On January 26, 2017, we posted a question and answer on the topic of “Illegal Substitution Problems.” After reviewing the Law issues, we offered a practical solution which, at the time, was not consistent with the letter of the Law but, to us, seemed acceptable and consistent with the “spirit” of the Law, and we warned that adopting this approach might be met with resistance by some officials. We invite readers to locate this item, review the different options it discussed, and feel comforted in the fact that the International Board has now officially adopted the “practical” solution we offered as part of the Board’s newly-adopted 2017-2018 version of the Laws of the Game.
Karyn, an adult/pro fan, asks:
If neither the Referee nor either Assistant Referee saw a foul but the fourth official did, can the Referee still give a straight red card?
Yes. The referee is obliged to take into account any information provided to him or her by a member of the officiating team – including the ARs and the 4th official but not including the reserve assistant referee or a volunteer linesman – and then render a final decision. The referee is not required to accept the information but is required to listen. However, the referee’s ability to follow through on the advice and information remains limited by the Laws of the Game. For example, if at the halftime break, an AR or the 4th official indicates that Blue #14 had used abusive or offensive language in the 20th minute, the only way the referee could issue a red card to Blue #14 is if there had been no stoppages between the 20th minute of the half and the midgame break. The Law requires that a card to any player, substitute, or substituted player must be given no later than the next stoppage (which includes the end of a period of play).
There are only two exceptions to this mandate. The first is if the referee realizes or is advised by a member of the officiating team (excluding the reserve assistant referee or a linesman) that the referee had issued a second yellow to a player but had failed to follow through with a red card as prescribed in Law 12. In this case, the red card can be given whenever the Referee is made aware of the oversight. The other is a bit more complicated. The referee can issue a red card to a player, substitute, or substituted player if an assistant referee observes an act of violence (including spitting), raises the flag, and continuously maintains the raised flag until the referee becomes aware of the signal, at which time the red card for violent conduct can be given even if one or more stoppages and restarts have intervened. Since this particular exception depends entirely on the AR performing in a certain way, it should be covered in the pregame discussion prior to any match in which such behavior might occur.
Greg, a referee of youth players, asks:
Red team is attacking… Red player makes a throw in. The ball strikes a Blue defender and is deflected to a Red player in an offside position. Is this an offside offence?
Offside was flagged … During the debrief after the game, I asserted that an offside offense cannot be called on a throw in. They (both AR and CR) asserted that it was a case of being in a position that gave advantage by way of “rebound” off an opponent. What’s the proper call?
What follows will likely cause some debate (flames will be ignored)and gnashing of teeth but the weight of opinion (which we join) is that there was not an offside violation. The language in Law 11 is very simple — “There is no offside offense if a player receives the ball directly from … a throw-in.” Every one of these words is ordinary, uncomplicated, and generally well understood — except one, “directly,” which is found numerous places in the Laws of the Game. Every other place (e.g., Law 13 on free kicks, Law 8 on kick-offs and dropped balls, and so forth) has a specific context which involves the scoring of goals. For example, a goal cannot be scored directly against the kicking team on a kick-off, free kick, goal kick, or a corner kick (although Law 14 does not say so specifically, it is generally assumed this also holds true for a penalty kick). A goal cannot be scored directly against either team on a throw-in or a dropped ball.
However, with Law 11, the context is different. Here, the concept of “directly” gets a bit more complicated because it carries one meaning when used in conjunction with offside position and another when used with offside offense, and neither one is related to the scoring of a goal, at least not directly [grin]. “Directly” has a long history in the Laws of the Game and in almost all cases means “no intervening touch or play of the ball.” A team given, say, an indirect free kick cannot score a goal directly from this restart but, instead, hopes that the ball, in the process of moving from the kick to the goal, makes contact with someone … anyone (who is legally positioned anyway) … because then the goal will count. This is why the attacking team with an IFK within a short distance from the opponents’ goal will attempt to power the kick through the wall and any other players in the hope that it will clip someone on the way in, thus leading to a goal.
