RefSix

Mass Confrontation Approach

Ge0rgeW

New Member
Level 7 Referee
Thankfully I am yet to come across a mass confrontation in any of my games. However I was just looking on how to approach them when it inevitably will happen.

My two questions are:

1) How do you keep track of all that’s going on? For example if you see a player throw a punch, would you write that player down instantly at the risk of missing something whilst looking at your book? Or do you create a mental note a risk the chance of forgetting which player it was who threw the punch? (at the level I am at, I don’t have neutral linos to help me keep on top of it)

2) I do a lot of youth football and in these cases parents and coaches often like to get involved if a scuffle starts to occur. I know that parents and coaches aren’t allowed onto the FOP (particularly in Covid times) but is that not better than it all kicking off, especially with younger players? How would you approach an incident where parents have come on and successfully diffused the situation in say an U13 game?

Any guidance would be much appreciated.
 

BrumRef

Regular Contributor
Level 8 Referee
I’ve had 2 so far in a year, one as AR and one as R.
1) The way I’ve done it so far is to stand back and observe rather than writing down notes as it goes on, if you can get your book out and scribble down some notes while still watching that’s great - someone with more experience can I’m sure advise you. Just don’t do what I did and try intervening and run the risk of getting punched stand a decent distance (5-10 yards) and try and watch what you can unfortunately as a single R you likely will not see everything and you can only punish what you have seen personally rather than what you’re told by coaches/players or even your CARs.
2) from my experience when the parents/coaches have come on, they have caused many more problems and have actually ended up causing more problems than the players themselves. The way I see it personally if parents enter the FOP the game should be abandoned because it’s a safeguarding issue and can be dangerous for yourself aswell.

In conclusion observe everything you can, do what you see for to deal with it and make a decision to whether you think you can continue or not - your decision is final in this don’t feel pressured by the coaches to do either. If something like this does unfortunately happen, make sure you report events factually on your WGS report and if you want seek guidance from your RDO for support with either your welfare or report writing.
As said before others may be more experienced than me but that gives my personal way of dealing with it and am interested in what others say but use your common sense and guts and most of all, try not to be out of refereeing unfortunately it does happen and it’s all a learning step for you as it was and still is for me 👍
 

socal lurker

RefChat Addict
On (1), as the sole ref, you can't look away. Saying "Blue 7" out loud helps some people remember the key players.

(2) If you meet that parent, you'll have to decide what to do. But I think in the real world, a parent who comes out is far more likely to be the knucklehead who makes things worse than the peacemaker. (By 13U parents know they aren't allowed to get involved.)
 

one

RefChat Addict
Level 7 Referee
0 - Mas con always starts with two. Get in as quick as you can and deescalate before anyone else is there. But it is very important that you step back as soon as it becomes 3 or more. DO NOT get in the middle of it.

1 - I have ARs in most my games and this is what I do as well a tell my AR's in pre-game - Get in the best position and move if you have to. Don't look away but take your notepad and pen out and take shorthand notes like "w7 punch" "G11 run in". You don't have to look down to write these. Its also a deterrent for player seeing it. Your memory can add the details once things are calm.

2 - Any parent coming on, even with the intent of breaking it up, encourages other parents to come on, likely with other intents or to confront the other parent. I would only ignore parents coming on if it has absolutely no impact on the escalation. Coaches and subs are a bit different. They are part of the team and I can get their details. A bit of common sense with them. You can tell what their intention is. My level of tolerance is a lot less for them compared to parents. You have a lot more wiggle room to punish them as you can give one yellow for entering without permission and another for their contribution to the melee. If they do enter and help me deescalate, likely no card from me as they have gained my retrospective permission ;)
 

GraemeS

RefChat Addict
Level 5 Referee
Best possible outcome is you get in there fast and stop it escalating. BUT....if you try that and it doesn't work, you're then immediately in the worst possible outcome - mass con with you in the middle! So I think if you're the closest person other than the instigators then there is sometimes a case for getting involved, but if there's any chance of you not being able to stop it, much better to step back, use your whistle for a bit and take notes where possible.

