At a recent referee meeting the presenter insisted rather forcefully that the AR should give hand signals to indicate that the ball is still in play (when the ball runs on or near the touchline in the AR’s quadrant) or that there is no offside infraction (for example during a fast break).

Such signals are supposed to be given with the hand that does not hold the flag placed palm up and the elbow bent or not, at the AR pleasure.

My recollection is that this style of signalling went the way of the dodo about 10 years ago, but cannot find a document supporting my position. The best I can find is the “guide to procedure” at, which says (if I read right) something along the lines of “the AR signals with the flag” So, let me ask a multiple-choice question.

Hand-signals by the AR are:
1) requested (must be given at all possible opportunities)
2) recommended (should be given but only when absolutely necessary)
3) tolerated (if the AR cannot keep his hands to himself, better signals are a better choice than other unspeakable things)
4) discouraged (please, don’t give hand signals)
5) deprecated (if you give hand signal I will send you back to remedial training)

If you could provide an accessible reference and authority for the reply it will be greatly appreciated.

(BTW: why is the ‘guide to procedure’ available only in Spanish? is it because English-speaking referees are supposed to already know-it-all? let me assure USSF that is not the case, and I speak from direct experience)

USSF answer (September 30, 2010):
We are concerned about your query, as the information provided to you is somewhat false. The Guide to Procedures spells out very clearly what the approved signals are. It also, right at the beginning (where some people don’t read), states that other signals can be used only if they meet several reasonable requirements: (a) they don’t REPLACE any of the mechanics in the Guide, (b) they are not overly demonstrative or attention-grabbing, and (c) they are discussed in the pregame (the presumption is that they are either requested or approved by the referee). This is distinguishable from the issue of non-standard signals given by the referee which, while they must also meet these requirements, are only to be used sparingly as an aid to communication with the players, team officials, and spectators.

The informal and unofficial signal sometimes used by assistant referees to describe a ball that is still in play — a lowered hand waved at the wrist — is tolerated and even encouraged, provided that it meets the criteria in the previous paragraph. This same signal is also used by lazy ARs to show that there was no foul or immediate offside.

The Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials is available in English, and the 2010/2011 edition can be found on the website at:


Offside – at a recent [college] match there was a difficult call made by the referee concerning an attacking player. Here is the scenario.

A lone attacking player is played a long ball from the back and at the time of the pass was onside. The pass was not accurate and the last defender tried to head the ball back down the field. The header ended up going backward to the attacker who had continued to run forward (now the attacker found herself between the last defender and the goalkeeper). The on-field call, after a goal was scored, was that the attacker was seeking to gain an advantage by being in the position they were in when they actually received the ball.

I’m not sure how the referee could have determined where the advantage was as the attacker could not have known the last defender would head the ball in her vicinity. This was not a deflection per se nor was the pass made by one of her team mates.

Can you clarify?

USSF answer (September 28, 2010):
We need to repeat and stress (for ALL readers) that we do not have any competence to answer questions on college or high school rules, so must address your question as if it had occurred in a game played under the Laws of the Game, the rules the entire world plays by.

If a player was in an onside position when the ball was last played by a teammate, then he or she cannot be declared offside if the ball is then deflected, miskicked, or otherwise misdirected by an opponent. Under the Laws of the Game, this referee would seem to have erred, at least in his description of his decision-making process. The word “seeking” was removed from Law 11 many years ago and the critical decision that has to be made in this scenario is whether the defender PLAYED (possessed and controlled) the ball — including situations in which the defender PLAYED the ball in what turned out to be an unfortunate direction — or whether the ball merely DEFLECTED from the defender (including situations in which the ball was misplayed). Whether the referee further erred in his basic decision we cannot say in the absence of a clip of the play.


Hello, I have a question related to the priority of the duties of the referee. I have searched US Soccer and the position papers and noticed there is a position paper related to the duties of the Assistant Referee, but nothing as to the referee’s priority. Now I understand that this forum may deal with generally higher level questions, but when you (as a lone referee) are assigned to a match (more typically a low competitive youth match, but not unheard of to reach mid-level youth matches) what is the priority of responsibilities to the teams/players and the game. From my understanding if you are to use “Club Linesmen” then they are limited to only calling the ball in-and-out of touch. This would put the burden of responsibility for “Enforcing the Laws of the Game” solely onto the referee. In a perfect world we, as a referee culture, would like to have 3 USSF Certified Referees on every match and be in 100% perfect position 100% of the time and make 100% perfect calls. However, as a referee of nearly ten years I know that is not always possible, especially when there is only one referee to cover an entire match. One such example would be, when a lone referee has to position themselves close to the penalty area during a corner kick and the ball is cleared up field quickly to an attacker who may, or may not, be in an offside position.