In the case of Law 11, intervening contacts are important only if they involve a defender and the critical question is whether the contact is a “play” (briefly, “possessed and controlled”) or a deflection/rebound. If the decision is that the ball merely rebounded (deflected, bounced off, touched but not directed) from the defender or was deliberately “saved” by a defender, then any attacker who was in an offside position at the start of this segment of play (which began when the attacker’s teammate last played the ball) is still in an offside position and thus is not allowed to become involved in active play. In brief, the intervention is treated as though it hadn’t happened.
The language in Law 11 which we quoted above, however, deals with an offside offense. It posits a teammate of the thrower who was in an offside position and then declares that this position does not matter because there would be no offside offense even if that attacker in the offside position became involved in active play … directly from the throw-in. Now we come to the meat of the matter and, ironically, the nature of the intervening contact by the opponent turns out not to make any difference. If the contact was judged to be a play by that defender (possessed and controlled), then this ushers in a new play segment in which possession of the ball has changed teams so the teammate of the thrower is no longer even in an offside position (and therefore cannot commit an offside offense). If the contact was judged to be a rebound/deflection (which is what is implied fairly clearly in the question), then it remains the “same play” — i.e., as though the contact never happened — and the teammate of the thrower is still in an offside position but Law 11 says that this teammate, even though in an offside position, cannot commit an offside offense.
Ricardo, a Referee of youth players, asks:
When is the referee allowed to stop the play? Can he stop the play when time expires but the ball has already been kicked and is in the air going towards goal?
Your two questions are slightly different. When is the Referee allowed to stop play? By Law and tradition, anytime he or she feels it is necessary. The stoppage could be for a specific reason or for no reason not specifically provided for in the Law. Sometimes play stops despite the Referee. For example, technically, play stops when the ball leaves the field and there is no specific action the Referee is required to take to implement or authorize the stoppage. Nowhere in the Law does it say that the Referee stops play when the ball leaves the field but, on occasion, some action is needed to remind players that the ball has left the field (particularly if they keep on playing it) and, indeed, in such cases a whistle sounds solely to get their attention.
Other times, the Referee has discretionary authority to stop play. The most common example here is the commission of an offense specified by the Laws of the Game — fouls, misconduct, offside, etc. First of all, the Referee has to recognize that an offense has occurred, then decide that it is not trifling, then decide not to apply advantage, and then, finally, whistle play to stop. Just as with a stoppage due to the ball leaving the field, it is not the whistle which forces the stoppage but the decision that play must be stopped. Most times, the whistle merely marks that the decision has been made but happens so quickly following the decision that there is no appreciable time between the two. Sometimes, this is not the case: advantage is often an example because, until the Referee has had a chance to determine that the advantage has been achieved and maintained for several seconds, there could be at least a short while before a whistle is blown or the actual advantage signal is made.
Now we come to your second question. Every match has a specified length of half. Law 7 (Duration of the Match) sets this at 45 minutes. Although it can be less time for certain categories of players as determined by the competition authority, but it is always a specific number of minutes. That time may be extended officially by the need to conduct a penalty kick despite time ending. The time may also be extended due to time lost as a result of excessively lengthy delays but the Referee is required to carefully monitor such situations and decide, to the nearest whole minute (rounded down) how much time must be added. The period of play (first, second, or any subsequent additional period to break a tie), then, is an exact measurement.
Unfortunately, there are many so-called rules or notions about how Referees are supposed to mark when a period of play is over. By Law, no such rule exists or is authorized with the exception of the penalty kick in extended time. Myths abound. The Referee is supposed to wait until the ball is in the middle third before signaling the end of a period. The Referee is not supposed to signal the end of a period if either team is attacking the goal (a version of this is that it applies only if the team which is behind has the ball). The Referee is not supposed to signal the end of time if play is already stopped — which is taken to mean that the Referee must always perform the restart (goal kick, kick-off, free kick, etc.) before whistling the stoppage due to time expiring (apparently, this often gets the additional requirement that, after the restart, let the players play for at least a little bit).
Every Referee has a theory here, or was told “this is how it is done” in their entry level class, or was told by an assessor, or heard it on the grapevine, or from a TV commentator (!). None of them is correct … or all of them are correct (though some are sillier than others). Decide for yourself but, whatever you do, do it consistently regardless of what’s going on at the moment. Time is up when it is up but, in a match governed by the Laws of the Game, no one knows for sure when this is except for the Referee and, as the Referee, you must be able to justify to yourself whatever you come up with. We will advise one thing further and that is never to talk to anyone about “your rule” because none of them hold up to challenge. Just smile mysteriously and simply declare that time was over.
