Illegal Substitution Problems

An adult/pro level referee asks:

A goal is scored in the 50th minute and, during the stoppage that results, the referee notices that the scorer had not been a player when the first half ended.  Apparently,  the scorer had swapped places with a teammate who had been a player at the end of the first half and then, as players were returning to the field for the start of the second half, entered the field in effect as a substitution that had not been brought to the referee’s attention. What should the referee decide?

Answer

First, this sort of thing should not happen, either as a result of referee inattention or as a breakdown in communications within the officiating team, all of whom have a collective and individual responsibility for ensuring that the Law’s requirements are met (see Law 3, section 3: “If a substitution is made during the half-time interval or before extra time, the procedure must be completed before the match restarts”).

Second, although this situation could theoretically occur in any match, it is much more likely to happen in a match which is not being governed by the strict substitution requirements of Law 3 … in other words, in a youth game where substitutions are usually unlimited and with a “right to return” (see, again, Law 3, section 2).  Detailed recordkeeping of who enters and leaves under these common circumstances is often nonexistent because it is so cumbersome.

Third, following from the first two comments, it is highly likely that the “substitution” was not the result of a willful, intentional desire to circumvent the Law to gain an advantage or to show a lack of respect for the game.

Frankly, this situation is not directly or clearly covered by the Laws of the Game.  You might think it is but it really isn’t.  A student of the Law would likely point to Law 3, Section 5, which suggests that the scorer, having entered the field illegally (i.e., without the referee’s permission using standard substitution mechanics), should be cautioned and play restarted with an IFK where the ball was when play was stopped.  This is fine if the entry had been during play, was seen, and play stopped for this infraction.   Others might suggest that the situation is governed by Law 3, Section 7, which provides for sanctions in the case of an “extra person” who enters the field and interferes with play.  But the scorer is not an “extra person” as that term is generally used.  Here, the stoppage occurred solely because the ball left the field (into the goal — but it could just as easily been across the touchline for a throw-in restart.

“By the book,” there isn’t a clear answer.  Is there something close?  Consider the following: caution the scorer for entering the field without the referee’s permission, cancel the goal, require the scorer to leave the field and be replaced with the original player, and restart with a goal kick.  This stitched-together set of referee actions is supportable by various sections of the Law and by the underlying intent of the Law.

For a match below the highest competitive levels (where, as suggested, this sort of thing is more likely to have occurred), there is, however, a fairly simple alternative.  It is commonly understood that, when the referee signals for the start of the second half (as with the first half and all subsequent periods of play), this is an implicit confirmation that the referee (assisted by both ARs) accepts that all players are correctly on the field under Law 3, their uniforms and equipment meet the requirements of Law 4, and the field itself is acceptable under Law 1.  The signal to start the period of play could thus be reasonably taken as an implicit acceptance of the player “substitution.”  If this line of argument is persuasive, then the substitution has been tacitly accepted, the score stands and no caution for illegal entry is needed.  Absent a belief by the referee that the “substitution” was undertaken for nefarious  and unsporting purposes, why make things more difficult for everyone and for no particularly compelling reason?  The player (and the player’s coach) could be reminded of their obligation to make sure in the future that the referee is more properly advised about any otherwise well-meaning substitution that had been made during a between periods break.

We hasten to add that the immediately preceding suggestion is not officially recognized and you are welcome to act according to your own conscience.  However, we believe that the way Law 3, section 5 (“a named substitute starts a match instead of a named player and the referee is not informed of this change”) resolves this situation is in the same spirit in which our “simple solution” is offered.

DETERMINING THE RESTART WHEN AN OUTSIDE AGENT ENTERS THE FIELD

Question:
Before the ball enters the goal from an attacking player’s shot, a spectator enters the field of play and slightly touches the ball with his hand but does not manage to stop the goal. What decision should the referee make?