Now since the primary function of the referee is to ensure the safety of the players (through the Safety – Equality – Enjoyment Philosophy) I would believe that direct free kick fouls and misconduct would be the most important duty of the referee, then followed by offside (Law 11 violations) then followed by ball in-and-out of play (Law 9). I understand that offside violations can be game critical decisions, but ultimately no one can be physically harmed by an missed offside violation; whereas, a foul can have lasting physical problems for a player for years to come (ie knee injury).

Thank you for your time.

USSF answer (September 17, 2010):
SAFETY first, but the FAIRNESS and ENJOYMENT of the players are ensured by calling what NEEDS to be called. At any given moment, virtually anything might impinge on fairness or enjoyment, so the referee must be prepared to call ANYTHING. However, a referee can only call what he (or she) sees and the fact that, as a lone official on the field, it is more difficult to see things depending on what is going on doesn’t change this principle. That said, we must add that, after a long enough time doing this game, one begins to “see” things that mere mortals in the exact same position on the field might not. Finally, let us close with the reminder that, according to Law 5, all decisions of the referee regarding matters related to play are final. Period. No argument allowed.


In our game this past weekend an attacker takes a high shot on goal which our keeper deflects into the air and to her right next to the goal post.

In an effort to prevent the rebound from going into the net, our keeper turns around (she is standing upright and her back is now towards the field of play) and proceeds to catch the ball over her head in her outstretched arms preventing the ball from entering the goal. It is at this moment, arms still outstretched over her head, when an attacker collides with our keeper from behind forcing the keeper into the goal post causing her to lose possession, go down injured as her mid section was driven into the goal post, at which time the ball enters the goal.

The referee awarded the attacking team a goal stating as the goalie did not have the ball tucked into her body she did not have possession. A point in which we argued as the goalkeeper is considered to be in control (= possession) of the ball when the ball is held with both hands, held by trapping the ball between one hand and any surface (e.g., the ground, a goalpost, the goalkeeper’s body), or holding the ball in the outstretched open palm.

Even if you agree with the referee’s definition of possession, shouldn’t a charge at minimal have been called against the attacker (another point we argued) with the potential of a send-off for serious foul play?

Is there any plausible reason the goal should have been allowed?

Please clarify.

USSF answer (September 17, 2010):
Let us lay out the facts and our perceptions of the incident. No blame assessed; make your own decision.

It makes no difference from whom the list of times when the goalkeeper is in possession of the ball came, but we would clarify that if the goalkeeper has the ball firmly gripped in her hand (i. e., the hand is not open), that would also qualify. If she had the ball in both hands (as your description seems to suggest) before she was charged from behind by the attacker (of which more later), then she was certainly in possession.

As to the charge from behind: A player may charge an opponent from behind, but only in the area of the shoulder and only if the opponent is shielding a ball that is within playing distance. This can include a certain portion of the shoulder blade. The charge may not be done with excessive force (a sending-off offense), as suggested by your description.

As the deflection by your ‘keeper would seem to have been purely defensive in nature (rather than a parry, which she could not play again with her hands


I have pounded over tons of site to try to figure out the off sides rule on “gaining an advantage by being in that position”.

When is that position determined? At time of the offenses last attack, on the rebound from the defender, on the rebound from the goal post. I understand if the offensive player is in an offside position at the time of their teammates playing the ball and it rebounds they are offside if they play the ball.

I don’t know how many times I have seen the following scenario. Ball is played by the offense with everyone onside and no player offside, ball rebound (off the goalpost, defender) at the time of the rebound one or more offense players are between the second defender and goalie. Sometimes I see no offside called sometimes I see the offside called. I have heard AR’s explain to other people it hit the goalpost or it came off the goalie.

If the rule is where the players are at when the ball is struck by the offense what is the purpose of the “gaining an advantage by being in that position” even being said.

USSF answer (September 17, 2010):
The rule is that the offside infringements are punished at the place where the player in the offside position was when his teammate played the ball.

