I am the president of a soccer club that plays its matches in [a state association]. Yesterday, one of our players received a yellow card for unsporting behavior after the final whistle had blown for the match to be completed. The player was upset at the frequent calling of “unjustified” offsides, and left the pitch without permission in the closing seconds.Is it legitimate for a referee to issue cards after a match?

USSF answer (February 28, 2007):
Yes, it is, provided that the teams have not completely left the field. Here are the instructions we give our referees, taken from the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game”:

Misconduct committed by a player or a substitute prior to the start of the match, during the match, during breaks between playing periods is subject to a formal caution or a send-off, as appropriate. Yellow and red cards, which are now mandatory indications of cautions and send-offs, may be shown only for misconduct committed by players, substitutes, or substituted players during a match. “During a match” includes:
(a) the period of time immediately prior to the start of play during which players and substitutes are physically on the field warming up, stretching, or otherwise preparing for the match;
(b) any periods in which play is temporarily stopped;
(c) half time or similar breaks in play;
(d) required overtime periods;
(e) kicks from the penalty mark if this procedure is used in case a winner must be determined.
(f) the period of time immediately following the end of play during which the players and substitutes are physically on the field but in the process of exiting.
Postgame: Any misconduct committed by players or substitutes after the field has been cleared must be described in the game report and reported to the competition authority. Since such misconduct cannot result in a formal caution or send-off, no card may be displayed. Referees are advised to avoid remaining in the area of the field unnecessarily.

The fact that the player left the field of play without permission before the match warranted a caution, as the match had not yet been completed. The referee’s action was within the requirements of the Law.


situation 1: an attacker was moving toward the goal with the ball. the goalkeeper was way out of his goal area and a defender tripped and fell, leaving the goal open to the attacker. a substitute who was warming up near the goal ran on to the field without my permission and tripped the attacker who was getting ready to shoot on goal as the defender tripped and fell. i didn’t know what to do, so i cautioned the substitute and gave the goalkeeper’s team an indirect free kick.what should i have done? i know the 2006 Law says we can send off substitutes or substituted players for all 7 of the reasons listed in Law 12, but i am not sure. some referees said i did it right, but others say i should have sent him off. can we really send off substitutes who enter the field illegally and prevent goals?

a second question: what should i do if the substitute or substituted player enters the field without my permission and then simply kicks the ball away, rather than tripping the opponent or committing any other foul?

USSF answer (February 23, 2007):
1. The 2006 changes in Law 3 and Law 12 regarding substitutes or substituted players who illegally enter the field were dealt with in the 2006 edition of the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game” (see, for example, the many rewritten entries under Law 3). Unfortunately, the 2006 edition of the Advice does not cover the question about whether a substitute who has entered the field illegally can be sent off if, while on the field and before play is stopped for the illegal entry, he or she handles the ball to prevent a goal or commits any other action which, in the opinion of the referee, interferes with an obvious goal-scoring opportunity.

The answer is yes: A substitute or substituted player can be sent off and shown the red card for any action which, if it had been committed by a player, would have resulted in the player being sent off for either the 4th or the 5th send-off reason listed in Law 12. Just as with players, all elements of the decision to send someone off for either of these reasons are governed by Section D of Law 12 in Advice to Referees and apply to substitutes and substituted players as well as to players.

2. In this second question, the solution for simply kicking the ball by the “invading” substitute or substituted player would be two cautions followed by the send-off for the second caution: one caution for unsporting behavior for entering the field without permission and the second for unsporting behavior for kicking the ball away from the opponent. You would then restart the match with an indirect free kick where the ball was when the substitute illegally entered the field (the first misconduct).


During live play, a GK punts the ball straight up in the air. A strong wind blows the ball toward the goal. The GK touches the ball but it ends up in the goal. Is this a second touch violation or is advantage applied and a goal allowed? (I know this is covered in Advice to Referees in regard to goal kicks taken by a goalkeeper but I see no reference to this particular scenario.)USSF answer (February 21, 2007):
The correct restart would be a kick-off. In touching the ball again, the goalkeeper has violated Law 12 and the referee may apply the advantage. In the case of the goal kick, the goalkeeper would be violating Law 16, in which case the referee may not apply the advantage.


