in high school rules, i remember you can card a coach. but in the laws it says i can only card players. several forums and Q&A say you can caution and dismiss a coach. Where in writing can i find this guidance so i can show the league directors?

USSF answer (October 29, 2009):
Under the Laws of the Game, no team official may be cautioned or sent off and shown a card. Team officials may be warned regarding their behavior or expelled from the field and its immediate area for irresponsible behavior. This is stated clearly in Law 5 under powers and duties of the referee:

Powers and Duties
The Referee:
* takes disciplinary action against players guilty of cautionable and sending-off offences. He is not obliged to take this action immediately but must do so when the ball next goes out of play
* takes action against team officials who fail to conduct themselves in a responsible manner and may, at his discretion, expel them from the field of play and its immediate surrounds
* provides the appropriate authorities with a match report, which includes information on any disciplinary action taken against players and/or team officials and any other incidents that occurred before, during or after the match

Some competitions make rules that allow coaches or other team officials to be cautioned or sent off and shown the card, but that is counter to the Laws of the Game.…


I recently AR’ed a U10 game where a few parents on my side of the touchline constantly called into my attention about the assistant coach of the opponent standing on the other side constantly walking down the line close to the corner kick area of his team (where i can see him straight from where i’m standing) yelling out instructions to this players. Since the ball is in play, I didn’t signal the center ref about the issue and allow the game to continue.

The parents got really mad and starting shouting out that i should tell the center ref. Should i stop play in this case or just ignore the issue till the ball is not in play before informing the center ref? Also, if the coach still continue to do it after being warned, what is the best course of action?

USSF answer (September 22, 2009):
Under the Laws of the Game, generally aimed at top-level soccer, team officials are supposed to stay in their own “technical area.” Each team has its “technical area” on the same side of the field, separated by the halfway line. The competition in which you were the AR may have different rules about this. It is very common for local rules (where it is equally common for there not to be any technical areas) to require that no one (team officials or spectators) can be behind the goal lines or farther down the touchlines than the top of each penalty area. Furthermore, where it is needed for match control but the league or tournament has not marked them, USSF allows the referee to approximate a technical area within which substitutes and team officials must stay (and behave themselves).

You should not — and legally cannot — stop the game at any time for a matter this minor. However, you may signal the referee at the next stoppage and inform him or her of the situation, if it is indeed not permitted under the rules of the competition.

You should also pay little or no attention to the parents of either team. They, like coaches, will try to influence your decisions, so turn your ears to a position where you hear only what you need to hear during the game.…


During an U-15 boys game that became a phsyical “pushing” game between both teams and the referee let the physical game continue. The parents from both teams began to “voice” their opinions regarding the lack of calls by the referee. The center referee was visibly showing signs of being very emotional (crying), and stopped the game with about 10 minutes remaining. She blew the whistle and said “I’m stopping the game, its a tie”. She then left the field with the 2 assist. referee. The next day I received a call from my league that I was suspended for 2 games and that the referee from the game reported she issued me a red card after the game. She never spoke to me after she stopped the game and she just walked off the field. Can a referee do this? I spoke with the coach of the other team and he was not aware or told of a red card being issued to me or anyone.

USSF answer (September 8, 2009:
Unless the rules of competition for your league (or other competition) specifically allow it, the referee is not permitted to show a card of any color to a coach or other team official. Under the Laws of the Game (the rules we play by), coaches or other team officials cannot be shown cards or sent off for any reason, but may be expelled from the field and its environs for irresponsible behavior.

Given the circumstances you describe in this case, we recommend that you gather all the information you can from impartial witnesses and submit a report of your own to the league and the state youth soccer association. You should also understand that the officiating crew may, as a result, do likewise. Its better not to start this process unless you are convinced that you did no wrong in all this “voicing of their opinions,” and that rules of your competition do not hold you responsible for what the parents of your team may have said.

Further, while the referee has the right to terminate play for general disorder (based on safety considerations), the referee cannot determine the outcome of the match.  All the referee can do is report that a match was not played to its conclusion and to describe the circumstances (including any scores recorded prior to the termination).  Anything after that is up to the competition authority based on its local rules.…


I was watching a U-11 girls match last weekend. The red team was about to take a corner kick, one player (player 1) from the red team retrieved the ball and set it on the corner arc. As she was doing so the coach of the red team began to yell “NO I don’t want you to take the kick have (player 2) take it” Player one then apparently touched the ball with her foot and went into position while player 2 ran over and began to dribble the ball. The referee blew the whistle and indicated a IFK to the other team. The red coach began to scream at the referee that player one had touched the ball, and it was obvious that this was a designed strategy. The referee then changed his call and allowed the red team to retake the corner kick.

