Advice – dealing with Appurtenances – Pre-existing Conditions

Per Advice dealing with appurtenances, 1.8(c) -pre-existing conditions, specifically overhanging trees. We have several venues that have overhanging tree limbs on one end of the field that happens to behind the goal area/line. If the overhanging tree limbs ” do not affect one team or more adversely than the other are considered to be part of the field”. There have been two examples where the attacking team has to take a corner kick and the player taking the kick happens to kick it into the overhanging tree limbs, the referee then told the players that the ball is still in play because it did not leave the field of play. In another example, one team who was attacking their opponent’s goal had their player take a shot on goal, the ball was going over the cross-bar but for the tree limbs, the ball stopped and dropped in front of their opponent’s goalkeeper penalty area and the goal-keeper was able to retrieve the ball, since the ball was still in play, the goalkeeper then was able to punt the ball across the field and their forward was able to score a goal in a matter of seconds. A third example, occurred when the ball was kicked by an attacking team, the goal-keeper was out of position and the ball hit the tree limbs and the ball rolled across the goal-line and underneath the cross bar, thus a goal was scored. In the final example, the attacker took a shot and the ball hit the tree limbs yet the ball was still in play and the team-mate was able to score because the goal-keeper turned one way and the ball fell to the side of him inside of the goal area. In these four examples, how should the referee crew handle these examples. Should they tell the teams ahead of time, should they stop play and do a drop-ball or should the referee say “play-on” and where would play be restarted?

Thank you.

USSF answer (May 26, 2011):
Advice 1.8(c) is pretty clear and we believe it covers your situations fully::

(c) Pre-existing conditions
These are things on or above the field which are not described in Law 1 but are deemed safe and not generally subject to movement. These include trees overhanging the field, wires running above the field, and covers on sprinkling or draining systems. They do not affect one team more adversely than the other and are considered to be a part of the field. If the ball leaves the field after contact with any item considered under the local ground rules of the field to be a pre-existing condition, the restart is in accordance with the Law, based on which team last played the ball. (Check with the competition for any local ground rules.)

Note: The difference between non-regulation appurtenances and pre-existing conditions is that, if the ball makes contact with something like uprights or crossbar superstructure, it is ruled out of play even if the contact results in the ball remaining on the field. Where there is a pre-existing condition (such as an overhanging tree limb), the ball remains in play even if there is contact, as long as the ball itself remains on the field. Referees must be fully aware of and enforce any rules of the competition authority or field owner regarding non-regulation appurtenances.

There is no bias in this guidance toward one team or the other, as each team must play one-half of the game under these conditions.

As the competition appears to play many games at these fields, it would seem that all teams should already be well aware of the conditions before they get to the field. However, the referee could be proactive and remind the teams of the conditions and that the ball will remain in play.

The only permanent solution we can recommend to avoid such events is that the limbs might be lopped off by a trained tree-removal person (with the permission of the landowner, of course).

Finally, let us add that our advice applies only to those portions of the trees that actually overhang the field; not to other portions of the same tree.…


I had a question on what constitutes “superfluous items” on a goal post. I was officiating a game the other weekend when the ball bounced off the wheels attached to the goalposts (these are the movable goals), and in the subsequent play the attacker scored a goal. The defenders said that the ball had hit the wheel (that was attached to the goalpost) and came back unto the field of play. I talked to the AR and after the discussion allowed the goal to stand. At half time we went over to the goal post and put the ball down in front of the wheel and noticed that the wheel was placed in such a way that the ball never left the field of play, that part of the ball was on the goal line.

However, I was just reading the ATR and noticed that 1.7.b noted those items that were “non-regulation apparatus” and if the ball touched these items that the ball should be considered out of play, regardless of the ball rebounding back into the field of play.

The question I have is should I have consider the wheel attached to the goalpost to have been a “non-regulation” apparatus and therefore have waved off the goal?

USSF answer (March 25, 2011):
This answer repeats what we have replied in three earlier answers and in the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game”:

The referee should not have allowed the goal to be used in the first place. An appropriate pregame inspection would have prevented such a thing. Wheeled goals fall under the same category as standard U. S. football goalposts. This is covered in the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game”:

(b) Non-regulation appurtenances (see 1.7)
These include superfluous items attached to the goal frame (such as the uprights on combination soccer/football goals) and not generally subject to movement. If the ball contacts these items, it is deemed to be automatically out of play and the restart is in accordance with the Law, based on which team last played the ball.

The intelligent referee will either not permit equipment that is not in accordance with the Law or be prepared to face the problems that occur. Full details should be included in the match report.

