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Dr Errol Sweeney (PhD) BBA Dip.PM, aka "The Hanging Judge," is a former L.o.I and SA Premier League Referee, World Cup Referee & Assistant Referee Coach & Mentor.  He coached/mentored a referee to 2 World Cups, Olympic Games, Confederations Cup, 2 U/17 FIFA World Cups and 4 African Nations Cups. 

US Soccer Associations changing the LOTG to suit themselves.

b2ap3_thumbnail_NCAA.jpgThe FIFA Laws of the Game are supposed to be applied to all associations around the world but not, it appears, in the USA.


The differing governing bodies that control Intercollegiate and other soccer associations there appear to “tweak” the “rules” to suit themselves.


The 2015 “SOCCER GUIDE INTERSCHOLASTIC (HIGHSCHOOL) EDITION” by Don Dennison, NISOA National Clinician, sets out where these tweaks should be. Mr Dennison wrote the guide based upon:


  • “NCAA Soccer Rules and Interpretations – 2014 – 2015
  • National Federation Soccer Rules Book – 2015-2016
  • [USSF] FIFA Laws of the Game – 2014/2015
  • And Other Authorised Supplemental Materials.”

 Revised March 29, 2015.


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Referee brutally head butted by player!

b2ap3_thumbnail_refereeattacked.jpgA Scottish referee was brutally and violently attacked by a player in a game in Saudi Arabia.


The incident happened in a local derby between two of the KSA’s fiercest rivals Al Hilal and Al Nasr.


Such is the intensity of the rivalry between these two teams that referee John Beaton and his two assistants, Stuart Stevenson and Douglas Ross, were sent to the Middle East after a request from the local association for outside match officials.


In the 67th minute with the score at 1 – 0 the referee red carded Al Hilal’s Mohammad Jahfali.


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EPL Referees at war!

b2ap3_thumbnail_jonmoss.jpgThe moment has arrived, the decision has been taken, and the name has been announced.


The “middle-man” for this years FA cup final between Arsenal and Aston Villa is Jon Moss.


The 44-year-old from Sunderland in the northeast of England will take charge of his first FA cup final at Wembley stadium in London, England on the 30th May this year.


To all referees out there I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that feeling when your name is announced at being in charge of the cup final, regardless of what level of competition it is. It’s just the most fantastic feeling.


Now here’s the “down-side” to this announcement.


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FIFA VP criticizes EPL Referees.

b2ap3_thumbnail_fifavp.jpgFIFA Vice President and Chairman of Referee’s Committee at the world governing body has openly criticised the standard of refereeing in the English Premier League (EPL).


Jim Boyce said “I have watched many games in the Premier league this season and I have to say I think the standard is not as good as, perhaps, it should be.”


Speaking to Sky Sports News HQ Mr. Boyce, who hails from Northern Ireland and is due to retire soon said, “I think there are far too many, what I would call, poor decisions being made.” He went on: “every week you see the analysts discussing all the refereeing blunders that appear to be made.”


Mr Boyce said he had no plans to contact the Premier League over the matter but believes that the standard of refereeing at last year’s World Cup in Brazil had set the highest standard for match officials.


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EPL referees are “the worst that we have seen.”

b2ap3_thumbnail_PGMOL.jpgThere is a strong perception out there that the EPL referees and their assistants are among the best in the world.


However, in a recent scathing attack on his former colleagues, Keith Hackett, the former head of the USA equivalent of PRO, called for four current Premier League referees to be dropped at the end of the season.


He went on to label the current crop of match officials operating in the top tier of English football as “the worst that we have seen.”


Mr. Hackett, who was succeeded as head of the Professional Games Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) by ex Premier referee Mike Riley, has called for Mr. Riley to be sacked and for one particular referee Lee Probert to be removed from his position should he fail a fitness test.


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Wannabe Refs!

b2ap3_thumbnail_lawsofthegame_20141223-034133_1.jpgSome time ago I wrote a blog stating that refereeing was not for the faint hearted. I stick by that conclusion.  I would even go on to say that while some might perceive themselves as being match officials, they would never make a referee in their lifetime. Why?


Let me start from the beginning and as you read on you’ll get to grip with what I mean.


Refereeing is a special kind of “work.” It requires nerves of steel, the fitness of an Olympic athlete, skin as thick as an elephant (no disrespect to the elephant), the wisdom of Albert Einstein, and the testicular fortitude of a struggling politician telling us that everything is “hunky dorey” when constantly getting doors slammed in his/her face.


