I was reading the Position Paper of November 18, 2008 regarding Player-Coaches. The second to last paragraph states in part “It states ” a player-coach who has been red carded can not be present at the team’s next match in either a player or any team official capacity”.

I always thought a send off only applied to the remainder of the current match being played and that further suspension, including the team’s “next match”, was at the discretion of the competition authority.

USSF answer (December 22, 2008):
Aha! Well, now you have learned something, coach. The suspension mandated by the IFAB and FIFA is for the remainder of the game from which the player or team official is removed and for one game beyond that. And, if the competition authority (the people who run the league, cup, tournament, whatever) have it in their rules, that person may also have to sit more than one extra game.

And of course what the competition authority can do is not limited to a lengthier suspension. They can add whatever penalties are allowed for in their own rules, and they can, in the case of a player-coach, differentiate between the two roles in applying additional penalties.…


In a recent U13 girls soccer match, a coach (on the losing team) was actively abusing the center referee. As a result, spectators from the same team followed suit; in essence causing a free-for-all of verbal abuse. With 20 minutes left in the match the same coach’s daughter was (slightly) injured. The reaction to this, by the coach, was a slew of curse words as he proceeded to step on the pitch and remove his daughter. When told by the center referee that the coach’s behavior would be outlined in the match report, the coach proceeded to “abandon” the match; instructing his team to gather their belongings and leave. The referee did not abandon the match so would that mean that the team “forfeited”? To give some background, the match was not particularly physical and there existed no calls by that center referee which warranted this reaction. I couldn’t find anything in the LOTG which covered this, could you please give me some guidance? Thank you so much!

USSF answer (November 10, 2008):
Guidance: The result of the match is not the referee’s problem. Full details of everything that occurred must go into the referee’s match report. The competition authority resolves the problem and the referee has done his/her job.

The guidance you request was quick and simple, but the entire problem could have been avoided by doing something fundamental early on. If, after issuing a warning to the coach about his behavior, he persisted, then he should have been expelled from the game for irresponsible behavior. The referee seems not to have given that warning and then allowed the problem to become worse.…


In a tournament game this summer, I awarded a penalty kick for Team A against Team B. After the goalkeeper and Team A’s player were set to begin, I blew the whistle to signal for the penalty kick to be taken, at which point, I heard a “HOLD ON!!” from behind my back, and instinctively, I blew the whistle for the kick to stop. By this point though, Team A’s player had already taken the shot and scored. Let me be clear, my second whistle occurred BEFORE the kick was taken.

Upon realizing it was a parent from Team B (parents on both sides) who had yelled, not my AR or a Coach, with an urgent problem (player having an asthma attack, seizure, whatever!), I immediately ran to my AR1 and because we both could not definitely point out which parent caused the distraction, I caused the entire sideline that the next outburst would elicit an immediate ejection.

Back to the game, I had Team A retake the penalty kick, at which point they did NOT score.

My crew and I were unsure if I was correct in blowing the whistle again after I initially signaled for the start of the penalty kick. We thought it could be argued both ways: because the keeper was scored upon, he could have said he was distracted by the obscenely loud outburst, but if the keeper would have made the save, Team A’s kicker could make the same argument. My initial instinct was that I was wrong to have blown the whistle the second time, and should have allowed the kick to proceed and then see what the commotion was about, but the request sounded so urgent, I didn’t hesitate in blowing the second whistle. So was I right to stop the penalty kick because of the yell? Also, what should I have done about the parents, not knowing who specifically yelled. Thanks in advance.

USSF answer (November 5, 2008):
A whistle blown means that the play has stopped and the kick, if not already taken before the whistle was blown, is negated. The Law requires that the kick be retaken. It may seem unfair in this particular circumstance, but it is the Law and must be followed.

