Some Things Are Just Wrong

Mike, a U13 – U19 coach, asks:

Can a penalty kick be awarded for something that happened when the ball is not in play?  The team that we were playing against were setting up for a corner kick and one of our players knocked down one of them while trying to get position. The ball had not been put into play yet. The Referee awarded that team a penalty kick. Is this the right call?

Answer (see also “Apology” posted on July 5)

No.  Absolutely not.  When an event like this happens, it must be treated as misconduct, not a foul, with the result that, after the proper card is shown (yellow for unsporting behavior, red for violent behavior, or nothing if it was doubtful or trifling), the original restart must be taken — in this case, the corner kick.  One of the few verities in soccer that is almost always true is that nothing happening during a stoppage of play can change the restart.

Coaches and Cards

Kat, a U-12 and under coach, asks:

What happens when a coach gets a yellow card?

Answer (see also “Apology” posted on July 5)

Consider the following:

Case 1:  What happens?   Well, it shouldn’t happen because, technically, coaches cannot get a yellow card. Under the Laws of the Game, only players, substitutes, and substituted players can be carded (yellow or red).  We draw your attention to Law 5 where it states that the duties of the Referee include “takes action against team officials who fail to act in a responsible manner and may expel them from the field of play and its immediate surrounds.”  This is routinely interpreted to mean that the only basis for disciplinary action against coaches (or any other team official) is “irresponsible actions” and the only discipline allowed is to “expel them from the field of play” (including from the area around the field … often explained as “far enough away to be out of sight and sound”).

Case 2:  What happens?  Well, that’s easy, the coach (or any other team official) has been cautioned.  In general terms, the yellow card is a warning about present behavior and a statement that subsequent misbehavior will likely result in a red card — in which case, the team official is “expelled from the field of play” (including from the area around the field … often explained as “far enough away to be out of sight and sound”).  How can the Referee get away with doing something which is contrary to the Laws of the Game?  Because a local competition authority (league, tournament, association, etc.) has decided they want this done in their games and the Referee has agreed to accept the assignment to officiate that game.

In either case, what constitutes “irresponsible behavior”?  Basically, it includes anything a player could do which is described in the misconduct section of Law 12 (under cautionable offenses and sending-off offenses).  The Referee is advised, even when local rules allow cards to be shown to team officials, to state in the match report that the team official was expelled (in case 1) or cautioned or sent off (in case 2) for irresponsible behavior, followed by a list of the specific indiscretions leading to the punishment.  Further in case 2, if the warning were unsuccessful in changing the team official’s behavior and the irresponsible actions continue, the Referee would be justified in showing directly (no second caution) the red card with the straightforward explanation that, despite a warning (the caution), the team official persisted in behaving irresponsibly, followed by a list of the additional specific actions.   In fact, if the first instance of irresponsible behavior were sufficiently irresponsible (i.e., equivalent to player actions that would immediately draw a red card), the Referee should deal with the team official the same way.

 

Substitution Following Departure of Goalkeeper

Eric, an adult amateur fan, asks:

A team has exhausted its allowed substitutions but their goalkeeper is sent off and one of the field players takes his place.  What is the procedure?

Answer (see also “Apology” posted on July 5)

Simple, do what you described.  The procedure is based on (1) a sent-off keeper reduces by one the maximum number of players the goalkeeper’s team is allowed, (2) nevertheless, the Law requires that there be a goalkeeper, (3) therefore a field player must assume the role of goalkeeper, and (4) the new goalkeeper must be uniformed in accordance with the Law.

All of these things are true whether the team has used all of its allowed number of substitutions or not.  Of course, if they have, their only option is the field player becoming the goalkeeper. If they have not, then the goalkeeper’s team can take a field player off, bring a substitute on, and then switch the new field player (formerly a substitute) into the goalkeeper position (while, of course, dressing him/her accordingly).  In the latter case, the Referee must of course be aware of the substitution, the swap of the field player into the goalkeeper position, and then the swap of the new field player with the goalkeeper.  Informally, the process doesn’t have to be as rigorously marked out as this — the field player leaves and a substitute takes the field already outfitted as a goalkeeper.

The bottom line in all this is that, by the time the whistle is blown to restart play (i.e., all this must be completed during the stoppage at which the original goalkeeper was sent off), the team has an identifiable goalkeeper and one fewer field player than they had before the send-off.

