Suppose a team begins engaging in persistent and organized misconduct. At every stoppage in play the team delays the restart by either picking up or kicking away the ball. Obviously, players engaging in delay should be cautioned, but this team is sophisticated enough to ensure that only players who have not yet been cautioned cause the delay. It is further complicated because it is a youth match with free substitution (and a deep bench) so that the pattern can continue for quite some time before players begin being sent-off for a second caution.

One local (and highly respected) referee suggests that upon recognizing the pattern of persistent/team misconduct, the referee can immediately issue two cautions to the next player who delays a restart (and send him off) — the first caution for the delay and the second for persistent infringement — thus thwarting the organized misconduct. I disagree, and I base my disagreement on the idea that you can ever punish the same player twice for the same offense. Respected Referee, however, counters that the second caution is not really given to the player, but rather “to the team” for their persistent infringement. I cannot find any support at all for cautions being issued “to the team.”

Any advice?

Answer (September 13, 2007):
There is no such thing as a “team caution” under the Laws of the Game. It is certainly possible to caution any player who participates in misconduct. Howwever, it is not clear that if there is a pattern of infringement, such as the pattern of delay you suggest, the referee could also apply the principle of persistent infringement as outlined in the Laws of the Game under Additional Instructions and Guidelines for Referees:
Persistent infringement
Referees should be alert at all times to players who persistently infringe the Laws. In particular, they must be aware that even if a player commits a number of different offenses, he must still be cautioned for persistently infringing the Laws.

There is no specific number of infringements which constitutes “persistence” or the presence of a pattern — this is entirely a matter of judgement and must be reached in the context of effective game management.

In the situation you and “Respected Referee” have discussed, it is not clear that the referee can apply the principle of persistent infringement.

However, as a pattern appears, the referee could certainly take the opportunity at one of the stoppages for misconduct and speak to the team captain or coach or both, stating that if this pattern continues, the referee will expel the coach for irresponsible behavior. If the pattern continues beyond that stage, the referee can then terminate the game. In all cases, the referee must include full details in the match report.…


I attended a U13 Class 3 boys game today and an attacker in a break-away with only the goalkeeper between him and the goal appeared to yell something like “HAH!” while pressing his attack. It was not clear if this yell was an attempt to distract the opponent. He beat the goal keeper and scored the goal but the referee blew his whistle, denied the goal and gave the attacker a yellow card for unsporting behavior. I can find no literature to support the finding of unsporting behavior in this circumstance. Also after the call there were many who thought it was the goalkeeper who had yelled this. Either way is there any support for this type of behavior being classified as unsporting behavior?

Answer (September 12, 2007):
Yes, yelling at an opponent is traditionally considered to be unsporting behavior. However, in this case there is no clear indication here that the yell was directed at the goalkeeper (or at the attacker).

In the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game” you will find these citations:
– Commits an act which, in the opinion of the referee, shows a lack of respect for the game (e.g., aggressive attitude, inflammatory behavior, or taunting). (Better known as “bringing the game into disrepute.”)
– Verbally distracts an opponent during play or at a restart

Either could include yelling. However, we also need to remember that under the Laws of the Game the attacking team is entitled to somewhat more lenience that the defending team in this regard. Unless the yelling is clearly intended to distract the opponent, such as a goalkeeper yelling at the player about to take the penalty kick, it is usually considered trifling.

With regard to yelling as a form of misconduct, the referee is obliged to be satisfied that the shouting was indeed intended to distract and in fact had the effect of distracting the opponent. The referee should look for some element of deception–i. e., performing the shout from out of sight or very close (to startle), deceiving an opponent as to the shouter’s identity (to obfuscate the status as an opponent), etc.…


Here is the situation. Red team is attacking and makes a long pass, Blue defender runs toward the ball and calls out “Mine” and then clears the ball up field. The Center blows the whistle and awards an indirect free kick to the Red attacking team. This type of play happens again during the game where the Blue defender calls out that he has the ball, “I got it.” The Center again awards an indirect free kick to the attacking team. After the game the Blue coach questioned the calls and was told, “The defender was using trickery which impeded the progress of the Red players playing the ball”. Is there some new rule that I am unaware of or some old rule that I don’t understand the interpretation of?

Answer (August 30, 2007):
No, the defender is not using “trickery,” “trickery” cannot be used to impede opponents, and there has been no change to the rules. Your referee has apparently misinterpreted the Laws — or someone misunderstood what he or she said.

