Is it true that there are only three cautions that can be given to a player on the bench? If that is true, is it true that entering the playing field without permission is not one of the three?

USSF answer (April 19, 2010):
Yes, it is true (see below). The substitute who enters the field without the permission of the referee is cautioned for unsporting behavior.

Disciplinary Sanctions
The yellow card is used to communicate that a player, substitute or substituted player has been cautioned.
A substitute or substituted player is cautioned if he commits any of the following three offenses:
* unsporting behavior
* dissent by word or action
* delaying the restart of play

You will find the notice about cautioning a substitute for entering illegally in the 2008 supplemental memorandum on law changes:

Law 12
The International Board has reconfirmed this year, by making no change in the list of reasons for which a substitute or substituted player may be cautioned, that a substitute or substituted player who illegally enters the field is to be cautioned for unsporting behavior. Law 12 The International Board has reconfirmed this year, by making no change in the list of reasons for which a substitute or substituted player may be cautioned, that a substitute or substituted player who illegally enters the field is to be cautioned for unsporting behavior.

. . . and in the Advice to Referees, Advice 12.28.1.…


At a major state recertification seminar today, we discussed deception on the taking of a PK – more specifically, the case when a player goes beyond legal deception and on to infringement.

The case in question is a player who approaches the ball, overruns it, then backs up.

My position was simple: LotG state that if the kicker infringes, the ref allows the kick to be taken, and either orders a rekick or orders an IFK out, depending on if the ball entered the goal or not.

Our instructor stated that the correct procedure is to blow the whistle at the point when the kicker backs up, without allowing the kick to be taken, and award the IFK immediately. He stated this was direction from FIFA.

At a break, I asked our guest speaker, a former FIFA ref, and that ref did not know. It was suggested that I contact you.

If our instructor was correct, please direct me to the appropriate FIFA publication. I pride myself on knowing the laws and would like to understand this better.

USSF answer (February 8, 2010):
We are not aware of any changes in Law 14 as published for 2009-2010:

Infringements and Sanctions
If the referee gives the signal for a penalty kick to be taken and, before the ball is in play, one of the following occurs:

the player taking the penalty kick infringes the Laws of the Game:
* the referee allows the kick to be taken
* if the ball enters the goal, the kick is retaken
* if the ball does not enter the goal, the referee stops play and the match is restarted with an indirect free kick to the defending team, from the place where the infringement occurred

See also this excerpt from Advice to Referees 14.9 INFRINGEMENTS OF LAW 14:

Infringements after the referee’s whistle but before the ball is in play may be committed by the kicker, the goalkeeper, or by any of their teammates.  Violations of Law 14 by the kicker in particular include back heeling the ball (14.12), running past the ball and then backing up to take the kick, excessively changing directions in the run to the ball or taking an excessively long run to the ball (which, in the opinion of the referee, results in an unnecessary delay in taking the kick), or making any motion of the hand or arm which (in the opinion of the referee) is clearly intended to confuse or misdirect the attention of the ‘keeper.  In almost all such cases, the referee should let the kick proceed and deal with the violation in accordance with the chart [given in the excerpt from the Law, above], which outlines the proper restarts for clear infringements of Law 14.  However, in the case of a kicker creating an unnecessary delay in taking the kick, the referee should intervene, if possible, warn the kicker to proceed properly, and signal (whistle) again for the restart.

So, only in the case of the kicker taking an excessively long run to the ball should the referee intervene (“if possible”) before the kick is taken — the implication being that, if intervention even in this case is not possible, the referee follows the general advice on Law 14 violations. The Federation has dealt with one or more aspects of this situation in Memos in 2005, 2007, and as recently as August 2009 (a “stutter step kick” with a clip).

