Official Publications Related to Law 17





The Technical Area

Official Publications Related to The Technical Area

Comments to Players and Coaches

Referees, ARs, and Fourth Officials must be aware of the comments they make to players and coaches.  Anything said may be misconstrued intentionally/accidentally in the heat of the moment and used to the coach/player’s advantage.  Officials must use discretion when making comments about a decision or action on the field.  It is safer to say “I don’t know” than to assume and provide information that may later be incorrect.  Be friendly, listen, and respond when appropriate, but play the safe route.

Bench Behavior

Bench decorum and managing behavior in the technical area has been a focal point for two seasons. In order to provide official guidance to officials, U.S. Soccer published the 2009 Directive “Managing the Technical Area.” The directive provides proactive suggestions for officials and contains examples of what should and should not be said to personnel in the technical area by match officials.

Taking ownership of behavior in the technical area, by the referee, is one of the key recommendations in the directive. The directive recommends the following technique be followed by referees:

Given that the referee has the final authority, the referee is best positioned to send the strongest message regarding behavior in the technical area. Bench personnel know the referee has the immediate authority to deal with irresponsible behavior. Hence, when the referee uses the “ask, tell, remove” process, it carries much more weight than another official.

Early recognition of improper bench behavior/decorum and early intervention to prevent its escalation is highly recommended. Match officials must put the burden of behavior and behavior modification on the head coach. Based upon the type of conduct displayed, the referee must choose the appropriate response. The referee may begin at the “ask” stage or the referee may decide to initiate the process at the “tell” stage given the severity of the behavior. In certain circumstances, the referee may invoke the “remove” stage. The removal stage should be utilized when the behavior (language or actions) is deserving of immediate dismissal for irresponsible behavior.

2010 (Click to view/hide)
No material on this topic for this year. Click prior years' tabs below to view information for those years.
2009 (Click to view/hide)
No material on this topic for this year. Click prior years' tabs below to view information for those years.
2008 (Click to view/hide)
  • Video Clip: New England at Dallas (84:05). The coach is visually dissenting, yelling at the referee, and has left the technical area.  And, the decision is against the opposing team (in his favor!).  Freeze the picture at 84:05 and you can see the coach is along the touchline, outside his technical area.  Look at the photo to the right and ask yourself:  Is this appropriate behavior?  The referee probably cannot observe the behavior of the coach.  However, the fourth official should have a clear view of the coach’s actions.  No action is taken.  In this case, given all the actions by the coach, the demonstration is so egregious that the referee is within his rights to dismiss the coach from the game. 
  • Video Clip: New York at Toronto (84:10). The coach is seemingly loud, demonstrative, and potentially having a not-so-friendly conversation with the opposing coach as well as the referee.  The fourth official is lending presence to the situation.  However, the fourth official is not taking official action.  Several similar clips can be made of this coach, in the same game, acting similarly and being dealt with by the fourth official.  The referee team must be aware of the constant negative behavior throughout the game and take this into consideration.
    • Start with holding the game up, approaching the coach, providing a stern word, and then hold the coach accountable for his actions.  If this does not work, US Soccer and MLS will support your decision to dismiss the coach from the game.

Managing the Technical Area:  Positive Referee Intervention

Too often referees leave the burden of managing the technical area solely on the fourth official.  This puts the fourth official in a difficult position because they do not want to “ruin the referee’s game” by having a person in the technical area removed.  Plus, the referee’s word carries more weight with players, coaches, and technical area personnel.  It is important to note, ultimately, the referee owns the behavior/conduct in the technical area not the fourth official.

Consequently, referees need to take more ownership of (including the recognition of) conduct in the technical area.  Referees cannot ignore comments and leave the “dirty work” to the fourth official.  In this clip, the referee takes ownership and assumes responsibility for actions off the field.  The strongest preventative message that can be conveyed using the “Ask, Tell, Remove” strategy comes from the referee – the person who ultimately enacts any official action including dismissal.

2010 (Click to view/hide)
  • Video Clip: New England at DC (90:00 + 1:22)

    This situation involves an emotional response by several members of the technical staff. In response to a foul, the technical staff exhibits a quick and momentary outburst of emotion. Adding to the emotionalism is the fact the foul occurs directly in front of the technical or bench area and the game is 1:22 into the referee’s allowance for lost time.

    The referee takes ownership of the situation by swiftly addressing the technical staff in a positive, controlled manner. The referee uses his “command presence” by walking toward the bench and using body language (hand and arm gestures) to send a message that matches the emotionalism of the moment.

    Note: Watch the referee, at 91:37, as he approaches the bench personnel. The referee uses his “command presence” to send an appropriate message. In fact, the referee is effective in defusing the situation as is evident by the calm and smiling look on the coaching staff faces shortly after the referee has addressed them

    Despite the game being in its final seconds, the fourth official should be more proactive in ensuring that, in accordance with FIFA and U.S. Soccer direction, only one person (at a time) is conveying tactical instructions. In this clip, there are five technical staff standing within the technical area. This makes management and control of the area more difficult.