Answer (November 15, 2015):
In such cases, the referee must follow the guidance on p. 66 of the Laws of the Game:

Outside agents
Anyone not indicated on the team list as a player, substitute or team official is deemed to be an outside agent, as is a player who has been sent off.
If an outside agent enters the field of play:
• the referee must stop play (although not immediately if the outside agent does not interfere with play)
• the referee must have him removed from the field of play and its immediate surroundings
• if the referee stops the match, he must restart play with a dropped ball from the position of the ball when the match was stopped, unless play was stopped inside the goal area, in which case the referee drops the ball on the goal area line parallel to the goal line at the point nearest to where the ball was located when play was stopped

In your situation, Law 3 requires that the referee determine whether or not the outside agent—here the spectator—has truly interfered with play. Only the referee on the game can determine this; not the players, not the team officials, no one but the referee, with advice from the ARs, if necessary.

SUBSTITUTIONS WHEN, AND HOW MANY?

Question:
If a player from Team A is injured and is being substituted, can Team B also substitute at that time?
If so,is there a limited number of players that can be substituted?

Answer (November 18, 2014):
Q. 1: Yes.
Q. 2: See below.

Under the Laws of the Game, the following procedures apply:

Substitution procedure
In all matches, the names of the substitutes must be given to the referee prior to the start of the match. Any substitute whose name is not given to the referee at this time may not take part in the match.
To replace a player with a substitute, the following conditions must be observed:
• the referee must be informed before any proposed substitution is made
• the substitute only enters the field of play after the player being replaced has left and after receiving a signal from the referee
• the substitute only enters the field of play at the halfway line and DURING A STOPPAGE IN THE MATCH
• the substitution is completed when a substitute enters the field of play
• from that moment, the substitute becomes a player and the player he has replaced becomes a substituted player
• the substituted player takes no further part in the match
• all substitutes are subject to the authority and jurisdiction of the referee, whether called upon to play or not

And from the back of the book, under Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees, Law 3:

Substitution procedure
• A substitution may be made only during a stoppage in play
• The assistant referee signals that a substitution has been requested
• The player being substituted receives the referee’s permission to leave the field of play, unless he is already off the field of play for reasons that comply with the Laws of the Game
• The referee gives the substitute permission to enter the field of play
• Before entering the field of play, the substitute waits for the player he is replacing to leave the field
• The player being substituted is not obliged to leave the field of play on the halfway line
• Permission to proceed with a substitution may be refused under certain circumstances, e.g. if the substitute is not ready to enter the field of play
• A substitute who has not completed the substitution procedure by setting foot on to the field of play cannot restart play by taking a throw-in or corner kick
• If a player who is about to be replaced refuses to leave the field of play, play continues
• If a substitution is made during the half-time interval or before extra time, the procedure is to be completed before the second half or extra time kicks off

As you can see from these quotes, there is no limit on the number of players that may be substituted. However, remember that this particular facet of substitution was not written to consider the system of multiple substitutions that we see in many competitions.

COLLEGE FIASCO? NOT QUITE CLEAR, BUT . . . (AMENDED)

Question:
At a Division III college women’s soccer game, a Red team player tried to keep the ball from going out of bounds. The line judge ruled that she had stepped out while touching the ball and put up his flag indicating that the Blue team should have the throw in. Play continued, however, and the center judge did not see the line judge’s flag, even after 10-15 seconds when the line judge was vigorously waving the flag. After about 20 seconds, he put his flag down as play continued on the field. About 25-30 seconds after the out of bounds was initially called, the Blue team scored a goal. The Red team coach protested that the goal should be disallowed because of the out of bounds call.

What is the correct call in this situation?

(In the game, the center judge did disallow the goal and gave the Blue team the throw in.)

Answer (September 25, 2012):
Nothing you have described about the woman who stepped outside the field is illegal. Nothing you have described about the woman who stepped outside the field was illegal. The “line judge,” actually called an assistant referee, was TOTALLY INCORRECT, even under college rules, and so was the”judge,” actually called the referee, provided the ball remained on the field during this action. It is not an offense to leave the field during the course of play to keep the ball in play inside the boundaries of the field. The correct call would have been no call at all, based on the scenario you gave me.

