Goal is scored in the closing seconds of the game. Referee sets up with a restart and blows the whistle for the match ending. As a referee exits the field the losing coach complains that that goal was scored after time had run out. The referee confers with this ARs and decide that he did play more than the allotted time.

Question is once a referee signals the end of the game, can he change facts.

Answer (March 30, 2014)
No, the referee cannot change the facts of the Game or his decisions once the game has been terminated (declared over). Law 5 is quite clear on this matter. Under Decisions of the Referee, the Law states:
The referee may only change a decision on realising that it is incorrect or, at his discretion, on the advice of an assistant referee or the fourth official, provided that he has not restarted play or terminated the match.


March 22, 2014

Not to reopen a can of worms but I had one question with regard to an offsides infraction.

Strictly interpreting law 11, it seems possible that an attacking player can be in an offsides position on the opponents half of the field, and an offsides infraction can occur if he/she receives a pass (across the halfway line) from a teammate. I’ve never seen this penalty called and been told by several coaches that it is not a violation.

How should referees interpret this situation?

Answer (March 22, 2014):
Coaches are not the best source for information about offside or any other infringements of the Laws. Yes, a player who is in an offside position at the moment the ball is played by his/her teammate and then receives that ball is indeed considered to be offside. It makes no difference if the teammate who played the ball to the player in the offside position was in his/her own half or in the opponents’ half of the field. It also makes no difference if the player in the offside position returns from the offside position to his/her own half to receive the ball. It’s still offside. The indirect free kick is given at the place here the player was when the teammate played the ball.

1) The ball is played back deliberately by a teammate to the keeper in the PA, must (as the law states) the keeper touch the ball with the HANDS or would a touch with the wrist, arm or outside shoulder similarly qualify as an infraction?

(2) In playing the ball back deliberately to the keeper, a teammate plays with ball with the shin (leg below the knee and above the foot). Should this lead to an infraction if the keeper touches the ball with the hands in the PA?

(3) A defender grabs the shirt of an attacker 10 yards outside the PA and continues the hold until the attacker and defender enter the PA. At this point the hold is released. The referee uses advantage, but stops play for the foul when the attacker staggers and falls. What is the proper restart?

Answer (March 18, 2014):
(1) The referee must first judge the position of the hand/arm. The hand is defined as extending from the tip of the finger to the outside of the shoulder. If the position is abnormal, then the foul must be punished; however, if the ball has taken a truly bad bounce, the referee will certainly exercise common sense and could let it go.

(2) No, this is not an infraction. The ‘keeper is not allowed to use his or her hands to play the ball deliberately kicked to him or her. A kicked ball may be in contact with the shin, but that contact MUST also include the foot to be truly a kick. Kicking does not include balls played solely (no pun intended) with the shin unless part of the foot itself is also involved..

(3) Under Law 12, as stated in the Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees in the back of the Laws, we find:
Holding an opponent
If a defender starts holding an attacker outside the penalty area and continues holding him inside the penalty area, the referee must award a penalty kick.

NOTE: This continuation is an established principle of the Law and applies only to holding, not to any other foul.

I have been saying for years that Jack Warner was a crook. Now it would appear that I was right. See this article:

Categories: Law 5 - Referee

Please clarify that kicking the ball for a corner kick it is ok to kick with the bottom of your boot.

Answer (March 8, 2014):
Yes, the kicker may use the bottom of the foot as long as he has played the ball in a kicking motion. The referee needs to use common sense and apply practices currently accepted in modern soccer, no matter how much these may differ from what we have learned and applied in the past. On any free kick, whether direct or indirect, the Law is clear: The ball must be moved a minimum distance with the foot, preferably in a kicking motion. In many cases, this means that the ball may be stepped on, although it still must move some minimum distance. If the referee does not see some minimal movement on the initial kick, then the ball is not yet in play and the kick must be taken correctly.


March 10, 2014

In a recent match I had, a female player had her head gear off and in her hands while playing the ball and challenged by an opponent. I stopped the game and gave an indirect free kick to the opposing team for stopping the game, but did not give a caution.

Was I correct in the decision or did I misapply the laws? I could not find an answer in the law book or in advice to referees.

My question is, is it permissible for players to play with items in their hands such as head gear, water bottles, shin guards, cleats / boots, or an miscellaneous items while in possession of the ball and being challenged by an opponent? If not, what is the punishment and restart?

Answer March 8, 2014):
If the player did not use her headgear (not yet legal for anyone other than the goalkeeper) to play the ball or to ward off the opponent, then no offense has been committed. However, the referee should ensure that she replaces or legally disposes of the headgear as quickly as possible. If no offense has been committed, play is not stopped. If the player (other than the goalkeeper within her own penalty area) uses the headgear to play the ball, it is deliberate handling. If she uses the headgear to play the opponent, it is either holding or pushing. Deal with such infringements in accordance with the Laws.

What happens if the ball bursts after being kicked and made contact with during a penalty kick?

