Is this DOGSO? Throw me a bone here!

Welcome to February. The Sochi Games are off to a rather curious start… $50 billion apparently only buys you a half-assed half-pipe these days. Fortunately, that sorry memory has been erased by the amazingly heroic efforts of several Los Angeles Kings representing their countries, especially the U.S. of A.

The Midas touch of one Philip Anschutz is everywhere.

February’s other big story: Some idiot celebrated a goal by head-butting the Plexiglas covering of his team’s technical area. This brilliant move was, of course, caught on video that went viral… about the same time my GI tract went viral and I spent 24+ hours in bed, reading why head-butting Plexiglas should/should not be considered Violent Conduct (which, the last time I checked, needs to be committed against a person and not an industrial-strength polymer).

Go ahead. Take a look. Enjoy the carnage. I’ll wait.

Sorry, folks. This blog is not going to be about famous head-butts or shamelessly abusing soccer props. My editor reminded me that, along with the occasional rant, I need to weigh in on technical elements – you know, applying the Laws of the Game and all that good stuff.

Fair enough. We’ve got a lot of referees getting prepared for the 2014 season, so the timing’s perfect for a spirited discussion of a topic most relevant to our Grade 7 brethren – those who primarily serve “Adult Games at the Amateur Level (or AGAL).”

And speaking of timing, we’re standing by for the International Football Association Board (IFAB) to hold its annual rules-tweaking conference. Word on the street is that Michel Platini (a.k.a Mr. UEFA) will again make his case in vain (“thanks, we’ll take it under advisement… NEXT!”) to reduce the punishment for Denying a Goalscoring Opportunity, or DOGSO, inside the penalty area. Apparently, Mr. Platini has taken pity on defenders and goalkeepers, but his campaign to eliminate “triple jeopardy” (it’s a punishment, not a game show) won’t gain sufficient traction this year… but it won’t go away, either.

Anyway, on to our spirited discussion about my other favorite acronym: DOGSO.

My Organic Chemistry professor once proclaimed mid-sermon, “half of you will get this wrong on the exam,” and so I present the following for your consideration:

A player from the white team has left the field (with the permission of the referee), either due to injury or because he was instructed to leave in order to adjust his equipment. In the following video clip, he will re-enter the field (without the permission of the referee)… and will enter the video frame from the left side:

Now, as many of you squirm in your seats (“…please don’t call on me…”), I ask you if this is an example of DOGSO — for which the player should be sent off and shown the red card.

Would it surprise you if I told you that a poll of referees’ opinion on this clip produced the following result?

Red Card for DOGSO 55%

Red Card for 2 Cautions 10%

Yellow Card 36%

Now the sampling size of this poll is very small, but the fact that we have such a widely split decision is rather alarming (even to Dr. Rausch and his Organic Chemistry class). This isn’t a split result between two very good answers… and you are being challenged to select the one that is “most correct,” like choosing between “foul free kick” and “foul, caution, free kick.”

The question is whether or not to send a player off the field of play and force his team to play short for the duration of the game. We really should get this correct!

OK, we need to build a consensus opinion, so we need to do some research to find a definitive explanation on players re-entering (and/or substitutes entering) the field without permission… and then stopping a goal from being scored by otherwise playing fairly (no handling of the ball, no foul committed against an opponent, etc.).

Let’s start with the obvious:

The FIFA 2013-14 Laws of the Game and the U.S. Soccer counterpart include the same language to define DOGSO. They list the same seven reasons to send a player off, including two for DOGSO – the first is for handling and the second is for what we commonly call “DOGSO-F” or “DOGSO due to Foul.”

For the purpose of this discussion, we will only focus on the second of the two DOGSO-related bullets, namely:

(Bullet #5): Denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the player’s goal by an offense punishable by a free kick or a penalty kick

No big deal, you say. Here in the U.S., we have the “four D” principle to help us decide on what constitutes DOGSO. When we think of the “four D,” we envision the classic example of a player committing one of the direct free kick offenses outlined in Law 12 (Fouls & Misconduct) against an opposing player, while the ball is in play, etc.

But there’s more to DOGSO than meets the eye… going back to that fifth magic bullet, we see the inclusion of several interesting words, namely the phrase “to an opponent moving towards the player’s goal.” We also find the word “offense” as opposed to either “foul” or “misconduct” – two words nowhere to be found in the fifth bullet…

I wanted to see how the Federation might clarify this slippery topic, so I charged $23.33 to my MasterCard, and two days later, I was in receipt of my very own copy of the 2012 U.S. Soccer Federation Referee Program Advice to Referees. I was impressed at the fast turnaround (maybe someone tipped them off that it was me), and I was equally impressed by the Centennial Logo on the cover.

The updated contents? Not so much. I can get an 8 x 10” glossy of Ricardo Salazar (prominently featured on the inside front cover) for a lot less than $23.33.

Fortunately, there is a section dedicated to send-offs, and a subsection for DOGSO.

Section 12.37 JUDGING AN OBVIOUS GOALSCORING OPPORTUNITY explains the four required elements (Number of Defenders, Distance to goal, Distance to ball, and Direction of play) with ample clarity. Very nice.

And then comes this troublesome paragraph… and our minds start racing:

“Referees are reminded that offenses which deny a goalscoring opportunity are not limited to those punishable by a direct free kick or penalty kick but may include misconduct or those fouls for which the restart is an indirect kick. An example would be a player, including the goalkeeper, hanging from the crossbar to play the ball away with his or her body.”

