Does your reputation precede you?

Even though this was only his sixth game in the Major League Soccer, Referee Ismail Elfath has already handed out four red cards and pointed to the spot on three separate occasions. It seems that Mr. Elfath is not afraid to call a foul when he sees it or dish out severe punishment when he thinks it is merited.  It was no different in this game as Mr. Elfath pointed to the spot two more times. That is five penalties in only six games! The first penalty call came in the 75th minute of the game after Houston’s Macoumba Kandji’s low cross into the five yard box was pounced on by his teammate Will Bruin.  Even though it looked like Bruin would never get to Kandji’s low-cross in time, RSL’s defender Chris Schuler wanted to make sure that he didn’t and pushed him in the back (see video below).  Without any hesitation, Mr. Elfath correctly pointed to the spot. Houston’s Brad Davis, however, was not able to convert the penalty as Nick Rimando made a great diving save. 


In the 93rd minute, with the game still tied 0:0, Mr. Elfath pointed to the spot once again. The second penalty call came after Rimando decided to fist away the ball that was crossed into his penalty area. Unfortunately for Rimando, he completely missed the ball and crushed into Houston’s Kandji.  Mr. Elfath was left with no choice and pointed to the spot for the second time (see video below).  This time, however, Colin Clark converted the penalty and Houston bagged in three very important points.

As we noted above, both calls were correct and Mr. Elfath deserves praise for making them. But we wanted to bring something else to your attention. As you listen to the game commentators in the first video clip, you hear them discuss Mr. Elfath’s decisions from previous games and that he is known for not being afraid to show red cards or call penalties, implying that his refereeing or game management may influence the outcome of the game. Now, we don’t know whether Mr. Elfath deserves this kind of characterization as we did not watch all of the previous five games he refereed in MLS. What we can say is that the penalty calls that he made in this game were correct and they should benefit and not detract from his refereeing reputation.

But we are trying to make a larger point here. Our point is that, whether you like it or not, people will judge you. And in a relatively short period of time you as a referee will develop a reputation. Indeed, you can be assured that after you have refereed one or two seasons, players, coaches and fellow referees will know about your style of refereeing, game management, your weaknesses and/or strengths. They will adjust to your game management accordingly. The reputation you develop will either help or hamper your ability to referee games, control teams or players’ and coaches’ behavior.  Our advice is this: make sure that you are fair and consistent in every game you referee and your reputation will indeed precede you.

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