2003 Part 3

Your question:
We had a conversation between a few referees come up in regards to markings on the field. It was my opinion that in order for the game to be played there must be field markings including; goal lines, touch lines, 18yrd box, mid field, 6yrd box ect, in order for a game to be played. There was another opinion saying that the game would still be played even if there were no field markings and that devices such as cones could be used to line the field in the absence of painted lines.

Please help clarify this. I have looked in Advice for the Referees and I have found nothing to support playing the game without field markings.

USSF answer (September 26, 2003):
While unmarked fields may be acceptable for scrimmages or practice games, they are not acceptable for competitive soccer.

Your question:
I have a question about FIFA’s view of referee authority/discretion…

In a recent high school game, the field temperature at game time was very hot. High humidity added to the concern for player well-being. At game time, an on-the-field thermometer read 98 degrees (F). “Weather.Com” information suggested that game temperature would be over 90 degrees and would “Feel Like” 102 degrees (becase of the humidity). In summary, it was hot and uncomfortable. Both teams’ coaches approached the three-official refereeing team to ask whether a 5 minute “hydration break” could be inserted in the middle of each half to allow the players to take in fluids. The referees responded that “they did not have the authority” to split the game into what would essentially be “four quarters”. There might be rules in place by the local high school athletic association that denies the referee to make modification such as the one suggested. That is undetermined at this time.

My question, however, is this: Are there any FIFA rules or opinions that would prohibit the referees from exerting their game authority in such a way that they would not be allowed to implement a game stoppage if they felt it was appropriate?

USSF answer (September 26, 2003):
The referee has no direct authority to vary the rules of the competition or to stop the game for unspecified reasons. However, the spirit of the game requires the referee to ensure the safety of the players. Preventing injury from heat exhaustion would fall into that aspect of the referee’s duties. The following answer may be summed up in two words: common sense.

In this situation, both the referee and the team officials share in the responsibility to protect player safety. The referee could, at a stoppage called for any reason, “suggest” the taking of water by any players interested in doing so. The timing of such a break and its length would be at the discretion of the referee. Obviously, the referee could decide to take this approach on his own initiative, with or without prior consultation with the coaches. However, either or both coaches could approach the referee prior to the match and suggest the need for extra hydration, in which case the intelligent referee would be well advised to listen and act accordingly. Of course, the Law also permits players to take water during the match so long as they do not leave the field, water containers are not thrown to them while on the field, and the water itself is not placed along the outside of the field so as to interfere with the responsibilities of the assistant referee.

Your question:
If a parent on the opposite sideline from the coaches, keeps bugging the Ref – bad call, call some our way, are you Blind. Or, they tell their team’s kid to take him out, or go trip him, or push him back. What am I — the Grade 8 Linesman on that side of the field, or in a SAY game, the one Ref on that half of the field — to do ? Stop Play & walk over to the coach or coaches – point out the Fan, and issue the Card to that coach & then tell them to go quite that person down or else I’ll be back to Red card you (coach) ?

Does that sound correct – (Zero Tolerance) ?

USSF answer (September 26, 2003):
One of the first things the intelligent referee learns is that spectators generally know very little about the Laws of the Game, but they are willing to tell the referee how to call the game and how all the Laws should be interpreted. What is a referee or assistant referee (AR) to do?

The referee’s authority begins when he arrives at the area of the field of play and continues until he has left the area of the field after the game has been completed. The referee’s authority extends to time when the ball is not in play, to temporary suspensions, to the half-time break, and to additional periods of play or kicks from the penalty mark required by the rules of the competition. While the referee has no direct authority over spectators, there are things that can be done. The authority of the referee over persons other than players and team officials is limited by the Law, because the Law assumes that the game is played in a facility with security staff in attendance. Those referees whose matches are watched by parents, etc., right at the touch lines, need to understand that they are not totally at the mercy of the spectators and other non-playing or coaching personnel.

In most cases, the referee should work actively to tune out comments by the spectators, particularly at youth matches, most of whom know little about the game, but who want to “protect” their children. Why should the referee tune them out? Because the referee can do nothing about comments that do not bring the game into disrepute. If the referee fails to “tune out” the spectators, they will take over (psychological) control of the game and the referee is lost.

Note: We must emphasize that the intelligent referee who is able to “tune out” spectator comments and gibes is acting for himself — and properly so — but MUST act more aggressively and proactively when such spectator behavior is directed at assistant referees, particularly youth ARs. That’s how we lose them. The referee must have ZERO tolerance for abuse aimed at the ARs and should instruct them in the pregame to bring it to the referee’s attention the moment it even begins to approach the high end of their ability to handle it on their own.

If this does not work, the next thing to do is to use the proper chain of communication. The referee at the amateur level will ask the captain of the team whose supporter is making trouble to deal with the matter. At the youth level, it is often better to go outside the chain and speak directly to the coach of the team, as youngsters are usually reluctant to become mixed up in adult problems.

If the referee decides that the activity by the spectator constitutes “grave disorder” (which could be defined to include anything which adversely affects the referee’s control of the game and/or undermines his authority), the referee can suspend the match while others handle the problem. (These “others” would be team officials or competition authorities who are at the field.) The referee can also terminate the match if appropriate action (e. g., the person is forced by someone to leave the area of the field) is not taken. In all cases, the referee must include full details in the match report.

Your question:
Can a complaint be filed with ussoccer against a referee that demonstrated bias towards one team during a U-16 game in the [deleted] league? I know this is very subjective but I am very upset that Ref. consistently had what I call a quick whistle against one(visiting team) team and a slow (one onethousand, two onethousand) and at least three instances put the whistle in his mouth but no call made against the other team. Fouls were liberally called against the visiting team(including two red cards)one team meanwhile the other team played with their elbows up and took dives to stall for time without calls being made. After the game the refs approached the visiting bench and ordered the players who had been red carded to shake hands with the other team. I thought I was witnessing prison guards and not Referees. I find bias towards one team at this level totally unacceptable and feel the Ref should be disciplined. The coaches of the team are appealing the red cards and have written a “scathing” referee report to the local league. I think more should be done. Please advise me of my options.

USSF answer (September 24, 2003):
Any problems with referees must be reported to the State Referee Administrator, the State Youth Referee Administrator, or the State Referee Copmmittee.

Your question:
The following situation occurred in a youth game where I was not in attendance. A parent, knowing I was a referee asked me what the correct decision should have been. Here is the situation.

Player for Team A takes a shot on goal from approximately 10 yards. Shoe of Player A proceeds to the goal along with the ball. The shoe strikes the goalie for Team B in the forehead causing him to not play the ball. The ball goes into the net.

I felt the referee had one of three possible responses:
1.) Let the goal stand. No infringement of the laws, but obviously unfair to Team B’s goalie.
2.) Consider the appearance of a show flying toward the goalie as an outside interference per Law 5 allowing the referee to stop, suspend or terminate the match because of outside interference of any kind as soon as the shoe left Player A’s foot. The restart being a drop ball at the point where Player A took the shot.
3.) Consider the flying shoe to constructively put Player A in a position of playing in a dangerous manner and award an indirect kick to Team B at the point where Player A took the shot.

I was told the referee chose option 1. My personal choice with the advantage of hindsight is option 3. Please let me know your opinion and/or official USSF response.

USSF answer (September 23, 2003):
The correct answer is none of the above.

As defined in the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game” (ATR) and clear from the perspective of the Spirit of the Game, a foul is an unfair or unsafe action committed by a player against an opponent or the opposing team, on the field of play, while the ball is in play. (ATR 12.1) Although the loss of the shoe was inadvertent and accidental, it was also careless. A careless act of striking toward an opponent is punishable by a direct free kick for the opponent’s team, taken from the spot where the object (or fist) hit (or would have hit) its target (bearing in mind the special circumstances described in Law 8).

Although the shooter wanted to play the ball when he kicked it and did not hit the goalkeeper with his shoe deliberately, he has still committed a foul. Direct free kick for the goalkeeper’s team from the place where the shoe struck the goalkeeper (bearing in mind the special circumstances described in Law 8).

Your question:
Over the past few years, I have worked a number of U10 and U12 games that turned into whitewashes with scores of 10 to 0 and 12 to 0 or more. Typically the coach of the winning team will restrict his players from taking shots towards the end of the game, require a certain number of passes before a shot can be taken or allow only certain players to take shots on goal in an effort to keep the score down. However, these tactics usually come way too late in the game and don’t really work. Once my 3-1/2 year old is old enough to begin playing soccer and I enter the coaching ranks again, I believe that I would like to try a different approach to curb scoring in a lopsided victory. If my team is on its way to an obvious run away win, I will begin to remove players from the field. Perhaps my team will have only 8 or 9 players on the field when the game ends, however, I believe it would be a much better game for all involved especially at U10 and U12. My question is about removing these players from the field. Once a team starts the game with 11 players what is the correct procedure for reducing player strength to 10 or fewer players. During a stoppage in play, do I simply call for a substitution and have a player leave the field with no substitute entering the field of play. What would be the correct procedure?

USSF answer (September 23, 2003):
Law 3 requires only that a team not have more than 11 and no less than 7 players on the field at any time during a game — or whatever numbers are set by the rules of the competition in which the teams are playing. There is no requirement in the Law that a team must have the full number of players on the field at any one time. A player must simply ask the referee’s permission to leave the field if the coach wants to reduce the number of players on the field. This can occur at a stoppage or during play.

Your question:
Team A moves the ball down the field and into the penalty area of Team B. There are 3 or 4 of Team A¹s players in the box as well. A bit of jostling goes on near the 6-yard box, but keeper comes out and picks up the ball. As both teams¹ players are moving out of the penalty area, a player from Team B throws an elbow at a Team A player. This happens a step or two inside the box, but as the players are moving away from the keeper and toward the middle of the field. These are U-18 players, FYI. How would you suggest it be handled?

The referee at the time whistled a foul, carded the Team B player, and awarded a penalty kick. Proper? Would you have done that? Looking for an answer that is not just right, but correct and wise.

USSF answer (September 21, 2003):
If the referee determines that a player has committed a direct-free-kick foul within his team’s penalty area, the only possible course of action is to award a penalty kick to the opposing team. Any misconduct involved will also have to be punished.

Your question:
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before … it’s been all over the internet lately.

A player commits a technical offense in his own penalty area. The referee stops play for the offense, then mistakenly awards a penalty kick instead of an indirect free kick. The ball is kicked directly into the goal. Prior to the kickoff, the AR finally gets the referee’s attention and tells him that it should have been an IFK. Can the referee go back, take away the goal, and restart with the correct IFK? Is an incorrect restart actually a restart?

I know the referee only has until the next restart to change his mind. But which restart is that? The incorrectly awarded PK? Or the next restart after that mistake, the kickoff?

USSF answer (September 20, 2003):
Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet. Most of it is urban myths — except what you read here.

The USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game” tells us:
“If the referee awards a restart for the wrong team and realizes his mistake before the restart is taken, then the restart may be corrected even though the decision was announced after the restart took place. This is based on the established principle that the referee¹s initial decision takes precedence over subsequent action. The visual and verbal announcement of the decision after the restart has already occurred is well within the Spirit of the Law, provided the decision was made before the restart took place.”

Everything depends on the state of the referee’s mind (aside from confusion and inadequate training). If the referee stopped play for what in his mind was a direct free kick offense by the defenders inside their penalty area, then the penalty kick was the correct restart for that state of mind and, once it occurred, was a proper restart and all subsequent play has to be counted (including a goal). Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa in the game report if he then has to change his mind based on evidence/argument from his fellow officials after some later discussion.

If the referee stopped play for an indirect free kick offense (which he recognized as an indirect free kick offense) but got the restart wrong, calling incorrectly for a penalty kick instead of an indirect free kick, then the restart was a mistake which could be corrected anytime up to the kick and even afterward if discovered “quickly” (don’t tie us down to a particular length of time), and any goal scored would be cancelled because it would have been the result of an improper restart. Mea (but not maxima) culpa in the game report. This would be equivalent to the referee knowing that the ball left the field across the touch line but stating that the restart would be a free kick and then correcting himself even if a player had picked up the ball and thrown it onto the field.

Doesn’t seem fair? Too bad, but the referee will have to live with his mistake. Which brings us to communication between the referee and the assistant referee (AR).

Why did the AR take so long to get the referee’s attention? Referee and AR are supposed to exchange information at every possible opportunity, particularly at stoppages, to ensure that things are going correctly. The AR had plenty of time to get the information to the referee, even if it meant coming into the field to pass that information. There is NO EXCUSE! for slipshod communication.

Your question:
I posed this question to four of the referees in our local association and got three different answers (and one abstention). I hope you can get us all on the same page.

30 minutes into the first half of an Under 16 girls game, the referee made a routine tripping call against White, about 25 yards away from White’s goal. On the play, the Blue forward was injured. It looked serious at first, but was not. The stoppage lasted at least 15 minutes however, because paramedics were called and had to take her off for stitches.

Before the restart (a direct free-kick for Blue), the referee blew his whistle twice and signaled for half-time. In other words, he did not add any time for the injury. The half-time interval was the normal 15 minutes.

When the teams returned, he had them assume the same sides of the field they occupied during the first half, and started play with Blue’s direct free kick. He allowed play to continue for a minute or two, then again blew his whistle twice. He had the players switch sides immediately, and restarted with a kick off.

He ended the second half after about 32 minutes – the same amount of actual playing time that had elapsed in the first half. (Our under 16s normally play two 40-minute halves.) It was a normal league game, with no need to end by a certain time as can happen in some tournaments.

It was a strange sequence. I think it was a mistake to shorten the second half, but otherwise I don’t see any violations of the laws. Added time is at his discretion, so it appears OK to end the first half when he did. If he decides that was too short a time, he can rectify his “mistake” before the next restart, so to call the players out to finish the first half seems legit. Did he get anything wrong?

USSF answer (September 19, 2003):
Law 7 requires two equal halves. Once the paramedics had removed the injured player from the field, the referee should have restarted the game with the direct free kick for the tripping infringement. The time allotted for the remainder of the half should have been the amount necessary to complete the first half of (insert appropriate number) minutes. The referee should then have taken the normal half-time break and played the second half of (insert appropriate number) minutes.

By doing as he did, the referee set aside the requirement in Law 7 for two periods of equal length. This is a matter of fact, not referee judgment. The 15-minute halftime break taken before the resumption of any play was entirely out of line, particularly as the game had been delayed for 15 minutes by the injury.

Full details of how to deal with such a situation are found in the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game”:
If the referee ends play early, then the teams must be called back onto the field and the remaining time must be played as soon as the error is detected. The halftime interval is not considered to have begun until the first period of play is properly ended. If the ball was out of play when the period was ended incorrectly, then play should be resumed with the appropriate restart (throw-in, goal kick, etc.). If the ball was in play, then the correct restart is a dropped ball where the ball was when the referee incorrectly ended play (subject to the special circumstances in Law 8).

If the referee discovers that a period of play was ended prematurely but a subsequent period of play has started, the match must be abandoned and the full details of the error included in the game report.

