By November 2, 2012 0 Comments Read More →

The Lowry Lowdown: On Referees, Bad Calls and Mistakes

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David Junior Lopes #3 of the Los Angeles Galaxy receives a yellow card from referee Silviu Petrescu (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

It’s happened before and it will happen again. Bad calls, missed calls and mistakes on the part of referees are as much a part of the game of soccer as is the ball being round. The officiating of a game can substantially affect outcomes, seasons and jobs of players and coaches alike. I wouldn’t dare comment on the refereeing as an active player but now that I can’t be fined and suspended this seems as appropriate a time to reflect and inform as ever.

Refereeing a game at the professional level is just as difficult as playing in one. The tough part for referees is that you can officiate nine games with no major mistakes but in the tenth game you make one game-altering call and the spotlight shines brightly on you for better or – often times – worse. And mistakes will happen. Players, coaches, GM’s and referees all make them. And just as the scrutiny falls on a player for an obvious mistake, referees share the same glorious limelight on bad days.

As players and coaches we actively took notice of the referees as much as we did the other team’s players and formation. In MLS there is such a small pool of referees you eventually get to know their specific tendencies and preferences just as you would the players you compete against.

There is a saying that if you aren’t cheating you aren’t trying. In my opinion, most players wouldn’t go out of their way to cheat but if one referee doesn’t call the shirt-grabbing in a game you had better start grabbing shirts or you are going to be the only one not receiving the benefit of a small competitive advantage. For me one of the beauties of the game is in these details and deciphering and solving the complex problems and situations that present themselves in the course of a game and season. But bad calls are inevitable. No matter how good a group of referees is soccer is almost impossible to police perfectly.

That being said you just hope as a player, coach and fan that during the course of a long season that for every bad call you get that over the course of the year it will even out. I don’t mind the occasional missed call but players and coaches do desire consistency. It is our careers on the line and the difference between a successful season and one where everyone gets fired can be small. That last minute pk a ref calls that costs a team 2 points can be the difference between making playoffs and the firing of the coach and half the team.

I know MLS is trying to improve the quality of the officiating. The creation of PRO (Professional Referee Organization), the joint venture funded by MLS and US Soccer, is a big step in educating and providing a bigger, more consistent pool of referees. It will take time but as long as the game keeps growing and we keep working to improve the quality of soccer on the field and providing more resources for players, we should be putting equal emphasis on improving the level of our officiating and providing the necessary resources for improving the officiating of the game. As a player I didn’t mind referees as long as they were consistent and together as a group. Because just as a player and team is judged on the consistency of its performances, that is what we want to see in the referees.

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