NOTE: Feinting at penalty kicks is going to be a topic of discussion at the IFAB meeting of March 6, 2010. it is possible that this answer might change based on the outcome of the discussion.…


Could you provide some examples of irresponsible coaching at the youth level (U8-U12) of soccer. I recently had a game that had 3 coaches for one team and two coaches for the other team. (Our league allows 4 coaches per team). Constantly throughout the game ALL six coaches would be hollering at the players providing DIRECTIONS on positioning and passing and anything else. The majority of the coaching rarely had any tactical instructions – mostly were the type of “pass now, why did you kick it with your left foot, what are you doing” type of directions. I stopped the game (after listening to them shouting for the majority of the game)and demanded that the coaches let the players play the last 4 minutes with silence from the coaches area. The coaches complied (what a relief!) and the game was ended 4 minutes later. After the game, one coach complained about my demand for silence and said “Where is it written down that I can’t shout instructions to my players?” I did not have a ready response to his question other than I don’t believe the coaching was positive, informative, or in the spirit of the game. I may have come on too strong for the situation, but I was so tired of their screaming at their players, that I felt something needed to be done. Maybe I was right and maybe I was wrong, but for 4 minutes the players played their own game and it was peaceful for the first time that game and everyone on the field had a good time. So, what constitutes irresponsible or inappropriate coaching?

USSF answer (January 18, 2010):
According to Law 5, the referee “takes action against team officials who fail to conduct themselves in a responsible manner and may, at his discretion, expel them from the field of play and its immediate surrounds.” By no stretch of the imagination do most, and certainly not many, coaches or other team officials behave irresponsibly.

Here are some examples of irresponsible behavior, based on questions received and answered here or taken from the USSF position paper of March 22, 2006, on Management of Behavior in the Technical Area. These examples were directed by coaches or other team officials at referees, assistant referees, fourth officials, players of the opposing or their own team, and opposing coaches.

1. Screaming at or verbally or physically abusing the officials or any players or other participants for any reason.
• a youth coach “who begins to scream at his players when the game begins and does not stop until long after the game is over. With every touch of the ball by his team he gives (screams) instructions to the players off the ball as well as the player with the ball. With every touch of the ball by the other team he is giving (screaming) specific instructions to each player on his team as fast as he can get them out of his mouth. Much of what he says is negative and all mistakes are pointed out and players are taken to task. He is a physically intimidating person who loves to argue about anything and most area referees just stay as far away from him as they can.”
• ordering a player who has made a mistake to “drop and give me ten” (pushups) right there on the field.
• Speaking insulting words or making offensive gestures
• making unwanted contact with opponents

There is a national trend within the soccer community toward eliminating abuse of young people by any adults. The referee is certainly empowered to ensure responsible behavior by the team officials. The method chosen would be up to the individual referee.

2. Interfering with the game in any way, such as:
• yelling out instructions to do something illegal or giving deceptive instructions.
• when coaches become actively involved in helping their team deceive the opponents, such as saying that player “x” should do this or that and clearly intending something else to occur (as discovered after the restart).
• clearly instructing the players to line up within the required distance and “have the referee move you.”
• instructing his/her team, both on the field and on the bench, to jump up and down, waving their arms, and scream at the top of their lungs.
• giving tactical instructions to other players when invited to enter the field to see to the injury of a player.
• presuming to give the officials instructions on how to make or signal their calls.
• insisting that an opposing player be cautioned or sent off.
• throwing objects in protest
• kicking chairs
• striking advertising boards
• persistently and flagrantly protesting decisions by an official
• interfering with the performance of assistant referee or fourth official duties
• refusing to return to the technical area
• entering the field of play without the permission of the referee


Under the Law, only one person at a time is authorized to convey tactical instructions from the technical area. The coach and other officials must remain within its confines except in special circumstances, for example, a physiotherapist or doctor entering the field of play, with the referee’s permission, to assess an injured player. The coach and other occupants of the technical area must behave in a
responsible manner.

As a practical matter, particularly at the youth level, any POSITIVE coaching is allowed. Whether at the level of the least experienced players (and coaches) or at the highest levels, any case in which the coach behaves irresponsibly will result in the coach being dismissed. (Two examples from among many: ranting at the referee, overt participation in deception of the opposing team.)

A coach has no “right” to anything in the game of soccer, other than the right to conduct him-/herself responsibly during the game — from within the technical or bench area — while offering advice to his/her team’s players. A referee who allows coaches or other team officials to parade around the field or shout abuse at players in the guise of instruction, in contravention of the requirements in Law 5 that coaches behave responsibly and that referees not permit anyone other than players to enter the field, should be ashamed.