I had an adult game this past weekend, in which player in red team came down from the air and tackle player in blue. My decision at that time was to give the player a yellow card. The player that got hurt could not get up on his own and a trainer and a team player had to get him out of the field.By that time the 3 minutes that were left in the game were gone and I ended the game. Both my assistance and the refs that were waiting for the next game to start agree that it should have been a red card. the question is can I Change a yellow card for a red card before the restart of the game? thank you.USSF answer (February 6, 2007):
Under normal circumstances, the referee may change the administrative punishment ONLY PRIOR to the restart of play. In your situation, there can be no change because you did not make that decision until well after the restart. In fact, you did not make that decision until the match was over. All you can do in such a situation is include full details and facts in the match report.

However, in some cases, the referee may also change the punishment after the game has restarted, but only in accordance with the guidelines provided in the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game, Advice 5.14:

If the referee awards a restart for the wrong team and realizes his mistake before the restart is taken, then the restart may be corrected even though the decision was announced after the restart took place. This is based on the established principle that the referee’s initial decision takes precedence over subsequent action. The visual and verbal announcement of the decision after the restart has already occurred is well within the Spirit of the Law, provided the decision was made before the restart took place.

Referees must remember that play is stopped when the referee makes a decision, not when the decision is announced, and the referee can call back ANY restart if he/she has already decided to hold up the restart in order to give a red card. The referee must include full details in the match report.

To change the punishment from caution to send-off under any other circumstances would be a violation of the Law. If the referee determines only well after the restart that the player should have been sent off, the full facts of the matter must be included in the match report. In addition, the referee must notify the player or team of the decision.


I was recently on a game where the attacker was offside and actively involved in play. I put my flag up to indicate offside, but the referee did not see me. During the pregame the center official instructed both me and the other assistant referee to “leave the flag up if you put it up no matter what.” The attacker dribbled directly into the penalty area where he was fouled. The referee had called a penalty kick and the defensive opponent was sent off for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity. The defensive team pointed to me with my flag up to indicate I had called offside to the center official. The referee came over to talk to me on the touchline. I told the center official that the attacker that was fouled, was offside. BEFORE THE RESTART OF PLAY, he called the first infringement which was offside. He then came over to the defender who was sent off, and was still on the team bench but putting his things away in his bag and cautioned the defender making it very clear with his words and body language “I messed up, you are not sent off, but you are receiving a caution for the tackle in the penalty area that was unsporting behavior.” The referee allowed the player to continue playing for the rest of the duration of the match.Question #1: Should I have gone with my center and give indication for the penalty kick, or did I do the right thing by indicating offside?

Question #2: Does the misconduct still stand, despite the call being changed?

Question #3: Did the referee do the right thing by indicating that the defender was not sent off, but cautioned for unsporting behavior?

USSF answer (January 29, 2007):
1. You followed the referee’s instructions from the pregame conference, which is what you are supposed to do–unless the referee is about to violate one of the Laws of the Game or a rule of the competition. We might note that this instruction should never be given by a referee, other than with regard to serious foul play/violent conduct or when the ball has gone out of play and returned to the field–unless “too much play” has gone on, including stoppages and restarts.

2. Yes, the concept of misconduct should still be considered. an option for the referee. if the act would normally have been called a foul, but did not involve the use of excessive force, the defender should be cautioned, just as the referee did it.

