Abandoning a Match

A youth referee asks:

Can the Ref abandon the match and not tell the coaches? Had a situation where the Ref said that, in his eyes, the match was over after a parent and coach came on the pitch to stop two kids fighting then ended up fighting themselves. The Ref never blew for full time but said to the other coach it’s finished anyway. Now in his report he is saying he abandoned the game but did not tell anyone this. Can he do this?  I am a a Ref myself and don’t know.


Not wishing to be flippant but the obvious answer is, yes, he can do this … because he did it.  And we’re not sure how the Referee could do anything more to signal that the match has been terminated beyond leaving the field himself.

On a more serious note, the referee is given the authority to terminate a match due to what used to be called “grave disorder” — which means any events on or around the field which would cause the Referee to be concerned about the ongoing safety of the players or the officiating team based on actions by the players, substitutes, team officials, and/or spectators.  By the way, the Law no longer distinguishes between “abandoning” a match or “terminating” a match — the terms are used interchangeably.  There is no particular need to blow the whistle to announce this but, in practice, the whistle has usually already being blown (perhaps numerous times!) in response to the events which eventually resulted in the decision to terminate the game (in this case, the start of the players fighting).

Just based on the information provided, it would seem that termination would not be considered an incorrect response to (a) players fighting, (b) a coach and a parent entering the field illegally (which would be the case if the Referee didn’t explicitly give them permission to enter) and (c) then themselves fighting.  That would definitely be a “hostile environment” not conducive to trying to get the teams back onto the field after removing the fighters and expecting the teams to play peacefully.  It might have been useful to officially notify both teams that the match was being terminated with a simple statement that the decision was required based on a concern for everyone’s safety.  Neither is required.

Anytime the Referee ends a match via termination (or abandonment), full details must be included in the match report.  Further, most leagues, tournaments, referee coordinators, or assignors appreciate a quick telephone call or email message alerting them to the likelihood of further “discussion” about what happened.…

Coach in Trouble

A Premier League coach from an Asian country asks:

[Revised and summarized]  I’m the Assistant Coach in a Premier League for one of the Asian countries. We had an eventful match last week. Around minute 65, an opposing player made a very harsh tackle against my team’s striker and created a very heated situation involving both teams. I felt the Referee did not control the situation and I ran onto the field to help him control things. The situation became more heated when the Referee only gave a yellow card for the tackle. After the game, I approached the Referee and said ” Hi Referee —  it should be a red card — come on Referee. I hope next time you can make a better decision.” I didn’t use any vulgar words. However, the Referee wrote in his match report that I pulled his hand and used vulgar words towards him. How can I defend myself when there was no video evidence showing either of these things? I was fined by my football federation. How can I defend myself?


We’re sorry that this occurred and that you feel the punishment you received was not justified.  Unfortunately, there is no way we can assist you either generally or in particular.  We cannot comment on what goes on in other countries, much less on what is essentially an internal administrative matter.  What punishments are assessed after a game is over are outside the scope of the Laws of the Game, particularly where it involves a coach.

What we can say, however, it that you should not have come onto the field “to help [the Referee] to control things” unless you were actually given permission by the Referee to do so.  This would be considered a violation of Law 3 if a player had done it and, if done by a team official (which, as an assistant coach, you are), could be the basis for a dismissal from the field for “irresponsible behavior.”  It is also the case that having any conversation with members of the officiating team after a match is over — particularly if the conversation goes beyond how nice the weather was — is not a good idea.  First, nothing you might say would likely educate the Referee.  Second, you might in fact be wrong.  Third, even if right, immediately following a difficult, heated match, is not a conducive time for “educating” anyone (I’m sure you would agree were the situations reversed and the Referee wanted to talk to you about your coaching strategy!).  We Referees have a saying, “if you don’t want the coach to referee, don’t try to coach the players” and it applies here as well.

Finally, coming onto the field as you did, with the conversation not being documented by film or sound recording, merely sets up a “he said/did, no I didn’t say/do” debate which, on balance, will usually be decided in favor of the Referee.  We cannot comment directly regarding your federation but our experience has been that there are almost always channels for filing complaints after the match using official forms and giving everyone a chance to cool down at least a bit.  Most such opportunities provide for responses and offers of proof or extenuating circumstances.

While we can’t help in your case, we hope that all team officials will take note of our advice here and respond to similar situations accordingly.…


If a player is sent off (red card), he/she cannot play in their next game.

