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.…


It is with great regret that we announce that will alter operations for the foreseeable future. It has been a wonderful four years since we transferred the service from to and almost 15 years since the service began at Thanks to all our readers for their support and encouragement over that period. We will continue to post occasional answers to questions, but they will not bear the official approval of the U. S. Soccer Federation. All answers will go out privately, but most will not be published on the site; that has been our practice since the service began. All answers currently posted on the site (i.e., through 16 April 2012) have the approval of the Federation — that is fact and cannot be changed by removal of the US Soccer logo, etc. A fifteen-year record of accurate, dependable, and authoritative answers is now history. That is something no one else in this country can claim.

This quote from a message to me from Ryan Mooney of US Soccer will explain some of the reasons behind their and our decision:
“The decision has been made to currently suspend . . . U.S. Soccer’s involvement with the service you have previously provided for us.

“In connection with this, we ask that you please remove the U.S. Soccer Referee Department logo and all language on the website,, related to answers being issued in coordination with and approved by the U.S. Soccer Federation’s National Program for Referee Development.

“Your past service and contribution is greatly appreciated and I regret that we have decided to move in another direction.

“Thank you for your patience as we have extensively reviewed the matter internally.”

If readers have further questions regarding the reason for this action, please direct them to Mr. Mooney at USSF.

Jim Allen…


This item from says it better than I could. Pat Smith was my friend and mentor. In fact, Pat was a friend of us all: referees, instructors, and assessors. He was one of the true shapers of our current USSF referee program.

by Paul Kennedy, Wednesday, Dec 9, 2009 7:00 AM ET
[OBITUARY] Hall of Famer Pat Smith, best known for his pioneering work as a referee, died Sunday at his home in Callaway, Fla. He was 86.

Smith was a referee in the North American Soccer League and from 1970 to 1977 served as director of officials with the American Soccer League.

Smith served as director of assessment for the NASL and recommended referees to the U.S. and FIFA refereeing list. He helped start the national instructional program for referees. In 1979, he was honored with the first-ever Eddie Pearson Award for contributions to U.S. Soccer’s referee program.

Smith began his playing career with Ohio club Dayton Edelweiss and helped launch the soccer program at the University of Dayton.

A Pat Smith Soccer Scholarship Award has been started in his honor: Pat Smith Soccer Scholarship, 6226 Seminole Drive, Panama City, FL 32404.

A memorial service will begin Saturday at 6 p.m. in the Wilson Funeral Home chapel. Before the service, the family will receive friends from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Address: Wilson Funeral Home, 214 Airport Road, Panama City, Fla. Telephone: 850-785-5272.


We get so many queries on this topic that I am putting up this stock answer on the deliberate kick by a player to his goalkeeper. Several of the items have been abridged to make the entire item more readable. I hope it is helpful.

1. The first item displayed is the information found on US Soccer website at the URL below. There is other useful information at that URL as well.

The answer to this and many other questions can be found in the USSF’s FAQ for new referees:

The answer to your question is in these Q&As:

Q. If a player deliberately kicks the ball to his goalie, who is outside the penalty area, may the goalie dribble the ball back into the penalty area and pick it up with his hands?

A. No, because the goalkeeper may not use the hands to play a ball last deliberately kicked to him or her by a teammate.

Q. Is there any exception to this?

A. Yes, if the ball bounces off an opponent o the way to the ‘keeper, the ‘keeper may dribble it into the penalty area and pick it up.

Q. How about if the ball is kicked to the ‘keeper by a member of the other team?

A. Then it is fine for the goalkeeper to pick it up, but only inside the penalty area.

2. This second item is a recent answer to the question. It should answer everyone’s need.
USSF answer (June 16, 2008):
It is not an infringement of the Law to kick the ball to the goalkeeper, as the goalkeeper has the right to play the ball with the feet at any legal opportunity. The Law spells out perfectly clearly when the offense takes place: When the goalkeeper “touches the ball with his hands,” etc. The restart takes place at that place, bearing in mind the special circumstances regarding free kicks in the goal area.

3. The third item pertains to the ball thown in to the goalkeeper by a teammate.
USSF answer (April 14, 2008):
First, the situation involving a throw-in directly to a goalkeeper by a teammate of the goalkeeper is not an example of the so-called “pass back” to the goalkeeper, it is an entirely separate indirect free kick foul which is listed in Law 12.  The only things they have in common is that the action starts with a teammate, followed by the ball going directly to the hands of the goalkeeper, and that it is one of several indirect free kick violations by a goalkeeper designed by the Laws of the Game to discourage instances when, because the ball is being held by the goalkeeper, opponents cannot legally challenge for control.
//rest deleted//

3. The third item combines items on “trickery” as part of an effort to avoid being caught in kicking or throwing the ball to one’s own goalkeeper. It also addresses those instances when coaches become actively involved in helping their team deceive the opponents — that is irresponsible behavior, for which the coach or other team official should be expelled.

