2003 Part 4

Your question:
I am hoping that you can help me resolve a dispute I have had with a couple of referees in my local league over whether or not there is a limit as to how far back from the line a throw-in can be taken. The scenario is relatively simple in that the ball goes out of play, and in seeking the advantage of a quick restart the thrower throws the ball from potentially several yards back from the line and away from the field of play. Assuming no other rules of law 15 are broken (e.g. ball over head, entering field of play from within 1 yard of it going out) etc. then has the throwing player committed an offence simply because he or she took the throw further back than it is normally taken? I have reviewed a number of variants on the rules of the game and cannot find a direct or indirect reference to this.

I hope this is clear and look forward to some thoughts on this.

USSF answer (December 24, 2003):
Your guidance will be found in the IFAB/FIFA Questions and Answers on the Laws of the Game, under Law 15, Q&A 4: 4. Is there a maximum distance away from the touch line from which a throw-in may be taken? No. A throw-in should be taken from the place where the ball left the field of play. However, a throw-in from a distance of up to 1 m from the exact position is a generally accepted practice.

Your question:
I am a 16 year old female soccer player from [my state]. Due to an eye disease, I cannot wear contacts. I’ve tried to wear Rec Specs, but since they wrap-around, the light distortion severely throws off my depth-perception. For a year now I’ve been wearing PLASTIC frames with polycarbonate lens as well as a strap to keep them secure. Let me stress that the frames are not wire. I was told by a referee that next year all prescription eyewear would no longer be allowed. Is this true? If so, what can I do about it? There is no way for me to wear contacts. Thanks a lot for your time.

USSF answer (December 22, 2003):
One of the referee’s duties is to be certain that the equipment of all players is safe and will not endanger either the player nor any other players. If, in the opinion of the referee, the glasses are safe for the wearer and all other players, then the player may wear them. The referee has neither duty nor power to act as a fashion coordinator or an optician.

Referees should all be aware of USSF Memorandum 2001, which contains the following citation from FIFA Circular 750 and USSF advice to referees on the wearing of eyeglasses:

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.

This guidance from FIFA was updated in a circular this year, but there has been no change in either FIFA or USSF policy since the circular of 2001.

Your question:
U-12 Boys ³B² travel team match. Playing on field that has dual markings for Field Hockey and Soccer. Inspect the field during pre-game and find that the PA is marked by yellow lines, as are part of the touch lines. I conduct each team¹s check-in at their respective 18 yard lines to make them aware of markings and remind the Keepers in particular to be aware.

Just before end of 1st half, Attacker runs on to ball in open space just past midfield, in center of field. Feints around and beats the 2nd Last Defender, but this move slows him down enough to allow another defender to close in on Attacker. New Defender is matching Attacker stride for stride, but ¼ to ½ a step behind. I am trailing about 25 feet directly behind the two players, waiting for Defender to make a move for the ball, or Attacker to feint again.

Attacker¹s next touch pushes the ball about 10 feet ahead of himself. I suspect the close pressure from the defender caused him to put a little too much on his touch. Meanwhile, the keeper has timed things perfectly and slides to collect the ball cleanly with no contact. ŠŠ.Except, he ends up about 4 feet over the 18 yard line.

I blow the whistle and call hand ball. The keeper looks up at me with a quizzical expression on his face, then turns over his shoulder, sees the line behind him, and drops his forehead to the turf with a groan. I produce the yellow card and explain to him that it is for USB (specifically, handling ball outside of area). I also told him that given the conflicting markings, I was giving him a break because the play was close to being DOGSO/H with automatic red card. The kid was great in that he actually understood that in this situation, that was a potential consequence.

It was close in that 3 of the 4 conditions for OGSO were clearly met. But the Attacker had pushed the ball just a little too far ahead of himself to still be within playing distance. Plus, I did think that the poor field markings called for some discretion. If the field markings had been proper, I would have thought a little harder about whether this was in fact an OGSO.

At half, the keeper¹s coach asked me what the yellow card was for. I explained that it was in lieu of a potential DOGSO/H + Red Card, and a way to emphasize to the keeper to be aware of the field markings. He was satisfied. I think his player had a better grasp of the Laws than he did.

Given the situation as described, was this a valid call within the LOTG and a reasonable way to handle the situation? Can the case be made for a different call, with or without modifying any of the elements?

Interestingly, a nearly identical scenario was one of the prep questions at my recertification clinic last month. We were working in groups to answer the prep questions and my table had 6 adults. A mix of Grade 8¹s and 7¹s. We all agreed that that scenario did not meet OGSO criteria. I raised the idea of Caution for USB. A couple of us agreed that that might be warranted in some situations, but most did not see the need for a caution in addition to DKF restart.

USSF answer (December 19, 2003):
In your analysis, you appear to be applying criteria which are involved in a red card for offense #5, when in fact what occurred was offense #4. The “4 Ds” memo is specific in its terms — it is talking about offense #5 in connection with these conditions. The general rule of thumb in #4 violations is that the red card is justified only if (in the opinion of the referee), but for the handling offense (in this case, by the goalkeeper outside his PA), the ball would have gone into the net.

In addition, the terms of the USSF position paper of September 16, 2002, on “Obvious Goal-Scoring Opportunity Denied (The 4 Ds)” do not include any reason for a gratuitous caution for unsporting behavior where it is not merited. Nor is this true of any other document dealing with the correct application of the Laws of the Game. If you thought the ‘keeper was confused by the “nontraditionally” marked lines, then a simple foul for deliberately handling the ball outside the penalty area would suffice.

Please, let common sense prevail.

Your question:
The State Youth Association that I referee for has an absolute ban on casts. No player may play with a cast,period, and this includes padded casts. I have contacted them and they have reiterated that casts cannot be made safe and are not allowed. I have had a few referees tell me that as per Law 5, only the referee may decide what is safe and what is not and if they think the cast has been made safe,they’ll allow it. I think this is crazy as if there’s an injury someone’s going to get sued for allowing something to be worn specifically forbidden by the local jurisdiction. Moreover, are not we as referees obligated to adhere to State and Local modifications? I would greatly appreciate your opinion. Thanks.

USSF answer (December 19, 2003):
The referees who told you that the referee may decide what is safe and what is not are correct. Law 5 states that the referee “ensures that the players’ equipment meets the requirements of Law 4.” However, if the rules of competition specify that a player may not wear a cast or some specific piece of equipment other than the required uniform, then any referee who takes a game from that competition must follow the rules. There are no ifs, ands, or buts.

A good general principle to follow in this is that the rules of competition may be more restrictive than the Law allows, but they cannot allow something that the Law flatly forbids.

Your question:
I had a situation happen to me during a college game a couple of weeks ago and I need help with the appropriate decision.

5 secs left in the game, corner kick comes in, offensive player # 1 heads the ball and Defender A intentionally handles the ball as it was about to enter the goal. With the ball back in play, offensive player # 2 heads the ball into the nets, and Defender B attempts to play the ball intentionally with his arm but the ball continues into the goal and I therefore award GOAL at the sound of the Buzzer.

Here are my questions:
1- If I had blown the whistle at the first handling, easy Send off and a PK.
2- If I blew the whistle at the time of the Second infraction before the ball entered the goal and award a PK. Do I have 1 Send off or 2 send offs?
3- How about if the second header puts the ball over the goal and therefore left me with one handling of the ball, advantage applied did not pan out, ball goes out Goal Kick, I think I still must send off Defender A, and award Goal Kick? (Probably very hard to Sell). Your advice would be greatly appreciated, been discussing this with a lot of referees and instructors, and we all feel your advice would help us all.

USSF answer (December 17, 2003):
The answers are fairly simple when sitting at the computer, but perhaps not so simple while on the field. Let us consider the questions solely on the basis of the Laws of the Game, rather than the rules of any other competition — although in this case there is no difference.

1. Correct. Send off for denying the opposing team a goal or a goalscoring opportunity; restart with penalty kick. However, the referee should not stop play immediately for the handling but wait to see what follows; a sure score is better than the less-than-100-percent chance of a penalty kick.

2. You would have one send-off and (perhaps) one caution. Having in effect given the advantage — wittingly or not — by not calling the first deliberate handling by Defender A, you allowed play to continue and the second shot was taken. Even though the second shot was successful, you would still send off and show the red card to Defender A for denying the opposing team the original goal or goalscoring opportunity. If Defender B actually touched the ball while attempting to deny the goal or goalscoring opportunity, he would be cautioned for unsporting behavior and shown the yellow card. If Defender B did not make contact with the ball, then he has not committed any misconduct and may not be punished.

3. Hard sell or not, you must still send off Defender A and award the goal kick.

Your question:
I read that…goalposts and crossbars must be made of wood…..and they must not be dangerous to players. What about the use of hooks to secure the net? Are there any guidelines that advice not to use hooks to secure the nets? The hooks can cause injury and degloving of hands/fingers. Is there any literature on this? What is the recommended way to secure nets…velcro, oversize rubber bands.

USSF answer (December 17, 2003):
You have obviously been reading the wrong literature. Goals may be made of any substance that is not dangerous. The only requirement as far as materials go is that the goals must be colored white.

We are not aware of any literature on the matter. Field owners, competitions (leagues, etc.), and teams should consider carefully what might be safe and what might be dangerous. The final decision is up to the referee.

Your question:
Player A1 has the ball and is about to make a throw-in. His teammate A2 runs off the field, around the back of A1 and back on to the field to receive the throw-in. It is clear that this is a tactic being used by A2 to avoid being covered by the defense.

Is this a legal play or should A2 be cautioned for leaving the field of play without the referee’s permission?

USSF answer (December 16, 2003):
Stop the throw, have a FRIENDLY BUT VERY PUBLIC CHAT with the player who has left the field for this purpose, reminding him that he is not allowed to leave the field without your permission — other than during the course of play, when he needs to get around an opponent or something similar –and that leaving the field in this way could be a cautionable offense. Once he is back on the field, allow the thrower to take the throw-in.

You will find that the public admonition will prevent others from attempting this same trick. This is a case of not making trouble for yourself when you can use the situation as a learning experience for all the players and still foil the player’s gamesmanship.

Your question:
During discussion with a group of referees, there was a question about a specific situation on offside. Player A takes a shot on goal. At the time of the shot, defenders X and Y (as well as the goalkeeper), were nearer the endline than player A and the ball. The shot rebounds off of the crossbar and player A collects it, shoots again and scores. At the time he collected the ball he now was nearer the end line than defenders X and Y and had only the goalkeeper as the only defender between him and the endline. The question is the attacker A offside on the second shot?

For background purposes, the majority of the group said no due to the position of the ball. A vocal minority said yes due to the position of the attacker in relation to the defenders. Thank you in advance for settling this discussion.

USSF answer (December 15, 2003):
Let the vocal minority conjure this: A player cannot be in an offside position if he is not nearer to the goal line than the ball. It makes no difference how many or how few opponents are between him and the goal line if he is behind the ball. In addition, a player is not his own teammate and thus may play again a ball he has just played — unless he put the ball into play at a restart. If a player plays/shoots the ball at goal during active play and the ball rebounds to him from the crossbar or the goalpost or the goalkeeper, he is not in an offside position and thus cannot be offside.