Question 1: if the referee does not include the send-off in the game report, or does not submit a game report, is the player still required to not play in their next game?

Question 2: It is VERY common for referees NOT to tell a youth player why (unsporting behavior, dissent, serious foul play, etc) a card is being displayed. When asked by the player or coach, the VERY common response is ‘I don’t have to tell you’. How are youth players to learn from a mistake when there is absolutely no reason given by the ‘professional offical’ as to what the mistake was? Are game reports accessible to coaches, players, and/or parents?

USSF answer (February 28, 2012):
1. Referees are expected to submit their match reports as quickly as possible, usually within 2-3 days of the game. If they do not do so, then technically the events described (or NOT described) therein did not occur — but see below.

Technicalities aside, realistically the game occurred: people were there; witnesses can be subpoenaed; the referee could be reminded of his report; the player who was red carded should, on his own initiative or by direction of his coach, sit out his team’s next regularly-scheduled match. All this should occur even without the actual filing of the referee’s report. An opposing coach could certainly note at the team’s next regularly-scheduled game that Player X should be sitting out and, if this is disputed on any basis (including the lack of a report from the referee), a complaint could be filed which would eventually trigger a demand upon the referee to get the requiredreport in. In real life, there are literally thousands of games that occur with no formal referee report going into a league or association office — of course, in most of these, nothing untoward has occurred, but no one has any problem accepting that there was a game, there was a score, and Team B won.

2. The referee is REQUIRED to tell a player that he or he has been cautioned or sent off for one of the seven reasons for either sort of misconduct.

They cannot refuse to tell this to the player and should be reported to refereeing authorities if they do so refuse. They are NOT required to tell the coach anything. In most states (we cannot speak for all of them) the reports are not available to non-refereeing or competition officials, but appropriate parties can be told of the contents regarding a specific person or incident.…


I was the CR in a game today that was un-eventful except for one thing. I had trouble getting one team back on the field after halftime.

After the halftime, I blew the whistle to summon the teams to the field for the 2nd half. The blue team came out and lined up for the kick-off (they were to take the kick-off to open the half). The red team didn’t move. This is not unusual, so I waited about 30 seconds and blew the whistle again. Still the red team didn’t come out of their huddle.

I waited another 30 seconds and one of the blue players joked that I should just start the game without them. I blew the whistle AGAIN and summoned the captain BY NAME and the coach BY NAME to send out the team and got NO response.

After another few seconds I blew the whistle a FORTH TIME and the red team finally got up, did their little pre-game “HOO-Rah” cheer and took the field.

I considered this an unacceptable delay. Law 12 states I must issue a yellow card for “delaying the restart of play.”

1) Would I be justified in issuing the Yellow Card to the Captain?

2) As odd as this question is, is there something in “the laws” that would prevent the Referee from starting the game without the Red team ON THE FIELD? Law 3 DOESN’T say the teams must be ON the field and they had ignored 3 requests to get on the field?

USSF answer (February 20, 2012):
Both teams must come out as quickly as possible for the start of a period of play when the referee indicates that the time has arrived. Matches are scheduled to begin at a particular time and for a specified amount of time (depending on the rules of the competition). The Laws also provide that players are entitled to an interval at halftime (must be stated in the competition rules, but may not exceed 15 minutes), which can be altered only with the consent of the referee, not by the coach or other officials of one or both teams. In other words, the teams should make good use of their halftime break and be prepared to come out at the referee’s signal.

If the team does not come out to play when ordered by the referee, that team is in violation of the Laws of the Game and the coach and other team officials can be removed for irresponsible behavior in accordance with Law 5.

Despite having that power, the referee should behave proactively and remind the team that the allotted time has passed and encourage them to come out before applying any draconian measures.

All of which leaves the ultimate question — what if they still don’t come out? Certainly, the coach and other team officials can be ordered away for behaving irresponsibly. As for the players (i.e., persons on the field at the end of the first half) could be cautioned for delaying the restart of play (after appropriate warnings, entreaties, etc.), but at some point this has to stop. Simply abandon the match for having fewer than the minimum number of players required to start/restart/continue play based on the rules of competition and include full details in the match report.…


The game has finished, the players are on the sideline when the ref issues a player without their jersey on with a yellow for decent, the player blows up again so the ref issues another yellow to the same player resulting in a red, what is the outcome if the ref reports the wrong player in the paperwork since he had no jersey on how can he be sure he reports the correct player ? and if he does report the wrong player can the team challenge the result ?

