Respecting the Distance …

Mike, a U13 – U19 parent, asks:

During a recent match, a foul was committed just outside the penalty box. Our boys were positioned too close to the ball and as the ref was directing the boys away from the ball (was talking to them), the opposing kicker shot the ball and scored. The goal was allowed. What’s the ruling on this?

Answer (see also “Apology” posted on July 5)

Rather than a “ruling,” we prefer to think of what we do here is provide advice, explore options, and explain opportunities.  If you must have a ruling, it is this: we don’t have enough information.  Sounds a bit like a cop-out but that’s the case here.  The crucial missing information has to do with what, if anything, the Referee said/did just prior to “was directing the boys away from the ball.”

What the Referee should have done is let the kick occur with no intervention unless specifically asked by the apparent kicker for assistance in enforcing the required distance and, then, upon being so asked, the Referee’s next action should have been to clearly state by word and gesture that the kick was not to be taken except by her whistle.  If the Referee had such a request, the rest follows: “directing the boys away from the ball” was entirely appropriate, the “opposing kicker shot the ball” was not (with the resulting goal not counted), and the kick must be retaken but only upon the whistle signal.

If the Referee was not asked to enforce the minimum distance, then there was no restriction to prevent the attacking team from taking the kick as and when they wished (presuming no unfair delay) and the goal would count.  The Referee’s “directing the boys away” and “talking to them” was faulty mechanics for which the Referee would properly be criticized if this match were being evaluated by a mentor or an assessor (such interference without a reason is unnecessarily distracting to the defense at minimum).  While we frequently say (incorrectly, it turns out) that the opponents against whom a foul has just been called “have no rights,” being distracted by the referee when the kick could be taken at any moment is unfair.  Indeed, it would not be unreasonable for the Referee’s conversation to be thought an indication that the kick could not yet be taken.   “Surprise!” or “My bad!” is a poor apology.  Let us hope that the misguided Referee did not compound the errors by calling the goal back.

Because your scenario does not explicitly mention that the proper procedure was followed, we must assume there was no request to enforce the minimum distance and therefore no need for the attacking team to do anything other than exactly what they did — take a quick kick while the Referee was drawing the attention of their opponents away.  The resulting goal, though valid, must be chalked up at least in part to the improper intervention by the Referee.  Note that we are assuming the game where this scenario occurred was in fact somewhere in the U13 – U19 age group — slightly different procedures might be followed for younger players.

Roster Problem

Tony, an adult amateur coach, asks:

What happens if a referee allows a substitute to enter the field whose name was unintentionally left off the roster?   After the game, the referee checks the sheet, discovers the substitute was not on the original sheet, and then allows the player who was not originally on the roster to add his own name afterwards, suggesting it was just a clerical error.

Answer (see also “Apology” posted on July 5)

OK, lets count the felonies and misdemeanors that were committed during the scenario.

Seriously, the Laws of the Game are unclear as to the existence of and details about rosters (look it up if you don’t believe us).  In one place (Law 3.1), they talk about whether the competition rules require that all players and substitutes be named before the start of the game  In another place (Law 3.4), they mention that the names of all substitutes must be given to the referee before the start of the match and that any substitutes “not named” by then “may not take part in the match.”   In another place (Law  3.6 and 3.7), they use the term “named substitute” with the inference that “named” applies to a list.  Finally, at several different locations (e.g., definition of “technical staff” on p. 167 of the Glossary), they use the term “official team list” which implies the existence of a document containing the names of, implicitly, both players and substitutes as well as team officials whose inclusion on the list allows them to occupy the technical area.

What we can take from all this is that, while various lists are contemplated and even expected under certain circumstances (see particularly Law 3.6), there is no explicit guidance as to who provides them, when they must be given to the referee, and whether the list can be modified.

Ironically, however, the single most concrete statement in the Laws of the Game pertaining to the issue at the core of this question explicitly makes illegal what the Referee did — allowed a person to enter the field as a substitute who was not named prior to the start of play.   Worse, the Referee was at least a co-conspirator if not in fact an instigator in efforts to falsify a document.

