Injured Referee

Murray, an adult amateur fan, asks:

If a Referee gets injured and there is no replacement, does the result at the time stand or does it depend on the time the game was stopped?

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

Yes, if the Referee is the only official assigned to and present at the match.  Yes, if there are other officials but none is qualified to take the Referee position and responsibilities.  No, if there is at least one other member of the assigned officiating team qualified and willing to take the Referee position.

In matches with a full crew assigned (Referee and two Assistant Referees), one of the Assistant Referees is often designated as AR-1 and this is usually for the purpose of identifying that AR as the official who takes over if the Referee is unable to continue (in which case a volunteer linesman could be sought for the AR-1’s position) or is unable to serve as the Referee but deemed able to swap places with the AR for the remainder of the match.  Alternately, the local rules of competition may specify another method.  If no method is specified and no prior designation of one of the ARs as “senior” or first in line to take over, the Referee would usually be expected to designate which AR (assuming that AR is amenable) would take over the Referee’s position.

Are you getting the feeling the assumption is that Referees are not expected to become sufficiently unable to continue to the point of needing a replacement?  You would be correct.  If you are not comfortable with that ambiguity, ask the Assignor or know in advance if there are any rules in place or traditional in your area which govern this sort of problem.

If none of these options is available or acceptable or workable, the match is terminated, after which the resolution of your question is in the hands of the local competition authority (the body under whose authority the particular game is being played).  In any event, full details must be included in the match report.

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).

Goalkeeper Safety

Tabithia, a parent of a U12 player, asks:

My son is a goalie and like most of the kids he plays pretty rough.  At his last game I noticed that the attacking team would continue to kick the ball once he had his hands on it in an attempt to kick it out of his hands. He nearly got kicked in the face. Is this legal?

Answer

First, at the U12 recreational level of play, no one is supposed to play “pretty rough” — it is not expected and it should not be condoned with the argument that it’s simply playing “like most of the kids.”  If this is the case, it is the fault of everyone involved in the match — the parents, the league, the coaches, and the referees.

Second, what you describe is illegal at all levels of play, from little kids all the way up to the professionals and international players.  The Law requires that, once the goalkeeper has taken hand control of the ball, all challenges against the goalkeeper must stop and may not even be attempted, much less performed, so long as that control continues.  There are no maybes here.  In fact, the younger the players involved in the match, the more tightly this rule must be enforced.

Having the ball controlled by hand means that the goalkeeper is holding the ball with one or both hands or is holding the ball against any part of his body or against the ground or a goalpost.   Being “in control of the ball” also includes the goalkeeper bouncing the ball on the ground or tossing it up in the air and catching it or tossing it even slightly in the process of preparing to punt the ball. During this entire time, no opponent can challenge the goalkeeper in any way.  “Cannot challenge” means there cannot be any attempt to cause the goalkeeper to lose control, whether by charging or tackling, much less by kicking the ball which is, by itself, very dangerous.  If no contact is made with the goalkeeper, this is at least a dangerous play and the goalkeeper’s team would get an indirect free kick where the action occurred.  If there was any contact with the goalkeeper, it would be a kicking foul and at least a caution, if not a red card, should be shown, followed by a direct free kick for the goalkeeper’s team.

Referees must respond quickly and firmly to any illegal contact or attempted contact by an opponent against a goalkeeper who has hand control of the ball.   At the U12 age level, we would expand that to cover even a situation where the goalkeeper is about to take hand control of the ball (remember, the game at this level is all about safety because the players are neither skilled nor experienced).

A soccer ball is not a golf ball and a goalkeeper should not be seen as a tee.

GOALKEEPER INJURY

Question:
Normally, if a player has a minor injury, I would allow them to step off the field, receive treatment, then reenter with my permission, or be subbed at the next stoppage. If a goalkeeper is injured but wishes to remain in the game, does he have to give his jersey to another player while he is being treated and can he go back to keeping goal at the next stoppage?

