In a game i played in today the referee sent off the opposition goalkeeper for picking up a back pass and i was just wondering if there are any examples of this happening before and if the referee was right to do so? The situation the ball was kicked long the defender misread the ball and turned at full stretch he tackled the striker the ball rolled to the keeper who under pressure from another striker shutting him down picked up the ball. The referee then decided to send the goalkeeper off for denying a goal scoring opportunity and gave a indirect free kick was he right to do so? thanks harry.

USSF answer (November 28, 2011):
The referee was wrong to send off the goalkeeper in at least two ways: (1) by kicking the ball away from the opposing player, the defender was not kicking the ball to the goalkeeper, he was simply clearing it and it happened to go to the goalkeeper; (2) the goalkeeper may not and cannot be sent off for denying a goal or a goalscoring opportunity by handling the ball in his penalty; that is stated specifically in Law 12.…


I dont ref all that often, but when I do ….

Attacking team kicks the ball out over the goal line. Player from the attacking team goes off the field, is right next to the ball, but does not retrieve the ball. I actually did think about carding this young lady for Unsporting behavior?

To paint the picture, she was right there, but, in the opinion of this referee, deliberately did not make any effort to gather the ball back for the defending team to take the goal kick.

Also, got me thinking about this case, which DID NOT actually happen today, but …

Defending team kicks ball out over the goal line. Player from the defending team retrieves the ball, sends it to the corner. Attacking team takes the kick before said defending player – oh lets say it is the goal keeper – is back in position. Unsporting behavior?

By the way, when I coached, I did tell my players to never retrieve a ball for the other team ….

USSF answer (November 24, 2011):
As we all know from experience, no coach will ever tell his or her players to provide any sort of aid to the opposing team’s players.

It is certainly common courtesy for a player to retrieve the ball if he or she is near it, but there is no requirement that the team that put the ball out of play must retrieve it. Just as in the case of the referee waiting until a substitute reaches his or her proper playing position for the restart, it is also traditional that the team with the restart wait until the opponent who retrieved the ball has returned to a proper playing position. The referee must be proactive and stop the restart if the team is unsporting enough not to wait for that player. However, it is not illegal if the player takes the corner kick before the goalkeeper returns to the field — provided that the goalkeeper was not the player who retrieved the ball.…


The first I cannot figure out after reviewing the LOTG etc. and asking fellow referees their opinions. It has to do with equipment. Team A was at the 18 yrd line with the ball. Defender from team B won the ball and passed it 10 yrds forward to another teammate. A player from team A ran toward him and in the process his boot came off. The team A player caught the team B player gaining control of the ball. I whistled for a foul and awarded the B team an indirect kick as Player A was not in uniform. I read something about a dropped ball being called but I would guess that would be rewarding the A team. Anyway, I am not sure what to do and seek your guidance.

The second has to do with kicking the ball back to the GK. I was told by one of our senior referees that we cannot read the field players mind when the ball is kicked to the GK, intentional or not and should award an IFK when if occurs unless it is so obvious that there was no intent. For example, the player kicks the ball into the wind and it blows back to the GK who grabs it. I was the center at a u14 game.

The ball was in the middle of the penalty area.

the defender ran and took a mighty kick at the ball which glanced off the foot and rolled towad the GK who picked it up. I did not award an IFK causing dismay in one of the opposing players who questioned me about it. What is the proper interpretation of the pass back rule regarding intent?

USSF answer (November 24, 2011):
1. A player is expected to replace his footwear as quickly as possible if it comes off during play, but that does not mean that he has to do it immediately. You would have been wrong to caution this player for misconduct; there was no foul committed in the scenario you present, so no kick was necessary. You should have started with a dropped ball (for stopping play incorrectly) and apologized to all concerned

2. The referee should not be looking for fouls to call when none occurs. You would have been mistaken in punishing the goalkeeper for his teammate’s misplayed ball. The ball was truly deliberately kicked, part of the foul, but it was not sent to any place where the goalkeeper could play it; that was pure happenstance, not a foul. Furthermore, the teammate kicking the ball in this sort of scenario is NEVER the one who commits the foul. The foul — if it exists at all — is committed by the goalkeeper if he chooses to use his hands instead of some other part of his body.…


As a referee, I have always been told that the lines on a field are part of the area of which they “contain”. However, this seems to be in conflict with the law regarding throw-ins and the placement of the feet of the individual taking the throw-in along the touchline.