You will find a excellent example of players behind the ball but ahead of all the opponents save the goalkeeper when the ball rebounds in the USSF videotape from the Women’s World Cup 1999, USA vs. Nigeria.

Your question:
Two issues have recently surfaced dealing with errors (judgement, procedures, or both) by the referee team. In both cases, the question to you is, “What is the proper restart?”

ISSUE 1: there is an attack on goal, along AR1’s touch line, when the ball is suddenly slotted through the defense to a teammate wide open in front of the goal, one-on-one with the GK, when the AR pops his flag for offside. The referee whistles to stop play, and thereafter both referee and AR see another defender hiding behind the goal, in an effort to draw the offside call. Since this is a stoppage, there appears no question but that the referee must Caution the Defender now, if he intends to address that unsporting behavior. However, the original stoppage was clearly the result of referee error – acknowledgement of a non-existent Offside infraction. What is the proper restart?

ISSUE 2: an attack is heading toward the AR, when suddenly the referee sees the attacker, while dribbling toward the AR, take a swing at the Defender. The referee immediately whistles play dead, issues a Red card to attacker for SFP, and orders a DFK to the defenders. Before the restart, he checks with his AR, and discovers that his AR knows that Defender first spat at attacker.
Part A: AR had flag up before the referee whistled, but referee did not check with AR until after issuing the Red, and indicating direction of DFK.
Part B: AR raises his flag as or after referee is whistling; but referee does not check with AR until after . . .
Part C: AR did not have his flag up (I can think of two reasons this could well happen: ARs relatively new to the faster-paced, older players, more skilled game, than their previous referee assignments – this has to happen to all of us at some point, as we advance; and 2, the AR wasn’t 100% sure it was a spit until the players got closer, when he could now confirm with visual evidence)

The question, in one way, boils down to this: may a referee ever change an otherwise properly-awarded restart, if he discovers prior to the restart, there was a Foul (as well as misconduct) precipitating the “event” he stopped play for?

This scenario assumes the initial spitting occurred within the “2-3 seconds” for advantage; clearly, if the Initial foul was seen and ignored by both referees, or by either, after 3 seconds, there is no authority under TLOG to stop play for the FOUL (and “if no one saw it, it never happened”).

I believe that both LOTG and SOTG lead one to the conclusion the ref ought to change his restart (it should now be DFK to attackers), and change the basis of his Red card to attacker from SFP to VC, while giving Defender his Red card for Spitting.

What is the correct restart here?

USSF answer (December 15, 2003):
ISSUE 1: The initial flag and stoppage of play were in error, as no infringement of Law 11 occurred. The referee determined only after play had been stopped that a player had left the field in an attempt to place the opposing player in an offside position. The player who left the field must be cautioned and shown the yellow card for unsporting behavior (committed off the field of play). The correct restart in this case is a dropped ball at the place where the ball was when play was stopped, keeping in mind the special circumstances described in Law 8.

The dropped ball restart is not because of an “inadvertent whistle” or, in this situation, the wrong belief that there was an offside violation, as might be the case with the “phantom” fullback, but because of the defender’s misconduct committed _off_ the field. The fact that the reason for stopping play was invalid does not lock the referee into a dropped ball restart if he learns that, prior to stopping play, some other event — foul or misconduct — occurred.

Even if the referee and assistant referee had detected the player leaving the field before the AR raised the flag and the referee blew the whistle, the game would not have been stopped to punish him (in accordance with IFAB/FIFA Q&A 2000, Law 11, Q&A 3), but the player would have been cautioned when the ball next went out of play.

ISSUE 2: Although he should have done so, it makes no difference whether the AR signals for the spitting offense or not, so long as he informs the referee prior to the restart. As long as play has not been restarted, the referee may change his decision and award the foul and send off (red card) the defending player for spitting at an opponent. He must then send off and show the red card to the attacking player for violent conduct, rather than serious foul play. The correct restart is a direct free kick for the attacking player’s team.

Your question:
The Decisions of the IFAB for Law 12 go on at length – and we discuss it for way too long in the Introductory Class – regarding attempted trickery to circumvent the pass-back prohibition from a player to his ‘keeper.

Does the same trickery concept also apply to a throw-in from player to team-mate who then heads the ball to his ‘keeper? Until a week ago I would not have even thought to ask the question – assuming the answer to be “Yes – that trickery is also prohibited.” But in an EPL game, I saw EXACTLY that play allowed by the referee. I was waiting for the whistle, the caution and the IFK but they never came. Play merely continued on with the ‘keeper’s punt. Is this one of those that they allow at that level but I have to enforce in my typical youth games? Or have I merely mis-extended the “trickery prohibition” into an area not so intended?

USSF answer (December 15, 2003):
Yes, the same concept of “trickery” applies to the prohibition against the goalkeeper handling the ball directly from a throw-in by a teammate as for a ball played from a teammate’s foot during play. However, the likelihood of trickery on a throw-in is probably much lower, given the nature of the play.

When considering the possibility of trickery, the referee must decide if the action was natural (a normal sort of play, the sort of thing you would see in any sequence of play) or contrived (an artificial, unnatural play, which, in the referee’s opinion, is intended solely for the purpose of circumventing the Law and preventing the opponents from challenging for the ball).

In the case of throw-in _directly_ to the goalkeeper, the referee would not consider as trickery any sequence of play that offers a fair chance for opponents to challenge for the ball before it is handled by the goalkeeper. The same would be true for a throw-in redirected by a teammate of the goalkeeper.

Your question:
Sometimes when calling obstruction or dangerous play it can be confusing which team is getting the indirect free kick. For example the blue team player plays in a dangerous manner and the referee blows the whistle. If the referee immediately raises his arm to signal indirect free kick both teams may not know who gets the kick. If the referee raises his arm giving a direction of the kick, then raises his arm up to indicate indirect, some players may think the kick is direct because they took the restart very quickly and everyone missed the indirect signal from the referee.

Anyway what is the correct procedure for the referee signaling for obstruction and dangerous play to properly inform everyone which team takes the kick and that the kick is indirect?

USSF answer (December 15, 2003):
And lo, in addition to whistle and hands, the referee has a tongue and a voice, and is able to inform the players through the use of them.

Your question:
Can a player lift a ball with his foot to flick the ball over a wall? It would seem to me this would be a double kick since the ball has to be lifted and then flicked. Even though this may look like one motion, the ball is not being struck by the player but literally hit twice in succession. It would seem to me that if this was allowed, it could open all kinds of doors to allow players to ³carry a ball² if needed. This happened in a recent game and no call was made.

USSF answer (December 13, 2003):
There is no way anyone can make this call from the computer keyboard. If the ball is truly flicked up and then propelled (contact with the ball is lost and then regained), then a second-touch violation has occurred. If the ball is lifted with the foot (the top of the foot) and propelled forward with no contact being lost, then the IFAB/FIFA Q&A covers the situation. IFAB/FIFA Q&A, Law 13, Q&A 5, applies:
5. May a free kick be taken by lifting the ball with a foot or both feet simultaneously?
Yes. The ball is in play when it is kicked and moves.

Your question:
Can you tell me exactly what a “soft red” is? Thanks a lot.

USSF answer (December 13, 2003):
A “soft red” is a concept existing only under the National Federation (high school) rules. It is a send-off which, because it was for taunting or a second yellow card, allows the team to substitute for the player who has been dismissed (i.e., the offending team does not have to play down). This concept does not exist under the Laws of the Game.

Your question:
[An administrator asks:] What happens if an adult game takes place, Team A prevails 8-2, and it’s later discovered that Team B played the game with an illegal (non-registered) player? Does Team A get the 8-2 win? Is the game declared a forfeit and Team A wins 1-0, 2-0 or 3-0? Is the game to be replayed? All of these possibilities have been suggested by people I’ve spoken to but I have gotten no definitive answer. Any help you can provide will be greatly appreciated.

USSF answer (December 13, 2003):
Sure wish we could give you a definitive answer, but we cannot. Decisions on matters like this are not part of the Laws of the Game; they are something that only the competition authority can make.

Your question:
I just finished my referee recertification today – had to reregister since I missed last year. I find it hard to believe, what with all the identity theft problems we have today, that US Soccer is still requesting SS#’s for identification purposes in your database. Is there any way I can have this removed from my registration, and more importantly, why can’t we strike this requirement from the registration form? If nothing else, why not use just the last 4 digits, your initials and date of birth or something like that?

USSF answer (December 9, 2003):
If you have been registered in the past, there will be a unique USSF identification number for you. (If you do not have it, call the Referee Department at 312-808-1300. They will find it for you.)

You can have your SSAN taken off your records. It is not a required piece of information — it is optional. Because in many cases there are several individuals with the same names in the database, the SSAN along with the birthdate helps the Federation to verify we are registering the right people to the right record.

Your question:
I have recently become a referee. During a championship game, for u13 recreation, I was watching a game (not officiating) and had a question about the events that transpired. During the game, a player was hit in the chest with the ball. The player that was hit didn’t do it on purpose, so naturally, he had the air knocked out of him momentarily. The coach yelled for play to be stopped, the official, said “play on”. After a few minutes of yelling by fans and coaches the parents of the child came onto the field to get their son. My question is, what is the correct procedure for injuries, the laws of the game do not say clearly. Thanks for your time.

USSF answer (December 4, 2003):
On the contrary, the Laws of the Game are quite explicit on what to do about injuries to players. Please note that full details on proper procedure in dealing with injured players will be found in your Laws of the Game booklet, under the Additional Instructions for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials.

Dealing with injured players
Referees must follow the instructions below when dealing with injured players:
– play is allowed to continue until the ball is out of play if a player is, in his opinion, only slightly injured
– play is stopped if, in his opinion, a player is seriously injured
– after questioning the injured player, the referee authorizes one, or at most two doctors, to enter the field to ascertain the type of injury and to arrange the player’s safe and swift removal from the field
– the stretcher-bearers should enter the field with a stretcher at the same time as the doctors to allow the player to be removed as soon as possible
– the referee ensures an injured player is safely removed from the field of play
– a player is not allowed to be treated on the field
– any player bleeding from a wound must leave the field of play. He may not return until the referee is satisfied that the bleeding has stopped
– as soon as the referee has authorized the doctors to enter the field, the player must leave the field, either on the stretcher or on foot. If a player does not comply he is cautioned for unsporting behavior
– an injured player may only return to the field of play after the match has restarted
– an injured player may only re-enter the field from the touchline when the ball is in play. When the ball is out of play, the injured player may re-enter from any of the boundary lines
– the referee alone is authorized to allow an injured player to re-enter the field whether the ball is in play or not
– if play has not otherwise been stopped for another reason, or if an injury suffered by a player is not the result of a breach of the Laws of the Game, the referee restarts play with a dropped ball
– the referee allows for the full amount of time lost through injury to be played at the end of each period of play
Exceptions to this ruling are made only for:
– injury to a goalkeeper
– when a goalkeeper and an outfield player have collided and need immediate attention
– when a severe injury has occurred e.g. swallowed tongue, concussion, broken leg etc

And this extract from an answer of September 26, 2003, should also be of help:
In addition to that sage guidance, it is important to emphasize that the Laws and the IFAB’s additional instructions assume a particular kind of game — one which is rare for the vast majority of referees. For most of us, the language of the Law or additional instructions should not be interpreted to mean that a player is required to leave the field when play was stopped solely for his injury ONLY if someone (anyone — trainer, doctor, paramedic, coach, or mom) was beckoned onto the field. The sole determinant of the requirement to leave the field is that the referee stopped play only for the injury. If the game was stopped for other reasons and someone enters the field to aid him, the player may still be required to leave the field if a great deal of attention is required to his condition.