Answer (March 6, 2014):
Your answer is contained in Law 2 (THE BALL) of the current Laws of the Game:

Replacement of a defective ball
If the ball bursts or becomes defective during the course of a match:
• the match is stopped
• the match is restarted by dropping the replacement ball at the place where the original ball became defective, unless play was stopped inside the goal area, in which case the referee drops the replacement ball on the goal area line parallel to the goal line at the point nearest to where the original ball was located when play was stopped

If the ball bursts or becomes defective during a penalty kick or during kicks from the penalty mark as it moves forward and before it touches any player or the crossbar or goalposts:
• the penalty kick is retaken

Categories: Law 5 - Referee

I have been trying to get an answer regarding the taking of an indirect free kick. One source has an answer on its site which contradicts the answer I found on the US Soccer site. My thought is if the ball needs to be kicked and move, that this should happen on the initial touch otherwise the ball has not been put into play correctly and should be retaken. This being the case on the any restart not properly put into play. Could you please clarify the answer as the advice to referees does not clearly state what should happen in the event of not putting the ball into play on the 1st touch.

Answer: February 6, 2014
The referee needs to use common sense and apply practices currently accepted in modern soccer, no matter how much these may differ from what we have learned and applied in the past. On any free kick, whether direct or indirect, the Law is clear: The ball must be moved a minimum distance with the foot, preferably in a kicking motion. In many cases, this means that the ball may be stepped on, although it still must move some minimum distance. If the referee does not see some minimal movement on the initial kick, then the ball is not yet in play and the kick must be taken correctly.

Yes, old timers, this is not quite the answer you are used to from me, but we need to move in synch with what the rest of the world does, and this is it. Just remember that the final decision is up to the referee on the spot, not you or me or anyone else.

As announced two weeks ago, the site will be closing down as an interactive entity as of close of business today (9 PM U.S. Eastern Standard Time).It has been a great ride, but now it is time to shut it down, at least in the interactive sense. We will likely post some updates and some other items. The webmaster has agreed to leave the site up for people to do research.

Thank you to all of you for helping make the site a success.

Jim Allen

Categories: Law 5 - Referee

This question is with regard to Rule 4, player equipment.

There is a growing market for wearable health and fitness monitors in the form of wristbands/bracelets. They monitor activity including heart rate, temp and sweat levels. Jawbone and FitBit are two of the leading manufacturers. And the prices are dropping so coaches and referees will begin to see these devices more frequently. Will these health monitors be classified as jewelry and therefore banned from play? Thank you.

Answer (November 27, 2013):
My personal belief is yes, these devices should be classified as jewelry and treated as such by the referee in any case involving their use in an actual game. However, in practice this question will will have to be answered on a case-by-case basis by the individual referee on the match. Both pieces of equipment involve wristbands that could catch on the player’s equipment or that of an opponent, leading to injury for all involved, thus violating the principle behind Law 4′s requirement that no jewelry be worn.

Either of those pieces of equipment would be fine for training, but not for competition.

And just to be certain, I checked my answer with some folks who are still active. Amazing how we still agree:

It’s a tricky question that [one of my friends] actually posed to USSF back in September when a WPS player attempted to wear such a heart monitor device and was refused by the referee based on a decision that it was jewelry. However, subsequently, it was attempted again (don’t know whether it was by the same player or not) and was allowed by another referee who decided it was “medical” and could be worn if wrapped and was safe. I asked what (if anything) had been said or relayed to WPS referees as a guideline on the issue. The replay was that there was no formal “ruling” but that USSF had communicated to the USWNT in the past that the devices could be worn so long as they are deemed safe by the referee.

One can only assume that what is OK for the USWNT is good for everyone else and that the argument is persuasive that, although jewelry, the devices are medical in nature and should be approached in the same way as is done with medical alert bracelets.

Categories: Law 4 - Equipment

About 10 minutes into a game, it was noticed that one of the players was not wearing shin guards. The laws state that the ref can either wait for the next stoppage or go ahead and make a stoppage and order the player off the field to fix the problem and that player cannot return without the ref’s permission.

The laws do not talk about subs in this situation so I interpreted that to mean that a substitution could not happen. Is that right?

Does the team remain down one player until the next stoppage and the ref calls on the sub or can the team immediately send in a sub while the one without the proper equipment is being sent off? It seems as though if the team is allowed an immdiate replacement on the fly, it would give them a tactical advantage if allowed since the other team would not be able to piggy back on it or sub in a one for one sub like with injuries.
Lastly, if the ref stops the game for the equipment infraction, is the restart a dropped ball or an indirect for the opposing team at the spot of where the sent off player was seen with the missing gear?

My decision at the time was to stop the game, I sent off the player (I cautioned the player but did not show the yellow), the coach tried to send another on in the meantime and I denied it, restarted with a dropped ball where it was when I stopped the game, and the team played down one until the next stoppage.

Thanks in advance for any advice on such a situation.

Answer (November 17, 2013):
I cannot guarantee what your local rules may say, as some local rules are—like high school rules—from another planet. However, under the Laws of the Game a team may substitute at ANY stoppage of play with the referee’s permission. It cannot be done on the fly, as that is not the way substitutions are handled—again unless your local rules are from another planet. To caution the player, you must believe that he willfully broke the Law. See this quote from the back of the book, Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees (Law 4):

Disciplinary sanctions
The players are to be inspected before the match begins and substitutes before they enter the field of play. If a player is discovered to be wearing unauthorized clothing or jewelry during play, the referee must:
• inform the player that the item in question must be removed
• order the player to leave the field of play at the next stoppage if he is unable or unwilling to comply
• caution the player if he willfully refuses to comply or, having been told to remove the item, is discovered to be wearing the item again
If play is stopped to caution the player, an indirect free kick must be awarded to the opposing team from the position of the ball when play was stopped (see Law 13 – Position of free kick).

Categories: Law 5 - Referee