NOTE: I do not remember where I got this item — and for that I apologize to the source — but it seems worth publishing again to remind referees that they need to ensure that everyone on the field knows who is in charge of the game.

Recently I lined an U15B game in a neighborhood complex. A visiting team player whacked the ball. It went out of play, over the fans, along the touchline, over the short chain-link fence behind the fans, over a driveway into the complex, over another short chain-link fence, and into a neighbor’s backyard.

A home team player knew the drill. He ran off the field, jumped the first fence, crossed the road, and arrived at the backyard fence.

The player saw a “Beware of Dogs” sign. He looked around but didn’t see any dogs. To be sure he banged on the fence just as he started to jump. Lucky for him.

Lying against the back of the house in the shade was THE DOG. THE DOG was not happy. THE DOG obviously had dealt with this situation before and knew how to handle it.

THE DOG growled menacingly, stood up, and stared at the player. THE DOG then walked very deliberately to the ball as he maintained eye contact. He continued growling and staring at the player. When THE DOG got to the ball, he looked down, sniffed it disgustedly, looked up, and again growled at the player.

THE DOG then looked at the ball one last time, raised his hind leg, and relieved himself on the ball. He gave the player a final stare with a final contemptuous growl (looking something like a sly, cynical grin), turned around, and casually jogged back to his favorite spot in the shade.

The player was momentarily stunned. With both arms raised he finally shouted to the sidelines, “I’M NOT PLAYING WITH THAT BALL!!!”.

I remember THE DOG whenever I referee an older youth game. He’s even become one of my role models for player management.

THE DOG stayed in the background until it was time to make his presence known. He commanded the player’s attention while he took forceful action. He used crisp mechanics to clearly communicate his decision. He received the player’s unquestioning acceptance of his decision. And he felt much better when he was finished.


What should the ref do when a player comes off the bench and denies an obvious goal scoring opportunity?

Answer (October 1, 2012):
Send him off for denying the obvious goalscoring opportunity. It’s in the Law. Restart with an indirect free kick for the opposing team from the position of the ball when play was stopped (see Law 13 — Position of Free Kick). Indirect free kick is for the offense of unsporting behavior (sub enters without permission). The caution could be shown first, before the red card for denying the opportunity, but that might be overkill.


In my age group, the referees (usually R8s and R9s) tend to be very inexperienced. Many calls are incorrect (don’t worry, I was an R8 ref a few years ago, so I know they were wrong). Is it frowned upon for a referee to change a call once made after players and/or coaches argue? I am an arguer (i.e. refs I don’t personally know generally don’t like me), and a ref has never changed a call, whether they know it was wrong or not. Can they, or is a call final no matter what?

Answer (July 7, 2012):
Yes, a referee may change a call, provided that he or she has not already restarted play. And, even if play has already restarted, if the referee realizes he has made a mistake, as long as this realization came to him or her before the restart occurred — and only the referee knows if that is true.


Before a corner kick or a direct kick or an indirect kick, the team with the ball is placing a player directly in front of the keeper. Also, that person is screening the keeper and is pushing backwards on the keeper and trying to push the keeper into the goal.

The screening player will do everything to prevent the goalkeeper from getting in front of them. I believe this is a violation of “Impeding the Progress of an Opponent”. All this is happening before the kick is made and when the ball is put into play. What is the ruling?

Answer (June 2, 2012):
What you describe is actually pushing or holding, both direct free kick offenses that should be punished by the referee. (Unfortunately, many referees do not recognize this and make no call or fail to bawl out the goalkeeper.)

It is a general principle underlying the Law that players are not permitted to “play” the opponent rather than the ball. Except under certain conditions spelled out in the Laws (such as at a penalty kick or throw-in or goal kick), a player is permitted to stand wherever he or she wishes. After the ball is put in play, a player who — without playing or attempting to play the ball — jumps up and down in front of the goalkeeper to block the ‘keeper’s vision or otherwise interferes with the ‘keeper’s ability to play the ball is committing the foul of impeding an opponent. If there is contact initiated by the player doing this, the foul becomes holding or pushing. When such activity occurs, the referee should immediately stop the restart and warn the players to conduct themselves properly. If, after the warning (and before the restart), they do it anyway, they have committed unsporting behavior and should be cautioned. The restart remains the same.

