What are foul considerations and why are they a mystery?

What are foul considerations and why are they a mystery?

I'm not sure when I first heard about considerations, but it probably wasn't until I was about 3 years into my soccer referee journey. I certainly didn't hear about them when I was a player in my childhood. I didn't hear about them when I was a coach. I didn't even hear about them for the first 2 years as a US Soccer certified referee. Why not?
If you aren't familiar with what I am talking about, considerations are what referees should be using when they make a determination between a careless, reckless or using excessive force or brutality. When you hear a professional such as Christina Unkel on CBS discuss the considerations of a handball or why a particular tackle is a Yellow Card vs a Red Card, you'll know what I mean.
Sometimes, the considerations are indeed partially listed in the laws of the game. Let's take handball for instance. We know from the laws where on the arm contact should be considered for a potential handball offense, but nowhere int he laws do they tell you exactly what an arm in a natural position based on their body movement or an unnatural position looks like. It leaves so many things up for interpretation.
Additionally, they also don't explicitly say that a ball that comes off the defenders thigh to the hand is not a handball in the laws, but we can find that in the IFAB Q&A Guidance. There are hundreds of entry's in the IFAB Guidance section of the Laws, but how many people, let alone referees have ever looked at that. Until I had started this channel and platform, I didn't even know that it existed.
Let's look at Offside for example. This year, IFAB added a ton of guidance / considerations for what is deemed a "Deliberate Play" by a defender. What they don't say in the laws is exactly what each of the considerations looks like. You need to seek out the videos on the IFAB website to find the clips that show examples of each of those considerations. Again, I would wager that less than 1% of referees and less than .00001% of the general public (spectators, players, coaches and commentators) have any idea that those new laws exist or how to apply them.
Now let's look at fouls. There is nothing in the laws of the game that tells us what kind of contact is legal and what should be a foul. We all understand that a trip is a foul, but what about a push? Or an charge that is shoulder to shoulder? How do we determine what contact should be accepted and what should be whistled for an infraction. Additionally, when do we show a Yellow Card vs a Red Card.
Maybe we have heard the words Careless, Reckless and Excessive Force before, but how do we know the difference? When we have a sliding tackle or challenge, when does it become Serious Foul Play and a Red Card?
When you listen to top referees, they go well beyond any definition you can find in the laws of the game, they will start talking about
  • Speed / Force of the challenge? Did they leave their feet? Was the offender out of control?
  • What part of the body did they use to make contact with the opponent? Was it their studs or the top of their foot? Was their leg outstretched and locked?
  • What part of the body did they make contact with their opponent? Was it their foot or did it hit above the ankle?
  • Was the tackle from the front or was the side or back?
These are all things that top refs use to make decisions. They learn these things from mentors at developmental assessments at matches where they are being observed or at top tournaments with other top refs.
The fact is that for 95% of referees, they never get this kind of training or mentoring. They are left to figure it out on their own.
Why do we make this part of the game a mystery? This would help fans, players, coaches and commentators understand why we make the decisions that we do.
I know that when a ref is just starting out, we want them to focus on the basics of arm mechanics and positioning, but to never help them develop some ability to recognize fouls or how to evaluate them, they are left to wonder if they are even doing their jobs correct.
In a normal organization, there would be countless videos, Standard Operating Procedures and quarterly reviews to ensure the job was being done correctly with written feedback and documentation of progress and opportunities for improvement. I know that there currently isn't money at the State level to provide this type of training and feedback, but until there is, we will continue to lose referees at an alarming rate.
No one stays at a job if they feel like they aren't doing it well or they don't feel like they are supported. Additionally, here int he US, there is no possibility for progression or advancement for the 98% of referees who will not make it regional for one reason or another. All of our young refs who do this for a few years in High School will never know if they have what it takes to move forward and advance to the next level. Our older refs who can't travel to regional events due to family and job commitments will never get the recognition and training they need to be top refs in their local area.
Why can't we be more open with the considerations used by our best referees? Why can't we tell the general public? Why can't we do a better job of educating those we need to understand the laws of the game and how to apply them?
It's time for referees and mentors to open up and bring other people in. It's time for clubs to invest resources in the referees who ref at their clubs. It's time for us all to do more to share our knowledge for the betterment of the game for everybody.
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