In a recent game between UAE and Lebanon there was a penalty kick taken with the back of the heel. The player approaches the ball and without stopping his run-up turns around to knock the ball with his heel.

I realize this is played under a different football association, but in USSF – is this legal? Or would it be considered “Excessively changing directions or taking an excessively long run to the ball (thus causing an unnecessary delay in the restart, in the opinion of the referee)” as in the August 25, 2009 position paper? Specifically excessively changing position. My feeling is that this is unsporting, but I am wondering if that position is the one taken by USSF.

A video of the situation is here.


USSF answer (July 19, 2011) REVISED JULY 25, 2011:
No official position on this matter has been taken by either FIFA or the IFAB as of July 25, 2011. Until such time as there is an official position from the IFAB or from FIFA, we will not discuss this matter further.…


Two opposing field players are going up for a header. If one of the players jumped up and over the opponent, knocking the opponent out of the way or to the ground, I’d be calling a foul.

What if the jumping player in the above scenario was a goalkeeper trying to reach a ball with her hands? Is the goalkeeper given any special allowances? I heard an instructor say “yes” and that fouls in this sort of situation are not called (as seen on TV), but it seems to me that the defender has just as much right to fairly challenge for the ball as the goalkeeper and to not be unfairly charged/pushed/struck.

(I indicated a game level of U13-19, but would the answer be different if we’re talking about pros?)

USSF answer (July 18, 2011):
What referees call and what referees SHOULD call are often two different things. The Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees (p. 114) tells us: “All players have a right to their position on the field of play, being in the way of an opponent is not the same as moving into the way of an opponent.” In other words, no player, whether field player or goalkeeper, is allowed to go through any other player, whether field player or goalkeeper, to get to the ball.

Because the goalkeeper’s position is inherently dangerous (subject to hard challenges in the air, diving to the ground, lying on the ground, etc.), goalkeepers are allowed some leeway in doing their job. This means that they are permitted to reach over players and make some contact with the opponent, as long as it is not done carelessly, recklessly, or with excessive force.

Defenders or attackers, on the other hand, must take their chances as they find them. Jumping straight up or backing in to win the ball is not a foul unless the opponent is already in the air and moving to play the ball.…


The Blue goalkeeper and Red player are in position for a PK. After the referee signals, but before the kick is taken, a Red teammate encroaches into the penalty area. The referee allows the kick to be taken. The Blue goalkeeper saves the shot, deflecting the ball to the Red teammate who then kicks it into the goal. What is the restart? Should the PK be retaken and the encroaching Red player cautioned?

Another question:
The referee gives a Blue player permission to leave the field to care of an injury. A Red player heads directly toward the Blue team’s goal with only the Blue goalkeeper between him and the goal. The Blue player reenters the field without the referee’s permission and runs across the Red player’s path causing him to slow down and allowing the Blue goalkeeper collect the ball. What is the misconduct? What discipline should be taken? And what is the restart?

USSF answer (June 25, 2011):
1. As there was no goal from the original kick, the referee stops play and the match is restarted with an indirect free kick to the defending team, from the place where the infringement occurred — that place on the penalty area line where the player entered the penalty area early. See Law 14.

2. First some essential background information: When a player who has been given permission to leave the field returns without permission, the Law requires that the referee (a) stop play (although not immediately if the player does not not interfere with play or if the advantage can be applied) and (b) then caution the player for entering the field of play without permission.

It is not clear to us precisely what happened in this situation, so we will provide two possible scenarios and their solutions:
(a) The Blue player did not impede the Red player and (after entering the field illegally) but did slow him down by running in front of him while Blue was within playing distance of the ball. Referee action: Caution the Blue player for entering the field without permission. Because there was no physical contact and the Blue player did not impede the progress of the Red player, the only other thing to do is to remove the Blue player from the field. If the referee stops play for this, the match is restarted with an indirect free kick, to be taken by a player of the Red team from the position of the ball at the time of the stoppage (see Law 13 – Position of Free Kick).
(b) If the referee is certain that the Blue player impeded the Red ;player, then the Blue player has denied an opponent a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity, then the Blue player is sent off and shown the red card. The game is restarted with an indirect free kick for the Red team from the place where the foul occurred (even if it is within the penalty area)…


Can you please clarify Michael Kennedy’s statement made about the “continuation principle” in the Referee Week in review Week 11 2011.

