US Soccer Associations changing the LOTG to suit themselves.

The 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.

While I congratulate Mr. Dennison and his team for a very comprehensive and detailed document, I have to take issue with him for the manner in which it deviates for the following reasons.

Let me explain.

One of the main issues/complaints players, managers, coaches, parents and supporters have with referees is the inconsistency of their (the refs) decision-making. We (referees and assistant referees) are constantly reminded by all and sundry that “if only there was consistency…….”

How can we have consistency when there are different interpretations in different associations. The way the “rules” are structured and disseminated to the “men and women-in-black” can only lead to further confusion, in my opinion.

Having said the above, and I will elaborate later on, the first “topic” stresses the importance of the use of terminology.

For example:

Rules Disqualification Drop Ball Rules Ejection Drop Ball Laws Send Off Dropped Ball
Game Overtime Game Overtime Match Extra Time
Penalty Penalty Sanction
Coaching and Team Area Coaching and Team Area Technical Area
Terminated Game Terminated Game Match Abandoned
4th Official Alternate Official (AO) 4th Official
Obstruction Obstruction Impedes Progress of Opponent

When you read across and compare, you will see clear and very obvious terminologies, which can lead to confusion with inevitable and unwanted confrontation for match officials.

I don’t want to get into the larger debate about FIFA and the criticisms being levelled at the organisation today, and there are many. Criticisms such as alleged corruption regarding the awarding of the host countries for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively. That’s for another day and I’m only concerned with referees and refereeing.

There has also been experimentation with two referees (one in each half). One of the reasons I have heard for this is the distance a referee (not a center ref or CR as is widely used in the USA) has to cover. Problem here is you can have two whistles going off at the same time. This can lead to even more confusion.

The usual refs team consists of one referee and two assistant referees. Sometimes a referee has to operate on his own and this is a widely used system where there aren’t enough guys available. We’ve all done it.

Another problem, as I see it, is the issuing of red and yellow cards to coaches and managers.

The FIFA Laws of the Game stipulate quite clearly that cards are ONLY to be shown to players and substitutes, and NOT to team officials like managers and coaches.

Some more things I would have a serious problem with are: –

  • Allowing a player who is being substituted to re-enter the field of play. That’s like substituting a substitute. This is wrong
  • Insisting that the home team wears white jerseys and socks while the visitors must wear dark jerseys and socks. Supposing the home teams’ official colour is red, why would they wear white?
  • Time keeping in performed by the referee but ONLY by agreement of the coaches. This is clearly wrong and can be manipulated by the coaches. Referees should be the only keeper of time.

There are many more “strange” tweaks to the FIFA Laws of the Game included, which I find very strange.

The real problem as I see it is that young players growing up will find it difficult to adjust to these changes later on in their lives. I’m wondering why the different associations (schools included) don’t stick to the Laws of the Game (LOTG) as practiced all around the world.

I do understand that there will be slight changes according to the different age groups like small size pitches and so on, but to make changes as described above seems to me to only complicate the game even more.

I just found another very interesting one.

If at a throw-in the ball does not enter the field of play, the throw-in is awarded to the opponent, according to the NFHS. This is clearly wrong because the ball was not in play as it did not enter the field of play. The throw-in must be retaken until the law is complied with.

While I understand the good intentions of our fellow soccer enthusiasts in the USA, I feel that the way they have drawn up their own rules can, and will, only lead to difficulties to youngsters as they progress in their soccer careers.

This can only lead to additional confusion among the referees and their assistants (if they are lucky enough to have assistants) should they have a game under the auspices of the NFHS one day and the NCAA the next day.

Wouldn’t it be better have uniformity and conformity to one set of laws covering all games of soccer? It would surely be better for all concerned.

Just my opinion.

Happy Whistling!

Categories: Laws of the Game

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