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Soccer referees could start keeping official time

Rules committee also seeks stiffer suspensions for illegal participation

Soccer referees could start keeping game time on the field beginning with the 2018 season.

The NCAA Men’s and Women’s Soccer Rules Committee recommended making referees the official time keepers, rather than the stadium’s visible game clock, during its annual meeting last week in Indianapolis.

The clocks visible to spectators in the stadium or on the field will still run, although it would no longer be considered the official time of the match. When a half or overtime period has a minute remaining, the referee would signal how much stoppage/extra time is left.

“In discussions with match officials, as well as the coaching community, the opportunity to align with FIFA rules regarding added time makes common sense for our game,” said John Trask, chair of the committee and men’s soccer coach at Wisconsin. “Match officials worldwide are responsible for administrating the length of a soccer game, and it will be a significant enhancement to college soccer.”

All rules proposals must be approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which is scheduled to discuss soccer rules changes via teleconference April 25.

The committee also is recommending that clocks in the stadium or on the field, where possible, start at zero and run up to 45 minutes, then run from 45 to 90 minutes, rather than counting down.

Currently, the stadium or field clocks keep the official time of the match. Public address announcers also count down the final 10 seconds of a half or overtime period, which would no longer be applicable if approved.

Committee members agreed this current system leads to gamesmanship and chaos where teams can use delay tactics at the end of matches.

Illegal participation

The committee spent ample time discussing ways to increase the penalties for teams that play illegal (card-suspended) players in matches.

The committee recommended that if a player, assistant coach or other bench personnel competes in a game from which he or she should have been suspended (red card, yellow card accumulation), the player’s suspension would be doubled, and the head coach would serve a doubled suspension of that player. For example, if the player received a red card, which is a one-game suspension, and did not properly serve the punishment, the player would be penalized with a two-game suspension, and the head coach would serve a four-game suspension.

“Due to unfortunate incidents involving suspensions not being properly served, the rules committee looked at length at how to minimize these situations,” Trask said. “It seems as though collegiate coaches must be more aware of the inequities associated for the other players/teams affected. We can only hope the stiffer penalties will ensure we are all compliant on this issue moving forward.”

Suspended players would be allowed to be in the team area while serving the suspension but would not be allowed to be in uniform.

Additionally, suspended coaches would be required to be out of sight and sound of the match one hour before the game starts and 30 minutes after the match ends. Any violation by the head coach of this proposed rule would result in an automatic four-game suspension.

Other recommendations

The committee also proposed the following changes:

  • Adding violent conduct to the list of items for which officials would be allowed to use video review.
  • Allowing bands, musical instruments and artificial noisemakers while the ball is in play.
  • Allowing the following approved markings on the field, which do not interfere with any of the required field markings and are not in the penalty area: NCAA, team or conference logos, names or abbreviations; two commercial logos — one in each half of the field — not larger than 15 feet by 15 feet; and noncommercial, commemorative logos such as the players’ names or numbers for senior day.