Your question:
Defender #6 commits a misconduct for which the referee has decided to send him off (direct red or second yellow). However, a really good advantage exists for the attacking team and the referee expects no retaliation. If the referee applies the advantage and does nothing else, this is what will happen. The attacking team will realize their advantage, but will misplay the ball and not score. The ball will remain in play and an undesirable event will occur — Defender #6 will eventually either score a goal or commit further misconduct.

Within LOTG the referee could (1) stop play immediately and not allow advantage, (2) deal with misconduct after the ball is out of play, or (3) stop play somewhere in between those times solely for the purpose of sending off Defender #6. My question: If the referee opts for (3), when is the best/fairest time to stop play? Would it be immediately after the attacking team misplays the ball and does not score? Or some other time such as when the referee “feels like it?”

USSF answer (September 17, 2003):
Any of the alternatives could be correct, depending on the game situation. The same is true for the timing if option 3 is used — it will have to depend on how the referee reads the game at that time.

Your question:
I was at a match the other day, boys 16. On a direct free kick the defending team formed a wall 10 yards from where the ball was placed for the taking of the kick. The boys at this age all very in size and in the wall one of the average sized defenders hosted up on his shoulders one of the smallest player.

Is this not allowed? And, if not allowed, which law is it to apply and when do you apply the law?

USSF answer (September 17, 2003):
Players are not allowed to use other players or any of the field appurtenances (goal or flags) to support themselves. To do so is to bring the game into disrepute, for which the punishment is a caution and yellow card for unsporting behavior. If the ball is in play, the correct restart is an indirect free kick from the place where the misconduct occurred, bearing in mind the special circumstances described in Law 8 regarding free kicks in the goal area.

If possible, the intelligent referee will take preventive steps in such a situation and, if the misconduct is cautioned before the free kick is taken, will also stay with the original restart (based on the principle that “nothing that happens when the ball is not in play changes the restart”).

Your question:
I am a referee as well as a coach. I participate in a soccer forum on a site hosted by [name deleted]. A member of the forum is reporting that they brought a question to “Ask a Ref”. The answer being reported as coming from here concerns me.

What is being reported is that should a CR be unable to complete a match then an AR should move to the CR and the match should be completed with only 2 officials. This does not agree with the instructions on page 35 of the administrative handbook that is also posted on this site. My understanding based on what I read is that if you can not comply with one of the listed options, the match should be abandoned and a report written to the completion authority.
1) Was the question asked and answered “here” or elsewhere?
2) Am I reading the Admin. Handbook incorrectly?

USSF answer (September 17, 2003):
[NOTE: THIS ANSWER PRESUPPOSES THAT THERE ARE NO OTHER QUALIFIED OFFICIALS AT THE FIELD] 1. Yes, the question was asked and answered here. That answer was approved by Julie Ilacqua, Managing Director of Federation Services for the United States Soccer Federation, as was this one. The original answer is reproduced here for clarity: QUOTE Original Question:
Is is proper for a CR & and AR to switch at the half? I’ve heard that some believe this is okay, say for example in hot climates. I can’t find this addressed anywhere in LOTG or Ref Admin book.
USSF answer (September 16, 2003): You will not find it addressed in any of the books because it is a situation that cannot and should not occur. The only occasion on which a referee would relinquish his or her authority over a match would be if the referee had become too ill to continue. In that case, the referee would not run the line either, but would go home. Unless there was a fourth official to take over as either referee or as an assistant referee — depending on the rules of the competition — the remaining two officials would work the game on their own. One would become the referee, working mostly on one side of the field, while the other assistant referee would remain as an assistant referee, working the other side of the field, but extending his or her range a bit to provide more assistance to the new referee.

It has never been the policy of the United States Soccer Federation that a referee and an assistant referee may exchange jobs in the middle of a game other than through incapacitation of the referee, which is why the situation posited in the question should never have occurred.

2. Yes, you are reading the Referee Administrative Handbook (RAH) incorrectly. You are correct in that the RAH does specify that the game be controlled under the Diagonal System of Control (DSC), meaning three officials. However, the text (cited below) goes on to say that the National Referee Committee “prefers” the various alternatives listed. When those alternatives cannot be fulfilled, then common practice throughout the United States is as described in the answer of September 16, 2003.

Herewith the text of page 35 of the RAH:
Systems of Officiating 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 national competitions sponsored by the U.S. Soccer Federation. require the use of this officiating system.

In order to comply with the Laws of the Game which have been adopted by the National Council, all soccer games sanctioned directly or indirectly by member organizations of the U. S. Soccer Federation must employ the diagonal system (three officials). As a matter of policy, the National Referee Committee prefers the following alternatives in order of preference:
1. One Federation referee and two Federation referees as assistant referees (the standard ALL organizations should strive to meet).
2. One Federation referee and two assistant referees, one of whom is a Federation referee and one of whom is a trainee of the local referee program.
3. One Federation referee and two assistant referees who are both unrelated to either team participating in the game but are not Federation referees, (only if there are not enough Federation referees to have #1 or #2).
4. One Federation referee and two assistant referees who are not both Federation referees and who are affiliated with the participating teams, (only if there are not enough Federation referees to have #1 or #2).

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 their competitions.

Your question:
A defender has been beat and the forward with the ball is moving in on the goal. The defender attempts a slide tackle from behind, but misses. The forward immediately scores on that play.

With play stopped for the goal, should the defender that attempted the slide from behind be warned by the official verbally or given a yellow card, even if no contact is made?

USSF answer (September 17, 2003):
Why? Why punish a perfectly legal play — and it is NOT an infringement to tackle fairly from behind — if there was no foul committed?

Your question:
We were have a discussion about Law 12 and “Jump At a Player”. The majority of those in the discussion only called this foul when there was contact between players. I look in the Advice to Referees and did not find any reference. Can you give me a call on this point and how far or close must players be when another player jumps into the air when not attempting a “header”?

My understanding of the word “AT” is defined as “in the direction of” or “toward the direction of”; am I taking this to mean the wrong thing? I have always considered this to be a way to intimidate a player who was not as aggressive, especially at younger age groups U12 and less. I do not see this move in the pro or world cup games.

USSF answer (September 17, 2003):
Some of your interlocutors do not appear to understand the English language very well — or soccer. “Jumping at” means precisely that: launching one’s body toward that of the opponent. It can be from a standing or “flying” position. It can be done to intimidate or in a feigned (really meant to distract or intimidate the opponent) or genuine but unsuccessful attempt to gain the ball. It is most often seen under the pretext of heading the ball, but may also be seen when a player launches himself through the air, feet first, to “tackle” away the ball. You will find two references to jumping at an opponent in the USSF publication “Instructions for Referees and Resolutions Affecting Team Coaches and Players,” published annually.

4. Offenses against goalkeepers
It is an offense if a player:
(a) jumps at a goalkeeper under the pretext of heading the ball;

7. Jumping at an opponent A player who jumps at an opponent under the pretext of heading the ball shall be penalized by the award of a direct free kick to the opposing team

Two things to remember about “jumping at” an opponent:
(1) Contact is clearly not required for this foul
(2) This is one of those fouls where the “rule of thumb” about “playing the player rather than the ball” is particularly apt as a shorthand way of viewing the offense — the foul is almost certain when the offending player is looking at the opponent rather than the ball.

Your question:
If the hand is considered everything from the shoulder down, what is the “foot”? Is it the entire leg or the actual physical foot?
[NOTE: The questioner asked about a question dated May 12, 2003 regarding a deliberate pass to the goalkeeper; see the Archives.]

USSF answer (September 14, 2003):
In an answer published in February 2002 we defined kicking thusly: “To kick is to play the ball with the foot, which is defined as anything at the ankle or below. Thus, the only legal means of restarting with a “kick” is to play the ball with the foot.”

This definition applies only to restarts. We can envision — and have seen — those instances on the field where a player inadvertently “kicks” the ball with his shin. That inadvertent act, too, would qualify as kicking, but only during active play.

Your question:
I have a question about the penalty for dangerous play against a GK. It seems if the goalie has possession of the ball and the attacker makes a dangerous play, the penalty is actually worse for the goalie’s team. That is, an indirect free kick near the goal is better for the attacking team than a goalie kick near the 18 yard line. I know I could give a yellow card but our region frowns on that for U10s. Do I understand the rules correctly?

USSF answer (September 14, 2003):
It would be rare indeed for an act of playing dangerously to be considered misconduct, unless it involved denial of an obvious goalscoring opportunity. The referee must call the game the way the Law is written, not the way the Law “should be” written.

Your question:
We were taught players could exert shoulder to shoulder pressure against an opponent to gain possession of the ball. Now we see players who immediately raise their arms to block or fend off an opponent and thus gain possession of the ball. At one time this action was considered “holding” or “pushing” and was called a foul. We were told to “play the ball and not the man.” Today’s referees no longer call this holding off of an opponent a foul. Additionally, in trying to win possession many players will first force the opposing players away from the ball by any means and then collect the ball. Again, the first play seems to be to push the opposing player and only then play the ball.

It now seems that when you are within a stride or two of the ball you can do anything to your opponent to gain possession.  The refs rarely call fouls in these situations.  Just what are you allowed to do to your opponent to gain possession? Or what can’t one do? What has changed?

USSF answer (September 14, 2003):
The pushing and holding off you describe is a coached action, used because referees have shown they do not have the courage to call foul play. It is just one of many acts that are not properly punished.

Your question:
What is your advice on how to handle those players that want to wear a sweatband on their head or sweatbands on their wrists. Their reasons are of course that they don’t want sweat dripping into their eyes. I have never considered these items as necessary or part of standard equipment and I ask players to remove them.

USSF answer (September 12, 2003):
Sweatbands and headbands are generally accepted as supplementary player equipment throughout the world. The referee is the sole judge of the permissibility of these items, which must meet the requirement in Law 4 that they not be dangerous to any player. The referee’s opinion would be guided by a recent FIFA circular and the USSF memorandum of March 7, 2003, on player equipment. Other guidance might come from local competition authority requirements.

Your question:
During a quarter final game this week I was surprised to see the coach of the opposing team not only come over to the other team’s side to instruct his players, but right in front of the other coach, as well as being on the playing field and with one of his players beside him, bouncing and playing with a ball in his hand. At one point during play the coach was almost in the goal box of the opposing team. He was asked to move a few times and just ignored the requests. The referee was told, and choose to ignore this as well. This is a U10 Boys house league. Just wondering what your thought is.

USSF answer (September 12, 2003):
In an answer of October 22, 2002, we noted: “The Laws of the Game tell us that ‘[a]ll [team] officials must remain within the confines of the technical area, where such area is provided, and they must behave in a responsible manner.’ The Laws also tell us about the technical area and its measurements. Without going into precise detail on the matter, we can agree that this suggests that — no matter how innocent their intentions — team officials should remain along the touch line and stay out of areas where they could be considered to be interfering with play or not behaving in a responsible manner, even in under-tiny soccer. Spectators may remain behind the goal line, but only if they are far enough away so as not to interfere with the game.”

We can add that, under the Law, any POSITIVE coaching is allowed from the technical area, as long as only one person speaks at a time and then returns to his seat on the bench. As a practical matter, particularly at the youth level, any POSITIVE coaching is allowed. In either case, whether at the level of the least experienced players (and coaches) or at the highest levels, any case in which the coach behaves irresponsibly will result in the coach being dismissed. (Two examples from among many: ranting at the referee, overt participation in deception of the opposing team.)

On August 29, 2003, we asked: “Where do people get the idea that coaches have the right to do anything but prepare their players for the game?” And then we answered our question by noting that a coach has no “right” to anything in the game of soccer, other than the right to conduct himself responsibly during the game — from within the technical or bench area — while offering advice to his players. A referee who allows coaches or other team officials to parade around the field, in contravention of the requirements in Law 5 that coaches behave responsibly and that referees not permit anyone other than players to enter the field, should be ashamed.

Your question:
A striker, protecting a 1-goal lead late in the game, dribbles the ball to the corner flag and parks it right on the opponents goal line, then aggressively and legally shields a defender who is trying to get the ball without giving up a corner kick. To me, this stops “the continuous flow of action” that the rules attempt to create, thus interfering with the spirit of the game, and also raises the ire of the opposing team due to the stalling and aggressive shielding. So I stopped play, called “unsporting behavior”, and gave an indirect kick to the defending team. I issued no yellow card, invoking law 18 for a “victimless crime”. The striker was hot, claiming what he was doing was a legal play.

My action would appear to be justified by “commits any other offense not previously mentioned in law 12” clause, except I did not issue a yellow card. Was I wrong for stopping play, or wrong for not giving a yellow card, or is there a better way to deal with this situation?

USSF answer (September 10, 2003):
Why ever would you caution a player for unsporting behavior for performing a perfectly legitimate act? Any player is allowed to shield the ball from all comers if he remains within playing distance of the ball. And there is a perfectly legitimate way to get around this shielding, too. Read on.

In the normal course of events, players are expected to remain on the field of play. However, they are allowed to leave the field to retrieve balls for restarts on the boundary lines (corner kicks and throw-ins), balls that left the field after fouls or misconduct, and to avoid opponents blocking their way or to get to the ball still in play, as well as to perform the restart itself. It is clear from reading the literature from the IFAB and FIFA that a player in the situation you describe is allowed to leave the field during the course of play to get to the ball while it is still in play. The referee should not consider this act to be a cautionable offense, but rather to be smart soccer.

Your question:
Last night at a U13 Boys game, a player on my team scored on a quick one touch from a cross. The ball went directly into the back of the goal without the keeper touching it. The certified center referee signaled a goal for appox. 3 seconds and headed to the center of the field, my team set up for the kickoff. About 3 seconds after signaling goal, the CR looked over at the AR who was on the goal side and noticed him flapping the flag in front of him. The CR went to the AR and asked him why he was flapping the flag, the CR asked him if it was a goal, he said “no”, the AR thought he said “did you see a foul”. At this point, the CR took the ball and did a drop at the defenders 18 with my team setup for a kickoff. I immediately asked the AR, what happened, he said “I don’t know, I thought you scored a goal”. At halftime, I asked the CR what happened and he indicated the AR had said there was no goal. I asked him to talk to the AR. He came back and apoligized, he had misunderstood the AR. Does the goal count?

USSF answer (September 9, 2003):
May the fleas of a thousand camels infest, etc., etc., both of these referees for taking away your team’s goal, and may their arms be too short for them to scratch. Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done about it now. Once the referee has restarted the game, the goal may not be scored again.

Your question:
White team is attacking and just over the half way line. The ball is kicked in a manner that causes it to deflect off a player and make a high arch towards Red’s goal. There is four red players standing in a line about 14 yards from the goal. They are all within the penalty area. The ball comes straight down on top of one Red player who is in line with the other three. Because of the ball’s shadow? the player flinches and reacts by batting the ball straight down with her hand. The ball ends up in the same place as if the player would not have touched it with her extended hand. There is no white player within 10 yards of where this occured. The red player does not play the ball because she knows she touched it with her hand. The ball ends up in a position that is neutral to both red and white (no advantage to either team).

Is the referee supposed to award a penalty kick by letter of the law or let common sense rule and tell the players to “play on – no foul”.

USSF answer (September 9, 2003):
Neither decision you suggest is correct. If the situation was exactly as you describe it, then no foul was committed and the referee need not say anything.