(The above does change if you have NAR's by the way - I would be much more inclined to try and stop it escalating if that's the case. You can go in with a flashed red to try and diffuse i or even get between two playerst, knowing that if something does happen behind you that requires further action, a NAR should catch it.)

Particularly nowadays when you don't have to put in a written report, I find making "blind" notes works well enough. If I have write-on cards, I can pull out my yellow and fairly accurately write numbers in the appropriate place without looking (yellows at top of card, reds at bottom) - you know any yellows will come under AA and any reds will hopefully stick in your memory, so you don't need to write down anything other than one number during this process. It's a touch harder with a notebook - I will tend to just jot down numbers in the top or bottom margin, then transfer notes to the appropriate place once it's all calmed down

I agree with most previous posters with respect to parents and supporters - if they do come on and genuinely try to pull people away then great, but always assume anyone coming on is doing so to cause trouble and work backwards from there.
 

RefJef

RefChat Addict
Level 6 Referee
I had my first (mass con) earlier this season. It was U16, I was on my own (ie, no neutral assistants) and yes, parents did get involved.

My experience? What went well, would be better if ...

Other than the initial couple of protagonist, I had no idea who was doing what, who were the heroes, who were the villains. After what seemed an age, with me standing back and not getting sucked into the middle of the melee, I got both teams separate, sent one team to the penalty area, one team into the centre circle to keep significant physical distance between both sides.

The incident happened right in front of the parents, and about 3 mins before half time. One coach suggested I just blow for half time to allow everything to calm dow, but once the parents had got involved my mind was made up to abandon the match. I was conscious that the first badly timed tackle in the second half would kick it all off again. I was surprised how clear it was to me that I needed to abandon the match.

i did then take the time to visit both teams in their “zones” and explain my decision, and I also went over to the parents to explain my decision making as well. I also insisted that one team remain on the pitch whilst the other team left, so there was no more coming together. All parties (both teams and parents) accepted my decision with good grace. I think it helped that I was quite clear in stating to all, when explaining, that had it all stopped at the initial incident, I would have sent off that player and we could have carried on. I felt (surprisingly!) calm and in control, and I think this helped diffuse the situation. It was a real shame to have to abandon as it was a beautiful early September evening, and a good game of footbal.

The game was filmed, so I have watched back the incident.

The first thing that struck me was how quickly it was all over. At the time it seemed like the mass conf went on for minutes, but in reality it was all over much more quickly. I had correctly picked out the initial protagonist, and the player who retaliated, but completely missed another player who came flying in and would also have been a certain red card had he been seen. (To be fair, on seeing the video, the club concerned unilaterally took action against this individual , ”suspending“ him for their next couple of games). I also didn’t see (until the video) the two keepers who were the peacemakers for both sides and were a real credit to themselves, their clubs and footbal.

TLDR: It’ll all be over much quicker than it feels like at the time, and you won’t see the half of what happens.
 
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OIREF!

RefChat Addict
2) from my experience when the parents/coaches have come on, they have caused many more problems and have actually ended up causing more problems than the players themselves. The way I see it personally if parents enter the FOP the game should be abandoned because it’s a safeguarding issue and can be dangerous for yourself aswell.
I agree completely.
 

santa sangria

RefChat Addict
First priority: your own safety
2nd: Remember numbers

If you can’t see a number, try to remember the hair or boots.

In a proper mass con, realistically, on your own, the two main actors might (will probably!) be all you’ll get.

As a bonus, and something assessors like, is if you spot the player (goalkeeper!) that has run 50 yards to get in and make things worse - then note that and deliver that YC -it’s a nice touch;)
 

one

RefChat Addict
Level 7 Referee
I had my first (mass con) earlier this season. It was U16, I was on my own (ie, no neutral assistants) and yes, parents did get involved.

