Entries related to Safety!

Question: I see a lot of players lowering their shoulder and then raising it into the another player as they make contact during a shoulder charge. Some refs call it a foul and others have said it is a legal charge. Is it foul for a player to lower their shoulder into another player during a shoulder charge?

Answer (May 3, 2013):
There is no clear definition in the Laws of the game as to what is fair in a shoulder-to-shoulder charge. The general definition is given in the USSF Advice to Referees:

12.5 CHARGING
The act of charging an opponent can be performed without it being called as a foul. Although the fair charge is commonly defined as “shoulder to shoulder,” this is not a requirement and, at certain age levels where heights may vary greatly, may not even be possible. Furthermore, under many circumstances, a charge may often result in the player against whom it is placed falling to the ground (a consequence, as before, of players differing in weight or strength). The Law does require that the charge be directed toward the area of the shoulder and not toward the center of the opponent’s back (the spinal area): in such a case, the referee should recognize that such a charge is at minimum reckless and potentially even violent.

It may help to include some more information:
We define charging thusly: A fair charge is shoulder to shoulder, elbows (on the contact side) against the body, with each player having at least one foot on the ground and both attempting to gain control of the ball. The amount of force allowed is relative to the age and experience of the players, but should never be excessive. This is as defined by the referee on the game, not some book definition, adjusted as necessary for the age and experience of the players and what has happened or is happening in this particular game on this particular day at this particular moment. It all boils down to what is best for the referee’s management and the players’ full enjoyment of the game.

Although often overlooked by spectators, it is important to remember that a player’s natural endowments (speed, strength, height, heft, etc.) may be superior to that of the opponent who is competing with that player for the ball. As a completely natural result, the opponent may not only be bested in the challenge but may in fact wind up on the ground with no foul having been committed. The mere fact that a player fails in a challenge and falls or is knocked down is what the game is all about (and why coaches must choose carefully in determining which player marks which opponent). Referees do not handicap players by saddling them with artificial responsibilities to be easy on an opponent simply because they are better physically endowed in some way.

Fair charges include actions which do not strictly meet the “shoulder-to-shoulder” requirement when this is not possible because of disparities in height or body type (a common occurrence in youth matches in the early teenage range where growth spurts differ greatly on an individual level within the age group). Additionally, a fair charge can be directed toward the back of the shoulder if the opponent is shielding the ball, provided it is not done dangerously and never to the spinal area.

The arms may not be used at all, other than for balanceÑwhich does not include pushing off or holding the opponent.

Children of the same age differ in their development. They and we have to live with it. No foul if there was no offense other than being larger or faster. As noted above, the decision as to whether the force used is excessive is up to the individual referee.

And let’s also add that if the use of the shoulder appears to the referee to involve the use of excessive force, then it should be punished with the sending-off of the miscreant.

Categories: Safety!

Question:
Can ‘Charging’ be ‘Excessive Force’?

This question keeps getting asked and the answer always seems to be ‘soccer can be violent’ and ‘as long as its shoulder to shoulder its OK’

Therefore, I will ask as I keep seeing it, especially with a U14 that is playing up several age groups:

Can a 200-lb defender drop his shoulder and very puposefully barrel into a smaller player with the ball at a 90 degree angle, at speed, to the point that the smaller player with the ball goes flying off the pitch, a** over a teakettle?

This happens VERY often but only occasionally is called as a foul. I will respect your answer, but if this doesnt fall under ‘excessive force’ or ‘charging’, than I am lost.

Thanks!

Answer (May 9, 2012):
We define charging thusly: A fair charge is shoulder to shoulder, elbows (on the contact side) against the body, with each player having at least one foot on the ground and both attempting to gain control of the ball. The amount of force allowed is relative to the age and experience of the players, but should never be excessive. This is as defined by the referee on the game, not some book definition, adjusted as necessary for the age and experience of the players and what has happened or is happening in this particular game on this particular day at this particular moment. It all boils down to what is best for the referee’s management and the players’ full enjoyment of the game.

