PIAA doesn’t support ‘diagonal’ pilot program for WPIAL soccer officials

Wednesday, July 17, 2019 | 2:44 PM

WPIAL soccer referees must keep using the “double dual” officiating system, at least for now.

The PIAA board on Wednesday tabled a request for a pilot program in the WPIAL that would have transitioned referees to the “diagonal system of control” used by many soccer organizations worldwide.

The PIAA could eventually change the officiating system used across the state, but it doesn’t support making that switch in the WPIAL alone as a test run, PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said.

“In all my years here, we haven’t had a pilot program,” he said. “I think that sets up inconsistency and also sets up two tiers of standards for officiating. That’s not good.”

The PIAA board met Wednesday in State College.

Lombardi said the tabled discussion will be revisited at a future board meeting, possibly as soon as October. That conversation will involve statewide soccer officiating overall, not just the WPIAL request for a pilot program.

“I’d rather see us heal the patient than just put a bandage on it,” Lombardi said. “I think the board has some other issues there that they want to have a long discussion about.”

The idea was brought to the board by the PIAA Officials Council, which voted 15-6 in June to recommend the pilot program for this fall.

The PIAA now uses a double dual system that’s often referred to as “three whistles” because all three referees are independently able to call fouls.

The officials rotate positions on a set schedule throughout the game, with one in the middle and two on the sides. Critics say that the rotation and multiple whistles cause inconsistent calls.

The diagonal system also has three referees but uses them differently. One referee is permanently in the center of the field — moving diagonally from corner to corner — and two assistant referees are on the sidelines. In this format, only the center referee whistles fouls.

The assistant referees use flags to signal the center referee, who makes the final decision.

Lombardi said he still sees benefits to the current double-dual system even though “traditionalists like the diagonal.”

“Giving each person a whistle stopped the off-the-ball fouls and the behind-the-play fouls that in many cases were abusive or unsportsmanlike,” Lombardi said. “It cleaned up the game and highlighted the players’ skills. The better teams were winning instead of the team that became the most physical.”

The PIAA has now supported double dual for two decades, so switching to something else can’t be a snap decision, Lombardi said. Plans would need to be created for implementation and referee education.

“The double dual has been in existence for 20 years,” he said, “and the board dropped support for the diagonal system 20 years ago. We have some things that we’d need to do procedurally to get that back adopted, if that were to be the direction.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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