It is unfortunate that you could not identify the particular parent, but it would have made no difference in the restart. You can ask the team to police its own spectators and keep them quiet, but unless the parent or other spectators break a civil law, there is little you can do other than terminating the game.…


I’m frequently doing high level U15-U16 boys and girls games where the following scenario occurs. Very fast attacking winger speeding up sideline with ball, slightly faster single defender on his (her) inside shoulder. Because of high speed there is a good 2-3-4 yard gap between attacker and the ball that fast defender is finally able to get into and touch ball first, getting in between attacker and the ball without more than legal shoulder contact. Defender then wants to control, shield and play ball, but because of momentum of all involved attacker goes into back of defender and all go flying. It is my judgment that defender has won ball possession and been fouled by attacker, but that call frequently gets belligerent dissent from attacker’s coaching staff and parent sidelines. I would call a foul (impeding) the other way against defender if defender jumped in front of attacker or ran into that space so recklessly that attacker could not possibly avoid contact.

What exactly are criteria for foul in such a case; must defender actually touch ball to be considered winning possession, or is playing distance enough if defender in better position?

USSF answer (November 5, 2008):
What you describe is perfectly legal. You might consider looking closely at what the winger (former attacker) does after the opponent (former defender) has taken possession of the ball. In this case, possession means simply that the player is within playing distance — see answer of November 4 on impeding the progress of the opponent. If the winger charges from behind to get the ball, then that is at least careless and, depending on what else happens, possibly reckless or worse.

We rarely take into consideration the reactions of the coaching staffs of either team. Their main purpose in life — or at least in this game — is to ensure that their team comes out on top. Anything that helps in this pursuit will be attempted. As long as you are confident that your decision was correct, let the shouts roll off your back. We should hear only what we need to hear, not everything that is said on or off the field.…


After some research today, I found out that the rule of having to sub out a player that received a yellow card until the next dead ball is no longer in effect as of 2004. Recently I was watching a U12 girls select game as a spectator and a player was shown a yellow card and the young, but experienced ref proceeded to send her off when the coach from her team came onto the field and stopped her and told her to remain on the field. Which she did. After the game I talked with the ref and he told me that before the game he was told that the coach was the president of the league and he felt intimidated to make the wrong calls. My thought was at that moment the ref thought the rule was still to sub them out and he should of made the girl sub out and cautioned the coach for entering the field without permission. I’m I wrong for thinking that.

As far as the yellow card and temp send off, that I have resolved with the young referee.

1. The question is: does this the statement about being President of the league constitute referee intimidation, if so what advice would you give this young referee.

After the game I talked with the ref and he told me that before the game he was told that the coach was the president of the league and he felt intimidated to make the wrong calls. My thought was at that moment .

USSF answer (October 23, 2008):
1. Regarding temporary expulsion
No longer in effect as of 2004? Such forced substitution or temporary expulsion from the game has NEVER been permitted under the Laws of the Game. This is/was a rule for particular competitions, but it has never been authorized by the International F. A. Board (the folks who write the Laws of the Game) or FIFA (the folks who administer the game for the world).

In point of fact, we answered part of your question only a month ago:

USSF answer (September 19, 2008):
We are less concerned about your question than about the reasons that occasion it. Before answering your question directly, please allow us to state that the league in which you referee may be operating in contravention of a FIFA directive forbidding such “temporary expulsion.” This may also put the league in contravention of the stated policies of the U. S. Soccer Federation. As we mention often, if the referee accepts an assignment in a competition that uses rules that contravene the Laws of the Game, he or she must follow those rules; however, we recommend against taking such assignments.

In 2002, a directive from the International F. A. Board stated:

The Board strongly supports FIFA’s concern that some national associations continue to use temporary expulsions in lower leagues. The Board confirmed in the strongest terms that this procedure must cease immediately, otherwise disciplinary sanctions will be applied against the offending federation.

In 2002 we informed all USSF referees: The referee must be aware that leagues or other competitions which use the “hothead” rule, temporarily expelling players for whatever reason, are not operating with the authorization of the United States Soccer Federation. The U. S. Soccer Federation has no power to authorize modifications to the Laws that are not permitted by FIFA. This is a FIFA directive that must be followed by members of FIFA. There is less concern over this issue in recreational-level youth and amateur leagues, but it can certainly not be permitted in competitive-level youth and amateur competition. A referee who takes assignments in higher-level competitions that require temporary expulsions does so knowing that he will not be following the guidance of the Federation and may jeopardize his standing within the Federation.

