Entries related to Law 5 – Referee

No questions will be answered after 24 November 2016. I will turn off the email capability to receive and respond at the same time. If anyone wishes to copy files for future reference, please feel free to do so.

Thank you for your interest over the years.

Jim Allen
USSF National Instructor Staff, Ret.

Categories: Law 5 - Referee

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Categories: Law 5 - Referee

IFAB: one step forward, one step backward

By Paul Gardner

I think it unlikely that there are many people around who would consider the International Football Association Board (IFAB) to be an up-to-date group. But, the IFAB is making an attempt, it seems. It has just approved a major rewriting of soccer’s rules and David Elleray, the man in charge of the overhaul, says one of its aims is to bring the rules up to date.

The intention, then is good. Whether it’s been achieved, I cannot tell you, as the IFAB appears reluctant to let anyone see the new rulebook. A bad sign, that — it strongly suggests that while the IFAB may be updating the rules, it is not modernizing its modus operandi. The traditional tendency to reveal as little as possible (one that the IFAB shares with referees) remains in place.

A press conference was held after last week’s IFAB meeting in Cardiff. A question was asked — When would the new rulebook be available? — which received the classically evasive “Soon” as an answer. An IFAB press release contains a link to “new wording” for Rule 12; press it and you get “We’re sorry, this page cannot be found.” When Elleray was asked where the new version of the rules could be found, he replied: “In May we will be launching the IFAB website (theifab.com) and the whole book and each individual Law will be available for download.”

Well, that’s just dandy. We’ll have to wait until May for a sight of the new rulebook that will come into use in June.

The one change that we do know at least something about is the one I’ve already mentioned, a change to Rule 12. It concerns the so-called “triple punishment” problem that can arise in cases of DOGSO — Denying an Obvious Goal Scoring Opportunity.

If the offense occurs within the penalty area — as many, probably most, of them do — the guilty player is red-carded, and is suspended for the next game, and the attacking team gets a penalty kick. Triple punishment, you see. The term is nonsense. Every red card involves, whether for DOGSO or not, involves triple punishment: ejection, suspension, and the award of a free kick — which, even if it is outside the penalty area, may well be within scoring range.

So why is the DOGSO case regarded differently? Why all the whining about it being too severe? And why is the IFAB listening to it? The same topic came before the IFAB last year and they very sensibly rejected it. Here it comes again, and the IFAB has agreed that trials be conducted with a modified rule that will allow referees to give a yellow card instead of a red.

I cannot quote the rule change (it’s the unavailable “new wording” mentioned above), but I do have something that ought to be almost as good. During the IFAB press conference, FIFA’s new president Gianni Infantino had his say on the matter. Thus: “Basically, if the goalkeeper or the defender in the penalty area tries to go to the ball — genuinely and honestly tries to challenge for the ball, then there will not be a red card any more, only a yellow card.

“For other instances, violent play or whatever, pulling or pushing, which have nothing to do with trying to get the ball, there will still be a red card and a penalty. But in the other instances, where there is an honest challenge for the ball … the goalkeeper, the typical incident where you have a goalkeeper jumping and the attacker just manages to touch the ball before him, and they hit each other, there will be a penalty and a yellow card.”

I’ll underline again: I don’t have the official wording. I do not know what will happens when a defender uses his hand to keep the ball out — that is, I’m afraid, a pretty “genuine and honest” attempt to play the ball, though not in the sense that the rule change requires. But what I’ve quoted above is from the FIFA president himself, so I’m assuming it is an accurate version of the change.

There are several cogent reasons why this is a particularly bad, ill-thought-out change.

1. It represents a surrender to those who want soccer to be a more physical game. Simply this: a weakening of an existing rule, a lighter punishment for a mistimed tackle. I can think of no compelling reason why that is needed. And how long will this new leniency be confined to late tackles in DOGSO situations only? It will inevitably (and logically) spread to be applied to tackles anywhere on the field.

2. It expands something that should be reduced — i.e. referees’ reluctance to call fouls against, and particularly to eject, goalkeepers. When looking for examples of how this “new wording” will work, Infantino twice singled out the goalkeeper as a beneficiary. Not, I think, by accident. Under this rule change, red cards for goalkeepers will rarely, if ever, be seen. The keeper stays on the field, now with the chance to become a hero if he saves the penalty kick. This looks like a goalkeepers’ charter.

3. An earlier rewrite of the rules (in 1994) brought in a major change: it threw out the idea of “intent.” Apart from hand ball, referees no longer had to read the players’ mind. A foul was a foul, whether it was intentional or not. But this “new wording” on DOGSO clearly calls on the referee to judge intent. He has to decide whether a player making a challenge is “genuinely and honestly” (Infantino’s words) trying to play the ball. A huge step backward.