This question emphasizes the importance of a thorough pregame inspection. However, if the referee has inspected the field and determined that the goals or other appurtenances meet the requirements of the Law, then he or she cannot later rule that the equipment is no longer acceptable–unless something has happened that changes the state of the equipment. In that case, the wheels are still regarded as unofficial superstructure and if the ball is affected by them, the ball is dead and play stops, with an appropriate restart in accordance with the Law (corner kick or goal kick, depending on who last played the ball for a ball that left the field, and a dropped ball if the ball remained on the field).…


I’ve looked through LOTG and searched the archives and cannot find a definitive answer to the following:

Keeper Punting the Ball – Enforcement of the PA in the taking of the punt. There is differing Veteran Referee opinions / judgements: A) PA is enforced from where the ball meets the foot; B) PA is enforced from where the ball left the hand(s) of the keeper in starting the punt toss.

Example: the keeper tosses the ball into the air from inside the PA but strikes the ball 2-3 feet outside of the area. Legal?

USSF answer (October 12, 2010):
Let’s look at it in increments. If any part of the ball is on the line, the ball is within the penalty area. The fact that part of the ball might be outside the penalty area is irrelevant. The BALL on the line is still in the penalty area and, accordingly, it can still be handled by the goalkeeper, and that includes ANY PART of the ball. The BALL is a whole thing and either is or is not in the penalty area. If it is, it can be handled by the goalkeeper. If it is not, it cannot be handled by the ‘keeper.

If the goalkeeper releases the ball from his (or her) hands while within the penalty area, but does not kick the ball until it is outside the penalty area, no offense has occurred. That is entirely legal.

While recognizing that the offense by the goalkeeper of crossing the penalty area line completely with the ball still in hand is often debatable, and that it is usually trifling, we must also recognize that it is certainly an infringement of the Law and must always be treated as such by the referee. The referee will usually warn the goalkeeper about honoring the penalty area line but allow the first such act to go unpunished; however the referee must then clearly warn the goalkeeper to observe and honor the line and the Law. If it occurs again, the referee should call the foul and, if the offense is repeated yet again, caution the goalkeeper for persistent infringement of the Laws of the Game.

We have heard, but cannot believe, that any referee instructor in any state would tell referees to punish this offense with an indirect free kick. The correct restart is a direct free kick for the opposing team from the place where the offense occurred. That means the point just outside the penalty area where the goalkeeper still had the ball in hand.

One unfortunate thing is that in many cases assistant referees do not do their job correctly in this respect. Instead of judging the place where the ball is released from the goalkeeper’s hands, they concentrate on the place where the goalkeeper’s foot meets the ball, which could be well outside the area with no offense having occurred.

[This answer repeats materials used in answers from 2003-2009, all in the archives of this site.]…


Last night [a local administrator] instructed our officials that the sand bags out at [a soccer complex] which anchor the goals are not sufficient. Since these are the same sand bags used for Regionals, I am certain they would not have been used if they were not acceptable.
Can you please clarify?

USSF answer (September 6, 2010):
As we stated on March 15, 2006, this is a matter of player safety. There is no reason to look beyond Law 1. In describing the field and its appurtenances, Law 1 tells us, under “Goals”: “Goals must be anchored securely to the ground. Portable goals may only be used if they satisfy this requirement.” Using sand bags is one way of doing this, but even they present some danger. The decision can be made only by the referee on the spot.…


The technical area was marked and extended up to 1m from the field of player. This is permissible in LOTG. However they then erected a temporary shade structure on this boundary. It comprised supports made of 1″ box channel made of aluminum steel, pegged to the ground. It was quite solid, and I had concerns a player could easily trip or run off the FOP and collide with it. If so could injure themselves.

While I could write a report to local association of my concerns, at the time what right do I have to have it moved back (say 2-2m) from FOP.

USSF answer (June 7, 2010):
Law 1 tells us:

Decisions of the International F.A. Board
Decision 1
Where a technical area exists, it must meet the requirements approved by the International F.A. Board, which are contained in the section of this publication entitled The Technical Area.

The Laws of the Game expect that competitions will follow the basic premise of all the Laws of the Game, protecting the safety of all participants. A structure within one meter of the touchline would likely not be considered to be safe for players, team officials, and the officiating crew.…


Do all of the lines on a field need to be of uniform color?

While common sense would prevail that they should be of the same color that is always not the case due to fields being utilized by more than one sport. In this case it was a grass field, not an artificial surface. It was a U9 “travel” game.

The touch lines were of different colors, the goal lines were different than the touch lines and the penalty area was yet another color. I know there is a law regarding the size of the lines but I could find nothing requiring the uniformity of color for all boundaries. “..all lines must be of the same width, which must not be more than 12cm (5inches)…” the game was played but our coach told me that his team and the referee had difficulty throughout the game identifying if a ball was in or out of a particular are of the field.