The International F. A. Board reaffirmed in 2003 its instructions that no rules permitting temporary expulsion (being forced to play short for an infringement of the Laws) may be used. Here is an excerpt from USSF Memorandum 2003:

The Board re-affirmed the decision taken at its last meeting that the temporary expulsion of players is not permitted at any level of football.
USSF Advice to Referees: This instruction, which was first discussed in Memorandum 2002, is not subject to implementation by the referee: it is a matter for the competition authority. “Temporary expulsion” in this context refers to a rule purporting to require that a player leave the field temporarily under certain conditions (e.g., having received a caution – a so-called “cooling off” period) and does not include situations in which a player must correct illegal equipment or bleeding.

The USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game” tells referees (in Advice 5.17):

There can be no “temporary expulsion” of players who have been cautioned, nor may teams be forced to substitute for a player who has been cautioned.

2. Regarding the “intimidation” by the coach:
While we deplore the fact that the coach/league president did not politely approach the referee and point out that there is no rule either allowing or requiring temporary expulsion/substitution, the scenario does not suggest that the coach actually told the referee that he was a high muckety-muck and must be obeyed. Instead, the referee seems to have invented the intimidation out of thin air, which does not relieve the coach of the responsibility to go through channels, rather than imperiously ordering his player to remain on the field. In addition, we must also express concern that the referee was prepared to do something totally counter to the Laws.…


I actually have two questions-

1- We just recently had a game where the line ref raised his flag for off side on our player and rightfully so; the middle ref did not see it until after the person who was off side had an accidental collision with a player from the other team, no call was made. Once the ref saw that the line ref was holding his flag up for off sides; he blue the whistle.  As the ref was giving the other team a kick for the off sides, there coach ran onto the field and started arguing in the ref face for a reason I do not know.  At that time the Ref tossed the Coach, who walked of the field.  Once the Coach was off the field, a parent of that team came onto the field and did the same thing.

The ref was going to give there team a kick because of off sides, but instead gave our team a kick because of the parent being on the field.  Was this the correct decision?

2- If any member of a team physically harms a player of the opposite team; by clawing them in the arms or scratching whenever they had a chance.  Is a player aloud to let the ref know this is going on; especially if it is leaving visible marks on the player?

USSF answer (October 23, 2008):
1. More inventive refereeing. Once the referee has stopped play for an infringement (in this case the offside), the restart may not be changed, no matter what happens. The coach was expelled for behaving irresponsibly and so was the parent who took his place. While that is behavior that must be included in the referee’s match report, it in no way changes the restart. Correct restart is an indirect free kick against your team for the offside.

2. Well, the player can certainly complain, but the referee cannot act solely on the basis of whatever a player says without corroboration from the referee’s own observation or observation by an assistant referee (or fourth official). But if the referee and assistant referees were actually watching the game there would be no need for it, would there?  In any event, the player should not retaliate, as that might lead to his or her dismissal (red card).…


Actually two questions, with no information to suggest that the two situations actually involve the same people.
1. A coach asks:
If a coach is suspended from a game by the referee and the league rules that he automatically becomes ineligible for the following two games. Should he be allowed to coach his other team within that same league during that suspension if he is one of those of us who coach two teams at a time?
2. A club officer asks:
Last week in a recreational league, two coaches on opposing teams were ejected by the referee for profanity and bad sportsmanship. Both coaches tendered their resignation as it was suggested that with only two games left in the season and a two game suspension for the infraction it didn’t make sense not to. One coach rescinded his resignation the night before the next game and went on to coach a team in the same league that he was not the head coach of prior to this incident. Can an red carded coach continue to coach other teams in the same league with the same refs working the games?

USSF answer (October 22, 2008):
Your questions revolve about the same issue — namely, what is the “reach” of the automatic one game mandatory suspension (and, perhaps as a supplement, of any lengthier suspension)?  Does it apply only to the next game involving the same team?  Does it apply to the next game under the same authority, whether or not it is the same team?  Does it apply to the next game regardless of team or authority?

