I would like to know, if a player refused to walk back to the referee after being called several times is an expulsion for dissent?

Answer (September 29, 2014):
While it is common practice and tradition that the player do so, I can find no written requirement in the Laws that the player must come to the referee when called or beckoned. However, at least in my opinion, a player who refuses to walk back to the referee is only asking for more trouble than he already has. On the other hand, unless there is a body on the ground or some other good reason for the referee to stand fixed in one spot, there is no excuse for him to remain standing and not walking a few yards himself. Too many referees have a “dictator” complex, rather than understanding that a bit of give and take never hurts in maintaining professional relations during a game.

Dissent is punished for either word or action, and refusing to do what the referee asks could surely be considered as possible dissent. However, unless the player has already been (or is about to be) cautioned, there is no such thing as expulsion for dissent. If the referee has already decided to caution the player for an earlier offense, then a dismissal for the current offense of dissent would he legitimate — and truly caused by the player himself.

Categories: Law 5 - Referee

Player takes a throw-in, throws ball at opponent (not hard or violent) bounces off opponent, throw takes possession of ball.
This was happening all game and I think thrower was intentionally doing hit.
Can you help me?

Answer (September17, 2014):

This tactic, if performed as you describe it, is perfectly legal. U. S. Soccer’s guidance to referees is that if a throw-in taken in such a way that the ball strikes an opponent is not by itself a violation of the Law. The act must be evaluated separately as a form of striking and dealt with appropriately if judged to be unsporting behavior (caution) or violent conduct (send off from the field). In either event, if deemed a violation, the restart is located at the place where the throw-in struck the opponent. If the throw-in is deemed to have been taken incorrectly, the correct restart is a throw-in.

An instructor asks: Before we start teaching the recert clinics this year, I want to make sure I understand the change in Law 4.
Am I to interpret “head cover” as meaning any type of hat (or other head covering) that the referee deems safe?
I just want to make sure that it is meant to include “hats and caps” – like a knit hat or skull type cap with no protrusions

Answer (September 5, 2014):
With one slight addition, we see no reason why you should need to state anything other than what is stated in FIFA Circular 1419 of May 2014 for Law 4:

Where head covers are worn, they must
* be black or of the same main color as the jersey (provided that the players of the same team wear the same color)
* be in keeping with the professional appearance of the player’s equipment
* not be attached to the jersey
* not pose any danger to the player wearing it or any other player (e.g. opening/closing mechanism around neck)
* not have any parts extending out from the surface (protruding elements)


After a two-year pilot, there is no indication as to why the wearing of head covers should be prohibited, as long as their design restrictions are respected as defined in the pilot. Furthermore, the male football community also raised the need for male players to be permitted to wear head covers, as it was considered discriminative.

Hats or soft caps that are safe for all participants would be permitted. Equipment not permitted still includes snoods (a net or fabric bag pinned or tied on at the back of a man’s or woman’s head for holding the hair)

In USSF if a second AR is not present for the game how should we proceed with the game and should we collect all the money or only the money for the center and AR1?

Answer (September 6, 2014):
This answer is based on USSF historical documents and the Laws of the Game. The Federation, in its infinite wisdom, appears to have ceased publishing this information, possibly using the same reasoning used by the International Football Association Board, the folks who bring us the Laws of the Game:” Everyone knows that!”

Here is the appropriate extract from page 39 of the Referee Administrative Handbook (2010-11 edition):

Systems of Officiating Outdoor Soccer Games
The Laws of the Game recognize only one system for officiating soccer games, namely the diagonal system of control (DSC), consisting of three officials – one referee and two assistant referees. All competitions sanctioned by the U.S. Soccer Federation require the use of this officiating system. (Certain competitions will use a 4th Official.)In order to comply with the Laws of the Game which have been adopted by the National Council of U.S. Soccer, all soccer games sanctioned directly or indirectly by member organizations of the U.S. Soccer Federation must employ the diagonal system. As a matter of policy, the U.S. Soccer Referee Committee prefers the following alternatives in order of preference:
1.One Federation referee and two Federation referees1 as assistant referees (the standard ALL organizations should strive to meet).
2.One Federation referee, one Federation referee as an assistant referee and one club linesman*who is unrelated to either team and not registered as a referee. (Only if there are not enough Federation referees as stated in 1, above).
3.One Federation referee, and two club linesmen* who are unrelated to either team and not registered as referees, acting as club linesmen, (only if there are not enough Federation referees as stated in 1 or 2, above).
4.One Federation referee and two club linesmen* who are not registered Federation referees and who are affiliated with the participating teams, (only if there are not enough Federation referees as stated in 1, 2 or 3, above).
5.One Federation referee, only if there are not enough federation referees or if the club linesmen are unavailable as stated in 1, 2, 3, or 4 above and one referee is appropriate for the level of competition.