He stated holding was the only foul where the continuation principle can be applied. Can you tell me what the continuation principle is and where it can be found in the ATR, LOTG, or a position paper? A colleague of mine remembers such a paper, but has since seen it disappear.

The only reference I found was this one from 2008 in this forum:

I ask because I witnessed a situation where two fouls occurred against an attacker heading toward goal outside the penalty area that were “let go” as the player continued on but a third foul challenge brought the player down in the area. The three happened in a matter of seconds, and certainly in the window of the advantage decision allows for. The referee clearly had decided that the first two he was going to apply advantage or had ruled them trifling, but when the player fell in the area he decided to bring the restart to the spot of the first foul.

The assessor pointed to the above reference about continuation for the reason the restart should be a PK. I disagreed, saying the first two fouls had already occurred and was decided, and the referee should be deciding on the third foul alone, resulting in a PK.

I had never heard of this reference before, and it was only fitting to have Michael mention it this week. Pls advise, with thanks.

USSF answer (June 20, 2011):
We are not quite sure where the confusion arises, but it appears as though two different concepts have been conflated into a single question. First, of course, is the issue of advantage (see Advice to Referees 5.6). When one or more fouls happen in sequence just outside the penalty area and advantage is applied to each of them in turn as they happen, a final foul that happens inside the penalty area might well NOT result in an advantage decision, because the requirements for advantage inside the penalty area have suddenly shifted. In this situation, the moment a discrete foul happens inside the PA, the referee need only decide whether a goal would be scored immediately by the fouled player whereas, for the foul(s) outside the PA, the referee need only decide if the fouled player can continue a credible attack on goal. This is conceptually different from the “continuation concept.”

The IFAB’s Q&A 2006 and the current Law book (p. 110) discuss the “continuation concept” solely in terms of a holding offense. Under guidance from FIFA, we can say that the term must NOT be applied to any other offenses.

When faced with an event on the field that is subsequently determined to be a foul, the referee faces three conceptually separate issues:

1. Use of advantage: If the offense happened outside the penalty area, advantage should be used in order to enable the team of the fouled attacker to maintain a credible attack on goal. If that attack does not continue as a result of subsequent events (ball leaving the field in favor of the opposing team, another foul which requires reopening the analysis, etc.), the referee must return to the original offense, unless the subsequent foul involves a greater penalty. This includes the circumstance where the subsequent offense involves a penalty kick restart.

2.Continuing fouls other than holding: An offense which involves continuous contact (such as charging or pushing) that starts in one place and continues into another place where the consequences of stopping play would be a different restart, should be decided on the basis of which place involved the greater penalty (inside/outside the penalty area is decided in favor of inside the penalty area, inside/outside the field is decided in favor of inside the field).

3. Use of “fouls in motion”: If contact with an opponent occurs outside the penalty area but the consequences of the contact which would enable the referee to conclusively determine that the contact was an offense cannot be seen until the opponent is inside the penalty area, the location of the offense must bet set at where the original contact occurred. Likewise, contact occurring inside the field whose consequences do not become apparent until the opponent is outside the field must result in a decision to restart inside the field where the original contact occurred. These decisions (where the original contact occurred and where the consequences occurred) are based solely on the opinion of the referee.

A position paper, issued in April 2007 and still valid (and on the USSF website), illustrates “fouls in motion.”