Coaches and other team officials are expected to behave responsibly. (See Law 5 and Interpretations of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees, the only places in the Laws that team officials are mentioned.) The intelligent referee will generally disregard coaching comments, unless they become openly disrespectful of the game and of the referee. The referee’s first line of defense (unless the behavior is REALLY egregious) is to warn the coach who is behaving irresponsibly. This is the equivalent of a caution, but no card is shown. Then, when the behavior persists (as it usually does, because most coaches who behave this way fail to understand that they must change their errant ways), the coach is expelled from the field for failing to behave in a responsible manner. Please note that under the Laws of the Game, no card may be shown; however, showing the card may be a requirement of the rules of the competition.

Unless the matter is particularly grave, the referee would usually wait until the next stoppage. However, if the situation is indeed grave — as any case of abuse would be — then stopping the game and drawing attention to the matter is an excellent tool in and of itself. Proactive steps such as the admonition of the coach will usually prevent players who become disgusted with their coach’s behavior from acting out and thus becoming subject to punishment themselves. It sends a clear message that the referee is serious about the matter. In such cases, the referee would stop play with the ball in the possession of the abusive coach’s team (if possible), advise the coach or other team official that this behavior is irresponsible and must stop if the coach or other team official wishes to remain in the vicinity of the field. If this warning is not effective, then another stoppage and the expulsion of the coach must follow. No cards, please, unless the rules of the competition require them. Also, do not engage in extended discussions when doing this in any circumstances: State the message and leave.

In all events you should prepare a supplemental game report or letter to the league on the matter. You might also suggest in the report or letter that they send someone to monitor a couple of games. The letter could be written in such a way that says perhaps the coach was having a bad day, but it should suggest that it might be beneficial to the children involved if someone from the league dropped in for a game or two just to make sure.

[In the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game” we find:

Coaches or other team officials, one at a time, may provide tactical advice to their players, including positive remarks and encouragement.  The referee should only take action against coaches or other team officials for irresponsible behavior or for actions that bring the game into disrepute. A coach or other team official may not be cautioned or sent off nor shown any card; however, at the discretion of the referee, such persons may be warned regarding their behavior or expelled from the field of play and its immediate area. When a coach or other team official is expelled, the referee must include detailed information about such incidents in the match report.

The maximum numbers of substitutes and substitutions are set by the competition authority and with the agreement of the two teams within the requirements of Law 3. Additional people in the technical area, such as team members who are not named as players or substitutes (for the current game) on the roster or parents or other persons involved with the team, are permitted to be seated with the team in the technical area (or other designated team area) only if this is allowed by the competition authority. Such persons will be considered team officials and are therefore held to the same standards of conduct specified in Law 5 as other team officials. Although team officials cannot commit misconduct or be shown a card, they may be ordered from the field for irresponsible behavior. Full details must be included in the match report.

The “Ask, Tell, Remove” process is recommended for all officials to follow relative to conduct within the technical area:
* Ask
If a situation arises where there is irresponsible behavior, the official (referee, assistant referee, or fourth official) should ASK the person(s) to stop.
* Tell
If there is another occurrence of irresponsible behavior, the official should inform that person that the behavior is not permissible and TELL them (insist) to stop.
* Remove
If the non-accepted actions continue, the referee must REMOVE that person immediately.

These are the recommended steps, but they are not necessary if the behavior and conduct of personnel within the technical area requires immediate dismissal. Remember, where circumstances permit, match officials should use a “gentle escalate” approach so that referee team responses match the nature of the bench behavior. Try to use the least intrusive response that will solve the problem.


How can a referee determine what is the most current standard for a particular topic, given that there is a mound of reference material on the USSF website? Are we to rely on the most recent “Advice to Referees” as being the final word on every topic, or do we also need to search through historical memos, directives, etc?

The current USSF website has numerous memos that date back many years, some of which are duplicative (ie, 2004 Advice, 2005 Advice, etc).

For example, is it necessary to read the 2007 Law Changes Memorandum or are these law changes incorporated into the 09-10 Advice? Where there are conflicts, which document prevails?