    Overall, the referee does well to match his response to the situation and the moment by taking ownership of the personnel in the technical area. The referee’s calm demeanor and use of “command presence” prevents escalation and the need to dismiss non-playing personnel for irresponsible behavior.
2009 (Click to view/hide)
  • Video Clip: Real Salt Lake at DC United (87:22)
    As you watch the clip, look at the bottom left side of the screen for the visual action of the coach. This visual disagreement is accompanied by verbal disagreement.

    The referee follows the directive and takes ownership of the coach’s negative, dissenting behavior. By taking ownership, the referee sends the strongest of messages in the “ask, tell, remove” process. The referee “tells” the coach that further negative behavior will result in his being dismissed for irresponsible behavior. This is proactive and positive work on the part of the referee.

    The fourth official presence is necessary to support the referee and to act as a deterrent if the coach decides to continue his outburst. The fourth official’s action in this clip is a good example of teamwork.

    Taking ownership of the coach’s behavior is an effective method of people management as the referee places the burden of managing technical area behavior on the coach. By taking ownership, the ultimate decision maker (the referee) sends a message that carries more weight than that of the fourth official and/or AR.

    Once the referee has communicated with the coach, the fourth official needs to take responsibility to ensure the coach maintains responsible behavior in the technical area. If the coach or any other technical area personnel fail to follow the referee’s “tell” warning, then the fourth official is required to notify the referee to have the person exhibiting irresponsible behavior dismissed/removed.

    Remember, the Laws of the Game require that substitutes and substituted players within the technical area must be shown the red or yellow card by the referee depending upon the extent of their behavior if the referee is to take disciplinary action. All non-playing personnel (coaches, administrators, trainers, etc.) will be dismissed without showing a card. They should be told by the referee that they are being dismissed and that they must leave the technical area. The referee’s post-game report must specify the reasons substitutes and substituted players have been yellow or red carded as well as the reasons non-playing personnel have been dismissed. Non-playing personnel are always dismissed for “irresponsible behavior” but the specifics behind their behavior must be detailed in the post-game referee report.
2008 (Click to view/hide)
  • Video Clip: Colorado at Real Salt Lake (32:52) - This clip illustrates a referee who takes action when he hears dissention from a team bench and sees several of the personnel within the technical area get up to express their dissatisfaction.  The referee shows ownership by holding up play to positively address the head coach relative to the behavior of the coach’s bench personnel.  Notice the referee’s demeanor as he approaches and communicates with the coach:  controlled, calm, professional, and confident.  All in all, the referee has created a non-threatening environment to communicate his message.

    The referee approaches the head coach in order to “ask” him to “tell his staff to stop complaining.”  As you can see in the clip, the coach responds and agreement is reached.  A professional approach on the part of the referee precipitates a like professional response from the coach.  The presence of the fourth official is also worth noting as it adds reinforcement and shows that the fourth official was also aware of the behavior.  The fourth official should feel empowered to also use preventative measures in dealing with the coach and the rest of the technical area staff.

Proactive Management of the Technical Areas

Proper behavior within the technical area can often be managed by proactive steps that the referee crew takes.  In addition to reducing the likelihood for misbehavior, such preventative steps also help to solidify the referee crews decision to dismiss bench personnel should the situation arise.

In one particular MLS game, a referee team took appropriate action and dealt with irresponsible behavior that exceeded the position reiterated multiple times by U.S. Soccer.  In the game involving Colorado and Houston, on two separate occasions, the referee correctly dismissed and sent off an assistant coach and a player who had been substituted out of the game.  In both cases, the referee, fourth official, and senior assistant referee applied common sense before taking official action.  In both cases, warnings were issued.  In both cases, the individuals in question were held accountable for their actions.  VIDEO CLIP 1    VIDEO CLIP 2

Prior to taking official action, the referee team exercised preventative techniques that were not heeded by the teams.  The following summarizes the excellent preventative work of the referee team and they are applauded for the manner in which they dealt with both situations:

During the pregame roster exchange, the referee reminded both team staffs of their responsibilities within the technical area.

While on the field warming up, the referee approached BOTH coaches and had a friendly word, again, reminding them of the importance of proper bench decorum.

Prior to the dismissal of the Colorado assistant coach, the senior assistant referee had warned the assistant coach for his dissenting behavior in the first half.  In the second half, another warning was issued by the fourth official.  The player who was red carded was also warned earlier by the senior assistant referee as well as the fourth official for leaving the technical area to complain.

After the various warnings issued to the assistant coach and player, the officiating team decided action was in order.  The fourth official informed the referee that the assistant coach must be dismissed and, later, that the player must be red carded. 

In the case of the dismissal of the assistant coach, the decision of the referee was based upon:  the language used, the gesturing, the volume of the negative comments and who could hear them, and the persistence of the behavior.

Although the red card issued to the player was for “offensive language and gestures” as provided for in the Laws of the Game, the decision of the referee is supported by several other reported facts like:  the language used, the visual gestures of waving arms, the entering of the field, and the persistence of the behavior.