If the players appear confused by the events, the referee might say “no foul” or something similar to ensure that play continues, but he cannot say “play on,” because there was no foul.

Your question:
I checked the archives and could not find an answer to my exact question, but there were a few involving goalkeepers that were close. I would really like your input.

On a girls under 14 game with good skilled players on competitive teams. A long kick is played behind the red teams defenders and is rolling toward the red goal. A blue player has sprinted to the ball and is about to begin dribbling toward goal and a shot. A speedy red player is pursuing from a slight angle and behind the blue player. The red player slides from a slight angle and behind the blue player and kicks the ball out of the blue player’s path thwarting the attack. The red player’s momentum carries her into the path of the blue player’s legs and sends the blue player flying head over heals. There was no opportunity for the blue player to have seen the red player, or been aware of her presence and the ensuing slide tackle.

On this play the referee made no call. The player sent flying later became dizzy and left the field. She collapsed about 10 minutes later and was taken by ambulance to the hospital. The doctors have indicated a concussion and strained neck. In addition the game became much more physical with both teams fouling hard at every opportunity, and parents becoming very upset because of the injured player.

This is a dangerous tactic to prevent an attack and is considered by most to be fair because the defender got the ball first. I say who cares who got the ball first the play was dangerous, and the referee has a responsibility to take some action. The blue team thought they had received no justice and decided to get some on their own.

What do you say?

USSF answer (September 9, 2003):
There is no black-or-white answer to your question. The likelihood of danger is greater when the tackle is committed from behind and the probability of a foul having been committed is greater solely for this reason — due in large part to the “can’t prepare for the tackle” element when it comes from an unseen direction.

The referee must judge each situation of a tackle from behind individually, weighing the guidelines published by FIFA and the U. S. Soccer Federation, the positions of the players, the way the tackler uses his/her foot or feet, the “temperature” of the game, the age/skill of the players, and the attitude of the players. Only then can the referee make a sensible decision.

While one may (and should) sympathize with the injured player, soccer is a tough, competitive sport, and injuries can happen with no associated infringement of the Law. Players who act on the basis of the opposite presumption, abetted by like-minded spectators, do the sport no good.

Finally, “getting the ball first” has NEVER been absolution for whatever else may happen during or immediately after the tackle.

Your question:
Can the AR invoke the advantage clause as outlined in Law 5?

USSF answer (September 9, 2003):
The assistant referee (AR) may not and cannot invoke the advantage clause. That is reserved solely for the referee. However, the CONCEPT of advantage is used by the AR in deciding whether to give a signal in the first place. The AR should make use of the advantage concept as part of his duty under Law 6 to signal for infringements occurring out of the view of the referee. While not a formal “call” and with no signal as such, ARs should keep the flag down even for violations out of the referee’s view IF the referee would likely have applied advantage if he had seen it (or likewise, in the alternative, would have considered the violation trifling).

Your question:
Is there a rule concerning the position of the shin guard as it pertains to a high school soccer player? It appears to be fashionable to wear short guards. Is this allowed?

USSF answer (August 29, 2003):
We cannot comment on whatever rules may govern the position of the shinguard for high school players. As for players in USSF matches, Law 4 is clear in leaving to the referee the responsibility of determining not only if the shinguards are present but also if they are being worn properly. After all, shinguards cannot protect the shin (shinguard = guard the shin) if they do not cover the shin. The shinguard must provide adequate protection for the player. The decision lies with the referee, not some fashionista.

Your question:
A direct kick foul is called. The teams line up for the restart. The coach for the team taking the free kick hollers for ten yards. A quick look at the positioning of the players shows the defending team about 8 yards away. The player taking the kick starts his motion towards the ball with the coach still hollering for ten yards. The kick is taken and goes well over the goal post. The coach protest that he has the right to ask for ten yards. Should the referee act on the coaches request for ten yards or should the request come only from the field players?

USSF answer (August 29, 2003):
Where do people get the idea that coaches have the right to do anything but prepare their players for the game? A coach has no “right” to anything in the game of soccer, other than the right to conduct himself responsibly during the game while offering advice to his players.

More to the point of your question, the referee is under no obligation to stop the kicker from kicking the ball at a free kick, no matter where the opposing players are positioned. Both teams are expected to abide by the requirement to get the ball back in play. All referees should encourage and allow quick free kicks, particularly if that is what the kicking team wants to do. At all free kicks the referee should back away, watch what happens, and intervene in quick free kick situations where an opponent closer than the minimum required distance actively makes a play for the ball (as opposed to, luckily, having the ball misplayed directly to him). The referee must have a feel for the game, how it has been going, how it is going now. That “feel” must be applied to each and every situation individually. There is no black-and-white formula to follow.

And let it be repeated here: The coach has no right to anything other than to remain in his technical area (bench area) — if he behaves responsibly. And hollering at the referee is not responsible behavior — nor good coaching.

Your question:
Good morning, my son is 10 and he plays on a select U11 team and has been playing soccer for 5 years. At age three he lost his left arm below the elbow, and has always thrown the ball in with his one hand. We have taught him to throw the ball over his head and keep his elbow in front of him (not off to the side like a goalie throw).

In all these years of playing never has a referee or coach complained or ruled that he can not throw the ball in because he only has one hand, as long as his arm stays in front. Last weekend we played in a tournament and made it to the championship game. We played the home team so it was a very exciting game, at halftime we were up 2-1, the other coach came over to the referee and our coach and said if my son (Hunter) continued to throw in the ball they would protest…..is this legal, can they protest because my son has only one hand to throw in the ball.

Because he lost his arm at a young age and has compensated for it, his other arm is very strong and he can throw the ball pretty far down the field…but I’ve seen many techniques of throw in’s…even flips! I know the rule is two hands but because he has only one hand can he continue to throw in without the threat of another coach protesting! I wonder if his team was winning would he have said anything????

USSF answer (August 29, 2003):
Here is what we teach our referees, as printed in the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game”:
A throw-in must be performed while the thrower is facing the field, but the ball may be thrown into the field in any direction. Law 15 states that the thrower “delivers the ball from behind and over his head.” This phrase does not mean that the ball must leave the hands from an overhead position. A natural throwing movement starting from behind and over the head will usually result in the ball leaving the hands when they are in front of the vertical plane of the body. The throwing movement must be continued to the point of release. A throw-in directed straight downward (often referred to as a “spike”) has traditionally been regarded as not correctly performed; if, in the opinion of the referee such a throw-in was incorrectly performed, the restart should be awarded to the opposing team. There is no requirement in Law 15 prohibiting spin or rotational movement. Referees must judge the correctness of the throw-in solely on the basis of Law 15.

The acrobatic or “flip” throw-in is not by itself an infringement so long as it is performed in a manner which meets the requirements of Law 15.

A player who lacks the normal use of one or both hands may nevertheless perform a legal throw-in provided the ball is delivered over the head and provided all other requirements of Law 15 are observed.

The concept is that the thrower makes a best effort to conform to meet the requirements of the Law. With one single caveat, any intelligent referee will allow people without the full use of both arms to take a throw-in without punishing them for not using both hands. The caveat: the referee must ensure that the one-handed throw is balanced and does not result in too much one-handed giving an unfair advantage to the thrower’s team.

And we also instruct our referees to pay no attention to threats of protest from anyone who has a stake in the outcome of the game.

Your question:
Has the USSF adopted the rule that NCAA & NFHS have done? That is, allow both teams to substitute on a substitution time for a specific team when they choose to substitute.

USSF answer (August 28, 2003):
Under the Laws of the Game, players may be substituted at any stoppage in play. What confuses you and others is the tendency in some leagues and tournaments to adopt what are often called “youth substitution rules.” These “rules” differ from the substitution rules established under the Laws of the Game. Although variations in substitution rules are allowed for youth (U-16 and below), veteran players (i. e., adults over 30), female players, and players with disabilities, their widespread and nearly automatic use in the United States in competitive play generally and for groups other than these mentioned is curious.

If you are interested in seeing the use of substitution rules which more closely resemble those used in the rest of the world, you should encourage your local associations and tournaments, not USSF, to avoid adopting these various restrictions on substitutions, particularly in competitive — as opposed to recreational — play.

Your question:
I ask this question on behalf of some adult players to provide an official response so that they can read it and believe it. This play happened in an adult co-ed game recently and caught a number of people off guard, including the refs (I was one of them), until we convened and got the correct decision. I had never experienced this play in my 8+ years of officiating.

Player A from the attacking team positions himself in his attacking half of the field. The defending team takes positions on the center line and in their attacking half of the field leaving Player A alone, in what looks like an obvious offsides position (no defender nearer to the goal). The restart at this time is a goal kick by Player A¹s team from their defensive end of the field. The goalkeeper kicks the ball directly to Player A all alone in the opposition¹s defensive end and promptly goes to goal for a try. The goalkeeper makes the save, but the defending team is screaming for offsides because there are no defenders behind Player A nearer to their goal.

Luckily we had our Law books with us and showed the teams that an attacker cannot be called for offsides on a goalkick when the player receives the ball directly from the kick. This is one of 3 cases where an attacking player is not offsides (the other 2 being on throw-ins and corner kicks). There are a lot of questions regarding this ³interpretation² and its apparent unfairness from Team B. It was near halftime when the incident occurred, so we were able to calm players down and restart after an extended halftime intermission. I told the players I would write a letter to the senior officials to get a response that they could read.

I would appreciate an ³official² reply to show these folks at the next game to increase their awareness and provide them a better understanding of the game. Thanks,

USSF answer (August 27, 2003):
The task you have set seems impossible to fulfill. If the team would not believe what is written in the Laws of the Game, why would they believe something from the U. S. Soccer Federation? All we can do is point out the relevant portions of Law 11, Offside, and hope that the players can understand.

Law 11 tells us that it is not an offense in itself to be in an offside position. It also tells us that there is no offside offense if a player receives the ball directly from a goal kick, a throw-in, or a corner kick.

This basic premise of the Law is accepted and practiced throughout the world. If the defending team is careless enough to allow the attacking team to take advantage of the Law, then shame on them.

Two elements are most disturbing. The first is that this should have been taught in Refereeing 101, meaning that there should not have been any need for a conference. The second is that referees must realize that a team’s complaint/argument as to the alleged unfairness of any rule is irrelevant.

Your question:
What do you do if the ball squeezes between two players on opposite teams shoes and goes out??

USSF answer (August 26, 2003):
You make a decision — and then you sell it!

Your question:
The rule states after the first player touches the ball and it moves foward the ball is in play. My questions are :
How must the ball be touched and how much movement is foward?
Can a player step directly on top of the ball and it is now in play and the ball in the opinion of the referee did not move forward?
Also can a player touch the ball and roll it foward and backward without removing their foot and the ball is only touched once because their foot never left the ball?

I hope you can clarify the rule. I have had a team do this and I am sure I will see more of these restarts this fall.

USSF answer (August 26, 2003):
For purposes of the restart, the advice you seek on restarts in which the ball is kicked will be found in the USSF Addendum to the Memorandum 1997, distributed to all referees in 1997:
General Note Regarding Restarts
“Memorandum 1997” discussed amendments to the Laws of the Game affecting all free kick, corner kick, penalty kick, and kick-off restarts. These amendments centered on the elimination of the ball moving the “distance of its circumference” before being considered in play. In all such cases, the ball is now in play when it is “kicked and moves” (free kicks and corner kicks) or when it is “kicked and moves forward” (kick-offs and penalty kicks). IFAB has emphasized that only minimal movement is needed to meet this requirement. USSF Advice to Referees: further clarification from IFAB suggests that, particularly in the case of free kicks and corner kicks, such minimal movement might include merely touching the ball with the foot. Referees are reminded that they must observe carefully the placing of the ball and, when it is properly located, any subsequent touch of the ball with the foot is sufficient to put the ball into play. Referees must distinguish between such touching of the ball to direct it to the proper location for the restart and kicking the ball to perform the restart itself. In situations where the ball must move forward before it is in play (kick-offs and penalty kicks), there should be less difficulty in applying the new language since such kicks have a specific location which is easily identified.

You are incorrect in saying “The rule states after the first player touches the ball and it moves forward the ball is in play.” When a premise is false, the conclusions are usually tainted.

What Law 8 actually says is that “the ball is in play when it is kicked and moves forward.” Merely touched does not constitute a kick. A kick is normally defined (everyday use) as a “strike, thrust, or hit with the foot.” The Law is not concerned with the ball merely quivering or trembling as a result of contact with the foot. The Law presumes spatial movement on the field and, in the case of a kick-off (or penalty kick), forward spatial movement.

Rolling the ball forward is exactly that — rolling the ball forward — it is not a kick. Referees face the same sort of issue on a throw-in: if a player drops the ball from over his head, this may appear to meet all the requirements of Law 15, except for the simple fact that it was not a throw.

As for how much movement forward is needed, after the kick, the answer is equally simple — only minimal movement is required. Assuming an actual kick has occurred and the ball actually moves (spatial displacement) and the direction is not backward, it is now in play and we can get on with our lives.

Your question:
Watching youth soccer games (recreational) I’ve noticed that many refs will award an indirect free kick for what appears (to me anyway) to be penal fouls in the penalty area for infractions that are not a severe breach of the attackers scoring chances. Examples of this are players being tripped while moving away from the goal, or when the foul occurs at the outskirts of the box and the attacker did not have a particularly good scoring chance, etc.. Nothing in the rulebook indicates that this is proper, except possibly the unwritten “common sense … keep the game as fair as possible” law. Does USSF have a position on this? Am I imagining things or is this relatively common (may more so in recreational games) ? I’d like your opinion. Thanks.

USSF answer (August 26, 2003):
There is no such thing as the “unwritten ‘common sense … keep the game as fair as possible’ law.” Nor is there anything close to it. What you describe would seem to be the acts of referees who are not willing to uphold the Laws of the Game, presumably because it would make life a bit harder for them.

Unfortunately, there are too many referees who do this sort of thing and make the next game more difficult for the rest of the refereeing corps. They seem to subscribe to the MYTH that a penalty kick should be reserved solely for goalscoring opportunities.

Your question:
Can you please give me a definition of a slide tackle? We use a no slide tackle rule in our coed games and there is a wide range of definitions and how and when to call the violation. Please clarify.

USSF answer (August 26, 2003):
The term “slide tackle” refers to an attempt to tackle the ball away from an opponent while sliding on the ground. If you need further information, you should contact your competition authority (the league) and ask for their definition. You might suggest that it would be more readily enforceable if the referees knew precisely what they were expected to punish.

Your question:
If it is in winter and early in the morning and I was Running a Line The center told me he had no problem with me being in Black sweat Pants, But one of the coaches who also referees the FIFA rules say no sweats one ur refreeing a game. Is that true on not

USSF answer (August 26, 2003):
Sweat pants of any color are certainly not part of the referee uniform, but there is no rule against using common sense and dressing to suit the conditions. Of course, that means that any additional equipment, such as sweat pants, should be of an appropriate color and in good taste. Under no circumstances would a referee or assistant referee be able to do this in a higher-level match and certainly not one that was being assessed.