Simulation Misconduct

David, an adult pro fan, asks:

So, I watched Real Madrid win a 12th Champions league.  Ramos cleanly tackles Cuadrado and forces the ball out of play for a throw in.  While the ball is out of play, Cuadrado with the slightest of touches taps Ramos on the shoulder and Ramos falls down grabbing his foot (completely looks like a dive). The ref then gives Cuadrado a 2nd yellow.  My question is, could Ramos get a card for simulation whilst the ball is out of play?

Answer (see also “Apology” posted on July 5)

We are so glad you didn’t ask about whether Ramos cleanly tackled Cuadrado or whether Cuadrado’s tap on Ramos’ shoulder was “the slightest of touches” or whether Ramos’ reaction was a  “dive” because, as we say in our statement of what our objectives are in operating this website, we don’t answer questions about specific match plays and specific Referee decisions.  The only answerable question here is whether the Law allows a caution for misconduct committed during a stoppage of play.

Yes.

To expand a bit, the Law changed in  2016 to remove the Referee’s ability to show cards (yellow or red) for player behavior prior to the start of a match or after the final whistle sounds completing a match (including any post-game tiebreaking activity).  Of course, players can still commit misconduct before and after the game but, as of 2016, no cards can be shown.  The Referee is still allowed to dismiss a player for an offense otherwise warranting a red card which occurs prior to the match but doing so does not affect the team’s ability to field the maximum number of players allowed by Law 3.  And any misconduct occurring before or after a match must still be included in the match report.  However, none of this touched in the slightest the ability (indeed, the obligation) of the Referee to show any yellow or red card (or, in this case, yellow+red cards) and apply any sanctions which attach to the card for misconduct occurring at any stoppage of play occurring for any reason at all between the opening and final whistles.

Goalkeeper Possession

Mike, a U-12 and under coach, asks:

A goalie going for the ball on the ground  holds on to an opponent’s leg with one hand while also gaining control of the ball with the other hand.  Is the goalie considered to maintain possession when the opponent attempts to disengage his foot from the goalie’s hand and, as a result, the ball pops free?  With the ball and his leg now free, the opponent kicked the ball into the net. This was a U12 game.

Answer (see also “Apology” posted on July 5)

The events you described, even in a U-12 game, happen rather quickly.  In a perfect (and therefore unrealistic) world, the referee’s recommended course of action is easy to describe but difficult to implement.

Here is what should happen.  The referee sees the play developing through the point of the goalkeeper grabbing onto the attacker’s leg.  This is a holding offense and even goalkeepers are not allowed to do this.  The referee should wait no longer than the next play to see what then happens — this is a “silent” form of applying advantage without the usual verbal “Play on!” and swinging upward arm movements.   What happens next confirms the wisdom of this choice — the attacker manages to gain control of the ball and scores a goal despite the goalkeeper’s illegal behavior.

The referee should count the goal and either admonish the goalkeeper or show the yellow card to the goalkeeper for unsporting behavior.  Under the Laws of the Game, a red card for denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity (OGSO) is not justified because … well, simply, because the goal-scoring wasn’t denied!

Note that the course of action described above is based on the facts of this case and particularly the fact that, while his leg was being held by the goalkeeper, the opponent did not kick the ball out of the goalkeeper’s possession because this would have been an offense by the attacker immediately following the offense by the goalkeeper.  It makes no sense to apply advantage and then have the opponent take advantage of the opportunity by committing a foul himself.  However, in this case, play is stopped for the goalkeeper’s offense (because the advantage did not develop, which was the attacker’s fault!) so the restart is a penalty kick and the referee could admonish or caution the attacker for unsporting behavior.  This year’s Law changes appear to specify that the goalkeeper be cautioned because a penalty kick has been awarded and the goalkeeper was, in addition to committing a foul, also playing the ball.

And then there is the potential factor of the age of the players.  Anytime, with young players, there is a situation involving one or more attackers and defenders (one being the goalkeeper) in close proximity, with one or more fouls being committed under dangerous circumstances, it is often better to get play stopped as quickly as possible to keep everyone safe.  The U12 – U14 age group is right on the edge where on the one hand safety is emphasized but, on the other hand, if the players are experienced despite their age, applying advantage may be justified.

More Goalkeeper Deviltry?

Bing Jong, a U-12 and under player, asks:

I was in a tournament game when a ball was kicked out of bounds for a goal kick restart.  We were playing on a hill so the ball rolled a decent way down it. The goalie was wasting time by taking his sweet little time to get to the ball.  Was that punishable and, if it is, how?