Member organizations and their affiliates should make every effort to assist in recruiting officials so that enough Federation referees will be available to permit use of the diagonal officiating system for ALL of their competitions.

1 In all cases, the Assistant Referee may be Grade 12 if the game level is appropriate for that assignment* Club linesmen (not registered as Federation Referees) are limited to calling in and out of bounds only

* If only two officials turn up at the field, one must be the referee (with the whistle), while the other becomes an assistant referee (outside the field with the flag). They split the field between them, but only one may make the final decisions and blow the whistle.

The upshot of all this is that you must try to find at least a club linesman to work one line, who must be provided by the home team. As to pay, you should collect only the pay for the two assigned officials. The home team MUST provide the club linesman.


September 6, 2014

Why is the touchline so named? What is the origin of “touch” and “in touch”?

Answer (September 5, 2014):
“Touch” is any area outside the boundaries of the field, particularly the lines that run between the corners across the halfway line to the corner at the far end of the field. It is the area in which the ball may be handled legally by players, i.e., “touched.” Once the whole of the ball has crossed the whole of the boundary line, it is “in touch.”

My 15 yr. old son was involved in a physical altercation during a soccer game with 5 seconds left in the game.

The altercation involved 2 of our players and 3 players from the opposing team. One of our players and one of the opposing players were each given a red card and ejected from the game. The Referee gave my son a yellow card and he was allowed to play out the remaining 5 seconds of the game.

After the game had ended, the referee and 2 linesmen gathered at centre field. About 5 minutes after the game had ended, the referee walked over to my son (where he was sitting on the team bench getting changed) and proceeded to give him a red card without explanation. There was no further incident nor foul language or anything that prompted the yellow card being increased to a red card. I believe perhaps one of the linesmen convinced the ref after the game had ended that my son was deserving of a red card for his participation in the initial altercation that resulted in 1 player from both teams being red carded and ejected from the game.

Can a referee change a yellow card to a red card after the player has been allowed to continue playing in a game and/or after the game is over and the player has left the field for the day and without further incident?

Answer (July 24, 2014):
Major referee error, Dad. Once the game has been ended, the referee may not change any decisions made prior to the final stoppage. This wording from Law 5 (The Referee) confirms that:

Decisions of the referee
The decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play, including whether or not a goal is scored and the result of the match, are final.

The referee may only change a decision on realising that it is incorrect or, at his discretion, on the advice of an assistant referee or the fourth official, provided that he has not restarted play or terminated the match.

Your son has the right of appeal against this decision and the referee should be sent back for further training—along with whichever assistant referee recommended changing the original decision.


July 24, 2014

While team A is attacking, the ref blows his whistle and shows a yellow card to a player on team B. The infraction is loud dissent over a call made 5 minutes prior. When the ref whistled for play to stop, the cautioned player was 40 yards from the ball, and farther from the goal that team A was attacking.

The ref restarted play by awarding Team A an indirect kick from the spot where the cautioned player was standing when the whistle was blown.

Was the restart handled correctly? Correct spot and correct method of resuming play?

Answer (July 24, 2014):
Your answer is found in Law 12:

• An indirect free kick is also awarded to the opposing team if, in the opinion of the referee, a player:
• plays in a dangerous manner
• impedes the progress of an opponent
• prevents the goalkeeper from releasing the ball from his hands
• commits any other offense, not previously mentioned in Law 12, for which play is stopped to caution or send off a player

The indirect free kick is taken from the place where the offence occurred (see Law 13 – Position of free kick).

This is analogous to what happens if, during an attack on the opposing goal, the attacking team’s goalkeeper fouls one of the opposing team’s players back in the attacking team’s penalty area, no matter that it might be 80 yards down the field from where the current attack is occurring: the restart there is a penalty kick.

I explain to my new/young referees that catching and parrying are deliberate actions by the keeper using his hands to control the ball and both imply control of the ball by the keeper.

The flip-side is punching, slapping or pushing the ball to keep it out of the goal which is not controlling the ball. Is there a single descriptive word for that non-controlled effort to keep the ball out of the goal? So I guess I’m asking, what’s the word to use that’s opposite of parry that would imply no control or do I need to keep saying, “If the keeper punches, slaps or pushes the ball…”?

