pay when it comes to things like per diems, no question about that. But please stop the crap reporting about the "mistreatment" the WNT suffers. It is utter bull$h!t.

The media is whipped up into a lather and makes it seem like the WNT are this rag tag bunch of kids who can't feed themselves and are playing with used shoes. Enough. It is starting to be seen for what it is ... a tactic for more in the CBA.

You want equality? How about NWSL salaries? Equal work as these players are shoulder to shoulder with their WNT counterparts. Their pay you ask? A maximum of about $39K and a minimum of about $7K ... per year ... which is below the poverty line if this is all they do.

Should these women get paid the same as a WNT player? Why not? Equal work, equal pay, right?

More equality? Let's talk criminality? Imagine, just imagine if Tim Howard were accused of the things Hope Solo actually did per the court papers in her domestic violence trial, or her suspension after her husband was arrested for driving a team van while drunk. Do we think he would be on the MNT?

Not a chance.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

MLS updates security

MLS updates security measures at all 20 stadiums
Image courtesy of

Major League Soccer announced on Tuesday that it will bring security measures at MLS events in line with those of other North American professional sports leagues, with new individual screening methods upon stadium entry beginning Saturday, April 23 at all Major League Soccer matches, Soccer United Marketing games, or United Soccer League matches played at MLS venues.

Under the new policy, all guests will be fully screened, either by use of a magnetic search wand or by a pat down. Each venue will make its own decisions regarding what protocols will be used at events to reach this baseline level of security. ...

See the whole announcement here, courtesy of MLS.

Kicking Back Comments: While this should have been policy from BANG! there are a couple of recent incidents that may have brought this forward. One significant one may be from DC United.

In this case as the story goes, a smoke bomb was set off in a tunnel outside the stadium. Ultimately as a result, at least one fan(atic) was suspended for a year by MLS. Now, this apparently was a fan who would drive (3) hours to see a DCU match and has substantial fan spirit to lead and take part in organized activities for DCU.

MLS has been roundly called out on this, using such images such as smoke bombs, flares, and confetti streamers thrown into the pitch to advertise how "global" the US game is. The above article and those linked do an excellent job of spelling out how hypocritical MLS is with respect to its advertising. There is even an open letter to MLS citing how capricious and arbitrary (my words) such bans are.

I can see this one both ways. You can't reasonably do something that can endanger another (e.g. ignite a smoke bomb in a tunnel) but at the same time MLS can't stand on the backs of these folks they are suspending to forward their marketing campaign to make MLS look more like the global game.

This is the US ... The Game may never have that type of flair in my lifetime .. sadly.

Here is the DCU updated security notice.

Monday, April 18, 2016

From Humble Beginnings

Good News for SA Soccer: Major League Soccer Commissioner Officially Confirms Expansion to 28 Teams

As San Antonio's new pro soccer team starts to grind through its inaugural United Soccer League season (San Antonio FC is undefeated through three games, by the way), the looming potential of Major League Soccer coming to town is the backdrop.

Those big-league dreams got a little boost yesterday, when MLS Commissioner Don Garber officially confirmed that the league will expand to 28 teams at some point in the future. ...

See the whole article here, from the SA Current.

Kicking Back Comments: Hard to believe we started with 12 teams in 1995 and we're still going now. I for one did not think this league would last this long (shame on me) and kudos to the visionaries who have been keeping it going and growing (source). When these new teams come on line in 2020, MLS will be 25 years old ... amazing.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

IFAB announce law changes

IFAB announce law changes ahead of new season as they soften punishment for fouls inside the box and trial video technology
  • The International Football Association Board has unveiled some new laws 
  • From next season the 'triple-punishment' penalty box rule will be banished 
  • Trials of a VAR (Video Assistant Referees) system will take place in Italy
  • The ball will be able to move in any direction from kick-off, not just forward
A two-year video technology trial is one of a number of significant rule changes being introduced by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) for next season.

The Zurich-based body, which determines the laws of the game, has approved a trial period of video technology to aid referees.

The trial will take place in Italy and will be utilized in four cases: to determine if a goal has been scored, red cards, penalties and mistaken identity. ... 

See the whole story here, courtesy of Mail Online.

There is a great synopsis of the changes here, from IFAB. You can also get the 2016/17 LOTG here from IFAB.