Subject: When Fouls Continue!
Date: April 30, 2007

Prompted by several recent situations in professional league play, a discussion has developed regarding the proper action to take when a foul continues over a distance on the field. Many fouls occur with the participants in motion, both the player committing the foul and the opponent being fouled, and it is not unusual for the offense to end far away from where the initial contact occurred.

Usually, the only problem this creates for the referee is the need to decide the proper location for the restart. Occasionally, however, an additional issue is created when the distance covered results in an entirely different area of the field becoming involved. A foul which starts outside the penalty area, for example, might continue into and finally end inside the offending player’s penalty area. Or a foul might start inside the field but, due to momentum, end off the field. In these cases, the decision about where the foul occurred also affects what the correct restart must be.

In general, the referee should determine the location of the foul based on what gives the greater benefit to the player who was fouled. FIFA has specifically endorsed this principle in one of its “Questions and Answers on the Laws of the Game,“ which states that a penalty kick is the correct restart if a player begins holding an opponent outside the player’s penalty area and continues this action inside his penalty area.


What happens if the player does not want to go out the field when a substitution is called? Can the ref force the player out? Who has the final say?

USSF answer (May 26, 2011):
The player cannot be forced to leave the field. He or she might be in trouble with the team, but no one can make him or her leave. As the Law tells us, “play continues.”…


I have an interpretation question for you. First, let me give you the context; I was assessing a referee for upgrade (8 to 7) in a B-U18 match. In the 19th minute the referee noticed that one of the players was wearing two earrings which were either missed in the pre-match inspection or were added subsequently, and he correctly instructed him to leave the pitch.

As we discussed this after the match, I pointed out that there was another player (an opponent) who had his wrist taped and I asked if the referee had checked to see what it was covering. I was told by one of the AR’s that the League had directed their referees in their preseason meeting that they were not permitted to ask a player to remove a band-aid or tape to ascertain whether the band-aid or tape was covering an earring, etc.

According to this AR, they were specifically told that they could not ask a female player to remove a band-aid which covered her eyebrow even though they were confident that it was covering a stud. Apparently the league is concerned about some kind of liability.

This direction from the league is the source of my question. It is directly opposite of what I have always told referees as concerns gloves, hats, bandages, wraps, etc. I feel that not only do referees have the power to ask to see under such coverings to ascertain whether they are covering or hiding illegal or impermissible equipment, etc., but further, they have an obligation to do so. My belief is that if a player refuses to satisfy the referee by demonstrating that there is nothing unsafe or illegal under such coverings then s/he should not be allowed to participate in the match. I would appreciate your advice on this question. Thanks!

USSF answer (May 5, 2011):
No league may require a referee not to enforce the Laws of the Game to the fullest, particularly when it pertains to participant safety.

Under Law 4 (see Interpretations) covering items of jewelry is forbidden: “Using tape to cover jewelry is not acceptable.” If any covering (including but not limited to tape) is being used by a player in a place where such a covering is not normally expected and where jewelry is often found, the referee has an obligation to ensure that the player is not hiding illegal equipment and should approach the player in the same manner as would be used in any jewelry situation: “I need to see what is under the tape. You have the right to refuse but, under these circumstances, I have the obligation to not allow you to play.” Tape is, after all and by itself, “equipment” and, as such, needs to be inspected to ensure that it (or whatever is under it) is not dangerous.

Law 4 tells us:

A player must not use equipment or wear anything that is dangerous to himself or another player (including any kind of jewelry).

The referee is required by Law 5 to ensure that the players’ equipment meets the requirements of Law 4.

We provided the following answer on December 15, 2010, regarding jewelry:

“There is no “FIFA” definition of anything in the Laws. The definitions are all made by the International Football Association Board (IFAB), the people who make the Laws, of which FIFA is a member. And they do not define jewelry for the simple reason that jewelry is jewelry, a decorative (usually) piece of adornment worn to enhance one’s beauty or to plug some product or cause. All jewelry is prohibited by the IFAB in Law 4, no matter what its appearance may be. Jewelry in any form is dangerous, which is why the IFAB has prohibited it; players’ hair or fingers may be caught and severely injured.

