Could’ve been worse! - Tyrell explains decision to halt Manning Cup game, calls for more training for similar occurrences
Former FIFA referee Karl Tyrell has defended his decision to call off an ISSA/Digicel Manning Cup game at the time he did because of a thunderstorm on Monday.
Tyrell, the referee for the Group E game between Wolmers’ Boys and Jamaica College (JC) at the Stadium East Field, put a stop to the event in the 84th minute after players suffered effects of a lightning strike in the area. While some, including JC head coach Davion Ferguson, commended Tyrell for ending the game in the interest of player safety, others believe that he should have taken the decision much earlier.
But Tyrell said that he and the other officials assigned to the game had been monitoring the weather before the game and he said that the decision to call it off came at the right time.
“We saw flashes during the game, but us, the team of officials there, we never saw anything forcing us to call the game right there and then,” he told The Gleaner. “We spoke about it prior to the start of the game, we spoke about it at halftime. When it actually happened, my back was turned. The second assistant, Rolonzo Bennett, he actually saw when the two players went down. He raised his flag and called me over immediately. I went to him, and it was at that point we decided, ‘No, it is too dangerous.’”
Many football bodies across the world, including the United States Soccer Federation, which operates Major League Soccer, and Concacaf, which organise the Gold Cup, North America’s regional tournament, practise what is known as the ‘30-30 rule’.
Tyrell, who has been teaching Physical Education and science at Hillel’s Academy for over 16 years and who is also a FIFA Level Two coach, said that he always practises the rule and employed it on Monday.
“Before that one the (flash that affected the players), it (the lightning and thunder) was five minutes apart. The 30-30 rule states that if you see the first lightning, then you count an estimation of 30 seconds. If there is any within the 30 seconds, you go to immediate shelter. This was done throughout the game.
“What I term to be a flash, I could see a flash half mile away. For the lightning, I would say close to half-time, I saw a lightning. That would’ve dissipated during the half-time break. Each time you are reffing, you see the lightning, you take a look at your watch, you say, ‘Okay, it’s a minute and 30 seconds now’, then you go to two minutes and it’s no more, then it’s safe to continue.”
Tyrell says that his decision was not one mandated by any local football governing body but one taken on his own initiative and from experience officiating internationally.
“It’s a difficult one,” Tyrell told The Gleaner. “I have the experience and exposure of going overseas and doing different tournaments and different trips. So for instance, if you go to Minnesota and the lightning or thunderstorm is 20 miles away, they’re going to end the game right there. In Jamaica and the Caribbean, it’s different. I don’t know how they would go about training lesser experienced refs though.”
He said from what he has seen on his travels, there are specific personnel assigned to football matches elsewhere to monitor weather conditions. He recommends that local games have a similar position filled.
“The 30-30 rule, we instituted it at Hillel because we’re an international school, we go overseas and we participate in football matches,” he said. “I have the privilege of knowing this through different courses. I don’t know what FIFA protocol is, but I can tell you, from CFU (Caribbean Football Union) level, from JFF (Jamaica Football Federation) level, from Concacaf, there is not a lightning protocol, per se, where referees take the decision. It’s normally persons above. So for example, [if] Jamaica play Guatemala in Guatemala, then you will have the stadium announcer, the match commissioner, those persons responsible. Here in Jamaica, we don’t have a protocol.”
Now, he wants lesser experienced local officials to receive proper training to deal with similar incidents in the future.
“I’ve been doing some research on my own,” he said. “I don’t know if persons here in Jamaica have a lightning detector, but for high-profile matches like these, FIFA would have a person, just like a match commissioner, at Red Stripe Premier League games,” he explained, “who liaise with meteorologists. The first time you see lightning, you check it (the detector).”
A similar thunderstorm forced the premature ending to more Manning Cup games yesterday, and Tyrell said that while feeling overwhelmed about the incident taking place in his game, he is happy that others could have learned from it.
The 30-30 rule
- If thunder and lightning occur within 30 seconds of each other, the lightning is considered too close to allow play to continue.
- Play is suspended and cannot resume until at least 30 minutes after the thunder and lightning stop occurring within 30 seconds of each other.
- A notable instance of this rule being employed was during the Gold Cup semi-final between hosts USA and Jamaica on July 3, where the referee halted play for around 90 minutes because of a thunderstorm in the area.
- All players and match officials left the field to seek shelter in their dressing rooms, while spectators were also evacuated from the stands to seek proper shelter indoors.