Your question:
I asked this question at a clinic and got laughed at. This situation really happened. I was refereeing a tournement final game. The game was a u-17 game. A fantantistic player from Virginia was playing . It became apparent that the opposition couldn’t stop him. He ran thru and got fouled. The second time he got thru and was fouled again. I gave the card after the second one for persistent fouls against one opponent. I gave the first card early because the pattern became clear to me. I gave four more yellow cards for fouls against Mr thompson. It became clear to me that the team was fouling this player in turn so no one would get sent off. My credability was getting stretched to the max. The fouls were not of a serious enough nature to justify a straight red nor were any of them a goal opportunity destroyed. What could I do. I ended up giving seven yellow cards to the one team?

USSF answer (August 21, 2003):
Under the Laws of the Game, there is no other option available to the referee than to caution the players individually. However, at least one other possibility does exist. The intelligent referee might consider chatting with the captain of the team that is engaging in the pattern of fouling and suggest that he will regard the next foul on the target player as serious foul play. Surely the referee in such a case can recognize serious foul play. Finally, after the game the referee can take advantage of the duty assigned in Law 5 to provide the appropriate authorities with a match report which includes information on any disciplinary action taken against players, and/or team officials and any other incidents which occurred before, during or after the match.

Your question:
1. Striker tripped in the area by defender, PLAY ON called as he stumbles and gets off a decent shot which is fielded easily by the keeper and returned to play. Do I call for the PK which is superior to the advantage or is there an unwritten rule that any kind of shot counts as a viable advantage? PS: REFEREE MAGIZINE indicates PK / SEPT 2003, pg 34.

2. Is there a position paper that states if a player completely by accident, trips , holds , kicks,  ETC an opponent , that that player should NOT be considered guilty of the apparent infraction because there was no intent to commit the infraction ? If so, any guidelines on how we interpret this scenario.

USSF answer (August 19, 2003):
1. The referee’s decision to invoke the advantage has nothing to do with the team’s ability to score a goal immediately. Rather, it simply means that the team gains more at the moment of invocation than it would have done through a free kick. The referee must balance all factors of the particular situation to arrive at the proper solution.

2. No, there is no position paper dealing with “intent.” Why? Because the word “intent” does not exist in the Laws of the Game. We referees are no longer required to judge “intent” in an act by one player against another, but to judge the result of the act instead. However, we are allowed to distinguish between an act that is accidental and one that is deliberate.

All referees need to remember that “intent” is not an issue in deciding what is or is not a foul, regardless of age, and that something at the youngest age levels might nonetheless be considered a foul if it is determined to be careless. No age is too young to begin learning not to be careless.

For example, in the case of a player stumbling and colliding with an opponent, we would judge the act to be careless, reckless, or involving the use of excessive force — and thus a foul — only if the player had already begun to trip (or attempt to trip), push, kick (or attempt to kick), strike (or attempt to strike), jump at or charge his opponent. If the player was still merely pursuing the opponent and happened to stumble and fall, colliding with the opponent on the way down, there has been no foul, as the act was simply accidental or inadvertent.

Referees who call such acts fouls are doing a disservice to the game and to other referees. These are cases where the referee simply calls out “No foul” — or something similar; anything other than “Play on” or “Advantage” — because there has been no foul.

Your question:
1 In your post below you say “because Law 11 clearly requires the ball to be controlled by the defender before a new phase of play can be said to have begun.” I can’t find this in LOTG on law 11. ATR 11.15 “(3) an opponent intentionally plays or gains possession of the ball.” Control (below) and played by seem different to me, as a ball can be played incorrectly. Also the “or” in the 11.15 quote seems to indicate that. Of course a deflection is not “played by.” Is control required by the defender for the offside player to be allowed to be involved in active play?

2 In law 11, the phrase “touched or played by” is used. This the only time “played by” is appended to a last touched phrase anywhere in LOTG. If this always means touched, what does mean? A player can shield the ball and play it. Is a touch required by a teammate, or would a shield count as a “played by”.

Your question:
An attacker is in an offside position when the ball is played in his/her direction. A defender, having moved to a position to play the ball, either heads or high-kicks the ball. The ball is deflected off its original path, but the defender fails to gather the ball. The attacker in the offside position receives the ball. Has offside occurred? We have calls both ways accompanied a multitude of reasonable (and some maybe unreasonable) explanations to support call. What is your opinion?
USSF answer (August 13, 2003):
It IS NOT correct to assume that any touch by a defender effectively changes the possession, because Law 11 clearly requires the ball to be controlled by the defender before a new phase of play can be said to have begun (and offside positions re-evaluated). It IS correct to say that the referee must make the judgment as to whether the opponent established full control over the ball and thus relieved the player in the offside position from being called offside.

USSF answer (August 19, 2003):
“Control” in this case refers to the defender’s having exerted influence over the course and destination of the ball. A deflection would not be considered to be control, but a kick to a teammate would be. This can only be determined by the referee on the spot, not through any definition typed on a keyboard.

For the purposes of enforcing the Laws of the Game, the phrase “touched or played by” has only one meaning, “made contact with.” The only possible exceptions involve deflections by a defending opponent in an offside situation or by the goalkeeper who has deflected the ball in a save and not “parried” it.

Your question:
If a “player” is sent-off during half time, does the team play short?

In most USSF youth games with free substitutions, the referee has no idea of who the players are vs the substitutes at half time. For this reason it seems impossible to know if you are showing the red card to a player or a substitute – and therefore if the team should play short or not.

USSF answer (August 19, 2003):
This seems a good time to repeat an answer of November 2001:
If the referee knows the individual was a player when the previous period ended, the player’s team must play short for the remainder of the game. If the referee knows the individual was a substitute or is uncertain of that individual’s status when the previous period ended (and can find no evidence that the individual was a player at the end of the period), then that individual may not participate in the game any longer; his team may start the next period with the same number of players it had when the previous period ended.

An excerpt from section 3.14 of the 2001 edition of the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game” provides the answer for the rest of your question:
If a player or substitute is cautioned or dismissed for misconduct which has occurred during a break or suspension of play, the card must be shown on the field before play resumes.

We would add only that this portion of 3.14 remains unchanged in the soon-to-be-published 2003 update of the Advice to Referees.

Your question:
A long kick by team A’s midfielder has cleared over team B’s defenders and the ball is now in the open field, rapidly rolling towards B’s goal. A’s speedy forward has outraced B’s defenders so that now the only two players who are within playing distance and have a chance of getting to the ball are A’s onrushing forward and B’s keeper coming off his line to play the ball. The keeper is about to pick up the ball (but does NOT have contact with or possession of the ball) and the forward, realizing this, slides at the keeper in an attempt to strike the ball prior to the keeper gaining possession. Keeper picks up ball before any contact is made and successfully dodges the oncoming slide.

My thoughts: this a dangerous play as contemplated by Advice to Refs 12.23 in that once the forward goes into the slide, he cannot control his direction and/or velocity of his body and has committed himself to a head on collision with the keeper. this lack of control would make this an inadmissible charge at the goalie as contemplated by 12.23 and team B would be awarded a indirect free kick (or the keeper may continue the play if the referee determines advantage rules apply)

My fellow coaches believe that “the keeper is just like any other player” and since you can slide at any other player to challenge the ball, you can slide at the keeper also.

USSF answer (August 19, 2003):
What you have described as a charge is in fact a sliding tackle, a horse of an entirely different color. This means that section 12.23 of the “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game,” which deals solely with charging the goalkeeper, would not apply.

Section 12.13, Playing in a Dangerous Manner, might apply; however, if the tackling player’s foot hit the goalkeeper before the ball, then it would not be playing dangerously (an indirect free kick foul), but the direct free kick foul of tackling an opponent to gain possession of the ball, making contact with the opponent before touching the ball.

The position of goalkeeper carries with it implicit dangers of heavy contact with other players. That is an accepted fact of the game. Other than being privileged to deliberately handle the ball within his own penalty area, the goalkeeper has no more rights than any other player. The act you have described is no foul at all, but simply the actions of two players going for the ball entirely within both the letter and spirit of the Laws.

Your question:
The red team has the ball in their attacking third. The AR sees the red team’s defending player kick a blue team player in the red team’s defending third. Play continues, and the red team scores a goal. The AR had his flag up signaling the foul before the goal was scored. What is the correct call? What is the correct restart?

USSF answer (August 13, 2003):
If the referee accepts the assistant referee’s signal for the foul, the goal is not scored, the red defender is sent off and shown the red card for violent conduct, and the restart is a direct free kick for the blue team from the place where the infringement occurred.

If the referee does not accept that a foul (and misconduct) has occurred, the goal is scored and the restart is a kick-off for the blue team.

Which decision would you make?

Your question:
Did you really mean to say, in response to the query by the “confused goalkeeper” in your July 29 posting, that “If you actually had possession as defined above, rather than simply going for the ball and yet not having it pinned down, then the second player was in the wrong and should have been punished for kicking or attempting to kick an opponent — a direct free kick for the goalkeeper’s team — and possibly sent off for serious foul play and shown the red card if he made contact with you. ”

The questioner clearly wrote: “…of course the [ball] came loose after the forward barreled into me and the other player pounded the ball into the goal….”

Is the USSF position truly that a player who kicks a loose ball into the goal (no matter how it came to be loose) is guilty of kicking or attempting to kick an opponent and should be penalised and possibly sent off?

I mention this because there is a pernicious rumor circulating among (dubious, IMO) referees that goes like this:
1. A player cannot legally play the ball after the goalkeeper has taken possession.
2. Possession = Control
3. IBD 2 for Law 12 defines control as touching the ball with any part of the hand or arms.
4. Therefore, after the goalkeeper has touched the ball with any part of his hands or arms, even if he subsequently loses control or deliberately releases the ball, any player attempting to play the ball has committed a foul and shoould be at least cautioned and probably sent off.

Your answer seems to support this conclusion in that, if the goalkeeper established control and then subsequently lost it, the attacker is guilty of a foul if he plays the loose ball. I’m not making this up. You don’t have to go far in the soccer community, even the referee community, to have this argument raised.

USSF answer (August 13, 2003):
There is a vast difference between “control” and “possession.”

“Control” under the Law occurs when the goalkeeper plays the ball with his hand to direct it somewhere.

“Possession” occurs when the ball is actually under the goalkeeper’s physical control (rather than simply being redirected).

Other players may not attempt to play the ball while the goalkeeper has possession of the ball or is attempting to release the ball so that others may play it. Attempting to do so with the foot is classified as either kicking or attempting to kick. Following the overhaul of the Laws of the Game in 1997, the ball itself cannot be lawfully played while in the goalkeeper’s possession. Therefore any attempt to kick, head, knee, or otherwise play the ball out of the goalkeeper’s possession must be considered as an action directed at the goalkeeper himself/herself and therefore should be considered kicking or attempting to kick — a direct free kick offense. If contact were made, the referee might consider that the kicking player committed serious foul play and might then send off the player and show the red card.

Your question:
Ball is crossed through the goal mouth very near the end-line but proceeds into the corner where it is cleared upfield and into touch. Play is stopped and restared with a throw-in. After the throw-in the CR (finally) notices that the AR on the end of the field where the ball had just crossed through the goal mouth has his flag raised. CR stops play and confers with AR who informs him that the ball had not merely traveled across the goal-mount but had, in fact, gone wholly and completely over the goal line, between the goal posts and was, consequently, a goal. Referee awards the goal and restarts with a kickoff. Protest is lodged because the CR awarded the goal after the throw-in restart which, it is claimed, negates the referee’s ability to award the goal.

Is this a correct interpretation of the last paragraph of Law 5: “The referee may only change a decision… provided that he has not restarted play.”? I am more familiar with this being applied to a free-kick restart (subsequent to a foul) where the referee realizes he has pointed the wrong way and has to realign the kick to go the other way; here the restart is directly related to the immediate incident. In the protested case, above, the restart was completely separate from the incident.

USSF answer (August 13, 2003):
As the referee determined to accept the AR’s information and award the goal, the goal is valid. There are a number of questions and answers touching on this and other instances of AR assistance rendered prior to a foul or misconduct being committed in the IFAB/FIFA Questions and Answers on the Laws of the Game.

Historically, the Law 5 statement actually has to do with a goal being revoked prior to a restart and less with the possibility you suggest of a goal not being counted if it wasn’t recorded prior to a restart. The National Program for Referee Development has published a position paper on sequential infringements of the Law (downloadable from this site) which, although again not being on point as regards a goal, established the general proposition that the stoppage should be counted from the moment the AR flagged if the referee subsequently confirms the AR’s information. And, finally, there is the proposition that play actually stopped under the Law when the whole of the ball crossed entirely over the goal line and so anything that happens after that (unless “too much play” has passed) is a nullity.

Your question:
An attacker is in an offside position when the ball is played in his/her direction. A defender, having moved to a position to play the ball, either heads or high-kicks the ball. The ball is deflected off its original path, but the defender fails to gather the ball. The attacker in the offside position receives the ball. Has offside occurred? We have calls both ways accompanied a multitude of reasonable (and some maybe unreasonable) explanations to support call. What is your opinion?

USSF answer (August 13, 2003):
It IS NOT correct to assume that any touch by a defender effectively changes the possession, because Law 11 clearly requires the ball to be controlled by the defender before a new phase of play can be said to have begun (and offside positions re-evaluated). It IS correct to say that the referee must make the judgment as to whether the opponent established full control over the ball and thus relieved the player in the offside position from being called offside.

Your question:
We had a situation where our team was attacking in the oponents goal box and our goal keeper yelled from the other end of the field when he believed we should have received a penalty for a challenge on our forward. Our goal keeper just yelled “penalty, ref!” The referee stopped play which was still continuing and marched all the way up the field where our goalkeeper was standing and awarded an indirect free kick for saying what he did. He did not receive a yellow card.

My question is, although the referee had the right technically to stop the game, where should the free kick taken place? My understanding of the rule book is that he had the right to caution the keeper but the free kick should have been where he stopped the game. Could you help with this question?

USSF answer (August 13, 2003):
Your answer can be found in the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game”:
The referee has the power to stop the match for any infringement of the Laws, to apply advantage under the appropriate conditions, or to decide that an infringement is trifling or doubtful and should not be called at all. However, the referee also has the power to stop play for other reasons, including misconduct for which the referee intends only to warn the player regarding his behavior and not to issue a caution. In these circumstances, the referee should take care that ordering such a stoppage would not disadvantage the opposing team. As the stoppage will not have occurred for a foul or misconduct, play would be restarted with a dropped ball.

As there was no true infringement, the restart would obviously be at the place where the ball was when play was stopped.

Your question:
What is the significance of the six stars in the shield of the USSF referee badge?

USSF answer (August 12, 2003):
After as much research as seems possible on the matter, asking the “oldest timers” we know about the stars, the consensus is that the number of stars in the shield of the referee badge is simply the correct number to fill the space nicely. (The same seems to be true of the newer US Soccer logo, which has three stars, the one in the center a bit larger to better fill the space available.) The stars that separate UNITED STATES from SOCCER FEDERATION are purely for decoration.

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, we used to have stars around the outer perimeter of the referee badge. Their number varied in relationship to the grade of the referee — the more stars, the higher the grade.