Although often overlooked by spectators, it is important to remember that a player’s natural endowments (speed, strength, height, heft, etc.) may be superior to that of the opponent who is competing with that player for the ball. As a completely natural result, the opponent may not only be bested in the challenge but may in fact wind up on the ground with no foul having been committed. The mere fact that a player fails in a challenge and falls or is knocked down is what the game is all about (and why coaches must choose carefully in determining which player marks which opponent). Referees do not handicap players by saddling them with artificial responsibilities to be easy on an opponent simply because they are better physically endowed in some way.

Fair charges include actions which do not strictly meet the “shoulder-to-shoulder” requirement when this is not possible because of disparities in height or body type (a common occurrence in youth matches in the early teenage range where growth spurts differ greatly on an individual level within the age group). Additionally, a fair charge can be directed toward the back of the shoulder if the opponent is shielding the ball, provided it is not done dangerously and never to the spinal area.

The arms may not be used at all, other than for balance, which does not include pushing off or holding the opponent.

Children of the same age differ in their development. They and we have to live with it. No foul if there was no offense other than being larger or faster. As noted above, the decision as to whether the force used is excessive is up to the individual referee.

Question:
Earlier this month, I was refereeing [at a] Labor Day Cup. It was very, very windy. An attacker shot the ball from a far distance towards the goal. However, the wind pushed the net on the other side of the crossbar. The net shockingly prevented the ball from entering the net. (Did I mention how windy it was?) The net did NOT detach from the crossbar, but the wind was so strong the net was sitting in front of the goal.

What does the law say about the net? Well, from what I’ve researched, you do not have to have a net. From my perspective, the net (once it is pushed by the wind onto the field) becomes an outside agent even though the net is still connected to the posts. The referee should restart with a dropped ball from goal area line outside of where the contact was made. “Selling” this call would be nearly impossible, so I thought I would ask you guys on the best way to handle a situation like this.

USSF answer (October 3, 2011):
No, the net cannot be considered an outside agent in any game situation. In this case, referee failure to follow the dictates of Law 5 was the cause of the incident

As you say, the net is not required by the Laws of the Game; however, it is normally required by most rules of competition (such as the tournament at which the incident occurred). The organizers should have ensured that the net was firmly mounted on the goal and secured to the ground. The referee and the rest of the officiating crew should have inspected the field an all its appurtenances before the game began (and again prior to the start of the second half or any additional periods) and also ensured that the net was firmly mounted on the goal and secured to the ground.

Therefore, the fact that the net was blowing around must be regarded as a natural occurrence. There is no solution other than the one you suggest: once the net has been repaired, the referee must drop the ball from the spot at which the interference occurred (in accordance with Law 8): “The referee drops the ball at the place where it was located when play was stopped, unless play was stopped inside the goal area, in which case the referee drops the ball on the goal area line parallel to the goal line at the point nearest to where the ball was located when play was stopped. Play restarts when the ball touches the ground.”

The same logic could be applied to other situations caused by referee inattention to the Law and his or her duty to protect the players and, most important, to provide a “level” playing field so that each team receives fair and equal treatment. For example, suppose the scenario had involved a goal frame which, due to the high winds, was pushed forward toward the field such that the crossbar (though still attached) was ahead of the goal line rather than straight above it. Suppose further that a shot on goal was made at an extreme angle such that the ball struck the crossbar and the deflection enabled the ball to stay on the field whereas the ball would have gone into the upper left corner of the net if the crossbar had been properly positioned.

GOALKEEPER INJURY

September 10, 2011

Question:
Normally, if a player has a minor injury, I would allow them to step off the field, receive treatment, then reenter with my permission, or be subbed at the next stoppage. If a goalkeeper is injured but wishes to remain in the game, does he have to give his jersey to another player while he is being treated and can he go back to keeping goal at the next stoppage?

