Dismissing a Team Official

Gareth, a U-13 – U19 player, asks:

What happens if a coach has been ejected and asked to leave the field of play but does not go far enough to be out of sight and sound? If the same person returns to the field after regulation time to instruct players, what is the next action to be taken?


First, if a team official (e.g., coach) has been dismissed from the field, the game should not be restarted until and unless the referee is satisfied that the dismissed team official is in fact “out of sight and sound.”

Second, if a dismissed team official reappears in “sight and sound” at any time prior to the end of the match, play should be stopped again, the team official removed again, and the match only then restarted.  Although not a “rule” regarding team official dismissal, we would recommend terminating the match if the dismissed team official reappears a second time.  The reappearance should be included in the match report.

Third, depending on the local rules, the formal dismissal lasts only until after the game is over.  Once it is over, the referee’s authority over the dismissed person ends but, even after the match ends and while the referee is still in the area of the field, any further irresponsible behavior from the same person should be included in the game report.…

Recalcitrant Coaches

A HS/College Referee asks:

I was officiating a U15G game. Before the game even started, I and my ARs took our positions on the field. I blew my whistle to get the teams to take the field. The Home team came right out and took their side of the field. The Visiting Team stood on the sideline listening to their coach give last minute instructions. I proceeded to wait another 15-20 seconds (to let him complete his instruction) then I blew my whistle a second time … no response. I then waited another 15-20 seconds and whistled a third time and stated loudly and within 10 yards of the team “Coach, let’s get your team on the field” … still no response. I then stepped closer and said “Coach, let’s go,” but he stuck his head up and stated “What???” I said “Let’s go” … but he proceeded to keep coaching. I said “Coach, you have a warning.  Let’s get them on the field” but again only “What??” I gave him a yellow card for dissent.  Is this the correct procedure, or is this a delay of game?


First off, any answer to this has to depend on a critical issue — namely, who or what was the competition authority?  In other words, (a) what set of rules were you under and (b) did those rules involve any local exceptions?  We ask because, although none of the standard rule sets (IFAB, HFHS, NCAA) has an explicit rule or ruling pertaining to a team failing to take to the field when requested by the referee, each rule set provides different tools the referee can use in such a case.  Moreover, specifically with respect to IFAB’s Laws of the Game as practiced in the US, many local competitions (leagues, tournaments, etc.) have special rules which can and do provide recourse.  Indeed, we are not familiar with a single tournament in this country which does have some sort of unyielding mandate to start and stay on time.

For example, many youth and adult amateur leagues around the US require that a game must start on the scheduled time and that, if a team does not or cannot field at least the minimum number of players at the scheduled time (or within some certain number of minutes thereafter), the referee is authorized either to consider the match as forfeited then and there or to go ahead and start the clock (this would apply to any period of play, not just the starting period) until some point is reached after which the match is considered abandoned by the players.  This can cover not only situations in which a team doesn’t have enough players present to start and either knows no more will appear or is waiting to see if more will appear.  This would also cover the situation you describe where a team refuses to take the field when required (which can also happen at any stoppage — a coach might decide to withdraw his or her team due to disagreement with circumstances or some specific decision with which the coach vehemently disagrees).

So, we cannot answer the core question without knowing the rules applied to the game.  And, if there are such rules, our answer would have to be, first, know what they are ahead of taking the assignment and, second, simply and faithfully follow them.  You might even engage the coach of the team which is ready to play in an effort to advise the visiting team of these rules.  However, if there are no local or competition-specific rules pertaining the scenario, we suggest you look to common sense and what you would do if, at the scheduled time, there was only one team present.  How long would you wait?  What reasonably could you do to ascertain the circumstances for the absence?  If this involved the very beginning of the match, could you adjust the length of the periods of play to accommodate the delay?  Are there following games which would be adversely affected by the delay?  Is it late enough in the day that the delay could result in unsafe lighting?

There is another approach that might be considered.  Even though the opposing team in your scenario is there, technically they are not “there” because “there” is defined as “on the field of play” and, as long as they are not, they are in effect not there at all.  This means that they are subject to any requirement that a game start on time or at least within some specified grace period … and that might become the most potent item of information you could bring to the attention of the recalcitrant coach.  “Coach, the game must begin in [x] minutes.  At exactly that time, I will whistle to start play, note the absence of the minimum number of opposing team players on the field, terminate the match according to Law 3.1, and include full details in my report to [the competition authority].”  Nothing needs to, nor should be, added to this little speech.  Then follow through.  Period.

