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Red Stars’ coach Rory Dames calls for consistency in NWSL refereeing

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The consistency of refereeing in the NWSL is once again being called into question.

Following Sunday’s game between the OL Reign and Kansas City, in which OL Reign goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi received a red card, Chicago Red Stars coach Rory Dames expressed his wish for consistency in the refereeing following Chicago’s game against Houston.

“Just some sort of level of consistency would certainly be better for everybody,” Dames said. “There’s absolutely no question the players deserve that, and the fans deserve that too.”

Dames also recognized that for most of the referees — who he called “very good people” — this is not their full-time job, and they also don’t run the risk of losing their job. He stressed wanting to understand what the accountability is when referees do get a call wrong. 

“I think what’s been frustrating for us as coaches, is if you get two or three bad results in a row where the referees directly impacted it you lose your job,” he said. “As players, you lose your spot on the field. But the same referees keep showing up week after week after week after week.”

It’s not the first time Dames has called out the refereeing in the NWSL. Back in May, following the Red Stars’ game against the Dash, Dames called the level of refereeing “poor” with “no consistency from game to game.”

“You have no idea what’s a foul,” he said. “The level of officiating this year is back to year one… The officiating is a big problem right now and it’s something the league needs to address.”

Complaints regarding refs are nothing new in the NWSL. Back in 2019, Ali Krieger called out the level of officiating following a loss that was decided by a wrong-call by officials, stating that the standards needed to be “higher.”

“I beg the NWSL to just get… just the standard needs to be higher,” she said. “It’s just unfortunate that you feel like the referees ruin the game. They’re taking the fun out of the game because they’re not good enough. I don’t mean to place blame, but I’m so tired of coming out every Saturday or Sunday, and the standard is so low when we are trying to pick the standard up so high. The referees are just not good enough. Male, female, it doesn’t matter. We need good referees.”

Following Gotham FC’s game against the Portland Thorns on Sunday, Gotham FC midfielder Allie Long also said that the inconsistency alters the way she plays.

“You cannot rely on the referees,” she said. “I’m forcing myself to kind of hold my ground and stay up the best I can, because I know if I go down and the ball pops up, that who knows if there’ll be a foul on that.”