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Marrufo to miss match for accepting gift jersey (updated)

Jair Marrufo 1 ( 

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MLS referee Jair Marrufo will not officiate an MLS match this weekend as punishment for his handling of the Cuauhtemoc Blanco gift jersey situation, the Columbus Dispatch is reporting.

Marrufo, the 2008 MLS referee of the year, received a signed jersey from Blanco after the Chicago Fire-Columbus Crew match, a move that has called into question Marrufo's impartiality and raised some doubts about Marrufo's handling of the Crew-Fire match, which ended in a 2-2 tie and saw Marrufo issue a red card to Crew defender Gino Padula for a foul on Blanco.

"(Marrufo) was informed his actions were unacceptable," U.S. Soccer spokesman Neil Buethe told the Dispatch. "He agreed he made an error in judgment in accepting the jersey after the match. He's not being suspended. (Pulling him off a game) is a chance for him to clear his head a little bit."

The decision to have Marrufo sit this weekend was made by U.S. Soccer officials, which oversee MLS referees. There is no word yet on the Columbus Crew's appeal of Padula's red card.

Buethe clarified one quote attributed to him in the story regarding the possibility of such actions leading to a suspension.

"It's not as if an incident like this would never cause a suspension," Buethe said, pointing out that, depending on the circumstances, a referee could indeed be suspended for accepting a gift from a player.

What do you think of the decision to have Marrufo miss a match? Is that fair enough punishment? Did Marrufo deserve a suspension? Were you hoping he would be fired, or was Jersey-Gate much ado about nothing?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. You guys absolutely crazy.

    You think in other leagues the refs don’t ask the player to sign an autograph for their kid or whatever?? Good lord.

    You need to look in the mirror and seriously think about seeing some professional help.

    Posted by: Chris May | April 30, 2009 at 02:11 PM

    Hey. Guilty as charged. Color me crazy. Welcome to my world.

    I seriously doubt that any self-respecting, exercising good judgment (key phrase) would accept a jersey from a player in a match that he just coached. Not in the English Division 2. Not in the Finnish Basketball First division. Not in Aussie Football. Not in the Venzuelan Winter Baseball league. Hell, I don’t think that a ref ever walked up to Mia Hamm and asked her for her jersey.

    I am absolutely CRAZY. Cue up the Ozzie music and board the train. There is room…

  2. MVK- thank you for following up with Chris.

    Here’s my question – you’re right, it was a jersey, not a car. But it seems like to you, there’s a line somewhere between “jersey” and “car”. What’s that line? Two jerseys? A box of jerseys? A car full of jerseys?

    The line has to be drawn at -NOTHING- or we end up debating where the line is. There can be no appearance of impropriety AT ALL or everything the ref does will forever be questioned. Unfortunately, Maruffo is now tainted and every questionable decision of his will be under much more of a microscope because of this.

    The MLS needed to come down on him HARD to show that no gifts of any kind are remotely acceptable. Blanco wants to give him a jersey? Do it when he retires. As it is, MLS has said that it’s OK to give a gift as long as you play stupid afterwards. Doesn’t look right, doesn’t smell right, and it isn’t right. Period.

  3. Chris May- a gift is a gift, and no, the others dont ask for that because of their profession, it is a breach of ethics. What do you not understand about why this unacceptable simply by principle? A gift is a gift, value doesnt change that; call it a favor, favors of such should not be happening better players and refs. I saw from your link what you do; would you find it ok to take information off clients servers even if its not SS#, no you wouldnt, because that would be ethically wrong and would put into question what you are going to do future clients servers.

  4. The internet brings out the crazies I guess.

    Blanco threw a JERSEY into his locker room.

    It wasn’t a CAR, it wasn’t CASH, it wasn’t a BRIBE, it was a fricking JERSEY.

    You guys absolutely crazy.

    You think in other leagues the refs don’t ask the player to sign an autograph for their kid or whatever?? Good lord.

