IM Ref-erendum?

Intramural referees seem to have it easy: they get paid $12 an hour to watch their classmates play sports. But for IM soccer referees, wielding the whistle may actually come with a price.

Despite their best efforts, intramural soccer referees have had to endure harsh criticism from players who call them lazy and incompetent.

Within the IM soccer community, tensions run high and there has been an increasing disapproval of the referee system throughout the season, according to players who regularly parcipate in IM soccer games

The reason behind this growing sentiment is that players of various skill levels approach the game with an even wider range of expectations, both for the competition and for the referees, students said.

Some of the soccer faithful have been playing soccer their entire lives, and they expect a level of professionalism from the referees, specifically in making calls. At the same time, there are just as many students who step onto the field without having ever played the sport and were only dragged out to prevent their colleges from forfeiting the game.

Pierson IM secretary Drew Henry ’09 knows that this variety in players’ skills is a recipe for disaster.

“In IM soccer there is this running joke of people who say, ‘Relax guys. It’s just IMs,’ ” he said. “But a lot of players take soccer really seriously.”

That’s not surprising. IM soccer contributes more points than any other sport to Tyng Cup standings, with each win worth 11 points. And when games are decided by only one goal or one blow of the whistle, players look to the referees to provide as balanced a playing field as possible.

“There is a lot of ambiguity in soccer,” IM coordinator Ian Halpern ’10 said. “Other sports are more objective. This is why the referees are so important in soccer.”

Halpern, last year’s head IM soccer referee, acknowledged that there is a lot of power in the referee’s hands. He himself tries to recruit referees who have experience playing the sport and are confident in making difficult calls when blowing the whistle.

One of the newest recruits to referee soccer games is Lorenzo Ramos-Mucci ’12. Although he is new to Yale and its intramural sports, he has been a lifelong soccer player and referee. Even though he has refereed high school games back at home, as well as club and graduate school games here at Yale, he said intramural soccer is the most intense league he has seen.

“The games are definitely intense and very physical, especially the close matches,” he said. “There’s a lot of pressure to make good calls.”

Ramos-Mucci’s comments speak to another growing concern among the referees — their ability to control games and ensure the safety of players.

“It’s important because it’s not just an issue of the quality of sport experience for us, the IM players, but also because it’s a major issue of safety,” Pierson IM soccer player hris Kaimmer ’09 said of the quality of refereeing. “Especially with IMs, people might be new to the sport, unfamiliar with the rules, or just more likely to get overly aggressive. If you don’t have a referee in there who understands the game and can control it, then it’s a problem.”

But the referees yield more power over players than most students realize. Rules made available on the Intramural Web site state that referees have the right to expel players.

“Certain behavior deemed inappropriate by the referee may result in a warning to or ejection of a player,” the rules read. “Examples of this behavior include: persistent infringement of the rules; unsportsmanlike conduct; foul or abusive language; violent or dangerous actions; and/or serious foul play.”

In addition, players may be indefinitely suspended from all intramural sports and only reinstated after a hearing with the intramural director or an ad hoc disciplinary committee.

But players contend that this provision does not address the central problem behind the referees. They want to see referee training programs to prepare referees with the skills to control games so that overly aggressive behavior will not result in injuries or contested results. They argue that this sort of training would prevent situations in which referees would need to use their rights to eject players. Although many referees have played soccer their entire lives, there are certain rules that are specific to intramural soccer.

Director of Intramural Sports Carlos Pinela estimates that he hears a complaint about referees almost everyday.

Halpern said, “We probably should have a training program, but it’s not really feasible — Yale students are just busy, and we already appreciate our referees for coming out to games.”

The difficulty that faces the fall season is that it begins simultaneously with the school year, leaving little time to prepare referees. But for the winter season, Pinela holds a basketball training clinic to prepare students for their jobs as officials. He said the main difference in refereeing for fall and winter sports is that there is more time both to recruit and to train referees before the winter season begins.

Pinela acknowledged that while the system might not be perfect, players should understand that referees are making an effort to provide the best experience for the players.

“All officials are under a blanket of scrutiny,” he said. “I just hope the players don’t forget that these referees are their fellow classmates. They’re trying to improve for the enjoyment of all.”

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