Ref Focus: Boys, Girls and how referees call their matches

Ray Moffatte Jr. is back with another entry in our “Ref Focus” soccer refereeing series.

Is it any different when reffing a female soccer match as opposed to a male one?

There is plenty of talk about coaching to genders.

Here’s what Ray had to say…

by Ray Moffatte Jr.

How are soccer matches different between genders? How is it same / different refereeing men/boys and women/girls? The comments from the fans of each gender are consistent; for the boys/men “we let them play too rough” and for the girls/women “Let them play!”


The first thing you need to know is where the majority of the fouls come from when refereeing the different genders. Men do the majority of their damage with their shoulders. Women do their damage with their hips. Each area is where the strength of each gender is concentrated. I’ve mentioned before that soccer is supposed to be a non contact sport. Unfortunately the way the game is played at the highest level is that a limited amount of contact is allowed within reason to allow for a free flowing exciting game. The goal of a referee is to manage that activity and keep games safe while doing so.


Dealing with the mentality of the player is a learned art. Males, as they get older, like to challenge authority. Thus they like to test you verbally to see where the referee will draw the line on how much discussion will take place. Females on the other hand will try to use emotion to get the best of the referee on game day.

When things go badly for males on the field, their emotions get the best of them right away. Male players will see retribution on the spot. If they are on the receiving end of a hard foul, had the ball stolen from them or were just “schooled” by an opponent (maybe being “nutmegged”) a male player will seek that player out for a little payback.

Females on the other hand don’t necessarily have to solve problems on the spot. Young ladies have been known to have memories like elephants; they never forget. They will take their time to solve their problems. They have been known to get their payback in the return match or even during the next season. It is important to be on your toes when ladies are playing; when their games explode it comes out of nowhere.

Style of play

While the possession game is making headway in America, males still try to play over the top when the opportunity presents itself. The long ball over the top is a common style of play; regardless if they are playing a 4-4-2, 3-4-3 or any other formation. The games are often played at frenetic pace with players all over the place. There are often some heavy fouls early in a contest just to see what they can get away with.

The womens game is not as fast. Not saying that women are slow; the pace is just toned down a little. Women play a more horizontal game; forcing a referee to make sure that they get a little wider during a contest as the ball is moving up and down the field. A referee must be a little patient as the possession develops leading to shots on goal.

Dealing with Trouble

It is important how a referee deals with players. It is a constant struggle. For me it is all about respect, I try to give respect whenever I can. But then I hope that the players give that same respect in return. I will say in general that I am “a little sterner” with males than with females. Right now I’m trying some new things.

I try to use my whistle to get my point across. If that doesn’t work I will isolate the player and have a quiet word with a player in an effort to get them to change their behavior. When that doesn’t work I will make more of a public issue of how I feel. Letting all the players on the field and those close to the field know that I’m not happy. If that doesn’t work, then the Yellow Card may make an appearance.

Always remember if the behavior is such that a warning is not enough, a card may be shown earlier in the sequence. This one area of the game where there is more equity than any other part of the game.

The Male game and the Female game bring different things to the field. A good referee must understand the difference between the two and be ready for what is in front of them on game day.


3 thoughts on “Ref Focus: Boys, Girls and how referees call their matches

  1. I would guess that referees position themselves on corner kicks based on age and crossing ability more than gender.

    1. For Referee’s the standard position for a corner is opposite of the lead AR, where the arc intersects the plenty area. Start there and then change your positioning based on the game and the age level.

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