Referees should not be swayed by the complaints or shouts of coaches or parents, but should exercise common sense in stopping games for injury to players. A good rule of thumb is that the younger and less skilled or experienced the players, the more quickly the referee should stop the game.

Your question:
The attacking team takes a shot on the defending team’s goal. The shot is wide and is clearly going cross the goal line outside the 6-yard box and result in a goal kick – if left undisturbed. However, a coach arriving for the next game sees the ball and in an effort to be helpful steps forward, stops the ball with his foot and passes it to the goalie. However, he stops the ball on the goal line. I thanked him for his assistance and asked him to let the ball completely leave the field next time explaining that he had interfered with play. I proceeded with a goal kick to restart play. Did I handle the situation correctly?

USSF answer (December 3, 2003):
As soon as the coach stops the ball you have interference by an outside agent and play MUST be stopped — restart with a dropped ball where the ball was, taking into account the special circumstances of Law 8.

Your question:
If a player slides off the field into the goal, being beyond the goal line when his teammate plays the ball, and then came back and distract the opposing GK. The replies on the [unspecified] list did not consider the player was quite likely to be in offside position. So he’s interfering with an opponent and it’s offside. Restart is IFK in the GA, since his nominal position is on the goal line between the posts.

Is there a USSF official judgment on this situation?

USSF answer (December 3, 2003):
If a player is beyond the goal line and one of his teammates kicks the ball into the goal, the player should not be punished if he remains stationary as the ball enters the goal and does not interfere with the opponents. However, if the player interferes with the goalkeeper’s ability to play the ball, and the referee believes this interference contributed to the scoring of the goal, the goal would not be valid. In this case, the player would be punished for misconduct (cautioned and shown the yellow card for unsporting behavior), not for offside.

If the player had remained off the field, the restart would be a dropped ball in accordance with the special circumstances of Law 8. If the player had returned to the field before or during the interference, the restart would an indirect free kick.

Your question:
Our club is investigating using movable small advertising boards and I need to find the distance requirements between sign boards and the goal line and the touch line. Also is there a difference of distance during a tournament and during the regular season.

USSF answer (December 2, 2003):
There are no requirements in the Laws of the Game regarding distances to be maintained between the boundary lines and any advertising boards. However, FIFA has established regulations for the distance of billboards and other signage from various locations on the field of play: from touchline 5.0 meters minimum, 3.0 meters at corner flags, and 3.5 meters where the goal area line intersects the goal line. (“Technical Recommendations and Requirements for the Construction or Modernization of Football Stadia.”)

Your question:
My son is a licensed USSF level 8 referee.  He scored an 89 on the exam, and worked several games this past Spring in [our old state]. We relocated to [another state] this month, and he is told he may not work any USSF games because he is only 12 years old. They will, however, allow him to recertify when the time comes.

He is nationally licensed by USSF.  If he were living in [our old state], he would work games and tournaments. What is the opinion of the national office on his eligibility in [our new state]?

My position is ­ as he is acknowledged and licensed by USSF, he should be permitted to work games.

USSF answer (December 1, 2003):
Each state governs the age at which referees may begin refereeing within the state’s area of jurisdiction. The United States Soccer Federation takes no position one way or another.

Your question:
I’ve always been told a player cannot be offside on a goal kick, but no one I’ve asked has ever known the meaning or explanation behind this rule. Could you help me understand why it is an attacking player cannot be offsides on his/her goal kick?

USSF answer (December 1, 2003):
Law 11 tells us that “There is no offside offense if a player receives the ball directly from a goal kick.” This has been a part of the Law since at least 1881.

Your question:
What are the field diminutions for youth K-2, and grades 3-5 ? Can you e-mail me a diagram of each?

USSF answer (November 30, 2003):
Sorry, but there are no diagrams available for small-sided youth fields. Here are the dimensions for Under 6, Under 8, Under 10, and Under 12 small-sided games (and the recommended dimensions for Under 12 full-sided games) You can find the markings on the US Youth Soccer website, together with the recommended rules. Please remember that even these dimensions may be changed by the particular competition authority.

U6: The field of play shall be rectangular, its length not more than 30 yards nor less than 20 yards, its width not more than 20 yards nor less than 15 yards. The length in all cases shall exceed the width. U S Youth Soccer Recommendation: Length 25 Yards Width: 20 Yards

U8: The field of play shall be rectangular, its length being not more than 50 yards nor less than 40 yards and its width not more than 30 yards nor less than 20 yards. The length in all cases shall exceed the width. U S Youth Soccer Recommendation: Length 50 Yards Width: 30 Yards

U10: The field of play shall be rectangular, its length being not more than 80 yards nor less than 70 yards and its width not more than 50 yards nor less than 40 yards. The length in all cases shall exceed the width. U S Youth Soccer Recommendation:
8v8 Length: 70 yards Width: 50 yards
7v7 Length: 60 yards Width: 40 yards
6v6 Length: 50 yards Width: 40 yards
5v5 Length: 50 yards Width: 40 yards

U12: The field of play shall be rectangular, its length being not more than 90 yards nor less than 70 yards and its width not more than 50 yards nor less than 40 yards. The length in all cases shall exceed the width. U S Youth Soccer Recommendation: 8v8 Length: 80 yards Width: 45 yards

Your question:
When a coach is “sent off” the field of play by the referee, has he been banished from watching the match from the other side of the field? And would he still be allowed to communicate with his other coaches still on the bench, either by hand signals or cell phone, etc., etc.?

I was taught that once a coach has been sent off, he/she is required to leave the field and no longer coach. Is there further sanction the referee should take?

USSF answer (November 28, 2003):
When a coach or other team official is dismissed from the game, he must leave the field and its environs. While players may be cautioned for unsporting behavior for using a cell phone or similar devices during a game, there is no prohibition in the Laws of the Game against team technical personnel using phones. However, such use may be prohibited by the rules of the competition, e. g., NCAA and high school. The only thing that would stop a disqualified coach from communicating with the team would be those rules of competition

Your question:
Interesting situation arose over the past weekend. AR was asked by a player to hold the corner flag out of the way because the wind was blowing really hard. AR didn’t know any better, and believing that he was being helpful, obligingly held the flag out the way. To compound the problems, the corner kick resulted in a goal. Obviously the defending coach was livid. Should the corner kick have been retaken or stood as a score?

Part 2: there seems to always be little things like the above that drive us refs nuts as we continue our learning. As well meaning as our general rule books are, they lack specifics on how to deal with strange (but not that uncommon) situations. For instance, during yet another game over the weekend a referee blew his whistle thinking a ball had gone over the touch line – when in reality he mistakenly misread the perimeter markings of the goal box as the touch line (trust me, the field markings were strange to say the least). He restarted the play by awarding the team with the possession at the whistle with an indirect kick. After the game, this decision gnawed on him, and he refenced some “10 page addendum” to the normal rule book. And, yup, there in black and white, it addressed this situation as a restart with drop ball. Situations like this happen – although not frequently, they still occur. What was this “10 page addendum” the referee had? Are there some all inclusive referee books that deals with situations over and above the basic referee tenets? What would you recommend?

USSF answer (November 28, 2003):
We can only say shame on the assistant referee! The seven duties of the AR are enumerated in Law 6, and holding the corner flag is not one of them. If a player is not entitled to do this, why should the AR become an accomplice in the player’s crime?

USSF answer (November 28, 2003):
We have no idea about any ten-page addendum to the Laws, unless the referee was thinking of the Additional Instructions to Referees, which are included in the back of the Law book, but there is nothing there about restarts in the situation you describe. However, Law 8 describes the dropped ball as the correct restart in any case “after a temporary stoppage which becomes necessary, while the ball is in play, for any reason not mentioned elsewhere in the Laws of the Game.”

We recommend that all referees obtain, either through purchase of the hardcopy edition or downloading the PDF file on the US Soccer referee webpage, a copy of the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game.” An alternative would be to read through a copy of the “The Laws of the Game — Made Easy” before moving to harder material like the “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game.”

Your question:
In a U-14 game the goal keeper (blue team) made a save and took a few forward steps to put the ball back into play. In doing so he stepped out of the penalty box (a hand ball). The Referee didn’t see the infraction, but the AR signaled the penalty. The referee didn’t see the AR as play was toward the other end of the field and the trail AR didn’t mirror the flag. The AR kept his flag up as play developed. Finally the ball was kick out of bounds across the goal line giving the red team the goal kick. At this time the referee notice the flag up and went to confer with the AR. Finding out that there had been a hand ball by the blue goalkeeper, instead of the red team taking a goal kick, he brought the ball back to the point of the hand ball and gave the red team a direct free kick from that point. Is that the correct procedure or since the penalty was not noted until the next stoppage should it have been a restart by goal kick by the red team?

USSF answer (November 28, 2003):
The original offense was trifling and should have been disregarded. The assistant refereE called something the referee likely did not need to deal with and thus put the referee in a no-win position. The AR should have let it go.

The reasoning behind the answer: 1. The contact with the ball might not even have been an offense — could not the exact location of the goalkeeper’s handling of the ball been at least doubtful?
2. Even if not doubtful, the offense was almost certainly trifling and should have been ignored by the AR.
3. Even if the AR chose not to ignore the offense, the AR should have dropped his flag after that much time had gone by (how long an AR holds the flag for a violation of Law 12 should be discussed in the pregame but, where the offense does not involve violence, sustained flags are not beneficial).
4. Even if the AR maintained the flag, the referee should have decided to overrule the AR’s information for any or all of the reasons listed above.

Your question:
My question is in regards of a situation that I was faced to deal with during a game earlier this season. It was a Classic level game in which a team showed up with no coach. There was no team manager, coach, or any team officials present at the field. I read the rulebook and saw that there is no area regarding coaches, but what would have been the correct course of action? Play the game or not play?

USSF answer (November 28, 2003):
While there is no requirement in the Laws of the Game that a coach, team manager, or other team official be present at any game, it may be required by the rules of the competition. Moral: Know the rules of the competition in which you referee.