USSF answer (September 10, 2011):
Unless a goalkeeper is so seriously injured that he or she must be removed from the game and taken for more complete medical attention and care, the ‘keeper will be treated on the field. If the ‘keeper needs to be treated off the field and might return after the treatment, then an outfield player must assume the uniform and duties of the goalkeeper. See the following excerpt from the Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees in the back of your Law book, under Law 5:

Injured players
The referee must adhere to the following procedure when dealing with injured players:
• Play is allowed to continue until the ball is out of play if a player is, in the opinion of the referee, only slightly injured
• Play is stopped if, in the opinion of the referee, a player is seriously injured
• After questioning the injured player, the referee may authorize one, or at most two [medical staff persons], to enter the field of play to assess the injury and arrange the player’s safe and swift removal from the field of play
• Stretcher-bearers should only enter the field of play with a stretcher following a signal from the referee
• The referee must ensure an injured player is safely removed from the field of play
• A player is not allowed to receive treatment on the field of play
• 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. A player is not permitted to wear clothing with blood on it
• As soon as the referee has authorized the doctors to enter the field of play, the player must leave the field of play, either on a stretcher or on foot. If a player does not comply, he must be cautioned for unsporting behavior
• An injured player may only return to the field of play after the match has restarted
• When the ball is in play, an injured player must re-enter the field of play from the touch line. When the ball is out of play, the injured player may re-enter from any of the boundary lines
• Irrespective of whether the ball is in play or not, only the referee is authorized to allow an injured player to re-enter the field of play
• The referee may give permission for an injured player to return to the field of play if an assistant referee or the fourth official verifies that the player is ready
• 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 must restart play with a dropped ball from the position of the ball when play was stopped, unless play was stopped inside the goal area, in which case the referee drops the ball on the goal area line parallel to the goal line at the point nearest to where the ball was when play was stopped.
• The referee must allow for the full amount of time lost through injury to be played at the end of each period of play
• Once the referee has decided to issue a card to a player who is injured and has to leave the field of play for treatment, the referee must issue the card before the player leaves the field of play

Exceptions to this ruling are to be made only when:
• a goalkeeper is injured
• a goalkeeper and an outfield player have collided and need immediate attention
• players from the same team have collided and need immediate attention
• a severe injury has occurred, e.g. swallowed tongue, concussion, broken leg.

Question:
The technical area was marked and extended up to 1m from the field of player. This is permissible in LOTG. However they then erected a temporary shade structure on this boundary. It comprised supports made of 1″ box channel made of aluminum steel, pegged to the ground. It was quite solid, and I had concerns a player could easily trip or run off the FOP and collide with it. If so could injure themselves.

While I could write a report to local association of my concerns, at the time what right do I have to have it moved back (say 2-2m) from FOP.

USSF answer (June 7, 2010):
Law 1 tells us:

Decisions of the International F.A. Board
Decision 1
Where a technical area exists, it must meet the requirements approved by the International F.A. Board, which are contained in the section of this publication entitled The Technical Area.

The Laws of the Game expect that competitions will follow the basic premise of all the Laws of the Game, protecting the safety of all participants. A structure within one meter of the touchline would likely not be considered to be safe for players, team officials, and the officiating crew.

KNEE BRACES

May 26, 2010

Question:
I am looking for advice on whether a commonly used knee brace may be in violation of Law 4. I’m seeing more and more female players recovering from ACL injuries using a brace similar to the one shown in the attached file. In a game I did yesterday I noticed a brace during checkin. I asked the player and coach if a referee had ever disallowed her from playing because of the brace and the answer was no. At the start of the second half the opposing coach approached me to inquire about the brace. He told me that his players were complaining that they were getting ‘bumped’ by the brace during close in play. No player approached me with that complaint.

Is such a knee brace considered to be dangerous to players?

USSF answer (May 26, 2010):
Braces may be worn if they meet the same requirement that must be met for any equipment, that it ensures complete safety for all participants. The final decision rests with the referee for this particular game; not the last game, not the next game, but this game.

