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Making Sense of What Happened With the Referee on Sunday

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Leverkusen manager Roger Schmidt refused to accept his match ban, and then things went haywire.

Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images

Borussia Dortmund finally made the breakthrough in the 65th minute when Erik Durm and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang completed counter attacking football to perfection. Auba slotted home an easy finish for what would end up being the game's only goal.

But it was what happened before the goal that sprang controversy.

After a Leverkusen foul just outside their own offensive third, Dortmund opted for a quick restart and raced up the pitch while Leverkusen players continued to argue with the official. The counter-attack paid off, igniting Leverkusen manager Roger Schmidt.

Leverkusen striker Stefan Kiessling continued to discuss the play with referee Felix Zwayer. On the television, audio picked up from Schmidt saying "Why should I go up to the stands?" was heard.

Kiessling went over to tell Schmidt of his banishment, much to the chagrin of the Leverkusen manager, who refused to leave the sideline. That was enough for Zwayer who removed his officiating team from the pitch for 15 minutes before Schmidt accepted his ban and play was allowed to begin.

After doing some research, a passage in the U.S. Soccer Federation's rule book helps better explain the incident and the referee's actions.

From the USSF Publication Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game

Coaches and other team officials are expected to behave responsibly. (See Law 5 and Interpretations of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees, the only places in the Laws that team officials are mentioned.) The intelligent referee will generally disregard coaching comments, unless they become openly disrespectful of the game and of the referee. The referee's first line of defense (unless the behavior is REALLY egregious) is to warn the coach who is behaving irresponsibly. This is the equivalent of a caution, but no card is shown. Then, when the behavior persists (as it usually does, because most coaches who behave this way fail to understand that they must change their errant ways), the coach is expelled from the field for failing to behave in a responsible manner. Please note that under the Laws of the Game, no card may be shown; however, showing the card may be a requirement of the rules of the competition.

Unless the matter is particularly grave, the referee would usually wait until the next stoppage. However, if the situation is indeed grave — as any case of abuse would be — then stopping the game and drawing attention to the matter is an excellent tool in and of itself. Proactive steps such as the admonition of the coach will usually prevent players who become disgusted with their coach's behavior from acting out and thus becoming subject to punishment themselves. It sends a clear message that the referee is serious about the matter. In such cases, the referee would stop play with the ball in the possession of the abusive coach's team (if possible), advise the coach or other team official that this behavior is irresponsible and must stop if the coach or other team official wishes to remain in the vicinity of the field. If this warning is not effective, then another stoppage and the expulsion of the coach must follow. No cards, please, unless the rules of the competition require them. Also, do not engage in extended discussions when doing this in any circumstances: State the message and leave.

In all events you should prepare a supplemental game report or letter to the league on the matter. You might also suggest in the report or letter that they send someone to monitor a couple of games. The letter could be written in such a way that says perhaps the coach was having a bad day, but it should suggest that it might be beneficial to the children involved if someone from the league dropped in for a game or two just to make sure.

More news about the incident is expected shortly. However, based on the above explanation, the ref acted completely within his rights.