(1) If a player is the only one near the ball and shouts “mine,” there is no infringement of the Law. It is only when a defending player actually deceives the attacking team that he or she would be punished with a caution for unsporting behavior and the attacking team would be awarded an indirect free kick from the place of the infringement.

(2) Players may only be impeded when an opponent prevents them from playing the ball by placing his/her body between them and the ball and the opponent is not within playing distance of the ball.

(3) The rule for shouting “mine” by defenders has always been there. However, attacking players are allowed to use this same sort of guile without being punished.…


I am having this discussion about futebol (soccer) from Portugal regarding deliberate trickery to circumvent Law 12 Decision 3.If a player receives the ball, lifts it to his head, chest or knee, then heads, chest or knees it back to the goalkeeper and gkeeper catches or touches the ball the ball.

Referee would then call an IFK, ball spotted at where infraction occurred, if inside the goal area it would come out to the 6 yard line, is this correct?

Answer (August 29, 2007):
When considering the possibility of trickery, the referee must decide if the action was natural (a normal sort of play, the sort of thing you would see in any sequence of play) or contrived (an artificial, unnatural play, which, in the referee’s opinion, is intended solely for the purpose of circumventing the Law and preventing the opponents from challenging for the ball).

The call is always in the opinion and at the discretion of the referee, who is the only person capable of making the judgment as to the nature of the kick. If there is any doubt in the referee’s mind as to the nature of the play, then common sense should prevail. Unless the referee believes plays like this to be trickery, there is no need to make a call.…


Defender makes a normal pass back to her goalkeeper, who is in the middle of the penalty area. The keeper goes to kick the ball downfield with an attacker moving in, but miskicks it and it goes straight up in the air, directly above the keeper and the attacker who are now standing in close proximity to each other. To prevent the taller attacker from directing a header at the empty net, the keeper jumps up and punches the ball away with her fist.Is this legal or does the fact that the ball got back to the keeper from her own defender mean that hands cannot be used after the keeper’s own miskick?

Answer (August 29, 2007):
Let’s apply common sense here. The goalkeeper is clearly not wasting time, but merely miskicked the ball. This is a trifling infringement that can be let go for the moment, keeping it in mind should similar infringements occur later.…


Without having the time to read all the archives, these questions have come up: 1. In normal play and not from a free kick, a teammate deliberately passes the ball back to his goalkeeper but it is over and over the GK’s head. In order to prevent an accidental own-goal, the GK handles the ball. Is this a DOGSO or an IFK for the opponent?2. A player completes a legal throw-in to a teammate who heads it back to their own GK. Is this trickery? I contend it is not but there are USSF instructors who insist it is.

3. When time is extended for the taking of a Penalty Kick, do players have to remain on the field or can all go to the team benches except for the kicker and GK? This is another I believe where players have to remain on the field because the ball is still in play but some USSF instructors claim all players but the kicker and keeper can leave.

USSF answer (June 18, 2007):
1. No, it is ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE for the goalkeeper to be sent off for denying an obvious goal or goalscoring opportunity to the opposing team by deliberately handling the ball in his/her own penalty area. It’s in the Law: 4. denies the opposing team a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball (this does not apply to a goalkeeper within his own penalty area)

2. Read through this excerpt from the draft for the 2007 edition of the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game.” The only change is the addition of the note at the end.

A goalkeeper infringes Law 12 if he or she touches the ball with the hands directly after it has been deliberately kicked to him or her by a teammate. The requirement that the ball be kicked means only that it has been played with the foot. The requirement that the ball be “kicked to” the goalkeeper means only that the play is to or toward a place where the keeper can legally handle the ball. The requirement that the ball be “deliberately kicked” means that the play on the ball is deliberate and does not include situations in which the ball has been, in the opinion of the referee, accidentally deflected or misdirected. The goalkeeper has infringed the Law by handling the ball after initially playing the ball in some other way (e.g., with the feet). This offense, like any other, may be ignored for the moment if it is trifling or doubtful (see Advice 5.6).

NOTE: (a) The goalkeeper is permitted to dribble into the penalty area and then pick up any ball played legally (not kicked deliberately to the goalkeeper or to a place where the goalkeeper can easily play it) by a teammate or played in any manner by an opponent. (b) This portion of the Law was written to help referees cope with timewasting tactics by teams, not to punish players who are playing within the Spirit of the Game.