USSF answer (September 10, 2011):
Unless a goalkeeper is so seriously injured that he or she must be removed from the game and taken for more complete medical attention and care, the ‘keeper will be treated on the field. If the ‘keeper needs to be treated off the field and might return after the treatment, then an outfield player must assume the uniform and duties of the goalkeeper. See the following excerpt from the Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees in the back of your Law book, under Law 5:

Injured players
The referee must adhere to the following procedure when dealing with injured players:
• Play is allowed to continue until the ball is out of play if a player is, in the opinion of the referee, only slightly injured
• Play is stopped if, in the opinion of the referee, a player is seriously injured
• After questioning the injured player, the referee may authorize one, or at most two [medical staff persons], to enter the field of play to assess the injury and arrange the player’s safe and swift removal from the field of play
• Stretcher-bearers should only enter the field of play with a stretcher following a signal from the referee
• The referee must ensure an injured player is safely removed from the field of play
• A player is not allowed to receive treatment on the field of play
• Any player bleeding from a wound must leave the field of play. He may not return until the referee is satisfied that the bleeding has stopped. A player is not permitted to wear clothing with blood on it
• As soon as the referee has authorized the doctors to enter the field of play, the player must leave the field of play, either on a stretcher or on foot. If a player does not comply, he must be cautioned for unsporting behavior
• An injured player may only return to the field of play after the match has restarted
• When the ball is in play, an injured player must re-enter the field of play from the touch line. When the ball is out of play, the injured player may re-enter from any of the boundary lines
• Irrespective of whether the ball is in play or not, only the referee is authorized to allow an injured player to re-enter the field of play
• The referee may give permission for an injured player to return to the field of play if an assistant referee or the fourth official verifies that the player is ready
• If play has not otherwise been stopped for another reason, or if an injury suffered by a player is not the result of a breach of the Laws of the Game, the referee must restart play with a dropped ball from the position of the ball when play was stopped, unless play 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.
• The referee must allow for the full amount of time lost through injury to be played at the end of each period of play
• Once the referee has decided to issue a card to a player who is injured and has to leave the field of play for treatment, the referee must issue the card before the player leaves the field of play

Exceptions to this ruling are to be made only when:
• a goalkeeper is injured
• a goalkeeper and an outfield player have collided and need immediate attention
• players from the same team have collided and need immediate attention
• a severe injury has occurred, e.g. swallowed tongue, concussion, broken leg.

WHEN IS DECEPTION REWARDED?

Question:
In a recent viral video of a Conway AR high school match shows the center awarding a free kick to Conway and the Conway players setting up. Two players approach the area of the ball as if both are going to initiate the kick with one passing by the ball and then colliding with the other approaching player and both collapse on the ground while a third player initiates the kick. A score resulted.

Question is, has an offence been committed? My input would be yes that it is unsporting behavior in that the collision was set up as a distraction that is staged, much like a player taking an obvious dive after contacting a player of the opposing team. I can’t see the trickery rule applying because it only addresses playing the ball back to the keeper and trying to circumvent a law of the game. I believe the goal was awarded. Not that it matters to me being I have no interest or contact with any team in Arkanas. Just discussing it with some current officials on how we would have called it. I am a laspsed official (not one of the choices below)

USSF answer (May 19, 2011):
Ah, deceit, the mother of legal gamesmanship. The kicking team is allowed to engage in its little bit of deception at almost any restart. Provided that the players who collide don’t turn the event into a moaning, groaning, shrieking distraction, this was likely legal. Some playacting is certainly acceptable, but when an event is played to the hilt it could be seen as constituting either (a) exaggerating the seriousness of an injury or (b) the equivalent of shouting at an opponent to distract (either of which would be unsporting behavior). It all depends, of course, on the opinion of the referee, which would be based on how out of the ordinary the actions of these players were.

The Laws of the Game were not written to compensate for the mistakes of players, in this case the defending team that did not continue to pay attention to the subsequent kicker, the runner, and the ball itself.

CAVEAT: Please note that this is a high school game played under NFHS auspices, and not necessarily in accordance with the Laws of the Game. And the referee might be especially cunning and preempt any problems by stopping play for the “injury,” which occurred before the ball was in play, have the players attended to, and restart with original free kick.