In addition, a player wearing an item of clothing or equipment which is not standard but which has been inspected by the referee and found not to be dangerous may still not use the item dangerously during play. If the player in question is using the brace to unfairly augment her abilities or as a weapon, then it may not be worn.

Question:
Shinguards

Especially at the professional level (MLS), are referees looking to see the players have some type of shinguard on their legs, but nothing more? 

As you are well aware of, Law 4 – The Players’ Equipment states:

Shinguards
-provide a reasonable degree of protection

Two examples of almost no protection would be Colorado’s and former USA International Pablo Mastroeni and Chivas USA’s Blair Gavin (I’m sure there are more).

Again, at what level of play does it not become necessary to provide a reasonable degree of protection? Or is it necessary, even at the professional level, but not always enforced by the referee? Do FIFA referees enforce this law or let it go as trifling and simply make sure everyone has some type of shinguard? 

USSF answer (May 6, 2010):

In general, the decision on the “reasonable degree of protection” is made using The Seven Magic Words, “If, in the opinion of the referee.” Referees must remember that at the professional level, the players and trainers must take responsibility. What is sufficient protection to one, may not be to another.

Question:
On what grounds can a referee stop and abandon a soccer match

USSF answer (March 31, 2010):
An interesting question, one that requires a good bit of space to answer completely.

Under the Laws of the Game (or, as they are called in Great Britain, the Laws of Association Football), the referee has the power to stop, suspend or abandon the match, at his discretion for any infringements of the Laws or for outside interference of any kind. A referee (or where applicable, an assistant referee or fourth official) is not held liable for a decision to abandon a match for whatever reason.

We need first to differentiate between “abandon” and “terminate” a match. The difference between terminating a match and abandoning a match is a subtle one, but it is historically correct and supported by traditional practice. (Research into the history of the Laws will reveal this clearly; the IFAB now uses “abandon” almost exclusively, most likely just to confuse us all.) The referee may abandon a match if there is an insufficient number of players to meet the requirements of the Law or the competition, if a team does not appear or leaves before completion of the game, or if the field or any of its equipment do not meet the requirements of the Laws or are otherwise unsafe; i. e., for technical (Law 1) or physical (Law 4) safety. An abandoned match is replayed unless the competition rules provide otherwise. The referee may terminate a match for reasons of non-physical safety (bad weather or darkness), for any serious infringement of the Laws, or because of interference by spectators. Only the competition authority, not the referee, has the authority to declare a winner, a forfeit, or a replay of the match in its entirety. The referee must report fully on the events. “Suspended” means that a match was stopped temporarily for any of various reasons. After that the match is either resumed, abandoned, or terminated and the competition rules take over.

CONDITION OF THE FIELD (AND APPURTENANCES)
• Law 1 states that if the crossbar becomes displaced or broken, play is stopped until it has been repaired or replaced in position. If it is not possible to repair the crossbar, the match must be abandoned. In addition, if the referee declares that one spot on the field is not playable, then the entire field must be declared unplayable and the game abandoned.

• A careful inspection of the field before the start of the game might lead the referee to abandon the game before it was started. If, once the match has begun, the referee discovers a problem that is not correctable, then the referee’s decision must be to abandon the game and report the matter to the competition authority.

• Under Law 5, the referee is authorized to stop play if, in his opinion, the floodlights are inadequate.

INTERFERENCE BY PLAYERS, OTHER PARTICIPANTS, OR SPECTATORS
If an object thrown by a spectator hits the referee or one of the assistant referees or a player or team official, the referee may allow the match to continue, suspend play or abandon the match depending on
the severity of the incident. He must, in all cases, report the incident(s) to the appropriate authorities. Using the powers given him by Law 5, the referee may stop, suspend or terminate the match, at his discretion, for any infringements of the Laws or for grave disorder (see below). If he decides to terminate the match, he must provide the appropriate authorities with a match report which includes information on any disciplinary action taken against players, and/or team officials and any other incidents which occurred before, during or after the match. In no event may the referee determine the winner of any match, terminated or not. Nor may the referee decide whether or not a match must be replayed. Both of those decisions are up to the competition authority, i. e., the league, cup, tournament, etc.