    You need to look in the mirror and seriously think about seeing some professional help.

  5. this is what I wrote the USSF (courtesy of the link MVK provided above):

    “I live in Minnesota and am not a fan of either the Columbus Crew or the Chicago Fire. My comments below, therefore, do not stem from some fanatical team allegiance.

    I have to say as a fan of the MLS, that I am extremely disappointed with the way the Marrufo incident was handled. In what other league in the world would this situation be handled in such a laughable way? None. A one game “vacation” for calling into question the impartiality of Marrufo, as well as being a black eye on the “professionalism” of how the MLS is handled and run? Accepting a gift from a player is unacceptable in any circumstance, especially after a game, especially after awarding a very convtroversial game-changing call in favor of the player who gave you the jersey.

    I suppose now I can start bringing gifts for the referee’s at my outdoor summer leagues to thank them for coming out? I suppose they can accept cases of beer or gift certificates to restaurants without calling their impartiality into question? You have set a terrible precedent, not just for the MLS, but for all soccer programs that are run by the USSF in this country.”

  6. RRA-I have no problem with adding a second ref. Why the heck not??? How much space is the Dude going to take up on the field, anyways???

  7. yes the refs in MLS suck but the problem is with the whole game and the rules of soccer not just MLS. one referee just can’t be expected to run the field for ninety minutes and not miss a call with the speed of today’s game and all the diving and crap that goes on. FIFA needs to get with the 21st century and reform the rules, add a 2nd referee on the pitch or instant replay or something or this stuff will just keep happening. what do you think about that?

  8. MLS couldn’t do anything b/c it was a US Open Cup game.

    Posted by: brant | April 30, 2009 at 01:24 PM


    Sorry Bro, but you’re a bit off on that one. They gave him some ridiculously small fine for a guy who makes mad loot because he was “an MLS employee”. If it had happened while the Fire were playing the Carolina Railhawks then he wouldn’t have even got a slap on the wrist. United had to try and move mountains just to get the symbolic-“no one is above the law (wink- wink)” reprimand that was handed out. Dude got fined what he probably spends on a couple nice family meals.

    Complete joke…

  9. @BK, who said
    “but then again, what did MLS do when Blanco punched a DC United employee last year?”

    MLS couldn’t do anything b/c it was a US Open Cup game.

  10. Accepting a gift from a player by ref is an indicator of such poor judgment and lack of ethics that he should be fired. What about the next time this ref refs a game, especially a Fire game?

  11. I really like how much pressure is put on refs in Europe, especially England. The FA is all over them. I don’t know if the USSF does the same with refs in the USL and MLS, etc., or if we just don’t hear about it because the news is so clogged with other headlines.

    But I seriously hope that all ref game reports are reviewed by some board in the USSF. If nothing is done to Blanco, then it’s very obvious he is under MLS’s wing.

    We still have a long way to go as far as a competent governing soccer federation is concerned. Hopefully a case like this will help it mature.

  12. BK- no suspension means you get paid; its like when cops murder people, they go on “leave” or a paid vacation that doesnt count against their PDO’s…

  13. Also, I think MVK has a point, shouldn’t Blanco be reprimanded for the poor judgment he made in gifting the Jersey.

    Posted by: Skinn | April 30, 2009 at 10:52 AM

    You’d think so…but then again, what did MLS do when Blanco punched a DC United employee last year? I’m not sure they did anything. The special treatment shown by the league to supposed “star” players, Blanco in particular, is despicable. As is a one-game vacation for an incompetant ref accepting gifts from players. It’s not even clear to me that he is being docked any of his salary.