USSF answer (May 4, 2010):
While Law 1 states only that the goal posts and crossbar must be colored white, it is traditional that all field markings are in white. And traditional means that this is the way it is supposed to be done. Field managers should not be artistic geniuses; they should prepare the field in accordance with the expected: White lines.

We understand that some competitions use multipurpose fields and that the participants must cope with that.…


On what grounds can a referee stop and abandon a soccer match

USSF answer (March 31, 2010):
An interesting question, one that requires a good bit of space to answer completely.

Under the Laws of the Game (or, as they are called in Great Britain, the Laws of Association Football), the referee has the power to stop, suspend or abandon the match, at his discretion for any infringements of the Laws or for outside interference of any kind. A referee (or where applicable, an assistant referee or fourth official) is not held liable for a decision to abandon a match for whatever reason.

We need first to differentiate between “abandon” and “terminate” a match. The difference between terminating a match and abandoning a match is a subtle one, but it is historically correct and supported by traditional practice. (Research into the history of the Laws will reveal this clearly; the IFAB now uses “abandon” almost exclusively, most likely just to confuse us all.) The referee may abandon a match if there is an insufficient number of players to meet the requirements of the Law or the competition, if a team does not appear or leaves before completion of the game, or if the field or any of its equipment do not meet the requirements of the Laws or are otherwise unsafe; i. e., for technical (Law 1) or physical (Law 4) safety. An abandoned match is replayed unless the competition rules provide otherwise. The referee may terminate a match for reasons of non-physical safety (bad weather or darkness), for any serious infringement of the Laws, or because of interference by spectators. Only the competition authority, not the referee, has the authority to declare a winner, a forfeit, or a replay of the match in its entirety. The referee must report fully on the events. “Suspended” means that a match was stopped temporarily for any of various reasons. After that the match is either resumed, abandoned, or terminated and the competition rules take over.

• Law 1 states that if the crossbar becomes displaced or broken, play is stopped until it has been repaired or replaced in position. If it is not possible to repair the crossbar, the match must be abandoned. In addition, if the referee declares that one spot on the field is not playable, then the entire field must be declared unplayable and the game abandoned.

• A careful inspection of the field before the start of the game might lead the referee to abandon the game before it was started. If, once the match has begun, the referee discovers a problem that is not correctable, then the referee’s decision must be to abandon the game and report the matter to the competition authority.

• Under Law 5, the referee is authorized to stop play if, in his opinion, the floodlights are inadequate.

If an object thrown by a spectator hits the referee or one of the assistant referees or a player or team official, the referee may allow the match to continue, suspend play or abandon the match depending on
the severity of the incident. He must, in all cases, report the incident(s) to the appropriate authorities. Using the powers given him by Law 5, the referee may stop, suspend or terminate the match, at his discretion, for any infringements of the Laws or for grave disorder (see below). If he decides to terminate the match, he must provide the appropriate authorities with a match report which includes information on any disciplinary action taken against players, and/or team officials and any other incidents which occurred before, during or after the match. In no event may the referee determine the winner of any match, terminated or not. Nor may the referee decide whether or not a match must be replayed. Both of those decisions are up to the competition authority, i. e., the league, cup, tournament, etc.

“Grave disorder” would be any sort of dustup involving the players and/or spectators and/or team officials which puts the officials in immediate or likely subsequent jeopardy — fights which metastasize beyond just 2 or 3, masses of spectators invading the pitch, throwing dangerous objects (e. g., firecrackers, butane lighters, etc.) onto the field, and so forth.

• The referee has no authority to force a team to play if they do not wish to continue a game nor to terminate the match in such a case. The referee will simply abandon the game and include all pertinent details in the match report.

• In the opinion of the International F.A. Board, a match should not be considered valid if there are fewer than seven players in either of the teams. If a team with only seven players is penalized by the award of a penalty-kick and as a consequence one of their players is sent off, leaving only six in the team, the game must be abandoned without allowing the penalty-kick to be taken unless the national association has decided otherwise with regard to the minimum number of players.

• The referee must not abandon the game if a team loses a kicker after kicks from the mark begin. The kicks must be completed.

• If a player has been seriously injured and cannot leave the field without risking further injury, the referee must stop the game and have the player removed. If, for whatever reason, there is no competent person available to oversee removal of the seriously injured player from the field for treatment, then the match must be abandoned.

• If player fraud is alleged prior to the game and the player will admit that he is not the person on the pass he has presented and the game has already begun, the referee will have to deal with the matter of an outside agent on the field. If the fraud were not discovered until after the game had been restarted, the only solution would be to abandon the match. If there is no goal issue, the fraudulent player is removed and the game is restarted with a dropped ball.