That said, however, we must be ever-mindful of the ability of local competition authorities to create their own version of the Laws of the Game which might have been the case here (though given the degree of sly, stealthy misdirection involved in the scenario presented, we doubt it).  The point is that the Referee must know what these rules are and then follow them if assignment to the game was accepted.  But one thing is sure, the Referee has absolutely no authority to make such rules on his or her own … even with the best of intentions.

Restart Management

Hyung, a referee of U12 players, asks:

It’s not clear to me how to manage restarts for free kicks when the attacking team doesn’t know the procedure/options (e.g., ceremonial vs quick ).  Should the attacking team always initiate asking the Referee for a ceremonial restart? What if they don’t ask?  Is it the Referee’s duty to ask the attacking team?  A few seconds pass and it’s obvious the attacking team will not take the free kick quickly.  Also, they didn’t request enforcing the minimum distance (10 yds).  Is it at this point the Referee should take charge and do the free kick ceremonially?  If the attacking team doesn’t ask for 10, is 5 yds acceptable? Is this in the rules? Is it best for the Referee to lead in this confusing situation and restart ceremonially?

Answer

You have some good questions here, all of them pertaining to issues of correct or preferred mechanics and procedures but not so much matters of Law.  In fact, the term “ceremonial restart” is not found anywhere in the Laws of the Game — it is entirely a matter of tradition and recommended procedures.  In short, you will not find answers to any of your questions except in publications which, mostly unofficially, attempt to explain the art of refereeing.

We can, however, start with some fundamental principles and work from there.  First, the core definition of a free kick (Law 13) is a restart given to a team because the opponents have violated the Law in some way and the Referee has stopped play for it.  It is called a “free” kick because the team awarded this restart must be given the opportunity to put the ball back into play without hindrance or interference (i.e., freely).  To this end, all opponents are required by Law to retire (move away) at least ten yards from the location of the free kick in every direction.  This is a legal burden placed on the shoulders of every opponent and the Referee’s job is to punish any opponent who fails to do so (before, during, or after the kick).  In a perfect world, what should happen is that, as soon as the Referee whistles for a stoppage and signals a free kick restart (indirect or direct), all opponents hurriedly move at least ten yards away in the spirit of sporting behavior and the attacking team is able to take its free kick in a matter of seconds.

Unfortunately, this expectation is rather akin to also asking players who commit an offense to publicly admit their error, apologize to the opposing team, hand the ball over to them, and clear a path between the kick and the defending team’s goal.  Needless to say, this is not what happens in our imperfect world.  What usually occurs, depending on the circumstances of the stoppage, the temperature of the game, what’s at stake, and simple hormonal imbalances, is that some opponents will try to interfere — by not moving at all, by standing near the ball, by kicking the ball away, by blocking the likely path of the kick so as to diminish the attacking team’s ability to recover from their opponent’s commission of a violation, and other tactics limited only by the inventiveness of wily soccer players trying to gain an advantage at almost any cost.

All of this is summarized briefly in the general principle that the Referee’s obligation in these cases is to allow, expect, and protect as much as possible the taking of the quick free kick.  Why?  Because a quick free kick (a) gets play moving again — usually a good thing, (b) restores as much as possible the condition of the harmed team prior to the offense, and (d) serves as a better deterrent to future illegal acts.  The antithesis of the “quick restart” is the “ceremonial restart.” (more…)

When Is It Over?

A high school/college player asks:

The game has seconds remaining. There is a deliberate handball in the penalty area. The referee does not see it but the AR raises his flag. The referee then whistles to end the match. The players start walking off of the field. The AR runs up to the referee and they talk. The referee then brings the players back on the filed and awards a penalty.

Can the referee award a penalty after the game has ended?

Answer (note: answered solely in terms of a USSF sanctioned game)

The 2016/2017 Laws of the Game state clearly in Law 5 that “the referee may not change a decision on realising that it is incorrect or on the advice of another match official if play has restarted or the referee has signalled the end of the first or second half … and left the field” (emphasis added).  There are several important aspects of the Law which must be understood  in order to provide guidance on this question.