AMENDMENT:
The questioner now informs me that the ball did indeed leave the field. In that case, the AR was correct in waving the flag and the referee was correct in disallowing the goal.

PENALTY KICK AT EURO 2012 (CHANGING THE LAW?)

Question:
re Poland v Greece game 09/06/12. I feel the Law should be changed inasmuch that the team who has their goalkeeper sent off for an infringement resulting in a penalty cannot replace him/her until after the penalty has been taken.

The defending team is not penalised for deliberate foul by keeper that could have resulted in a goal by replacing with another keeper. The one to suffer is the player removed to enable the team to play with 10 men still.

Answer (June 9, 2012):
Law 3 requires that one of the players on each team be a goalkeeper, so a team cannot be required to play without a ‘keeper. The Law also permits substitution at ANY stoppage of play, such as a send-off or a penalty kick. After the player being replaced (in this case a field player) has left the field, the substitute may enter and begin to play. As there was no goalkeeper, some player must become the goalkeeper to meet the requirement of the Law. Your suggestion is interesting but runs counter to over 100 years of Law and tradition and would not be in the best interest of the game.

MANIPULATING SUBSTITUTIONS

Question:
Question Regarding Substitutions at the U13 Level: Our league plays under this local rule, “The XXXXXX Soccer Association follows FIFA laws of the game as modified for Youth by the USSF and USYS. The League operates in accordance with the policies of YYYYY State. All coaches and players shall become thoroughly familiar with the FIFA laws of the game as modified for Youth by the USSF and USYS.

In addition to the substitution rules as modified for Youth, a coach has the right to request to substitute a player who has received a yellow card at the time the card is given and 1 for 1 substitution are allowed for an injured player coming off the field.”

Situation is as follows: Team A with a 1 goal lead, late in the game.

Team A repeatedly substitutes during every stoppage of play in the final 10 minutes of play. With approximately 2 minutes of regular time remaining another substitution is made and the referee clearly watches his game clock, and then announces after the substitution, that 1 minute of “stoppage time” will be added. Next stoppage, with under a minute remaining in regular time, another substitution is requested and denied by the referee. In the added time, another stoppage occurs with the same request and it is also denied.

Naturally, Team B scores in the final seconds of stoppage time to draw the match. There is naturally now some controversy as to the referee’s decision to disallow the substitutions. The question is that it appears that the substitutions were within the laws of the game and advice to referees regarding substitutions should have granted the substitutions, however the unlimited substitution clause in the USYS gives the referee an apparent decision point contrary to the advice? In addition, the referee felt that the substitutions were often “not prepared”, although they were all field players and not ever the GK.

Rule 302. SUBSTITUTIONS Section 1. Except as provided by USYSA or its State Associations, substitutions shall be unlimited except where specified otherwise in the rules and regulations for a special competition.

Section 2. Substitutions may be made, with the consent of the referee, at any stoppage in play.

Could you please provide an opinion? This is not an isolated incident as subs are frequently denied in the final minutes of either half, however, it only creates controversy when seemingly, possibly affected the outcome. (would you expect a question otherwise? 🙂

My answer (April 18, 2012):
Disclaimer: I am no longer allowed to prepare and publish items as officially approved by the U. S. Soccer Federation, so this answer will have to do. It is totally correct under the Laws of the Game and common practice in the United States and the rest of the world.

The referee, while clearly having the best intentions in trying to prevent further gamesmanship by Team A, has misapplied the Laws of the Game.

Except for situations in which the substitution is requested just as the ball is ready to be put into play, referees may not ignore or deny permission for a legal substitution that is properly requested. Although Law 3 requires that the referee be “informed before any proposed substitution is made,” this does not mean that the referee can deny permission for any reason other than to ensure that the substitution conforms to the Law. Even if it seems that the purpose is to waste time, the referee cannot deny the request, but should exercise the power granted in Law 7 to add time lost through “any other cause.” Rules of those competitions that permit multiple substitutions and re-entries can sometimes lead to confusion.

