When does the jurisdiction of the referee end?

A U13 game held in the snow/freezing rain. Coach believes game should not be played due to the age of the players/weather/field conditions. First half gets completed when the referee decides to call the game. Final whistle has blown, players are leaving/have left the field. The coach decides to let the referee know that he felt it was inappropriate to even start the game. Referee red cards the coach for his dissent. Is this allowed?

USSF answer (October 20, 2009):
Only the referee may decide whether a field is playable and whether the game should go on — see Law 5 (The Referee). The coach has no say in the matter. In addition, only the referee knows when the game is over — see Law 7 (Duration of the Game). However, any coach has the option of deciding that, in HIS opinion, the game should not be played and withholding his players from any start or restart.  As a result, the referee would have no option but to abandon the match due to one or both teams having an insufficient number of players on the field.  The coach, of course, runs the risk of the competition authority deciding that he was wrong and awarding a forfeit to the opposing team.

Coaches are never punished for dissent. If coaches perform what would be considered as dissent in a player, they are expelled for behaving irresponsibly. That is, unless the rules of the competition provide for showing the card to a team official.…


In a game recent the opponents other than the goal keeper crossed onto our side of the field. One of our players than moved forward to thier side of the field from our side. Since our player could not be offsides while on our side, and the defenders are not on thier side, is our player than offside because the defense has vacated thier side of the field? If he is offside, then that means that a defense merely needs to move all the way into the opponent area, play thier fastest players and everyone who goes pass them must then be offside?

USSF answer (October 20, 2009):
Of course your red player was in an offside position, but not necessarily offside. For your player to be considered offside, he or she would have to have become involved in play. In any case, the red attacker is absolutely prevented from becoming involved in active play, but every other red player is free to make any play possible for the ball, and any particularly fast red player would have a field day.

Believe us, if the strategy you propose actually worked, teams would use it all the time. Do you ever see it used? No, because it does not work. And there is no such thing as “offsides.”…


I was refereeing a U12 rec game with 2 young AR’s (both were 14 yrs old – one boy & one girl). The girl was on the team side and the boy was on the spectator side during the first half. One of the coaches was constantly calling for offside (the players were in offside positions but were not involved in play – so no call, there was one offside that needed to be called and it was) and he was questioning some out of play calls. The girl AR requested to switch sides at halftime and I allowed it. I didn’t want the coach to start to influence her calls and I though the boy would be better able to handle it. About 10 minutes into the second half, the coach noticed the switch and called me over to complain that it was against the rules. I told him it was a rec league and really didn’t matter since their was nothing in the league rules. Is there any official FIFA rule on this? I checked my books after the game and could not find anything.

USSF answer (September 14, 2009):
Ah, those amazing and inventive coaches! The reason you cannot find any reference to switching the location of your assistant referees is that there is nothing in the Laws about it. Nor is there any position paper about it. There is no need for any rule, as the assistant referees are there to ASSIST the referee, who may ask his or her assistants to work on one side in the first half and on the other in the second half. If the circumstances require it, the referee may switch the ARs’ positions at any time during a period of play.

We cannot stress enough that most coaches know little or nothing about the Laws of the Game and how referees are supposed to work. (Note that this does not apply to all coaches; some, even though not referees themselves, know as much as most referees.) One thing many coaches do very well is how to manage the referees and their assistants. A question here, a niggle there. Anything to make the referee or AR upset and to affect their judgment.

The wise referee will nip this activity in the bud by taking the first opportunity to let the coach know, politely and professionally, of course, that such actions will not be tolerated. What is the consequence to the coach for interfering with the game and the officials? A nice seat well away from the field, out of sight and out of hearing.…



U-16 girls game.  Score is tied 1 – 1.  Substitute player was at the half line ready to sub.  Play rules allow substitution on any dead ball.  Play was stopped for a corner kick.  Referee beckoned the substitute onto the field.  Coach pulled the substitute back and did not send her in for the corner kick.  Second dead ball situation.  The same substitute is at the half line ready to enter the game.  Referee beckoned the same substitute onto the field.  Substitute identified the girl she was replacing and AR1 took her card.  The coach informed AR1 that it was his decision when to sub the player, not the referee’s and that the substitute should wait until he told her to enter the game.  AR1 informed the coach that since she was beckoned onto the field and did not enter the field, she had used her substitution and was no longer allowed to sub in.  Coach became irate.