The AR is an integral member of the officiating team and Law 5 tasks the referee with performing his/her responsibilities “in cooperation with the other match officials.”  This means that the referee has a duty to receive and act appropriately on information provided by an AR.  There are several situations that help us understand the relationship between the referee and an assistant referee.  For example, the Law allows a card for violent misconduct (but not a foul) to survive a stoppage and restart of play if an AR had seen the offense, signaled the referee, and maintained the signal until recognized by the referee.  Another example is an attacker in an offside position who becomes actively involved in play (and is properly signaled for an offside violation by the AR but the signal is not seen), followed shortly thereafter by a foul committed by an opposing player which was seen and whistled by the referee.  Here, the Law allows the referee to accept the offside violation signaled by the AR and, since it occurred before the defending player’s foul, to punish the offside violation and then to deal with the defender’s actions as misconduct occurring during a stoppage of play.

Put these things together and we have (a) the AR signaling a PK offense just before time expires but not seen by the referee until the end of the 2nd half is whistled combined with (b) the fact that, although time had expired, the referee had not yet left the field.  Accordingly, the referee could properly accept the information from the AR, rescind his decision that time had expired (which it hadn’t prior to the offense), and bring the teams back onto the field for a PK — which would be in extended time because time would expire while the PK restart was being administered.   All the rules applying to “a PK taken in extended time” would apply.

Of course, this sort of scenario would not occur if proper mechanics had been followed — specifically quickly making eye contact with both the ARs before signalling for the end of the period (first or second)!   Nor should the correct referee’s decision here be complicated by such extraneous factors as the score (no matter what it is).

 

“COWBOY” REFEREES STRIKE AGAIN

Question:
During a game, can goalie speak to someone beside the goal during game? Referee issued yellow for not paying attention to game?

Answer (June 30, 2015):
There were two people of diminished mental competence involved here: the goalkeeper and the referee. There is no such rule in the Laws of the Game, and referees are forbidden to interfere in any player action that is not covered in the Laws.

NOTE: There are too many “cowboy” referees in our game. That is my term for referees who make up their own rules as they go along, confusing players, fellow officials, and the spectators. My recommendation to them: Just call the game in accordance with the Laws. It is so much easier on everyone.

REFEREE CANNOT CHANGE A DECISION ONCE THE MATCH HAS BEEN ENDED

Question:
My 15 yr. old son was involved in a physical altercation during a soccer game with 5 seconds left in the game.

The altercation involved 2 of our players and 3 players from the opposing team. One of our players and one of the opposing players were each given a red card and ejected from the game. The Referee gave my son a yellow card and he was allowed to play out the remaining 5 seconds of the game.

After the game had ended, the referee and 2 linesmen gathered at centre field. About 5 minutes after the game had ended, the referee walked over to my son (where he was sitting on the team bench getting changed) and proceeded to give him a red card without explanation. There was no further incident nor foul language or anything that prompted the yellow card being increased to a red card. I believe perhaps one of the linesmen convinced the ref after the game had ended that my son was deserving of a red card for his participation in the initial altercation that resulted in 1 player from both teams being red carded and ejected from the game.

Can a referee change a yellow card to a red card after the player has been allowed to continue playing in a game and/or after the game is over and the player has left the field for the day and without further incident?

Answer (July 24, 2014):
Major referee error, Dad. Once the game has been ended, the referee may not change any decisions made prior to the final stoppage. This wording from Law 5 (The Referee) confirms that:

Decisions of the referee
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 realising that it is incorrect or, at his discretion, on the advice of an assistant referee or the fourth official, provided that he has not restarted play or terminated the match.

Your son has the right of appeal against this decision and the referee should be sent back for further training—along with whichever assistant referee recommended changing the original decision.

THE REFEREE CANNOT REVERSE A DECISION AFTER THE GAME HAS ENDED

Question:
Goal is scored in the closing seconds of the game. Referee sets up with a restart and blows the whistle for the match ending. As a referee exits the field the losing coach complains that that goal was scored after time had run out. The referee confers with this ARs and decide that he did play more than the allotted time.

Question is once a referee signals the end of the game, can he change facts.

Answer (March 30, 2014)
No, the referee cannot change the facts of the Game or his decisions once the game has been terminated (declared over). Law 5 is quite clear on this matter. Under Decisions of the Referee, the Law states:
The referee may only change a decision on realising that it is incorrect or, at his discretion, on the advice of an assistant referee or the fourth official, provided that he has not restarted play or terminated the match.