By the way, don’t even consider formally cautioning the coach in this scenario.  First, it is not permitted under the Laws of the Game.  Second, it will only step on the tail of the dragon.…


Goal is scored in the closing seconds of the game. Referee sets up with a restart and blows the whistle for the match ending. As a referee exits the field the losing coach complains that that goal was scored after time had run out. The referee confers with this ARs and decide that he did play more than the allotted time.

Question is once a referee signals the end of the game, can he change facts.

Answer (March 30, 2014)
No, the referee cannot change the facts of the Game or his decisions once the game has been terminated (declared over). Law 5 is quite clear on this matter. Under Decisions of the Referee, the Law states:
The referee may only change a decision on realising that it is incorrect or, at his discretion, on the advice of an assistant referee or the fourth official, provided that he has not restarted play or terminated the match.…


Not to reopen a can of worms but I had one question with regard to an offsides infraction.

Strictly interpreting law 11, it seems possible that an attacking player can be in an offsides position on the opponents half of the field, and an offsides infraction can occur if he/she receives a pass (across the halfway line) from a teammate. I’ve never seen this penalty called and been told by several coaches that it is not a violation.

How should referees interpret this situation?

Answer (March 22, 2014):
Coaches are not the best source for information about offside or any other infringements of the Laws. Yes, a player who is in an offside position at the moment the ball is played by his/her teammate and then receives that ball is indeed considered to be offside. It makes no difference if the teammate who played the ball to the player in the offside position was in his/her own half or in the opponents’ half of the field. It also makes no difference if the player in the offside position returns from the offside position to his/her own half to receive the ball. It’s still offside. The indirect free kick is given at the place here the player was when the teammate played the ball.…


A coach I know recently thought up a strategy for giving his team an advantge that should win if the game goes to penalty kicks in the very final game of a tournament. Theory goes like this, after the initial five pk takers are designated and before the first player on his team, who is his best penalty taker, takes the pk, he will have every one of the 10 remaining players eligible to take penalties step up to the official and insult him sufficiently to be red carded and dismissed from the game. This will insure that his best penalty taker will take all of the pks while the other team will have their lesser skilled players taking kicks.

What would you do as it seems to be perfectly suited to exploit the reduce to equate as currently practiced?

I could only state that while technically accurate and seemingly legal, I would disqualify his team for prolonged and repeated infraction of the laws.

Answer (July 13, 2012):
We have seen similar questions in the past (e.g., the coach simply declared these players “unable to play” due to injuries or whatever) but the principle is the same: There are things that can happen on a soccer match which are “wrong” (against the Spirit of the Laws), but over which we have no authority to fashion a correction. Another example would be the situation that occurred in Asia some years ago where one team TRIED to lose by scoring against itself and then the other team, because of what such an outcome would mean (it had to do I think with determining a field site for the next round of competition), began matching the opposing team’s goal for goal by doing the same thing. The referee does not have the authority to prevent this. In fact, the referee cannot make anyone play nor force any substitution.

Accordingly, the coach’s ploy will succeed and his team will be reduced to 1 player. However, (1) the opposing coach could do the same (or have the other ten players become injured and unable to participate in the kicks) and then ultimately there would be Kicks done 1 v. 1 (with the nonkicking player serving as the goalkeeper); and/or (2) the Kicks could proceed with 11 v. 1, but the ploy could backfire since the one player would have to kick each time against a new and fresh opposing kicker; and (3) the referee would include full details (facts and reasonable inferences from those facts) in his game report (which is what the referee in the Asian game did) and let the competition authority decide if the behavior of the team should be allowed — the action was not upheld in the Asian case, and there were fines and/or suspensions involved.

And lest we forget, under the Laws of the Game kickers are never “designated” nor put on a checklist for the referee. Players go to take the kick as a slot is available.…


In a U10 Premier Boys game a defender stood in the goal behind the goal line at the far post on a corner kick. This team did this on every corner kick. On one of the corner kicks the goalie when up to catch the ball but dropped it into the field of play and a attacker kicked the ball to the post where the defender was standing behind the goal line. The ball struck the defender right at the goal line (The ball never complete crossed the goal line so no goal was scored) The referee allowed play to continue with no call.

My question is should this have not been deliberately leaving the field of play without the referee’s permission by the defender that left the field? Advice to referees on the laws of the game 3.9 say about accidentally passes over in the course of possession of or contesting for the ball. It looks to me that this team was using the tactic of standing in the goal area to have more time to react to a play.

What should have been the correct call.

USSF answer (March 21, 2012):
Players are not supposed to leave the field of play at a restart without the permission of the referee, other than to fetch the ball and to take the kick or the throw-in. That applies to defenders as well as the restarting team. In your scenario, if any part of the player inside the goal breaks the vertical plane of the goal line, then that player is still in and on the field of play.