Unless the rules of the competition specifically forbid adding time for such gamesmanship or any other reason, the referee should follow the guidance in Law 7 for adding time.

SUBSTITUTE ENTERS WITHOUT PERMISSION AND “FOULS” OPPONENT

Question:
After a substitute enters the field of play and trips an opponent from behind (blind side) the referee stopped play and showed the substitute the red card. He restarted with a IFK. At the end of the game while writing the report the referee is struggling with what reason to write for the red card for.

The LOTG states: A player, substitute or substituted player is sent off if he commits any of the following seven offenses:
• serious foul play
• violent conduct

The referee wants to go with SFP since the play wasn’t that violent to go with VC. But AR reminds him that ATR 12.33 says:
This does not include serious misconduct by substitutes, who should be punished for violent conduct if they commit an act as described in the first paragraph of this section. (See 12.34.)

My question, can the ATR trump what is very clearly stated in the LOTG?

Answer (February 10, 2012):
There is nothing in the Advice to Referees that recommends anything that is contrary to or “trumps” the Laws of the Game. The Laws of the Game always take precedence over anything in the Advice, as clearly stated in the introduction to the Advice. Your scenario is clear-cut and the same answers are in both publications.

First you must justify the nature of any misconduct committed by the substitute before you decide how to punish it. In your scenario the sub who enters the field and trips an opponent, but has not committed any act of a violent nature. Why would you send him off for serious foul play? A substitute cannot commit serious foul play. He can commit violent conduct, but your scenario does not include any act of violence. Therefore the information in Advice 12.33 is absolutely correct: The substitute MUST be cautioned for unsporting behavior (entering without permission), but not necessarily until he interferes with play, and the opponents awarded an indirect free kick from the place where the ball was when play was stopped. If the referee “needs” the second sanction for game management purposes, then he or she should caution the substitute for a second instance of unsporting behavior, tripping the opponent. If the trip from behind involved excessive force, then send the sub off for violent conduct.

DOES THE GOAL COUNT?

Question:
I was watching a clip of a professional men’s match when the following occurred. Team A attacked Team B’s goal, and missed, with the ball being shot into the hands of team B’s goalkeeper. The team A shooter’s momentum carried him off the field of play to the right of team B’s goal.

Team B’s ‘keeper carried the ball out to about his 12 yard line and put the ball down to kick it upfield, whereupon the team A shooter who had left the field of play “snuck” up behind the ‘keeper, and stole the ball, dribbled once, and scored. The goal stood.

My question is related to whether or not the scorer was eligible to even re-enter the field of play without the referee’s permission.

Clearly, his leaving the field of play resulted in a tactical advantage, although he did not originally leave the field intentionally. Does the goal count?

USSF answer (January 16, 2012):
Because the shooter left the field during the course of play through his momentum, he does not need the permission of the referee to return to the field. The goalkeeper was “punished” for his lack of shortsightedness in losing track of where the opposing player was. Score the goal.