A goalkeeper infringes Law 12 by touching the ball with the hands after receiving it directly from a throw-in taken by a teammate. The goalkeeper is considered to have received the ball directly by playing it in any way (for example, by dribbling the ball with the feet) before touching it with the hands. Referees should take care not to consider as trickery any sequence of play that offers a fair chance for opponents to challenge for the ball before it is handled by the goalkeeper from a throw-in.

NOTE: The goalkeeper may always handle the ball inside his own penalty area unless he/she: – Takes more than 6 seconds while controlling the ball with his/her hands before releasing it from possession
– Regains hand control prior to a touch by another player
– Touches ball with the hands after it comes directly from a throw-in or deliberate kick to the ‘keeper by a teammate

3. They must all remain on the field of play. No one is allowed to go to the bench area other than for medical attention. The ball is certainly not in play.…


1. I’d like to know if you agree or disagree with the following. The situation as described in the recert was that the kicker of a PK commits an infraction before kicking the ball, but after the referee blows the whistle to take the PK. He shoots wide. What is the restart? I got it right, because I guessed correctly that the exam writer was only interested in infractions of law 14, but that isn’t stated in the question and is an assumption that turned out to be correct. Let’s assume for a moment the following scenario: the GK is doing the crazy-leg thing a la Dudek in Champions League 2005. The kicker gets angry and uses foul and abusive language to the keeper while making his approach to kick the ball. The kick is taken and goes wide. Now if the referee decides that he allowed the kick to be taken he gives the IFK, but can no longer eject the offending player. He has allowed a restart. In order to eject the player, the referee has to decide that he had not yet allowed the play to start and therefore the restart would be a PK (by a teammate this time). If this logic is correct, it would have made a great connection to the speech that [one speaker] gave. The referee needs to have done his homework and recognize what is at stake in the game. If it is 1-0 and one or both teams are battling for league leadership and there are 30 seconds left in the match, the defending team (or another competing team) will feel fairly angry if the PK gets to be retaken and scores even if they are now up a man. If the game is 3-0 either way, ejecting the player probably makes more sense, and the referee should decide that he hadn’t allowed the play to begin, but the player just kicked quicker than his stopping whistle.2. There are times when we are to call fouls for things that don’t seem to match the letter of the law. An example is the following: The attacker is dribbling the ball and the defender is directly in front of him a few yards up field. The defender slides directly into the ball, and because the attacker is directly behind the ball, there is no way for him to avoid taking the player out. What is the foul? It isn’t “tackles an opponent to gain possession of the ball, making contact with the opponent before touching the ball”. It isn’t a trip or attempted trip, because clearly the ball was being played, and tripping a player using the ball is certainly legal. The defender is allowed to stop a ball from the side that the attacker is running with causing the attacker to fall over it. One would like to say the tackle was made carelessly or recklessly, but those don’t apply to the “tackles an opponent..” The law clearly states the decision is strictly whether the ball hit first or not. When we make this call, what rule do we cite to the coach or player, when they inevitably argue this call?

3. I had an interesting conversation with a state referee in January. I had just watched him give an IFK in the penalty area for a player impeding another through contact, just as the infamous test question from a couple of years ago discussed. As we chatted, I mentioned that what occurred was exactly the test question and it seems like it should have been a PK (yes I had a bias in this game). He said he remembered the test question as well and agreed that what occurred was exactly what it stated, but. and this is the interesting part, he is accustomed to doing higher level games and. (this is pretty close to a quote) . if in one of those matches an assessor saw him even call such a foul in the penalty area despite it being a foul anywhere else on the field, he would have been hammered for it. As a coach, one always suspects this is the case, but usually one thinks that it is just fear by the referee, not an organized conspiracy. Is this really what higher level referees are taught? I had always believed the mantra that a foul is a foul whether it is in or out of the penalty area. I try to call games that way. Is that just what level 8s are taught. Is the real way a secret only taught to state refs and up? Or was this guy in need of some counseling? When I am refereeing should I apply his advice or does location of the foul not matter?

USSF answer (June 18, 2007):
[NOTE: The answer to question 1 was modified on June 21.]
1. The penalty kick has been taken, the kicking team had its fair chance to score, it didn’t. Game over (penalty kick in extended time). The referee must then show the red card to the kicker for using offensive or insulting or abusive language and/or gestures. The end of the match IS the next stoppage and the Laws of the Game allow a red card to be shown after a match is over since all parties are still in the area of the field.

