I recently received an assessment from a national assessor on a U-16 Division 2 game. I had called a foul in the penalty area against the defender, which called for a PK. The assessor said the call was correct; however, he said I was too far from the play to effectively “sell” the call if I had needed to. I was around the 35 yard line and the foul was just inside the penalty area about the 17.

My question is this…what distance should you strive for from the ball (accepting the fact that transitions and other situations sometimes make the ideal distance impossible)?

Answer (September 27, 2007):
We hope that you misunderstood the national assessor’s comment. As you are a first-year referee, he may have been suggesting that being closer to all action would help you sell your calls better.

Positioning is critical when making calls in the attacking third of the field. Position is determined by having the best viewing angle of the challenge. Being between 10 and 15 yards from play without interfering with players space is optimal. In the case of your call, if you were certain that the foul occurred within the penalty area (and your assistant referee did not suggest otherwise), then the decision to award a penalty kick was correct.…


I am trying to figure out why a deliberate handling infringement by the kicker is discussed in Laws 13, 14, 16 and 17. It seems that once the ball is in play, a deliberate handling infringement as discussed in Law 12 would cover this. Is there something about denying a goal or an obvious goal scoring opportunity that requires this to be distinguished from a Law 12 infringement?

Answer (September 5, 2007):
We need to remember that the Laws are written for the players, too, even though most of them do not ever bother to read them. Although the same might be said for most referees after their first year of refereeing. The emphasis on deliberate handling in Laws 13, 14, 16 and 17 (and you forgot 15) is to remind both players and referees that the game must be restarted for more serious offense if two infringements are committed simultaneously. In this case they are: a second play of the ball before someone else has touched or otherwise played it and deliberate handling. The second play of the ball is usually simply an indirect free kick offense, whereas the deliberate handling is a direct free kick offense. Most referees would recognize that, but some would not.…


The situation is that a penalty kick has been taken and you blow your whistle because you deemed the kicker to have taken excessive or unnatural movements on his approach to the ball. In a discussion with other referees, it was agreed that the proper procedure for a missed goal was an IFK for the defense, but there was disagreement on the restart if a goal was scored. While everyone agreed that the laws state that you must do a retake of the kick, one referee–who happens to be a USSF instructor — insisted that he would not allow a retake because it would be unfair and would simply do the IFK for the defense regardless of the outcome of the kick. I told him that in such a situation, he could put the game in jeopardy of being protested. He felt it was “a referee decision” and not open to protest. I feel he is giving bad advice.

Thank you for help. Your website is a great source of information.

Answer (September 17, 2007):
According to the Additional Instructions and Guidelines for Referees in the back of the 2007 Laws of the Game, your instructor friend is in error. The document states:
Feinting to take a penalty kick to confuse opponents is permitted as part of football. However, if in the opinion of the referee the feinting is considered an act of unsporting behavior, the player shall be cautioned.…


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).


[Two related questions came in. We have combined the questions and answers]
1. A question has risen in another forum concerning a statement in section 14.3 of the Advice to Referees. Specifically, at the taking of a penalty kick, if the kick is taken before the referee signals, ATR 14.3 asserts that the kick must be retaken, regardless of the result of the first kick. However, some very experienced and knowledgeable referees maintain that, if a PK (taken before the referee signals) is missed, it is contrary to the spirit of the game to allow the kicking team a second chance.My question is, is ATR 14.3 correct? Or am I misunderstanding something about fairness in this situation?

2. We had an interesting scenario here during one of our state cup finals. Game went to kicks to break the tie. One of the kickers approaches and kicks the ball prior to any signal by the referee. The kick does NOT enter the goal. The referee, based on discussion with AR, decides not to retake the kick.

Is this correct?

We have reviewed the ATR & FIFA Q&A regarding Law 14. Both make reference to attacker or kicker infringement based upon the referee signalling proceed with the kick.

USSF answer (June 17, 2007):
1. Yes, Advice 14.3 is correct. It makes no difference what “some very experienced and knowledgeable referees maintain,” because the Law is clear. There can be no change of the restart if it is taken before the referee’s signal. If there is an infringement AFTER the referee’s signal, then the restart can be changed.

2. It is implicit in Law 14 that there can be no infringement of the requirements of Law 14 before the referee has signaled for the kick. Therefore, any act that occurs before the referee’s signal cannot change the restart. If the act constitutes misconduct, the referee should deal with it accordingly.