One serious problem in all this is that the players in their current game will get all bent out of shape if the Referee does (or does not) whistle the end of a period when they think it should be — which is why they frequently ask how much time is left and which is why you should not answer this question except in the most general way.
Gary, an Adult/Pro Coach, asks:
If there’s a foul off the ball, despite the ball being in the center circle, can the Referee award a penalty ?
Not only “can the Referee,” the Referee must. With rare exceptions (and fouls are not one of them), the Law sets the location of the restart to be where the foul occurred, not where the ball was. In this case, if it was a direct free kick foul and it was committed by a defender inside his or her own penalty area while the ball was in play, the restart is a penalty kick even if the ball was at the far other end of the field at the time.
For example, Red is attacking the Blue goal with play occurring just above the Blue team’s penalty area. At the Red end of the field, however, the Red goalkeeper and a Blue opponent are having an intense debate inside the Red penalty area over something that happened several minutes earlier, during which the Red goalkeeper shoves the opponent. The trail AR sees this and signals for the foul, the lead AR (down where play is currently occurring) mirrors the signal, and then directs the referee’s attention to what is happening behind the Referee’s back. Trusting the judgment of the experienced ARs, the Referee stops play immediately (no advantage is applied), deals with the misconduct (if any), and orders the ball brought back to the other end of the field for a penalty kick by Blue.
The consequences would be much different if, instead of striking by the Red goalkeeper, it was the Blue opponent who committed the shoving. Here, advantage might be applied depending on the seriousness of the offense (it is not recommended if violence is involved). If the Red team’s advantage is maintained, then play should be allowed to continue and, at the next stoppage, the Blue player might be cautioned if the shove was deemed reckless. If advantage was not maintained or if the shove was violent, play should be stopped and then restarted with a direct free kick by Red where the shove occurred after any misconduct with dealt with. If the shove did not require an immediate stoppage, the trail AR would simply wait for the next stoppage, signal for the Referee’s attention, explain what happened, and let the Referee decide what action to take.
In situations like this, it is imperative that the AR observing this behavior understands the implications of signaling for a stoppage. The AR’s decision must be based on believing — based on experience, the pre-game conference where the Referee made clear his or her preferences, and the AR’s observation of the Referee’s decisions in the match so far — that the referee would have stopped play (i.e., not considered the event doubtful or trifling and not have applied advantage) if he or she had seen the event. The other AR must be aware of the trail AR’s signal and have the presence of mind to mirror it. Finally, the Referee must trust the trail AR’s judgment that, under the circumstances and based on standard mechanics, play must be stopped. The system works … when everyone understands their respective roles and acts accordingly.
Daniel, a HS/College Referee, asks:
I have seen in many matches a player who has been fouled getting up and “demanding” a card for the opponent by signaling the motion of giving the card that referees do. Some players get cautioned and others get away with it. What is the stance of the Laws of the Game with regards to this action and why are referees not consistent when in my eyes it is taking away authority from the referees.
These are two very different questions. The first (the “stance of the Laws of the Game” regarding this player behavior) is relatively easy. There is nothing in the Laws about it, at least not specifically. But, we need to ask ourselves, why do players do this? The answer is simple, they want to influence the decisions of the Referee. Ironically, this sort of behavior is often (though not necessarily) associated with simulating a foul and/or exaggerating the seriousness of a foul. The “carding motion” is often intended to “sell” the simulation. It is not unusual that astute Referees, instead of carding the “perpetrator,” instead show a card to the “victim.”
Even if not intended for this purpose, the player action can be considered a form of dissent (remember, dissent can be delivered via actions as well as words) in that the player is expecting that, without his input, the Referee would not take the action the player wants. If the Referee feels that simulation/exaggeration has occurred, a caution for unsporting behavior is appropriate whereas a caution for dissent might be given in the absence of simulation/exaggeration. Despite there being two different forms of misconduct based on two separate events, it would be unwise to give two cautions (one for simulation and the other for dissent).