Your question:
One of [our State] Cup semifinal U11G playoff games last weekend required penalty kicks to decide a winner. After several “normal” kicks, the following situation occurred: The kicker stuck the ball and propelled it toward the goal. The keeper then moved forward to block the kick (no keeper violation). The keeper missed the ball. The ball stuck the crossbar then rebounded into the field of play. It struck the keeper then rebounded backwards across the goal line and into the goal. What is the correct call … goal or no goal?

During normal time, this would be a goal, since play would continue and there would be attackers and defenders involved in the continuation of play (including the keeper).

At the end of a half or in a shootout, it isn’t obvious to me (or several other referees watching the game) whether the play ends when the ball comes to rest (or leaves the field of play or enters the goal) or whether the play ends when the shot is missed (hitting the crossbar and rebounding back into the field of play in this case).

Fortunately, the call made in the game did not decide the outcome, as one team failed on several other shootout attempts.

USSF answer (November 27, 2003):
Score the goal. The penalty kick or kick from the penalty mark is not completed until the referee declares it so, and the referee should not declare the kick to be completed if it is any possibility that it is still in play.

To put it another way: So long as the ball is in motion and contacting any combination of the ground, crossbar, goalposts, and goalkeeper, a goal can still be scored.

Your question:
In the December issue of [a national magazine] a situation is described where a defender is dribbling the ball in the PA and the keeper comes up and takes the ball away from him using his hands. [The] Magazine interprets this as permissible because the ball was not “deliberately” played to the keeper. This goes against all I have been taught, as the ball was last played by the foot of the defender. I do notice, however, that the wording in the 2003 Laws of the Game use the words “deliberately played.” What is correct and do we now need to distinguish deliberately played from accidental?

USSF answer (November 27, 2003):
The spirit of the Law is that a goalkeeper may not play a ball last played deliberately from the foot of a teammate.  If the defender has played the ball with his foot, trapping the ball and leaving it for the goalkeeper to pick up, that is the same as kicking the ball deliberately to the goalkeeper. The same would be true if the goalkeeper reached down and picked up a ball being dribbled by a teammate.

Your question:
Most leagues require their games to be assigned by a USSF registered assignor. In some cases the smaller leagues do not have this requirement and referees get calls from coaches to referee their regularly scheduled games. If the game or scrimmage is USSF sanctified and the referee is USSF registered, but the game is not assigned by a USSF registered assignor, is the referee covered by USSF insurance?

If the referee is insured, does the assignor have anything to do with the insurance coverage of a registered referee?

USSF answer (November 27, 2003):
If the referee is currently registered with USSF for the year and the game is an affiliated game, the referee is insured regardless of how he received the assignment. This has been verified by the Chief Financial Officer, who oversees the USSF insurance coverage.

Your question:
I know that if a coach questions a call on the field or just disagrees with it they are to voice it in a polite manner either upon the completion of the game or at half-time. I recently was involved in a game where the Ref Assignor for a club was the center ref and his 14 year old daughter was the AR. Mind you know that this was a GU13 relegation game when during the second half the AR without being spoken to said to my girls and an Asst Coach ” you guys have a “Fing” attitude.”. My question is when do you address this kind of issue? After the game and take the chance of it continuing? Or like we did by getting the centers attention? This is when we found out that the AR was his daughter. Please help in answering what is the correct procedure.

USSF answer (November 24, 2003):
No official in any sport, of either sex or of any age, has a right to speak in such a manner to players, coaches, or spectators. The team should file a full report with the competition (league) authority on the matter and should also file a full report and letter of grievance with the state youth association.

The fact that the assistant referee was the assignor’s daughter makes no difference in this case.

You can try getting the referee’s attention to report this.

Your question:
Is there any guide line to the amount of flood lights needed to play a game safely in the evening? There are several youth teams that have their own fields and are putting in their own flood lights for practice and are now using the same fields for late games on the weekend.

USSF answer (November 14, 2003):
No, there is no guideline on floodlights. We can assume that you would apply the same rule of thumb as for fog and rain: If the referee cannot see from the halfway line to both ends of the field, then there is not enough light to play the game safely.

Your question:
I recently had the following happen in a U-14 game. A defender, in the box, was covering the attacking player with the ball. The defender had his arms in a normal defensive position about shoulder height and partially extended. The attacker kicked the ball towards the goal on either a cross or a shot and the ball went straight into the left arm of the defender and bounced across the goal line out of play. The defender did not use his arm to propel the ball out of play. In my opinion the ball was not deliberately played by the defender, instead the ball “played” the defender. The center referee called a PK. I question the referees judgment on this foul. If they truly felt that it was deliberately played by the player, thus awarding the PK, then the defender should have been sent off for denying a goal scoring opportunity or yellow carded for unsporting behavior. If not, then no foul should have been called because it was unintentional.

I brought this question to our local association referee president and he told me that the law had changed. He indicated that the rule book no longer says “intentional”, but “through your actions”, so it comes down to merely a judgment call. I cannot find any changes in the “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game” 2003 regarding this change. Can you help clarify this?

USSF answer (November 14, 2003):
Without wishing to insult your association president, who very likely meant precisely what is stated below, the information you were given is partially correct, partially incorrect, and generally flawed.

When making a decision on the first six direct-free-kick fouls listed in Law 12 — kicking or attempting to kick an opponent, tripping or attempting to trip an opponent, jumping at an opponent, charging an opponent, striking or attempting to strike an opponent, and pushing an opponent — the referee no longer looks for “intent” in a player’s actions, but for the result of that action and whether the act was committed carelessly, recklessly, or with excessive force.

When making a decision on the second four direct-free-kick fouls — tackling an opponent to gain possession of the ball, making contact with the opponent before touching the ball; holding an opponent; spitting at an opponent; or handling the ball deliberately (except for the goalkeeper within his own penalty area) — the referee looks only at the result. He or she does not need to establish that the act was done carelessly, recklessly, or with the use of excessive force. The fact that it was done, in the opinion of the referee, is enough for the foul to be called.

In the case of deliberate handling, the referee determines simply whether or not the play was deliberate or accidental. (See Sections 12.9 and 12.10 of the Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game, unchanged in the 2003 update.)

As to the final decision made during the game, only the referee who is there can do that.

With regard to your comment about misconduct, please note that a send-off for deliberate handling to deny a goal is not automatic simply because an act of deliberate handling occurred inside the penalty area. The general rule of thumb to follow for this offense is that, but for the handling, the ball would have gone into the net. Where there is no red-card misconduct, it does not follow that a caution must be given. The referee has full discretion to determine that a handling foul is simply that, a foul, with no additional misconduct attached to it (as might be the case if the handling were judged to have been committed to interfere with attacking play or in an attempt to score a goal).

Your question:
What are the proper referee mechanics for dealing with a player who commits two cautionable fouls in succession before the referee can punish either foul?

Example 1: A player commits a foul against an opponent worthy of a yellow card and then gets up and makes a USB comment to the opponent, saying something similar to “That’s what you get”, etc.

Example 2: A player commits a foul against an opponent worthy of a yellow card and the referee gives advantage, telling the player that they will be cautioned at the next stoppage of play. The player commits another cautionable foul before the next stoppage.

Example 2A: There is no advantage after the second foul.

Example 2B: There is advantage again after this foul. Should play be stopped here immediately anyways because sending off the player could give the opponent a greater advantage and because the player who knows that they will be sent-off at the next play is essentially a “dead man walking” who cannot be penalized further if they commit an even more serious foul.

Example 3: A player commits two different cautionable offences such as committing a cautionable foul and then delaying the restart by kicking the ball away in disgust before the player knows that play will be stopped anyways to issue a caution. (The latter offense could also be seen as “dissent by action” if a player kicks a ball out of play in protest of the referee’s decision.)

In these scenarios, how should the referee show the cards? Should the referee show the yellow twice in succession and then the red card? Should the ref just show one yellow card and then a red card, implying that the red card is for receiving two cautions in one match? Should the ref show just a red card and then right for the official reason two cautions and a red card and note that they occurred at the same time? Or should the ref show just a red card and give as the official reason violent conduct (because committing two cautionable offences in succession brings the game into disrepute and can be seen as an intimidation tactic, especially in Example 1) or abusive behavior?

USSF answer (November 14, 2003):
If a player commits two cautionable offenses before the referee has had the opportunity to deal with the first one, that player will be cautioned and shown the yellow card twice, once for each of the misconduct offenses, and then sent off and shown the red card for receiving a second caution in the same match. That takes care of all your examples, but there is some misunderstanding to be cleared up.

Players may well be more severely punished for acts that occur after they have committed either a second cautionable offense or even serious foul play or violent conduct. Punishment consists of more than simply the cards and the risk of being sent off. The competition authority and local governments have powers that go far beyond those of the referee to punish the player who commits continuing and grave offenses. A player may be suspended for much longer than the single-game suspension typically levied for a send-off and may be required to pay fines at some levels of the game. A player who commits assault may also be subject to criminal and civil action for his deeds. The referee must supply full details of all such acts in the match report.

The referee should normally stop the game immediately to send off and show the red card (regardless of what sequence of events led up to it — a single event or two separate events each worthy of a caution in the opinion of the referee). Either stop play immediately upon deciding for the red card or, if circumstances warrant, apply advantage but the referee must definitely delay the next restart in order to give the card.

And there is no need to invent terms such as “dissent by action.” A player may be cautioned and shown the yellow card for delaying the restart of play by kicking the ball away.

Your question:
In my game the other day, one of the captains received a red card for getting in a fight. He then turned to me and said “Go screw yourself you “f” ing B. You “f” ing suck. I then asked for the second captain and gave him a red card for the behavior that was being displayed by this other captain. First of all is this correct? If it is, what happens if there is only one captain sent out. Who would the card be given to then?

USSF answer (November 11, 2003):
Captains do not receive cards for other players. All players are responsible for their own behavior. A player who has been sent off may be shown the red card only once. Full details on any subsequent misconduct by that (now former) player is included in the match report.

Your question:
In a select U-16 boys match in a tournament, a ball was kicked to the sideline where it struck the Assistant Referee hard and it in turn bounced hard in deflection towards one team’s goal. The ball would obviously have gone out of bounds had it not hit the AR. After it struck the AR the defenders stopped running but an attacker scooted after the ball heading to the goal. The attacker shanked the ball and we had a goal kick. After it hit the AR, the AR signaled that the ball was in play since it never went completely over the line since it ricocheted off of him. The AR is senior to me in experience and a senior officer in our local Referee Association. Although the center, I deferred to his judgment.

The defending team’s coach was livid since he stated that the ball should have been ruled out of play because it hit the AR. I know the center is part of the pitch, but what about the AR?

USSF answer (November 11, 2003):
If, instead of the ball being shanked by the attacker, the ball had entered the goal, the goal would have been scored. Law 9 tells us that the ball remains in play until “it has wholly crossed the goal line or touch line whether on the ground or in the air.” Common sense dictates that if the ball is prevented from wholly crossing the line by striking the assistant referee or any other person or object (such as corner flag post or a bag on the line), then it is still in play. Although ignorance of the Law is no excuse for players, the intelligent referee will be proactive and announce that the ball is still in play and prevent further confusion.