4. The “new wording” will surely encourage goalkeepers to continue with their violent assaults on opponents, when it ought to be absolutely obvious that this aspect of a goalkeeper’s play will, sooner rather than later, have to be curtailed.

Finally, back to the IFAB — there is never a shortage of gaucheries from them. I — and plenty of others — have long found it unacceptable that the IFAB should be dominated by the Brits, who have four of its eight votes, given to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The countering argument is that FIFA has the other four votes, that six votes are needed for change, so things balance out.

According to that explanation, the Brits are not in charge. Yet, at the recent press conference quoted above, who was on the platform answering questions? Why, Jonathan Ford (Wales), Stewart Regan (Scotland), Martin Glenn (England) and Patrick Nelson (Northern Ireland). There was no sign of the four mysterious FIFA delegates. Only the new FIFA president, Gianni Infantino.

That blatant show of Brit-power, obviously not caring whom it might upset, or how inappropriate it might be, should not be allowed to happen again. Three of those permanent Brit members should be pensioned off, which would allow the IFAB to take on permanent delegates from important areas — Latin America and Europe in particular — which are currently without representation.


Thank you, Paul Gardner!

Categories: Law 5 - Referee

At times I see a number of players in the game on the sidelines. It seems to me they go out of field of play as they wait for the ball then come back in to receive the ball as they run down field. It happens on the parents’ side of the field. As a center, should I be concerned about this? Do I wait for the opposing team to complain or comment?

i am aware of the rule not being able to go in and out of play without approval, but it seems to me many teams are enabling this tactic.

This is youth play Select and Premier level that I see this occurring.

Please advise.

Answer (March 3, 2016):
No. Going outside the field of play may be considered as part of a playing movement (see below), but normally players are expected to remain within the playing area.

Do not permit the players to do what you described in your question. Instead, warn them the first time and then caution them if it continues at that restart or again in the game.

There are occasions when players are allowed to leave the field of play without the referee’s permission, but they apply in only three cases:
1. To retrieve the ball for a throw-in or kick restart.
2. To celebrate a goal, but it is essential that players return to the field of play as soon as possible.
3. To avoid an obstacle on the field, i.e., to get around opponents to play the ball. This also applies when the opponents take the ball to one of the corners; in that case, the player may leave the field to play the ball back into the field. NOTE: This is purely traditional; it was part of the Questions and Answers on the Laws of the Game for many years (removed after 2006), but has not been in print since the Q&A ceased to be published.
Here are two instances, as included in the 1996 Laws of the Game Q&A under Law III (as it was written then):

Q&A on the Laws of the Game through 2006:

1. A player accidentally passes over one of the boundary lines of the field of play. Is he considered to have left the field of play without the permission of the referee?


2. A player in possession of the ball passes over the touch line or the goal line without the ball in order to beat an opponent. What action does the referee take?

Play continues. Going outside the field of play may be considered as part of a playing movement, but players are expected, as a general rule, to remain within the playing area.

Removed after 2006, “because everyone knows that,” the same reasoning applied in not replacing players or substitutes who have been sent off, which is also not included in the Laws.

Categories: Law 5 - Referee

As part of U.S. Soccer’s Player Safety Campaign, U.S. Soccer unveiled the U.S. Soccer Concussion Initiative that provides guidelines that have been implemented since January of 2016.

The information contained in the initiative is intended to give U.S. Soccer Organization Members, as well as players, parents, team/club staff and coaches and referees, guidance and direction when dealing with head injuries and potential head injuries during soccer participation.

Included in the U.S. Soccer Concussion Initiative are specific changes to rules on substitutions and heading for certain age groups. Those changes included:

Modify substitution rules to allow players who may have suffered a concussion during games to be evaluated without penalty
Eliminating heading for children 10 and under
Please note that U11 is listed in the U.S. Soccer Concussion Initiative document because U11 players can be 10 years old at the beginning of the season
Limiting the amount of heading in practice for children between the ages of 11 and 13

In addition to the safety initiatives, the following modified rule should be implemented:

When a player deliberately heads the ball in a game, an indirect free kick (IFK) should be awarded to the opposing team from the spot of the offense. If the deliberate header occurs within the goal area, the indirect free kick should be taken on the goal area line parallel to the goal line at the point nearest to where the infringement occurred. If a player does not deliberately head the ball, then play should continue.

For more information, please refer to the frequently asked questions, which should help clarify questions regarding the new initiatives.

Link to proposed changes, not yet approved by the IFAB or even officially accepted


Categories: Law 5 - Referee


December 10, 2015

A most useful item.


Categories: Law 5 - Referee


Referee Health and Safety

As part of U.S. Soccer’s commitment to health and safety, our medical and referee experts have prepared the following recommendations for the referee community and incorporated them into our referee education materials.

