The Approach We Take Here

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.

A Final “Apology” Update Note

To all askasoccerfereree readers:

This is (hopefully) the final posting we will be making on the unfortunate circumstance of appearing to have ignored almost 90 requests for answers to questions.  The original post (“Apology”) was on July 5 which was when we discovered that all posts from April 17 onward to that date had never been delivered, when our Awesome Webmaster Chris solved the problem, and even more surprisingly when he was able to retrieve the missing messages from wherever they were.  The second posting was to let everyone know that we were continuing to work on answering everyone we could.  This third posting is to let you know it’s all done now!

During the last 17 days, we have been slogging our way through them — posting answers on the large majority, replying privately to fewer than a dozen, and handling new messages that arrived in the meantime.  Please note that some messages were “empty” in the sense that what was received had no content beyond the preferred name and email address of the sender (if you haven’t heard from us either publicly or privately, your message fell in this last group).  Finally, there were a few duplicates where someone sent again an earlier message but neither the original nor the follow-up was received.  However, as of today, all accumulated messages that could be answered have been and there will no longer be any reference to the July 5 “Apology” included in future posted answers.

Thanks for everyone’s patience.

LIES, DAMNED LIES, AND STATISTICS

Question:
Question about awarding an “assist” on a goal. If player A (from midfield, let’s say) makes a nice but short through-pass that sends Player B (a striker, let’s say) on a breakaway, and Player B has to take several touches to dribble close to the goal, and perhaps even has to evade a defender rushing back to tackle him, and Player B dribbles close to the net and scores, does player A get an assist for that?

I guess in a way, my question is, does player B have to immediately strike, volley, or head a ball into the goal for player A to get an assist?

Mind you, we don’t keep these stats. But the kids talk about it a lot, and I’m just curious to know the official answer.

Answer (October 20, 2014):
Assists are a totally unnecessary and worthless statistic, added to the list of other unnecessary statistics developed by sports statisticians (also generally unnecessary) to make their work seem important.

Here are three sources of information:
about.com
Definition: The pass or passes which immediately precede a goal; a maximum of two assists can be credited for one goal.

http://www.iahsaa.org/soccer/soccerstatmanual.pdf

http://fs.ncaa.org/Docs/stats/Stats_Manuals/Soccer/2009ez.pdf

The general rule of thumb seems to be that no more than two players may be credited with assists on a goal and that the person geting the assist has some immediate “input” in the goal. I.e., the situation you posit would not qualify for an assist.

The only statistics that truly matter for a team are wins, losses, draws, goals scored, and goals against. Assists are pure vanity. (Strangely enough, no one seems to keep such statistics for own goals. If they did that, then the team scored against would have more depressing and useless statistics to show off.)

MISSED CALLS AND REPLAY DEVICES

Question:
During this 2010 World Cup we’ve seen a plethora of missed calls.

1) For games at this top tier of play, will referees review close calls during their halftime break, or after the game?

2) And what are the referees opinions about the use of instant replays. I know FIFA officials are opposed, but would the men on the field appreciate having a second look at game changing decisions?

USSF answer (July 2, 2010):
Soccer is a fast-moving game played and officiated by human beings. Human beings make mistakes and players make many more mistakes than the referees, but everyone seems to accept that.

1) No, the referees do not review close calls via video or otherwise during the halftime break. They may discuss them; however, as there is no possibility of reversing the decision once the game has been stopped and restarted, the discussion is purely academic. Referees at the top levels, not only those at the World Cup, review their games and do a self-assessment of their work.

2) Numerous systems of game review during the game have been tested around the world, but none has been seen to be worthy of use in actual play. However, although instant replays are not currently being considered, FIFA may reconsider the possible use of goal line technology (according to a recent comment by its president).

NOTE: We apologize to the person who asked this question His/her e-mail address has disappeared.

WHICH ENDS INDOOR PLAY, BUZZER OR REFEREE?

Question:
I’ve looked through official sources as much as I know but cannot find anything explicit about ending an indoor game which uses a clock and buzzer system.
—————-
United States Soccer Federation, Indoor Playing Rules.

RULE 9 BALL IN AND OUT OF PLAY
9.1 BALL IN PLAY: The ball is in play at all times from the start of the game to the finish, including:…
—————
The question is, what about a goal being “scored” from a ball that is kicked before the buzzer sounds.

It is my contention that the buzzer acts like a whistle and signals the end of the game or period and play stops at the sound.

And by the way, thank you for upgrading the website, especially with the search feature.

USSF answer (March 12, 2008):
You are correct, the period of play ends at the moment the horn/buzzer starts to sound. Just as in other sports in which the horn or buzzer is used, the rule is implied by the written rules but enforced in application by the referees. To reference it, you have to put different parts of the indoor rules together;

1.15 HORN: Each game facility has a horn or buzzer, subject to the control of the Timekeeper, to be sounded upon the expiration of each quarter, any overtime period, and otherwise as set forth in Rule 6.

5.2 POWERS: Referees’ decisions on points of fact connected with play shall be final so far as the result of the game is concerned.

9.1 BALL IN PLAY: The ball is in play at all times from the start of the game to the finish . . . until a decision has been made by the Referee.

10.1 LEGAL GOAL: Except as otherwise provided by the Laws, a goal is scored when the whole of the ball has passed over the goal line, between the goal posts and under the crossbar . . ..

UNOFFICIAL RESPONSE RE COACH TRAINING

Question:
USSF has one of the best referee programs. As a referee, instructor, assessor and assignor I am always receiving notices on law changes and clinics. However, on a larger scale, the soccer Gods have forgotten about the other side of the equation and that is the coaches. In [my state, the youth association] certifies the coaches on the youth side. I have gone though their certification program to the competitive level. None of these courses (E, F & E/D) cover any training on the laws of the game. I have never as a coach received any communication on any changes to the laws of the game. We automatically assume that they know the laws of the game. They do not and they are the one that are teaching our clients the game of soccer. This problem is not just related to our area. It is on a National level and I do not see any movement towards fixing the problem. As a president of our high school association I invited coaches of 100+ schools to attend a clinic that was just setup for them and also to resolve some of our issues. Only 10 coaches responded. Coaches are also the problem. Their failure to learn the laws the game affects the game for the player, referees and fans. Any idea?
Game Level: U13-U19

Answer (February 28, 2008):

We could not possibly respond to your question. May we suggest that you contact the coaching department at U. S. Soccer and put the matter to them? You will find contact information at http://www.ussoccer.com