Answer (see also “Apology” posted on July 5)

Let’s see.  We’re going to take a guess that it was your team that played the ball last before it went across the goal line (not between the goal posts), for a goal kick restart.  I’m also guessing that it was your opponent’s dastardly goalkeeper who took “his sweet little time” getting the ball (yes, we caught the sarcasm).  Further, you have already decided that the dastardly goalkeeper was “wasting time” (which is, in fact, a decision of the referee).  My final guess is that, because you didn’t say otherwise, the referee did not punish the dastardly goalkeeper at all or at least not appropriately.

Just so we understand each other here, the goalkeeper might have been moving slower than you expected or desired because he was at the top ofa hill and might not have wanted to trip, fall, and roll “a decent way down it” as the ball did.  On the other hand, if he was laughing, smirking, and picking daisies on the way down, you’ve got a pretty good argument.

If the former is what happened (in the opinion of the referee), there was no time being wasted.  After all, U-12 games rarely in our experience, have ball retrievers ready at an instant to get the ball back to the goal kick restart.   Or, given that the ball was played on a hill, the team playing at the downhill end at each half could have had an extra ball available for just this sort of problem.  If the latter were not the case or if, despite the presence of a pre-approved backup ball at the net, the goalkeeper deliberately ignored it and went traipsing “a decent way” downhill unnecessarily, then (again in the opinion of the referee) this could have been deemed time wasting, the penalty for which is a caution for “delaying the restart of play.”  You might note, however, that, in the absence of any prior warning about delaying a restart, most referees early on would warn the wandering-down-the-hill goalkeeper to “get a move on!” and only show the yellow card if it seemed that the goalkeeper was deliberately ignoring the referee’s observation.  Note also that the referee might base his or her opinion about the probability of time being wasted at least in part on the score at the time.  After all, “wasting time” might be considered a trifling offense if it was being done by a goalkeeper whose team was behind in the score.  Note finally that giving a caution will have the ironic result of further delaying the restart.

If there was misconduct here and if the referee decided a caution was appropriate, the restart would still be the original goal kick.  Misconduct during a stoppage of play does not change the original restart decision.

 

Referees: Please Send a Thank-You Card to the International Board

Roland, an adult amateur referee, asks:

What is the punishment for a player spitting at the referee while the ball is in play?  Since it is not directed at the opposing team, is the offender (one who spit) red carded and sent off of the field? How is the game restarted?

Answer (see also “Apology” posted on July 5)

Thanks to the International Board and the newest Law changes (as of 2016-2017), Referees and other members of the officiating crew can now be the target of a foul the same as opponents and are now granted the same restart punishment.  Spitting at anyone, including the Referee, has always been a sending-off misconduct offense, whether it was during play or not and on the field or not, so the answer to the card question isn’t new — it is, Yes, red card and a sending-off.

However, until 2016, the restart would have been an indirect free kick based solely on the misconduct because, prior to 2016, spitting as a direct free kick foul could only be performed against an opponent.  In 2016, although the language at the start of Law 12 still specifies “spits at an opponent,” Section 4 of Law 12 now states that the punishment for spitting at such other persons as a teammate, substitute, team official, or a match official is not only the same direct free kick used if the action were at an opponent but it can also be escalated to a penalty kick if it occurs inside the spitter’s penalty area.  As the International Board explained, spitting (as well striking, holding, kicking, etc.) is a serious matter and restarting play with only an indirect free kick (for the card) where the target was an official sends a weak message.

So, if you are kicked, pushed, struck, or charged (at least carelessly, etc.) or are spat upon or held, you can thank the International Board for their upgrading of the punishment.

Sorting Out Injury Restarts

Adam, a U12 and Under coach, asks:

My question is, if my team (U8 players) kicks the ball and one player on the other team stops it with his face and gets injured, is that team then rewarded with a free kick in the penalty area?  Or would it be a drop ball or my team’s ball?

Answer (see also “Apology” posted on July 5)

Let’s at least take a moment of concern for the poor opponent who stopped a ball with his face!

OK, now let’s see if we can sort this out.  First of all, teams don’t kick a ball, individual players do.  Second, these individual players can kick the ball during play or at a restart.  Finally, these individual players kicking balls may, on any given kick and regardless of whether it occurs during play or a restart, strike the face of an opponent with evil intent (i.e., on purpose) or by accident.  Getting things down to this level helps us work out the answer.

If the kick occurred during play and the stoppage-by-face was not intentional, then play must be stopped for the injury and, under the Laws of the Game, once things have settled down, the restart must be a dropped ball where the ball was when play was stopped (note: special rules apply if that location happens to be in a team’s goal area). Same scenario but the kick that started it all was on a restart, then everything stays the same assuming that, depending on the restart, the ball was in play by the time the stoppage-by-face occurred.