I recently had a game in which I had to explain the lines are part of the area of which they contain and he brought up the fact that on a throw-in as long as both feet are touching the touchline in some form that the throw-in is considered legal. However he then pointed out that by my description, would not that be illegal since in a throw-in the player must take the throw-in from outside of the field of play, however the line is considered in play?

The only reasoning I can come up with for this is that at its most basic form the throw-in is a method of restarting the match and thus follows a slightly different set of circumstances or rules than normal course of play.

But is there any further reasoning as to why a player is allowed to be completely in the field of play when taking a throw-in (in the case where they keep both heels on the inside edge of the touchline) and yet the throw-in is technically taken to put the ball back in to play?

USSF answer (November 24, 2011):
The answer to your question lies in applying Laws 1 and 15 as they are written, not in finding reasons to doubt them. “He,” whoever “he” may be, was totally wrong in suggesting that having one’s feet on the line had anything to do with a dichotomy in the Laws. Your original understanding is correct. Your interlocutor is talking apples and applesauce, two different things, and creating his own muddled version of the Laws.

Law 1:
Field Markings
The field of play must be rectangular and marked with lines. These lines belong to the areas of which they are boundaries.

Law 15:
At the moment of delivering the ball, the thrower:
* faces the field of play
* has part of each foot either on the touch line or on the ground outside the touch line

This is the Law and it is also tradition. Where the Law is clear, follow the Law; where it is not, do the best you can (including applying logic).…


Having a debate here about definition of ‘delay of game’.

On a kick-off from the half line, after a goal, or starting a game, if a team does an improper kick-off (i.e. ball does not move forward, and cross over the half line) several times, is this delay of game? I have seen teams do this in the past. I would allow this twice, then give an IDFK to the opposite team. I was recently told by a senior official that this is not a delay of game and not IDFK. Well, if so, what do you do about it?

USSF answer (November 17, 2011):
The tactic you describe could be considered to be delaying the restart of play. A number of examples are given in the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game”:

The following are specific examples of this form of misconduct (some of which may also be committed by substitutes):

• Kicks or throws the ball away or holds the ball to prevent or delay a free kick, throw-in, or corner kick restart by an opponent

• Fails to restart play after being so instructed by the referee

• Excessively celebrates a goal

• Fails to return to the field from a midgame break, fails to perform a kick-off when signaled by the referee, or fails to be in a correct position for a kick-off

• Performing a throw-in improperly with the apparent intention of being required to perform the throw-in again, thus wasting time

• Unnecessarily moving a ball which has already been properly placed on the ground for a goal kick

• Provokes a confrontation by deliberately touching the ball after the referee has stopped play

Because the ball was out of play at the delay, the restart after any caution in this case would still be the kick-off.…


Blue player takes a shot with everyone onside. Ball hits crossbar and lands at the feet of another blue player who went to play rebound. there was no defensive player between him and goalie and the ref blew whistle and called offside. Is this a true offside??

USSF answer (November 15, 2011):
In order to be declared offside, a player must be in an offside position and actively involved in play when a teammate plays the ball. That did not happen in this case. If any member of the blue team had played the ball legally into the goal then a goal should have been scored. It appears that your referee has an overactive imagination and a less than desirable knowledge of the Laws.…


It’s very near the end of the game and Team A is losing to Team B.

Team A has a throw-in near the benches and is pressing very hard to equalize the score. As Team A’s player begins to take the throw-in Team B’s substitute goalkeeper, sitting on the bench, throws another ball into the field to prevent the restart.

The referee correctly identifies the goalkeeper, shows the red card, and sends him off for the misconduct. Now here’s the issue.

Some referees are opining that a substitute is considered “bench personnel” while at the bench. Therefore, the match report should say the GK is sent off for “irresponsible behavior.”

I argue that a substitute is a substitute, not bench personnel. As such the substitute GK can only be sent off for one of the seven reasons stated in Law 12 — and “irresponsible behavior” is not one of them.

Your response?