Your question:
In regard to a portion of your posted answer:
CONFUSED GOALKEEPER – USSF answer (July 29, 2003):
“… If [the Keeper] actually had possession as defined [in ‘Advice’ 12.16], rather than simply going for the ball and yet not having it pinned down, then the … player [who kicks or attempts to kick (a ball) in Keeper possession] was in the wrong and should have been punished for kicking or attempting to kick an opponent — a direct free kick for the goalkeeper’s team — and possibly sent off for serious foul play and shown the red card if he made contact with you. ”

I thought that a simple stripping of the ball from the Keeper could be sanctioned as Dangerous Play where no physical contact occurred. I have given an IFK with a verbal warning to the effect that the Keeper is not to be used as a golf tee …. on occasion in the past. Of course, this milder punishment requires no contact …. and assumes no observed malice i.t.o.o.t.r. [… to be applied only where it is in harmony with the spirit of the game in question]. Wrong interpretation ??

USSF answer (August 11, 2003):
The call of dangerous play for this offense went out several years ago. It is either kicking or attempting to kick, no opinion of the referee required or warranted — it is not allowed. Following the overhaul of the Laws of the Game in 1997, the ball itself cannot be lawfully played while in the goalkeeper’s possession. Therefore any attempt to kick, head, knee, or otherwise play the ball out of the goalkeeper’s possession must be considered as an action directed at the goalkeeper himself/herself and therefore should be considered kicking or attempting to kick — a direct free kick offense. If contact were made, the referee might consider that the kicking player committed serious foul play and might then send off the player and show the red card.

Your question:
An attacking player is lying injured inside the penalty area. A defending player kicks the ball in touch so that the injured player can receive treatment. After the injured player is treated, an attacking player takes the throw-in. Attacker #6 calls for the ball saying, “Give it to me and I will give it to the goalkeeper!” The ball is thrown to Attacker #6, who promptly and intentionally kicks the ball into the goal! Most referees I know think that this is unfair and conflicts with the spirit of the game. But does it infringe the law? I have heard two suggestions on how to deal with this unlikely situation (but it has occurred I am told). First solution: Find fault with the throw. Second solution: Attacker #6 performed a simulation to deceive the opponents AND THE REFEREE. Caution Attacker #6 for USB and award an IFK to the defenders. Within LOTG what should the referee do? Or should he have done?

USSF answer (August 1, 2003):
There is no reason for the referee to take any action, as there has been no infringement of the Laws of the Game. On the other hand, Attacker #6 should consider giving up soccer, as he has no concept of fair play.

Please rid yourself of the notion that what the morally-impaired attacker did comes under the “simulation” provision. Referees can stretch the Laws pretty far when the circumstances permit, but some things are simply beyond the pale. “Simulation” involves fouls and/or injuries only, not deception of the sort described in the scenario, and is aimed at deceiving or misleading the referee. The action of this player was not aimed at the referee at all, but solely at the opponents.

Your question:
Can you please illustrate an example of a dangerous charge? I have always sanctioned any charge that fails to meet the criteria in ATR 12.5 as careless (DFK). Also, may a player use his forearm instead of his shoulder to charge an opponent, assuming that the charge isn’t violent, and the player doesn’t come up under the opponent–just uses the forearm as a brace against the player (and perhaps pushes a little)?

I believe I am correct in assuming that if a wall creeps up a yard or two at a free kick, this is always trifling as it I can’t think of any way this could hinder the attacking team’s ability to restart. However, it really bothers me and I was wondering if the USSF approves the practice of setting up the wall intentionally farther than ten yards, in games where the defenders have consistently previously crept forward. I don’t see anything else I can do about it, as I can’t caution anyone if it’s trifling, correct?

USSF answer (July 30, 2003):
1. We are not aware of anything called a “dangerous charge.” If you mean a reckless or violent charge, then they should be punished accordingly — with a caution (yellow card) and direct free kick (or penalty kick) or with a send-off (red card) and direct free kick (or penalty kick), respectively. No, a player may not use his forearm to charge an opponent — or even as a brace. These acts would be considered either pushing or holding and should be punished accordingly. They are the same as the ever-popular hand check, which is also illegal.

2. Trifling is relative. It might make all the difference in the world to the team which was awarded the free kick. If the creeping is interfering with the kicking team’s right to a “free” kick, then the referee must exercise good judgment in managing the situation. Nothing that interferes with a team’s right to fair play can be considered trifling.

Your question:
I play goalkeeper and I was wondering if a call was right in a match that I had played in recently. Here is was happened, the opposing team had a breakaway and went to their wing foward which crossed the ball into the middle, no player contended the ball until it hit the ground so of course I went to go scoop it up but I was met by two opposing players one of which ran into me not even trying to get the ball, I had my hands on the ball but it was down at my feet, of course the came loose after the forward barreled into me and the other player pounded the ball into the goal, now comes to my question. The player that ran into me received a yellow card, but the referee allowed the goal. I don’t think a goal should be allowed if there was a foul committed and even a card give.

Thanks for reading this. Confused Goalkeeper

USSF answer (July 29, 2003):
The goalkeeper establishes possession with as little as one finger on the ball, provided the ball is under his control (in the opinion of the referee) and the ball has been trapped against the ground or some other surface — the ‘keeper’s other hand or a goalpost.

Let us leave aside for the moment the matter of the player who played you instead of the ball. If you actually had possession as defined above, rather than simply going for the ball and yet not having it pinned down, then the second player was in the wrong and should have been punished for kicking or attempting to kick an opponent — a direct free kick for the goalkeeper’s team — and possibly sent off for serious foul play and shown the red card if he made contact with you.

The player who played you rather than the ball was clearly in the wrong and should have been punished — at a minimum — for carelessly charging an opponent. The referee in your game obviously saw this as a reckless play, hence the caution and yellow card.

If you were prevented from playing the ball by the unfair charge, the goal should not have been allowed and the restart should have been a direct free kick for your team from the point of the charge.

If the referee had called the kicking or attempted kicking by the other opponent, then the goal should not have been awarded and the referee should have awarded a direct free kick for your team.

Your question:
From a DFK 30 yards from the Goal the attacker kicks the ball over the wall of defenders and toward the goal. The ball appears that it would have scored were it not for the defender who hung from the goal crossbar and headed the ball back onto the field.

USSF answer (July 28, 2003):
By hanging on the crossbar to head the ball away from the goal, the player brought the game into disrepute. Because this misconduct denied the opponents a goalscoring opportunity, the referee should send off the player and show the red card. The restart would be an indirect free kick for the opposing team. This is a good example for reminding referees that offenses which deny a goalscoring opportunity are not limited to those punishable by a direct free kick or penalty kick but may include fouls or misconduct for which the restart is an indirect free kick.

Your question:
[Original question directed to a state association]
I request your assistance is directing me the appropriate governing body relating to rules pertaining to the following: Prescribed (prescription) eyewear used during a soccer match. As background, my sons and I are Grade 8 referees activley involved in the local [city name] area. Also, both of my sons play Premier level Club soccer.

I am aware there is no specific law governing the approval of such eyewear. Based on my research, it appears the approval is left up to each individual referee’s descrection (based on safety and the need for such eyewear). Unfortunately this can be capricious and unpredictable. Specifically, I’ve been involved in several instances when the matter of “what is safe” has come under heated debate between referees on the same field and the effect being the player was banned from wearing the eyewear during the game. I’ve seen this same unpredictable judgements with both types of eyewear: athletic shields and athletic googles. We need some very specific instruction as to what is “Approved Eyewear.”

Who writes the laws relating to these matters? If there is a state and national governing body? If so, could you direct me to both?

USSF answer (July 23, 2003):
Player equipment is covered by the Laws of the Game, written by the International Football Association Board and promulgated by FIFA. Those Laws specify that a player may wear nothing that is dangerous to any player (including himself). The decision of the referee is final.

This answer from earlier this year may be of some help to you:
USSF answer (March 4, 2003):
In addition to this quote from the IFAB/FIFA Questions and Answers on the Laws of the Game (2000 edition), Law 4, Question 4, . . .
4. May a referee allow a player wearing glasses to play in a match?
If, in the opinion of the referee, the glasses are dangerous to the player himself, or to an opponent, he does not allow the player to take part in the match. Players Wearing Spectacles

Sympathy was expressed for players, especially young players, who need to wear spectacles. It was accepted that new technology had made sports spectacles much safer, both for the player himself and for other players.

While the referee has the final decision on the safety of players’ equipment, the Board expects that they will take full account of modern technology and the improved safety features of spectacle design when making their decision.

USSF Advice to Referees: Referees must not interpret the above statement to mean either that “sports glasses” must automatically be considered safe or that glasses which are not manufactured to be worn during sports are automatically to be considered unsafe. The referee must make the final decision: the Board has simply recognized that new technology has made safer the wearing of glasses during play.

If you need further information, you will find what every referee in the United States is taught about equipment in this memorandum of March 7, 2003:

To: State Referee Administrators cc: State Presidents
State Youth Referee Administrators Affiliated Members
State Directors of Referee Instruction
State Directors of Referee Assessment
National Assessors
National Instructors
National Referees

From: Julie Ilacqua
Managing Director of Federation Services

Re: Player’s Equipment

Date: March 7, 2003


USSF has received a number of inquiries recently about how officials should handle situations where players wish to wear equipment that is not included in the list of basic compulsory equipment in FIFA Laws of the Game. Referees are facing increased requests from players for permission to wear kneepads, elbowpads, headbands, soft casts, goggles, etc.

The only concrete guidance in the Laws of the Game is found in Law 4:

“A player must not use equipment or wear anything which is dangerous to himself or another player.”

This is followed by a list of required uniform items: jersey, shorts, socks, shoes, and shinguards. Obviously, this language is quite general. USSF suggests the following approach to issues involving player equipment and uniforms:

1. Look to the applicable rules of the competition authority.
Some leagues, tournaments, and soccer organizations have specific local rules covering player uniforms and what other items may or may not be worn on the field during play. Referees who accept match assignments governed by these rules are obligated to enforce them. Note, however, that local rules cannot restrict the referee’s fundamental duty to ensure the safety of players.

2. Inspect the equipment.
All items of player equipment and uniforms must be inspected. However, anything outside the basic compulsory items must draw the particular attention of the referee and be inspected with special regard to safety. USSF does not “pre-approve” any item of player equipment by type or brand — each item must be evaluated individually.

3. Focus on the equipment itself — not how it might be improperly used, or whether it actually protects the player.
Generally, the referee’s safety inspection should focus on whether the equipment has such dangerous characteristics as: sharp edges, hard surfaces, pointed corners, dangling straps or loops, or dangerous protrusions. The referee should determine whether the equipment, by its nature, presents a safety risk to the player wearing it or to other players. If the equipment does not present such a safety risk, the referee should permit the player to wear it.

The referee should not forbid the equipment simply because it creates a possibility that a player could use it to foul another player or otherwise violate the Laws of the Game. However, as the game progresses, an item that the referee allowed may become dangerous, depending on changes in its condition (wear and tear) or on how the player uses it. Referees must be particularly sensitive to unfair or dangerous uses of player equipment and must be prepared to order a correction of the problem whenever they become aware of it.

The referee also should not forbid the equipment because of doubts about whether it actually protects the player. There are many new types of equipment on the market that claim to protect players. A referee’s decision to allow a player to use equipment is not an endorsement of the equipment and does not signify that the referee believes the player will be safer while wearing the equipment.

4. Remember that the referee is the final word on whether equipment is dangerous. Players, coaches, and others may argue that certain equipment is safe. They may contend that the equipment has been permitted in previous matches, or that the equipment actually increases the player’s safety. These arguments may be accompanied by manufacturer’s information, doctor’s notes, etc. However, as with all referee decisions, determining what players may wear within the framework of the Laws of the Game and applicable local rules depends on the judgment of the referee. The referee must strive to be fair, objective, and consistent, but the final decision belongs to the referee.

The philosophy of the United States Soccer Federation is that every child who wants to should be able to play. However, we must respect the guiding principles of the Laws of the Game, particularly Law 4, which requires the referee to ensure that all players are given conditions in which they can play as safely as possible.

Your question:
After CR’s whistle, kicker runs up to take kick, and sideline of defending team makes loud and distracting noise. Kicker misses PK badly. Any remedies ?

USSF answer (July 23, 2003):
Other than recognizing it as the poor sportsmanship that it is, no, there is little the referee can or should do. However, Law 5 grants the referee the power to stop, suspend or terminate the match because of outside interference of any kind. If the referee believes that this activity is planned or organized in any way, rather than the spontaneous actions of zealous fans, it might be considered to be outside interference. Examples of planned, systematic interference might include air horns or firecrackers or group shouting. In that case, the referee would be justified in informing the team captain that the game will be terminated if such planned or organized activities do not stop at once.

Your question:
At a throw in a player begins to take a flip throw in. During this attempt the following things happened:
a. The Player landed with both feet on or behind the touchline
b. The player was facing the field of play
c. the ball was thrown from behind and over the top of the head and released while the ball was over the top of the head.
d. The player used both hands to perform the throw
e. The player threw the ball while her rear-end was in contact with the ground (i.e. the player threw the ball while seated rather than squatting or standing.)

Is it legal to throw the ball in from the seated position? I know it is Illegal to throw from the kneeling position but the ATR doesn’t mention the seated position and I would like further clarification as this happened in one of my matches and I didn’t know what was proper. My first reaction was this can not be legal is throwing from the kneeling position is also Illegal. What is the correct interpertation?

USSF answer (July 23, 2003):
After the referee and the players and spectators finish laughing, the referee’s decision should be to award the throw-in to the other team, as the throw-in was not completed in accordance with the requirements of Law 15. A sitting throw-in would be regarded as equal to a kneeling throw-in.

Your question:
I gave advantage to green going to goal outside the area for a charge; the player kept stumbling for what seemed forever but was not near any other defenders. A slight challenge near goal line and the attacker went down and giving up a goal kick. Since I called advantage, can I still call the foul and bring the ball back to the original foul location? This was a hot u19 boy¹s match and I felt I needed to make a decision pretty quickly. Did I call advantage too soon? Once I call advantage, does that cancel the foul?

USSF answer (July 23, 2003):
The wisdom you seek will be found in section 5.6 of the third edition (2003) of the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game,” to be released in the very near future:
Referees have the power to apply (and signal) the advantage upon seeing a foul or misconduct committed if at that moment the terms of the advantage clause (Law 5, 11th item) were met. Applying advantage permits the referee to allow play to continue when the team against which the foul has been committed will actually benefit from the referee not stopping play.

The referee must remember that the advantage applies to the team of the fouled player and not just to the fouled player. Soccer is a team sport and the referee is expected to apply advantage if the fouled player’s team is able to retain or regain control of the ball.

The referee may return to and penalize the original foul if the advantage situation does not develop as anticipated after a short while (2-3 seconds). If the ball goes out of play during this time, then play must be restarted in accordance with the Law. Referees should note that the “advantage” is not defined solely in terms of scoring a goal. Also, a subsequent offense by a player of the offending team must not be ignored while the referee allows the anticipated development of the advantage. Such an offense may either be recognized by stopping play immediately or by applying the advantage clause again. Regardless of the outcome of the advantage call, the referee must deal appropriately with any misconduct at the next stoppage, before allowing play to be restarted. (See also 12.27.)