Before the ball is in play, the referee can simply allow the opponent of the ‘keeper to impede, wait for the restart to occur, blow the whistle, award an indirect free kick coming out, and card if needed. This is the “harsh” approach and it carries the danger, provided the jostling doesn’t sufficiently enrage the goalkeeper (or any other defender), that the tensions or violence will escalate to something more serious. It is also not a good approach when it is an attacker who is doing the jostling.

The referee can see the situation developing and verbally and/or by a closer presence encourage correct behavior on the part of the jostlers in the hope that they will cease their misbehavior. This is the “proactive” (some would call it the “wimpy”) approach and is more likely to prevent escalation, if it works. If it doesn’t work, the referee can always hold up the restart, caution, and then signal the restart or go to the option above.

Such actions against the goalkeeper can also occur during dynamic play and are very often missed by both referee and assistant referee.


Can ‘Charging’ be ‘Excessive Force’?

This question keeps getting asked and the answer always seems to be ‘soccer can be violent’ and ‘as long as its shoulder to shoulder its OK’

Therefore, I will ask as I keep seeing it, especially with a U14 that is playing up several age groups:

Can a 200-lb defender drop his shoulder and very puposefully barrel into a smaller player with the ball at a 90 degree angle, at speed, to the point that the smaller player with the ball goes flying off the pitch, a** over a teakettle?

This happens VERY often but only occasionally is called as a foul. I will respect your answer, but if this doesnt fall under ‘excessive force’ or ‘charging’, than I am lost.


Answer (May 9, 2012):
We define charging thusly: A fair charge is shoulder to shoulder, elbows (on the contact side) against the body, with each player having at least one foot on the ground and both attempting to gain control of the ball. The amount of force allowed is relative to the age and experience of the players, but should never be excessive. This is as defined by the referee on the game, not some book definition, adjusted as necessary for the age and experience of the players and what has happened or is happening in this particular game on this particular day at this particular moment. It all boils down to what is best for the referee’s management and the players’ full enjoyment of the game.

Although often overlooked by spectators, it is important to remember that a player’s natural endowments (speed, strength, height, heft, etc.) may be superior to that of the opponent who is competing with that player for the ball. As a completely natural result, the opponent may not only be bested in the challenge but may in fact wind up on the ground with no foul having been committed. The mere fact that a player fails in a challenge and falls or is knocked down is what the game is all about (and why coaches must choose carefully in determining which player marks which opponent). Referees do not handicap players by saddling them with artificial responsibilities to be easy on an opponent simply because they are better physically endowed in some way.

Fair charges include actions which do not strictly meet the “shoulder-to-shoulder” requirement when this is not possible because of disparities in height or body type (a common occurrence in youth matches in the early teenage range where growth spurts differ greatly on an individual level within the age group). Additionally, a fair charge can be directed toward the back of the shoulder if the opponent is shielding the ball, provided it is not done dangerously and never to the spinal area.

The arms may not be used at all, other than for balance, which does not include pushing off or holding the opponent.

Children of the same age differ in their development. They and we have to live with it. No foul if there was no offense other than being larger or faster. As noted above, the decision as to whether the force used is excessive is up to the individual referee.


I was the Center referee for an A division Co-ed match. There was a through ball for the attacking team, the forward run through to dribble into the penalty area. The keeper runs out to stop the ball, and missing it completely, and collided with the attacking player and took him out of play. I was near the top of the 18 yard, and had a clear view of the contact. I signalled a penalty kick, and issued a caution to the keeper. Since, it was his 2nd caution in this match, then I proceeded to show him the red card.

The defending team started screaming and said look at your assistant referee. He is standing firm around the 25 yard line, signalling an offside.

I reversed my call to an indirect free kick for the defending team, and took back the cards.

My reasoning is that I should have looked at my assistant referee first, and blown my whistle for the offside. If I had done that, it would have avoided the contact by the keeper and the forward.

Did I make the right call ?

USSF answer (March 28, 2012):

Your decision to use the information supplied by the AR was correct. Award the indirect free kick for the goalkeeper’s team. It is possible that the goalkeeper still engaged in certain behavior, whether it was during play against an opponent or during a stoppage resulting from the offside offense, so pleases consider the following:
Misconduct is separate from the foul (unless the foul was for serious foul play or denying a goalscoring opportunity through an act punishable by a free kick). Accordingly, the second caution which resulted in a red card should not have been withdrawn SOLELY because the referee accepted the advice from the AR and declared that the stoppage was for the offside. The ‘keeper’s act itself might warrant the caution (and red) or a straight red regardless of the change in the decision. If the goalkeeper’s act was purely careless, rather than reckless (caution) or done with excessive force (send-off), then there is no need to caution the ‘keeper.