First off, the referee does not suspend coaches or other participants. The referee has the power to send off players, substitutes, and substituted players and to expel team officials who do not behave responsibly. Only the competition authority (club, league, state association, etc.) has the power to suspend anyone beyond the one game suspension prescribed in the Laws of the Game.

It is normal that a player (or substitute or substituted player) is suspended from the next game under the aegis of the competition authority, but that may be extended by the authority in accordance with its regulations. The same applies to a coach or other team official. It is also normal that these persons do not participate in other events sponsored by the same authority until their suspension in the first instance has run its course.

There will be no guidance from FIFA (the world governing body) since, in their context, the question wouldn’t even arise.  A player is on one team and only one team, and a coach is with one team and only one team.   Whether we are speaking of a player or a team official, the reach of the minimum one game suspension is limited to the next game under the same authority which authorized the game in which the red card was given.  Any lengthier suspension would apply to whatever the governing body desired as long as it was within their scope.

What your questions concern is preventing a dismissed coach from being at his next scheduled match controlled by the same competition authority, even if it involves a different team.  In practical local terms, that means that a coach who has a boys team and a girls team who is dismissed from one of his girls’ games would have to be absent from his next girls’ game but not his next boys’ game.  However, the governing authority over both of these organizations could, in theory, decide otherwise. In the end, the resolution of this matter is up to the competition authority.…


I recently participated in a team of referees during a local town tournament. This is my first year as a referee and have learned that every game and every coach is different.

My question follows on the heals of the “Abusive Coaches” question.

Q: As an AR, what authority do I have if during a game I am hearing abusive comments from the coaches (who are standing behind me at their bench) but are not amplified so the CR can hear them. If the AR can hear them, so can the substitute players sitting on the bench. The commits I was hearing were not PG appropriate.

USSF answer (October 20, 2008):
Included in any pregame (particularly if the team includes inexperienced and/or young assistant referees) should be some guidelines on the extent to which the AR is expected to deal with sideline behavior on their own, when to bring the referee into it, and how this is accomplished.

Without making an elaborate show of it, find a way to bring the referee nearer to you and give him or her a brief and precise summary of what has been going on and ask him/her to act on it. If the referee refuses to act, prepare a match report with your input on it for the benefit of both the competition authority and the state referee authorities.…


I can not find any reference to the reasoning behind this, only references to Law 5 — which do not really address this issue.

Why not (as they do in Water Polo) show a card to a team official or coach? If the Referee is responsible for maintaining control of a game and has the authority to ‘send off’ a team official or coach…why not show the card?

USSF answer (October 15, 2008):
Reasoning? You want reasoning for matters that have been true from time immemorial? Not going to happen.

Law 5 tells us that the referee:

– takes disciplinary action against players guilty of cautionable and sending-off offenses. 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

This is amplified later in Law 12 as follows:

“The yellow card is used to communicate that a player, substitute or substituted player has been cautioned.

“The red card is used to communicate that a player, substitute or substituted player has been sent off.

“Only a player, substitute or substituted player may be shown the red or yellow card.”


I was the center ref for a U12 boys rec league game. The coach for one of the teams has a reputation for being loud and boisterous in general. However, in this game he went “over the top” not necessarily towards the referees (although he did voice his opinion about our calls quite frequently) – but mainly toward his players.

He berated them throughout the game with an extremely loud voice such that everyone on neighboring fields could hear him, and with a tone and a look that communicated disgust and near-hatred for whichever individual player he was yelling at.

I felt very badly for these 10- and 11-year-old kids who were near tears at times because of their coach. The amazing thing is, their team was winning the whole time anyway, and this was a rec league! My question is simply – do I as the ref have any authority during the game when it comes to how the coach is treating his players?

If the answer is no, I’m simply going to request not to ref any more games for this team – I can’t stand to listen to that guy again.

