Members Present: Robert Emeritz, Director; Lula Bauer, Wendell Domon, Hap Kwiatkowski, and Chuck Keefer.
1. Match Result Protest: Game 2599, SYC Rage v STAF Waves (U15 D2)
This match was played on April 29 and resulted in a 3-1 win for Springfield. The match was protested by Stafford for violation of WAGS Rule J.3, requiring that players wear jerseys displaying a unique player number corresponding to the number shown on the official state roster.
The events giving rise to the protest occurred late in the first half. The SYC coach informed the referee that SYC would change keepers, and SYC player number 18, a midfielder, switched jerseys with the goalkeeper (whose roster number was 8, and whose own jersey was in her bag on the team's sideline). The original goalkeeper played in the field wearing the number 18 jersey for the remainder of the half.
The facts reveal a clear violation of Rule J.3. Violation of Rule J.3 results, under Rule K.7, in an automatic forfeit. Accordingly, the match result is deleted and a forfeit (with a score of 3-0) is entered in favor of the Stafford team.
Because of the mandatory and inflexible nature of the rules at issue, the Committee was without options in this situation. Further, because the original keeper's jersey was available at the field and the whole problem could easily have been avoided, there were no "extenuating circumstances" that would allow waiver of the forfeiture by the Director of R&D pursuant to Rule K.13. There was simply no reason for SYC to commit such a careless breach of the Rules, and there is nothing that can be done to rescue them.
The whole proceeding, however, leaves a very sour taste in the collective mouth of the Committee. Coaches are urged to avoid using technical niceties having absolutely no impact on the match to avoid losses honestly earned on the field. The Stafford protest identified no way in which the team was prejudiced by the SYC transgression, and the Committee cannot discern any. This protest, while successful, has a rather cynical feel to it, advances none of the goals of the "unique player number" rule (which is designed to prevent deception, avoidance of the consequences of player disciplinary action, and participation by ineligible players, none of which was alleged here), and appears to send a message to the players that is contrary to the spirit of fair play and sportsmanship that underlies the game.
2. Match Result Protest: Game 3158, ARL Storm v MSC Lightning (U16 D4)
In the second half of this match, with Arlington leading 2-1, a ball was crossed directly across the Arlington goal by an MSC player. The ball passed from right to left quite close to the goal line, and upon reaching the far post was cleared by an Arlington defender. It went upfield and was touched out. Play was restarted with a throw-in, whereupon the ball was again touched out of play.
During the play that followed the clearance from the vicinity of the goal line, the Assistant Referee nearest the Arlington goal, from a position near the corner, raised his flag. The center referee had turned to follow play, and did not see the signal. The Assistant Referee on the opposite side did not raise a flag to mirror his colleague's signal and get the attention of the center referee. The MSC coach attempted to get the center referee's attention, and eventually did so. The center referee turned, saw the upraised flag, and went to talk to his AR. After a conference, he signaled that the ball had crossed over the goal line, and awarded a goal, making the score 2-2. MSC eventually won the game by a score of 4-2.
Under FIFA Law 5, decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play are final. Facts connected with play include whether or not a goal has been scored. The referee may only change a decision on realizing that it is incorrect or, at his discretion, on the advice of an assistant referee, provided that he has not restarted play.
It is the last proviso that controls this decision. Arlington's protestations concerning the AR's ability to make the call, the likelihood that the ball could have traveled in the manner claimed by the AR and MSC, the timing of the signal, and all the other events in dispute are essentially meaningless; whether the ball went in the goal is the referee's call, and if he says it was in, it was in. However, in this case, the referee did not say it was in at first, but allowed play to continue. By the time he saw the AR's flag, consulted with the AR, and reversed his decision, a restart by throw-in had occurred. Once play had been restarted after the original no-goal decision, that decision could not, under Law 5, be changed.
The protest is therefore granted. Because of the dynamics of a soccer match, it cannot be said that the post-dispute events of the match would have occurred in the same way had the goal not been counted and Arlington maintained its lead. Accordingly, the match will have to be replayed in its entirety.
Director, WAGSL Rules & Discipline Committee