In this week’s Play of the Week we are discussing Dissent. All referees have a responsibility to deal with dissent. If referees at the top level fail to deal with it effectively it impacts at all levels. Elite level players are also responsible for being disciplined as young players will follow their example. Dissent is when players verbally or through action disputes or shows contempt for an official’s decision. This can also be when players harass the referee.

Examples of Harassing:

  • Running aggressively towards a referee
  • Players surrounding the referee
  • Pressurising the referee to change a decision
  • Waving arms
  • Pointing
  • Pushing
  • Throwing the ball away
  • Kicking the ball away

Unfortunately in this week’s play from the Atlanta United v Philadelphia Union game, we see all of the above.

Union lose possession in midfield, when Mark McKenzie fails to control the ball. United’s Miguel Almiron plays a first time ball to Josef Martinez, who is played onside by nearside Union defender, Harris Medunjanin.  Martinez then bursts into the penalty area and goes down under a challenge by defender Auston Trusty.  Referee Sorin Stoica has no hesitation in pointing to the spot.  You can fully understand why as there appears to be contact on the back of Martinez’s leg which causes the fall.

The nearest five Union players surround Stoica to protest and at this point this does not exceed normal reaction to a penalty decision. Stoica remains calm and the protesters move away apart from Trusty but when Stoica goes to his pocket for his yellow card, Trusty thinks twice and soon retreats. Stoica then leaves his card in his pocket and gestures no more as Trusty walks away.

Calm is restored but with the PK about to take place, all the craziness starts. Union captain, Alejandro Bedoya, enters the penalty arc to continue the dissent and so further delays the taking of the kick. Stoica decides enough is enough and gives him a yellow card and as it is his second yellow he follows it with a red card. This causes Bedoya, and particularly his team-mate Medunjanin, to become incensed with the referee in a very aggressive manner. Stoica gives him a yellow card, which is quickly followed by another yellow card and then a red card when he persists. Peace is eventually restored and Martinez scores from the spot.

You would think that players would learn from the previous incident and going down to nine men.  However just 10 minutes later, following the award of a free-kick against him, Union’s Fabrice-Jean Picault kicks the ball away and shows dissent to the referee. Stoica then gives him a yellow card.

The badly disciplined Union players on this occasion are a poor example.  I must stress to young referees, and anyone who is considering becoming a referee, that scenes like this are very rare. But when they do occur referees have to be like Sorin Stoica : remain strong and deal with the dissent.  At the same time stay calm and, if it continues, be consistent.

We tend to lose a lot of referees in their early years and it is usually due to dissent from players or abusive parents/spectators. If referees do not deal with it correctly, and they see top players get away with it, they think they can get away with it also.

Below is a quote from a former 15 year old referee:

“I love football but I’m not a great player. So I thought I’d have a go at refereeing. I never thought that it would mean everyone shouting and screaming at me each weekend…”

In Summary

  • If you ignore dissent, game control will be impacted
  • You must deal with all instances of dissent
  • Immediate complaint about a call or non-call is not really dissent; let the players express their opinion – briefly
  • If it persists or is repetitive or aggressive you must take action


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