Kicking Back Comments: While here in the US we do not have to implement these changes now (anyone recall why?) we must continue to deal with the fallout from the new "recommendation" from US Soccer regarding 10 year olds heading the ball.

Kudos to IFAB for trying to make this easier for referees. The LOTG went from about 22K words to 12K words and the format seems to be much cleaner from the version I have from IFAB.

I personally am not crazy about the softening of the "triple punishment" rule as when players start meddling with the fabric of the game (i.e. goals being scored) I think the punishment was appropriate.

Other "changes" are not really changes at all, but verbalization of practices that have existed for some time but have not been put into the text of the LOTG. Generally they make their way into publications like "advise to referees" or other "guidance" type documents.

All and all, for me, a big step forward for HOW the LOTG are presented. Some of the particular law changes (like triple punishment changes and VAR's) ... meh.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Hope Solo decides to play in Rio Olympics despite Zika virus

Hope Solo decides to play in Rio Olympics despite Zika virus

Hope Solo is among the most outspoken athletes against the Rio Olympics after the outbreak of the Zika virus. But after doing "a lot of research," the U.S. goalkeeper decided to travel and participate in the Games.

"It's clear there are still so many unknowns and risks involved with going to the Games, but I will compete in Rio and take the necessary precautions to protect myself as best I can," Solo said in a statement to Sports Illustrated. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Sporting News.

Kicking Back Comments: I am interested if she will get the opportunity to exercise this decision. Between a possible work action over wages and her yet to be determined court date regarding domestic abuse (how about some equality there folks!) we may not see Hope, or for that matter the whole team in the Olympics.

She certainly has a developing image issue as well however as she recently joked on the WNT Instagram account about "have(ing) a good attorney on speed dial" and was roundly roasted for it.

Not sure if she really wants to be in the spotlight right now ...

Friday, April 15, 2016

At least they did not blame the referee

MLS chief Don Garber condemns De Jong tackle: 'There's no place for that'

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- MLS Commissioner Don Garber made his first public comments about the tackle from LA Galaxy midfielder Nigel de Jong that injured Portland Timbers midfielder Darlington Nagbe, and took aim at comments made by Galaxy manager Bruce Arena, calling them "absurd and irresponsible."

Nagbe was injured in the second half of Sunday's 1-1 tie between the two teams, with many fans and media taking the position that De Jong -- who only received a yellow card for the foul -- should incur supplemental discipline.

Garber, speaking to reporters following an event hosted by USL side and expansion hopeful the Sacramento Republic, agreed. ...

See the whole article here, courtesy of ESPN.

Kicking Back Comments: I agree with the decision and appreciated that the referee was left out of the mix on this one. Not too much has been made about only a caution being served up in this case.

That said, there was a comment that did catch my eye:

Reminds me of the old NASL ... and why the league went bankrupt.

I think MLS has a plan for that, but sorry to say I agree with the position of European geriatrics. Damn fine players, but certainly past their "sell by" date.

Monday, April 11, 2016

OWN(ing) IT

'I've been embarrassed and ashamed': Former soccer star Abby Wambach speaks out after her DUI arrest

Retired World Cup soccer champion Abby Wambach addressed her arrest for driving under the influence on Saturday.

Wambach, 35, made the remarks to CBS's Norah O'Donnell while at Georgetown University's 2016 OWN IT Summit.

The former soccer player said: 'This last week obviously has been pretty tough for me.

'I've been embarrassed and ashamed. And you know, the thing about it, is life is tricky and it's not easy.' ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Daily Mail.

Kicking Back Comments:

You can also see the full video of the interview here at Abby gets on stage about 1:37. It is worth the time to watch.

For my nickel, Abby is acting like the leader she is with her no nonsense, no excuses approach to her recent DUI arrest. Kudos to her for owning it and moving on. She is certainly on the path to turn this into a "teachable moment" for so many.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The scene behind the scene

The IFAB: How it works

The IFAB is the universal decision-making body for the Laws of the Game (LoG) of association football. Its objectives are to safeguard, compile and amend the LoG as they apply within the scope of world football as organized by FIFA, which includes ensuring that the LoG are uniformly applied worldwide and monitored accordingly, and that organized football is practiced consistently.

