Unfair Advantages to One Team?

Filed under Controversial Calls, Football (Soccer)
Are soccer tents an unfair advantage when one team brings one, and the other doesn't?

Are soccer tents an unfair advantage when one team brings one, and the other doesn’t? What if one team brings Gatorade, and the other team only brings water?

Two weekends ago, I arrived at a field for a U12 Girls game, and saw a bit of a commotion going on between the referee and the home team coaches. Not one to see a battle and immediately attempt to insert myself into it, I just ignore it and start my pre-match routine.

When it was over, I asked the referee what the problem was. He declared that the home team needed to remove the shade they had set up over their bench, because it was unfair to the away team, who had not brought one. He went on to say that, as the home team, if they want to use a shade for their bench, then they need to provide one for the other team as well.

I was curious why this referee singled out the home team in his decision, so I asked him what he would have done if it was the visiting team that had brought the shade. Almost proud of himself for knowing the answer, he said that he would have done nothing, because it’s not unfair if the visiting team does it. At that point I just dropped the issue.

Now, I’ve heard of some competition-specific rules about providing benches to the visiting team (possibly in the NFHS rules, but I don’t officiate NFHS matches, so don’t quote me on that!). There was nothing in the Rules of Competition for this particular league about benches, tents, or anything else that one team might provide to another. It’s also not mentioned at all in the FIFA Laws of the Game or the USSF Advice to Referees.

Speaking with several fellow referees, the consensus was that the referee in the above situation grossly overstepped his authority by taking issue with a tent. In his crusade for fairness, he actually contradicted himself by saying that it’s only unfair if one team – the home team – does it.

Had I continued to question this referee, I would have asked, “Where do you draw the line?”

What if the visiting team forgot to bring water to the field? Do you demand that the home team share? Do you make them dump their own water out? What if the home team brought Gatorade and orange slices, but the visitors did not? What if they brought nicer shoes? What if they have better coaches?

There are many aspects of a match that the referee is expected to look at in order to keep the game fair, safe, and fun for everyone involved. Making sure both teams have a tent is not one of them. Don’t be remembered as “that referee.” Choose your battles (and make sure that they are situations that actually deserve a battle!).

And if you really believe a situation like this is unfair, just include it in your match report and let the competition authority make the decision.