I know that in a number of cases that if a team has too many men on the field, the “extra” player should be carded. However, I think that this normally applies to players who entered the field without the permission of the referee. My question has to do with proper procedure if the referee fails to follow proper substitution procedures and the result is 12 men on the field. (Yes, I know that referees should always use proper procedure for subs but, at least in my area, many do not.)A. For example, assume that two players are waiting at midfield to enter the game. At the next stoppage, the referee improperly signals for them to enter the game without waiting for two players to exit. There is some confusion and only one player exits the field. Then the referee signals for play to resume without counting the number of players on the field. In this case, once it is discovered that there are twelve players on the field, should anyone be carded? (Other than perhaps the referee!)

B. Similarly, if a team accidentally sends out twelve players to begin the second half, and the referee signals for play to begin without counting the number of players on the field, should anyone be carded when it is discovered that there is an extra man on the field?

It seems to me that neither of these situations call for a card since the player did not enter the field without the permission of the referee or attempt to deceive anyone, and his/her presence on the field was essentially validated by the referee. Could you please let me know what the proper USSF procedure would be in these instances – card or no card.

USSF answer (May 22, 2007):
Referees (and assistant referees) who fail to follow the procedures laid out in the Laws of the Game, the Advice to Referees, or the rules of the competition in which they referee deserve whatever problems this lack of professionalism brings them.

In both cases you describe, the intelligent referee–who appears not to be operating in either of the situations–will simply remove the offending player(s) from the field, perhaps issuing a verbal warning not to repeat the offense.

However, we must add a caveat, as most teams and players, whether for good or bad, know precisely what they are doing, especially as the age and experience of the players increase, and a simple warning may not be enough. Particularly in Case B, the team and its coach(es) know how many players should be in the game and who they are. Most coaches will notice the discrepancy on their own and ask the referee for permission to remove the extra player. If the extra player is discovered fairly early in the half, a warning should be enough. If the infringement has continued for some time, then a caution is deserved.

On the whole the answer lies in determining exactly WHY the situation arose in the first place, leaving aside not following proper procedures–see the first paragraph! Was it a case of the substitute coming onto the field when he knew he shouldn’t or a case of the (departing) player deliberately not leaving the field when he knew he should or was it simply an error?

Finally, referees and assistant referees–they must also accept part of the blame–who fail to follow procedures and persistently allow this sort of infringement of the Laws to go on should be sentenced to some hours in penance, doing community service.

Leave a Reply