Please remember that most coaches know very little about the Laws of the Game and their proper application. Some tend to become excited when something unusual occurs that could harm their team or help the other team — no matter that it is perfectly legal under the Laws of the Game. In fact, some follow the example of the coach in your situation and become livid. Unfortunately for them, their lack of knowledge can be a big hindrance to the development of their players, to the proper management of the game, and to their own physical and mental health.

Your question:
One of my players (U11/U12 age group) has soccer cleats with removal metal studs. The studs are oval in shape (they look like the “typical” adidas or nike shape, but are metal instead of rubber). Are these legal to use in USYSA games?

USSF answer (November 11, 2003):
If the studs are safe — no burrs or sharp edges — they are probably legal under the terms of Law 4 and the March 7, 2003, U. S. Soccer memorandum on the safety of player equipment. Many competitions ban the use of metal studs, so please check with your local competition authority (league or whatever), just to be sure.

Your question:
If I notice that a team repeatedly fouls by tripping their opponents, can I consider this as persistent infringement and caution the person who tripped the opponent even though this was the first time he tripped the opponent and this was the first time this particular opponent was tripped. Sort of a Team persistent infringement. If so, can I consider a subsequent trip by another player of the same team as a second caution and send him off? This situation has occurred in several games I have centered where it seemed that the team was coached to trip if beaten and I want to know if this is a valid use of the PI and 2YC Send off.

USSF answer (November 9, 2003):
First a word of advice: The referee should not look to be sending off people right and left. The referee should manage play with all the tools in the toolbox, not just cards. if a player demonstrates that he or she does not want to play according to the rules and the referee’s guidance, then and only then should cards be considered.

And now on to the question: Although this pattern of infringement is not among those types of action customarily associated with persistent infringement of the Laws, it would seem to deserve a place among them. Here is what the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game” has to say:
Persistent infringement occurs either when a player repeatedly commits fouls or infringements or participates in a pattern of fouls directed against the same opponent. Persistent infringement also occurs if a player repeatedly fouls multiple opponents. It is not necessary for the multiple fouls to be of the same type or all to be direct free kick fouls, but infringements must be among those covered in Law 12 or involve repeated violations of Law 14. In most cases, the referee should warn the player that the pattern has been observed and, upon a subsequent violation, must then issue the caution. Where the referee sees a pattern of fouls directed against a single opponent, it is proper to warn the team that the pattern has been seen and then to caution the next player who continues the pattern, even if this specific player may not have previously committed a foul against this single opponent. If the pattern is quickly and blatantly established, then the warning should be omitted and the referee should take immediate action. In determining whether there is persistent infringement, all fouls are considered, including those to which advantage has been applied.

We would suggest that the system of warning the players that a pattern has been observed be followed. Also, please remember that the concept of a “team caution” does not exist under the Laws of the Game, so you could not caution (yellow card) and then send off (red card) one player for doing the same thing for which you had just cautioned one of his teammates.

And a final word of advice: Referees should use common sense in applying any of the discretionary cautions. Do not make trouble for yourself by carding unnecessarily and just because you feel the player is acting incorrectly. Your decisions must be based in Law, not some gut feeling.

Your question:
The laws of the game state that the ball pressure to be between 8.5 and 15.6 psig. I pumped a ball up and did a squeeze comparison. To me it was quite a difference. Like squeezing an orange in one case and a rock in another ! From my experience as a player and officiating soccer I frequently see the ball at about 9 to 10 psig. So out of curiosity my question is what are some of the factors that determine the pressure that the ball is pumped up to ? Is it age, cultural  or field conditions that determine what the referee selects ? Any good rules of thumb to follow ? What ball pressures do you see being used at the professional and World Cup level of play ? Have you seen a game where the ball was pumped to 15.6 psig ?

USSF answer (November 8, 2003):
As long as the pressure within the ball meets the requirement of the Law and is between 8.5 and 15.6 psi (aka 0.6-1.1 atmospheres), no one is particularly concerned about it. The actual playing “feel” of the ball is generally dictated by cultural preferences, which are in turn governed by normal field conditions and the state of the weather thereabouts. The balls used at the higher levels of play are generally inflated at a fairly high pressure to make the ball move better through the air and to bounce more truly from the ground. There is no magic formula of such-and-such pounds per square inch. For more information, please consult the article on “Ball Power” by Stanley Lover. You can find it in the Spring/Summer issue of the USSF referee magazine “Fair Play,” which may be downloaded from the US Soccer website.

Your question:
Assume the AR is at about the 18 and even with the second to last defender. As play moves forward a shot is taken at the goal and the keeper deflects the ball over the end line (for a corner kick). Should the AR signal corner kick from his position on near the 18 and then move to the corner or run to the corner and then signal. I know this sounds a little trivial but it happens to me quite often and I just want to be sure I am in the proper position.

USSF answer (November 8, 2003):
The assistant referee (AR) is supposed to remain level with the ball or the second-last defender, whichever is nearer to the goal line. If that is not possible and the ball goes beyond the second-last defender, the AR must quickly run to the goal line to catch up with the ball. However, in the case where the ball (moving faster than the AR) leaves the field, it is more important that the AR provide immediate assistance to the referee by signaling the proper restart.

Stop, square to the field, and signal (remember, if it is to be a corner kick, the flag is pointed downward at a 45 degree angle in the direction of the corner, even if this means that the flag is not pointing directly at the corner because you are upfield). As soon as eye contact is made with the referee, drop the flag and as quickly as possible take up the correct position for the restart.

Your question:
While clearing up arcane protocols – During my playing days I learned that the correct way to “officiate” a forfeit was for the team present to kick off and shoot the ball in the goal. Kind of fun, especially as the team usually selected the GK to score. Do you know if that was ever an official procedure? I doubt it as the result of a forfeit is often 2-0 and how would you handle the ghost kickoff between the victor’s goals? 🙂

Thanks for you column. As I am a referee instructor I get the most interesting questions and hunger to know as much as I can.

USSF answer (November 4, 2003):
There is no formal procedure such as you describe. The only “official” thing to do is to confirm that one team can and one team cannot field the minimum number by formally requiring the team(s) to be on the field as though the match were ready to start. When one team can put at least seven players on and one team cannot, that’s it.

In no event may the referee declare a forfeit, because there is no such option under the Laws of the Game. All we can do is declare the match abandoned due to an insufficient number of players on one or both teams. It is then up to the competition authority to determine if the match is forfeited or has some other official outcome under the rules.

Your question:
A player took a ball off the forehead, knocking him to the ground and appeared to be unconscious for a moment. Immediately, the referee commanded the remaining players to get on the ground on one knee. Is this enforceable? It doesn’t appear in the laws anywhere. Is it the best interest of or beneficial to the injured player?

My larger concern is for the other players on the field, as aerobic recovery would be better served by gradually slowing the work rate instead of coming to a dead stop. I’ve seen it done may times, and, can’t understand why it happens. It also seems somewhat demeaning.

The referee and I spoke after the match about it. He said it was about respect for the injured player.

Looking for enlightenment,

USSF answer (November 4, 2003):
There is no requirement in the Laws of the Game, nor in common sense, to “take a knee” if a player is down. The referee is required by Law 5 to stop play immediately if a player is seriously injured. The referee might consider stopping play for any “injury” if the players are very young.

Your question:
As the weather becomes inclement, even out here in California, we¹ve been having some discussions around guidelines for determining if a field is in playable condition.  Markings and equipment matters are relatively obvious, such as our recent misfortune when a composting company dumped a load that included glass shards and nails on a couple of fields.  But what about the condition of the field itself?  Is the traditional dropped ball from 6 feet must bounce 12 inches a formally recognized standard?  Are there other accepted standards?

USSF answer (November 3, 2003):
Someone has been applying the compost elsewhere than on the fields. Who ever said that the ball, if dropped from six feet above the ground, must bounce 12 inches?? It is certainly not in the Laws of the Game, not in the Advice to Referees, nor in the Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials. This is not a rule for games played under the auspices of the United States Soccer Federation.

Only the referee can determine whether the field is fit to play on, and it has nothing to do with the height the ball bounces off the ground. It has everything to do with the safety of all participants, which is the only criterion to apply.

Your question:
After a match and the players have left the field, a disgruntled player directs racist remarks to the officiating team. Per USSF Advice 3.14, this is not a send-off and no card may be shown, but the match report MUST describe the incident. Must the referee immediately inform the player (or coach) of the filing of such a report? If YES, does this apply even to very volatile cases where there could be substantial escalation? Or does the competition authority do this later in calmer times?

USSF answer (October 31, 2003):
The referee must use common sense in this case. If it is possible to inform someone on the team, not necessarily the player himself, but perhaps the captain or another responsible team person, about the report that will be filed, then that is how it should be handled.

Your question:
I have a question and want to know if at all, any soccer players can have any advertisments, logos for other places on their uniforms?

USSF answer (October 29, 2003):
Barring something in the rules of particular competition, there is nothing to ban advertisements or other logos on player uniforms.

Your question:
A co-worker of mine asked me a question the other day. At a tournament in [a state in Region II] his daughter received a green card and a soft red card. What exactly does that mean or represent?

USSF answer (October 29, 2003):
Under the Laws of the Game neither of these means anything. The only “green card” we know means that his daughter may be now a resident alien in the United States. There should be no such thing as a “soft red card” in any competition affiliated with the United States Soccer Federation. That is a concept in other, non-affiliated competitions, but not under USSF. You will have to check with the competition authority responsible for the tournament for an explanation.

Your question:
A couple times recently I observed direct free kick fouls by defenders in the penalty area where the referee held back on calling a penalty kick. The way I was taught to handle this was to call the penalty kick. After all, what could be more advantageous than a penalty kick? The answer, of course, is “a goal”. So if the foul is committed and you are pretty sure the team is going to score, you can say/do nothing and let the goal happen. For example, a defender sticks out his hand to stop a shot on goal but does a poor job of it, and the ball trickles into the goal. The attacking team gets a goal. The defending team saves a player from a red card. And almost everybody is happy. A variation on this incident would be if a second defender saves the ball before it goes completely across the goal-line. In this scenario, the advantage was clearly lost and the penalty kick can be awarded and the first defender sent off.

I’d love to have you discuss this in the Ask-a-Ref forum so I can either reinforce or reform my understanding of what should be done on the field.

USSF answer (October 27, 2003):
While it is rarely useful to invoke the advantage clause within the penalty area, it can be done on some occasions. The trick is to keep quiet and see what happens (almost always good advice for a referee). The only advantage you apply in the penalty area is to see if a goal is scored almost immediately.