USSF answer (August 11, 2011):
The final whistle has been blown, the game is over! Players may now remove their jerseys if they like, whether they are on the field or off. The referee committed an error in judgment and procedure by not determining the player’s name and number before issuing the caution for dissent and the subsequent caution and dismissal for receiving a second caution in the game. (Yes this period counts as part of the game if the referee has not left the area after the final whistle.)

The referee could have resolved the problem by informing the team captain and or a team official, such as the coach, that this player was being cautioned and then sent off and asking for the player’s name.

In answer to your final question, we cannot know what course the competition’s disciplinary committee will take in this matter, other than to remind the referee that procedure should be followed.…


Concerning display of cards. In a men’s amateur game, league requires the teams to be ready to play no later than 15 minutes after posted game time. Home teams does not have 7 properly equipped and documented (pass)players at expiration of grace period. Referee crew informs the team that because of these issues the game will not start and the league informed. A member of the home team directs foul and abusive language at the referee crew. If used during a game, would have resulted in the sending off and display of the red card.

Because the game was already terminated(declared a forfeit) I did not display the card, treating the situation as if the game had ended and the misconduct occurred as the crew was walking off the field.

In this situation, should a card have been displayed or just a report of the misconduct made to the league?

USSF answer (July 15, 2011):
Show the card and inform the player that you will be reporting the incident to the competition authority — and then do it, including full details.…


In the send off offenses – Spitting is listed separately as it’s own offense. Is it appropriate for it to be written up as Spitting or should it be written up as Fighting.

Also – If a Red Card is being issued for spitting and subsequent to that 2 other players followed it up with pushing would these players then be subject to Red Cards as well for the continuation of a Fight.

USSF answer (August 24, 2010):
When in doubt, follow the rules: A player may be sent off for only seven reasons (see Law 12), none of which is “fighting.” If a player is sent off for spitting at an opponent or any other person, that is the reason given in the match report.

Any illegal action that follows a sending-off offense is punished on its own “merits.” If the pushing is reckless, the player is cautioned and shown the yellow card for unsporting behavior. If the pushing involves the use of excessive force, the player is sent off and shown the red card for violent conduct. There is no misconduct named “continuation of a fight.”…


If a referee submits a referee’s report about an incident during a match and the date on the report is different from the the date the actual match was played, is this report valid? the report submitted by this referee gives a different date from the match day he was referring too.

Secondly can the match report contain incidents that he said alledgally happen. This refers to an incident he didn’t actually see him self. Should he just report the facts of the incident. Does this type of report make the match report invalid.

USSF answer (April 19, 2010):
Inaccurate data on a match report is generally unacceptable. The final decision on that rests with the competition authority and the panel it has appointed to review the matter.

That is the reason why we constantly stress that referees check their data several times and proofread their reports before sending them in.

As to incidents that the referee did not actually see, we submit that, as the referee is obliged to take into account any events seen by an assistant referee or fourth official, there is no reason why the same information (assuming it is relevant) should not be included in the match report.

Of course, if there was no AR assigned and the lines were run by club linesmen, then the referee can only report incidents he did not see as hearsay, not as fact.…


Is a referee required to include in their game report the red card infractions issued during the game? Can he/she change their ruling after the game is over, and not file the report. I know of this happening in our league. A player is red-carded, removed from play.

The referee, intentionally, does not file the report with this infraction included. The player and team assume the infraction, and a suspension game is served. In this case without notice of disregard.

This allows a referee to disregard at their own will, a call that has been made and affected the current game, as well as future games, with disregard for notice or consideration. Also, seems to reflect their intent of issuing the red card in the first place.

USSF answer (November 24, 2009):
All cautions and dismissals must be reported. There is no excuse for not doing so. Any referee who fails to do this should be reported to the competition and to the state referee authorities.

In addition, considering the gravity of not reporting serious misconduct (a clear violation of the Laws of the Laws of the Game), the referee in such a situation could also be dealt with under the terms of US Soccer Policy 531-10, Misconduct of a Game Official. The policy is contained in the Referee Administrative Handbook, which can be downloaded from the Instructional Materials section of the referee program pages at www.ussoccer.com.…