More on MLS tweaks for 2013: Stay on the bench; hands down; leave officials alone

7 Comments

Steven Goff’s report went beyond mass confrontations, though that was the big one. The Washington Post’s reporter relayed a few other tweaks, all of which come down to enforcing certain standards of in-game (or, in one case, around the game) conduct.

In short: (a) Stay on the sidelines until you’re given permission to do otherwise; (b) Never (like, ever) make contact above an opponent’s shoulders, and; (c) Don’t bird dog the officials.

Or, as Goff more formally puts it:

1. Players, coaches and team personnel, aside from medical staff, are subject to suspension for leaving the bench area and entering the field. (The NBA has a similar rule.)

2. Any action involving a hand to the face or head of an opponent, even a light slap with the purpose of inciting and not injuring, is subject to fine and suspension.

3. A coach or staff member approaching match officials from the time they arrive at the stadium until they depart is subject to fine and suspension.

The third rule hits home for me, mostly because I’ve already used this space to talk about the issue. Following officials down the tunnel to plead your case — after the match is over, when it can’t possibly have an effect — is useless. Actually, that’s the best-case scenario. Often it involves a confrontation in a state of heightened emotion. It always involves the implication of physicality.

Not all players impose themselves when arguing with officials, but often, you have a world-class athlete infringing on the space of somebody who should be off-limits. Nothing good can come from that dynamic. While not all world-class athletes are that physically imposing, the rules for Kenny Cooper have to be the same as those for David Ferreira.

If an official royally blew a call, it’s often reflexive to yell and plead and potentially insult. But there’s no reason to precipitate a physical confrontation by getting in an official’s face. If your complaints are so important that you’re willing to resort to that, take your case to the league. Your on-field appeals will never work.

Jeff Agoos, MLS’s director of competition, told the Post the new rules intend to “make the game more entertaining and less of a spectacle [in terms of] the things around it.”

I don’t if they’ll work, but the changes certainly won’t hurt.