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Friday, July 11, 2014

Refereeing, Timekeeping & Floyd v. NY

One of the founders of this blawg has wondered, in private, about the fairness of the soccer timekeeping procedure. In soccer, the referee is the ultimate arbiter of time. The rule that trips up non-soccer aficionados, and perhaps Americans used to a separate timekeeper, is the fact that time is added on after 90 minutes based on delays during the game. The result is the same as in other sports, such as basketball or American football; but the way that soccer goes about it is slightly different—clocks don't publicly stop and start, and a sideline official announces how much "extra time" is added on at the end of each half.

The worry that was raised was one of excessive power. The thought is that, in soccer, there is room to cheat that is not present in public-timekeeping sports. In part, I think this is a cultural phenomenon rather than one specific to soccer. Other team sports, including all the non-American forms of football—rugby football (union and league), association football, Australian Rules Football—and field hockey, cricket, and so on, vest the power to keep time and enforce the timing rules in the same official: the referee/umpire. Where the Americans go for a separation of powers, these other teams do not. So the problem is not that the umpire has a an additional power from a timekeeper, nor that umpire has a different duty (to add on time as delays occur). Rather, the power and duty to keep and enforce time consolidated in same official, rather than separated among different officials, and that power is not open to full public scrutiny.

While separation of powers is a genuine concern, I think the real worry is the lack of publicity, given the consolidation of power in one official. Without the ability to scrutinize timing, the referee's ability to bend the timekeeping rule is greater than in public timekeeping sports. I'll explain how this timekeeping rule implicates Floyd after the jump.

It's worth noting that just because the referee has the ability to cheat, that does not mean she has a normative discretion to vary the timing. She is supposed to enforce the norm by accurately keeping time and ending the game on time. Furthermore, while the referee is not subject to detailed public scrutiny, she is subject to some scrutiny: the fans have watches; the stadiums have clocks, so everyone knows when the game is supposed to end. Hence the fans whistling as the end of extra-time approaches.

Furthermore, if the worry is that extra-time could contribute to match fixing, the that worry is minimal. It is the power to award penalties and offsides—to (virtually) add on or (actually) chalk off goals—that matters most there, and these are powers that no-one denies are vested in the referee. The real worry about misuse in relating to betting is spot-fixing: someone taking a bet on the moment the game will end, which is all that the referee has the power to control.

The lesson for discretion is that, just because the norm is not public, does not mean that the norm does not exist and is not enforced. The flip side is that failures to enforce are indeed departures from the norm and should be disciplined. Just because the referee has the ability to do wrong, does not mean she has the right to do so.

Once again, I think these features demonstrate that the referee is more like a police officer than a judge. A central aspect of judging is the giving of public reasons for decision. In soccer, the timekeeping rule does not require public reasons. Basketball, and other American sports, does provide a public reason for the continuing and ending of the game: the stop clock and buzzer.

The innovation wrought by the US World Cup in 1994 was that the sideline official introduced some transparency by indicating how much extra time should be allowed. The providing of even limited reasons was usefully inclusionary: it allowed neophytes the opportunity to understand what was going on, and provided some guidance to the players. In sociological terms, it increased the legitimacy of the timekeeping process.

Tom Tyler argues that social groups experience and interact with authorities and rules in a variety of ways. Groups may endorse and internalize the rules as valid or legitimate, and so accept the rule-enforcing authority's edicts without pushback. On the other hand, social groups may resist and externalize the rules, and so accept the authority's edicts only grudgingly, or if compelled to do so. The manner and degree to which one is able to participate in the enforcement process colors one’s internalization of the rules as legitimate or authoritative.

Publicizing the timing allows spectators to participate more fully in the timekeeping rule. It promotes a more interpersonal and less authoritarian or hierarchical appreciation of the game. And what is good for refereeing is good for policing. Rules that require the police, not simply to be polite, but to explain their behavior and interact with the pubic are likely to produce greater compliance with police directives.

Intriguingly, this is a feature of Judge Scheindlin's remedial order in Floyd v. NY. The police use form UF-250 in the field to memorialize her reasons for the stop. Judge Scheindling suggested that the form also include a tear-away section so that the person searched could see the reasons for the search, and so understand why the police had stopped and frisked them. Providing some insight into the reasons for the stop operates a bit like public timekeeping: it allows the person stopped to understand the reasons for the stop. I'm not so naive as to believe that providing reasons will obviate all the problems with stop-and-frisk. But, if done properly, undermines, even if only a little, the hierarchical relation between the officer and the person searched. Doctrinally speaking, the remedy demands that the police treat others as equals and articulate their reasons for engaging in a brief, weapons-related pat-down before continuing an encounter (a conversation that does not detain the individual, and so is based on consent rather than force).

I'm a fan of encounter-based policing. I'll explain why in more detail in the next week or two. But the short version is that, because individuals are free to stay or to leave, the interaction with the police is more egalitarian: the individual is able to "walk tall among others and look any in the eye, without reason for fear or deference," as Phillip Pettit, drawing on an 17th Century English republican tradition, puts it. Scholarship on consent certainly provides counter-arguments to this claim. Which is why I like prophylactic rules, and would, for example, favor a "free to leave" warning. But that is for a later post

Posted by Eric Miller on July 11, 2014 at 01:58 PM | Permalink


In the book "Scorecasting," Tobias Moskowitz (an economist) and Jon Wetheim (a journalist) used stoppage in soccer time to try to measure home-field advantage. They found that stoppage time was longer when the home team was trailing in a close game.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Jul 11, 2014 3:08:56 PM

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