Correct procedure ??  If not, what should have happened

USSF answer (July 28, 2009):
Once the substitute has reported to the fourth official (or assistant referee if there is no fourth official), only the referee makes the decision as to when the substitute may enter the game.  In no event does the coach have any right to dictate what actions the game officials take.

On the other hand, neither the referee nor the assistant referee has any right to deny the player the right to enter the field because “she had used her substitution.”  (Do we detect someone applying college rules here?)  That is arrogant behavior that is not acceptable under the Laws of the Game.  Game officials should be a proactive as possible, particularly at the youth level.

The referee has every right to expect the substitution to occur once he (or she) has beckoned, but there is no authority in the Law that REQUIRES the substitution — i. e., the substitute could withdraw (after all, he/she cannot enter the field unless and until the player being swapped leaves the field and we all know that the player can lawfully refuse).  However, in such cases, the referee COULD consider this as a time-wasting ploy and treat it accordingly.…


Simple question, do you have to have a goalkeeper to start a game? Or can you use the minimum seven players as on field players.

Why I ask, while watching a game last week, the keeper walked off the field (with permission by the ref) and the team refused to put a keeper in as there was 10 minutes to go. The referee refused to start the match until a keeper was put in. Is this correct?

USSF answer (July 1, 2009):
Simple answer: Yes, each team must have a designated goalkeeper on the field of play for the game to begin. However, that does not require that the goalkeeper be on the field the entire time nor present for every REstart.

While the team is required to have a goalkeeper, there is no requirement that that goalkeeper be on the field nor able to participate in play. (We could point to an October 2004 incident in an English Premier League match between Manchester City and Bolton Wanderers in which the referee allowed the goalkeeper to lie on the ground unattended for well over a minute; the goalkeeper, who had fallen without any contact from either opponent or teammate, finally got up. Luckily for him and his team no goal was scored.)

The Law also allows the goalkeeper (or any other player) to leave the field during the course of play and if, after the restart (typically a throw-in), the goalkeeper has not returned and a goal is scored, life is hard.

While off the field with the permission of the referee, the goalkeeper (like any other player) is still a player for purposes of determining the number of players on the team (the ‘keeper in your scenario remains legally allowed to be on the field, though in this case he requires the referee’s permission to return).  We would consider this as comparable to the decision process the referee must go through if a team has only seven players and one leaves the field:  If the departure is very temporary and in the course of play (no referee permission required to re-enter), play continues.  If the departure is temporary and the player needs the permission of the referee to return, the referee should not restart play until the player has returned with permission. If the player (whether goalkeeper or not) is not ready to return when the restart is able to be taken, why should the game wait for this player? That is not fair to the other team. In the case of a goalkeeper who is not willing to return within a reasonable amount of time, the team should then either substitute in a new goalkeeper or the game would be abandoned and a full report submitted to the competition authority.…


During a referee meeting we had a lengthy discussion about the right of a coach to address, discuss with and question the head referee during a game.

In the opinion of the referee/coach (one party) the coach should be addressed and “catered” to by the head referee when he has an objection. In his logic the reasoning for this is, that FIFA has “invented” the fourth referee and USSF gives the advice (at the higher levels) that the fourth referee is there to be addressed by the coaches if they have any problems. This serves also avoiding any additional aggravation of the coach, if his objections are not taken serious. If there is no fourth referee than the coach has the right to address the referee, discuss and make his objections known. The referee can – if he does not want to discuss- tell the coach to be silent.

In the opinion of the referee / instructor (the other party) the rules and the administrative handbook is very clear about the fact that the coach does not have the right to address, discuss and question with the head referee (or the AR) his concerns, especially during the game. The danger of intimidation and gamesmanship from the side of the coach is big (and with this the “not re-registering” of a lot of young referees). Therefore the only course of action from a referee toward a coach that is questioning, commenting or trying to discuss can be –if the request is friendly- to answer friendly that his calls are not open for discussion. If it gets to or starts at a harder point of discussion, the points warning, caution and send off are in order towards the coach. No discussion at any time during the game.