“Jewelry includes (but is not limited to) “team spirit” strings; beads of any sort (worn in hair or on strings or leather, etc.); any adornment (including watches) worn on the wrist; rings with crowns or projections; adornment worn along the upper or lower arm; earrings of any sort (including “starter” earrings)l tongue studs; any visible body piercing; rubber, leather, plastic or other “bands” worn in reference to some sort of cause,

“The only jewelry that is permitted in the United States is (a) medicalert jewelry for the purpose of aiding emergency medical personnel in treating injured players and (b) certain religious items that are not dangerous, are required by the religion to be worn, and not likely to provide the player with an unfair advantage (and even for the religious items, the player must have permission from the competition to wear it).

“In short: No jewelry is allowed.”


Are players who go or fall into the net area considered out of the field?
If I strike or impede someone from coming into the field of play, what action can the referee take?

USSF answer (March 17, 2011):
A player who prevents an opponent who has left the field in the course of play from re-entering the field of play has committed at least misconduct (unsporting behavior), for which he must be cautioned.

If, in the opinion of the referee, any part of the player committing the act is on the field, then the act (foul and/or misconduct) has been committed on the field of play. If the action of the player involves physical contact with the opponent, then the act has been committed on the field of play of any part of either the player or the opponent is on the field. The act has occurred off the field only if no part of the player committing the act is on the field or, where the act involves physical contact, no part of either the player or the opponent is on the field.
Full details of possible restarts in this situation are included here in this excerpt from the Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees (2010/2011):

Restart of play:
• If the ball is out of play, play is restarted according to the previous decision.
• If the ball is in play and the offense occurred outside the field of play:
– if the player is already off the field of play and commits the offense play is restarted with a dropped ball• from the position in which the ball was located 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
– if the player leaves the field of play to commit the offense, play is restarted with an indirect free kick from the position in which the ball was located when play was stopped (see Law 13 — Position of Free Kick)
• If the ball is in play and a player commits an the offense inside the field of play
– against an opponent, play is restarted with a direct free kick from the position where the offense occurred (see Law 13 — Position of Free Kick) or a penalty kick (if inside the offending player’s own penalty area)
//rest deleted as not germane//


In a soccer game a player deliberately used his knee to pass the ball to the goalkeeper. The goalkeeper then picked the ball up with his hands. Does this count as a pass-back to the keeper?

What part of the body can a player use to send the ball to his/her goalkeeper and have the keeper pick it up with his/her hands? Or maybe I should ask what part of the body can’t a player use to pass the ball to the keeper if the keeper intends to pick it up?

USSF answer (November 12, 2010):
The Law is pretty clear. See the back of the Law book 2010/2011, Interpretations, Cautions for unsporting behavior:

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

Even with that information, we would be remiss if we did not point out that, subject to the terms of Law 12, a player MAY pass the ball to his (or her) own goalkeeper using his head or chest or knee, etc., if he does NOT use trickery. Furthermore, just to lock it down tightly, for the misconduct offense to be called the referee must decide that the action was done to circumvent the Law.  Merely observing that the ball was played from foot to head is not enough, even if the ball subsequently goes to or toward the GK.  Because we are dealing with misconduct here (the “trickery”) and not the foul commonly referred to as “pass back to the ‘keeper,” we are required to evaluate the intentions of the defender.

In such circumstances, it is irrelevant whether the goalkeeper subsequently touches the ball with his hands or not. The offense is committed by the player in attempting to circumvent both the letter and the spirit of Law 12.…


I play for a U19 girls soccer team, and we played a game today that many of our fans, coach, and players felt that it was an unfairly reffed game. The team we played for had a referee that additionally works at that teams club. I’m not positive because I was pretty sure that you can not ref a game for a club you work for…that would be an unfair bias. He additionally called about 11 obstruction calls on our team whenever we got within the 18 yrd box of the opposing team(the club he works for team) If I am mistaken again but I thought obstruction would be typically called on the defending team.

