First I’d like to thank you for providing answers to questions that I also observe while doing games.I have two questions, both involve action by the keeper.

1. The rule book still has a violation for the keeper “pairing” the ball, and then handling the ball. I have never seen this called in all the games I’ve done. I called this years ago on a U13 keeper, which caused the coach to go crazy, and after asking around the general response was that no one calls that anymore, even though it is still in the book. I was the AR at a U16 girls match the other night, when two attackers were moving toward the keeper, at the same time the ball had bounced and was at right in front of the keepers face. She took both fist and directed the ball out to the side, then followed the ball, and collected it with her hands. I saw that this took an advantage away from the attacking players, who could have headed the ball toward the goal, or if the keeper would have mishandled the ball, they would have had an easy shot on goal. When I asked the two adult refs during half-time about pairing the ball, they had never heard of this. Should I have raised my flag?

2. While doing a U17 girls match, which I was an AR, an attacker had control of the ball making a fast break to goal. One defender was chasing her shoulder to shoulder, and just before they reached the Penalty Area, the defender reached the ball and kicked it to the keeper, who picked the ball up. I raised my flag, but the center waved me down. At the time, I thought maybe he saw it different, and that the attacker, in his opinion, kicked the ball. At halftime he told me that I need to understand that the intentional pass back to the keeper was only put in the rules to stop delay of game, and that we don’t call this. I have called this myself and have seen other adult refs call this in the same situations. This center has been around for a long time and is an assessor. What is the right call?

USSF answer (May 10 2007):
1. By “parrying” the ball, i. e., pushing the ball with the hands to a place convenient for later play, the goalkeeper has established possession of the ball. Please remember: “Parry” = “possession.” If he or she handles the ball after parrying it, that constitutes an infringement of Law 12: “touches the ball again with his hands after it has been released from his possession and has not touched any other player.”

If the goalkeeper’s act is a parry, rather than simply a “fisting away” of the ball for defensive purposes, then the referee MUST call the foul and the AR, if he or she is the only one to see it, must flag the foul for the referee’s attention. Perhaps your “adult” colleagues should pay more attention to the Laws of the Game.

2. If the referee, in his or her infinite wisdom, chooses to wave off your flag, that is the referee’s problem. The statement attributed to the referee is partly correct: The change in the Law was made to eliminate time wasting and, if no time was wasted, the referee might choose to exercise his or her discretion in letting it go–i.e., decide that the offense was doubtful or trifling, but it is STILL an offense. However, situations in which this would apply are very few and far between.…


We have a center referee and 1 AR for a Youth Match- AR 2 is a no show- We will recruit a club AR for AR 2-I have been told that in this case, my AR 1 cannot do anything that the AR 2 cannot do: IE: Since the club AR is only calling the ball out of Touch or over the goal line the AR 1 must do the same.

The justification is that it would be unfair that one team in a given half has an AR indicating Offside, Fouls ETC and one team does not. There is a chance that a game affecting call could be made that would unfairly impact one of the teams-

Then there is the question does the AR 1 need to remain on the diagonal zone they started from or can this be changed at the half in order to be fair to both teams-

I can’t find advice that addresses the above which then leads one to believe that the center referee has the latitude to instruct the AR1 and AR2 as he sees fit and could move them around accordingly-

Please let me know what your thoughts are on this point- Thanks,

USSF answer (May 2, 2007):
Lies, all lies. The neutral AR does his/her normal job, while the club linesman does only that which a club linesman can do, as stated in the Advice to Referees:

Where neutral assistant referees are not available, the referee may use club linesmen. Club linesmen should report to the referee before the start of the game for instructions. The referee should make it clear that the decision of the referee is final and must not be questioned. The relationship of club linesmen to the referee must be one of assistance, without undue interference or any opposition. Club linesmen are to signal only when the ball is entirely over the goal line or touch-line.

As to what the neutral AR does and where he or she is deployed, that is at the discretion of the referee.…


How does USSF look at referees whom do not give signals on throw-in, corner kicks and goal kicks but verbalize their decisions? As an AR, I mirrored what the referee was verbalizing but, I simply like to know the proper protocol.

USSF answer (April 30, 2007):
The point of signals is to let everyone involved in the game know what is happening (players, ARs, team officials, etc.), not just those within earshot. Just as with the advantage signal needing to be as public as blowing the whistle, simply verbalizing possession for a TI, GK, or CK (even if understood perfectly by the players in the immediate vicinity) may not be enough for others who need the same information but who are farther away. Unless one’s voice is sufficiently stentorian to be heard around the entire field, visual signals are needed.…


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.…


Recently I was a Field Marshall at a tournament, and I have been a ref for the 10 years now (although I have been coaching for the last 5 years and have only refed 2 games in that time) … anyway, there was a handball in the penalty area near that AR’s side of the field that the ref was out of position to call, but the AR on that side clearly saw, but did not call. At half time the asst. coach of the team that did not get the call ran over and admantly opposed his “no-call”. To which the AR replied that “as an AR I am not allowed to make that call”, now unless I missed something along the way, I thought that an AR was allowed to make that call??Secondly, during PK’s in another game at that same tournament, a shot was taken that bounced off the crossbar and presumeably in (it was ruled a goal), the CR made no call but looked to the AR who simply shook his head yes …. what should have been the proper signal from the AR?