We quote from a USSF Memorandum (March 23, 2007) titled “Misconduct — Player Gesturing for a Card”:
Although there is no automatic rule that player gestures calling for a card must be cautioned, such actions can be considered cautionable if they are blatantly disruptive, for example, by indicating disagreement with an official’s decision, aggressively aimed at a particular opponent or an official, or being part of a simulation (faking) to gain a favorable decision. The public nature of the action often makes the gesture too obvious to ignore and can spread to other players, who either agree or disagree, thus provoking further conflict.
Now, as to the second question (why Referees seem not to be consistent in applying the above guidelines to this behavior), we can only speculate. Referees may differ in their ability to recognize the behavior as misconduct. Some may not wish to “stand out” by showing a card (note in this regard that the USSF memorandum makes the point that there is no “automatic rule” governing the carding gesture). On the plus side, though, and apart from the possible connection between the carding gesture and the simulation/exaggeration which might precede it, the Referee might decide that, at any given instance of this possible misconduct and under the specific circumstances at this moment by this player in this match, a caution might not be a useful or productive response.
Abdullah, an adult pro player, asks:
1- if a Goalkeeper holds the ball exactly on the penalty area line , is that allowed ?
If that is allowed, what if he holds the ball and 80% of the ball was on the line and the rest is outside of the line ? (What are the punishments if..)
2- if there is a foul or an offside inside the PA, is it right the goalkeeper can put the ball anywhere in the penalty area to play ? Because I see goalkeepers take the ball up to the penalty area line even if the offside or the foul was near to the goal.
3- if a defender deliberately passes the ball back by his shin, is the goalkeeper allowed to hold the ball ?
Actually three answers.
- Yes. Still yes. None
- No. They are wrong (and so is the Referee).
OK, perhaps you would like a bit more detail.
- All lines (except the midfield line, which is special) are a part of the area they enclose. As with the touchline, a ball which is on the touchline — or even just 80% on the touchline — is still in the field. So, a ball held by the goalkeeper which is even a little bit on the penalty area line is still in the penalty area and is thus being legally held. By the way, considering the diameter of a soccer ball and the maximum width of the penalty area line, it ought to be obvious that it is physically impossible for the ball to be held “exactly” on the penalty area line — at least some part of it has to not be on the penalty line. Also by the way, it doesn’t matter (so there is no punishment).
- It is one of the usually accurate generalizations in soccer that restarts are taken from where the offense occurs. Some exceptions are obvious (e.g., DFK offense committed by a defender inside his own penalty area = penalty kick). Some are specifically provided for in the Law (e.g., stopping play for a violation of Law 4 = taken where the ball was when play was stopped). While in practice there is usually some “wiggle room” in actually spotting the ball for most free kick offenses (e.g., the farther away the official restart location is from the goal being attacked, the more “wiggle room” there is), the Law itself is quite clear as to what is required. What you have described is the result of players being allowed to push, if not actually exceed, the limits of the Law by Referees lacking either a spine or good sense. Allowing a variance of as much as, say, 5-6 yards might be justified under some circumstances, but moving a restart from in front of the goal to nearly 18 yards away (just inside the penalty area) is ridiculous. We are actually hoping that you have mistaken the goal area with the penalty area. A free kick given the defending team for an offense which occurred within that team’s goal area is allowed to be taken from anywhere within the goal area.
- One of the very first questions that was asked and answered after the Laws of the Game were modified in the early 1990s to make illegal what quickly came to be called the “pass back to the keeper” offense was: what was meant by “kicked”? The answer was swift and sure — it meant played with the foot. This is not a case of “the hand” including the entire arm (as in a handling offence): “the foot” means “the foot” and only “the foot” as defined by a human’s anatomy. The most common definition of “the shin” is the front part of the leg from the knee to the ankle (most often associated with the tibia). “The foot” is thus defined as the rest of the leg at and below the ankle. So, a ball played by the shin is not counted as having been played by the foot and, accordingly, there is no restriction regarding the goalkeeper handling the ball if it was was propelled by the shin (or the knee, the chest, the head, etc., just not the hand (including the arm). By the way, as we have said in earlier answers regarding the “pass back to the keeper” offense, this is one of the worst ways to describe what this violation of the Law is all about: it doesn’t have to be a pass, it doesn’t have to be back, and it doesn’t have to be to the keeper.