The referee may also apply advantage during situations that are solely misconduct (both cautionable and send-off offenses) or to situations that involve both a foul and misconduct.

The advantage applies only to infringements of Law 12 (fouls and/or misconduct) and not to infringements of other Laws. For example, there can be no advantage during an offside situation, nor may advantage be applied in the case of an illegal throw-in that goes to an opponent.

Referees must understand that advantage is not an absolute right. It must be balanced against other issues. The giving of the advantage is not required in all situations to which it might be applied. The referee may stop play despite an advantage if other factors (e.g., game control, severity of a foul or misconduct, possibility of player retaliation, etc.) outweigh the benefit of play continuing.

A common misconception about advantage is that it is about deciding if a challenge is a foul. On the contrary, that decision has already been made because advantage cannot be applied to anything which is not a foul (meaning a violation of Law 12). Advantage, rather, is a decision about whether to stop play for the foul. Accordingly, giving the advantage is “calling the foul” and thus it must be as obvious to the players as signaling to stop play.

Inconspicuous advantage signals are as much to be avoided as a whistle which cannot be heard. Likewise, however, using the advantage signal to indicate that something is not a foul is equally wrong.

In determining whether there is persistent infringement, all fouls are considered, including those to which advantage has been applied.

In short, if the advantage did not work out within the 2-3 seconds, call the play back to the spot of the foul (or misconduct) and restart in accordance with the Laws.

And, finally, a hint about calling the advantage “too soon.” Most experienced senior referees will not audibly call the advantage until those few seconds have already passed so that, when it IS publicly announced, the advantage will be clear.

Your question:
USSF ATRotLOTG 5.2 states: “The authority of the referee begins when he arrives at the field of play and continues until he has left the area of the field after the game has been completed. The referees authority extends to time when the ball is out of play, to temporary suspensions, to the half time break, and to additional periods of play or kicks from the penalty mark as required by the rules of competition.”

Furthermore, ATR 3.14 states: “Yellow and Red cards, which are now mandatory indications of cautions or send-offs. may be shown only for misconduct comitted by players or named subsitutes during a match. ‘During a match’ includes:
a. The period of time immediately prior to the start of play during which players and substitues are physically on the field warming up, stectching, or otherwise preparing for a match.”

Now the situation in question: I was an AR on a match which was being played during a recent tournament. Immediately following this match I was scheduled to be the Referee of the following match. During the match while I was the AR, a player from the next game was waiting just off the goal line in his uniform waiting for the current game to end so he could take the field with the rest of his team. This “future” player had started to interact with some of the “current” players and had been heckling the referee. At an appropriate time I mentioned to him and his team that I would be the CR for their game and that they should not interfere with the match being played. Later on, the same player who had been interfereing disagreed with the call of the CR and said “He, Ref, you suck!” — I told this player again that I was refereeing his match later and I heard what he had said and I would take it under consideration and then I proceeded with my duties as AR. At the end of this match I talked it over with my crew and after determining that I was within my authority to do so I decided to issue a caution to the same player who had been interfering with the prior match. I did not show a card as they hadn’t physically entered the field of play, but since I had arrived at the field of play I was under the impression I was ok in issuing a caution to this player. My reason was USB as I didn’t feel I could issue a caution for dissent because he wasn’t dissenting my personal decision, but was being unsporting. Later after asking the SYRA he informed me I was not correct in this decision. I am still confused though, I know the ATR doesn’t specifically discuss every little thing possible because to do so would make the document cumbersome, so WHEN does the referee’s authority in a match to which he is connected begin at a tournament during where the players are there and ready to enter the field, but still before the prior match is over?

USSF answer (July 23, 2003):
Let’s lay this out another way: A spectator at a game (but who will be a player in the NEXT game) makes disparaging remarks about the referee. This spectator is asked by the assistant referee on that game to cease. The AR then threatens the spectator that he will take action against him in the next game, in which the AR will be the referee and the spectator will be a player/substitute. Where in Law 5 (or anywhere else in the Laws of the Game) would the referee find the authority to do this? Nowhere.

If the spectator did not stop his commentary, the correct solution would be gather as much information as possible on the spectator (team, name, number, etc.) and include that information in the match report for the first game. Anything else goes far beyond the authority granted to the referee by the Laws of the Game.

Just to make it perfectly clear: You are attempting to create a right to caution which, as an AR, you do not possess. Whatever the person was doing, it was the responsibility of the referee on the game during which it happened to handle it. The AR has no cautioning authority; he or she can only make a recommendation to the referee. But, in this case, even the referee wouldn’t have authority to caution this person because this person wasn’t a player, substitute, or substituted player FOR THE GAME DURING WHICH THE BEHAVIOR WAS COMMITTED.

Some might suggest that you spent altogether too much time focusing on this, to the possible detriment of your responsibilities to the referee and the rest of the game. If we were to recommend any course of action beyond including the details in your own match report on the first game, it might be to advise the spectator that, based on his behavior prior to his own match, you (the referee) will be paying special attention to him in his role as player.

Your question:
In a game where the opening 15 minutes had been hard and fast, with a high number of fouls, a player on one team who already had two fouls to his credit recklessly fouls the star player on the other team again (say for the second time). The referee had decided that if this player committed another foul in a particular time frame, he would be cautioned for persistent infringement.  When this foul now occurs, it is the type that every player on the field knows must carry a caution for recklessness. The referee awards one yellow for the reckless foul, and one for the persistent infringement, pointing to the three foul spots.

Has the referee exceeded his authority?

Under the LOTG, he is supposed to punish the more severe of two simultaneous offenses. Yet, here, there is one offense and two misconducts. Must he choose to just punish one?

The thinking referee would probably choose to use one caution and chew out the player big time, and let him know in no uncertain terms that if he so much looks like he’s going to foul again, it will be his last for this game. But, if the game circumstances supported it, is the referee justified in the awarding of both at one time?

Inquiring minds don’t have enough to do today.

USSF answer (July 23, 2003):
Persistent infringement is judged by the referee on the spot, based on written guidance and on the way the particular game is being played. If two acts of misconduct happen to coincide, resulting in a situation where the player must be cautioned for a second time in a game, life is hard, but the referee must persevere. Lex dura sed lex. And some players just never learn.

Yes, provided that the referee believes that match control in this particular game requires it, the player should be cautioned and shown the yellow card for persistent infringement and then shown the second yellow card and then the red card for the second caution in the game.

Your question:
On a PK, the Keeper throws his hat or shin guard at the ball and stops it before it enters the goal. What is the card, if any, and what would the restart be? Would it be any different if he did not throw it but held it out too extend his reach?

USSF answer (July 22, 2003):
If the object — hat, dirt, shoe, shinguard, glove, whatever — remains in the goalkeeper’s (or any other player’s) hand, it is considered to be an extension of the player’s hand. However, once it leaves the player’s hand, the object is no longer considered as part of or an extension of the hand. Thus, throwing the object and striking the ball cannot be considered to be deliberately handling the ball. It is considered to be misconduct; however, following the caution and yellow card for unsporting behavior, the restart would be a retake of the penalty kick.

Why a penalty kick? Having been awarded a penalty kick, the kicking team MUST be allowed a fair chance of the kick being completed — whether it results in a goal or not. Anything that interferes with completion of the penalty kick (fan running onto the field, dog playing with the ball, the ball bursting on its way in, a goalkeeper committing misconduct by throwing a shoe/rock/jersey/etc. at the ball and deflecting it) means that the penalty kick was not “completed.” Therefore, the penalty kick must be retaken after the referee sorts out the other problems.

In addition, referees are reminded that offenses which deny a goalscoring opportunity are not limited to those punishable by a direct free kick or penalty kick but may include fouls or misconduct for which the restart is an indirect free kick. (Which it would have been in this case if the offense had been anything other than a penalty kick.)

Your question:
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS TO THE LAWS OF THE GAME, June 2003, “Laws of the game” Law 4, The Player’s Equipment states:
“If , in the opinion of the referee, the glasses are dangerous to a player himself, or to an opponent, he does not allow the player to take part in the match.”

Is there any USSF guidance on the issue of prescription glasses?

Most players wear contacts, soft plastic frames, rubber frames or protective goggles over the prescription glasses in metal frames. However, on occasion a player will have prescription glasses with a metal frame. Some referees opinion is that the frame is safe and other referees opinion is that the metal frame is not safe.

Is it appropriate for a referee assignor to remove a referee from a game if the assignor disagrees with the referee’s opinion of the safety of the frames?

USSF answer (July 21, 2003):
The USSF guidance is contained in the March 7, 2003, memorandum on player’s equipment, which can be downloaded from this and other USSF-affiliated sites.


To: State Referee Administrators cc: State Presidents
State Youth Referee Administrators Affiliated Members
State Directors of Referee Instruction
State Directors of Referee Assessment
National Assessors
National Instructors
National Referees
From: Julie Ilacqua
Managing Director of Federation Services

Re: Player’s Equipment

Date: March 7, 2003


USSF has received a number of inquiries recently about how officials should handle situations where players wish to wear equipment that is not included in the list of basic compulsory equipment in FIFA Laws of the Game. Referees are facing increased requests from players for permission to wear kneepads, elbowpads, headbands, soft casts, goggles, etc.
//remainder of item deleted; you can find the complete document on this site or in other items in the archives//

This, of course, includes eyeglasses of any sort.

No – there is nothing in the Laws of the Game or anything else that allows an assignor to overrule a referee decision with regard to safety; therefore the assignor has no right to interfere in this decision. The assignor is not the aggrieved party if there is a disagreement on the referee’s decision — that would be the player.

The decision of the referee working the game is final on all points of Law — and this is guaranteed in Law 5 (The Referee): “The decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play are final.” Player safety is intimately connected with play.

Your question:
Situation is a match that needs a winner. Near the end of overtime, one team is playing with 7 players. One of these players leaves the field for an injury with the referee’s permission and the team continues with 6, hoping that the injured player will return. Overtime ends and it is determined that the injured player is unable to take the kicks.

My “guess” was that you would reduce the other team to seven players and continue the kicks six on seven. The other possible options are to kick six on six, or abandon the match and file a report.

USSF answer (July 21, 2003):
The referee should base the decision on the guidance given in the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game”:
Although Law 3 specifies a minimum of seven players in order to start and continue a match, it is not always necessary for all seven to be physically on the field. A match may be continued if a team drops below this minimum number as a result of a player requesting and receiving permission from the referee to leave the field temporarily for treatment of an injury or if instructed by the referee to leave the field to correct bleeding, blood on the uniform, or illegal equipment. In such cases, the referee should be satisfied that the team will be able to field the minimum number within a reasonable period of time. If this is not the case, the referee must abandon the match and describe the circumstances fully in his report.

It all comes down to the quintessentially Washington question — what did the referee know and when did he know it? You did not specify how long the injured player was off the field, but if the amount of time for treatment exceeds the referee’s idea of “reasonable,” then the referee should not hesitate to abandon the game at that moment. On the other hand, if the referee deems the amount of time the injured player was absent from the field to be “reasonable,” then there is no need to abandon the game. This is strictly a matter of judgment for the referee.

The basic principle: If the player off the field for the injury was “known” to be unable to return to the field before the end of regulation play, then the team is down by one at the end of regulation play and the other team must reduce to equate. If the player off the field for the injury was not known to be unable to return to the field until after the end of regulation play, then the reduction in size did not occur until the kicks phase has begun and thus the reduce to equate rule does not apply.

Now the obvious question is HOW does the referee “know” or learn of this central fact. The referee should not make any inferences regarding the length of time the player was off the field or what the injury “looked like” or any other consideration (for example, what would the referee do if he assumed the player could NOT return and then the player did?). The only sure way is for the referee to be told this either by the player or by a recognized team official (e. g., coach or captain). Until this happens, the referee cannot “know” the answer to this question. So, it comes down to the time when the referee was told that the player could not return. Was it before or after the end of regulation play? On this hinges the issue of whether reduce to equate will be applied.

Your question:
In U12 and 10 what is considered to be dangerous playing (such as playing on the ground)
I had a game where kids where falling left and right because the play was getting pretty hectic. Sometimes the ball got caught on a persons legs while they were down but they were not kicking at it. is this dangerous playing.
Also in the game starts to get rough but no fouls are being committed and the kids are just kicking at the ball and the roughness is even, should i let play continue or stop play and restart with a dropped ball?

USSF answer (July 20, 2003):
Playing the ball while on the ground is NOT NECESSARILY considered to be playing dangerously. It all depends on what the player is actually doing.

Here is what we teach referees about playing in a dangerous manner, taken from the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game,” which can be downloaded from this and other USSF-affiliated sites:
Playing “in a dangerous manner” can be called only if the act, in the opinion of the referee, meets three criteria: the action must be dangerous to someone (including the player himself), it was committed with an opponent close by, and the dangerous nature of the action caused this opponent to cease his active play for the ball or to be otherwise disadvantaged by his attempt not to participate in the dangerous play. Merely committing a dangerous act is not, by itself, an offense (e.g., kicking high enough that the cleats show or attempting to play the ball while on the ground). Committing a dangerous act while an opponent is near by is not, by itself, an offense. The act becomes an offense only when an opponent is adversely and unfairly affected, usually by the opponent ceasing to challenge for the ball in order to avoid receiving or causing injury as a direct result of the player’s act. Playing in a manner considered to be dangerous when only a teammate is nearby is not a foul. Remember that fouls may be committed only against opponents or the opposing team.

In judging a dangerous play offense, the referee must take into account the experience and skill level of the players. Opponents who are experienced and skilled may be more likely to accept the danger and play through. Younger players have neither the experience nor skill to judge the danger adequately and, in such cases, the referee should intervene on behalf of their safety. For example, playing with cleats up in a threatening or intimidating manner is more likely to be judged a dangerous play offense in youth matches, without regard to the reaction of opponents.

One final note: Referees must keep in mind that it is NOT a good idea to stop play because “the roughness is even” and then restarting with a dropped ball. Referees must make a decision that one person or the other started the roughness and deal with that person. The dropped ball is too often the coward’s way out of facing reality and making a decision.

Your question:
I am curious about the advise for referees when it comes to the use of cards for misconduct in U 12 or younger matches. Does the USSF have any particular advise or customs when it come to this matter.

USSF answer (July 20, 2003):
No player is immune from punishment for misconduct, whether it be minor or more serious. This applies to all age levels, all skill levels, and all levels of competition.

The specific approach you use in handling the mechanics of the card situation, including how the card is displayed and what you say to the player, will depend on the age, skill, and competitive level of the match, along with a host of other factors. Regardless of these factors, however, the referee must be particularly vigilant in dealing promptly, firmly, and correctly with any misconduct that affects the safety of the other players. No player is too young to learn that violence will not be tolerated.

Your question:
I noticed in the USA v. Brazil friendly this Saturday that one fo the Brazilians (Daniela) was wearing what seemed to be padded headgear. Is such padding legal?