USSF answer (April 9, 2007):
1. Assistant referees do not make “calls,” they indicate to the referee that something has happened. However, they only flag for events that they are CERTAIN that the referee has not seen. In this case, the AR may have felt that the so-called deliberate handling was either trifling or that it was not deliberate at all. As to the rest, it is not our job to second guess ARs or referees, but we can certainly do as good a job from our desks as an assistant coach who has no business approaching either the AR or the referee in any situation. The assistant coach’s behavior was irresponsible, which means he or she should have been expelled from the game.

2. Your question is not quite clear. By “during PK’s” do you mean kicks from the penalty mark or a single penalty kick called during the match. If it was during KFTPM, then the AR’s mechanic was certainly within the range of what a referee may request an AR to do to indicate a good goal. If this occurred during a single penalty kick during the match, then the AR should have made eye contact with the referee; once eye contact was made, then the AR should have sprinted to his or her kick-off position.…


After the final whistle, the referee notices signal from his assistant referee. The assistant referee tells the referee that before the final whistle the goalkeeper punched an oppenent inside his own penalty area. What action does the referee take?USSF answer (April 5, 2007):
If the referee accepts the information from the assistant referee, then the correct action is to send off the offending goalkeeper for violent conduct or serious foul play, whichever is appropriate (it is unclear from your question), and then extend time for a penalty kick.…


A question has come up regard the re-start in the following scenario: While play is in the attacking end of the field in the Referee’s quadrant, the trail A/R’s attention is drawn to two opposing players near mid-field who are verbally challenging each other. Fearing that the verbal jousting will escalate into a physical confrontation, the trail A/R draws the attention of the Referee. The Referee, seeing the signal and look of concern on the face of the A/R, stops play.The A/R indicates that both players should be cautioned for Unsporting Behavior, but he is uncertain which player started the trouble.

Since play was stopped only to deal with the misconduct and it is uncertain which player started it and which player retaliated, how should the game be re-started?

USSF answer (March 12, 2007):
The assistant referee, particularly the trail AR, should never interrupt the referee’s concentration on active play unless a major infringement of the Laws has occurred. The AR should note the player’s players’ numbers, their actions, and anything else that will help the referee make a proper decision. The AR should not signal for “non-events” until the next stoppage–unless the incident escalates into something that cannot be stopped. In addition, the AR should speak to the players involved, attempting to defuse the situation so that it does not escalate.

In this particular case, in which the AR has interfered in the game and cannot supply the necessary information, the referee must decide how to restart. While FIFA has recently stated that, in such a situation, a dropped ball may be used to restart play (2006 Q&A 5.14), this should be used only as a last resort when the referee is completely unable to determine whose ball it should be. The dropped ball is the easy way to solve that problem, but referees are expected to MAKE A DECISION and not rely on the easy catch-all of the dropped ball. The referee should choose which team to punish. This is made particularly easy for him or her because the incident occurred “near mid-field” and thus will not create an immediate goalscoring opportunity.…


I’ve let this letter simmer for a couple of months so that my own attitude settles a bit. I would almost prefer that the question not be published, but it brings up issues that need to be addressed at many levels of competitive soccer. We’ve seen too many other youth sports where someone at a game went nuts. Then the situation spirals out of control and people end up hurt (or worse). I would hate to see our youth soccer programs end up in the same mess, but I won’t be terribly surprised when it happens.I have been active in soccer as a parent, coach and referee over the past 12 years. For the event listed below, I was just a parent.

Situation: U16 boys competitive tournament. White is a local team. Red is from out of town. About 5 minutes into the first half, still scoreless, opposing players are battling for the ball near midfield. White pushes red, red pushes back harder รข a fairly typical foul for this level. The referee blows his whistle and indicates white ball, DFK. The players start backing away from the ball, getting ready for the kick. So far, all is normal. Before play can resume, the assistant referee closest to the play charges onto the field (8-10 yards), shouting at the red player “what’s your problem?”, bumps the player in the chest a couple of times and finally retreats to his sideline. The referee shows no card to any player, and says nothing to either the player or the AR.

When I complained to the tournament officials about the actions of the referee and assistant referee, they refused to even send an observer to monitor the rest of the game.

White ended up winning the game 2-1.

Questions: Under what circumstance is physical contact permitted between the referee crew and the players? Is it simply to restrain players involved in a fight? That clearly was not the case here. If it had been the other way around, or if it happened between two players, I believe the charging party would have been red-carded for violent conduct.

USSF answer (January 11, 2007):
Under no circumstances should an assistant referee or a referee act in the manner you describe. While some referees have a knack of handling players differently than others, such as being able to use actual physical contact, what you describe is well “over the top.” The AR should have been admonished by the referee and the referee should have included full details of the incident in a report to the referee authorities.…