My experience? What went well, would be better if ...

Other than the initial couple of protagonist, I had no idea who was doing what, who were the heroes, who were the villains. After what seemed an age, with me standing back and not getting sucked into the middle of the melee, I got both teams separate, sent one team to the penalty area, one team into the centre circle to keep significant physical distance between both sides.

The incident happened right in front of the parents, and about 3 mins before half time. One coach suggested I just blow for half time to allow everything to calm dow, but once the parents had got involved my mind was made up to abandon the match. I was conscious that the first badly timed tackle in the second half would kick it all off again. I was surprised how clear it was to me that I needed to abandon the match.

i did then take the time to visit both teams in their “zones” and explain my decision, and I also went over to the parents to explain my decision making as well. I also insisted that one team remain on the pitch whilst the other team left, so there was no more coming together. All parties (both teams and parents) accepted my decision with good grace. I think it helped that I was quite clear in stating to all, when explaining, that had it all stopped at the initial incident, I would have sent off that player and we could have carried on. I felt (surprisingly!) calm and in control, and I think this helped diffuse the situation. It was a real shame to have to abandon as it was a beautiful early September evening, and a good game of footbal.

The game was filmed, so I have watched back the incident.

The first thing that struck me was how quickly it was all over. At the time it seemed like the mass conf went on for minutes, but in reality it was all over much more quickly. I had correctly picked out the initial protagonist, and the player who retaliated, but completely missed another player who came flying in and would also have been a certain red card had he been seen. (To be fair, on seeing the video, the club concerned unilaterally took action against this individual , ”suspending“ him for their next couple of games). I also didn’t see (until the video) the two keepers who were the peacemakers for both sides and were a real credit to themselves, their clubs and footbal.

TLDR: It’ll all be over much quicker than it feels like at the time, and you won’t see the half of what happens.
Even if didn't know before, and I had to guess what you do for a living after reading this post, I would have guessed a teacher . :)

the two main actors might (will probably!) be all you’ll get.
And they are the ones as the highest priority to get.
 
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ComeOnRef

New Member
Level 4 Referee
Some of us on here are lucky enough to have neutral assistants on every game we do. That, admittedly makes it a lot easier.

I always tell my ARs to come on as far as they feel comfortable. No one wants to come flying in and catch a windmilling 6ft 4 CB's fist on their bonce, I tend to keep my distance blow the whistle 3/4 times then just let them get on with it. Once they've finished messing around we will deal with whatever we see RC first then YC.

I find repeating a number/colour in my head when I see an offence helps. Also try and be the calmest person on that field, if you panic, you'll probably miss something. Watch the runners, do the keepers need to be getting involved?

End of the day, we are only human we can only see one thing at a time, be calm, take your time to reach the decisions.
 

spuddy1878

RefChat Addict
I had my first one last Saturday, U15 Junior Premier League game.

A tackle from left winger nothing major but as full back tries to get up the arms start flinging and within seconds the two of them are on the floor rolling round.

I think almost every player was in the mix, i was on my own so no assistants.

Manager of one team ran and despite him being a dick through the first half he managed to dive on top of the two kids and break them up.

Biggest issue i had was one team didnt have numbers on their shirts and every kid in Liverpool has the same hair style at present.

A sub ran on and stamped on a player on the ground.

All in all red shown for two players swinging blows and the stamping substitute.

Only thing i got wrong after sending the sub off i forgot to send him off away from the dug outs and allowed him to sit with other subs until the end of the game.
 

BrumRef

Regular Contributor
Level 8 Referee
I had my first one last Saturday, U15 Junior Premier League game.

A tackle from left winger nothing major but as full back tries to get up the arms start flinging and within seconds the two of them are on the floor rolling round.

I think almost every player was in the mix, i was on my own so no assistants.