You will find the following guidance in the Interpretations of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees in the Laws of the Game 2010/2011:

In the context of Law 11 — Offside, the following definitions apply:
• “nearer to his opponents’ goal line” means that any part of a player’s head, body or feet is nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second last opponent. The arms are not included in this definition
• “interfering with play” means playing or touching the ball passed or touched by a teammate
• “interfering with an opponent” means preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or movements or making a gesture or movement which, in the opinion of the referee, deceives or distracts an opponent
• “gaining an advantage by being in that position” means playing a ball that rebounds to him off a goalpost or the crossbar having been in an offside position or playing a ball that rebounds to him off an opponent having been in an offside position

When an offside offense occurs, the referee awards an indirect free kick to be taken from the position of the offending player when the ball was last played to him by one of his teammates.

We hope this is helpful. As to what and when it is called, we cannot guarantee that referees will always get the call right.


An answer of November 19, 2007, states:
If the scrimmage appears as part of the regular assignment process and is listed by the league assignor, it should be considered by the referee to be officially sanctioned. The teams did not call the referees directly to make the arrangements, but went through the official assignment procedure with the league assignor.

My question: What if the referee for the scrimmage was not assigned by the league assignor, is the referee covered by USSF insurance. In my case the coach went out and obtained the center referee. I was not aware of the assignment but the referee was paid by the league coach

USSF answer (September 17, 2010):

Even if both teams are affiliated with US Youth Soccer, the game itself would not appear to be affiliated if it does not occur within the framework of an affiliated organization. If the teams did not go through the official procedure, we suggest that the referee check with local refereeing authorities to avoid possible problems with liability and insurance coverage.


This week’s Week 23 USSF Week in Review features Brian Hall discussing the concept of advantage in the penalty area (referring to the 8 minute mark of the audio portion).

Mr. Hall states that advantage on a DFK foul by the defending team in its own PA can only occur if a goal is scored almost immediately; if not, the foul should be called an a penalty kick awarded.

Here is my theoretical situation. Let’s say a GK commits a DFK foul on an attacker, who releases the ball and the ball rolls to a teammate who now has a shot from 2 yards away on the 8-foot by 24-foot goal frame. It’s a “can’t miss” opportunity. But amazingly, the attacker somehow manages to mis-kick the ball and chips it wide of the post or over the crossbar (this is not impossible… a search of “Missed goals” on YouTube will turn a few of these up).

Clearly it behooves the referee to play advantage and give the golden scoring chance. But, according to Mr. Hall, once the shot misses the PK should be awarded. This is going to seem like double jeopardy for the defense, and will undoubtedly result in much angst and potential dissent from the defense.

The missed goal is not the fault of the foul or any play by the defending team; it is due to the technical inadequacy of the attacker.

I’m fine with following this directive, but I want to make sure that this is what is truly intended. I can sense situations developing in which we are following this direction and have to deal with subsequent dissent for the interpretation.

USSF answer (September 17, 2010):
For something over a year now, the Federation has espoused precisely the line expressed in the Week in Review. This line distinguishes between the concept of advantage anywhere else in the field and how the concept differs in the penalty area. What it comes down to is this:

As regards procedures, the mechanics of advantage in the penalty area would be to keep your mouth shut and the whistle down, no matter what. No referee should ever be caught on tape giving the non-PA advantage signal for something that occurred inside the penalty area.

As regards the substance of advantage, inside the penalty area advantage is defined solely in terms of scoring a goal “immediately” (i.e., within a play — roughly — a pinball-type carom off one player to another player and then into the goal would be included). If a goal is scored “immediately,” count the goal and card only if the original offense by the defender deserved it outside the context of S4 or S5 (Law 12 reasons for sending-off). If a goal is not scored, regardless of the reason, whistle and call for a penalty kick.


Is there a period of time before and after a match whereby an incident involving a player and ref is no longer related to the match. An example would be where a player swore at a referee two hours after the match had ended.

I understand the Respect element however I want to ensure the disciplinary is dealt with in the correct context.

Many thanks.

USSF answer (September 14, 2010):
The referee’s authority ends after he (or she) and the players and other team personnel have left the vicinity of the field. Any misconduct committed by players or substitutes after the field has been cleared must be described in the game report and reported to the competition authority. The referee may display cards as long as he or she remains on the field of play after the game is over. Referees are advised to avoid remaining in the area of the field unnecessarily, as this can lead to the sort of situation you describe.