Not many have those qualities. Fewer still will ever develop them so my advice is take some other activity where there is no stress and even less hassle.


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Top 10 Soccer Referees in the World!

Top Ten Soccer RefereesI’ve been asked many times whom I would consider to be the top 10 referees in the world.  This is a very difficult question of course. Unless you are objective there is the temptation to have your own particular favourite and that will naturally taint your judgement. I will name them – at the end of this piece.  I must also point out that the ones I’ve named are currently officiating and are not retired at the time of going to press.


First of all it’s important to select a criterion of what makes a good referee become a top 10 referee.


These are mine and in no particular order: 


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USA soccer referees are not good enough!

b2ap3_thumbnail_FIFA-Referees.jpgThe success of USA FIFA referee Mark Geiger at the recent World Cup in Brazil appears to be a one-off. There are no more refs in the USA with FIFA potential. That’s it - NONE.


Well that’s according to the latest news from “Refereeing World” which recently published a list of referees for a seminar in “Prospective World Cup Referee.” They were drawn from CONMEBOL & CONCACAF and not one referee from the USA is listed.


It has to be stated that these are up-and-coming officials and not from the existing list. Still, that makes for disturbing reading and someone needs to be held accountable.


The obvious questions that have to be asked:


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Vanishing referee spray and GLT – the tip of the iceberg?

Referee SprayThe introduction of vanishing referee spray (or as is also known – “shaving foam”) at the World Cup in Brazil recently could be the thin end of the wedge as far as technology and other “aides” for referees are concerned. While it was greeted with a fair amount of scepticism by some, its use proved to be well justified.


For the uninitiated, it was a canister of foam used by the referee to demarcate where the ball was to be placed at the taking of a free kick. It was also used to indicate where the defensive wall was to stand. All of this to ensure that the law was complied with; in other words that defensive players were no closer than 9.15 meters (10 yds) from the ball at the taking of a free kick.


This was used exclusively around the penalty area and not in any other part of the field of play.


Why is it necessary to have this foam in the first place? Clearly the answer is that the players cannot be trusted to retreat the required distance from the ball at the taking of a free kick, or that the offended team won’t move the ball forward when the referee’s back is turned.


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Would more technology help the Refs? Is a Television Match Official (TMO) now inevitable in soccer?

Arjen-Robbens-theatricsFIFA has had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. It was a long hard battle but finally they’ve done it. They’ve brought in goal line technology (GLT) and introduced a system that has been in operation in other sports for many years – the white spray - at the World Cup in Rio de Janeiro Brazil.


The GLT clearly indicates to the referee whether the whole of the ball has crossed over the goal line either in the air or on the ground, between the uprights and under the crossbar.


This system gives conclusive evidence if a goal has been legally scored or not.


The spray indicates where the ball is to be placed; in other words where the incident occurred and from where the referee has concluded that a free kick is to be awarded to the attacking team.


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The “forgotten” men of football.

b2ap3_thumbnail_worldcupball.jpgNow that most domestic seasons have been completed and the international club competitions have reached their conclusions, with highs and lows on all fronts, we are gearing up for the “greatest show on earth.” The great Brazilian legend Pele once called it, “the beautiful game.”


The 2014 World Cup is “just around the corner” and the makeup and seedings have been completed. It just remains for the time to tick by to the June 12 launch in Rio de Janeiro.


By the time it reaches its climax on Sunday 13th July a new world soccer champion will be “crowned” to the acclaim of many and the disgust perhaps of some.


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Mourinho's appalling behavior perpetuates culture of disrespect towards referees.

Jose MourinhoThe recent after-match comments by the coach of EPL club Chelsea is nothing short of appalling and disgraceful and could lead to match officials being put in mortal danger.


Jose Mourinho the Chelsea boss clearly and deliberately and, in my opinion, maliciously criticised the referee and the PGMOL head of referees Mike Riley.


He was apparently upset by some of the decisions of the referee Mike Dean after his team lost their game against strugglers Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, April 4, 2014.


The penalty awarded against his team was, in the opinion of some, dubious to say the least and resulted in Chelsea losing their first home game in nearly three years. (see 2:35 into the highlights below)


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Referee Andre Mariner was wrong on all fronts except the penalty.