We were debriefing after a match and the following technical restart questions came up. As part of my U18M Premier Division pregame I instructed the AR’s to not call technical throw-in violations unless the attacking team gained an unfair advantage or was creating a match management problem; I specifically included stepping on the field as a potentially trifling technical violation. During the match I chose a goal kick when an offside player booted the ball over the goaline – after the AR raised his flag, but without my whistle.

1. We know from Advice for Referees on the LOTG that given a choice of IFK for offside infraction and a goal kick or throw-in, to choose the latter in deference to game flow. How about if the offside player kicks the ball over the goal or touch line? Does the obvious game interference take precedence and result in the IFK restart?
2. We know from Advice for Referees on the LOTG that the primary purpose of the throw in is to get the ball quickly in play, and, at competitive levels, technical throw in infractions should be considered trifling. Obviously if the thrower gains an unfair advantage or the infraction may result in a match management problem, the throw in infraction is not trifling and should be called. How about if the thrower has one or both feet completely on the field (no unfair advantage gained nor a match management problem)?

USSF answer (March 23, 2012):
The referee is permitted a certain amount of discretion in enforcing the Laws of the Game, taking into consideration just the sort of things you suggest: game flow, level of skill, effect on match management, etc. However, the referee’s judgments must not be perceived as setting aside the Laws in his or her discretionary acts.

1. Only the referee knows which choice better fits the situation in this particular game. This one clearly comes under the advantage concept as well as the “easier to explain” concept.

2. Infringements of Law 15 are usually trifling (and occasionally doubtful), with the exception at times of being in the wrong location. The infringement needs to be blatant and obvious before the referee calls a “bad” throw-in when it comes to feet. In youth play, even “U18 Premier Division,” the referee should be proactive in dealing with this by stopping the throw-in before it is taken and having the player do it right. Game flow is one thing, but flouting the Law is another. However, having one or both feet fully in the field of play – and well beyond the touchline — is usually more than a trifling infraction.


I’d like to revisit one aspect of the distinction between abandoning and terminating a match. I understand the basic distinctions and the process for determining which course of action a referee should take as described in your answer at . However, I would like to ask specifically about the case of a youth match played in the US: if the last “responsible adult” in the team area has to be expelled for irresponsible behavior (thus leaving no adults in the team area), would the match be abandoned or terminated. I lean towards the latter answer since it seems to fall within the realm of serious breaches of the Law and should result in a game that cannot be replayed. However, I can also see that one may argue that the match should only be abandoned so as to allow for replay of the match once the competition authority has dealt appropriately with the inappropriate adults. Which is the most appropriate choice?

For completeness, if the last responsible adult must leave for some reason other than irresponsible behavior (e.g., illness, family or work emergency, etc), it seems to me that abandonment would be the appropriate decision for the referee in such a case. Do you agree?

USSF answer (January 16, 2012):
Our original answer of March 31, 2010, titled STOP, SUSPEND, ABANDON OR TERMINATE, simply suggested that the referee abandon the match in the scenario you put forth. Why? There is nothing in the Laws of the Game to cover this specific situation — and may not be in the rules of the competition either — but common sense suggests this to be the safest course to follow.

The International Board’s use of the word “termination” is, as in a number of other cases, a bit loose, suggesting only that the game is declared to be ended (as in the final paragraph of Law 5 on “Decisions of the Referee”). In most cases it is generally reserved for a situation where non-weather influences (invasion of the field, general melee, etc.) have made the game no longer playable.


I am not fluent in Spanish, but I understand enough to distinguish between disagreement and a flurry of obscenity. Generally speaking, I punish Spanish F/A just like English F/A.

Recently I was AR for a game where all the players spoke English, and some spoke Spanish too. After one foul call by the CR, a player let fly with a very “colorful” insult at the CR. The CR (who speaks fluent Spanish, too) looked at him and gave him a verbal warning. In English, for everyone to hear.

After the game, I asked the CR if he would have responded the same way if the player had said the equivalent in English. He said no, it would have been straight red. His reasoning was that by choosing to use a language that fewer people understood, the player was doing the equivalent of mumbling under his breath. In other words, he didn’t make it public.

