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Are changes coming to high school officiating? PIAA votes Wednesday on WPIAL’s pilot program

File Photo by Ed Thompson (from November 2018 WPIAL Boys 2A Final)

There’s some hope that we may finally see some changes in the way scholastic soccer matches are officiated in Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association board must decide in its next board meeting on Wednesday in State College whether to let the WPIAL organize a pilot program that will transition officials to the ‘diagonal system of control’ used by soccer organizations around the world rather than the three whistles format used now in high school competition in Pennsylvania.

The first hurdle has been cleared, as in June, the PIAA Officials Council voted 15-6 to recommend the pilot program.

As we’ve tackled this issue numerous times here on Pittsburgh Soccer Now, there’s been a tremendous push from soccer coaches and those involved in the game to update the system to be in line with the way it’s officiated at most every other level throughout the world.

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The current format used by the high school system allows all three assigned officials to act as referees. There are no linesman.  Each independently roam in designated areas — and can each blow the whistle to call fouls.  Within each match, officials rotate three times per match between the middle and on each the side.

The diagonal system used in most every other version of officiating soccer features one center referee, who whistles fouls, keeps the game book along with two assistant, lines officials. The assistant referees use flags to signal the center referee, who makes the final decision.

“It’s a more consistently officiated game, and it’s what the kids and parents are used to seeing (in club matches),” Bill Sinning, the WPIAL male officials representative and a member of the PIAA Officials Council told Pittsburgh Tribune-Review this week.

If approved, the WPIAL will provide preseason training for soccer officials before implementation. As part of the pilot program, the officials will record statistics on yellow card infractions and disqualifications to report to the PIAA Officials Council in March 2020.

Look for a lot more on this, including news of Wednesday’s PIAA board vote later this week, and as we begin to beef up our coverage for the upcoming WPIAL/PIAA season.  

John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

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