TEACHING REFEREE (AND AR) SIGNALS

Question:
I teach classes for beginner referees. I seem to recall, from the murky past, specific instructions for referee signals when indicating free kick versus throw-in direction. Specifically, should the referee face the touchline when signalling (for throw in) as opposed to facing the goal line (for free kick)?

I’ve looked thru the Guidance and ATR and can’t seem to find anything.

This is probably trifling, but I’d like the proper citation nonetheless.

Answer (August 23, 2013):
All signals without exception are given while standing square to the field. As for assistance in instruction, you should look through the various online materials in the referee Resource Center at ussoccer.com — including a detailed “show and tell” video on AR signals.

TRADITION AT DROPPED BALLS AND OTHER RESTARTS

Question:
I’m confused with some of these procedures. I was made to understand from the laws of the game that a dropped ball is a method of restarting game, that any player may challenge for the ball. And that the referee cannot decide who may or may not contest a dropped ball.

Question: (1) Why do referees drop the ball for a player to play it back to the opponent after a temporal stoppages or why do one team play the ball back to the opponent after it has been dropped by the referee. (2) If the player fails to play it back to the opponent, will the referee caution the player? (3) In what situation can players from different teams contest for a dropped ball (4) In thesame line, when a player is down and the ball is been played out through the touch line so that the player down in the field can receive treatmeant. Why do players always start it by throw-in the ball to their opponent ( i cannot find it in the laws of the game).

Answer (May 2, 2013):
Deciding who “may or may not” contest the dropped ball is a concept that has been refined over the years by the Spirit of the Laws and tradition, which is well known to the players, and the referee. Or most of them. The tradition is outside of the Laws, but even special efforts and instructions by national associations, as well as hints from the International Football Association Board, the people who make the Laws, have not affected any real change.

(1) If play was stopped because of injury to a player of one team that was not caused by a foul (and thus there is no free kick), tradition requires that the referee drop the ball for the team whose player was injured. This includes events in the penalty area where the goalkeeper had possession; the ball is dropped for the goalkeeper and other players stay away.

(2) It is not against any Law to not play the ball to the other team. There is no penalty if the player fails to play the ball to the other team, but even his own teammates and team officials will often criticize him. The referee should not caution the player.

(3) If play was stopped for misconduct or a foul committed by players of both teams, the dropped ball is contested.

(4) If play was stopped when a player was injured and the other team kicks it out, tradition requires that the team that takes the throw-in play the ball to the other team. This is usually done by kicking the ball to the goalkeeper.

BLOCKING OR HOLDING THE GOALKEEPER AT A CORNER KICK OR FREE KICK

Question:
During corner kicks, some teams in our league (U14) place one or more players immediately in front of the goalkeeper to block his view of the play. In some situations, those same interfering players on offense deliberately crowd the keeper, making it difficult or impossible for him to make the play.

Is this legal?

Answer (January 19, 2013):
No, it is not legal, and the referees should be dealing with it. Shame on the for allowing it. The particular text covering this offense is in the back of the Laws of the Game, under Law (not “rule”) 12 in the large section on “Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees”:

Holding an opponent
Holding an opponent includes the act of preventing him from moving past or around using the hands, the arms or the body.
Referees are reminded to make an early intervention and to deal firmly with holding offenses especially inside the penalty area at corner kicks and free kicks.

To deal with these situations:
• the referee must warn any player holding an opponent before the ball is in play
• caution the player if the holding continues before the ball is in play
• award a direct free kick or penalty kick and caution the player if it happens once the ball is in play
If a defender starts holding an attacker outside the penalty area and continues holding him inside the penalty area, the referee must award a penalty kick.

Disciplinary sanctions
• A caution for unsporting behavior must be issued when a player holds an opponent to prevent him gaining possession of the ball or taking up an advantageous position
• A player must be sent off if he denies an obvious goalscoring opportunity by holding an opponent
• No further disciplinary action must be taken in other situations of holding an opponent
Restart of play
• Direct free kick from the position where the offense occurred (see Law 13 – Position of free kick) or a penalty kick if the offense occurred inside the penalty area