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Garber Addresses Officiating

"We believe the vast majority of MLS matches are well officiated. It's impossible to think that any job that requires judgment, angles and split-second decision-making will be perfect. ... That's not to say that every decision is right or every game is well officiated. But it is much better than many people think. Not because I am saying it ... but because the video review proves it."

Read MLS Commissioner Don Garber's detailed column about league officiating. Add your thoughts in our comments section.

Garber ends with this line: "Any former MLS player who wishes to pursue officiating should definitely give me a call." Seriously. Other leagues have ex-players officiating.

Who would you like to see handing out reds and yellows? I choose Stoitchkov! (What would constitute a red card in his mind?!)

By Steve Goff  |  May 19, 2009; 4:50 PM ET
Categories:  MLS  
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Next: Olsen's Thoughts

Comments

Hamlet III, ii, 239

For those of you without Google or the questionable benefits of a liberal arts education: The [lady] doth protest too much, methinks.

(Oh wait, this is a soccer blog. Sorry for the literary reference.)

Posted by: BlackandRedRedDevil | May 19, 2009 5:07 PM | Report abuse

For the most part, the officiating is fine. It's just that the calls they miss are Evel Knievel / Snake River like Epic fails....

Posted by: JkR- | May 19, 2009 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Let's go to the videotape...

But, seriously. We forget about the offside calls or foul/no foul calls with which we disagree, unless they prove really significant. The goal that should not have been waived off, or the goal that should not have been allowed. The phantom penalty, or the missed penalty call. The truth is the refs miss a certain percentage of calls in every game. Some seem more meaningful than others.

Posted by: fischy | May 19, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Maybe this is an outreach program -- instead of a developmental program, MLS will hire you back. As a ref.

Posted by: Reignking | May 19, 2009 5:24 PM | Report abuse

I dont think the reffing is any worse than in most other countries. I think some of the refs in the big european leagues handle the game and the players better; but I've seen just as many boneheaded calls in most other leagues as I've seen in the US.

Posted by: hacksaw | May 19, 2009 5:43 PM | Report abuse

chelsea vs barca anybody? Bad officiating just happens in the sport, regardless of league stature. Only the best of the best should be doing UEFA games, but its pretty clear that will probably go down as the worst officiated game this season

Posted by: doh1 | May 19, 2009 5:48 PM | Report abuse

What would be helpful is some general principles that MLS follows, such as:

- we encourage goal-scoring, so if the offside is questionable, let it go

- we want our skillful players/playmakers to shine, so tackles from behind/scissor tackles and other reckless play will be addressed harshly

- we want a free-flowing game, so obvious time-wasting efforts will be cautioned

- the hand-ball foul is over-penalized, so clear intent to play the ball with the hand will be penalized; otherwise, let it go.

I don't think the league should put these things in stone (assuming the league even agrees with them) but there should be general agreement among the coaches and officials that this is the way it'll be. I think such an approach would ease the problem.

Wow... that post was way too serious.

Posted by: joedoc1 | May 19, 2009 5:49 PM | Report abuse

- the hand-ball foul is over-penalized, so clear intent to play the ball with the hand will be penalized; otherwise, let it go.

I agree with that...

Plus, call obstruction on players that act like they are playing the ball, but just shielding to let it go out. That's obstruction.

And video reviews of divers.

But those are bigger worldwide issues; I agree with Garber:
"• Better working conditions for younger referees. There are 150,000 registered referees in the U.S., but many quit due to sideline abuse, lack of a pro career path and poor compensation. We need to provide more incentives for younger referees to develop and desire a career as a professional referee. "

I HATED being a ref -- but for a teen, the money couldn't be beat. I quit that as quickly as possible (plus, who wants their weekends booked?).

Posted by: Reignking | May 19, 2009 5:59 PM | Report abuse

"What would be helpful is some general principles that MLS follows, such as:

- we encourage goal-scoring, so if the offside is questionable, let it go

- we want our skillful players/playmakers to shine, so tackles from behind/scissor tackles and other reckless play will be addressed harshly

- we want a free-flowing game, so obvious time-wasting efforts will be cautioned

- the hand-ball foul is over-penalized, so clear intent to play the ball with the hand will be penalized; otherwise, let it go.