  14. Kip – the contact was minimal, but there was contact and with studs up…. quite a number of refs would call the foul and throw up a card… while most would throw up the yellow, the red is not too far fetched…

    it was a dangerous tackle.. altho the studs didnt make contact, they could very well have… i wont deny that it was over exaggerated by blanco…

    from a refs point of view, you see a player go STUDS UP against another player, contact of some form was made, and the other player went down like a sniper picked him off…. i doubt many would have done differently unless they were on the other side of blanco to see the miss studs contact….

    either way, the ref missed a PK for CLB and a should-have-been red card on the Nyarko tackle…. it was poor all around

  15. Also, I think MVK has a point, shouldn’t Blanco be reprimanded for the poor judgment he made in gifting the Jersey.

    Posted by: Skinn | April 30, 2009 at 10:52 AM

    What are you on crack?!?!

    Don’t you remember the hue and cry and (laughable) charges of racism when he got that little reprimand for acting like a straight up fool during an USOC match down in DC last year?

    Donny G and crew don’t want to make him angry…

  16. i don’t think he got a “bribe,” but his taking it opened the door to it all. I agree with (I think) brent, that this is a suspension w/o calling it as such. Perhaps a bit lenient. Given what has happened in Germany (and in a different degree, the NBA) more should have been given. Blanco also needs a penalty.

  17. What is a signed Blanco jersey worth? Probably a couple hundred dollars. How would you feel if Blanco had given Marrufo a couple $100 bills after the game?

    Marrufo admitted accepting a “gift” from a player. His impartiality has now been permanently called into question. Therefore he should be banned from ever reffing a professional/international game again. As for Blanco he should be given a couple game suspension by MLS or at least fined.

  18. This is a joke. One match. USSF may run the refs, but MLS can decide who to hire. I don’t think a life ban is necessary–I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that it was a moment of poor judgement, but one-match. Not exactly a strong message. Arguably, the appearance of impropriety is just as important as the intent.

    Also, I think MVK has a point, shouldn’t Blanco be reprimanded for the poor judgment he made in gifting the Jersey.

  19. Brett,

    I don’t want to make this about the red card. We have both agreed the game was called horribly on both sides.

    However, I would suggest you go back and look at the play and then read the rule book before you say the red card was justified. He lead with studs out, no doubt about it. With no actual contact with the studs and the only contact being thigh against thigh at worst it is a yellow card for a potential dangerous play. How you can know soccer but call that a justified red is beyond me and most other people that are not Fire fans.

  20. I didn’t see the match, so I can’t comment on the foul and red card, but when a referee becomes a fan of the players he’s officiating, then he has set aside the professionalism necessary to ensure his impartial observation. He no longer sees the field as having 22 players, he sees the field as having 1 (or more) hero and 21 people who support or obstruct his hero.

    The punishment was too lenient. MLS reffing is questionable as it is, and fans should not be allowed to officiate.

  21. “So a referee accepting a gift jersey from a star player after working a match is frowned upon???”

    Kind of reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where George makes it with the cleaning lady at his office after hours, gives her the cashmere sweater with the stain, she gets bitter and turns him in and he loses his gig.

    Great judgment by Marrufo. I have to talk to my friend who works MLS matches and see if I can get him to talk about this one, “off the record” of course. He’ll probably respond, “C’mon, Yanki-you’re killin’ me. You KNOW that we aren’t supposed to talk about THAT”…

  22. Whoever said the game should be replayed is on crack. Suspension of Maruffo and maybe even overturning of the red. But the red wasn’t the worst I’ve seen (though it was bad).

    Now if the gift was received before the match (or promised), then that would be a whole different story.

  23. the ref was poor on BOTH sides of the game….

    the red card was justified whether or not the contact was minimal….

    but this punishment is not extreme enough… should have made an example… NJRB suffered a 2 player 10 game suspension of a drug-enhancing related issue (despite it being herbal or whatever it was)…. the league made an example… people will think twice…. the ref needed to be made an example off his poor poor judgment….

  24. Can’t really say Mickey Mouse League since the refs fall under the soccer federation, that makes it a whole mickey mouse soccer federation.

