Editor Note: Graham Anderson is a Founding Member of the BCSRA and a Life
Member of both the BCSRA and the BCSRA’s
Vancouver Area branch. He is an Honorary National Referee, a
retired CSA National Referee Instructor, and has
written numerous articles on the subject of Refereeing including
the book “The Art of Refereeing without Neutral
Linesmen”. This article, published in 1993, is re-printed with
his permission. Although some of the terminology does
not reflect that found in today’s version of the Laws of the
Game, the underlying concepts are still the same.
Dissent mean to differ to disagree in opinion: to hold opposite
In the game of soccer it is generally thought to apply when a member
or members of a team show by WORD or ACTION dissent from the referee’s decision. Dissent can be
direct or more subtle. Dissent
can be loud and explosive. It can be quiet and sneaky.
It is the referee’s duty to prevent dissent by preventative
officiating and importantly to control
the participants in a soccer game to prevent the game from falling
Players often disagree instinctively with how a Referee judges or
handles a particular incident It
is the Referee’s job and part of his (hopefully) acquired skill to
use his judgment in assessing
whether a player’s reaction (sometimes fueled by being hurt after a
tackle) falls under the
classification of dissent or not.
The type of dissent that must be prevented or dealt with if it
occurs, by the Referee, is the
calculated type of dissent, where the sole intent, or of his
decisions, or the integrity of the
laws is in doubt. Such dissent is usually deliberate. It may be made
by word or action directly to
the Referee or Linesmen. It may be indirect by being relayed to a
colleague of the dissenter and
made in the guise of talking to the colleague.
1. “Hey, Jimmy. Looks like we got a right one today!”
2. “Where did they find one? They get worse every week.”
3. “Maybe we’ll get one who calls it both ways next time.”
and so on...
It is certain that most Referees will think of hundreds of similar examples.
It is the duty of the Referee to make the players aware that such
behavior is not going to be
tolerated. There are a number of tools that every Referee should
have in his arsenal to deal with
dissent, but first it might be worth examining a few examples of
direct dissent. Just a few could be:
4. “Open your eyes Referee!”
5. “Never! Who’s side are you on anyway?”
6. “Are you blind?”
7. “Call it both ways.” etc, etc.
Statements (1) to (7) inclusive are examples of DISSENT
punishable by a caution.
The Referee must distinguish between instinctive comments that bear
no malice, in no way lead to an escalation, and in effect are easily
controlled with first stage action. (You may have alternate methods
of carrying this out.)
First Stage Action
The quiet word.
The louder, direct instruction.
Second Stage Action
When the dissent is immediately considered by the Referee as
encroaching upon the integrity of the
Referee or that of his colleagues; or the integrity of the Laws, or
the spirit of the game, then he
must CAUTION the person or persons involved.
If the ball is in play and the Referee decides to stop the game to
deal with the player concerned,
then the Referee would restart play with an INDIRECT FREE-KICK
awarded to the opposing team from
where the offense occurred.
Obviously, the quick thinking Referee may allow play to continue to
prevent being advantageous to
the non-offending team, and caution the dissenter at an opportune
time. BUT HE CANNOT IGNORE IT. HE
MUST DEAL WITH IT.
Of course, dissent by action is just as bad as verbal dissent.
Refusing to obey an instruction by the Referee, waving the hand or
arm in an insulting gesture, are
examples of dissent by action.
THE REFEREE MUST REMEMBER THAT THE STANDARD HE OR SHE SETS IN ANY
GAME ACTS AS A STANDARD FOR ONE
OF HIS COLLEAGUES IN THE NEXT GAME.
IT HAS BEEN THE EXPERIENCE OF THE AUTHOR AND HIS SENIOR COLLEAGUES
THAT WHEN A TEAM QUICKLY GETS
INVOLVED IN DISSENT, AND IS “SURPRISED” WHEN IT GETS DEALT WITH,
THEN USUALLY THE PREVIOUS
REFEREE WAS NOT DOING A PROPER JOB.
Dissent must also be rigorously prevented or cut out when committed
by team officials
substitutes from the sidelines.
2. FOUL OR ABUSIVE LANGUAGE
Often there is a very fine dividing line between dissent (a CAUTION)
and the use of foul or abusive
language (a SEND OFF) when used directly or indirectly to the
Each Referee has his or her own personal limits regarding what is
considered as ‘foul’ or
‘abusive’. The Referee must distinguish between the player who uses
certain foul word as part of
that player’s natural terminology, where such language does not in
any way prove to be offensive to
anyone, and the situation where the use of foul language without
question distracts from or goes
totally against the spirit of the game, the integrity of layers,
officials or, in many cases, the
The Referee can quickly stamp out the use of foul language, so that
players KNOW that it is not to be tolerated . It is part of the
duties of the referee to PREVENT foul language from becoming a
factor in a game.
ABUSIVE LANGUAGE, like foul language can be directed at anyone. It
can be directed against the officials, players, coaches,
substitutes, and spectators, etc...
FOUL LANGUAGE can be directed at anyone, oneself, and object, the
ground, the weather, an
Abusive language NEED NOT BE FOUL. It can be directed in a terribly
polite way, but be as equally
devastating in its INTENT OR EFFECT as the worst type of foul and
abusive language. Abusive
language can be the so called “body language” where the gestures and
movements of the body, hands
or arms are clearly ABUSIVE. Such BODY language must be dealt with
as ABUSIVE language.
Wise guidelines given in the past to referees are the...
PERSONAL, PROVOCATIVE, PUBLIC
Any one or combination of the "Three P’s" can lead the referee to a
judgment of FOUL or ABUSIVE
(often FOUL AND ABUSIVE).
It is not the job of the Referee to act in judgment on the normal
language of a player and to
attempt to reverse the unfortunate social trends in society.
In their private lives, many officials, under stress, swear like
troopers. Of course not in a game
or its vicinity!
It is the job of the referee to deal with FOUL or ABUSIVE language
directed to anyone, that brings
the game of soccer into disrepute.
Would you accept “swearing” with 10 year old players?
... with 14 year old players?
... with 17 year old players?
... with 20 year old players?
... with 27 year old players?
... with 40 year old players?
If you are honest you would most likely say “DEFINITELY NO” to the
first three and then hesitate as
the players become older. The important point, the very important
point, is that you must apply
realistic standards! Notice the word REALISTIC.
If you, as a Referee, find the words or actions offensive to
yourself, other players, participants
or spectators, you must deal with it. You must uphold realistic
expectations in keeping with the
spirit of the game and the integrity or yourself and your
In your opinion, if a player
(or substitute) is guilty of:
a.) DISSENT- THE PLAYER MUST BE CAUTIONED.
b.) FOUL OR ABUSIVE LANGUAGE- THE PLAYER MUST BE SENT OFF.
Go to it fellow Referees. Remember the spirit of the game and use
your mature judgment.
The Referee must be consistent and uniform in sanctioning the fouls
and players from the beginning to the end.
Be efficient to immediately stop aggression against skilled
The individual perception is different in each person. It cannot
be influenced to become a
uniform perception; however, the interpretation of the Laws are
intended to be clear and precise so
that the Referee makes an effort in applying them with tenacity and
courage (and common sense).
The Referee's opinion on the field of play must always be
respected; however, the Laws of
the Game are the basic steps to support this opinion. The Referee is
not there to judge them,
neither to interpret them in his own way, but only to know the
The Referee must be dynamic... If not, then the Referee must act
like a dynamic Referee. A dynamic Referee loves with passion the
functions and people around him. That will make the Referee a good
friend, father, or head of the family and, above all,
a better man.
"See you on the...PITCH"