During the course of a game the assistant line judge raised a waving flag to indicate a purposeful hand ball on white. The foul along with the assistants waving flag was not seen by the referee.

White clearly gained an advantage on the field of play over black and the progressive play resulted in a white goal. Which in my opinion should have been brought back but the assistant lowered his flag before the goal without black gaining possession or an advantage. My question is if an assistant notices a foul but it is unseen by the referee is there a certain amount of time this foul should be called or was the assistant justified in lowering his flag due the referee’s unawareness even though black never gained possession or an advantage?

It is my opinion that the assistant should have not lowered his flag unless black gained possession thus resulting in a black advantage.

The play should have then been brought back resulting in a no goal.

Would this be the correct play procedure or etiquette?

USSF answer (October 11, 2011):
Our instructions to referees (and players and coaches and spectators who care to read them) on the matter are collected in the USSF publication “Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials.” The citation below pertains to your scenario:

Lead Assistant Referee
* Determines that the infringement was not or could not be seen by the referee and that, per the pregame conference, the referee would likely have stopped play for the infringement if it had been seen
* Signals with the flag raised vertically in the hand appropriate for the restart direction and, after making eye contact with the referee, gives the flag a slight wave
* If the referee stops play, signals with the flag held 45 degrees upward in the direction of the restart if the foul was committed by any player outside of the penalty area or by an attacker inside the penalty area
* If misconduct is observed associated with the foul, makes eye contact with the referee and advises either a yellow card by placing the free hand over the badge on the left jersey pocket or a red card by placing the free hand on a back pocket on the shorts
* Indicates the location of the restart if necessary
* If the referee does not see the signal, continues to hold the flag straight upward in accordance with the pregame conference
* Per pregame conference, assists in enforcing the required minimum distance if closer to the restart location
* Takes position to assist with offside on the free kick and monitors other player actions in accordance with the pre-game conference
Trail Assistant Referee
* Mirrors the lead assistant referee’s flag signal if this is not seen by the referee and, upon making eye contact with the referee, directs the referee’s attention to the lead assistant referee

In this case, the game does not seem to have stopped until the ball entered the goal. The assistant referee should have kept his flag raised throughout this sequence of play and then, when the ball entered the goal, dropped the flag and stood at attention to gain the referee’s attention. After a discussion between the two, the referee should have disallowed the goal and brought the ball back to the spot of the foul and awarded the direct free kick to black for the deliberate handling by the white player. The referee should make eye contact with each of his ARs frequently. This referee appears not to have done so.

The issue of maintaining flag signals for events not seen by the referee is also a topic strongly recommended for inclusion on the pregame discussion among the members of the officiating team. The protocol for maintaining a flag for an offside violation is fairly clearly delineated, as is the protocol if the event not seen by the referee involves violent misconduct, but the decision about holding on to a signal for a foul is largely a matter of preference by the referee and this needs to be clearly set forth by the referee ahead of time.