The factor starting the discussion was a game on the same day where the referee/coach had a player that in his opinion was fouled by the goalkeeper. The referee saw this different and did not call a foul. The player got injured or injured himself. When the coach attended on the field to the injured player and the referee was standing by, he asked him “How can this not be a foul”.

The referee/instructor sees in this a clear violation of the rules by the coach; the referee/coach sees this as his right, especially as the “referee was one with experience and he can defend himself”.

Can you please comment? Thank you very much.

USSF answer (June 23, 2009):
Ah, coaches. Some of them are a pleasure to deal with (the ones who read our Q&As), while others are less aware of what their rights are. The answer? The coach has only two rights once the game begins: (1) to stand in his/her technical area (or team area) and offer advice to his/her team and (2) to set an example of sporting behavior for the players of both teams. And the right to do even those things must be exercised responsibly or the coach will be expelled from the area of the field. The coach has no right to speak to the referee, the assistant referees, or, if there is one, the fourth official, unless invited to do so by the individual concerned.

Referees do not have to defend their decisions to coaches. If the coach has complaints he or she should put them into a report and submit it to the league (or whatever authority governs the competition in which the game is played).

If you want further information on what the fourth official can do, please review to US Soccer’s 2009 directive on managing the technical area. It covers many issues regarding the handling of coaches including “ask, tell, remove.” You will find all the 2009 directives at…


The following happens in a boys U12 game. An attacker is fouled in the box, with a resulting whistle and penalty kick. The fouled attacker is shaken up and, after inspection, the referee signals his coach onto the field to treat him. (Note: there are no doctors or other medical personnel available.)

After a relatively short visit by the coach, the player is up and wants to continue in the game and take the PK. However, the referee tells him (and the coach) that he must temporarily leave the field since the injury required team personnel to be summoned onto the field.

The coach’s position is that the player does not have to leave the field for the following reasons:

1. ATR (Law 5.9) states that: “When the referee has stopped play due solely to the occurrence of a serious injury, the referee must ensure that the injured player is removed from the field….If play is stopped for any other reason, an injured player cannot be required to leave the field.”

The coach maintains that play was stopped for the foul, not for the injury, and that this wording says that the injured player cannot be required to leave the field.

2. The coach is also later directed to the following USSF wording: “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.”

His position is that: (a) “medical personnel” was not summoned onto the field – only a coach; and (b) this is contradictory to the ATR advice in 5.9 that states “if play is stopped for any other reason, an injured player cannot be required to leave the field.”

It would be appreciated if you could respond to this coach’s position.

USSF answer (May 12, 2009):
Basic rule of soccer: Coaches will try in every possible way to divert your thinking from the true path. Do not let this happen!

There is no basis in what the coach says, as the player must leave the field in any event, no matter why the game was stopped. What Advice 5.9 says is this: “Players who are injured are required to leave the field under either of two conditions: The referee has stopped play due solely to the occurrence of a serious injury or the referee signals approval for anyone (team official, medical personnel, etc.) to enter the field to attend to an injury (regardless of whether that person enters to assist or not and regardless of why play was stopped).”

The USSF position paper on “Handling Injuries,” dated October 12, 2007, states: “‘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.”

Basic answer: If there no “medical personnel” available at the game and someone, anyone, is called into the field to attend to an injury, the player must leave the field. It makes no difference if it is the coach, Mom or Dad, or a passing stranger: The player MUST leave the field.

And when play is restarted, after the player has left the field, the referee must blow the whistle.…