“Grave disorder” would be any sort of dustup involving the players and/or spectators and/or team officials which puts the officials in immediate or likely subsequent jeopardy — fights which metastasize beyond just 2 or 3, masses of spectators invading the pitch, throwing dangerous objects (e. g., firecrackers, butane lighters, etc.) onto the field, and so forth.

THE NUMBER OF PLAYERS
• The referee has no authority to force a team to play if they do not wish to continue a game nor to terminate the match in such a case. The referee will simply abandon the game and include all pertinent details in the match report.

• In the opinion of the International F.A. Board, a match should not be considered valid if there are fewer than seven players in either of the teams. If a team with only seven players is penalized by the award of a penalty-kick and as a consequence one of their players is sent off, leaving only six in the team, the game must be abandoned without allowing the penalty-kick to be taken unless the national association has decided otherwise with regard to the minimum number of players.

• The referee must not abandon the game if a team loses a kicker after kicks from the mark begin. The kicks must be completed.

• If a player has been seriously injured and cannot leave the field without risking further injury, the referee must stop the game and have the player removed. If, for whatever reason, there is no competent person available to oversee removal of the seriously injured player from the field for treatment, then the match must be abandoned.

• If player fraud is alleged prior to the game and the player will admit that he is not the person on the pass he has presented and the game has already begun, the referee will have to deal with the matter of an outside agent on the field. If the fraud were not discovered until after the game had been restarted, the only solution would be to abandon the match. If there is no goal issue, the fraudulent player is removed and the game is restarted with a dropped ball.

• If a player, from a team with only seven players, leaves the field of play to receive medical attention, the match will stop until this player has received treatment and returns to the field of play. If he is unable to return, the match is abandoned, unless the member association has decided otherwise with regard to the minimum number of players.

In all cases, the referee must submit a full report to the appropriate authorities.

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

TEAM OFFICIALS
The Laws make the point that the coach and other team officials must BEHAVE RESPONSIBLY and thus may not shout, curse, interfere, or otherwise make a nuisance of themselves The coach’s presence, or the presence of any other team official, is generally irrelevant to the game — under the Laws of the Game, but it may have some importance under the rules of youth competitions. If the coach or other team official is removed, known in the Law as “expelled,” that person must leave the field and its environs. If it is a youth game and the coach and all other team officials have been expelled, then the referee should consider abandoning the game. A full report must be filed with the competition authority. The referee has no authority to determine who has won or lost the game, whether by forfeit or any other process; that is the responsibility of the competition authority. The referee must file a report on all events associated with the abandonment.

RESULT OF THE MATCH
Once the game begins, only the referee has the right to decide whether the game continues, is suspended temporarily, terminated or abandoned. If a game is abandoned or terminated before it is completed, the determination of the result is up to the competition authority (league, cup, tournament). In most cases, competitions declare that if a full half has been played, the result stands, but that does not apply to all competitions. The referee does not have the authority to declare what the score is or who has won the game. The referee’s only recourse is to include in his game report full details of what caused the match to be abandoned or terminated. The status of an abandoned is determined by the rules of the competition or the competition authority itself. There is no set amount of time, but many rules of competition will call a game complete if a full half has been played.