While the IFAB is made up of the four British football associations (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) and FIFA, any football association or confederation can suggest amendments to the LoG through one of The IFAB members. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of FIFA.

Kicking Back Comments: All my prattling aside about FIFA and corruption this is compulsory reading for anyone truly interested in The Game. It details the underpinnings and shows the deep history The Game has. A worthy read and a significant tease to the new site they are launching net month

Stay tuned for that!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

While the hole gets deeper ... she is earning some respect

Soccer: Abby Wambach admitted trying cocaine and marijuana in past, according to court documents

Retired soccer star Abby Wambach admitted to once trying cocaine and smoking marijuana some 10 years ago, according to court documents connected to her arrest on a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence of intoxicants.

Wambach, who won a World Cup with the U.S. national team last summer, was arraigned on Tuesday in Multnomah County Circuit Court. She was not present, but her attorney entered a plea of not guilty on her behalf.

The documents said Wambach has no prior arrest record. In the documents, officers wrote that she first used marijuana at age 24 and her last use was at 25. It also states: "The defendant tried cocaine at age 25." ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of The Salt Lake Tribune.

Kicking Back Comments: All credit to her, she is owning it completely, and says as much online.
This is true probably against advise of council honestly as it lends evidence to her actually committing the acts she is charged for.

For me, I like it and with it she is on a path earning back the respect she summarily lost with the DUI act and subsequent arrest.

There is another active member of the USWNT that should take a page out of Abby's book.

Interesting couple of weeks for the pair of US National Teams eh?

Been a tough week for both the Men's and Women's National Teams in the US this week.

First we spoke about the EEOC complaint the WNT filed about the discrepancy in salaries between the WNT and the MNT, which most certainly exists. Only problem is, the WNT makes far less in revenue than the MNT does and while the WNT are certainly do for a raise, their desire to get paid the same as the MNT is just not realistic.

We have former MNT star Landon Donovan coming out in favor of "fair treatment" of the WNT players. Only problem is, some news reports are citing this as being "in favor" of the WNT ... well ... depends how you look at it. He states that the WNT should be paid the same based on their ability to derive revenue for US Soccer which is far, far less than what the MNT generates.

I happen to agree with LD and each National Team pay structure should be the same, or substantially similar based on that. Like I stated earlier, it is about the market, not the person. All people are fundamentally equal. Their business worth is not.

A bunch of stupid articles like this one from SI about how Nike is sexist for only selling WNT jerseys to women, or this one from Forbes, that get the facts so wrong it is staggering have come up in between. Oh, and a comment from Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders on the topic. Pretty sure Hill will get the same pay as Obama when she takes office so not really sure what she is on about ...

But wait ... there is so much more.

Enter (or exit) Abby Wambach, who was arrested on a DUI charge the other night in Portland. I do have to say though, I give her great props and while being colossally stupid for doing this in the first place, she owned it right away and vowed to do whatever she needed to make it up.

This hurts on a number of levels. Not only in the loss of her credibility to be a real voice for women's soccer ... they may need one with this whole wage thing ... but also for the kids. There may be a silver lining in here though as she could become a very powerful voice for drunk driving. Might not be for the reasons she wanted, but there it is.

It hurts also as apparently one of her sponsors, Mini, is pissed. From their statement I'm not 100% sure why. It may indeed be because she was arrested for DUI, but from their comments it may also be because she was arrested for DUI when driving a Range Rover. How screwed up is that? Sure get all liquored up ... but when you drive home, do it in a Mini??? Wow.

Finally and not to be outdone a couple of MNT players showing just how graceful they are, mocked Wambach about her situation on Twitter. While one was clearly taking aim at a past controversial comment from Wambach about players points of origin, the other was a swat at Hope (don't you know who I am) Solo when she was reportedly a passenger in a team van driven by her drunk husband.

While I chuckled at the second one from Altidore honestly, and can appreciate the first from Bedoya, now is not the time boys. Think it but keep it to yourself. You all wear the same crest on your jersey and represent the US when you play. What do we think would happen if a referee did something like this?

So yeah, a banner week for the National teams here in the US ... I can't wait until things really get going.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Proof that the FA's Respect! Campaign is not working

First, a big hat tip to HK Referee for his post pointing us to an article from The Telegraph,
Exclusive: Referees live in fear as grass-roots game spirals out of control.