GETTING REFEREE-AR COMMUNICATION RIGHT

Question:
This past weekend I was centering a BU14 game with 2 AR’s that I had not worked with in the past.  Our pre-game conference unfortunately, did not cover the situation which unfolded as follows.  During the first half a Blue Attacker struck a volley shot from about 25 yards out.  I was positioned approximately 10 yard from the shot and about 30 yards from the goal line. The shot was driven over the outstretched arms of the opposing keeper and then struck the crossbar, directing it downwards toward the ground.  The ball struck the ground and due to the spin on the ball bounced back out towards the top of the goal area, where it was eventually cleared by the defense.  From my vantage point, I could not tell if the whole of the ball had cross over the goal line and a goal had been scored.  I looked to my AR, who was positioned about 10-12 yards from the goal line (even with the 2nd to the last defender) and clearly in a much better position than me to see if the ball had entirely crossed over the goal line, albeit, not in the optimal position of being on the goal line.  He raised his flag excitedly waiving it, but then put the flag down & waived his free arm at waist level from side to side, in what I believed to be a negative manner.  (Here is where the confusion began)  I called to him to inquire if the ball had crossed the line.  Due to his negative gesture, I believed he was indicating “no goal” and indicated verbally for play to continue.  At no time did I blow my whistle to stop play.  Several minutes later at the stoppage for halftime I went to AR and confer with him at which point he indicated that the ball had in fact crossed the line and was indicating that it was a goal.  At the time I had discovered my error, we did not correct it and the game ended with the Blue team losing 2-1, as opposed to a 2-2 tie.  I believe that I incorrectly applied a portion of the law concerning when a goal is scored with too many players on the field and play is restarted, that the goal may not be disallowed. (ie an error may not be corrected after play has been restarted) The game report was submitted with an description of the error that was made.  Furthermore, league officials were present at the game & I immediately made them aware of the matter as well.

At halftime, I reviewed the AR’s procedures and signals for indicating a goal and getting the center Referee’s attention if a problem arises, but again, the mistake had already occurred.  This will now be part of my pre-game instructions.

I have reviewed the Laws of the Game, specifically Law 5 – The Referee and Law 10 – The method of scoring and cannot find anything specific to this situation.  I also reviewed Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees.  My next thought was to check Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game, but then submitted my question here.  Clearly the pre-game could have been a bit more thorough and communication between the myself and my AR should have been better, However, the error was made and I now find myself searching for an answer to address the issue.

Law 5 clearly states “that the decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play, including whether or not a goal is scored and the result of the match are final.  The referee may only change a decision on realizing that it is incorrect or, at his discretion, on the advice of an assistant referee or the 4th official, provided he has not restarted play or terminated the match.

Here is my question.  Play was never restarted and continued on as I believed that no goal had been scored.  The match was not terminated and merely ended upon the expiration of regulation time.  I suspect that the answer will be the final determination will be left up the the league.  However, in the future, procedurally, should the error have been corrected at halftime or at the next stoppage in play when the error was discovered or did I handle it correctly in documenting it in the game report & leaving it up to the league to resolve?

USSF answer (December 20, 2011):
Your problem lay in failure to follow standard procedures during the pregame conference and during play. If you had followed them, as we know you will in future, you would have stopped play immediately.

The correct procedure in the case of goals seen by the lead assistant referee is to follow the guidance given on p. 25 of the USSF “Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials.”  If the ball briefly but fully enters the goal and is continuing to be played and this is not clearly seen by the referee, the AR raises the flag vertically to get the referee’s attention and then, after the referee stops play, the AR puts the flag straight down and follows the normal procedures for a goal. In turn, the referee should check visually with the assistant referee long enough to see a signal for a goal in cases where the ball is being played close to the goal and may have briefly but fully entered the goal.

In cases of doubt, stop play immediately and check verbally with the AR. If (as would have happened here) you decide that a goal WAS scored, well and good. If it turns out that the AR’s arm waving meant that there was no goal, then ou can always apologize to the players, something referees do not do often enough, and restart with a dropped ball.

We assume that this sentence, “I believe that I incorrectly applied a portion of the law concerning when a goal is scored with too many players on the field and play is restarted, that the goal may not be disallowed. (ie an error may not be corrected after play has been restarted),” refers to whether you might have stopped play upon realizing (somehow) that a goal had been scored. For this, we recommend following the International Football Association Board’s instructions that, when the ball leaves the field and the referee does not see (or does not understand) the AR’s signal, play can be stopped at any time the realization dawns unless “too much play” (including a stoppage and a restart) has gone by. In this case, the ball going into the goal is merely a specific example of the ball having left the field.

RETRIEVING THE BALL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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