I have to applaud the CR for his man management in this case. The game proceeded without further incident. But I’m wondering if this principle is one that can be used in general. Does switching to a second language give the players more liberty?

USSF answer (April 17, 2011):
Under the Law, a player is sent off for using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures. That incorporates the whole of human communication. “Liberty” must be defined within the context of the particular interaction. The Laws of the Game do not care which language a player, team official, referee or AR speaks. What is important under the Laws is what that person actually says or means or understands. None of that is necessarily language-dependent. Given that basis, our answer follows.

Yes, the player should probably have been sent off for an infringement of the Law, but the referee chose not to do it. It would seem that his manner of dealing with the use of the colorful language was correct for this particular incident. It might not have worked for all of us and it might not work for that referee with another player or in another game, but it worked here. However, it did work and that is one of the elements of good refereeing, to find a solution that works for everyone and ensures that the Spirit of the Game prevails.

Remember, whatever the language, a red card for abusive, insulting, or offensive language cannot really be justified if, in the opinion of the referee, no one was abused, insulted, or offended by it.


This is a very important point that creates a lot of confusion amongst the players, coaches and referees:
• A team that was behind in a game scores and all the sudden sense a comeback. A player from the team that just scored; rushes to the net to grab the ball to bring it as fast as possible to the center. The goalie (who just got scored on) grabs the ball from the opponent since it is “his team possession” (kickoff after being scored on).
• I believe that the team who got scored on has the right to bring the ball to the center in a timely matter as long as there are no signs of wasting time.
• We see this incidence over and over in professional soccer. One time, there was a game between Arsenal (ARS) & New Castle (NC) where NC was down 4:0 and as soon as they scored, the goal scorer ran to the net to grab the ball so the ARS goalie blocked him and went to grab it himself. The referee ended up cautioning ARS goalie as he considered him wasting time. Of course, when the goalie rushed to the net to grab the ball, he was pushed by the opponent player (who got away from a card).

My question here: What is the proper approach/call that the referee must take in such a situation? I am sure this is a common situation in U13 & up games especially for high flighted games.

USSF answer (April 5, 2011):
Your logic would seem to be correct. The ball actually “belongs” to the team scored against, as they must kick off. If the referee detects delaying or timewasting tactics in this process, he or she is empowered by Law 7 to add time to make up for that which was lost.

The following answer was published on January 23, 2010. It includes the reasoning and suggestions for what the referee should do in such cases.

After the referee has stopped play for a goal, the ball, although “dead” until play is restarted with a kick-off, does belong to the team against which the goal was scored. Traditionally the ball is carried back to the center spot by the team against which the goal was scored (Red). A player who provokes confrontation by deliberately touching the ball after the referee has stopped play may be cautioned for delaying the restart of play. (See Law 12, “Delaying the restart of play,” in the Interpretations of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees in the back of the Laws of the Game 2009/2010.) This would be the case of the player from the scoring team (B) who was interfering with the Team A player carrying the ball to the center of the field.

The team which has possession (Red) may “allow” the opposing team to hold/transfer/carry/etc. the ball by acceding to the action (i. e., not disputing it). However, the opposing team does this at its peril. In your game, Blue, perhaps believing that Red was moving too slowly to carry the ball back to the center circle for the kick-off, tried to take the ball that “belonged” to Team Red. Blue has no right at any time to request that the ball be given over to it (including such childish behavior as attempting to grab the ball or punch the ball out of the Red player’s control.

Rather than immediately cautioning either player, the true owner (against whose team the goal was scored) and the “wannabe” owner (whose team will be defending at the kick-off), it would be better if you simply spoke quickly to both players, admonishing the wannabe owner to leave the ball alone. You could also tell the player that you will judge whether there is any “delay” in getting the ball back to the center spot and will, if necessary, add time to make up for any time lost.

There is little reason to immediately caution either player if you do what we suggest above. In any event, the possibility of a caution would depend on HOW the Blue player attempts to gain possession (i. e., how aggressively, how prolonged, etc.). We cannot see how the mere fact of attempting to gain possession is itself cautionable.

The critical fact that makes the player’s action cautionable is that his attempt to retrieve the ball caused a tussle with the true “owner” of the ball, the GK. If this hadn’t been inserted into the scenario, then the referee could well have ignored the whole thing . . . because there would in fact have been no delay.