For those who remember, the FA started their Respect campaign in 2011 with this video.
It is shockingly accurate to what actually happens across the fields today.

You would think with such a dramatic effort and the backing of one of the legendary football associations in history it would be better after 5 years. Right?

Maybe not, from the article, a survey of over 2000 referees was performed, and below are the results.

First a note on the sample ... these are their grassroots referees or basically the future pool they need to draw from. About 1/3 think the National system is not doing enough for them, and about 1/4 think the local system is not doing enough for them by way of support.

That's pretty scary right there. I also have to say looking to measure this is a brave strep in the right direction as if the refereeing organization I am a part of were to do this, we may get similar results.

From there it gets really depressing though as about 1/4 take verbal abuse every match and about 1/5 have been physically abused. That is truly sad.

I would strongly encourage reading the full article as it paints a very bleak picture that I believe is mirrored in other parts of the world.

While there seems to be evidence the campaign is not working ... my operative question is why?
We'll explore that later this week, along with the US version of "Respect!" that I also think has failed horribly.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Before I wade in ...

... please review my thoughts from August 4th, 2015.

Please, before you start shooting the messenger with regard to the latest suit the WNT has brought (funny timing huh - given the CBA suit going on) I in my heart of hearts believe all people are equal. Man, woman, child, red, blue, green, purple ... who cares.

Also, I believe that people doing the same job, for the same business, with the same effectivity, should be paid the same. Period.

I recognize this is not always the case and many times women are paid far less for the same job men are doing. That's not right and should stop.

For folks however who are in a business that does not make money and expect a salary like a business that does is just not realistic. You could be the best <> and be recognized internationally for it, but if there is no market ... sorry. Even if this job is in a parallel market. [Editor note ... there is no analogy I can make here that ends well for me ... so I stopped]

I'll comment fully in the days ahead as I think ultimately it will turn out well for the WNT. Not MNT pay, but better. Honestly it is deserved to a degree based on notoriety the WNTR has given the US alone.

Three peeves I will share now though ...

1. Alex Morgan being a spokesperson for this issues makes sense to a point. But, her reported US National Team salary was recently reported at about $275K in 2013 - look at the 2013 Form 990 (source). While her salary is currently report about $70K (source) there is a total compensation piece here that just can't be ignored as her endorsements are reported as over $1M per year (source).

2. I don't see how Hope Solo is helping here. I don't mean from a salary perspective either. She is about to go back on trial for her domestic violence (source). Yes, she is in the effected class, but, is this a good PR strategy? Why is she still representing young girls from across the country?

3. Lets all recall that there is a CBA that has set these terms. There is always another choice if the desired terms are not met ... don't play. Yes it may end a dream for some ... yes it might curtail some of the very best players in the world from developing ... but we all make choices. If you want to be upset, blame the negotiator you hired.

One group of people who you do not hear are referees who would literally pay money to do these games. I get the passion from these players believe me ... but you want a class who has to train hard, be available, and gets almost nothing for it ... look no further.

More to come.

April Fool?

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Refereeing Legend Dr. Bob Evans Passes Away

While there have been a number of touching tributes for the man who has contributed so much for so many, there are two in particular that bear special attention.

Please read, Bob Evans, Former FIFA Referee, Passes Away from the California North Refereeing Association and also a beautiful biography about the man, courtesy of NISOA.

I would also personally have a look at the archive of his blog at For the Integrity of Soccer, which provides many wonderful insights from Bob, Ed Bellion, and a few others who are highly influential in their thoughts about The Game. May he rest in peace.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Final: U.S. Men's National Team 4, Guatemala 0

Final: U.S. Men's National Team 4, Guatemala 0 in World Cup qualifying -- Live updates recap

The U.S. Men's National Team routed Guatemala 4-0 on Tuesday in World Cup qualifying play, playing with urgency and pace in a much-needed win to keep its tournament hopes alive.

Brad Guzan earned the clean sheet for USA before 20,624 fans at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.

Embattled US coach Jurgen Klinsmann couldn't have scripted a better start and finish, especially after Guatemala defeated the U.S. 2-0 in Guatemala last Friday. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of oregonlive.

Kicking Back Comments: A much needed win indeed ... I still can't believe we are behind T&T ...

