Referee Stan Smit: "Players have less time to respond"

For the 2023 Otten Innovation Cup, players had different rules than what they were used to, for example there were no throw ins, which were replaced by a kick in or a dribble in to restart play when the ball went out. But it wasn't just the players who had to get used to these changes, it was the referees too, so we caught up with referee Stan Smit, who officiated five matches at this innovative tournament, to find out how he got on with these new regulations.

Stan, tell us about your experience at the Otten Innovation Cup as a referee and coping with some of the new rule changes...

I really enjoyed it. The new regulations create a very different kind of soccer; it's much faster. The game also becomes more exciting, we mentioned that in the locker room. It often happened that one half lasted 32 minutes, even though it was 25 minutes of actual playtime. We found that quite manageable. What we did notice is that it becomes very intensive because of this, both for the players and the referees. I've officiated five matches now, and I can feel it. So, it was intense, but a lot of fun.

Are there any advantages to these rules for you as a referee?

Absolutely. It has to do with the quick restarts, among other things. What we noticed is that players don't get a chance to react to us. They can, but by the time they do, the game has already resumed. This is a rather positive development for us as officials.

And were there any disadvantages to these rules?

It was mainly an adjustment. Normally, if you want to issue a warning, for instance, you have some time for that. You can easily address someone without the game moving too fast. In the PSV vs. Manchester United match, for example, a goal was scored from such a situation. Before I knew it, it was 0-1. You have to be aware as a referee that there's less time and choose more carefully when to give a warning or not. We noticed this with yellow cards too. You have to take more control, and make it clear to the players when they need to wait for the whistle.

Have you, as referees, come to a collective conclusion on the rule changes while at the Otten Innovation Cup?

Overall, we are definitely positive about the new rules. We have discussed with some of the officiating staff that we are very positive about things like quick throw-ins and quick restarts. This speeds up the game and reduces protests to the officials. The continuous substitutions were a bit more challenging; it made it harder to keep track. Sometimes you saw players waiting to take a throw-in so that a substitution could be made. One possible solution might be to require the game to resume within 5 or 10 seconds after a throw-in. That could reduce delays in such moments. In this tournament, 2x25 minutes of actual playtime seemed a bit long. I think, under normal circumstances, for a game lasting 2x45 minutes, you should count about 30 minutes per half of actual playtime.

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