USSF answer (October 15, 2008):
There are no longer any International F. A. Board decisions appended to Law 12. They were in the 2007/2008 edition of the Laws. Decision 3 of 2007/2008 reads:

Decision 3
Subject to the terms of Law 12, a player may pass the ball to his own goalkeeper using his head or chest or knee, etc. If, however, in the opinion of the referee, a player uses a deliberate trick while the ball is in play in order to circumvent the Law, the player is guilty of unsporting behavior. He is cautioned, shown the yellow card and an indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team from the place where the infringement occurred. * (see page 3)
A player using a deliberate trick to circumvent the Law while he is taking a free kick is cautioned for unsporting behavior and shown the yellow card. The free kick is retaken.
In such circumstances, it is irrelevant whether the goalkeeper subsequently touches the ball with his hands or not. The offense is committed by the player in attempting to circumvent both the letter and the spirit of Law 12.

That text is now found in the back of the Laws for 2008/2009, under Interpretations and Guidelines for Referees in reference to cautionable offenses:

* uses a deliberate trick while the ball is in play to pass the ball to his own goalkeeper with his head, chest, knee, etc. in order to circumvent the Law, irrespective of whether the goalkeeper touches the ball with his hands or not. The offense is committed by the player in attempting to circumvent both the letter and the spirit of law 12 and play is restarted with an indirect free kick
* uses a deliberate trick to pass the ball to his own goalkeeper to circumvent the Law while he is taking a free kick (after the player is cautioned, the free kick must be retaken)

It is clear from the text and from accepted use throughout the world — well maybe not in the United States, where “those foreigners” are not allowed to tell us anything — that the IFAB’s meaning is that trickery occurs only when a player is passing the ball to his/her own goalkeeper. It does not occur when the ball is passed to some other player.

Furthermore, just to lock it down tightly, the misconduct offense requires the referee to decide that the action was done to circumvent the Law.  Merely observing that the ball was played from foot to head is not enough, even if the ball subsequently goes to or toward the GK.  Because we are dealing with misconduct here (the “trickery”) and not the foul commonly referred to as “pass back to the keeper,” we are required to evaluate the intentions of the defender.

USSF answer (October 21 2008):
Your use of the term “trickery” is incorrect. “Trickery” is a “term of art” which has a specific meaning related to attempts to circumvent the restriction on ‘keeper handling following a teammate’s deliberate play of the ball with the foot or a throw-in by a teammate.  Nothing else can be described as trickery. Whatever else a player might do to obfuscate, disorient, or fool opponents has to be analyzed apart from the issue of trickery.

The players on the kicking team are allowed to deceive, fool, or disorient their opponents, but that does not include the kicking team’s coach. If it is clear to the referee that the coach’s words were intended to help his team deceive the opposing team, then that could be considered to be irresponsible behavior.

While the league’s rules may allow carding of coaches, we need to remember that the Laws of the Game do not. By accepting a game in a competition whose rules mandate unauthorized actions, the referee also assumes the responsibility for enforcing those mandates.

Under the Laws of the Game team officials may only be expelled, not sent off and shown a card, for irresponsible behavior. If the rules of the competition allow a caution or a send-off for irresponsible behavior, they should also outline what constitutes each offense, so that the referee is able to do the job correctly.

What we can say is that coaches are allowed to give positive input to their players. Coaches ARE NOT ALLOWED to participate in any trickery or ruses. If they do so, that is irresponsible behavior, not unsporting behavior, and coaches or other team officials MUST be expelled for irresponsible behavior.…


Announcement of October 16, 2008:
In response to numerous requests about how to access the Week in Review publication as soon as possible, the U. S. Soccer Federation notes that the Week in Review (WIR) is available each week no later than Friday afternoon. Although it uses examples from the pro game, the WIR provides guidance for refereeing at all levels of play. An attempt is made to write it so all levels of officials can apply the weekly lessons to their game. The WIR is intended to supplement U.S. Soccer’s position papers and other official material.

On the web page, on the left, click on Referee Programs and you will be brought to the Latest News section which lists the Week In Reviews. Also there are podcasts available. To listen to weekly podcasts highlighting the main issues from the “Referee Week in Review” document, on the homepage, look mid page for the tab that says “Podcasts.”…