I don't think the league should put these things in stone (assuming the league even agrees with them) but there should be general agreement among the coaches and officials that this is the way it'll be. I think such an approach would ease the problem."

You can't have it both ways...if you want the calls to be consistent, they have to be put in stone. How exactly would you change the handball law, or the offside law?

Posted by: icehippo | May 19, 2009 6:01 PM | Report abuse

@icehippo (cool name, by the way...)

I don't suggest changing the rules. But human error is part of the game, particularly in the area of judgment calls. General principles can help guide refs, and coaches will at least understand why the ref may have called a foul (or didn't in some cases) the way he did.

As for consistency... soccer is a dynamic game. Just about every situation is different in some way or another. I think principles help create the consistency we're looking for.

Posted by: joedoc1 | May 19, 2009 6:09 PM | Report abuse

"officials are faced with making decisions that often affect the outcome of games, but never as much as players and coaches." This claim is either meaningless or wrong. Yes, Man U would crush the Earthquakes beyond the power of any referee to change the outcome. Yes, Sir Alex has to remember to put Vidic and Rio Ferdinand in the back and Rooney and Park up front, and not the reverse, or he'll be personally responsible for losing to Liverpool. But we have all seen way too many games that have been ruined by referees to buy this "never as much" argument. Sometimes it's a blown call that changes a result. That's life, what with human error and all. But way too often it's ego and attitude getting in the way of the game, and that's not acceptable.

Posted by: dccal | May 19, 2009 6:15 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to see more liberal handball calls -- too many times I've seen players aim their kicks at opponents' arms, to get the call. On the other side of the ledger, I think arm-grabbing and shirt-tugging are ridiculous. They should almost always be called. That's not aggressive defense, it's cheating.

The dives? I'm sympathetic to the refs. You see someone go down, it looks like a foul. Not enough yellow cards for diving, though.

How to get better calls on offside questions? Wish I knew.

Posted by: fischy | May 19, 2009 6:24 PM | Report abuse

General principles already guide refs. I'm a ref, and at classes the instructors are very specific about the laws you were talking about, especially what constitutes a handling violation, and offside.
For a handball to be a violation, it's considered a clear attempt to play the ball if the hands are in an unnatural position outside the body. If your arms are at your side, no violation. If they are held out and the ball hits them, violation. The onus isn't on the refs to change this...players should be aware of this, and simply keep their arms to their sides when they're in the box.
I just use that as an example...for offside, cards, etc. there are very clear guidances issued as to how to make the consistent calls.
The real problem is technology. We have so many different angles on replays now, that we can almost always determine whether a ref was right or wrong, something that's almost impossible to do if you see it at real time, or difficult to do if there's only one or two angles. The league, coaches and players have to realize that the ref doesn't have access to those views...and therefor must either accept the fact that errors will always be a possibility, or push for replay technology.
The USSF also has to make many changes to the ref program, but I could go on for pages about that. :)

Posted by: icehippo | May 19, 2009 6:25 PM | Report abuse

That's not to say that every decision is right or every game is well officiated. But it is much better than many people think. Not because I am saying it ... but because the video review proves it."
----
This statement is very disappointing specially coming from league ceo. We are not complaining about calls like between chelsea v barca. those are highly complicated to interpret. We are talking about call such as handball calls for Wallace in LA when ball never hit the hand or even arms where it hit the leg. We are talking about two yards clear offside and let the goal stand. Forget about mid field play where fouls committed. they always cover sss

Posted by: DCUnitedFootball | May 19, 2009 6:39 PM | Report abuse

There are a couple complaints that I have about the officiating in MLS that aren't really addressed by Garber. First and foremost, there is a lack of consistency. I'm not just talking about from one official to to the next; I'm talking about refs being predictably unpredictable from game to game, and in fact even within the same game. How often have you seen an MLS ref let everything go in the first half, then clamp down on the tiniest infractions after halftime? All the sudden, you get 5 or 6 players on cards for things that, in the first half, wouldn't even have merited a whistle. This, more than anything else, is the biggest problem.