I had the distinct pleasure of working with our up and coming youth officials as an AR in a U12B game. I sincerely hope that the coach/referee reads this site and you feel it is pertinent enough to post the question and supply the answer.
It was a tournament game with games back to back. The referee and AR were fairly new so they only had the yellow shirt. The coach of the yellow team (solid yellow jerseys), 3 minutes before game time (when we had been there inspecting the nets/players for a few minutes) introduced himself to the referee and demanded that the crew change jerseys because of the confusion it has caused all tournament and season, for that matter. He claimed that he, too, was a registered official and had all the secondary colored referee jerseys in case of conflict. The young referee stated that he did not have an alternate color jersey nor was it practical to run back to the referee tent (far far away) and try to find someone who could loan us two shirts because the games had to run on time. We did a check of both teams while they were warming up but they had on black warm ups so we did not assume that they would have yellow jerseys. It was our error that we did not ask t o! see the color of the uniforms. But, the stripes in our shirts clearly delineated us from the team and has done so in the past when there was a “conflict”. The coach went ballistic and claimed that since we were all professionals, we were required to have alternate colors. He said that, despite the two officials being young that all officials were required to have alternate jerseys!! He yelled at me (because I have all the gold on my badge, I guess) and said that there had to be five distinct colors on the field. We resolved it because we found 3 pennies to wear so, that indeed, gave us five distinct colors. The game started on time.
At half time, the coach substituted his goalkeeper. The new goalkeeper had a jersey the same color as the opponents. I called it to the referee’s attention before the second half began. The coach was livid! He claimed that he did not have another jersey because the previous goalkeeper did not want to loan his jersey to the replacement. He was gently reminded that there needed to be five distinct colors on the field. He huffed and puffed and threatened to file a complaint about our being “unreasonable” and overstepping our authority. We did not start the second half until he satisfied the color requirement. The next tournament game on our field started on time.
Question: What are the requirements for youth officials regarding alternate jerseys? They are local officials and there are no yellow teams in our area. Parents are very upset at the start up costs for just the starter kit and are reluctant to put out anymore money because it is not clear which alternate jersey to buy since you would conflict with most teams, anyway.
Oh, the yellow team lost the game and apparently had a losing tournament.

USSF answer (May 7, 2009):

As a referee, the coach should KNOW that the Law requires the teams to change so as not to conflict with the referees. (After all, who started wearing black jerseys and thus took away what used to be “the referee color”?)

Referees, particularly at the beginning of their career, are required to have only a gold jersey. If they can afford to buy more colors, good for them, but they do not have to. It was very kind of your crew to find some pinnies to borrow and thus do the yellow team a major favor. The referee on your game would have been justified in requiring the yellow team to change its jerseys. And the referee was also justified in insisting that the goalkeeper change, if only because the coach/referee was a pain.

There are times when the goalkeepers may wear the same color as one another, but they must make every effort to wear a different color than the opposing team’s field players.…


Picture this! Last minute of play, Team A is losing 2-1 and is awarded a Corner Kick. The keeper from Team A runs up field to participate in the Corner Kick, leaving 1 defender and 1 attacker (Team B) behind. Corner is taken and Team B defense clears the ball all the way to the other half of the field where the lone attacker (B) was next to the defender(A). The AR promptly signals the attacker for Offside as he made a play for the ball. Team B players and Coach of course, were upset with the referee claiming that there should’ve never been a Offside called because the keeper (A) being up field, put the attacker (B) in play-negating any offside.

USSF answer (May 4, 2009):
Another case of “inventive” coaches and players. We all know that a player on the team attacking the opposing team’s goal may be no nearer that goal than either the ball or at least two opposing players to avoid being in an offside position. There is no requirement that the goalkeeper must be one of those two players.

According to your description, there was only a single defender anywhere near the attacking player (Team B), so the attacking player was clearly in an offside position and must be declared offside if he becomes involved by making a play for the ball. Correct decision: Offside for interfering with play.…


On the occasion of a goal kick from Team A the coach is instructing his outside mid-fielders to step off the pitch about 1/3 of the way down, proceed in the direction of the kick while still outside the pitch then enter the pitch to make the play. It took me awhile to realize what was going on. After the game I asked the referee if this was leaving the field without permission and she agreed that they weren’t leaving the field to play the ball as allowed. Also note that the player was not reentering the field at the point at which they left. I also contend that this was done to deceive and thus would be considered unsporting behavior.

USSF answer (April 30, 2009):
Players are allowed to leave the field without permission only during the course of play — to avoid obstacles, such as an opponent, and to play the ball in the possession of an opponent on the line.

Players are not otherwise allowed to leave the field of play without specific permission of the referee. Doing so and then re-entering without permission is at least a cautionable offense.

This has nothing to do with trickery or deception. It is, plain and simple, the offense of leaving the field without permission, an act of misconduct in itself.…