• If a player, from a team with only seven players, leaves the field of play to receive medical attention, the match will stop until this player has received treatment and returns to the field of play. If he is unable to return, the match is abandoned, unless the member association has decided otherwise with regard to the minimum number of players.

In all cases, the referee must submit a full report to the appropriate authorities.

If the referee discovers that a period of play was ended prematurely but a subsequent period of play has started, the match must be abandoned and the full details of the error included in the game report.

The Laws make the point that the coach and other team officials must BEHAVE RESPONSIBLY and thus may not shout, curse, interfere, or otherwise make a nuisance of themselves The coach’s presence, or the presence of any other team official, is generally irrelevant to the game — under the Laws of the Game, but it may have some importance under the rules of youth competitions. If the coach or other team official is removed, known in the Law as “expelled,” that person must leave the field and its environs. If it is a youth game and the coach and all other team officials have been expelled, then the referee should consider abandoning the game. A full report must be filed with the competition authority. The referee has no authority to determine who has won or lost the game, whether by forfeit or any other process; that is the responsibility of the competition authority. The referee must file a report on all events associated with the abandonment.

Once the game begins, only the referee has the right to decide whether the game continues, is suspended temporarily, terminated or abandoned. If a game is abandoned or terminated before it is completed, the determination of the result is up to the competition authority (league, cup, tournament). In most cases, competitions declare that if a full half has been played, the result stands, but that does not apply to all competitions. The referee does not have the authority to declare what the score is or who has won the game. The referee’s only recourse is to include in his game report full details of what caused the match to be abandoned or terminated. The status of an abandoned is determined by the rules of the competition or the competition authority itself. There is no set amount of time, but many rules of competition will call a game complete if a full half has been played.…


During a recent U9 Boys Championship Match I was working, one end of the field was very muddy. On several instances, players would kick at the ground before a corner or goal kick, like they were attempting to tee the ball up. I gave a warning to both teams to stop. Of course neither coach agreed with this warning, saying their players needed the extra leverage due to the poor field conditions (although they players did stop). Does this fall under the ATR related to modification of the field? Thanks!

USSF answer (March 10, 2010):
By allowing play to begin following your inspection of the field, you accepted the condition of the field as safe and usable. To then punish the players for trying to do their best under those conditions is not entirely within the Spirit of the Game. However, the fact that the field is muddy should not be used to protect behavior which, if performed on a pristine field, would be worth a warning to stop it. Teeing the ball up is not permitted if it involves creating hills by scuffing the field. We would certainly warn a goalkeeper who is marking the field to HIS advantage — muddy or not. Exercise common sense in this situation.…


what are our (referees) responsibilities regarding the field of play itself? Specifically I am referring to a field I work occasionally that is small-sided, yet it appears to be smaller than most standard small-sided fields. During the fall season, both the coach and various parents from the “away” team challenged me regarding its size. It was safe in all aspects; these folks were questioning dimensions.

I’m not sure if what I said was correct, but I told the coach that the field was safe and playable and that I was not responsible for dimensions. Also, I believe the markings (lines) were reasonable for a small-sided field.

USSF answer (January 8, 2010):
In general there are different dimensions for different age groups in small-sided soccer. USYS has defined these at its website. If the competition in which you referee has set its own standard for small-sided fields, then you must be aware of the specific dimensions that standard calls for and ensure that the standard is met. If there is no standard, then the reasoning you followed in the situation you describe is absolutely correct.…


At my daughter’s game a player on her team was setting up to take a corner kick. As she approached the ball she lost her balance. She made the kick but her momentum actually carried her sideways and she brushed into the flag as she was making the kick.

The referee stopped play and stated she was not allowed to touch the flag. He then awarded the other team an indirect kick from corner area. The only ruling I could find regarding touching flag deals with players adjusting a flag TO a vertical position or FROM a vertical position prior to the kick. The referee was extremely professional, had perfect mechanics, and was obviously extremely competent. I know I was wearing my parent hat for this game, not my badge, but the ruling on touching the flag puzzled me. Is there a law, or directive that I have overlooked?

USSF answer (November 11, 2009):
The referee may have been “extremely professional,” but he was also EXTREMELY PETTY.

The corner flags are not to be moved, but not in the sense for which the referee punished the player on your daughter’s team. We instruct our referees (and anyone else who cares to read the document cited below) that this sort of movement of the flag is not against the Law; such movement must be corrected, but not punished.

This statement is included in the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game”:

Goalkeepers or other players may not make unauthorized marks on the field of play. The player who makes such marks or alterations on the field to gain an unfair advantage may be cautioned for unsporting behavior. Players may return bent or leaning corner flags to the upright position, but they may not bend or lean them away from the upright position to take a corner kick, nor may the corner flag be removed for any reason.