Manager of one team ran and despite him being a dick through the first half he managed to dive on top of the two kids and break them up.

Biggest issue i had was one team didnt have numbers on their shirts and every kid in Liverpool has the same hair style at present.

A sub ran on and stamped on a player on the ground.

All in all red shown for two players swinging blows and the stamping substitute.

Only thing i got wrong after sending the sub off i forgot to send him off away from the dug outs and allowed him to sit with other subs until the end of the game.
I was at an u16 which had a bad one with some quite serious accusations against other players luckily I wasn’t the ref I checked on him but he seemed ok just lots of things to fill out after 10 cards and an alleged discrimination incident that I won’t comment on as I am not meant to on this. All came from the keeper holding into the ball after conceding a penalty and being shoved into the back of the net then off the center kick someone kicking the ball away.... very childish for kids this age
 

spuddy1878

RefChat Addict
The thing with the mass con you're advised generally to get the two who started it and anything else is a bonus especially if on your own.

Ive no doubt if we had VAR and going by the LOTG there could possibly be another red somewhere and probably 10 yellows for a mixture of things, i think 6/7 subs all entered FOP but i think overall i done ok in this apart from failing to send the sub away from the FOP.
 

Arbiter

Member
Level 3 Referee
Thankfully I am yet to come across a mass confrontation in any of my games. However I was just looking on how to approach them when it inevitably will happen.

My two questions are:

1) How do you keep track of all that’s going on? For example if you see a player throw a punch, would you write that player down instantly at the risk of missing something whilst looking at your book? Or do you create a mental note a risk the chance of forgetting which player it was who threw the punch? (at the level I am at, I don’t have neutral linos to help me keep on top of it)

2) I do a lot of youth football and in these cases parents and coaches often like to get involved if a scuffle starts to occur. I know that parents and coaches aren’t allowed onto the FOP (particularly in Covid times) but is that not better than it all kicking off, especially with younger players? How would you approach an incident where parents have come on and successfully diffused the situation in say an U13 game?

Any guidance would be much appreciated.

Really good questions. My first mass con was in a national championship gold medal match where I was AR. Talk about high stakes and the pressure of all of the other officials from the tournament, all of the national observers, and all of the spectators and other teams watching. I've had a few since then, but none like that. It is so important to be mentally prepared for these things before they happen so that you can be ready to deal appropriately. They require keen concentration because they happen so infrequently that it can catch you off guard, so well done for thinking about this sort of thing in advance.

To answer your two questions:

1) During the actual mass confrontation, it is important that you keep your eyes open and on the area of confrontation at all times. The fact is that you are incredibly unlikely to catch every incident if you're on your own. You want to focus on the following things: the instigator, the retaliator, the third man in, and any other actions which are, in their own right, violent conduct. That is quite enough to look for when you have (sometimes more than) 22 men all engaging in handbags and otherwise around you. To see all of these incidents, you cannot really be writing in your book. This is why it is so important for officials to practice the ability to see and remember events that occur quickly and even simultaneously. This is something that top level officials train at when they come together.

2) I've always maintained that you need to quickly assess who your friends are and who your enemies are. Your friends are anyone who is trying to diffuse the situation; your enemies are anyone who is trying to incite more problems. My friends can come on and help me, usually by pulling their own players out of the way; my enemies are going to be sent off when the whole thing eventually calms down.
 

Jorik0907

Active Member
Had one a while ago after an awful tackle. Both teams coming in, nothing too awful happened. After what felt like an eternity but probably not more than thirty seconds and ringing ears for anyone in my vicinity, both teams were sent to their halves, three reds (1x SFP, 2VC) and a host of yellows. Everyone happy to carry on and not a peep from either team for the remaining 20 minutes but that felt tense. Mass cons are still a weak part of my game, partly due to them not happening that often and my tendency to often try to calm things down with a flash Red but that didn't work this time around so I was sorta stuck in the middle. Win some, lose some I reckon
 
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