OK, great example. The goalkeeper or his teammate should be sent off for making monkeys of themselves (examples of Unsporting Behavior – clearly a form of misconduct) in order to prevent a goal — no hanging from the crossbar to otherwise legally prevent a goal.

Maybe we can go to back to the Laws of the Game and re-read Law 12 to get a better idea of what else constitutes “misconduct.”

Nope. The text of Law 12 (it’s the same in the FIFA and U.S. Soccer LOTG) includes the word “misconduct” only twice: first in the title of the Law, and then as the third word of the Law. (In fairness, “foul” and “fouls” appear a total of three times – the first two are the same as misconduct; the third is the lone reference to Serious Foul Play.) Sometimes less is more… I don’t think so in this case.

But here’s food for thought: Law 12 identifies seven “offenses” (are each of these examples of either a foul or misconduct?) for which a player is cautioned and shown the yellow card.

The first is Unsporting Behavior… and the sixth bullet reads as follows:

Entering or re-entering the field of play without the referee’s permission

Oh my. Can re-entering the field without permission constitute misconduct? Clearly. So then, is Davidson suggesting that, if a player has left the field due to injury or to adjust his equipment, and he re-enters the field without the referee’s permission to otherwise legally stop the ball from entering the goal, he’s guilty of DOGSO?

Uh, no. Davidson’s not saying that – in fact he’s not saying anything. He’s going to keep searching for something more definitive.

Without having to (again) reach for my credit card or wait two days for delivery, I went back to the U.S. Soccer website and downloaded FIFA’s 2012-13 Laws of the Game, which includes (at the end of the document) FIFA’s Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees.

Nice… two documents for the price of none (and no photos of Salazar). I never said I wasn’t cheap.

With great anticipation, I rushed to the Interpretations of Law 12… FIFA held nothing back, providing 14 pages of expertise and technical guidance. And here’s (all) that was said about “Denying a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity:”

Again, that “offence” word (Queen’s English spelling of Americanized “offense”), but nothing substantial to clarify what these offences/offenses actually include/exclude. Really FIFA? Sounds like you missed your Moment of Truth on this one!

So I got out a bigger shovel and really started to dig. No stone left unturned.

A Google search found a couple of interesting hits, including this U.S. Soccer position paper from September 2002:

For those struggling to squint, the last paragraph of this document reads as follows:

“Referees are reminded that offenses which deny a goal-scoring opportunity are not limited to those punishable by a direct free kick or penalty kick but may include technical fouls for which the restart is an indirect free kick.”

Some things are better left unsaid, and some outdated documents are apparently better left not found… and yet, I found this one. Technical fouls? Let’s keep Matt Barnes out of this discussion, please!

X-Box has nothing on FIFA when it comes to referees playing computer games. I decided to take a stab at FIFA’s latest offering – its 2012-13 Interactive Laws of the Game Quiz. For those interested, you can play at home – just visit the U.S. Soccer website, go into the Referee Education Resources Downloads section, select the FIFA Instruction Resources Folder, then choose Soccer and download 2012-13 Laws of the Game… or just click here.

I took the quiz over and over (passing every time, of course). And although I didn’t find the example referenced above (player re-entering the field), I was relieved to find this gem of a similar question (and even more relieved to find the answer):

OK, everybody at home has to vote… DOGSO or no DOGSO? PK? IFK?Dropped Ball? Abandon the Game and run to your car?

Has everybody reached a decision? OK, let’s quiet down and come to order. Here comes the answer from FIFA:

I will speculate that many of you are now breathing a huge sigh of relief – for a moment there, you thought Davidson had lost his marbles, and you started to question your own understanding of DOGSO… what constitutes misconduct, and how to penalize certain players for re-entering the field (or substitutes entering the field) without your permission.

I accept FIFA’s answer… but then one of my own famous statements keeps echoing through my head… “Since we treat all players equally, fairly and equitably (from minute 1 to minute 90 + 6), if you show a player a yellow card, you are announcing by your words and actions that EVERYONE CAN DO THIS ONCE.” Now I am not a coach, but if I found myself coaching a competitive match, I know where I would tell my substitutes to stretch out (from minute 1 to minute 90 + 6).

And many of you are now laughing out loud… because this NEVER ACTUALLY HAPPENS on the field. Well, my friends, you saw the clip with your own eyes – it DOES HAPPEN, it WILL happen in 2014, and I will suggest that it will happen most often when we officiate AGAL… and almost certainly without the benefit of a fourth official standing by to confirm what you think you just witnessed.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had my fill of DOGSO… and I am reminded that I was a much better Assistant Referee than Referee. But if two recent National Referees can fundamentally disagree about this application of DOGSO, then maybe there’s some really important instructional work to be done.

And so I migrate from the technical back to the philosophical (here comes the rant). Perhaps this dialogue has illustrated a more important point:

In today’s digital age of instant access, it’s time for U.S. Soccer to revise its Advice to Referees and related publications. We need to push FIFA to update the vocabulary used in its educational materials. Collectively, our governing bodies need to provide instant access to clear, detailed instructions in electronic formats… for the growth of the World’s Game including AGAL here at home.

So, what are your thoughts on misconduct resulting in DOGSO?

Categories: USSF

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