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A Look at PRO, Part 2: Solutions to Common Referee Errors

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Refereeing is not an easy job, but fixing it is.

MLS: New York City FC at Orlando City SC Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

This is the second of a two-part series that examines the Professional Referee Organization (PRO). The purpose of the series is to take a look at the United States’ referees’ data, as well as some individual performances, to see the effectiveness of PRO’s officials. An important question that will constantly be brought up is, “Are PRO officials correctly adhering to the laws of the game, and if not, how can it be fixed?”

The first part focused on referee stats and some common miscalls, with an emphasis on Orlando City. In this final section, the focus will be on how to solve common mistakes and some specific missed or wrong calls.


The most important thing to remember when evaluating referees is that it is inexcusable for a referee to have a bad game in a top professional league. Yes, there will be mistakes, we are all human after all, but to have games where an official continually makes wrong calls is not acceptable.

That being said, it seems to happen often and afterwards nothing appears to happen. This is where the first solution comes in.

Accountability. It is defined as “the state of being accountable.” In every job there is a system of accountability. If a server is rude to customers they will be fired. If a teacher’s students aren’t learning, the teacher’s pay is affected. If a quarterback throws more interceptions than touchdowns they will be benched.

It is not a new system, accountability, but when it comes to officiating, how are they being held accountable? After the Chicago game, Ted Unkel had a red card rescinded unanimously by the independent panel during the week. He had one week off. Then he was the fourth official for a week before going back into the center. Instead, PRO should have fessed up and agreed that Unkel messed up and suspended him. If there are no repercussions to poor games, referees will continue to make mistakes.

Along with accountability comes consistency. Referees need to make the same calls in each game and the entire season. Players prefer that a referee be consistently wrong (if they are going to be wrong) so that at least they know what to expect.

In the video below, Houston Dynamo’s Alberth Elis is given a yellow card for diving. This is a perfect example of there not being consistency. Out of the 27 referees that were in charge in 2017, there might be 15 that call it a foul and 12 that call it simulation. Yes, there was contact but Elis also starting falling before he got hit. The league needs to decide what they want to do in those situations, and it needs to happen in every game throughout the season.

Another issue is players faking that they are injured as a time wasting measure. Players will get the smallest knock and roll around on the ground as if their leg has been cut off. The medical team comes on the field to treat the player. After leaving the field, the players run back into the game like nothing has happened.

This ruins the flow of the game, wastes time, and is just poor sportsmanship. This is also something that other athletes and fans of other sports look at and use as a reason to not watch soccer. It kills the integrity of the game and there has been no solution to it. It is also the easiest thing to stop, but requires the entire league to buy into it.

It is first up to the referee to blow the whistle and stop the game when there is an injury. If someone is truly injured and the referee stops the game for it then players will be less likely to stop the game themselves, which is the second art. The players should not kick the ball out of bounds. Keep playing until the referee stops it. If the other team does kick it out of bounds, the team with possession should keep the ball. Teams will not kick the ball out of bounds anymore if they know they will not get it back, and so play will not be stopped.

Most importantly, the referee should not allow the player back on the field. The league needs to come out with a time frame — say, five minutes, for example — that a player will have to stay out of the game for before they can go back in. With this in place, teams up a goal in the 80th minute will not go down and fake an injury. With the losing team throwing players forward and a man advantage it is now that much easier for a comeback. If a player is truly injured then this time frame will not be an issue as it will allow the player to receive the proper treatment before reentering the game.

There clearly are problems with the officiating and PRO and needs to step up. It is not an easy job by any means, but neither is playing or coaching. It all comes down to the fact that when referees are poor it affects peoples’ livelihood. A missed or incorrect call is often the difference between a win, loss, or tie and in professional sports every game matters. San Jose and FC Dallas both ended the regular season with 46 points, and both teams will argue that if they had a different ref for a certain game, things would have been different.