If the ball didn’t make it into play (and, offhand, we think that the goal kick is probably the only restart in which this might or could be an issue), then play must be stopped and, after the dust settles, retake the original restart.

Ah, but now, if the kick (and this would apply as well to a throw-in) was directed at the face of an opponent, then play must still be stopped quickly but, in this case, the stoppage is not “for the injury” but for the offense (kicking).  Further, given the violent way it occurred and after the higher priority matters related to the injury are taken care of, a red card should be shown for violent conduct (not “serious foul play” because it didn’t happen while competing for the ball) — unless this game is being played under standard small-sided rules for U-8 players, in which case your duty is to explain what a bad thing was done while you escort the miscreant off the field.  Because “kicking an opponent” is a Law 12 offense, the restart is a direct free kick for the opposing team taken from the location of the opponent whose face stopped the ball (penalty kicks are not allowed for U-8 games).

As above, if the kick leading to the evilly intentional stoppage-by-face result was on a restart and the ball had not gone into play by the time of the face smashing, then retake the original restart but don’t forget the card if it is allowed or at least the removal of the player by some means.

By the way, under no circumstances and by no stretch of the imagination could your team, even theoretically, ever “get the ball” if it was one of your players that kicked the ball in the first place (unless it was on a restart by your team and the ball was not in play by the time your player smashed an opponent’s face with the ball).

Dissent by “My Friend”

Paula, a U13-U19 player, asks:

My friend asked the ref if he was paying attention from the sideline because he was talking to the other girls of the team. He got super mad and gave her a yellow card. How is that fair??

Answer (see also “Apology” posted on July 5)

There is so much wrong here it is hard to know where to start … but start we must.  First, we don’t decide issues of fairness.  Whether what the referee did was fair or not cannot be answered by the Laws of the Game.  Since “safety, fairness, and enjoyment” are the three ultimate objectives of officiating, it follows that anything done which is lawful is also fair … at least to some degree (i.e., maybe not in the mind of any one person, but overall).

Second, as we read your question, and without regard to whether you yourself were a player on one of the competing teams, we assume your “friend” was not — which leaves the friend as either a team official or, more likely, a spectator there to see her friend (you) play.  As a spectator, this person is immune from all direct action by the referee.  No whistling, no cards, no warnings, no nothing. According to USSF protocols, the referee has no direct authority over spectators or, in fact, anyone other than players, substitutes, substituted players, or team officials.  The most a referee can do if a spectator is disruptive, aggressive, foul-mouthed, critical of decisions, and so forth is, initially (if possible), to warn one or both coaches that the spectator’s behavior is unacceptable, to then (if possible and necessary) advise one or both coaches that the game may need to be suspended while they deal with the spectator, and finally, if the first two steps fail, to declare the match terminated if appropriate action is not taken or, even if it is, the behavior nevertheless continues.  It is also permitted, if necessary, to skip one or both of the first two steps and go directly to the list one mentioned.

Third, even if the person were a player, substitute, or substituted player rather than a spectator, no referee should get “super mad” and use that as the basis for giving a card.  Carding, regardless of whether it is yellow or red, must be a rational decision that the action is needed to maintain “safety, fairness, or enjoyment” and have a clear basis of explanation within the Laws of the Game.  Being chided, accurately or not, for inattention or for giving the appearance of inattention is a potentially valid criticism which, though voicing it may lead to discomfort or embarrassment, is nonetheless an observation worth consideration, plus maybe a card (but not to a spectator).

Dismissed Coaches

Kristen, an adult pro fan, asks:

Can a coach who has been dismissed from the game watch the remainder of the game from the stands?

Answer (see “Apology” special note posted July 5)

Maybe, maybe not.  First of all, a huge percentage of soccer games governed by the Laws of the Game don’t have “stands.”   Second, many local competition rules include specific restrictions on where a dismissed player or team official can or cannot be (e.g., at tournaments, a dismissed team official or player has to report to the tournament tent for disposition).  Finally, the only general guideline available for dismissals (players or team officials) is that they must be “out of sight, out of sound” — meaning basically that they must be far enough away from the field and its immediate environs that they can take no further part in the match (which includes communicating through any electronic devices with “undismissed” players or team officials).  Violating this guideline, by refusing to leave or by returning or by attempting prohibited contact while the match is in progress, could be the basis for at least suspending play until the situation is corrected or by terminating the match altogether.