After a weekend of NWSL action that saw multiple cards and complaints about referees, the league announced it has handed down fines to two coaches and a player.
Acting Houston Dash head coach Omar Morales, Dash player Amber Brooks, and FC Kansas City head coach Vlatko Andonovski were all fined an “undisclosed amount for comments critical of the match officials” after their respective games. Brooks also received an additional fine for “an inappropriate gesture” on the field.
FCKC lost 2-3 to Sky Blue FC after Shea Groom was red carded for violent conduct at the end of the first half and KC had to defend with 10, leading to an incredible 12-minute hat trick comeback from Sam Kerr. Before this, KC had been having quite a good game, spurred in part by the movement of Christina Gibbons to central mid to deal with another red card the game before when FCKC lost 1-2 to the Houston Dash. You can see the Groom foul here at 0:40:
Andonovski had this to say afterwards:
As for Houston, the Dash ended up tying Portland 1-1 but saw Carli Lloyd carded off in the 90’ for a challenge that saw her cleats going into a player’s thigh. Lloyd’s foul and ensuing vigorous dissent are here at 2:40:
Like in the FCKC game, Lloyd herself was doing well until her red card, which just makes it even more silly to go out at the end of the game like that. Lloyd also had opinions about the situation which she posted on twitter, but most of them have been deleted now, which perhaps helped her avoid a fine.
Teammate Amber Brooks wasn’t so lucky as she posted this opinion:
Morales clearly felt the same, elaborating in post-game comments.
The hell of it is, Brooks, Morales, and Andonovski aren’t entirely wrong. The quality of reffing in NWSL has been a longstanding issue; it’s not as though frustration with these issues is only now spilling over into loud public criticism. Just last season the Seattle Reign were fined by NWSL for criticizing a referee in their post-game press release. Former Boston Breakers head coach Tom Durkin and GM Lee Billiard were fined for criticism in 2014. Reign head coach Laura Harvey was also fined in 2013 for saying “the referees are a joke.”
There is apparently a process by which teams can note criticism of referees in post-game assessment forms, and PRO assessors supposedly attend some NWSL games. But it’s clearly not a sufficient outlet if coaches and players are giving such frank opinions on social media and to the press.
What can be done here? Clearly PRO needs to invest more in training for the refs it assigns to NWSL. On the NWSL side, there’s no appeals process for red cards. Perhaps that should change as well, helping to guide the inevitable negative feelings around a red card into an official channel. Referees can and do make mistakes, just like anyone else on the field, and a review process benefits them too by either confirming they made the right call or (hopfeully) teaching them why they were wrong. Let’s go easy on the inappropriate gestures though, maybe.