USSF answer (November 6, 2011):
Neither the substitute goalkeeper nor any other player may be sent off for the offense of “irresponsible behavior.” He may only be cautioned for unsporting behavior, unless something else occurs during the period following the initial cautionable misconduct of throwing the extra ball onto the field.

This was made clear in a position paper of March 22, 2006, on “Management of Behavior in the Technical Area.” The pertinent quote from that paper Is:
“,. . . in match conditions where spectators are not allowed near the immediate area of the field (for example, restricting spectators to stadium seats or behind barriers), the persons allowed in or near the field are strictly limited to players, substitutes, and team officials. For purposes of this memorandum, anyone officially allowed in the technical area who is not a rostered player or substitute (or substituted player) is a team official.”

Thus, no player (including substitutes and substituted players) may be sent off for “irresponsible behavior.” Such persons are not “bench personnel” and are thus not subject to the same treatment as team officials (coaches, trainers, medical personnel, etc.). Players (including substitutes and substituted players) may be sent off only for one of the seven reasons listed in Law 12, which covers players, etc:…


I was reffing a recreational league the other day when something incredible happened that took me by surprise. The Blue attacker and Red defender were running after the ball and into the pk box, they were both legally shoulder charging each other, I was about 5 feet from the play (very close to miss) and saw the Red defender stumble (never fouled) and tumbled ahead of Blue attacker, when the Blue attacker jumped over the tumbling Red defender to get to the ball,The defender stretched his legs up deliberately and fouled the Blue attacker. I called the pk (no doubt) and proceeded to yellow card Red defender and red card him (second yellow). Blue attacker refused to take the pk stating he had committed the foul against Red defender instead of the other way around and his teammates retrieved along side him. I had never encountered this situation and proceeded to call back the ejected Red defender back and explained the strange situation and allowed him back in the game and let the Red team take an indirect kick from the place the Red defender had stumbled and fallen. Red and Blue are also friends, which has nothing to do with the game, but I suspect friendship had something to do with Blue’s decision to avoid getting his friend (Red) ejected. How should I have handled this situation better.

USSF answer (October 24, 2011):
The referee is certainly allowed to change a decision, even the awarding of a send-off (red card) if he does so before the next restart, but he needs to have an extremely good reason to do so. The referee also needs to stand by a decision to award a penalty kick if the foul occurred in the perpetrator’s penalty area and was clearly a direct-free kick foul, no matter that the player who was fouled objects.

If the player who was fouled does not wish to take the penalty kick, life is hard. In that case, another member of his team must take the penalty kick. If no one cares to take the penalty kick, then the game is abandoned and the referee submits full details of the reason in his report to the competition authority.…


I hope a dead horse but here goes anyway:

The ball is loose just outside of top of the penalty area, say in the D. And suppose that the ball isn’t moving at all. An attacker is running onto the ball and the only defender, say the keeper runs out and picks up ball outside the penalty area. Can the referee send the keeper off if the referee deems that this action denied an obvious goal scoring OPPORTUNITY?

USSF answer (October 3, 2011):
In the scenario you present, the deliberate handling by the goalkeeper outside his own penalty area, no obvious goalscoring opportunity has been denied. There is no evidence that, but for the handling by the goalkeeper, the ball would have gone into the goal. The horse is dead. Long live the horse.…


In a high school varsity game played under USSF rules (as opposed to NHSF) the attacking team plays a ball that rolls into the penalty area and is picked up by the goalie. After the goalie has possession, a defender running with the attacker chasing the ball plays the body and bumps the attacker in a significant manner. The referee (I was the AR) gave the defender a caution for UB, and then allowed the goalie to punt to continue play.

We discussed after the game as to whether, after the caution, he should have awarded the attacking team a penalty kick, an indirect free kick from the spot of the contact, or whether letting the goalie punt was appropriate.

We’d appreciate your feedback.

USSF answer (September 20, 2011):
If there was no injury or immediate exhibition of ill-feeling and the referee invoked the advantage clause and then cautioned the defending player at the next stoppage, that would be legitimate and proper. However, in this case, the referee did not stop play and appears to have cautioned the attacker “on the fly,” not something that is in accordance with the Laws of the Game. This shows either ignorance of the Law or willful disregard of the Law by the referee.

The correct course of action would have been to play the advantage and then, at the next stoppage, to caution the defending player for unsporting behavior.…