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Apocalypse NOW!

U.S. Soccer’s Day of Reckoning—Against Guatemala?

There is going to come a time when the U.S. men’s national soccer team gets bounced unceremoniously from a qualifying tournament for the World Cup.

Even great soccer nations experience these calamities. England wasn’t part of the 1994 World Cup or the 2008 European Championship. The Netherlands, which came within a penalty shootout of a second consecutive World Cup final in 2014, failed to qualify for this summer’s Euro. With the flick of a switch, total football went into a total funk.

It will happen to the U.S. men some time, too. It just wasn’t supposed to happen now. ...

See the whole story here, from the WSJ.

Kicking Back Comments: Gone are the days that only people with "funny accents" know football.

BTW, best comment from a fan below with regard to this article. Fabulous idea.

Monday, March 28, 2016

ISIS Kills 29 and Wounds Dozens in Soccer Match

Suicide bombing in Iraq leaves 29 dead, dozens injured: officials

A suicide bomber blew himself up in a soccer stadium south of the Iraqi capital on Friday, killing 29 people and wounding 60, security officials said, as the military announced new gains on the ground against ISIS.

The bombing took place during a match in the small stadium in the city of Iskanderiyah, 50 kilometres from Baghdad, the officials said. Medical officials confirmed the death toll. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.

ISIS, militants fighting to establish an Islamist state in Iraq and Syria, claimed responsibility for the attack via a statement posted online, SITE intelligence group, a monitoring organization, reported.

ISIS has been waging a campaign of suicide bombings in and around the capital as Iraqi forces and their allies battle the militants in the north and west of the country. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of CBC.

Kicking Back Comments: Some outlets are reporting as many as 41 dead and 70+ injured (source). A sad day indeed for The Game. This is not a new tactic for terrorists as we recall a terrorist being stopped at the game of the France v. Germany friendly last November while other explosives were going off in the city.

Like I talked about back in November, things can go sideways in a hurry. I personally just witnessed this on Saturday at a Regional Cup match. Have a plan, be ready, and hope you never need it.

Friday, March 25, 2016

"Instant Replay" Sanity

... and I am NOT talking about what FIFA is up to with a VAR ...

I am talking about MLS "Instant Replay" which can be found here, courtesy of MLS.

This show continues to highlight excellent clips that all referees should view. Fortunatly in 2016 we now have Brian Dunseth providing sanity over these clips and not Simon Borg.

Give me Brian Dunseth all day and Twice on Sunday Instead of Borg.

Take a look here from Week 3 with Brian v. MLS Cup 2015 here from Simon and you be the judge.
Volume aside, Brian is just way more knowledgable about the game than Borg ever will be IMO.

Injection of some much needed sanity into commenting on MLS officials.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Please vote now!!!

FIFA seems to be looking for feedback on the concept of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR).

Want to be heard. Vote Here ==>

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Interesting - But Not Suprising

MLS ranks as the most diverse major pro league in North America

Major League Soccer has once again clocked in as the most diverse major North American sports league.

MLS announced on Tuesday that it has the most diverse group of players among the top five major sports leagues in the US and Canada as determined by birthplace. As of last Friday, a total of 59 countries were represented by the league’s pool of 536 players, with 246 players born outside of the US and Canada.

A world map of players broken out by birthplace can be found below, while a map of players born in the US and Canada can be found here. The full lists of MLS players born abroad and in the US and Canada can be found here and here, respectively.

See the whole story here, courtesy of MLS.

Kicking Back Comments: While this diversity should be celebrated as it is very positive in the MLS having an attractive product for foreign players to come to there are a couple of lessons in here.

1. If you want to be a professional referee, you better start being "culturally aware." This is not a euphemism of any type, but rather a need for any high level referee. If you want to get a head start, learn a language and be conversational.

2. Way back in soccer history, the old NASL was essentially raided by foreign players who would summer here in the US and fill their vacation funds. While MLS has some safeguards in place to make sure that happens less ... or only when they know about it ... I am a fan of domestic players playing in MLS. It's not a nationalistic thing, just recognition we need to develop our players.

Beyond that, I am all for the level of diversity MLS has. Then again ... aren't we the foreigners to The Game?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

End of the beginning or beginning of the end?

Friends of Kicking Back, it has been a while since I have written here.

