We wish to take a moment and explain a bit of what we are trying to accomplish here (please also reread the statement we offered early this year which is found underneath the “About” tab). It is important to reaffirm that neither we nor this website claims or should be thought of as “official” in any way regarding The Laws of the Game. We will always make every effort to research and consult all official publications both at the international level and for the United States, but what we take away from these sources must always be understood as our understanding of what they mean and how they should be applied.
Everyone who has refereed beyond several seasons has to know that there are (and always have been) pockets of text in the Laws of the Game which are not “self-evident” — they require explanation based on the best and most current understanding of how they were intended. In regard to this, the International Board did a great service in the 2017-2018 edition by adding, for the first time, to the Laws of the Game the following official statement (p. 11):
The Laws cannot deal with every possible situation, so where there is no direct provision in the Laws, The IFAB expects the referee to make a decision within the ‘spirit’ of the game – this often involves asking the question, “what would football [soccer] want/expect?”
Useful as this is, however, there are also parts of the Laws that appear to be inconsistent, incomplete, or so broadly stated as to include two or more reasonable explanations. Some referees, for example, have been at this game long enough to remember how relatively recently it was when the Law writers decided to finally add the proviso that a sent-off player had to leave the field, could not be replaced, and could no longer play any further part in the game! This was always true and “everyone knew it” but it wasn’t in the Law. Or when, in 1996, the International Board dropped from the Laws of the Game one of the single most arguably important tenets in the philosophy of refereeing (how to handle doubtful or trifling breaches of the Law) with the simple explanation that “everyone should know this so it isn’t needed”! This casual, informal connection between the formal, written word of the Law and the allegedly widespread understanding by “everyone” of what it means is uniquely British in origin — not surprising given that is where the sport originated. Americans have a hard time with that and it is a philosophy inconsistent with the tremendously detailed rules for sports that had their origins in the United States.
As for us, however, we will attempt to faithfully answer questions and provide advice based on our experience and training and will seek always to remain as up-to-date as possible on new or alternate interpretations as we understand them. If we make an actual mistake — and it happens, hopefully rarely — we will correct it as quickly as possible. If we give advice based on an interpretation that has changed, we will announce the change as quickly as possible. If we ourselves have interpreted an apparent ambiguity in the Law and believe there is a reasonable basis to act on that interpretation (i.e., that’s what we ourselves would do on the field) but responsible authority later clearly resolves the ambiguity contrary to the way we have proceeded, we will explain the situation as quickly as possible.
More than this we cannot promise.