Player Safety is a Referee’s #1 Priority

Soccer is played on all types of surfaces and in all sorts of weather, requiring players and officials to be properly prepared for field or weather conditions.

While preparing for an assignment, the officials should make sure that they are familiar with the competition rules as they pertain to that assignment.   Aside from the usual rules dealing with such things as overtime and tie games, field conditions and inclement weather may require the officials to deal with any issues that may present themselves.

FIFA Law 5 (IFAB Liability of match officials) states that a referee is not held liable for safety-related decisions made to allow or not allow competition to start or continue due to the conditions of the field of play or weather conditions.

Referees, therefore, have the responsibility and authority to make decisions regarding weather-related issues and/or the condition of a playing area and its surroundings.

Referees should find out if the competition’s governing body established rules that explain procedures to be followed in various situations.  Will there be an administrator on-site to make decisions, or, in the event of strong wind, high temperature, heavy rain, lightning, and the like, what are the officials expected to do?  Often, the referee is the one who is looked at and expected to make those decisions.

Field conditions are also part of the officials’ safety responsibilities.  Arriving early is important to provide ample time for checking the field and allowing the home team to remedy any problem areas. Improperly placed goals and corner flags, gopher holes, sprinklers, excessive water throughout, team benches, and spectators stationed too close to a touchline each present potential safety hazards.

The officials must be prepared and have a plan.  Any safety issue should be addressed and resolved by the home team or field administrator before game time.

When the customarily expected end to a contest is negatively affected by injury or weather, there will always be concerns and questions to be answered.

Officials should always do all in their power to provide a safe environment so that they ultimately will not be found negligent in the performance of their duties.