USSF answer (October 15, 2008):
An excellent question and one with which we have dealt several times in the past. Back in December of 2007 we stated [the information has been abridged]:

There is a national trend within the soccer community toward eliminating abuse of young people by any adults. You, as a referee, are certainly empowered to ensure responsible behavior by the team officials. The method chosen would be up to the individual referee.
We can add that, under the Law, any POSITIVE coaching is allowed from the technical area, as long as only one person speaks at a time and then returns to his seat on the bench. As a practical matter, particularly at the youth level, any POSITIVE coaching is allowed. In either case, whether at the level of the least experienced players (and coaches) or at the highest levels, any case in which the coach behaves irresponsibly will result in the coach being dismissed. (Two examples from among many: ranting at the referee, overt participation in deception of the opposing team.)

A coach has no “right” to anything in the game of soccer, other than the right to conduct him-/herself responsibly during the game — from within the technical or bench area — while offering advice to his/her team’s players. A referee who allows coaches or other team officials to parade around the field or shout abuse at players in the guise of instruction, in contravention of the requirements in Law 5 that coaches behave responsibly and that referees not permit anyone other than players to enter the field, should be ashamed.

Coaches are expected to behave responsibly. (See Law 5 and Law 3, IBD 2, the only places in the Laws that team officials are mentioned. [Note: This is from the Laws of 2007/2008.]) The referee’s first line of defense (unless the behavior is REALLY egregious) is to warn the coach who is behaving irresponsibly. This is the equivalent of a caution, but no card is shown. Then, when the behavior persists (as it usually does, because most coaches who behave this way fail to understand that they must change their errant ways), the coach is expelled from the field for failing to behave in a responsible manner. Please note that under the Laws of the Game, no card may be shown; however, showing the card may be a requirement of the rules of the competition.

In all events you should prepare a supplemental game report or letter to the league on the matter. You might also suggest in the report or letter that they send someone to monitor a couple of games. The letter could be written in such a way that says perhaps the coach was having a bad day, but it should suggest that it might be beneficial to the children involved if someone from the league dropped in for a game or two just to make sure.

[In the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game” we note [unchanged for 2008/2009]:
Coaches or other team officials, one at a time, may provide tactical advice to their players, including positive remarks and encouragement.  The referee should only take action against coaches or other team officials for irresponsible behavior or for actions that bring the game into disrepute. A coach or other team official may not be cautioned or sent off nor shown any card; however, at the discretion of the referee, such persons may be warned regarding their behavior or expelled from the field of play and its immediate area. When a coach or other team official is expelled, the referee must include detailed information about such incidents in the match report.

You ask what constitutes responsible behavior. It means that the coach or other team official has not stuck to what their part of the game is, issuing tactical instructions or praise to their players. If they go beyond those bounds, then their behavior is irresponsible. Shouting abuse and heaping derision on players is irresponsible behavior and brings the game into disrepute.

As to what bringing the game into disrepute means in the normal course of the game, this answer of September 7, 2006, should give you all the information you need:
“‘Bringing the game into disrepute’ means doing something that is totally counter the spirit of the game, which is meant to be played fairly and in a sporting manner.  Such acts show a lack of respect for the game, e. g., aggressive attitude, inflammatory behavior, deliberately kicking the ball into one’s own goal or taunting.” it also includes intimidation and arguing with the referee.

We might also add that unless the matter is particularly grave, the referee would usually wait until the next stoppage. However, if the situation is indeed grave — as any case of abuse would be — then stopping the game and drawing attention to the matter is an excellent tool in and of itself. It sends a clear message that the referee is serious about the matter. In such cases, the referee would stop play with the ball in the possession of the abusive coach’s team (if possible), advise the coach or other team official that this behavior is irresponsible and must stop if the coach or other team official wishes to remain in the vicinity of the field. If this warning is not effective, then another stoppage and the expulsion of the coach must follow. No cards, please, unless the rules of the competition require them. Also, do not engage in extended discussions when doing this in any circumstances: State the message and leave.

As long as the coach or other team official does not behave irresponsibly by shouting abusively at the players or attempting to influence the opposing players through shouting false information, there is little restriction on that person’s activities. However, in that regard, we cannot forget the importance of the competitive level of the players as a factor in deciding what is permissible. After all, although there is no formal definition of “tactical instructions,” we have commonly recognized that this would not include choreographing every move, particularly for any match above mid-level youth.…