If the referee knows for certain that the player has left the entire field of play (confirmed by the AR), then the player should be cautioned.…


Question 1:
In the first 10 minutes of a U-12 Girls D-1 game, Orange Attacker collides with Blue Keeper. The Orange attacker gets up, but Blue Keeper stays face-down and motionless. The ball spins out of the penalty area toward the touchline when Orange Attacker 2 gathers the ball — completely unopposed. Both teams call for Orange Attacker 2 to kick it out because Blue Keeper is down. Orange Attacker 2 does kick it out.

When the ball is officially out of play, the “injured” blue keeper pops up – smiling. She was “hobbling” a little, but she was perfectly fine after she rubbed her leg a little.

In reflection of this incident, I SHOULD have cautioned Blue Keeper (unsporting behavior) for faking an injury to gain an advantage. I did not give her a YELLOW since I wanted to give her the “benefit of the doubt.”

If the card is issued, What is the re-start? Throw-in for the Blue Keeper’s team or Indirect Free kick (inside the penalty area) for Orange Attacker 1’s team?

Question #2:
At the end of the half in a different U-12 Girls D-1 game, there was a large melee in from of the goal. Time expired in the half PRIOR to the ball entering the goal, but before I could blow the whistle due to it slipping out of my hand at the crucial moment it should have been blown. I disallowed the goal as it was after I was aware the half had ended.

Obviously, the attacking coach told me that play continued until I actually blew the whistle and the goal should count. I told him, the half is over when the center referee is AWARE that time has expired, even if the whistle is NOT blown at all! I also told him the whistle has no official meaning under the laws of the game, but is simply a device officials use to get the attention of the players.

Should the goal have been awarded?

USSF answer (November 17, 2011):
Answer 1: The restart is governed by the reason the ball was out of play (if not stopped by the referee for some other reason). In this case, the correct reason is (apparently) a throw-in, after the referee has issued the caution for unsporting behavior to the goalkeeper (if it is deserved). If the referee did not feel that the goalkeeper’s injury was serious, then there was no reason for the teams to take action on their own to stop play. The referee should instruct the players to leave decision of this nature up to the referee and not take the law into their own feet.

Answer 2: Your decision was correct: no goal. As we constantly remind people, coaches will always attempt to influence your calls. Pay them no mind and call the game as you have been taught to call it.

In addition, your statement about the whistle is not strictly true and could even be confusing. A whistle is required for every ceremonial restart; without it, the restart is not authorized and must be retaken. In such cases, it is NOT merely to gain the attention of players.…


Hi: I am a Boys U-12 coach and also an intermediate referee. I think the following is appropriate and I see no rule against it. But I need an opinion.

My team is names AC Milan. Throughout the game I usually scream “who are we?” My team on the field respond, “AC Milan”. I use this as a way to motivate my kids. Also to make sure we are a team. I do this every once in a while throughout the game.Not specifically when we score.

This is ok to do, correct?

USSF answer (October 21, 2011):
It is okay only if the referee on the game does not view it as an attempt to intimidate and/or distract the opponents. If he or she detects either intimidation or distraction, then the players doing the responses on the field could be cautioned for unsporting behavior and you, the coach, could be removed from the game (expelled) for irresponsible behavior. The referee must judge the appropriateness of both the WHEN and the WHY of the coach’s and players’ actions.…


A forward with the BLUE team gets a run and loses the ball to the last defender for RED team. The BLUE forward is now in offisde position as the last RED defender attempts to clear the ball forward. When the ball is cleared by the last RED defender, it deflects on another RED player’s face and sends the ball directly to the BLUE forward, still in an offside position behind the last RED defender. Is this offside penalty enforced?

USSF answer (September 28, 2011):
No, the offside should not be called, as the requirements of Law 11 have not been met: the Blue player was the last member of his team to touch, play, or make contact with the ball. The Law requires that the player be in an offside position when his teammate plays the ball; that was not the case here.…


A team chooses to play a game with the minimum # of players, but have an injured player on the bench. The team then gets a red card putting them under the minimum requirement to play, however they elect to sub in the injured player to maintain the minimum requirements on the field because there is only a couple minutes left in the game–are they allowed to use that player to maintain the minimum and continue the game?

USSF answer (September 7, 2011):
Unless having had a player sent off actually created the situation, there is nothing in the Laws of the Game to forbid a team that has been playing under strength — for whatever strange reason — to augment its numbers to a greater (but still within the number established by Law 3 or the rules of the competition) by inserting a substitute already listed on the roster (if rosters are required in this competition), not as a replacement for the red carded player, but to augment an understrength team. The only problem in this scenario might be the ability of the “injured” substitute to play.…