Many top referees, especially at the pro level, invoke the advantage without announcing it publicly. They allow the 2-3 seconds to go by and then either signal the advantage or call the foul. This will not always work either for them or for the less-experienced referee who is working at the U-12 level where everyone wants every “foul” called right away. (We have published this before, I am sure.) Or there is another way to look at it: instead of allowing the traditional 2-3 seconds to go by during which the foul could still be called if the advantage doesn’t develop or is lost, referees should call the foul and the resulting penalty kick if a goal is not scored more or less immediately following the foul.

As in many other situations, a good rule here would be to swallow your whistle and keep quiet. If a goal is scored anyway, despite the foul, rejoice that good fortune has vindicated your decision and that you didn’t inadvertently cancel the goal by blowing your whistle too early and turning the 100 percent goal into a merely 70+ percent goal (the ratio of successful penalty kicks to attempts). If the goal is not scored, blow your whistle, punish the offender, and restart with the penalty kick.

In addition, the defender who has tried to stop the goal with his hand MUST be cautioned for unsporting behavior and shown the yellow card. And in your variation of the incident, you should still go back and stop the play and send off the first defender for denying the opposing team a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball — and don’t forget to show the red card. Why would you let someone skate free for committing such serious misconduct?

All this, of course, would be done only if you wanted to control the game properly.

Your question:
If a coach is using substitutions at the end of a game (last 2 minutes) to delay, what is the correct procedure? Should the clock be stopped, or the sub disallowed?

USSF answer (October 23, 2003):
The referee may not refuse to allow a proper request for substitution. The only weapon the referee has is to add time if the referee believes the team officials are attempting to “kill the clock.”

However, the referee CAN refuse a substitution if the player coming on is not ready to enter at the time the substitution is being made. In at least this way, the referee can encourage expeditious substitutions. Additionally, he can require the player going off to leave the field at the closest point on the boundary lines instead of chewing up time by traipsing across the field.

Your question:
I would appreciate your insight and opinion on a situation I faced this last weekend. The facts (maybe more than you want or need) are:

Competition: State Cup under 14 year old boys
Time: About 20 minutes into 35 minute second half
Weather & misc. Clear and cool, field condition good, game start at 12:25 PM
Number of officials One certified center referee with 2 club ³lines²
Tenor of play: Competitive with a fair amount of physical play (but under control)
Score at time Defending team (Player A) 1 and attacking team (player B) 3
Situation: Player A of defending team has a throw-in own half (approx. 18 yard line), while player A was getting ready to take the throw-in the Center Referee (me) was reviewing a potential situation down the field. When the Center Referee turned to observe the throw-in he saw Player A kicking the ball. The appearance was of a kick after throw-in with no other touch by another player. After play was stopped it became apparent that the throw-in was taken by Player A and had stuck Player B from the attacking team and had rebound to Player A. The Center Referee (me) awarded a direct free kick to the attacking team.
Items to consider and logic for call. The following were considered before making the call:
1. The Player B impended the throw-in and should be cautioned for unsporting behavior ­ restart as a dropped ball
2. Player A touched the ball twice before being touched by another player ­ restart as an indirect kick to attacking team.
3. Player A struck Player B with ball – award direct free kick to attacking team for penal foul (issue a caution for unsporting behavior and/or reckless strike)
Decision was number three and no caution was given, as the Center Referee did not witness the event. Validity to the ball striking Player B was based on information from both players, even though the Referee did not observe.

Given the facts as stated I would be interested in gaining your insight as to the decision I made to award the direct free kick. I look forward to your sage advice.

Sage USSF answer (October 23, 2003):
Failing all other sources, there is nothing wrong with asking the players involved. As long as both sides agree, then the answer is probably correct. (And yes, you did supply too many details. The head spins!)

Our question is why you would award a direct free kick — or any free kick at all — given that there is no rule against throwing the ball at the back of an opponent, as long as it is not done recklessly or with excessive force. If no one suggested that there had been misconduct of any sort, i. e., something that merited either a caution or a send-off, then let it go.

Let this be a warning to all referees about making assumptions regarding things that they did not see (but should have). Given that the violation this referee initially thought occurred is so rare (particularly at that age level and in a state cup game), he should have employed Occam’s Razor and decided that the simplest explanation was the best and, in the absence of loud protests from the opponents, decided alternately that whatever happened, even if a violation, was doubtful or trifling.

Your question:
Adult men’s league game. Restart was a dropped ball. First attempt ball was kicked before it hit the ground. Second attempt, same thing. Third attempt, blue player steps around ball as it is dropping and shoulder charges white player away from ball. Ball hits ground and blue player kicks it to team mate. White player complains and asks for foul. I stated “no foul” and play went on. But I have to admit I empathize with white. Both players were within playing distance, the charge was legal, and thus my call. So why do I feel that white is right?

USSF answer (October 23, 2003):
You feel that white was right because he was closer to the truth than you and blue. At a dropped ball no player may play for the ball until it hits the ground. Nor may any player interfere with another’s ability to play the ball BEFORE IT IS IN PLAY — in other words, before it hits the ground. Nor may there be a foul committed before the ball is in play. The act by the blue player constituted unsporting behavior; the blue player should have been cautioned and shown the yellow card.

Your question:
I am a firm believer in safety on the pitch. I am looking for a definitive answer on footwear. I know the Laws of the Game only state that a player must wear shoes and I know it is up to the Referee to decide if they are safe or not. Well the local youth / adult soccer league here has been telling everyone that it is OK to wear baseball or football shoes as long as they cut off the toe cleat.

I think this a really bad practice because:
1- The other shoes tend to have several cleats that flair out from the sole and soccer cleats are recessed from the edges of the soles.
2- How much of the cleats need to be cut off? Answer ­ well there is no answer, and should they expect the referee to be the pitch with a ruler and knife?

Personally I find these shoes to be dangerous and I don¹t allow them on the pitch for the matches that I Ref. Well this starts problems with the coaches, players, and parents. Fights have nearly broken out over this. Quotes like ³The Ref last week allowed it² and ³We can¹t find soccer shoes or they are too expensive². Well the truth is soccer shoes are among cheapest of all sports shoes and if you really care about your child, your, or other player¹s safety it is worth the money. I want to know if is possible or at least I wish USSF would put some kind of definitive answer on this matter at least but something in the ³Advice to Referees.² If you want to wear cleats on the pitch they should at least be designed for soccer.

USSF answer (October 23, 2003):
Common sense and traditional practice dictate that players wear shoes designed for soccer, not shoes designed for some other sport and then modified by the player to use on the soccer field.

All referees must remember that they are not responsible for personally correcting any issues involving the field, the ball, or player equipment. Referees are responsible for determining whether the requirements of the Law are met, not for personally attending to them. For example, the referee should absolutely refuse to pump up balls, but should have handy a gauge to determine whether a ball is illegal, and might carry a pump, but use it only for emergencies when someone else, such as the coach, for example, pump up the ball. It is not the referee’s job to make a ball legal.

Neither should the referee carry net repair materials (tape or velcro strips) nor a lawnmower, a paint-striping machine, bags of kitty litter, or a shovel for filling in holes.

Any referee dumb enough to carry a knife and willing to use it to cut off a cleat which he has determined to be dangerous deserves every lawsuit someone might file against him.

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:
While a ball is still in play, the referee becomes diabled for whatever reason. As a result, he is unable to blow his whistle to stop play. Play continues. What is the correct procedure for the assistant referees? What should happen during the time that the ball is still in play while the referee is disabled? An example of this situation might be that a team is on the attack about to score and the referee has a debilitating medical condition like a heart attack at the same time. What should happen at that point? After the play has stopped, I know what should happen. I want to know what the procedure is when the ball is still in play.

USSF answer (October 23, 2003):
The game cannot be played without a referee. Play has effectively stopped when the referee goes down with the disability, whatever it may be and wherever the ball may be. If play has continued past this point, the ball must brought back to the spot where it was when the referee became disabled. Whichever of the assistant referees who observes the problem first must blow the whistle to ensure that the players stop playing — but, as stated above, play has actually stopped when the referee became disabled, so that nothing — other than misconduct — can happen after that time.

Your question:
[NOTE: For the original item referred to in the question, see the archives for August 19, 2003 from the archives, ADVANTAGE; “INTENT” [LAW 5; LAW 12]] Thanks for all your help in maintaining “Ask a Referee”–I never fail to learn or be reminded of important things when I visit. However, I am confused by a recent response, even after a good deal of reflection and discussion with other refs.

You state in the following item from the archives [see ADVANTAGE; “INTENT” [LAW 5; LAW 12], dated August 19, 2003] that we do not have to judge intent–we judge the results of an act instead. So far so good–this takes us out of the requirement to read minds, and let’s us deal with observable events and consequences. However, in the next sentence you suggest we are allowed to distinguish between “accidental” and “deliberate”. What is the difference between a foul committed deliberately and one committed with intent? What is the difference between a careless action and an accidental one? This seems virtually the same as trying to judge intent–deliberation implies intent, and vice versa, does it not?

In particular, players often claim that their actions (which clearly caused results unfavorable to the opposing team) were accidental, and that a call or comment is therefore unwarranted. Let’s not focus on dissent, which we have plenty of tools to deal with, and instead focus on the point they are arguing. Are they essentially correct? Must we decide an action is deliberate before we whistle or admonish?

Consider the following: a blue defender running madly to catch a red attacker breaking toward goal apparently trips, and in falling catches the heels of the red attacker and trips her as well, thus thwarting the attack. If we judge only the result and not intent, there is a foul to be called against blue (at a minimum). If we must judge accident vs. deliberate, we will need nearly psychic powers, at least in subtle cases. It seems to me that the red attacker racing toward the goal (perhaps with only the blue keeper to beat) is robbed if she is brought down from behind and gets no call.

It makes sense that we would probably whistle the above case because of a) the profound effect the trip had, even if it was truly accidental, and b) because it will often be impossible to truly determine whether it was accidental or not. Weren’t the laws changed to get us out of the business of judging intent, which may well involve mind-reading?

Another case: two players approaching more or less head-on contending for a ball; the red player gets there first (but not by much) and plays it away, the blue player arrives just a moment after and flattens the red player. The whistle blows, and the blue player cries out that they couldn’t stop, it was an accident, they were playing the ball. Now, if it was essentially simultaneous in the refs opinion, maybe the ref wouldn’t have whistled (tough, combative contest and all the rest . . .), and if the two players had bounced apart with no harm, once again the whistle might have remained quiet. But, if the effect is substantial enough (flattening the red player), it doesn’t take much of a time difference (between playing the ball and subsequent collision) for the ref to decide to call a foul–it may have been an accident, but it was also careless, reckless, or worse. Once again, the effect of the action seems most important.

I am not arguing that we would never call something an accident–clearly accidental (and incidental) contact happens often enough, and if the effect on the game is insignificant, we don’t whistle it. Similarly, we may observe one player target another player rather than the ball and take that into consideration.