I could cite lots of excuses. Time at work, time for family, time for cleaning my room ... blah, blah, blah. I could even throw out my training for the 2016 B2VT, as painful as it has been so far.

Often times it takes a jarring event to bring one back from the funk they were in and just the other day at 5:15 AM, I was jarred back after being made aware Paul Levy had decided to stop writing at his blog Not Running A Hospital.

Ten years ago, nearly to the month Twitter was launched, Paul Levy began transforming an industry writing Not Running A Hospital (formally Running A Hospital) with his open and honest dialog about what it was like to be CEO of a 672 bed hospital, BIDMC. It was a staggering entry that was immediately met with open arms, and I am sure a few closed minds. Just take a look here at his first post and subsequent comments.

Now one of many things that was extraordinary to me in hindsight was Paul's role at BIDMC in the first place. That may sound strange for someone who is so established academically and a leader in industry, albeit not the medical one. Consider however that most hospitals retain CEO's that are or were active MD's at a point in time and this move to some I'm sure was a bit "odd."

Good leadership knows no bounds however and BIDMC through Paul's leadership flourished through his transparency, passion, and culture of quality he created.

I could write for a very long time about some of his extraordinary corporate accomplishments he created with his leadership or quality lessons he brought to the health care arena. Even for an individual like myself who is not overly familiar with the medical field, the issues he took on and the results he gained were clear. This however is not the venue for such comments.

Notably here, a substantial part of his time is spent within the soccer community, notably as a coach and referee. His leadership, true leadership, inside and surrounding the soccer field I believe is worth significant note here on Kicking Back. For all who read linked articles here or went directly to NRAH, it was clear that some of the leadership lessons he took with him to the boardroom began on the soccer field.

I reflected on that thought for a while as for me personally, the lessons I have learned, and am currently learning with this common love for The Game we share is frankly staggering.

Paul was never most clear about this exchange of ideas from field to boardroom than in his closing blog entry, "30", where he credits "the hundreds of girls ... coached in youth soccer over the course of over two decades. They've taught ... immensely important leadership and teamwork lessons ... ."

Also, if you have read his book "Goal Play!" (and I recommend you do) you will see his passion for The Game and the essential point that lessons learned on the soccer field and the business world are not so distinct after all.

NRAH always had a regular story about the intersection of leadership and soccer from various points of view. Sometimes referee, coach, administrator, or even spectator. As one of many fantastic examples, take a look at "A lesson for a coach" as it is most instructive on perspective and humility.

Most inspiring about his blog is the fact that he has the highest respect for the people who make organizations go. I recall reading recently about when tough times fell on BIDMC (as well as everyone else) and not to be deterred he got everyone together as asked how to protect some of the employees they were a bit more vulnerable to the financial stress the hospital was being put under. Reports of the story continue with a wave of applause and a plethora of potential solutions even knowing it would "pinch" others.

That is leadership.

While I have deeply personal memories of Paul and am immensely thankful for the times we have interacted, I will miss the regular perspective from NRAH on both business and even more on all perspectives soccer.

Fortunately he has decided to keep the blog up for the time being, and I would strongly recommend a look as it is a tremendous repository of transparent, straight shooting, and compassionate leadership lessons that should be required reading for any leader.

Thank you Paul for your 10 years of great lessons and thank you also for your service to The Game.
I look forward to the next time we see each other.

Friday, January 8, 2016

How Herbert Hainer and @adidas look like fools again

Manchester United’s style of play criticised by chief executive of Adidas

Manchester United’s style of play under Louis van Gaal has been criticised by the chief executive of Adidas, who signed a £750m kit sponsorship deal with the club last summer.

Manchester United launch retro Adidas kit following their £750m deal

United ended a run of eight matches without a victory with the 2-1 win over Swansea on Saturday and despite widespread criticism for a stagnant style of play, Van Gaal claimed afterwards that in their last two matches – also including the goalless draw against Chelsea – his side had adopted a riskier approach. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of The Guardian.

Kicking Back Comments: My initial title was going to be "Nero fiddles when Rome burns," but thought that was paying just a bit too much homage to Herr Hainer, CEO of Adidas.

What is frosting my cookie is not that Herr Hainer is criticizing Man U's incredibly unspectacular play. The man is an accomplished footballer as well as businessman. Just take a look at his CV here, from Adidas. There is no question in my mind that he knows his football.