Oxlade-ChamberlainA most bizarre and unacceptable situation occurred last weekend in the English Premier League.


Instead of being a day of celebration for the Frenchman, it turned out to be somewhat of a nightmare as his team were thoroughly thrashed 6 – 0 by table topping Chelsea.


The game in question was the top of the table clash between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge in London and was the 1,000th game for the Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.


The ball was played into the Arsenal penalty area and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, the “gunners” defender, deliberately handled the ball as it was going wide from a shot by a Chelsea attacker.


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FIFA Referee awards 5 penalties in 1 match. Gets referred to a shrink.

b2ap3_thumbnail_gomezpenalty.jpgYou always know who your friends are when there’s crisis. At a time when referees are being attacked on all fronts, both verbally and physically, the last one you would expect to be joining the queue is your national association.


Referee Victor Gomes, an up-and-coming match official with enormous potential, is under “attack” from his own association. An anonymous member of the South African Football Association is quoted in a Sunday sports paper as saying Gomes needs to be referred to a psychologist.


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Mentoring - how to create a top class match official.

Errol with World Cup RefereesI have been involved in refereeing in some shape or form in Ireland and South Africa since 1970/71. Now to use an old cliché, that’s not yesterday.


I was active for 25 years until I was asked by the Premier Soccer League management in South Africa, where I lived and worked for 14 years from 1985 to 1999, to take over the running and control of refereeing. This I did reluctantly as I still wanted to stay active.


Since then I have been mentoring and coaching match officials.


Probably the highlight of any referee mentor/coach is to witness his students, firstly get that all-important FIFA badge, and then be selected to officiate at a World Cup Finals.


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Referees who fail to be consistent in their foul selection invite (deserved) criticism.

Van Persie FoulWhen we join up to become a referee, we undertake to carry out our duties to the best of our ability without fear or favor. That, in theory, is how it is supposed to work.


Having watched recent games one could easily be forgiven for thinking otherwise.


It has long been speculated that the “red devils” enjoyed preferential treatment from certain top refs operating in the Premier League.


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Refs are to blame for recent fans' criticism.

Vidic Red Card FoulI have said it many times in the past, and at the risk of being boring, I’m going to say it again. I don’t criticize referees for what they ARE doing, I criticize them for what they ARE NOT doing.


I know how difficult the job is. I know how dangerous it can be too having had my life threatened on more than a few occasions.


I’ve been involved in this game for over 40 years, both on and off the field, and the one thing I have always tried to achieve was consistency. I know, I can hear you already. “No two incidents are the same.” “Each situation is different.” And so on, and so on, and so on…

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Brendan Rogers accuses referee Lee Mason of bias!

Brendan RogersThe verbal attack by Liverpool manager Brendan Rogers on referee Lee Mason after recent top-of-the-table clash with Manchester City is not only unfortunate, but also ill advised.


The outburst was prompted by, it has to be said, a very poor offside decision given against a Liverpool player who was clean through on goal. The slow motion action replay shows the players was clearly onside by at least 2 yards.


One can understand the frustration of the Reds boss, but to label the referee “biased” because of the geographical location of his abode is surely unfair.


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Referee Mike Jones’ agonizing act.

Mike JonesThe sight of referee Mike Jones collapsing in a heap after being “eye poked” by Sissoko of Newcastle leaves one with a sense of perplexity.


The incident happened in the Newcastle vs. Southampton game yesterday in the Premier League.


For those of you who didn’t see the incident, the referee was in conference with Moussa Sissoko who was standing, and another player, Paulo Gazzainiga who was on the ground when suddenly the player on the ground pushed Sissoko. In the process Sissoko stepped backwards as if off balance and appeared to raise his hand which came in contact with the referees’ face.


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Refs, make your decisions and to hell with the consequences.

Mike RileyThe recent apology by Mike Riley, the head of the Professional Games Match Officials Ltd (PGMOL) in England on behalf of referee Andre Mariner, leaves a sour taste in the mouth as far as I’m concerned.


It came in the wake of a penalty awarded by Mariner to Chelsea in their recent home game against West Brom. Riley admitted that he phoned the West Brom coach Steve Clark to apologize on behalf of his organisation, of which Mariner is a member.


The PGMOL are the body who control and organize professional refereeing in the Premier League similar to the PRO in the North American MLS, which is headed by Mr. Peter Walton (who I discussed in one of my earlier blogs).


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