My main point, however, is that where the stakes are large and every tactic is used to the maximum degree, I would think “accident” would not frequently excuse perpetrators from their (foul) deeds–the action itself and its effect would be the primary considerations. The accident vs. deliberate judgement would supplement these only in if there was pretty clear evidence to work with. And as always, the ref must consider all factors in the context of player and match management, with the overarching goals of safety, equality, and enjoyment.

But, I may well be wrong–looking forward to your help!

USSF answer (October 23, 2003):
Sorry, but we do not run through laundry lists to answer questions.

There is only a slight difference between accidental and careless — and the difference is illustrated in the example you cite. We judge the result of the contact, not the intent — and “intent” here means did the player _intend_ to hit that particular part of the person, not did the player do the act deliberately. Of course most fouls are “deliberate.”

Please follow the yellow brick road through the definitions and philosophy below. There you will find the Magnificent Wizard of Oz, who will reveal all — without having the curtain “out” him.

Whatever we referees do on the field should NOT be affected one way or the other by the significance of the game or the “profound effect” of the action. Bad luck is bad luck, regardless of how bad the luck is, and we mustn’t punish bad luck no matter how profound its effect. What CAN be said is that it takes more courage NOT to convert bad luck into a foul when the luck is really bad. This can be illustrated by the tendency of many referees to decide to call something a foul because it produced, for example, a broken leg when they wouldn’t have called it a foul if it produced merely a sprain.

Players seldom enter the field with the intent of illegally tripping someone, but if they do so as a result of a deliberate act which is judged to be careless, reckless, or involving excessive force, then they should be punished.

Intentional and deliberate are different. “Intent” focuses on the end result of an action, whereas “deliberate” is a consideration in connection with the action itself. If I wave a loaded gun about and twirl it around my finger, I should be punished if the gun discharges, even though my immediate response would be that this was not my “intent.” And if the discharge results in someone’s death, we could likely agree that I did not intend to kill this person. But my action was deliberate and careless — indeed, reckless. If, on the other hand, while walking down the street I was suddenly startled by a gun tossed in my direction and, as it fumbled in my hands, it discharged, I was neither careless nor reckless and my action was certainly neither intentional nor deliberate. It was an accident, and remains an accident even if the discharge kills a bystander (clearly a profound effect).

On the soccer field, the referee has a broad spectrum of events and possibilities to consider. It starts at one end with the player with fire in his eyes who pursues an opponent and performs a prohibited act against him. This is certainly an example of someone whose intent was clear in addition to his action being deliberate. At the other end, we have the player who trips, falls, and in falling makes inadvertent contact with an opponent who is thereby adversely affected in some way (he himself falls, he misses a shot on goal, etc.) — no intent, no deliberate act, nothing careless or reckless. In between these extremes is where we earn our money.

As we have stated consistently, the referee must take into account the skill and experience of the player(s). An action at a lower level of skill is more likely to be accidental or, at worst, careless than the same action (regardless of effect) at a higher level of skill. As is often noted, little happens unintentionally at the highest skill levels.

Your question:
Direct or indirect free kick by the defending team kicked in your own goal in the penalty area, what is the restart? Also if indirect freekick is passed to your goalkeeper in the penalty area and he touches the ball with his feet but it goes into the goal what is the restart?

USSF answer (October 23, 2003):
For kicks that go directly into the kicker’s own goal, much depends on where the kick was taken. You will find the answers in Law 13. If the kick, direct or indirect, was taken inside the team’s own penalty area and was kicked directly into the team’s own goal, the restart is a retake of the original kick. The ball must leave the penalty area into the field of play to be in play. If the kick, direct or indirect, was taken outside the team’s own penalty area and was kicked directly into the team’s own goal, the restart is a corner kick.

For the indirect free kick that is touched by the goalkeeper and then goes into goal, the original kick is retaken if the kick was taken inside the penalty area, as the ball is not in play until it leaves the penalty area. If the kick was taken outside the penalty area, the goal must be scored.

Your question:
A local league has had difficulty furnishing assignors for over a year. Under the emergency clause they handled the Fall of 2002 and the Spring of 2003 before obtaining the services of a licensed assignor who took the assignor course in August in order to become the league’s official assignor for this Fall’s games. However this assignor utilizes a number of club representatives who actually recruit and obtain referees for USSF sanctioned youth competitions as his agents. He is not involved in the actual process of assigning referees to games but will call or email a confirmation upon request. My question is will USSF licensed referees who take games from these agents be covered by USSF liability insurance should it become required? Does the emailed or telephoned confirmation from the licensed assignor make any difference to the same question? Does the fact that these agents report back their “assignment” of referees to games to the licensed assignor make any difference in the USSF liability coverage and your answer? Under exactly what conditions should referees take games under such circumstances? Thanks in advance.

USSF answer (October 23, 2003):
As long as the referees are affiliated with USSF and the teams are affiliated with USSF, there should be no problem with insurance coverage.

However, the other assignors may have a problem if they are not registered. If the registered assignor actually makes the assignment, but just has other people call the referees to give them the assignments or to confirm, then we believe that would probably be ok. Of course, anyone can assign the purely recreational games, so if the registered assignor made the assignments for the competitive teams, the others could do the recreational teams.

Your question:
I was the referee in a fairly hotly contested U19 Boys match recently. A reckless tackle occurred by team A near the center circle, but team B’s midfielder was not dispossessed of the ball.  Since it looked like a good scoring opportunity may be developing, I shouted “advantage play on”, gave the advantage signal and allowed play to continue. I made a mental note to caution the team A player that committed the foul at the next stoppage of play.  Team B was not able to score and play continued for a full seven minutes before a natural stoppage of play occurred. By that time all players involved had forgotten the circumstances of the original foul and I ended up not cautioning the team A player. Should I have stopped play to administer the foul after a reasonable length of time had passed without a natural stoppage? Should I have cautioned team A’s player anyway after seven minutes had elapsed and taken the time to explain to him why he was being cautioned. I didn’t do that because I felt that it would have taken too long to explain to everyone why I was cautioning the player and it would have been counterproductive to the natural flow of the game. I did verbally warn the player to watch his tackles in the future. What was/is the correct procedure?

USSF answer (October 15, 2003):
There is no time limit on punishing misconduct if the game has not been stopped after the application of advantage. The referee should simply point to the place where the original foul and misconduct occurred and then caution the player for unsporting behavior and show the yellow card.

However, the referee should have made an effort to tell the player some time early during the 7-minute stretch that he will be cautioned during the next stoppage and to say it loud enough that a few others hear it too. Of course, the referee must then follow through as promised, but this way it will not come as a surprise to the player in question.

Your question:
Team A had posession of the ball, no one was off sides. Team B’s goalie tried to come out for the ball and was not able to gain posession of it. Meanwhile team A kept posession of the ball and kicked the ball towards the goal. A defender on team B had her hands above her head, and her hands kept the ball from entering the goal. The referee ruled that it was unintentional and gave team A a penalty kick in front of the goal. The referee also showed the defender whose hands had touched the ball a yellow card. Should that have been a goal as the defender’s hands prevented the ball from crossing into the goal, or should it just have been a penalty kick. Also should it be a yellow or a red card. The coach from Team A talked to the referee at halftime, and the referee said it was unintentional.

USSF answer (October 15, 2003):
This situation is so full of referee and spectator/coach errors as to be almost unbelievable — but we do believe it.

If the defender’s act was “unintentional,” then there should have been no call at all, and certainly not a penalty kick. The word “intentional” does not exist in the Laws of the Game, which actually refer to “deliberate” handling by a player. The key to understanding the act is to distinguish between what seems natural and what is contrived. If the player could not move her hand quickly enough to escape the contact between ball and hand (fingertip to shoulder), then there was likely no foul. However, if she left her hand there when it could have been moved, there may well have been a foul.

The referee cannot award a goal if the ball does not cross the goal line between the goal posts and beneath the crossbar. If the referee believed the defender’s act to be a foul, then a penalty kick is the only possible restart.

If, by deliberately handling the ball, the defender denied the opposing team a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity, she should be sent off and shown the red card, not cautioned and shown the yellow card.

Your question:
We recently had a referee meeting where the following scenario came up. Team A is attacking in the penalty area. An attacker for A lofts the ball which as it falls is on a trajectory to land outside the goal mouth. The keeper steps to a position where the ball will land, raises his arms, and awaits the ball. With the ball within a yard of reaching his hands, an attacker legal shoulder charges him, pushing him a foot or two from his position, then cleanly flicks the ball into the back of the net with his head. Was this challenge legal?

In the referee meeting, it was hard to dispute that this was legal yet most officials felt they would call a foul (Spirit of the Game?).

USSF answer (October 15, 2003):
While the goalkeeper no longer has the former protection granted him in the goal area, he is still protected from illegal charges. This one is hard to answer, as it sounds as if it were a “youhaddabethere” incident. It might have been legal or illegal. Under any circumstances, it would require a lot of courage for the referee to call a legal charge in this case.

Your question:
If a ball is inches from a keeper’s hands and face and an attacker takes a full kick (using maximum force, “knowing” it would likely harm his opponent), hitting the ball first, can there be a misconduct or foul (which one)? Does it matter if the foot naturally follows through and kicks the keeper (after hitting the ball), or the ball does the damage?  My assumption is most would agree that this type of play by the attacker would be likely to harm the keeper – but foul or misconduct?

USSF answer (October 14, 2003):
The referee is required to punish the result of the _act_ of kicking, not the “intent.” In fact, the word “intent” is no longer in the Laws of the Game. If the player kicks or attempt to kick the ball into the goalkeeper’s face and, despite the fact that we do not punish “intent,” the referee believes there was malice aforethought, the player should be sent off for serious foul play and shown the red card. The same for kicking the ‘keeper in the face. Direct free kick, send-off and red card for serious foul play.

Your question:
Was recently working a U14B premier division game as a center during a tournament. During warmups before the game started, it was apparent that one of the coaches continually yelled at and berated his own players almost constantly. At no time were this coach’s comments ever directed at me, my assistants, or the opponents. As a result I took no action against him. I must admit that it bothered me greatly that this coach felt obligated to abuse his own players almost non-stop.

In hindsight, could I have taken action under Law 5 and cited the irresponsible behavior of this coach for conduct bringing disrepect on the game?

USSF answer (October 13, 2003):
A very interesting question. There is a national trend within the soccer community toward eliminating abuse of young people by any adults. You, as referee, are certainly empowered to ensure responsible behavior by the team officials. The method you choose would be up to you. One method might involve a quiet word with the coach.

In all events you should prepare a supplemental game report or letter to the league on the matter. You might also suggest in the report or letter that they send someone to monitor a couple of games. The letter could be written in such a way that says perhaps the coach was having a bad day, but it should suggest that it might be beneficial to the children involved if someone from the league dropped in for a game or two just to make sure.

Your question:
A match is started with a ball provided by the home team that is the incorrect size for the age group playing, i.e. size 5 vs 4. A goal is scored within the first 5-6 minutes of play by the home team. Prior to the restart, an opposing team coach notices that the ball is too large & brings it to the CR’s attention. The CR agrees & requires that the proper size 4 ball be provided. The coach asks that the goal be nullified and the referee refuses. Was this the correct call?