A blind man (no referee jokes please) could see how poorly Man U is playing.

Even his criticism in his capacity as CEO I can stretch. I can ... he is looking to maximize his $1.2B (yeah that's a B for billion) investment in the team, and that makes sense. Although as he admits, business is booming and things are "better" than expected.

What I take issue with is that people are dying in Qatar and FIFA is absolutely on fire with corruption and Herr Hainer, leading Adidas, is willing to step out there and criticize Man U for their play, but do nothing but send a "strongly worded" letter with other sponsors to FIFA, asking them to do better.


How about at least criticizing FIFA for it's open human rights violations? How about saying Adidas will suspend or pull its sponsorship from future World Cup's, beginning with Qatar, if this goes on? How about Adidas wants to see the situation first hand and will send an envoy to Qatar, or maybe just aid?

What not +adidas?

It makes you look foolish to stand back and cry about Man U when there is so much more you can do first. Look at the bigger picture and for the love of Adolf Dassler, do the right thing and at least get involved with sorting out the mess that is Qatar and FIFA.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Clearly Valcke did not get that stitch in time

FIFA Recommends Nine-Year Ban for Valcke

The investigator for FIFA’s independent ethics committee on Tuesday recommended a nine-year ban for the organization’s former secretary general, Jérôme Valcke, who served as Sepp Blatter’s top deputy for nearly a decade before he was placed on leave in September amid a corruption inquiry.

The investigator, Cornel Borbély, also recommended that Mr. Valcke’s provisional suspension, which was to expire Tuesday, be extended by 45 days, as well as a fine of 100,000 Swiss francs (about $99,000). The judge of the ethics committee, Hans-Joachim Eckert, will issue a final ruling on the recommended punishment.

Mr. Valcke, 55, has been on disciplinary leave from FIFA since September, when he was accused of being involved in a scheme to sell 2014 World Cup tickets for personal profit. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of the NYT.

Kicking Back Comments: While I expect Valcke to both deny any wrongdoing and appeal the ban, FIFA continues to step up to clean up its act. Or at least remove the bad actors that inhabited these offices previously.

One area I do not understand is, here is a person who is suspected and has been suspended for pilfering at least $10M, yet his fine is only about $100K, an order of magnitude less. Why not make Valcke pay back the full amount?

Also, while FIFA is starting, just starting, to grow a spine on some of these issues, I am far more interested in both the Qatar debacle and also what permanent reforms will be put in place to prevent something like this from occurring again.

That will be the true acid test for me.

Monday, January 4, 2016

In our world, introspection is king

'It's not a red card, it's an arrestable offence!'

Webb on De Jong horror tackleThe Netherlands international kicked Xabi Alonso in the chest during the 2010 World Cup final but was not sent off, and the referee has admitted that he made a mistake

Howard Webb admits that he should have sent off Netherlands midfielder Nigel De Jong after his kung-fu kick on Spain counterpart Xabi Alonso in the 2010 World Cup final.

Having been chosen to officiate the showpiece fixture, Webb showed the former Manchester City midfielder a yellow card after a recklessly high tackle on Alonso in the 28th minute of the fixture, which ended 1-0 after Andres Iniesta's extra-time strike.

Webb was subsequently booed when he collected his medal after the final whistle, and he has now conceded that he made a mistake in refusing to dismiss the Dutchman, but has suggested that he did not see the incident clearly enough to take such a decision.

Speaking to BT Sport, Webb said: “I still thought I got it right on the pitch. So I get back into the dressing room and my assistant referee has gone to his pocket and got his phone out, and his face dropped. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of

Kicking Back Comments: Much has been made about the World Cup Final that Webb oversaw. Some great, some horrible. Here at Kicking Back we did an in depth analysis and contrasted it to an "A" licensed coaches analysis which proved very interesting, and not surprisingly the two entities see the game in the same was in many aspects, but have separate views on others.

This article reaffirmed an old axiom that is true among referees as well as in general for successful people in life in my opinion. Reflect and learn from your mistakes. Take what you can and implement it for next time. Webb obviously has done this.

The real trick is twofold in such cases however.

First, you have to keep going even in the face of a massive screw up. As we and many others have written, missing that send off started to unravel that match. Getting back on track to what got you there is critical in such a case.