USSF answer (July 16, 2003):
The United States Soccer Federation does not take a position one way or another on padded headgear. Such headgear is not part of the player’s required uniform and equipment. The referee is the sole judge of the permissibility of these items, which must meet the requirement in Law 3 that it not be dangerous to any player.

You can find most recent the position paper regarding the issue of equipment on this and other USSF-affiliated wegbsites. You may also have noticed the face masks — not helmets — worn by one or two Korean and Japanese players during World Cup 2002. The use of those face masks was not questioned at any time by the referees or the administration.

Your question:
It has been my personal policy to allow quick free kicks at all times, including near goal, unless a member of the attacking team asks me to administer a ceremonial kick (or if there is misconduct). The problem is, many teams are not used to this approach, and will take their time on the restart allowing the defending team to retreat the distance and set up a wall. While I believe the intent of the quick free kick was for an immediate restart, I can see nothing wrong with the attacking team taking a reasonable (15-20 sec.) delay, nor can I see anything wrong with the formation of the defensive wall (the Board apparently doesn’t want play held up for it, but it’s allowed). Of course, it was always necessary to direct the placement of the wall, as defensive players left to their own devices will set up slightly short of 10 yds…Thus, many of my quick free kicks transpired exactly like ceremonial free kicks, minus the whistle. I found this course to be preferable to doing ceremonial kicks, as it allows the attackers the chance to strike before I have fully moved the defense back, should an opportunity present itself, or if the full retreat is not needed.

Recently I have heard a number of dissenting opinions on this issue. The first expressed that a quick free must be taken quickly (before the defense fully retires) or else the kick is automatically made ceremonial.

The second suggestion was that, though an attacking team may delay as long as it likes (within reason), never, at any point during a quick free kick, should a referee attempt to move defensive players back the full distance (except for Severe encroachment). This sounded extreme, but he pointed out section 13.3 of the Advice which prohibits referee interference and wall management during a quick free kick. There is also a clear implication in 13.5 that the distance is only enforced in the case of a ceremonial restart. He also made the logical argument that, if my system was the correct way of doing things, why would anyone ever ask for a ceremonial restart? (I guess I had always assumed that ceremonial FKs were being phased out by the lawmaking bodies of soccer.)

In ending, my question can be segmented into three parts: 1.) Can the kicking team delay the taking of their quick free kick. 2.) In all QFK cases, should the referee attempt to move back opponents, cautioning encroachers *just as he would for a CFK, (with the Sole exception being defenders who are actively retiring away from the ball passively receiving the ball)*? 3.) If the answer to the above two questions is yes, as I believe it is, what exactly would be the benefit of asking for a ceremonial free kick(from the perspective of the attacking team)?

Any other practical advice you can give me, a relatively inexperienced referee, regarding the handling of free kicks would be extremely helpful.

USSF answer (July 15, 2003):
Before answering your question, there is a point that needs to be made: There is a vast difference between actively encouraging quick free kicks and making them one’s policy at every opportunity. All referees should allow quick free kicks, as provided in ATR 13.3, but the referee cannot cite 13.3 as a reason to avoid taking action against those who fail to respect the required distance. ATR 13.3 should not be cited as a reason to avoid taking action if the failure to respect the required distance resulted in an unfair advantage to the opponents. In other words, back away, watch what happens, and intervene in quick free kick situations where an opponent closer than the minimum required distance actively makes a play for the ball (as opposed to, luckily, having the ball misplayed directly to him).

ATR 13.3 tells us that “The referee should move quickly out of the way after indicating the approximate area of the restart and should do nothing to interfere with the kicking team’s right to an immediate free kick. At competitive levels of play, referees should not automatically “manage the wall,” but should allow the ball to be put back into play as quickly as possible, unless the kicking team requests help in dealing with opponents infringing on the minimum distance.”

Your interlocutor has misinterpreted 13.3, failing to recognize “automatically” as being the operable word in the sentence. The defending team has only two rights at a free kick: (1) the right to remain a minimum of ten yards away until the ball is in play — i. e., is kicked and moves — and (2) the right not to be diverted by the referee interfering with the action in other than a ceremonial free kick situation. This is what the referee is doing when he starts talking with the opponents — even if saying nothing more than to back away — or, worse, when he is actively engaged in being “the first brick in the wall” while still allowing the kicking team to kick whenever it wishes. The ATR lays out a fairly simple set of rules — keep your mouth shut, unless you have to or are asked to step in — in which case the free kick automatically becomes a ceremonial restart and the first thing out of the referee’s mouth had better be an admonition to everyone that the free kick cannot now be taken without a signal by the referee. The kicking team has rights too: the right to a “free” kick, free of interference from the opponents and, if they wish to take the kick quickly, free from the interference of the referee. That is what ATR 13.3 is about. The referee cannot abdicate the responsibility to ensure that the free kick is indeed “free.”

To your questions:
1) “Can the kicking team delay the taking of their quick free kick?”
Only to a point. The kicking team, too, is expected to abide by the requirement to get the ball back in play. The referee should give the kicking team every opportunity to take its free kick, but a player may be cautioned for delaying the restart when they have been instructed by the referee to move ahead with the kick.
2) “In all QFK cases, should the referee attempt to move back opponents, cautioning encroachers — just as he would for a CFK, (with the Sole exception being defenders who are actively retiring away from the ball passively receiving the ball)?”
No. The referee must have a feel for the game, how it has been going, how it is going now. That “feel” must be applied to each and every situation individually. There is no black-and-white formula to follow.
3) “If the answer to the above two questions is yes, as I believe it is, what exactly would be the benefit of asking for a ceremonial free kick(from the perspective of the attacking team)?”
See above.

Your question:
Had an interesting situation in a match last week. Attacker takes a shot, which is stopped by the keeper. The ball was stopped and in the possession of the keeper, as he was prone with his left hand on the ball. The attacker followed through and kicked the ball out from under the keeper’s hand, apparently scoring a goal. The keeper could not have positioned his body more perfectly to completely screen both coaches from seeing the play, who were both shocked when I blew the whistle, shook my head (I realize not listed as proper mechanics) and clearly signaled with my hands that there was no goal (again, no mechanics in the book, but everyone, especially the attacker’s coach, knew what I was saying). So far, so good. I then glanced at my AR, and he was running up the touchline as though signalling a goal. Oops, thought I, I screwed up. So I went to talk to him and make sure that he saw the same thing I did. Turns out his run up the touchline was to get the emotional coach who had a goal called back to step back off the field – he had wandered onto the field a foot or two.

Now, if I had simply run to the spot, raised my hand for the indirect, and gotten play going again quickly, things would have calmed down pretty quick. I could almost feel the tension and emotion rise as I spoke with the AR, before I got the restart going. My question is this: What does the Center do if the AR apparently is signalling a goal in a situation like this? I may have simply been overcautious, having only a week before had a center signal a goal when it was not, as I was on the goal line and the ball did not go into the goal – in this case my mechanics were correct, center just didn’t look. But I don’t want to go through this experience again – I still had three days to go in camp with these folks!

Also, to what extent should the AR ‘deal with’ a coach? As center, I could hear everything going on from the bench, and had chosen to ignore it – it was an emotional moment, and both coaches were excited (“It’s a Goal!” – “The ball was in the keeper’s hands!” – “Goal!” – “Keeper’s hands!” – “Goal” – “Keeper’s hands” – actually quite a chuckle, in retrospect). I would think that if the coach is such a problem that the AR has to run 50 yards to settle him, then he should probably let me know first by signalling with his flag. Again, your advice is appreciated.

I sure have appreciated your responses to my (and OUR) questions. Now if I can just figure out how to keep up with all those kids with young legs…

USSF answer (July 15, 2003):
Although you did fairly well under the circumstances, you might need to do two things: (1) Remember that the restart for kicking an opponent — which is what happened here; and you could have sent off the attacking player for serious foul play, if necessary — is a direct free kick, not an indirect free kick, and (2) brush up on your mechanics. Your team seems to have reacted a bit too quickly, without the recommended deliberation and eye contact that has to support all specific mechanics. You and the assistant referee (AR) should always exchange information at any stoppage. You look at the AR, the AR looks at you. If the AR nods (or gives any other signal on which you have agreed), you award the goal or the foul or take the punitive action for misconduct. In this case, you should have arranged a signal to show that a goal had NOT been scored. Then you would have recognized that the AR’s apparent “signal” for a goal by running up the touchline was not to indicate a goal, but a message that there was something going on that needed attention — most likely yours. The AR’s job is to cover you when you are otherwise occupied. The AR did that. You had not done your job fully by giving proper instructions or by dealing with the (possibly irresponsible) behavior of the coaches.

Your question:
The coin toss gives the blue team first kickoff. Five minutes later the kickoff actually occurs, but the red team has taken the kickoff! The referee realizes this about a minute into the match. What should the referee do (besides being embarrassed) if no one else notices? What should he do if someone complains?

USSF answer (July 15, 2003):
If no one else notices, the referee should let it go. Never interfere where the only result will be to get people confused or angry. If someone complains, the referee should apologize — and let it go. (We are assuming here that the team that won the toss lined up correctly to attack the goal they chose to attack. Surely they would have complained about that?)

Your question:
At the beginning of the second half in a recent U-14 match, one team had one of its players stand at the touch line near the halfway line facing away from the field. Two substitutes stood outside the touch line also facing away from the field (they probably were not a full yard off the touch line, but let’s assume that they were for this question). Before starting the half, I counted the players on the field twice and only counted 10. So I asked the coach if the player next to the touch line was a player or a substitute (I was standing near the center circle at the time and could not see a poorly-painted touch line clearly). The coach became very annoyed because I had unintentionally ruined his ruse (he apparently wanted to hide the player on the touch line, and send him down field for a pass). Was the team’s behavior gamesmanship or a legitimate tactic that I interfered with by not being a bit more aware?

USSF answer (July 15, 2003):
What you describe may be a legitimate tactic, as all players were on the field, but the coach’s reaction to an appropriate question from the referee borders on irresponsible behavior. A warning about responsible behavior might be in order here.

Your question:
I was recently reviewing “Advice to the Referee” and under player substitutions it said to the effect that a substitution was complete when the substitute player entered the playing field. Well I thought about it for a moment and I remember all those times I allowed substitutions where the substitute did not enter the field such as in the case where he/she simply ran down the touchline to substitute for a player who was going to take the throw-in. Intuitively, my acknowledgment that the substitute was taking the place of the player who was going to take the throw-in completed the substitution procedure. Are we as referees asking for trouble by not requiring the player to enter the field of play first ? What if the substitute having not entered the field is running down the touchline to make the throw-in punched a player on the field ? Is he at this point a substitute or is he a player ?

USSF answer (July 15, 2003):
The points you bring up are precisely the reason why the referee must control the substitution process so carefully. A substitute does not become a player until he enters the field in accordance with the substitution procedure, and referees ask for trouble if they do not require the substitute to enter the field, just as the Law instructs them. Indeed, the International F. A. Board was so concerned about it that many years ago they included this Q&A in their Questions and Answers to the Laws of the Game under Law 3:
“18. A player being substituted leaves the field of play and the referee signals to the substitute to enter the field. Before entering, however, he delivers a throw-in, ignoring the substitutions procedure stated in Law 3, regarding entering the field of play. Is this procedure permitted?
“No, the substitution procedure stated in Law 3 must first be completed.”

Your question:
I refereed a recreational match (U10/12) Saturday and have a question. Cards are not used in this league.

Here is the scenario, and I hope it is understandable: Team A is attacking Team B. I had cautioned Team A about slide tackles that were questionable (several times). Team A forward is pushing toward the goal and the keeper is moving to intercept it. As the keeper is moving to intercept it, he is also moving so that his body is going low enough to become in contact with the ball. During the keeper’s movement to obtain the ball, the attacker is doing a slide tackle to attempt to prevent the keeper from gaining possession of the ball.

The keeper did get possession of the ball. The attacker almost caught the keeper with a foot to the head ( Fortunately the keeper was quick.). I told the attacker not to slide tackle when the keeper is reaching for the ball as he could have connected with the keeper’s head and caused serious injury. The attacker’s coach yelled from off the field that it was okay, he was playing the ball.

My thoughts were that this could be dangerous play? Under regular rules, possibly a card?

USSF answer (July 15, 2003):
The situation you describe has two players (goalkeeper and opponent) going for the ball on the ground, with the opponent sliding feet first to tackle the ball away from a goalkeeper sliding headfirst toward the ball.

Referees need to remember that the position of goalkeeper is inherently dangerous and the goalkeeper is allowed a bit more leeway than other players in placing himself in danger and thus affecting how his opponents can act. Why? Because it is the ‘keeper’s job to stop the ball from going into the goal, no matter at what height above the ground it may travel. So, would we allow this for the opposing attackers? Not if it places the goalkeeper in danger that he cannot avoid. Is this inconsistent? Yes, but it is the way the game has always been played.

Referees are not empowered to give orders to players about how they can play. Referees may spell out options, but they may not prescribe a course of action — only the consequences of doing something that is counter to the Laws of the Game. The players make their own decisions, based on all levels of input — conscious and unconscious, over and covert — from the referee.

There is nothing illegal, by itself, about sliding tackles or playing the ball while on the ground. These acts become the indirect free kick foul known as playing dangerously (“dangerous play”) only if the action unfairly takes away an opponent’s otherwise legal play of the ball (for players at the youth level, this definition is simplified even more as “playing in a manner considered to be dangerous to an opponent”). At minimum, this means that an opponent must be within the area of danger which the player has created. These same acts can become the direct free kick fouls known as kicking or attempting to kick an opponent or tripping or attempting to trip or tackling an opponent to gain possession of the ball only if there was contact with the opponent or, in the opinion of the referee, the opponent was forced to react to avoid the kick or the trip. The referee may warn players about questionable acts of play on the ground, but would rarely caution a player unless the act was reckless.

To make the proper judgment on such plays, the referee must establish early on a feel for the game being played on this day at this moment and must be alert to sudden changes in the “temperature” of this game. What might be a caution (yellow card) in this game might be trifling in another game. Much depends on the level of play, whether recreational or competitive, skilled or less developed, very young or adult.

Your question:
On a Free Kick, defenders set up a wall. When the kick is taken, it goes directly at one of the defenders. The defender “reacts” by protecting himself with his arm and the ball strikes his arm.

How much consideration should the referee place on the fact that the defender “deliberately” placed himself in a position that could “reasonably” expect to have the ball kicked at himself?

USSF answer (July 15, 2003):
Your question is not valid, as it excludes legitimate actions by the players. As long as the defenders respect the required distance at a free kick, they are allowed to place themselves wherever they like — as long as they respect the rest of the Laws of the Game. They may also place their hands/arms where they like, as long as it is in a natural, rather than a contrived position. They may also “protect” themselves from the possible aftermath of a kick that comes their way, as long as they do not use this “protection” as a means to control the ball.