Andrea, a parent of HS/College age players, asks:
Can a keeper waste time by falling on a pass back every time?
Yes … and no. First of all, we are assuming that, when you use the term “pass back,” you are referring to a situation in which a teammate kicks the ball to her goalkeeper such that, if the goalkeeper were to pick up the ball, she would be guilty of an indirect free kick offense. We are also assuming you know that the goalkeeper is allowed to play the ball in any otherwise legal way (i.e., with feet, head, torso, knees, etc., just not with the hands).
So, yes, it is entirely legal for the goalkeeper to “fall on the ball” as a means of taking possession. It is not “wasting time” any more than would catching the ball in the absence of the “pass back” problem. Unless you are a goalkeeper and have tried to do this, however, you may not appreciate how difficult it would be for her to recover from this “falling on the ball” without at least accidentally, if not instinctively, touching the ball with one or both of her hands.
On the other hand, the goalkeeper is subject to the same constraints that any other player would encounter should she “fall on the ball” during play. In “Refereeing 101,” soon-to-be new officials are taught that a player on the ground covering the ball or with the ball trapped between the legs is a flashpoint problem because the first instinct of opponents is to attempt to play the ball and do not always recognize that there is likely no safe way to do this. Goalkeepers may think they can rely on the protection normally provided by the Law’s requirement that no opponent can legally attempt to challenge for the ball in the goalkeeper’s possession, forgetting that this applies only to having hand possession, which in this case the goalkeeper cannot legally have.
This particular flashpoint problem is normally resolved by allowing a reasonable amount of time for the goalkeeper (or any other player similarly situated) to safely extricate herself from the situation and thus free up the ball to be safely competed for (it is not illegal for the goalkeeper, or any other player who is in this difficult situation, to attempt to get out of this problem by playing the ball safely while on the ground). Any opponent who, ignoring this, attempts immediately to tackle or kick the ball is committing a dangerous play offense and, if there is actual contact by the opponent’s foot with the downed goalkeeper, the opponent would be guilty of a direct free kick foul (kicking) with the added possibility of the Referee deciding that the opponent was being reckless and thus earning a caution. On the other hand, if the goalkeeper does not make a reasonable attempt to get up and thus extends unfairly the inability of any opponent to safely challenge for the ball (which may have been the intention of the goalkeeper all along), then it is the goalkeeper who could be charged with a dangerous play offense. All of this is affected significantly by the age and experience of the players — meaning that the younger the players the quicker the referee must make the decision as to who is creating the danger.
Robert, a referee of older youth players, asks:
A penalty kick is completed when the ball stops moving. How about giving me some examples when a ball stops moving during a penalty kick situation.
The International Board, in its infinite wisdom when it rewrote the Laws of the Game to make them simpler and easier to understand, wasn’t entirely successful in several of its changes. This is one of them. Note that almost the exact same language was used in Laws 10 and 14 to say when the kick was complete:
Law 10: The kick is completed when the ball stops moving, goes out of play or the referee stops play for any infringement of the Laws
Law 14: The penalty kick is completed when the ball stops moving, goes out of play or the referee stops play for any infringement of the Laws.
More to the point of your question, both Laws include “ball stops moving” as one of the ways that a kick from the mark (KFTM) or a penalty kick (PK) may be considered ended. This works fairly well for a KFTM and it also works for a PK taken in extended time. As long as the ball continues to move while making contact with any one or combination of the goalkeeper, goalframe, or the ground, a valid goal can be scored. Yet, at the same time, in each case no one else is allowed to participate in the play. Thus, if a PK in extended time or a KFTM struck the crossbar, rebounded backward onto the ground in front of the goal, but had acquired a spin which resulted in the ball now rolling forward a few feet into the goal, that goal would count. The same would be true if the ball rebounded from the crossbar to the back of the goalkeeper and then rebounded from there into the goal.
