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UnPlayable Field Condition Protocol

When the field has become unplayable, suspend the match and contact the assignor to inform him of the situation.  If you (as the referee) decide to terminate the match because of poor field conditions , NFHS rules state that "the head referee shall declare it an official game if one complete half or more of the game has been played." If the game is terminated with less than one-half of the game has been played, it is up to the conference or the schools to reschedule the match.

What if I think a field is unplayable when I first arrive at the field?

Ask the head coach of the home school to contact the site administrator (usually the AD or a vice principal) and have them make a determination prior to the start of the match.  If the administrator determines that the field is okay to play, then the match should be started.

NFHS rules state that "until the moment the game begins, it is the responsibility of the host institution or game management to judge whether or not the condition of the field, the elements, and other conditions affecting the safety of the field of play allow for a safe game to begin.  Once the game begins, and until it ends, the determination of whether or not the game may safely be continued shall be made by the referee" (Rule 1.7).

What if the site administrator determines that the field is playable?

Contact the assignor, perform the pregame conference.  Start the match and if during play you determine the unplayable condition exists, suspend or terminate the match as described above.

What if site administrator determines that the field is unplayable?

Inform the assignor of the decision made by the site administrator, gather your stuff, and drive home safely.

What if the first game of a double header is terminated because of poor field conditions?

You have terminated the first game, but you do not have the authority to terminate the second game.  Even though the field was determined unplayable by the referee in the first game, the referee crew MUST remain at the field, and be ready to officiate, until, at least, the start of the next scheduled game.  As soon as the first game is terminated because of unplayable conditions, go to the home coach and encourage the coach to get the site administrator to the field so that a determination on whether or not the field is playable can be made by the site administrator. 

What if the site administrator never came to the field?

Contact the assignor.  Perform the pregame conference.  Start the match and If the unplayable condition still exist, suspend or terminate the match as described above.

What if the site administrator determines that the field is playable?

Contact the assignor.  Perform the pregame conference.  Start the match and if during play you determine unplayable condition exists, suspend or terminate the match as described above.

What if site administrator determines that the field is unplayable?

Inform the assignor of the decision made by the site administrator, gather your stuff, and drive home safely.

Can an artificial turf field become unplayable?

Yes!  Some fields do not drain properly and under heavy rains water can puddle up on some field or cause the turf to bubble up.  If these conditions occur and they cause a safety issue to the players, then the field has become unplayable.

Additionally, turf fields can often have irrigation or other in-ground control boxes near the edge of fields that can present safety issues.

What if the stadium lights turn off/don't turn on/are insufficient?

It depends on when the event occurs:

  • If the problem occurs before the match begins, then the issue should be resolved with by site administrator with assistance of the referee.  Keep the assignor informed.
  • If the problem occurs during the match begins, then the game should be suspended until the issue can be fixed.  If the issue cannot be fixed within a reasonable amount of time the game should be terminated.  Contact the assignor for guidance.

What else should I know?

The NFHS rules are clear, once the game has begun, the referee has the power to determine whether or not the field is playable.  After that and until the next game begins, "the host institution or game management" has the power. NOT the referees. NOT the assignor. ONLY the host institution or game management".

This procedure may take a few extra minutes than hoped, but, since the referee crew followed the NFHS rules, the window to protest the referee's decision is VERY SMALL; the NFHS rules were followed.

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