Please note that, contrary to rumors, no announcement was made at the 2007 National Referee Certification and Recertification seminars that the referee could restart in such a case with an indirect free kick.…


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.…


I am coaching a U10 Boys team. A penalty kick was awarded to the opposing team. The referee provided the goalkeeper with proper directions for staying on the line until the kick was made. The opponent took the kick and it went wide of the goal. The goalkeeper was still standing in the middle of the goal after the ball went wide of the goal mouth. The assistant referee then signaled that the goalkeeper had left the line and the kick needed to be retaken. The kick was retaken and this time was successful. As a result of this call by the assistant referee the goalkeeper was afraid to move at all during the second kick and refused to play goalkeeper during the second half of the game. My question is this. The only things I can think of are that the goalkeeper was standing with his heels on the line. As the kick was about to be taken the goalkeeper rotated onto the balls of his feet therefore lifting his heels off of the line, or as he moved sideways his foot moved less than the length of his shoe off of the line (in other words not very far, and not intentionally forward). Should either of these situations be grounds for a retaking of the PK? Is there some kind of guidance that can be provided as to what constitutes remaining on the line and what is just ordinary movement? I know that for a throw-in, a player who lifts his heel while his toes are inside of the touch line is considered no longer having part of each foot either on the touch line or on the ground outside the touch line, is this the same guideline to be used for a goalkeeper during a penalty kick.USSF answer (April 23, 2007):
This would appear to be what we call a BRSU (Basic Referee Screw-Up), committed in this case by the assistant referee (AR). We must admit that some ARs are a bit overzealous about flagging for supposed infringements at a penalty kick. We apologize for this likely error and hope that this team is not penalized by having such a zealous AR in its future games.

Moreover, while it is certainly a BRSU by the AR, the referee must also take blame for (1) failing to recognize that he is not obliged to accept the input from the AR and (2) failing to recognize that the keeper’s action (even if not consistent with Law 14, which I have already disputed) is entirely consistent with the flexibility which “doubtful/trifling” gives to the referee.

We are more concerned about your statement that the player who lifts the heel, yet keeps the toes on the ground, is considered to have failed to meet the requirements of Law 15. The throw-in should be considered for what it is, a way to restart the game. Only truly major infringements of the Law should be flagged by ARs or called by referees, particularly in youth games. In fact, we might go a step further (no pun intended) and say that a keeper or a thrower who simply lifts his heels is still within both the letter and the spirit of the Law. The lines involved are planes and, though the heel might not be touching the ground, it is still ON the line.

In short, there was no infringement and the goal should have been upheld by the referee.…


I want to get clear answer on this ruling: player A is takes a penalty kick, goalkeeper B blocks the kick and deflects it right back to player A who shot the penalty. I let the goal stand since there was a second touch on the ball. My instructors say that since the keeper doesn’t really control the ball by deflecting it, its considered a second touch same as if it would have deflected from the cross bar or post. Please clarify this because they seem to be the only ones who are argue this with me.USSF answer (April 23, 2007):
We are sure you must have misunderstood your instructors. Instructors who read the Laws of the Game are never wrong. Instructors who read the Laws would find this, right there in Law 14:

– the player taking the penalty kicks the ball forward
– he does not play the ball a second time until it has touched another player

The last time we looked in the Laws of the Game, the goalkeeper was a player and is considered “another player” under the terms of Law 14. Your decision to allow the goal was correct.…


FIFA’s Laws of the Game states that on a Corner Kick “the ball is placed inside the corner arc…”. My question is: Does “inside the corner arc” mean that the ball cannot touch any part of the goal line, side line or arc marking? Or does it mean that any part of the ball touching any part of the goal line, side line or arc marking is considered “inside the arc”? Inside the “Field of Play” is any part of the ball still touching the goal line or side line. Would not the same interpretation hold true for the goal line, side line or corner arc marking when taking a Corner Kick? For that matter, would the same hold true for the placement of the ball for a Penalty Kick, i.e. the ball can be placed anywhere, as long as the ball is still touching the Penalty Kick marking?USSF answer (April 16, 2007):
On a corner kick, the ball need only break the plane of the arc or the touch- or goal lines to be considered in the proper position.

On a penalty kick, the ball must be ON the penalty mark.…