While the players certainly could have done this on their own, is the coach permitted to engage in intentional deception by his instructions as to who will take the kick? Would a caution to the coach have been proper?

USSF answer (September 2, 2009):
Under the Laws of the Game, no team official may be cautioned or shown any cards. However, the (unauthorized) rules of some competitions may allow this. You would have to check the rules of the competition to see if this is allowed. The IFAB, the body that makes the Laws of the Game, does not permit it. Nor does FIFA, the body that administers the game and publishes the Laws, nor the U. S. Soccer Federation. Leaving aside any (unauthorized) rules of competition, if, in the opinion of the referee, the coach interferes with the game, that act becomes irresponsible behavior and the coach should be expelled (not sent off and not shown the card, but expelled) from the field and its surroundings. We should note that most instructions from coaches are simply noise and can generally be disregarded. However, if the behavior of the coach clearly distracts and misleads the opponents, or is loud, sudden, or abusive to anyone (his/her team’s players, the opponents, or the officials), that is the time to deal with the action.

The tactic in your scenario might be legitimate if the players had come up with it themselves. The critical issue to be resolved is whether the first player merely touched the ball (no kick, no movement of the ball) or actually “kicked” it so as to put it into play. If it was simply a touch, then the second player is the one who put the ball into play and then played it a second time — this is a second touch violation, whistle, indirect free kick to the opposing team where the second touch occurred. If there was at least some perceptible movement to the ball as a result of the first player’s contact, then what followed was entirely lawful.

As to the restart, if the referee stopped play for what he thought was a second touch violation but was then advised by the assistant referee that the first contact did indeed result in “kick and moves,” then the restart must be a dropped ball.…


Is there anything in the FIFA laws of the game that prohibit the use of a cell phone in the technical area by a coach to get or relay tactical or technical information to another on the opposite side of the field?

Is there a special ATR section that deals with such a possibility?

If that other person relaying information to the coach was a referee is he in violation of code of conduct?

I think there is a BAN for a dismissed coach from contacting the technical area.

If there are no competition by-laws that adequately deal with the two way radio communication via cellphone. If the OTHER person was NOT in the technical area but across the field and was yelling tactical/technical instructions to the players is he an extension of the coach outside the technical area?

I appreciate your thoughts on this. While USA might be different I need to know if there is an ethical or moral issue here?

USSF answer (June 11, 2006):
Under FIFA rules of competition, suspended coaches are neither forbidden nor allowed to communicate with their teams via mobile phones during FIFA matches. FIFA will not take any action. Nor is there anything in the Laws of the Game or Q&A to cover this. Accordingly, subject only to the requirement that the team official behaves in a responsible manner, mobile phones, headsets, walkie-talkies, and other similar communication devices may be used in the technical area.

To ensure better compliance from its teams, perhaps the league should provide more complete rules and guidance to the teams as to what constitutes “suspension” and what a coach or other team official who is under suspension may and may not do. It is not up to referees to police disciplinary rules of a competition. …


What is the proper way to handle parents who coach from the spectator area, or as I suspect, teams who place coaches on the spectator side for purposes of being able to instruct players from both sides of the field? Some of these spectator coaches will cross the field at halftime to instruct players in the technical area. What can I, as an official do to stop this?

USSF answer (May 7, 2009):
Unless there is some rule of competition that prohibits coaches from mingling with the spectators and carrying on their role as coach(es), then there is nothing the referee can do about such action during the game. A rule of competition prohibiting coaching from the spectator area is unenforceable unless the competition itself is willing to place monitors in the spectator area. Think about it: How can the referee determine whether some parent yelling generally nonsensical and confusing things at the players is simply a parent or is instead a coach in disguise yelling generally nonsensical and confusing things at the players? The coach’s job should be done in the period before the game begins, in the week preceding the game and over the course of the season. There is little of value to be gained by yelling instructions across a field.

As to crossing the field at halftime to issue further instructions to the players, again there is not much the referee can do without help from the competition itself. As a practical matter, the field is open territory at the midgame break and there shouldn’t be a problem if a parent (or whoever) from the parent side wants to cross the field to be with the team, player, coach, etc. on the other side — nor would we have a problem if the coach left the team side at halftime to go across the field to talk to a parent on the other side.  In short, unless the crossing is for nefarious purposes and/or causes a confrontation, the referee crew has more important things to do than keep people off the field at midgame break.…


Attacking team had possession of the ball near the defending team’s goal. Meanwhile, way back at the attacking team’s goal area, with play still in progress, the attacking team’s coach had come onto the field and helped his GK take off his shirt and put it on one of his defenders

USSF answer (April 23, 2009):
And where were the referee and the assistant referee(s) and fourth official (if assigned) while all this was going on?