3. Yes.


I have a couple questions involving the setting of defensive walls based on occurrences I’ve seen in youth and adult matches. In a lot of adult matches in my area, when the whistle is blown for a foul, the defensive player takes his time getting up off the ground and then stands precisely in front of where the ball will be positioned. As often as not, he will be joined by a teammate. They may talk with each other, opponents, or the referee in what appears to me to be an effort to delay their leaving and simultaneously distract the referee from his/her mission at that point: To encourage a quick free kick, unencumbered by defenders within 10 yards of the ball. I’ve seen frequent instances where the referee tells them either by words or gestures to leave the vicinity repeatedly while the ball is being retrieved, and continue to do this with slow, partial compliance after the ball is positioned. Often the attackers do not ask for the 10 yards but the referee continues trying to move the defenders out, sometimes from a distance, sometime wading into the group and “pushing” them back (not physically touching them though). In these instances, the attackers will put the ball into play when they see that they’ve obtained a slight advantage due to a defender turning his head to see if he’s lined up properly with the goal, or turning his head to look at the referee and acknowledge the referee’s request to back out. Everybody seems to know what the games are at this point: The attackers’ game is to use the referee to distract the defenders and to put the ball into play when they see a good opportunity without waiting for the 10 yards. The defenders’ game is to get a good wall set up behind the player who is stalling the taking of the free kick. Surprisingly the defenders don’t complain that the referee was distracting them when the attackers get off the free kick, but then it seldom scores either. My lead question for you is “Just how long should the referee persist in trying to back out the defenders unbidden by the attackers?” I heard there was a memo some years back recommending that the referee should do this only until the ball was positioned, then to become an observer unless the attackers asked for the 10 yards. The advice to referees says (section 13.3) “The referee should move quickly out of the way after indicating the approximate area of the restart and should do nothing to interfere with the kicking team’s right to an immediate free kick. At competitive levels of play, referees should not automatically “manage the wall,” but should allow the ball to be put back into play as quickly as possible, unless the kicking team requests help in dealing with opponents infringing on the minimum distance.” So, should we not ask or demand that the defenders leave? Or should we desist at some set point unless the attackers ask for the 10 yards? That is not interfering with the attackers’ rights but it could be construed as interfering with the defenders’ rights (to not be distracted by officials). I know I took a lot of words to get to the point but this has been bugging me why so few fouls result in quick free kicks.My second question is in regard to the behavior of players in the properly set defensive wall. I don’t see this often and when I do, it typically is with girls and I chuckle but one of my colleagues has a sterner attitude. After the wall is set at the proper distance, the girls will have their arms on one another’s shoulders and they begin singing or dancing in unison, maybe kicking one foot high a la Can-Can. I watch the attackers and try to judge whether the defenders’ actions unfairly distracted the kicker. If I don’t see them visibly distracted, I let it go as a trifling infringement and let the girls have their fun. The coaches of the attackers usually want the defenders to be cautioned. My stern colleague doesn’t see much humor in the situation and usually tells the defenders to “knock it off!” Is there a standard response to this situation, or should one try to judge whether the defenders’ actions unfairly distract the kicker and act accordingly? If there is a standard response, what should it be?

Thank you for your insight into these situations. I’m a great fan of the advice you give.

USSF answer (January 3, 2007):
1. Defending team fails to retreat at restart:
Normally, we do instruct referees to allow the kicking team to take the kick quickly, if they wish, without interfering with it. However, if, in the opinion of the referee, the defenders are too close to the kick, he or she should avoid playing into the defenders’ hands and becoming an unwitting player on their team–the referee has done the work of the defense by delaying the restart of play and has not made the defenders pay any price for this benefit. Once the referee has decided to step in on your own initiative to deal with opponents who are “too close to the kick,” the threshold limit for a card has been met.

2. The wall as chorus line:
The referee must recognize that while members of the wall are allowed to jump about when opponents are taking a kick, choreographed actions that are unnatural and designed to both intimidate and to shock and distract their opponents constitute bringing the game into disrepute. As this occurred before the ball was in play, the correct call could be unsporting behavior on the part of the particular player whom the referee chooses from the chorus line. Caution and show the yellow card; restart with the free kick.