We also got called for an obstruction call on the goalie when a teammate of mine stood in front of the goalie on a corner(not even touching her) We got called for another on a girl who did not have the ball yet and then once on our own 8 yrd line our defending player got called for obstruction for playing typical defense on a corner….what exactly is this obstruction rule and why is it being used, I have never heard this rule in my life but once? Lastly I would like to know if there is a way to report a referee somehow, because I think he should not be allowed to ref for a club team for the club he works for.

USSF answer (October 17, 2010):
If you have problems with a referee, then the best thing to do is to submit a report to the competition authority (the league, cup, tournament, etc.) that is responsible for the game. You will also want to send a copy of that report to the state referee authorities in your state.

In general, refereeing a game in which you have a vested interest in a team (such as working for that team or club) is considered to be a conflict of interest. In such a case, you can also file a complaint with the state soccer association responsible for that particular competition. Look on the U. S.Soccer website for Federation Policies, in particular Policy 531-10 — Misconduct of Game Officials, Section 2, Procedures. You can find the Federation’s Bylaws and Policies (and Amendments to the Policies) at this URL: .

There is no such foul as “obstruction,” although there was such a foul until the major editing of the Laws in 1997. It would appear that the “referee” for your game has not read the Laws of the Game since 1996. Either that or he (a) paid no attention in training classes or (b) is not a referee at all.

“Obstruction” became “impeding the progress of an opponent” in 1997. impeding the progress of an opponent is defined in the Laws of the Game: “Impeding the progress of an opponent means moving into the path of the opponent to obstruct, block, slow down or force a change of direction by an opponent when the ball is not within playing distance of either player.” It is punished by an indirect free kick for the opposing team. In addition, “It is an offense to restrict the movement of the goalkeeper by unfairly impeding him, e. g. at the taking of a corner kick.” In either case, if contact is initiated by the impeding player, this is considered to be the direct free kick foul of holding.…


I have pounded over tons of site to try to figure out the off sides rule on “gaining an advantage by being in that position”.

When is that position determined? At time of the offenses last attack, on the rebound from the defender, on the rebound from the goal post. I understand if the offensive player is in an offside position at the time of their teammates playing the ball and it rebounds they are offside if they play the ball.

I don’t know how many times I have seen the following scenario. Ball is played by the offense with everyone onside and no player offside, ball rebound (off the goalpost, defender) at the time of the rebound one or more offense players are between the second defender and goalie. Sometimes I see no offside called sometimes I see the offside called. I have heard AR’s explain to other people it hit the goalpost or it came off the goalie.

If the rule is where the players are at when the ball is struck by the offense what is the purpose of the “gaining an advantage by being in that position” even being said.

USSF answer (September 17, 2010):
The rule is that the offside infringements are punished at the place where the player in the offside position was when his teammate played the ball.

You will find the following guidance in the Interpretations of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees in the Laws of the Game 2010/2011:

In the context of Law 11 — Offside, the following definitions apply:
• “nearer to his opponents’ goal line” means that any part of a player’s head, body or feet is nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second last opponent. The arms are not included in this definition
• “interfering with play” means playing or touching the ball passed or touched by a teammate
• “interfering with an opponent” means preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or movements or making a gesture or movement which, in the opinion of the referee, deceives or distracts an opponent
• “gaining an advantage by being in that position” means playing a ball that rebounds to him off a goalpost or the crossbar having been in an offside position or playing a ball that rebounds to him off an opponent having been in an offside position

When an offside offense occurs, the referee awards an indirect free kick to be taken from the position of the offending player when the ball was last played to him by one of his teammates.

We hope this is helpful. As to what and when it is called, we cannot guarantee that referees will always get the call right.…