Answer (July 7, 2014):
The acts of punching, slapping, or pushing the ball are deliberate and must be considered variations in parrying the ball. I.e., they constitute possession. However, if there is some movement by the ‘keeper that appears to be accidental or forced by another player, whether on the ‘keeper’s team or an opponent, then the act might be considered not to involve possession.

The referee allowed this to stand. Should he have done so? If so, why? If not, why not?

Answer (June 4, 2014):
I was asked this question twice and answered the first one from the Laws, based on how the referee perceived the incident.

//much deleted//
Feinting in the run-up to take a penalty kick to confuse opponents is permitted as part of football. However, feinting to kick the ball once the player has completed his run-up is considered an infringement of Law 14 and an act of unsporting behavior for which the player must be cautioned.

The second time I decided to suggest something more commonsense, an idea supplied by a friend in Eastern New York (and I quote directly):
“as soon as that player goes down, my whistle sounds…
‘the player fell…so you have to go and check on his welfare…cause you know he might have hurt something…and since it’s clearly an attempt to deceive I might have a word with him about it in the process…”

A final comment: Whatever works for your personality as a referee and conforms with the Laws is always the best thing to do.


April 29, 2014


I was the AR in a game yesterday with a similar situation to the game referenced above. The difference was that the player in the offside position broke toward the goal and ran ahead of the ball until he pulled up in front of the goal. When the ball was passed to him it had just brought him into an onside position. I raised the flag and and placed the kick where he was first offside. I got vehement protests from the sideline (as I was the bench side AR) and the debate raged on after the game, with experienced knowledgeable people. Was this the right decision or was he eligible to receive the ball as soon as it passed him? Note:this whole event took about 3 seconds.

Answer (April 29, 2014):
If the player had returned (or been returned by circumstances) to an onside position BEFORE his teammate played the ball to him and had not, as Navas had not, attracted any attention from his opponents or otherwise interfered with play or with an opponent, then he should not have called offside. Being in an offside position is NOT an infringement of the Laws, so the player should not be punished for something that occurred under the circumstances you describe.

For the benefit of others, I append here the answer of June 20, 2012:

Navas’s goal was legally scored. He was in an offside position when the ball was first passed to Iniesta, who started from an onside position. Navas was not called for offside at that moment because he was not actively involved in play in any of the three meanings defined by the International Football Association Board: interfering with play, interfering with an opponent, or gaining an advantage from being in that position. Navas remained in that position to show his lack of involvement as Iniesta moved forward. Navas became onside as soon as Iniesta took possession of the ball and moved nearer to the goal. Iniesta then passed the ball to Navas. By the time Iniesta passed the ball to Navas the latter was no longer in an offside position — never having moved or interfered with play or with an opponent (no one even looked at him) — and could not be called offside because he was level with the ball at the pass.

I might add that the television commentators, generally the least knowledgable observers of soccer at any level of play, got it right this time and never said a word about any offside.

Categories: Law 11 - Offside


April 29, 2014

From what I can see, the Advice to Referees has changed in its wording on 5.6 (Advantage). It now appears that advantage may be applied and indicated by the referee when not just Law 12 is violated, but various Laws. However, there is a bullet that “not all violations of the Law qualify for the application of advantage.” Can you please clarify what does and doesn’t qualify?

Answer (April 28, 2014):
First and foremost, no violation of the Law to which the concept of advantage cannot be reasonably applied would be excluded. In other words, “static” violations which do not involve active play aren’t covered; for example, field, ball, uniform, substitutions, coin toss, ball in/out of play, timing of the match, or events occurring when the ball is not in play, etc. Second, any violation of the Law that does not involve player behavior is excluded (think large overlap with the first category). Third, any violation of the Law involving a restart requirement is excluded–e.g., feet on the ground on a TI, ball leaving the penalty area on a GK, ball not going forward on a KO, ball being kicked before it hits the ground on a DB, etc.

Unusual incident occurred in my game yesterday.
My team were awarded a penalty kick when my player was tripped inside
the box.
The ball was on the spot and all the players were ready when the
linesman flagged to get the referee’s attention.
The ref goes over to talk and the linesman explains that my player was
offside before being fouled.

The ref accepts this and reverses his decision and awards our
opponents a free kick.

However, the ref still gives the defender a red card for tripping my

everyone was confused and everyone started to laugh…
what on earth is the rule on this?

Answer (April 28, 2014):
If the trip was done with excessive force—the only reason I can think of—then the referee was correct to send off the defender, no matter that your player had already violated Law 11. Old referee aphorism: The Laws of the Game were not meant to compensate for the mistakes of the players.