2. “I/He got the ball first” is not a defense for any foul tackle. It’s not what the player does to take the ball that constitutes a foul when making contact with the ball before making contact with the opponent, but what he does afterwards. If, after taking the ball, the tackler lifts or curls his leg to trip the opponent or uses both legs to take the opponent down or goes “over the top” of the ball (despite making contact with it), then there is at least a foul and likely a caution or send-off (particularly in the case of the “over-the-top” foul) with it. We see no problem with charging (no pun intended) a player with a careless or even a reckless charge when he steps in front of an opponent vigorously dribbling the ball and therefore causes the resulting contact. The player who does this is clearly not playing the ball but playing the player. Further, it is not “shoulder to shoulder,” which remains the traditional, meaningful core element of a legal “charge.” It is at minimum impeding — done in such a way as to force contact solely because of the momentum of the opponent (see Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game 12.14, below).

3. Oh, goodness gracious, you have found us out! Yes, there are secret sessions only for state referees, giving them all the information that is denied to the less-privileged masses. And of course assessors will hammer any referee who awards a penalty kick for a direct-free-kick foul in the penalty area. NOT!

Your state referee needs to get a life and follow the instructions given in the Laws of the Game (2007, under GUIDELINES FOR REFEREES)
“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. “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. “Shielding the ball is permitted. A player who places himself between an opponent and the ball for tactical reasons has not committed an offence as long as the ball is kept in playing distance and the player does not hold off the opponent with his arms or body. If the ball is within playing distance, the player may be fairly charged by an opponent.”

and in the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game”:

“Impeding the progress of an opponent” means moving on the field so as to obstruct, interfere with, or block the path of an opponent. Impeding can include crossing directly in front of the opponent or running between the opponent and the ball so as to form an obstacle with the aim of delaying progress. There will be many occasions during a game when a player will come between an opponent and the ball, but in the majority of such instances, this is quite natural and fair. It is often possible for a player not playing the ball to be in the path of an opponent and still not be guilty of impeding.The offense of impeding an opponent requires that the ball not be within playing distance and that physical contact between the player and the opponent is normally absent. If physical contact occurs, the referee should, depending on the circumstances, consider instead the possibility that a charging infringement has been committed (direct free kick) or that the opponent has been fairly charged off the ball (indirect free kick, see Advice 12.22). However, nonviolent physical contact may occur while impeding the progress of an opponent if, in the opinion of the referee, this contact was an unavoidable consequence of the impeding (due, for example, to momentum).


Please explain tactical fouls and do tactical fouls necessitate a cautionable offense and what would the caution be?

Answer (May 30, 2007):
A tactical foul is one committed in the hope of delaying or spoiling the play of the opposing team, rather than one committed in an effort to win the ball. Yes, they are cautionable offenses. The caution would be for unsporting behavior.…


I appreciate the advice you have given on other situations. My friends and I have an interesting game situation, and we were hoping you could offer some guidance. Please see the email chain below (reformatted and re-ordered for clarity) for the original situation, as well as some of our attempts at answers.

[In summary, the problem was this:]

This happened in a youth game today:

The referee correctly stopped play for a deliberate pass back to the goalkeeper when the keeper picked up the ball while standing on the penalty spot. The referee incorrectly signaled for a penalty kick. The penalty kick was taken and a goal was scored without touching anyone except the kicker when the kick was taken. Before the kickoff was taken after awarding the goal, the referee realized that the wrong restart was awarded for the pass back.

1 – Should the goal count?
2 – What is the correct restart?

The substance of the three correspondents’ analysis was:
no goal; goal kick (or the original indirect free kick). In the end, they forwarded the problem to us.

Answer (May 29, 2007):
Sorry to disappoint, gentlemen, but the referee waited too long to correct the restart. Once the penalty kick (or whatever erroneous restart it may be) has been taken and the players and officials have all assembled for the kick-off (or corner or goal kick), then the previous restart is long past and cannot be recalled. The referee must include full details in the match report.…


Question 1: The big question that I have is referee uniforms. I have talked with many referees, and thought myself. Those new Adidas Referee Uniforms are very nice, and give the referee some class. Do you know if the next uniform will be these, and when will we change to our next kits. Please pass this on round the office.

Question 2: During a corner kick, before the ball was kicked a player was fouling another player by pushing her away, not allowing her to defend her own goal. I told them to stop, and it worked. But is there any special change as in it is a DFK to the defending team or does the restart remain the corner kick?

Answer (May 26, 2007):
1. The design of the referee uniform is determined by the USSF Board of Directors, not the referees and not the referee department.

2. Once play has been stopped for an infringement, the restart may not be changed for any misconduct that occurs before the restart.…