Second but related topic, which is organization of the webpages for referees. Why isn’t there one page that is kept current and represents the current definitive body of laws, directives, advices, etc. As of this date, the laws are on one page, along with a long list of documents, and the advice is on another page. This is confusing. It would be better to have a section called “Current Laws and Interpretations” which contains the FIFA LOTG, the Advice, and any of the historical memos which aren’t incorporated in the Advice that still apply. There should be another page titled “Historical Documents” that contain all other documents, with language that these have been supplanted by more current interpretations.


USSF answer (November 16, 2009):
Your suggestion for improving the utility of the webpages has been passed along to the appropriate people. Thank you.

As to which document “trumps” the others, this excerpt from the Introduction to the Advice to Referees should prove helpful to you:

This book of Advice to Referees is specifically intended to give USSF referees, assistant referees and fourth officials a reliable compilation of those international and national guidelines remaining in force, as modified or updated. It is not a replacement for the Laws of the Game, nor is it a “how to” book on refereeing: It is an official statement of Federation interpretations of the Laws. However, the referee, coach, player, team official and spectator should remember that there are also other sources of information:

* the Laws of the Game, published annually by USSF from the text provided by the IFAB through FIFA;

* the Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees, which replace the former Questions and Answers;

* annual FIFA Circulars, as republished in designated USSF annual Memoranda;

* USSF Referee Program Directives, the Week in Review, and podcasts;

* the USSF Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials;

* entry-level referee clinics, in-service clinics and referee recertification clinics taught by USSF instructors;

* other official publications from the USSF instructional program, including articles in Fair Play and specific subject memoranda (position papers).

In general, one can say that the 2008/2009 and earlier editions of the Advice is nice for historical purposes, but are no longer applicable in many situations. The same is true of the older memoranda and Laws of the Game. They are all included in the collection because many referees, instructors, and assessors like to be able to follow the history and development of the Laws and their interpretation. In all cases, the most recent document (on the particular topic) in any of these series is the one with the current information. The Advice is kept as much up to date as possible, including all documents published in the period since the last revision, but any document is “outdated” the moment the ink hits the paper. This means that the reader should look to the Advice plus all recent memos (with the latter eventually to be incorporated into the next revision).…


During a recent U18 girls’ match, I was an AR. Blue’s attacker was in an offside position about 5 yards past mid field. The ball is played in her direction as she is breaking toward the ball which is played past her by about 10-15 yards. Seeing no other blue players moving toward the ball, I raised the flag for offside. Just as I raised the flag, the attacker stopped going toward the ball, and another blue attacker, clearly not in an offside position breaks toward the ball. The center had not seen my flag yet, so I contemplated dropping the flag, but he noticed it and blew the whistle. I took a lot of grief from the blue team’s coach. In the split second it happened, I believed that the attacker had made a play for the ball and that defenders were also making a play toward the ball, so I had made the right decision. Also in that decision is that the second attacker (in the onside position) did not make a play for the ball until after the ball was played. Later, I was thinking that the player in the offside position did not prevent defenders from playing the ball, so I should have held the flag and use the “wait and see” principle”. Your input is appreciated.

USSF answer (October 29, 2009):
The USSF memorandum of March 25, 2009, “confirms that ‘interfering with play’ cannot be decided unless the attacker in an offside position makes contact with the ball.” We would recommend that the assistant referee wait before signaling for offside in such cases. If a player in an offside position is going to be charged with being involved in active play by interfering with play, he has to touch the ball. If during the time he is NOT interfering with play he manages to interfere with an opponent by ACTING (not simply standing) in such a way as to block the path or line of sight of, deceive, or distract an opponent, then he is just as guilty of offside as if he had touched the ball — but not until that time. …


Chicago Fire v Chivas 10-23
In the 70th minute Terry Vaughn leaned towards a Fire player and asked him to play the ball out – to attend to a downed Patrick Nyarko. The Fire player had not noticed his teammate was down.
During the stoppage Vaughn issued a yellow card to Braun for unsporting behavior.