There is also the fact that MLS referees, when they make mistakes, make big ones. The Wallace thigh penalty is a perfect example. On looking at the replay, Marrufo is offscreen at the moment he blows the whistle but is at the penalty spot within about 1-2 seconds. Let's say he was 20 yards from the non-infraction; if he can't spot the difference between a hand (Wallace's hands were about a full yard from the ball, above the VW logo) and a thigh, he has absolutely no place officiating anything because his eyesight is not good enough. It's that, or he is inexplicably trusting of Chris Klein's biased reaction, which would mean he is incompetent.

It's one thing to get an iffy penalty called against you, or a handball when the ball hits the ribs of a player who has his arms up above the shoulder. This was not even close to a penalty. And the bad news for MLS is that you can find calls that are this wrong or thereabouts too frequently.

I think most of MLS is better than it is given credit for, even amongst ardent fans. On the matter of officiating, however, I think the level of criticism is about right. It's not as good as the standard of play, and it's also stayed the same while the standard of play has gone up.

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | May 19, 2009 7:01 PM | Report abuse

"We are talking about call such as handball calls for Wallace in LA when ball never hit the hand or even arms where it hit the leg. We are talking about two yards clear offside and let the goal stand."

QFT!

Posted by: Truck | May 19, 2009 7:02 PM | Report abuse

but I thought Blanco said the officiating was worth the shirt on his back?

Posted by: doh1 | May 19, 2009 7:13 PM | Report abuse

I'm generally OK with the reffing in MLS (except that DC has suffered more than its fair share of blown calls this season), but I really hate the amount of dissent that players get away with. I wish they would address that.

Posted by: mbyrd28 | May 19, 2009 7:49 PM | Report abuse

"Hamlet III, ii, 239"

Is that like a ham and cheese omelet for the lactose intolerant?.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | May 19, 2009 8:29 PM | Report abuse

What? Either that joke was horrible, I didn't get it, or both.

Posted by: Reignking | May 19, 2009 8:31 PM | Report abuse

I find it amazing that all these people posting on the different blogs, after watching replay after replay, all still have a different opinon as to whether a play was a hand ball or off sides. time after time you read that it was wrong and it was right and all these monday morning playmakers can't get it right but yet complain that the ref did not get it right with an instant decision

Posted by: stens1 | May 19, 2009 8:59 PM | Report abuse

We want to be free!
We want to be free to do what we want to do!
We want to be free to ride!
We want to be free to ride our machines without being hassled by the man!
And we wanna get loaded!

Posted by: DadRyan | May 19, 2009 9:54 PM | Report abuse

We want to be free!
We want to be free to do what we want to do!
We want to be free to ride!
We want to be free to ride our machines without being hassled by the man!
And we wanna get loaded!

Posted by: DadRyan

-----------

And we wanna have a good time!

Posted by: M__N | May 20, 2009 8:32 AM | Report abuse

Put El Pibe in!

Got a funeral in WV today, gonna miss tonight's game. Y'all represent and let's kick some Redbull arse!!!

Vamos United!!!!!

Posted by: Smitty8 | May 20, 2009 9:02 AM | Report abuse

mbyrd, that's a good point. The only criticism I really have of the MLS referees is the amount of whining they put up with from the players. Their calls are pretty solid in general. The good teams sort themselves out.

Posted by: Cavan9 | May 20, 2009 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Refereeing in MLS is probably better than it was ten years ago, but it still falls far short of what it should be...or what it is in the best leagues in Europe. MLS refs simply don't enforce the rules. MLS refs tolerate too much dissent from players. (Would Blanco last more than 30 minutes in an English league game?) MLS refs do not properly penalize tackles from behind, "professional" fouls, obstruction, or the sort of clutching and grabbing that defenders like Bryan Namoff practice. One suspects that MLS refs suffer from the same misapprehension that basketball refs share that enforcing the rules will somehow detract from the game's appeal. the NHL got over this mindset. There's no reason why MLS can not.

Posted by: Jphubba | May 20, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Former FIFA referee and multiple time MLS Referee of the Year Kevin Terry played in the MISL for several years. I think he played for Cleveland or Philly or somewhere like that.

He turned out to be a pretty good referee.

Posted by: jessexy2 | May 20, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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