USSF answer (October 7, 2003):
The goal should be allowed. Although the equipment (ball) was of the incorrect size, both teams had an equal “handicap” in playing it.

Your question:
When is the game called because of poor visibility? Is this strictly a judgement call by the referee? I have heard that you had to be able to see the opposing goal when standing on the opposite goal line. What is the rule?

USSF answer (October 6, 2003):
Didn’t you know that all referees, once they pass the test, automatically become Superman clones? They can see through anything, so there is no problem with fog or smoke or players’ bodies, etc.

Seriously, there is nothing on the books. It is all in the opinion of the referee, based on the need to protect the safety of the players. One rule of thumb that is fairly reliable is this: If the referee, standing near midfield, can’t see either goal, it is probably time to call the game.

Your question:
I’ve been doing a lot of games this fall. After doing a few games in a row, I’ve noticed that my ears are ringing from the whistle. In looking around the internet, I found several postings on hearing related issues and hearing protection for referees. The recommendation of several sites, mostly volleyball related, was for the officials to wear ear plugs if they do more than a few games a week.

The University of Maryland Center for Environment Science, Horn Point Laboratory, lists decibel levels of common sounds, including referee whistles –

I love officiating, but I don’t want to be hearing impaired from it. Is there anything already published on this topic that I can review? What’s the USSF position on hearing protection (ear plugs) for officials? Any recommendations on how to reduce the hearing impact of officiating (using it only as needed to control the game), but still being able to use the whistle as an effective officiating tool? Any recommendations on whistle types that have a lower hearing impact but still get the message across?

USSF answer (October 6, 2003):
We must admit that the matter of hearing problems in referees has never come up before. We are not familiar with any literature on the topic, nor with any research on the matter.

The U. S. Soccer Federation does not take a position on the matter of referees wearing hearing protection (ear plugs), as long as it does not affect the referee’s professional appearance, nor can the Federation make any recommendations on types of whistles or how to reduce the impact of whistles on hearing.

We are, of course, concerned about the health of referees, but the questions you submit are outside our area of competence. However, if the truth were to be known, we wish more referees would close their ears a bit and get on with refereeing.

Your question:
The AR puts the flag up to indicate a foul in his/her quadrant. The center ref makes eye contact, the AR wiggles the flag to indicate a foul and points in the direction of the free kick. How does the AR indicate whether it’s an INDIRECT free kick?

USSF answer (October 6, 2003):
The process is outlined in the USSF publication “Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials” on pages 11 and 12.

After stopping play for the foul, the referee “confers with assistant referee, if necessary, to confirm the nature of the infringement (keeps field in view while moving to touch line and while conferring).”

There is no “official” signal to indicate an indirect free kick. The referee should be intelligent enough to figure out the foul for himself. If not, then the referee and the assistant referees should agree on a special signal during the pregame discussion.

Your question:
Can you further illuminate what FIFA is looking for with the concern expressed about blatant holding? A number of questions have come up locally about this topic, and it would be nice to have a few resources to point out.

Holding and Pulling
The International FA Board has expressed its concern at the amount of holding and pulling which is prevalent in football today. It recognised that not every instance of holding and pulling of jerseys and shorts is unsporting behaviour, as is also the case with deliberate handball. It expressed regret, however, that Referees were not applying the Laws fully in dealing with blatant cases of holding and pulling and issued the following Mandatory Instruction for season 2001/2002:

“Referees are instructed that, in the case of blatant holding and pulling, the offence must be sanctioned by a direct free kick, or a penalty kick if the offence is committed inside the penalty area, and the player must be cautioned for unsporting behaviour.”

Some guidelines on what to look for to label a holding foul as blatant, and thus requiring a caution, would be most appreciated. My dictionary defines it as “offensively conspicuous, obtrusive (undesirably noticeable, unattractively showy), obvious.”

Most holding is obvious, or obviously we wouldn’t call it, right? So, it must involve something that elevates it above a simple foul. Since holding is one of those fouls which must just happen, no careless, reckless or violence judgment required, how does a referee decide it is now blatant, as opposed to “just” holding?

USSF answer (October 6, 2003):
Perhaps it is easier to ask the referee (and the players) to consider the difference between deliberately handling a ball or pushing or holding an opponent, simple fouls that anyone can recognize, and the blatant (hyper-obvious) handling or pushing or holding which truly violate the Spirit of the Game and must be punished with a caution and yellow card. But it is sometimes difficult to translate the concept into words. Location of foul and level of play are other important considerations, but there is no checklist for the referee to follow, as in the case of the denial of an obvious goalscoring opportunity.

According to Webster’s New International Dictionary, Second Edition, Unabridged, blatant means “offensively obtrusive; demanding undue or involuntary attention, as by vulgar ostentation or by tasteless or inconsiderate conduct; coarse.” Thus “blatant” can be said to mean “beyond obvious and approaching Fourth of July fireworks.” An obvious act is not necessarily blatant; it is simply obvious to the observer. The blatant act calls particular attention to itself and thus qualifies as well beyond merely obvious. It has nothing to do with force per se, but with the way in which it goes so far outside the necessary.

Your question:
The following happened to me last weekend at a youth tournament. The attacking team takes a shot on goal and an obvious handball by the defending team in the PA ensues. Instinctively I blow my whistle for a PK. However, by the time the whistle sounds, the ball is already in the goal. I pointed to the center mark and let the goal stand. No one complained. In fact, no one even noticed, presumably because many referees (I am not one of them) blow their whistle upon a goal being scored. My question: did I act correctly under the circumstance or should I have “enforced” my own initial decision (PK), keeping in mind the rule that the game stops when the referee intends to blow the whistle, not when it actually sounds. On the other hand, could one argue that enforcing my decision would only have compounded my earlier mistake of too quick a whistle (instead of letting advantage develop)? Should the fact that no one noticed my mistake have affected my decision to count the goal from a “common sense” perspective (i.e., let sleeping dogs lie)?

USSF answer (October 5, 2003):
The referee’s power to display a red card and send off a player who should have been sent off is indisputable. In this case ATR 5.14 would apply (see below) and the red card may be shown and the player sent from the field even if play has been (incorrectly) restarted.

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.

Referees must remember that play is stopped when the referee makes a decision, not when the decision is announced, and the referee can call back ANY restart if he/she has already decided to hold up the restart in order to give a red card. The referee must include full details in the match report. (Next time you might want to remember that if you have blown the whistle prior to the ball entering the goal, then there has been no goal.)

Your question:
At the high school level, if a player receives a red card, they are removed from the field and out of the game, can they be replaced on the field? or does the team have to play man down the rest of the game? If a team receives two red card on the same call are both players removed and the team must play two men down?

USSF answer (October 2, 2003):
National Federation (high school) rules are the same as for FIFA on this subject (with a couple of exceptions). The basic answer is, yes, the team must play down for each red card received by a player. The two major exceptions are, first, playing down is not required in high school if the red card is received during the halftime break and, second, playing down is not required in high school if the reason for the red card falls into a category commonly referred to as “soft red” offenses (Rule 12-8-2) — taunting, excessive celebration of a goal, or having received two cautions.

Please note that this site can only offer personal and unofficial guidance on matters which do not come under The Laws of the Game. For authoritative answers to questions about National Federation rules, you should address your query to your state interpreter.

Your question:
I’ve always heard that a ref’s decisions should take into account whether it will affect the final outcome of the game, but I cannot find any reference to this anywhere except for a brief mention in the instruction materials, of avoiding undue interference – is there any specific instruction about this topic? I can’t find anything in the LOTG or position papers, so I’m wondering if this is just extemporaneous on the part of those who’ve expounded this philosophy?

USSF answer (September 30, 2003):
You will find as you go through life those who pay no attention to the rules of the game they are engaged in, whether as players and referees, colleagues in the office, boss and employee, or members of the same family. These people make up their own rules to suit their current need. As you have learned in your research, there is no such requirement in the Laws of the Game, in the position papers from the U. S. Soccer Federation, or in anything published by FIFA. Why would that be?

Every call the referee makes affects the final outcome of the game. Everything the players do affects the final outcome of the game. The weather and the condition of the field affect the final outcome of the game. We are human beings, subject to human whims and failings. We make mistakes — even coaches make mistakes, but you will not get them to admit it.

The referee should call the game in accordance with the Laws of the Game and the players should play it the same way. If a player infringes upon the Law, then he or she — and therefore the team — must be punished. Lex dura sed lex — the law is hard but it is the law. Everything that happens from kick-off to the last whistle affects the final outcome of the game.

Don’t let the “philosophers” ruin your game.

Your question:
There is a debate about the keeper handling and the correct restart. If the keeper, while in possession of the ball, crosses over the penalty area line and takes the ball with him/her in order to punt the ball away. What is the correct restart if the official signals for handling?

USSF answer (September 29, 2003):
The correct answer, if the referee believes the act to be a foul, is to restart with a direct free kick. In most cases, the intelligent referee will take a moment and warn the goalkeeper on the first occurrence. Then, if it happens again, the referee will apply the Law as written.

It would be well to reference an answer given here back in April: The referee need consider only this: Was there an offense? Could it have been called? Should it be called if, in the opinion of the referee, the infraction was doubtful or trifling? No.

The intelligent referee’s action: If the goalkeeper’s actions had no obvious effect on play and were accepted by both teams, consider the infringement to have been trifling and let it go. If it was not trifling, punish it.

Trifling is trifling when the result of the action makes absolutely no difference to the game. Or, in other words, when the result is to get the ball back into play, the Law has been served and what comes after that is just part of the game.

Doubtful means it probably wasn’t a foul at all, but people reacted and started asking for the doubtful “foul” to be called.

The “severity” of the infringement is not the issue; the issue is what effect did it have. The intelligent referee’s action: If the infringement had no obvious effect on play, consider the infringement to have been trifling and let it go. If it was not trifling, punish it.

Your question:
I know the sanctions in Law 12 regarding a player and goalkeeper changing places without notifiying the referee, and have read your explanation. However, a question came up today that I was unable to find the answer to. What if two players change uniforms, either during the game or at halftime, without informing the referee?

Is this a breach of the Laws, if so which one? What course of action should the referee take (if any) if this unannounced switch is made?

USSF answer (September 29, 2003):
While player numbers are not required by the Laws of the Game, they are required by most competitions in which players participate. Numbers are meant to provide an identifying symbol so that referees and administrators know which player is which. Obviously, they are also used by opposing players to identify which opponent is the one to mark more closely. Because the numbers are supposed to be confined to the player to whom they were originally issued, changing uniforms at halftime or during the game is considered to constitute that form of misconduct known as “bringing the game into disrepute.” Players who do this should be cautioned for unsporting behavior and shown the yellow card. (But please check the local rules of competition to be safe. In the absence of such a rule, neither opponents nor the referee should count on a number attaching irrevocably to a player. Indeed, they could just as easily have no numbers at all!)

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