Couple questions/comments: the convention of asking player to stop play (by knocking the ball into touch) is a quirk of our game – last night’s example seemed to demonstrate the quirkier side. I cannot find the reference from last year but I thought the FA, prior to the beginning of the 2008-2009 season, had asked referees to try to prevent players from knocking the ball out of play and for referees to control the stoppages themselves. I recall thinking, “We’ll see how this goes.” I really can’t say I’ve seen this tradition go away based on EPL games I’ve watched. And I’m not suggesting the US follow suit but I do feel this tradition is outdated. Law 5 gives latitude to CR to judge whether a player’s injury is such that play should be stopped or not. It’s when a referee actually tells a player to play the ball out (an assumption on my part, only having video evidence to make this assertion) that I wonder whether tradition should be maintained at the expense of the referee making a decision, on their own using their common sense.

The card during the stoppage is what really concerns me. Were the two events connected or just a coincidence? Was Braun’s card a separate matter from Nyarko’s injury? If they were related, why would Vaughn need to ask a player to stop play if he thought a foul occurred that was worthy of a caution? I didn’t see Vaughn consult with his AR so I’m left to guessing what transpired.

I’d like to know that actual sequence of events if that’s possible.

USSF answer (October 27, 2009):

Terry Vaughn saw the incident a bit differently from you. He states:

“In this situation I did not tell the Fire player to kick the ball out. I saw the Chicago player get fouled in a reckless manner, but the ball popped out to one of his teammates who had numbers up going the other way. If he turns with it goes the other way. I had signaled advantage to the player and told him I was coming back to deal with the Chivas player. He decided on his own to play the ball out of play, so his teammate could get treatment and that is when the caution was given for the reckless foul. Part of the decision in allowing play to continue is that the player did not have a serous injury like a broken bone or injury to the head or neck. That is what took place in this situation.”

The information you recall regarding kicking the ball out of play appeared in both the 2008 and 2009 USSF memoranda on the changes in the Laws of the Game:


Dealing with injured players

In view of the differing practices applied in various competitions around the world by the team in possession when the ball remains in play after a player has been injured and the confusion that this can cause, the IFAB wishes to reiterate that Law 5 states that the referee has the power to stop the match if, in his opinion, a player is seriously injured, but he may allow play to continue if the player is, in his opinion, only slightly injured.

Furthermore, the IFAB calls for the football family to unite in denouncing simulation and working to eradicate this scourge from the game in order to assist the referee’s identification of serious injuries and, more generally, to uphold the fundamental principles of fair play and preserve the integrity of the game.

USSF Advice to Referees: The above guidelines clearly support the view of the International F.A. Board that the referee’s responsibility to distinguish between serious and slight injuries (taking into account the age, skill, and competitive level of the players) is hampered both by players simulating injuries and by the practice of some teams at some times to stop play on their own initiative by kicking the ball off the field. The Board has strongly emphasized the need for all elements of the soccer community to deal firmly with simulation, but the Board is also suggesting (without, it must be noted, changing any requirement of the Law) that the teams should leave the decision to stop play to the referee instead of exercising it themselves. Although referees should not discourage acts of sportsmanship in situations where a team has taken it upon themselves to stop play and the injury was truly serious, the above instructions also suggest that everyone should now see referees moving more quickly to evaluate injuries and to establish clearly whether play should or should not be stopped so that teams will be less likely to feel a need to take this decision upon themselves.


Reminder to referees

Referees are reminded that Law 5 states that the referee must stop the match if, in his opinion, a player is seriously injured.

USSF Advice to Referees: This statement is intended to reinforce a guideline issued earlier by both the International Board and USSF that the practice of a team kicking the ball off the field to stop play when there is an apparent injury on the field detracts from the responsibility of the referee under Law 5 to assess the injury and to stop play only if, in the opinion of the referee, the injury is serious. Referees are therefore advised to be seen quickly and publicly considering the status of any player seeming to be injured and clearly deciding whether or not the situation merits a stoppage of play. The referee must control this decision as much as possible.

At exactly 69:00, Braun fouls Nyarko which leads to the injury. The referee clearly uses his arms to signal advantage and then follows it up with a confirmation of the player committing the foul. The “confirmation” ensures the referee does not forget the player who commits the misconduct because, as we know, it could take a long time for the next stoppage in play to occur and this “confirmation” helps cement the player’s number in the referee’s mind.…