A video clip of this incident may be seen at this URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=haxdJT6MBoE&feature=player_embedded

GOALS AND INJURED ‘KEEPER

Question:
In order to play there are X number of players and a specifically appointed goalkeeper. This is a two part question. If the goalkeeper is injured does play stop? If the keeper is injured for a period of time and play is continuing does the goal count if it crosses the goal line?

USSF answer (July 29, 2010):
A two-part question gets a two-part answer.

1. Play is stopped only if, in the opinion of the referee, the player is seriously injured. That includes all players, whether field player or goalkeeper.

2. If the goalkeeper is not, in the opinion of the referee, seriously injured and play continues, a goal would be counted if the whole of the ball completely crosses the entire goal line between the goalposts and beneath the crossbar.

COACH PROVIDING TACTICAL ADVICE DURING AN INJURY STOPPAGE

Question:
My understanding is during a stoppage for an injury a coach (the team not with the injured player) is not allowed to call his players over to the bench area (technical area) and provide coaching instruction. Likewise, the coach of the injured player who comes on the field with permission cannot gather his field players and provide coaching /tactical advise. I cannot find this in the Laws, Guide to Referees, and Advise to Referees.

Can you direct me where in the USSF I can find this? Also, what is the ruling and where is it for NISOA and NFHS?

USSF answer (May 3, 2010):
We cannot provide official answers for NISOA or NFHS games. However, we can provide official answers regarding the Laws of the Game.

There is no rule against either coach or other team official calling his or her players over to the touch line to discuss tactics during a stoppage for injury. However, if a coach or other team official is permitted on the field to see to the status of a seriously injured player — the only reason for stopping play for an injury is if the referee believes it to be serious — he or she may not share any information with any players of that team who are on the field. That would be regarded as irresponsible behavior, forcing the referee to expel the coach.

However, the intelligent referee will preempt the coach from coaching by stopping him early and letting him know that coaching on the field is not permitted. If the coach persists, then the referee should take more drastic action.

SHOULD THE REFEREE ADMINISTER FIRST AID?

Question:
During a match a while ago, a very unique situation occurred – one that I have never seen nor heard of before. I was observing a close under 14 girls mid-level match on a wet day while I waited for my ride after my last match of the day and I did talk to the Referee after the match to pin down some of the details.

So, here we go. A defender was dribbling at speed into her own penalty area playing for time to pass the ball to the outside to a team mate who was running into position to accept the pass. The dribbling defender had an attacker just off the back of her left shoulder. The defender touched the ball forward and then ran up on it. As the defender’s right foot moved forward to kick the ball, the attacker lunged forward with her own leg between those of the defender, missing the ball, and causing the defenders kicking leg to impact with the attacker’s ankle, at which point the defender tripped, and fell awkwardly with the attacker falling next to her.

The Referee blew the whistle, and awarded a direct free kick to the defender (for tripping) and pulled the yellow card from his pocket to award a caution for Unsporting Behavior.

Let’s leave questions as to the correctness of the decision up to now, because what occurred next was the strange part. The Referee had the card in his hand held straight down by his side, presumably to show to the attacker once she regained her feet. However, the attacker was more seriously injured than she had upon first glance, and she apparently had dislocated her knee when the defender’s legs scissored her own as the defender fell. Now to add to the strangeness of the situation, I know that the Referee, a friend of mine, is a certified Emergency Medical Technician in the State of Colorado. As such, when he observes a serious injury to someone, he is required by State law to render assistance to the best of his ability. To this end, he quickly stuck the card back into his pocket, called both coaches onto the field (the defender was shaken up on the play as well), yelled for the lead AR to enter the field to keep and eye on the players, identified himself to the running coaches as an EMT and knelt to begin examining the attacker. He quickly determined that an ACL tear was likely and had a parent call for an ambulance.

He remained with the attacker until the ambulance arrived and he could hand off custody of the case to the arriving paramedics. After the ambulance left, but before play was restarted, he informed the attacker’s coach that his player had been cautioned for UB, before restarting play with the direct free kick for the defender’s team.