Section 12.9 of the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game,” which will remain unchanged in the upcoming revised edition, tells us
The offense known as “handling the ball” involves deliberate contact with the ball by a player’s hand or arm (including fingertips, upper arm, or outer shoulder). “Deliberate contact” means that the player could have avoided the touch but chose not to, that the player’s arms were not in a normal playing position at the time, or that the player deliberately continued an initially accidental contact for the purpose of gaining an unfair advantage. Moving hands or arms instinctively to protect the body when suddenly faced with a fast approaching ball does not constitute deliberate contact unless there is subsequent action to direct the ball once contact is made. Likewise, placing hands or arms to protect the body at a free kick or similar restart is not likely to produce an infringement unless there is subsequent action to direct or control the ball. The fact that a player may benefit from the ball contacting the hand does not transform the otherwise accidental event into an infringement. A player infringes the Law regarding handling the ball even if direct contact is avoided by holding something in the hand (clothing, shinguard, etc.).

Your question:
Two of our boys received red cards after a U-14 travel league game for “sarcastic remarks” to the referee after the game. Each of these players, the best we can tell, made one comment to the ref during the game (despite our coaching of “don’t say anything to the ref”). The first boy asked “what was the call” on one penalty. The second, when called on an illegal throw in for lifting his back foot stated, “I kept my toe down”. Neither player protested or “dissented” any further, neither of these comments were made disrespectfully, and neither was either informally warned, nor shown a yellow card for “dissent”.

After the game, immediately after the customary “good game” handshake with the opposing team, the first boy said to the ref “thanks for ref-ing the game” and the second boy said to the ref, “good ref-ing”. The referee was clearly upset and kept each players pass (never actually showed either red cards) and stated, after considerable protest by the coaching staff, that the players had been “sarcastic”. Both boys, other teammates who overheard the comments, and the opposing assistant coach (who argued vehemently with the ref defending our players) claimed the comments were made sincerely.

While I understand the necessity of the referee being the final say on “judgement” calls, a red card offfense for language, according to FIFA Law 12, involves “offensive or insulting or abusive language and/or gestures”. Even if our players were sarcastic (again, they were not!), can tone of voice be interpreted as “offensive, insulting, or abusive” enough for a red card to be issued with prior NO warning??

USSF answer (July 15, 2003):
Under normal circumstances, if there was to be any punishment at all, “sarcastic remarks” would merit only a caution (yellow card). Perhaps the players pushed the referee a little harder than you have been led to believe? Not to excuse the referee, who indeed appears to have had a bad day, but this might be a lesson for all of your players: Don’t provoke the referee.

Your question:
I am a certified referee and I have observed this situation several times, though it has not occurred in any of my games. Here is the question?

The attacking team takes a shot at the goal. The GK calls the ball (³Keeper² to protect himself/herself) and proceeds to place himself/herself in position to stop the goal. The GK¹s teammate (sweeper) runs over and/or slide tackles the Keeper in an effort to prevent the goal thus taking the GK down from behind. Is there a referee call associated with this type of play? A warning the first time it occurs (since it might have been an accident/miscommunication)? What happens if it continues? Does the referee card the sweeper with a possible send off?

USSF answer (July 10, 2003):
Unless the goalkeeper’s teammate uses violence in tackling the ball away from his own goalkeeper, there is no infringement of the Laws here. Best decision? No foul, get on with play.

What kind of competition are you watching where this has happened “several times”? [NOTE: There was no response to this question.]

Your question:
I understand that certain conventions are accepted by all players in international matches even though the LOTG would seem violated. In many internationals I have seen, and in particular the Paraguay v USA friendly, the defensive teams consistently stand over the ball–ostensibly to argue the merits of the foul call–without any complaints from the attacking team.

Since the referee will not reverse his call, it is clear to me that the actual intent is to prevent the quick taking of the free kick. Here’s my question: should a referee enforce the LOTG even where neither team seems to care?

USSF answer (July 10, 2003):
This tactic of standing over the ball to delay restarts is used for intertwined reasons: the players are coached to do it because many referees are reluctant to do anything about it because they know the players are coached to do it — and it is just “too much trouble” to enforce the Law. The U. S. Soccer Federation’s National Program for Referee Development firmly believes that all attempts to take a quick free kick should be supported by the referee at all levels of the game. If the opponents actively work to prevent the quick free kick or to delay the taking of the free kick until their defense has been set, then the referee must step in and caution/yellow card the offenders for failing to respect the required distance when play is restarted with a corner kick or free kick.

Your question:
Recently in a U-9 game that I was coaching my player took a shot and as the ball was flying through the air the sideline AR’s watch beeped, indicating that the quarter had ended. The ball went over the keepers head and into the net, however the center referee did not count it as a goal since the time had run out. Usually in these games, there is stoppage time added on and the referee has in the past always let the play continue until. I could not find anywhere in the Laws of the Game re: this issue. Should it have been a goal? The player took the shot prior to the time running out and normally there should have been stoppage time.

USSF answer (July 10, 2003):
Law 5 empowers the referee to act as timekeeper and to keep a record of the match. Law 7 instructs the referee to add time (at his discretion) for time lost in either half of a game or in any overtime period for the reasons listed in Law 7 (Allowance for Time Lost). Referees are supposed to allow additional time in all periods for all time lost through substitution(s), assessment of injury to players, removal of injured players from the field of play for treatment,wasting time, as well as ³other causes² that consume time, such as kick-offs, throw-ins, dropped balls, free kicks, and replacement of lost or defective balls. Many of the reasons for stoppages in play and thus ³lost time² are entirely normal elements of the game. The referee takes this into account in applying discretion regarding the time to be added. The main objective should be to restore playing time to the match which is lost due to excessively prolonged or unusual stoppages. While most referees will wait until the ball has gone out of play or until there is no threat on either goal before stopping the game, some referees do not. Law 5 tells us that the referee’s decisions regarding facts connected with play are final.

More to the point, however, the watch of the assistant referee is not the official time and should never have been allowed to become audible. Further, the assistant referee’s watch having sounded anyway, the referee should not have automatically signaled for the end of the period: this was an abdication of the referee’s ultimate responsibility to keep the time himself.

In short, your referee decided that the game was over at that moment and blew the whistle. It will be of small comfort to you and your team, but a very famous FIFA Referee once made that same decision (1978 World Cup) and never received any further international appointments.

Your question:
My son and I have a question that needs your help. We are both refs, but in this game he was a player and I an observer. This was a U16 boys game–his team (team A) was attacking the goal and team B defending. Team B committed a foul resulting in a direct free kick from 30 yards out on the right side of the goal. Team A’s play was to have three players in kicking position–player 1 runs “over” the ball (no touch) from the right; player 2 runs “over” the ball (no touch) from the left; and player 3 takes the kick. As soon as player 1 runs “over” the ball, the line which had be set at 10 yards by the ref collapses toward the ball. By the time the actual kick was taken three players were about 3-4 yards away. The kicker “shanked” the ball and it sailed over the goal line way to the left of the goal. The Ref awarded the defending team (B) a goal kick and play resumed. There is always some dynamics going on and this game was no different. Team A was ahead by 4 goals and the center ref was angry with some of the “gamesmanship” of the a few players from team A. It had gone to the point where he had actually run up to a team A player (player 3 who took the kick), got in his face and yelling loud enough that we could hear clearly from the sidelines what he was saying. That player had one yellow and instead of giving him another and a red kept yelling “how many fouls do you have” “you should know” etc. (I was embarressed for the ref because he had clearly lost his temper.) Back to the question: My son felt that the kick should have been retaken and perhaps cautions given to the players that crashed in on the ball–his contention that the ball was “shanked” because those players had an impact on the kicker. The rules are very clear. My contention is that although the rules are very clear, I thought that the kick went exactly the way it would have, nothing was changed and that under the circumstances it was better to just let the game proceed. As far as the rules are concerned, I know I should probably be eating “crow” but for the flow of the game it was better to let it go. What is your take?

Thanks not only for your answer, but for your service. I enjoy reading your answers,

USSF answer (July 8, 2003):
At this distance in both time and space, we will have to give the benefit of the doubt to the referee on the spot — despite his apparent bad attitude and poor management practices.

Before closing, may I remind you of some very wise words that were once in the Laws of the Game, Law V, International Board Decision 8, familiarly known as the “V8” clause, instructed referees that “The Laws of the Game are intended to provide that games should be played with as little interference as possible, and in this view it is the duty of referees to penalize only deliberate breaches of the Law. Constant whistling for trifling and doubtful breaches produces bad feeling and loss of temper on the part of the players and spoils the pleasure of spectators.” These same words are preserved as an embodiment of the Spirit of the Game in the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game,” section 5.5. We cannot presume to take away the referee’s right to make his or her own judgment of situations.

The core question in this case is whether the obvious violation of Law 13 did in fact make a difference. Was the shanked ball the proximate result of the failure to respect the required distance when play is restarted with a corner kick or free kick? If so, retake after cautioning/yellow card; if not, let play continue and, at most, admonish at the next opportunity.

Your question:
Just before starting the second half, I realized I had stopped the first half 5 minutes short. Neither team brought it to my attention, nor did my assistants. I reviewed the Laws, but didn’t find anything to cover this. Should I have added 5 minutes to the second half, or ignored the first half time shortage and kept the second half to its normal time? What is proper procedure?

USSF answer (July 8, 2003):
Law 7 requires two equal halves. When you became aware of your error, you should have restarted and finished the first half of (insert appropriate number) minutes. You should then have taken the normal half-time break and played the second half of (insert appropriate number) minutes.

You set aside a Law of the Game if you do not allow two periods of equal length. This is a matter of fact, not referee judgment. If you did not do this, your only recourse is to terminate the game and file a complete report. There is nothing you can do to correct the situation once you have started the “second half” incorrectly and played any amount of time in that period. You must include all details of the match, including any cautions/yellow cards or send-offs/red cards, in your match report.

Full details of how to deal with such a situation are found in the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game”:
If the referee ends play early, then the teams must be called back onto the field and the remaining time must be played as soon as the error is detected. The halftime interval is not considered to have begun until the first period of play is properly ended. If the ball was out of play when the period was ended incorrectly, then play should be resumed with the appropriate restart (throw-in, goal kick, etc.). If the ball was in play, then the correct restart is a dropped ball where the ball was when the referee incorrectly ended play (subject to the special circumstances in Law 8).

If the referee discovers that a period of play was ended prematurely but a subsequent period of play has started, the match must be abandoned and the full details of the error included in the game report.

Your question:
At any age level under the USSF, does the player who is red carded just have to leave the technical area or do they have to leave the entire playing area including the spectator area? I.e. Must go to the parking lot area?

USSF answer (July 8, 2003):
Law 12 tells us: “A player who has been sent off must leave the vicinity of the field of play and the technical area.” In many circumstances, particularly involving youth players, it may not be possible to apply this requirement strictly. The primary objective of the requirement is to ensure that a player who has been sent off will no longer in any way interfere with, participate in, or otherwise be involved in subsequent play. The failure of a player who has been sent off to meet this objective cannot result in any further disciplinary action against the player by the referee but all details of any incident must be included in the game report. If this is not practical because of the age or condition of the player, the team authorities are responsible for the behavior of the player or substitute.

Your question:
My U12 daughter plays teams that consistently hip check opposing players.  I thought this was a foul but officials rarely if ever make the call. The best example of this is occurs when one red player and one blue player are approaching a ball and just before gathering (touching) the ball, the blue player throws her hips into the red player knocking her out of position to play the ball. The blue player, now unopposed, goes on to gather the ball. Please help me understand why this is allowed.

USSF answer (July 3, 2003):
A foul is a foul is a foul. There is no such thing as a “male” foul or a “female” foul. Hip checks are not a proper way to charge and should not be allowed.

Your question:
I recently took part in a High School varsity soccer match, where the score was tied after regulaton and the two overtime periods. We proceeded into a PK shootout to determine the outcome. Our team shot first, and, after the referee had blown his whistle but before our kicker had touched the ball the goalkeeper came charging off his line, dashing and screaming like a maniac running toward the spot. Our kicker, flustered of course, took the shot with the goalkeeper within 5 ft. of him and missed wide, understandably because he had never seen such a thing before and had the goalkeeper in his face. The referee permitted this, and our team went on to lose in the shootout. How legal were this goalkeepers actions, and what are the exact rules on that sort of situation?

USSF answer (July 3, 2003):
We cannot speak for the rules of high school soccer, but this would certainly not be allowed under the Laws of the Game, which require the goalkeeper to remain on the goal line — although he or she can move along the line without coming forward or going backward — during penalty kicks or kicks from the penalty mark. Nor is the goalkeeper allowed to shout and scream and otherwise bring the game into disrepute with such antics as you describe. Those antics would require an immediate caution/yellow card for unsporting behavior.

Your question:
What happens if a substitute who was not on the field when the game ended is allowed to participate in PKFTM? If, after the 6th set of PKFTM have just been completed, you are informed by blue and agree that the first red kicker was not on the field at the end of play – do you now restart the PKFTM from scratch, or write it up in your report as a referee error that could not be corrected once “play” (i.e. the next set of PKFTM) had been restarted? And would you caution the 1st red kicker for illegal entry and caution the red player who left for illegal exit for this post-game activity?

USSF answer (July 3, 2003):
If the referee has been so foolish as to allow a player who was not eligible to participate in kicks from the penalty mark, and did not learn of the mistake until after six sets of kicks had been completed, the only remedy is to abandon the match and report the matter in full to the competition authority. Unless, of course, the illegal participant was the final kicker in the sixth set of kicks, rather than the first kicker of the first set. In that case, the kicks had not been restarted and the referee could nullify the shot, caution/yellow card the illegal kicker for entering the field of play without permission and the player who was replaced for leaving the field of play without permission, and have the kick retaken by another eligible member of the red team. In either event, the referee should then do the honorable thing by committing seppuku.

Your question:
Question, In a highly competitive (for the parents) state cup game of U-12 boys score is tied with several minutes left. The center calls a pk from what looked like a good call to most everyone. The boy who got tripped got up and told the center that he was not touched by the defender he rolled his ankle over trying to move the ball outside and away from pressure. What does the referee do for the restart. An inadvertent whistle assumption and a drop ball? The center said he could not change the call, awarded the pk. Game shortly over 1-0. What’s the right thing to do – Spirit of the game?

USSF answer (July 3, 2003):
The referee may not change a decision after the game has been restarted. If the game has not been restarted since the penalty kick was awarded — in other words, the penalty kick has not been taken — the referee may correct his decision. The correct restart in this case would be a dropped ball at the place where the ball was when play was stopped, bearing in mind the special circumstances described in Law 8.

Let it be repeated: If the referee has not restarted play, any decision made prior to the restart may be changed, no matter what the infringement.

Your question:
I whent to a clinic and the instructor said that when you dissmis a player during the half time the team has the right to start the second half with 11 players because the dissmisal happen at half time is that correct?. also on onother play he said that a game will continue for a reasonable time with less than 7 players when a player is sligly injured a can not continue is tha correct??????? please answerme back

USSF answer (July 3, 2003):
1. No, if a player (not a substitute) is sent off at half time, a team may not play with the same number of players with which they ended the half. They play with one player fewer. Your instructor may be thinking of high school rules. 2. Yes, if a player is momentarily off the field of play to correct a problem with equipment or have a minor injury treated, the team may play shorthanded for a brief amount of time without penalty. Referees should exercise common sense over the amount of such time.

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