    No respectable federation in the world would allow this, not only is it against FIFA regulations but it just smells like a bigger dead fish because it involved the “mystery” red card and penalty.

    Perception is everything, and in this case I perceive it that Blanca ( casue he’s a diving she-dog) approached him before the game and struck a deal for “protection” and then repaved him with the shirt, wow to even go as far as wait in the hall to give the “Malfoy” his signed jersey..

    And to get a 1 game day off is just pathetic, Mickey mouse Federation and Mickey Mouse League.

  25. Was there any comment on his reffing in the LA/DC home opener where he had the bogus red card and left bleeding players on the field for over a minute? I know that incident lead to a strongly worded memo being sent out to all MLS refs.

    Marufo did not ref an MLS match for a few weeks after that incident. Was that a suspension too? Marufo has to be at the bottom of the MLS fantasy referee pool.

  26. I’d love to see an in depth article on ref training and development in the US, Ives.

    Posted by: Landis

    I agree. It seems very murky how refs are promoted, maintain their professional status and how they are evaluated.

    I would like to know what, if anything MLS does to help officiatting develop. Ives – can you help educate us fans?

  27. It was blown out of proportion because of the amount of questionable calls including that red card on Padula. The fact that Marrufo has family friends with Blanco and all that compounds the situation. The gift itsself is not as big of a deal till you add everything else in. That said, as a profesional in his line of work, he shouldn’t accept gifts from players ever.

    From a supporters stand point, atleast we have something to make fun of him for, a couple of cheers for a bribe to win the game, maybe a big present/Blanco Jersey on a stick. May as well have some fun with it seeing as the league is to much of a joke to do be serious about this situation…

  28. If you can honestly call this insignificant then you are either a Fire fan in denial or someone who has no sense of the ethics of sports.

    This was improper and had to be dealt with, and probably to a deeper extent than what they actually did. Dare I say other leagues around the world would have handed out a heavier punishment for even the appearance of something improper happening.

  29. Seems fair considering the offense. I could see him getting fired for his refereeing decisions, though. Poor judgment on and off the pitch.

  30. Tempest in a very very small teapot.

    I am more concerned with the difficulties the league is going to have recruiting referees in the future if they are going to overreact to such insignificant nonsense.

  31. please bring gift wrapped packages to future games that Marrufo has (and go ahead and throw them next to he field after he screws your team with a laughable dive from some scum on the other team) and an empty kiddie pool to Fire games for Blanco to dive in (hopefully he will dive from the high dive into it)

  32. Wow, I am shocked. It just shows how ridiculous the referee situation in MLS is and how little the league and USSF cares about ref development. It reflects poorly on MLS as a whole. Could you imagine if a ref in EPL accepted a shirt from Torres, Rooney, Ronaldo, etc? They’d be suspended indefinately.

    I’d love to see an in depth article on ref training and development in the US, Ives.

  33. “MLS referee Jair Marrufo will not officiate an MLS match this weekend as punishment”

    One game!? That’s it!? that’s only 1/30 of his yearly salary. Worthless. Great job MLS!

    What about Blanco, he is in the wrong moreso than Marrufo.

  34. It’s a suspension that’s not being called a suspension, so that the league doesn’t feel obligated to also overturn the red card to Padula, which might lead to a wider protest of the game as a whole….

  35. What was given as a gift means nothing, a gift is a gift: money, jerseys, gift certificates to Applebee’s, they are all gifts. Rules are rules and its pathetic that the horrible red card causes a bigger punishment than accepting a gift from a player who caused the red card to be pulled with his Oscar preformance. Blanco violated rules as well and should be suspended, but we now see the league is fine catering to players that ignore professional standards on top of diving anytime they are touched.

  36. He reached into the cookie jar when he wasn’t supposed to and got his hand slapped. From what I’ve read about the incident the punishment seems fair.

  37. i Think this is much to do about nothing.

    blown up because he gave a red card during the match, a whole lot of BS for nothing.


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