After two hours, the statute of limitations on including this matter in the match report has run out. We would suggest that you submit a separate report on the matter to the competition authority and to the state association.


I was an AR in a Division 2 adult match this yesterday. At around the 75th minute, near my touchline, the ball was played forward to a player in an offside position. That player ran into an onside position, then turned around and chased after the ball that had been played. No player, opponent or teammate, touched or played the ball from the original play of the ball until he played it himself. When he “interfered with play,” I raised my flag for offside. The center referee blew his whistle. The offending player originally didn’t hear the whistle and proceeded to kick the ball into the goal. As this would have leveled the game 1-1, he was understandably upset when he saw that the goal was being disallowed for offside. He came over to me and asked why I called him offside. I answered, quite simply, “You were in an offside position when the ball was played.” He asked, “Did I run into an onside position after that?” I replied, “I believe so.” He asked, “But I was still offside?” I answered, “Yes, you committed an offside offence since you were in an offside position when the ball was played to you.” He then summoned the center referee, saying, “Ref, your linesman doesn’t know the rules!” The center official came to me and I clarified what happened. As my call was correct, the defending team restarted play with an IFK.

I take from this that the attacker thought there was some sort of clause in Law 11 allowing a player in an offside position to avoid committing an offside offence by “tagging up” in an onside position prior to running onto the ball. Obviously, there is no such clause. But I’ve heard this sort of thing before from a few players and coaches. In my situation, the offending player’s words and actions contributed to an eventual caution for dissent after he got upset over another offside call I made two or three minutes later. (The second call wasn’t protested due to a misunderstanding of the Law; it was simply a mistimed run on his part) This caution is something that could have been avoided if the player had a better understanding of the Laws of the Game. As referees, I feel it is our duty to educate the interested public about the Laws. So what is the origin of this “tag up” misconception, and what can we as referees do to combat further misunderstandings about the Laws? Could I or my center referee have handled the situation better?

USSF answer (September 14, 2010):
The Laws of the Game were not written to compensate for the mistakes of players (and undereducated coaches). The attacking player was clearly wrong, despite his notion that, if he returned to a supposedly “onside” position to play the ball, he was doing the right thing. Clearly he, his coach and those other, similarly rule knowledge-challenged coaches and players need to review Law 11.

Let it be clear to all: A player may not return from an offside position to play the ball last played by a teammate.

And, finally, to the point of how the officials should handle such a situation: First, your discussion was FAR too extended. Second, you should never have stated that the player was called for offside because “you were in an offside position when the ball was played.” The player was called for offside because he did one of the three things he is not permitted to do while in an offside position. Third, the referee should NEVER have let a player even approach an AR to debate a decision — the response should have been “If you want to discuss a decision, you talk to ME!”


First question:
I’ve been taught that referees, for good management of a game, for players and spectators will enjoy the game, have to “sell their calls.” (For example, don’t lightly blow your whistle for a penalty kick. Blow the whistle like you know for sure!) My question is, what is the best way to “sell” the second touch call by a keeper after parrying a ball? Its a rule that many (or I should say EVERY) senior referees and assignors have advised I don’t call, a rule players are not aware of because it is never called. I am not afraid to have the conviction to call tough calls, but I need advice on this one. Would a pregame warning to keepers help? Maybe I can get petition for the rule to change to make it so that it applies to the spirit of why the rule was made (prevention of time wasting)? A wink and a nod to use discretion and to think that every shot, no matter how soft, will knuckle and might need to be knocked down?

Second question:
This is about the politics of FIFA, NFHS, and NISOA. Why don’t they have the same rules? Is any party trying to unify with the other?

USSF answer (September 7, 2010):
First question:
a) Never, NEVER lecture the players before the game. Why? Because they will then expect you to live up to every word, something you cannot possibly do.
b) Don’t call a foul because the players don’t know that this is a violation? Please! That is the most idiotic bit of sophistry we have ever heard! If no one ever calls the foul, how will the players ever learn? Pay no attention to such “old referees’ tales.”

We might add that this is one of those calls that you need to be sure about and, particularly, that it made a difference in the run of play (i. e., the keeper took second possession in order to prevent an opponent from challenging for the ball).

Second question:
There are no politics involved here. The NFHS and the NCAA (not NISOA, which is simply a referee organization) do not belong to the U. S. Soccer Federation and are thus not bound by the Laws of the Game, the rules the rest of the world plays by.