Question:
While the center Ref was setting up for a free kick and trying to control arguing players on the field after a red card was issued, I was the AR and dealing with the entire side lines as a result from the red card. I had tried to get the center Refs attention because the coach was approaching me in a manor that was fairly threatening and due to the overwhelming number of participants I couldn’t help but feel a bit unsafe. As I tried to explain my point of view to the coach he continued to scream over my explanation at the top of his lungs and plowed towards me on several occasions while several of the other assitant coaches literally held him back. During this time I was trying to signal to the Center Ref that it was time for this coach to be ejected. As I continued signaling, the Center was still preparing to set up the free kick from the red card. As the coaches and players were moving away from me on my side line I continued to demand that everyone was to clear my side of the halfline in an attempt to control the situation from getting further out of hand. At this time I stepped on to the pitch, rolled up my flag and held it between my legs with my hand patting my pocket. The Center Ref was still not responding, I started to yell his name and whistle out loud as I was a bit frustrated that he wasn’t hearing me. This all happened during an approximate window of about 70- 75 secs. During this time I realized I was out of luck in getting his attention and found my self well out of position to judge the free kick at the goal line. Even some of the players which were on the field had been distracted by the commotion from the side lines coach. The Center Ref blew his whistle and the free kick was taken, a goal was scored. The Center Ref then responded to what was going on and met me midway on the field. He had asked me what happened and I said that the coach was acting out in a threatening manor towards me and asked if he could take him out of the game, he did, issuing a red card (coach was ejected). Then he asked if I was on the field during the kick, I told him yes, he asked me what I thought about the goal, if it should stand or not. I then gave my opinion but left it up to him to decide.

Since I was on the field near the 40 yard line and not in a position to clarify that the keeper had not been fouled or distracted in any way during the free kick, I didn’t feel it would be fair to the defending players being that the players on the field may have been distracted by their coaches actions on the side lines”. Of course, I did realize I was in a bad position and that I should have waited before stepping on to the field, but under the circumstances at the time of the incident and the way it played out, I was sort of reacting to feeling threatened and needed help in dealing with a very hostile situation. I’ve reffed more then a few soccer matches over the past 6 years up to this game and I have dealt with a good share of yelling, complaining and such but this was not something that any ref should have to deal with. My feeling was to withdraw my self from the game or deal with it in the best way I could at the time.

Over all, the Center Ref made the final call in re-doing the free kick and denying the goal.

USSF answer (October 2, 2009):
First of all, your safety is paramount — certainly more important that any restart — and so you should have immediately moved into the field right up to the referee to make him aware of the threats against a member of the officiating team. Second, no referee should be so focused on what is going on in his immediate area that he is oblivious to near riotous uproars taking place along the sideline centered around one of the members of his officiating team. Third, what was the other AR doing in all this, picking daisies?

What happened with the free kick was, is, and will always be irrelevant to (a) the occurrence of general disorder and/or (b) danger directed at an official.

SAFETY FIRST, PLEASE!

July 13, 2009

Question:

On 6/16/06, you wrote the following:

“In those competitions that do not provide for water breaks, the spirit of the game requires the referee to ensure the safety of the players. Preventing injury from heat exhaustion would fall into that aspect of the referee’s duties. The answer may be summed up in two words: common sense.

“In fact, both the referee and the team officials share in the responsibility to protect player safety. The referee could, at a stoppage called for any reason, “suggest” the taking of water by any players interested in doing so. The timing of such a break and its length would be at the discretion of the referee. Obviously, the referee could decide to take this approach on his or her own initiative, with or without prior consultation with the coaches.

“However, either or both coaches could approach the referee prior to the match and suggest the need for extra hydration, in which case the intelligent referee would be well advised to listen and act accordingly.”

– –  In the past few days, a referee has claimed that these instructions have now been superseded by the USSF and that a referee cannot suggest a water break or even allow a break when the ball is out of play – no matter how hot the day or how young the players – unless it is in the tournament rules. Is he correct that things have changed or is the opinion from June of 2006 still valid?

I hope that you can address this quickly with the hottest part of summer approaching. The health or even the lives of some young players might be at risk.

Thanks.

USSF answer (July 13, 2009):
The opinion of the United States Soccer Federation remains the same as it was in 2006:  The safety of the players comes first and referees are expected to see to it that players are protected in every way possible.

Addendum:  It is possible that you may have been distracted by some controversy over an incident in a professional game.  Those are adults, playing other adults, all of them aware of what is going on.  Referees are not to order water breaks at professional games and should apply common sense at other levels.