Major League Soccer will institute a rule against ‘mass confrontations’ of the referee during a match:

Troubled by swarms of players disrupting a match, the league’s board of governors has approved a rule that would penalize teams and coaches when three or more individuals confront a referee or opponent.

The MLS disciplinary committee would issue a warning for a first offense. Subsequent incidents would result in a fine for both the club and head coach. The league declined to specify amounts, but multiple sources told the Insider the committee would levy penalties of $5,000 for a team and $1,000 for a coach.

Great, I suppose. But the idea this is a unique scourge is false. A year ago today, I posted this quote:

“In Russia the captain of a side wears the armband to show his rank, and he alone is permitted to appeal to the referee. What a far cry from the unsightly assaults on the unhappy officials of some lands, including Britain, when referees are jostled by protesting players at the award of a penalty!”
-Geoffrey Green, 1960.

And of course there’s the early 20th century example above. So good on you MLS, and good luck to you in changing a 100 year-old problem.

Comments (9)

  1. I have another crazy idea to prevent mass confrontations of the referee: actually investing more in full-time officials and training.

    There was a recent interview on the TSN podcast with the guy in charge of officiating for MLS. Shocking revelation: in terms of wages MLS was only employing two full time officials as recently as 2011 (if memory serves). This year roughly half the officials are on full-time contracts with more to be rewarded. But none of the linesman appear to be getting the same treatment and there is still a huge gulf in quality.

    The league always seems to spend more time trying to improve the perceptions of its officials performance than actually working on the quality of the performance itself. It mirrors their actions in a number of other areas as well. If they are truly going to strive to be “one of the best leagues in the world” in ten years they will have to take more actions in areas such as these and quit telling stories about how “it isn’t actually as bad as we assume it is”.

    • While MLS referees get paid a pretty decent amount, I doubt many of them are willing to give up their better-paying and more prolific full-time jobs to be a referee. A career which ends once you’re north of 40, or could go downhill with one game-changing bad call.

      • Well maybe looking at it as a full-time thing isn’t the best perspective. But at least at a level where it takes up significant proportion of their time and the league has given them enough financial resources to have buy-in. As you said, they’re trying to earn a living. Previously there wasn’t much incentive, it was a lot of aggravation for very little reward.

        Another example of the way the league operated in the past was that there was basically no budget for training the officials or for allowing them to coordinate and standardize the way they officiate the game. They never had a conference or ran a training session in the course of a year. No wonder everyone was pulling their hair out. They also tried to blame the USSF at times and said they (the league) don’t supply the officials, but that was as intentionally misleading a statement as one could possibly make.

        Basically what I’m getting is MLS saying a different message depending what side of it’s mouth it’s talking out of. If we’re talking about how great the league is as a business, everything is clear sky. But if you want to talk about nitty gritty stuff (field turf, player contracts, financial results of individual teams) the excuses fly fast and heavy. I’d prefer more of an honest take across the board, rather than be snowed in by bullshit and theater.

  2. If refs showed yellow cards to all players involved in such “mass confrontations” — as they are entitled to do under the Laws of the Game — I get the sense these sorts of things would stop happening. Or settle down a bit, at least.

    But players, coaches and teams would complain. The league would throw the ref under the bus. And the cycle would continue.

    If MLS, or any other league, fully backed referees in doling out yellows to all players involved in these attempts at intimidation, they’d stop. Until that happens, it will keep happening.

    • Exactly! The punishment needs to happen on the field. But, like you said, the first time a player picks up a caution for confrontation, and it’s his second caution, everybody will complain and that official will be manning the sub boards for the following weeks.

  3. Easy solution – make the captain the only person allowed to speak a word to the ref. Then if anyone else does, it is an automatic yellow card.

  4. if every player on a team got yellows, they would lose – and many players would be suspended

  5. Ref’s job.

    Rule #1. Card the Leader of the dissent first. Scare the rest of the pack off.

    Rule #2 Back away and warn them to lay off.

    Rule #3. If Rule #3 fails, you pull the “machine gun yellow” and yellow everyone who isn’t leaving you alone.

    Two Yellows makes a red. When you sit, you’ll have to quit it! No tears for those who can’t keep their heads.

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