In the interest of health and safety, U.S. Soccer recommends that match officials practice the following skin care guidelines:

• Consider wearing sunscreen daily on areas of exposed skin.
• Apply skin protection factor (SPF) of 30 or greater 15 minutes prior to being exposed to the sun.
• At a minimum, reapply every 2 hours or more frequently if sweating extensively.
• Take advantage of halftime to reapply.
• Consider wearing long sleeves (or UV protective clothing) if applicable during high sun exposure periods.
• Periodically (once a year) review exposed skin for any changes or growths and consult your doctor or dermatologist.
• Caps may be worn so long as the cap does not endanger the safety of the official or the players.
• The cap should be consistent with the referee uniform and not conflict with the uniform colors worn by either team.
• The cap may not bear any commercial marks or logos.

During a game, can goalie speak to someone beside the goal during game? Referee issued yellow for not paying attention to game?

Answer (June 30, 2015):
There were two people of diminished mental competence involved here: the goalkeeper and the referee. There is no such rule in the Laws of the Game, and referees are forbidden to interfere in any player action that is not covered in the Laws.

NOTE: There are too many “cowboy” referees in our game. That is my term for referees who make up their own rules as they go along, confusing players, fellow officials, and the spectators. My recommendation to them: Just call the game in accordance with the Laws. It is so much easier on everyone.

Here is an update to Gil Weber’s sample set of pregame instructions.

Gil Weber’s Pregame Instructions
Copyright© 1999, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011

January 2013

These pregame instructions were originally written in 1999, and then were updated in 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, and 2011 after International Football Association Board decisions and advisories from FIFA and USSF. Here now is the latest revision to include new instructions from FIFA and USSF plus “tweaks” based on my experiences over the past few years.

As I stated in the original preamble, adapt these instructions to your own style and temperament. Don’t try to repeat verbatim what you read here. Instead, think about the points I make, reflect on how I ask my assistant referees to deal with them, and then create your own pre-game spiel to meet the needs of your games and the experience levels of your assistant referees.

This is particularly important when you’re working with very young or inexperienced ARs. In their entirety these pregame instructions will utterly overwhelm a young AR who’s probably still trying to get comfortable switching the flag from hand to hand.

But assuming you’re working with ARs who have some reasonable comfort level on the touchline, this should cover just about everything. And so with that introduction, here goes.

Read more

Categories: Law 5 - Referee, Pregame


October 5, 2014

NOTE: I do not remember where I got this item — and for that I apologize to the source — but it seems worth publishing again to remind referees that they need to ensure that everyone on the field knows who is in charge of the game.

Recently I lined an U15B game in a neighborhood complex. A visiting team player whacked the ball. It went out of play, over the fans, along the touchline, over the short chain-link fence behind the fans, over a driveway into the complex, over another short chain-link fence, and into a neighbor’s backyard.

A home team player knew the drill. He ran off the field, jumped the first fence, crossed the road, and arrived at the backyard fence.

The player saw a “Beware of Dogs” sign. He looked around but didn’t see any dogs. To be sure he banged on the fence just as he started to jump. Lucky for him.

Lying against the back of the house in the shade was THE DOG. THE DOG was not happy. THE DOG obviously had dealt with this situation before and knew how to handle it.

THE DOG growled menacingly, stood up, and stared at the player. THE DOG then walked very deliberately to the ball as he maintained eye contact. He continued growling and staring at the player. When THE DOG got to the ball, he looked down, sniffed it disgustedly, looked up, and again growled at the player.

THE DOG then looked at the ball one last time, raised his hind leg, and relieved himself on the ball. He gave the player a final stare with a final contemptuous growl (looking something like a sly, cynical grin), turned around, and casually jogged back to his favorite spot in the shade.

The player was momentarily stunned. With both arms raised he finally shouted to the sidelines, “I’M NOT PLAYING WITH THAT BALL!!!”.

I remember THE DOG whenever I referee an older youth game. He’s even become one of my role models for player management.

THE DOG stayed in the background until it was time to make his presence known. He commanded the player’s attention while he took forceful action. He used crisp mechanics to clearly communicate his decision. He received the player’s unquestioning acceptance of his decision. And he felt much better when he was finished.

No question here, only a clear statement of Law, tradition, and common practice for referees, players, and coaches alike.

1. Players and technical staff are not allowed to communicate via any communication devices:
“The use of electronic communication systems between players and/or technical staff is not permitted.”

2. Other than watches, notecards/pens, and whistles, referees are not permitted to wear or carry any equipment other than what has been approved by the IFAB and the U. S. Soccer Federation. Cell or mobile phones are not among those approved items.

3. Why then would this referee, while play is going on, stop to use his cell phone?

Click to open the attachment: Naughty Ref

Categories: Law 5 - Referee