By PRO Training & Development Manager Paul Rejer
In Play of the Week 4 of the 2017 series, we are discussing mass confrontation and the responsibilities of the entire crew in seeing and acting on all incidents that take place in and around any such confrontation.
The play is from New York Red Bulls versus Real Salt Lake. In front of the technical areas, Red Bulls’ Daniel Royer plays the ball past RSL’s Luke Mulholland, who recklessly and cynically charges him, causing the NYRB midfielder to fall to the ground. Royer reacts and confronts Mulholland and they go face to face.
To add to this, as Royer was on the ground, Salt Lake’s Sunday Stephen kicks the ball into Royer. As could be expected, other players become involved. Fortunately on this occasion, most are acting as peacemakers and the potential for an escalation of misconduct is quickly quelled.
When we examine the role of each crew member in this, we see referee Chris Penso, after witnessing the initial challenge by Mulholland, use his experience and instinct in sensing a potential confrontation, move towards the two players. His focus is, and has to be, on Mulholland and Royer as he has to identify and act on any misconduct between them. At the same time, he has to remain alert to other players who become involved, potentially acting as peacemaker.
Sensibly, Penso does not put himself at risk by running in to separate players, which can ignite the flames and make the situation worse. He calmly stays on the periphery and blows his whistle to let the players know he is there.
He concludes by cautioning Mulholland for the cynical foul. Stephen escapes punishment. There is no excuse for kicking the ball at an opponent and this was no exception. Stephen kicked the ball well after the whistle had been blown and knew exactly what he was doing.
If we look at the nearest assistant referee, Kathryn Nesbitt, when Royer has possession of the ball, she has to keep her focus on him, the second to last defender, and the attacking player who is close to the defender. She definitely has potential offside to consider so this has to be her number one priority. The fact she didn’t signal for the foul is understandable. As soon as the foul occurs, ARs have to immediately change priorities and focus on other areas that the referee may not be seeing.
There was little point in Nesbitt focusing on Mulholland and Royer as referee Penso has it, and as a consequence she misses the kick by Stephen. It is important that someone in the crew sees this and, between the AR and fourth official Jorge Gonzalez, it should have been identified and acted upon.
In summary, there are four pairs of eyes in a crew, and the assistant referees should always be aware of the position of the referee and on what he is focusing. They should also be scanning and concentrating on other areas where misconduct might take place. They have to focus primarily on offside and ball out of play but they should be prepared to quickly change priority so that any acts of misconduct are seen and the correct action taken.