A regular, ordinary PK, however, is a bit different because, except for the original kicker, the ball can be played by anyone once it is in play (kicked and moved forward). During that time, it is entirely possible that the ball could be motionless … and it doesn’t matter because, with one exception, no one particularly cares when, whether, or even if the PK is “over.”
The exception is if an outside agent interferes with play at the taking of a penalty kick. Ordinarily, if play is stopped because of outside agent interference, the restart is a dropped ball. We can just picture some spectator, who supports the Orange team which is just about ready to defend against a PK, thinking that, if he or she ran onto the field after the PK was taken and interfered, the referee would have to stop play and then restart with a dropped ball (effectively taking the PK away from the hated opponent)! So the Laws of the Game provide that, if the interference occurs while the ball is moving toward the goal and hasn’t made contact as yet with any part of the goalframe or the goalkeeper, the restart will be a retake of the PK. Until the ball stops moving forward (not just stops moving), the PK is not “over” at least for the purpose of retaking the PK rather than having a dropped ball in the case of outside agent interference. The implicit theory of this provision is that a team which has been awarded a PK should have a reasonable opportunity to score and any event which interferes with that during the period from the ball being kicked and the ball reaching the immediate area of the goal should result in the offended team getting to redo the PK after all the dust has settled.
Robb, a parent of a youth player, asks:
An attacker (Red #7) was in an offside position when her teammate (Red #11) tried to pass her the ball. It was intercepted by a defender (Blue #42) who attempted to clear the ball forward. The defender (Blue #42) kicked the ball forward but it hit the back of another defender (Blue #33) in front of her and deflected backwards to the attacker (Red #7) still in an offside position. The attacker (Red #7) subsequently scored a goal,which the Referee allowed. The Referee explained the goal would only not have counted if the deflection was off an attacker but, since the deflection was off a defender, it counts. Should a goal have been awarded? What if the deflection had been off of the referee (a neutral person on the field)? [We have added specific player team/number designations to this scenario only after discovering in the initial draft of the answer that it was going to be difficult keeping these people straight as things shifted around.]
It’s always interesting when anyone, much less a Referee, gets it right but for the wrong reason! We are going to use the plain and usual meaning of the words in the above scenario to make a critical decision — if a defender “intercepted” the ball and then “attempted to clear the ball forward,” then it seems inescapable that this defender deliberately possessed and controlled the ball. It wasn’t an accident, it wasn’t a deflection, it wasn’t a rebound … it was a play of the ball. Period.
Once we get this, all the rest follows. The moment Blue #42 played the ball, the play that had been initiated by Red #11 (which resulted in Red #7 being labeled as in an offside position) was over. Now, this new play by Blue #42 automatically converted her into an attacker, thus making Red #7 a defender)! Sounds crazy, yes? But that is the way Law 11 works.
So, by definition, Red #7 is no longer in an offside position (contrary to the scenario language). And Red #7, who used to be in an offside position but now isn’t, receives the ball from off the back of Blue #33 and then scores against Blue. How could this possibly be an offside violation? The goal was scored by Red #7, an attacker, who received the ball from an opponent (Blue #33). Offside and onside positions are determined only by looking at where attackers are at the moment the ball was last touched or played by a teammate, not by an opponent.
Accordingly, the Referee was correct to accept the goal as legally scored. Where the Referee went astray (or, alternately, was not understood correctly) is in explaining the decision based on an irrelevant fact — namely, the ball having come to Red #7 by a deflection off the back of Blue #33. There is a kernel of truth in the concept, but it applies only to an attacker whose last contact with the ball was accidental or a deflection and, as a result, the ball goes to a teammate. In short, determining who is or is not in an offside position can be based on purely accidental contact with the ball by an attacker. Applied to a defender, the exact opposite is true. In order for Red #7 to be considered still in an offside position following intervening contact with the ball by any defender, that contact has to be accidental, i.e., not a deliberate play (or a deliberate save), but the only contact that was accidental was the deflection from Blue #33 after Blue #42 had turned herself and all her teammates into attackers by her deliberate play of the ball. Red #7’s goal was safe for two reasons — first, Blue #42 deliberately played the ball and, second, Blue #33 wasn’t a teammate of Red #7.