NCAA Soccer Rule 12.13; Assault on a Referee

by John Puglisi, NISOA Past - President, NISOA National clinician and NISOA local assessor.

One of the challenges referees face throughout the college soccer season is understanding and applying the NCAA Soccer Rules particularly in areas that differ from other governing bodies like US Soccer or the NFHSAA. NISOA continually emphasizes the importance of understanding intercollegiate soccer match reporting requirements especially where player eligibility issues (a significant source of protests) are involved.The NCAA Soccer Rules are very specific in defining the criteria, reporting requirements and player eligibility impacts when dealing with player and bench personnel ejections. Every NISOA National Referee Academy and NISOA Referee Training Camp includes a clinic session on how to handle fighting ejections (Rule 12.3.3) which are specific to intercollegiate soccer. There are also numerous articles on this site as well as on how to identify, manage and report fighting ejections. One rule that, while similar to Rule 12.3.3, deserves as much attention is Rule 12.13, Assault on a Referee.

Rule 12.13 states, “Physical contact with game officials (or any threat of physical intimidation or harm, including pushing, shoving, spitting, kicking, throwing at or attempting to make physical contact) will not be tolerated….” I recently received a phone call from a referee who had ejected a player for violent behavior. The referee described the incident and asked me if he should report it as assault on the referee. Based on the description of the incident and a review of Rule 12.13, I agreed with the referee’s decision to eject the player for violent behavior but it did not appear to be a case of assault on the referee. Subsequently, I reviewed the video of the incident which confirmed the referee’s decision, in my opinion.

The procedure for reporting a referee assault ejection under Rule 12.13 is very similar to the procedure for a fighting ejection (Rule The referee is required to notify the player(s), the head coach(s) and official scorekeeper that an ejection for referee assault was issued. The 2014-2015 NCAA Soccer Rules indicate an additional suspension for a referee assault. The additional sanction makes it extremely important that the referee strictly follows the notification (at the field and before the referee’s jurisdiction ends) and reporting procedures (report filed on the forms section of the  NCAA Soccer Central Hub). In the case above, the referee did not follow the notification procedure in Rule 12.13. If the referee filed a referee assault report after the game, it would result in unnecessary confusion about the player’s eligibility and imposed suspension.

The decision to eject a player for referee assault must be made at the field and before the referee’s jurisdiction ends. While referee assaults are relatively rare, the officiating crew must be prepared to deal with them before the incident occurs. I recommend the following procedure:

  • Review the incident with the entire officiating crew immediately.
  • Determine if the incident was referee assault as defined in Rule 12.13.
  • Determine if the game should be suspended under Rule 7.5.
  • Based on the determinations above, notify the player(s), head coach(s) and the official scorekeeper as required.
  • After the game, file a report to the governing sports authority through the NCAA Soccer Central Hub as required.

This entry was posted on Thursday, September 18th, 2014 at 11:31 am and is filed under Instruction with keyword(s) ,,. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

1 Comment so far

  1. Michael Moskowitz says:

    I read John’s article regarding an Assault on a Referee with great interest.

    Unfortunately, I was the victim of an assault during an NCAA Division I game by a coach many years ago. THE MISTAKE I MADE WAS TO CONTINUE THE GAME. However, I learned from my mistake. Whenever an official is assaulted the game should not be continued. Whether the game is suspended, not yet considered official due to time constraints or is considered official by the governing body, should not be the concern of the referee. The health of the referee is paramount.

    Any assault is a very serious matter. Considerations include the possibility of future legal action by the referee, a physical problem for the referee which may become evident later in the day and the mental health of the referee should the game be allowed to continue. In addition, intercollegiate athletes are “students” first and foremost. The field is an extension of the classroom and “students” would be arrested if they were to assault a classroom professor. An example must be set for the students so this type of incident does not occur again.

    Deal with the problem in a professional manner while communicating with your game partners. Notify the official scorekeeper that the game has ended by signing the score book and noting the reason for the game termination. Leave the field with your partners on the officiating team. Prepare written reports which are signed by the officiating team and make copies for your partners before going home, Follow the proscribed procedures for notifying the proper authorities and should you have any concerns regarding your mental or physical health, immediately file a police report with the local authorities and see a physician to note the problem affecting you.

    Michael Moskowitz
    NISOA President 1992-1993