In looking at two different publications, each speaks of a slightly different restart, possibly, when a player attempts to play a ball that is in the possession of the keeper.The first comes from Advice to Referees…… section 12.16 and says………while the ball is in the possession of the keeper, it cannot lawfully be played by an opponent, and any attempt to do so may be punished by a direct free kick.

The second comes from Instructions for Referees and Resolutions………. section 5 – Offenses against Goalkeepers and says…… in (d) makes any play for the ball while the goalkeeper is still controlling it with the hands. Kicking or attempting to kick the ball held by the goalkeeper is considered to be dangerous play. Of the four subsections (a through d), there seems to be both direct and indirect restarts. Based on the ‘dangerous play’ text of (d), that sounds like an indirect restart.

Dangerous play is not one of the ten fouls that is restarted with a direct free kick, but rather indirect. Is the restart for this offense against the keeper a direct or indirect free kick. I would assume the kicking or attempting to kick a ball in the possession of the keeper is more consistent with a direct free kick restart.

USSF answer (January 3, 2007):
This dichotomy goes back to 1996 and was covered by Memorandum 1996, which said, in effect: The 1995 Law changes included the removal of the phrase “attempting to kick the ball while held by the goalkeeper” as an example of “dangerous play” and the Board explained its reason thusly: the example was deleted because “it is no longer an appropriate example since the introduction of the terms ‘careless’ and ‘reckless’ into the Law in 1995.”

To which the Federation added the following explanation:

ADVICE TO USSF REFEREES: The action of “attempting to kick the ball while held by the goalkeeper” previously described as an example of “playing in a manner considered by the referee to be dangerous” should now be deemed a major foul as it should be seen as a “careless” or “reckless” act punishable by a direct free kick under the 1995 changes in Law XII.

Regardless of what language is employed in the Instructions, this remain USSF’s position on the matter. Without wishing to seem naive, we would argue that in this instance the Instructions’ and IFAB’s phrase “dangerous play” is not intended to refer to “dangerous play” as that concept is used in Law 12’s reference to the various offenses punishable by an indirect free kick, but to the act of placing the opponent in grave danger through one’s actions. However that may be, it still comes down to the fact that the Federation has opted to declare that any attempt to kick a ball in the possession of the goalkeeper HAS to be considered the equivalent of kicking the goalkeeper since it is illegal to play a ball in the goalkeeper’s possession and thus the action must be directed toward the player–hence the seriousness of the offense. The Federation’s Instructions document for 2007 will include this meaning.


This issue came up during recertification when talking about gaining an advantage by being in an offside position.How is parry defined as it applies to goalkeeper possession?

From Decision 2 in Law 12, it seems apparent that a parried ball by a goalkeeper constitutes possession. So if the ball was parried by a goalkeeper and next touched by a player who had been in an offside position when the shot was taken, it would seem that the player would not be offside.

The discussion then turned to what was a parry. Some thought a parry required that the ball be knocked to the ground while others thought that any deliberate (and controlled) touch of the ball by the keeper was a parry (as in fisting or punching a ball away from the goal).

Laws, ATR and Q&A were checked but no reference seems to exist. Can you provide guidance?

USSF answer (December 12, 2006):
See the definition of “possession” in Law 12, IFAB Decision 2:

“The goalkeeper is considered to be in control of the ball by touching it with any part of his hand or arms. Possession of the ball includes the goalkeeper deliberately parrying the ball, but does not include the circumstances where, in the opinion of the referee, the ball rebounds accidentally from the goalkeeper, for example after he has made a save.”

To “parry” the ball is to handle the ball deliberately, pushing it to a place where the goalkeeper may play it to more advantage. By parrying the ball, the goalkeeper has done two things: (1) established possession and (2) given up possession. The ball is now free for all to play. The six-second rule has no further application in this situation.

So, in answer to your question, no, if the goalkeeper has clearly established possession by parrying the ball, rather than simply deflecting it in a “save,” then the opposing player cannot be declared offside.