Second, when you learn the lesson, you have to let the rest go. Hanging on to all the negative stuff that goes with such an incident is not a good thing and has the potential of dragging you back into that mindset.

Experience, reflect, learn, evolve.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Double Trouble or a Great Idea?

Presidential candidate Salman wants to divide FIFA in two

MIAMI (Reuters) - The frontrunner in the FIFA presidential election, Asian football chief Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, says he wants to divide the organization into two separate entities as part of a 'turnaround' plan for the crisis-hit organization.

Salman, who is president of the Asian Football Confederation, said in a statement on Wednesday that FIFA's governance and business functions would be separated if he took over the helm following the Feb. 26 elections. ...

See the whole article here, courtesy of Yahoo Sports.

Kicking Back Comments: First off, hat tip to Elie for brings this one forward.

I am of two minds regarding this proposition of splitting FIFA into a "football" side and a "business" side, likely with a "Chinese Wall" between them.

Part of me thinks this is a great idea where you separate out the money generating portions of the business from the football operational side. On the surface this would seem to allow better auditing abilities of the finances while maintaining operational integrity. In fact this is done regularly in business or for projects with particularly sensitive information that must be kept compartmentalized. These methods could be actuarial as well as physical in nature. 

I am not so sure however that such an arrangement would meet the needs to prevent corruption. A slightly closer look at how the operational side can substantially influence the money side is not far away however. A first and stunning example is the choice of Qatar as a venue in 2022. Here is a nearly purely "operational" decision. Take a look at the FIFA report on the US bid for 2022 here. With the exception of a couple of sections, it is all about the "how" things will be done. Yet, as we know, as the events unfolded a substantial amount of corruption (and money exchange) occurred as part of a venue decision.

Let's say for sake of argument World Cup decision are relegated to the money side of the house due to the very large financial gain FIFA realizes from each. How about the surface for play?

Well, here too we seem to have created some conflicts of interest as I detailed in a 2014 article, "The case of Dr. Turf and the Cowardly Judge." Here, we had the dispute about use of a synthetic surface or not, and shockingly (not) FIFA rolled out "Dr. Turf" to advocate that turf was equivalent to grass in all respects. Only issue was Dr. Turf was affiliated with a company that produced such surfaces. So even here with something purely operational the opportunity for abuse exists.

Where Asian football chief Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa gets it completely right is where he believes FIFA has to be torn down completely and rebuilt before it can be effective. I share that opinion. Great danger and opportunity exist in such a case however as nature abhors a vacuum and such a void may be filled with exactly the wrong people.

Don't get me wrong, the idea brought forward while not novel and I believe has issues, is one of the most original for FIFA in years. All credit is due for that to be sure.

Friday, January 1, 2016

2015: A Forgettable Year for US Soccer in Many Ways

Year in Review: More lows than highs for American soccer in 2015

It was a forgettable year for American soccer fans, but there were some highlights to help offset the down moments, writes Ives Galarcep.

You can forgive American soccer fans if they don't have fond memories of 2015. Sure, there were some unforgettable moments, and accomplishments, but overall there was something thoroughly disappointing about the year as a whole.

The bad taste can be attributed in large part to the struggles and disappointments of the U.S. men's national team. The good vibes created by the 2014 World Cup quickly faded, and while there were flashes of promise at various points this year, the lingering memories will be of the team's Gold Cup failure and subsequent CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico. That defeat didn't just mean there will be no 2017 Confederations Cup for the Americans, but much more painfully, was a realization that the U.S. had handed back the crown as King of CONCACAF to Mexico. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of

Kicking Back Comments: I agree with Galarecp and in fact would expand on it that the worlds game did not have a very good year in general. Things are a bit "off" right now.

Very un-holiday like I agree, but (and I hate to say this) we have not seen the bottom yet. Maybe the back half of 2016 if the World's Game gets its act together will see promise ... but I am not hopeful.

For my New Year's wish, I hope the power struggle at FIFA is figured out and the criminals are not allowed to return. Only then will things begin to take form.

It's just in time too as 2016 will see us one step closer to Russia 2018 and I hope a new venue for 2022.

Best wishes from us at Kicking Back to all of you for a prosperous and healthy 2016.