Under these very narrow facts and circumstances, were the Referee’s actions correct? While his personally tending the player is not in line with USSF policy, State law regarding medical professionals clearly overrides USSF policy. Secondly, when the Referee officially removed his EMT hat and put back on his Referee hat, the girl was in the ambulance already. In both of our opinions, he would have looked foolish showing the yellow card to the back of a moving vehicle. He would have looked equally foolish, not to mention cruel and uncaring, if he had shown the card to the player while she was curled up on the ground in tears. He had already pulled the card out, and the foul, in his opinion, most certainly warranted a caution. Could he simply take no action at all? Or, as he actually did in this case, could he consider pulling the card out to be “showing” it and verbally inform the coach of the caution? We both agreed after the match that things would have been simplified if he had left the card in his pocket and used the “slow” carding method (book then show), in which case he would have seen the extent of the player’s injury before the card was ever out. However, he was still determined to caution the player, as in his (and my) opinion the self-injury did not wipe out the reckless tackle and injury to the defender. Had he gone the slow path, when would the correct time to show the card be? While the player was on the stretcher? Finally, a hypothetical situation – if a referee was not an EMT in this same situation, and therefore left the player to the attention of the local athletic trainers, when (if at all) should he or she show the card? In this case, there is not the eminently justifiable reason of needing to tend to the player’s injury, but there also does not appear to be an opportune moment to show the card. We both agreed that in a higher-level match we would just show the card in the general direction of the player while they were on the stretcher, but at this age, we both felt that such an action would necessarily outrage the protective instincts of the watching parents, and cause the referee an even worse headache in the long-term.

Hope you can help sort this one out with me.

USSF answer (March 31, 2010):
The referee’s grasp of procedure appears to be quite good. As to exercising his skills as an EMT, if it has to be done, it has to be done, particularly if by not doing so he would have placed himself in legal jeopardy. Clearly a quick request for someone in the crowd with similar skills would have been good, but, . . ..

The referee will normally wait until the player has been treated or has risen before showing the card, but each situation is up to the decision of the referee. There is no definite schedule of events here. In a worst case situation, the referee could do as he did, informing the coach of the caution, or less usual but still acceptable, show the card to the captain (but be certain to explain the action).

REF OR AR AS FIRST AID PROVIDER

Question:
If during a game, a player is injured and no trainers or first-aid providers are available but one of the referees has extensive medical training; is it appropriate for that referee to assess the injury and provide advice to the coach on how to treat the injury or instruct the coach to seek emergency medical care for the player?

USSF answer (February 20 2010):
Only as an absolute last resort. In this litigious society of ours, a referee who is not a licensed medical practitioner would be well advised to stay out of any medical emergency that occurs during the game that referee is working.

The situation is generally controlled by state law (sometimes called a “good Samaritan” law, but also laws that cover specific professions). In some states, you are expected to perform whatever emergency services you are trained/certified to do. An EMT who is also a referee must therefore take off his referee hat and put on his EMT hat if faced with a serious injury on the field. Otherwise, stay out of it and remember that there are other important referee things you could be doing while staying out of it.

INJURY TO THE GOALKEEPER

Question:
If a goalkeeper gets hurt and is treated on the field, is he or she required to leave the field, as would another field player be required to? Does it depend on the league, eg. FLUGSA or the age of the keeper, or is there one set rule for everyone?

USSF answer (January 11, 2010):
The goalkeeper is not required to leave the field following treatment unless his or her medical condition requires much more extensive treatment. In that case, the team must either temporarily exchange a current field player for the goalkeeper (who is temporarily off the field) or substitute for him or her.

You will find your guidance in the Interpretations of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees, under Law 5. Note in particular the “Exceptions” at the bottom of the ruling, but let common sense and the Law prevail.