Law 3 (The Players) tells us what to do if a team official enters the field of play without permission:

Team Officials
If a team official enters the field of play:
– the referee must stop play (although not immediately if the team official does not interfere with play or if the advantage can be applied)
– the referee must have him removed form the field of play and if his behavior is irresponsible the referee must expel him from the field of play and its immediate surroundings
– if the referee stops the match, he must restart play with a dropped ball in the position where the ball was at the time when the match was stopped, unless the ball was stopped inside the goal area, in which case the referee drops the ball on the goal area line parallel to the goal line at the point nearest to where the ball was when play was stopped.

We must emphasize how significant a factor in this is the age of the players.  No need to get upset about this, but we suggest “educating” the coach at the first opportunity) for kids in the below 8 or 9 year age range.  We might be tolerant eveh at an age level 1-2 years older than this if it was apparent (out of the corner of my eye) that the GK had become so hopelessly entangled in his jersey that he was virtually wrapped up in a straight jacket.  Anything older than this or short of these circumstances, the players get cautions, the coach is informed that it is entirely his fault, and full details of the incident are included in the game report.

We also suggest that the nearer assistant or fourth official commit seppuku for allowing this to happen.…


On a free kick, a request comes from the coach to enforce the minimum 10 yard rule. Is this sufficient to bring the kick from the state of a QFK to a ceremonial free kick?

In the document “Free Kick and Restart Management” from the 2009 Referee Program Directives, there is a clause that a ceremonial free kick is to take place if the “attacking team” requests a CFK by asking the ref for enforcement of the minimum 10 yds.

This brings up a more interesting question: Is the coach, according to the rules, a member of the team?

USSF answer (April 20, 2009):
We realize this will come as a surprise to many coaches, but they have absolutely no authority in a game and cannot make requests of the referee, the assistant referees, or the fourth official (if there is one). They are not members of the team, but are either paid or unpaid advisers.

A free kick becomes ceremonial on any occasion when the referee believes that the kicking team is not interested in taking a quick free kick and wants the required distance to be established. Full details can be found under Law 13 in the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game.”…


Are coaches allowed to ask for clarification of a referees call that they did not understand.

Is it appropriate for a coach or player (besides a team captain) to approach a referee at say half-time or after conclusion of the game to ask a question for clarification of a call made by the referee during the game.

This goes to “are referees approachable” if so, when ?

USSF answer (March 18 2009):
Under the Laws of the Game, no coach or player may “question” the referee’s decision, nor must the referee provide any information other than what he or she puts in the match report.

That said, the referee could certainly respond to a reasonable approach by a coach after the game is over. The response should be succinct and polite. If the coach or any other person is not acting responsibly the referee should leave immediately and include pertinent details in the match report.…


There was an incident where 2 high school players were red carded for taking their jersey’s off after the game had ended walking off the field for I’d say in disgust since they lost the game. I find that too harsh to be red cards. Now… they were not taunting anyone and they were not doing anything other than walking off the field. So do you give red cards for that or anything for something like that AFTER the game is over? I find it pretty lame that they have to sit out 1 game for something that did not involve another team or any taunting or fighting or throwing of shirts… now if they were taunting or wanting to fight… fine card them… and throwing of shirts… let the coach deal with that. Is it just a judgement call or was that too outrageous??? Many times have i seen other sports where jersey’s were taken off right after the game was over but no actions were taken. Also could you elaborate on the rules where it says “unsporting behavior”? I think its too vague of a phrase.

USSF answer (February 6, 2009):
Coach, we don’t do high school rules here, so we can speak only to the Laws of the Game (the rules the rest of the world plays by).

First to “unsporting behavior”: The lawmakers (the International Football Association Board) left the words vague for a purpose. That purpose is to enable the referee to apply common sense and intelligence in enforcing the Laws of the Game. Unsporting behavior is any act that could bring the game into disrepute, i. e., any act that runs counter to the spirit of fair play. Some examples: mocking the opponents, as in the removal of shirts during the game; some forms of gamesmanship, such as calling “mine” to fool an opponent; using a cellphone on the field; performing fouls recklessly (without thought for what might happen to the opponent); handling the ball to score a goal; and faking an injury or pretending to have been fouled. There are hundreds of possibilities for unsporting behavior and the referee needs to have this weapon in his or her arsenal.

Second, beyond unsporting behavior, the lawmakers left other portions of the Laws vague as well, for the very reasons explained above.

Third, regarding the removal of shirts AFTER the game, there is absolutely no rule against it. In fact, we see it every day on television at the highest levels of the game.

Finally, as to your question about giving a red card after a game has ended, the Laws of the Game allow a card (regardless of color) to be shown if a player commits misconduct while the referee is still in the area of the field even though the match may have ended. …