Injured players
The referee must adhere to the following procedure when dealing with injured players:
* Play is allowed to continue until the ball is out of play if a player is, in the opinion of the referee, only slightly injured
* Play is stopped if, in the opinion of the referee, a player is seriously injured
* After questioning the injured player, the referee may authorize one, or at most two doctors, to enter the field of play to assess the injury and arrange the player’s safe and swift removal from the field of play
* The stretcher-bearers should enter the field of play with a stretcher at the same time as the doctors to allow the player to be removed as quickly as possible
* The referee must ensure an injured player is safely removed from the field of play
* A player is not allowed to receive treatment on the field of play
* Any player bleeding from a wound must leave the field of play. He may not return until the referee is satisfied that the bleeding has stopped. A player is not permitted to wear clothing with blood on it
* As soon as the referee has authorized the doctors to enter the field of play, the player must leave the field of play, either on a stretcher or on foot. If a player does not comply, he must be cautioned for unsporting behavior
* An injured player may only return to the field of play after the match has restarted
* When the ball is in play, an injured player must re-enter the field of play from the touch line. When the ball is out of play, the injured player may re-enter from any of the boundary lines
* Irrespective of whether the ball is in play or not, only the referee is authorized to allow an injured player to re-enter the field of play
* The referee may give permission for an injured player to return to the field of play if an assistant referee or the fourth official verifies that the player is ready
* If play has not otherwise been stopped for another reason, or if an injury suffered by a player is not the result of a breach of the Laws of the Game, the referee must restart play with a dropped ball from the position of the ball when play was stopped, unless play 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.
* The referee must allow for the full amount of time lost through injury to be played at the end of each period of play
* Once the referee has decided to issue a card to a player who is injured and has to leave the field of play for treatment, the referee must issue the card before the player leaves the field of play

Exceptions to this ruling are to be made only when:
* a goalkeeper is injured
* a goalkeeper and an outfield player have collided and need immediate attention
* a severe injury has occurred, e.g. swallowed tongue, concussion, broken leg.

If you need further guidance, here is a USSF memorandum from 2007 that is still valid:

Subject: Handling Injuries

Date: October 12, 2007

An incident at the first U.S. Soccer Development Academy Fall Showcase tournament led to extensive discussions regarding the correct referee actions to be taken when a goalkeeper and opponent are injured. The lack of a single clear answer among the many experienced observers gathered there is the reason for this position paper.

Injuries pose numerous difficult decisions for the referee. On the one hand, soccer is a game of continuous action in which stoppages are and should be infrequent. On the other hand, player safety is an obvious matter of concern. Since stopping play may be beneficial for one team, an added issue is the possibility of a player simulating an injury or its degree of severity in an effort to gain that benefit. 

Law 5 establishes several basic principles regarding player injuries:
− If, in the opinion of the referee, the injury is serious, play must be stopped.
− If, in the opinion of the referee, the injury is not serious, treatment of the injury is delayed until play is stopped for some other reason.
− If the referee stops play for an injury, the injured player must leave the field and cannot return until play is restarted and the referee gives permission.

The International Football Association Board (IFAB), in its Additional Instructions and Guidelines (AIG) which accompany the Laws of the Game, has clarified certain issues:
− An injured player may not receive treatment on the field unless the injury is “severe” (immediate medical attention is needed).
− An injured goalkeeper is not required to leave the field and may receive treatment while on the field.
− The refusal of an injured player to leave the field despite being required to do so is a cautionable offense (unsporting behavior).
− The removal of an injured player must be swift but safe.
− The referee may signal permission for medical personnel (including stretcher-bearers) to enter the field to assist in the player’s removal from the field (or to provide emergency first aid).

Referees should keep in mind the following additional guidelines regarding the handling of player injuries:
− A player may seek assistance and treatment off the field during play if given permission by the referee to do so (permission is also needed to return to the field, which may occur during play).
− A player who is injured may leave the field for treatment and return to the field before play resumes if the stoppage was not solely for that player’s injury and if medical personnel were not called onto the field by the referee to aid the player’s removal.
− “Medical personnel” for purposes of these guidelines includes any team official who has responsibility for the player in the absence of available trained medical staff.
− If a goalkeeper is seriously injured as a result of a collision with a teammate or opponent and the teammate or opponent is also injured, all players injured in the collision may be treated on the field and are not required to leave the field.
− A player for whom the referee has requested medical personnel to enter the field at a stoppage is required to leave the field and may return with the referee’s permission only after play has resumed even if the stoppage was not expressly for the injury.

Evaluating and balancing these factors must be done quickly and fairly, with appropriate regard for the age and skill of the players.  In all cases of doubt, the safety of the player must be the referee’s primary concern.