Challenge Question

A new feature of AskASoccerReferee is the “challenge question” — from time to time (no particular schedule — only when the “spirit moves”), I will post a question for you to answer.  There is no form or format for a reply except as follows: your answer must (a) be as brief as possible, (b) be sent to, and (c) have “challenge” plus the question number as the subject (e.g., Challenge #8).  Any response which doesn’t include (c) will be ignored.  After a suitable lapse of time, I will post my answer and indicate how the answers you submitted compared with this.  There will be no flames, and I will ignore any follow-up which appears to not be constructive or thoughtful.

Scroll down to see prior Challenges.

Current open Challenge

Challenge #8 (3/12/2019)

Red #3, a substitute on the bench, has been pacing a yard or so behind the AR running the touchline and occasionally making snide comments regarding the AR’s actions.  As play moved to the opposite end of the field with Red #3’s team on the attack, Red #3 enters the field, stands 2 feet in front of the AR, and declares that the AR “really screwed up by missing that offside offense” and ending with “How far back was it that you let your [the AR’s] certification lapse?”

Question 1: What standard procedures would bring this to the attention of the referee?  Question 2: Should the referee stop play or wait for a stoppage?  Question 3: Either way, what action(s) should the referee take regarding Red #3?

Prior Challenges

Challenge #7

Suppose Blue #22 had asked to leave the field to be substituted, received your permission, and started walking toward the touchline.  Before Blue #22 actually left the field, Blue #19 was given permission to enter and stepped onto the field.  Blue #22 then decided he wanted to continue playing and refused to continue his departure from the field.

Is this permissible?  Either way, how do you handle it?


Is it permissible? No, but then again it shouldn’t even happen.  Under current Law, the correct procedure starts with giving permission to Blue #22 to leave the field. Then the next step is, upon Blue #22’s departure, to wave Blue #19 onto the field.  Then, having received your permission, Blue #19 enters the field.  At that exact point, the Blue #22 to be a player (she becomes a “substituted player”) and Blue #19 becomes a “player of record.”  If you follow this, the scenario will never happen.  And, yes, that means that Blue #22 could change her mind and stay on or return to the field at any point prior to Blue #19 officially becomes a player of record.

Unfortunately, we know that, except at the highest competitive levels, most referee handle substitutions much more sloppily.  We ignore the need for TWO separate approvals and we let substitutes enter the field before the player leaves.  Usually, this doesn’t result in a problem … but then there is the Challenge Question scenario.  The Law provides, however, that once the substitute enters the field with the referee’s permission, the substitution is a fact and the conversion of Blue #22 to a substituted player is complete, at which point, Blue #22 has no legal right to refuse to leave.  The problem, of course, is that Blue #22 now also has the right to be extremely unhappy with you for taking that right away from her by prematurely.

Challenge #6 (It’s a festive season coming up so this is not a Law but a procedural challenge — there isn’t “a” correct response but your answers are important steps to dealing with this problem.  What have you tried?  I will try to pick the most workable, cogent, and briefest response.)

 Three minutes into the match, Blue #5 takes a ball full to the face and falls down, apparently injured.  You stop play, determine that the injured player is bleeding profusely from the nose, and order the player to leave the field.  In the pregame, you had delegated to the closer AR the responsibility of inspecting and confirming the correction of any bleeding or equipment issues.

What issues of mechanics and procedures might arise from this situation?  How would you solve them?


Regrettably, although I waited much longer than usual before offering the observations below, I have heard from only one person so far.  Perhaps the “Challenge Question” feature is not of sufficient interest to maintain it — not that it takes a lot of maintenance, per se.  Anyway, as the single responder noted, communication is indeed the key.  The problem is, what is it that needs to be communicated?  You’ve stopped play and that’s a good start.  There is a player leaving the field by your direction,  Also good.  In the scenario, it happens to be fairly obvious that bleeding/blood is the reason (other reasons might be less visible).  So, you need to communicate to the AR what sort of inspection needs to be done and, depending on the AR’s experience, some guidance as to your preferred evidence to confirm that the condition has been corrected properly.  Since you are already at an injury stoppage for which the restart (per the LOG) must be a dropped ball, you can take sufficient time to relay the necessary information and instructions verbally, face to face.  It is what comes next which leads to mechanics challenges.

Also as our one responder observed, it’s all very well and good to have delegated to an AR the responsibility for confirming the correction, it is quite another for that AR to find the time/opportunity to perform this task amidst all the other tasks the AR will have once play is restarted.  But what, exactly, is needed at this point?  In very large part, it depends on the rules of competition and whether there is “free” or “limited” substitution.  With “free” substitution allowed, the injured player almost certainly will have been replaced — even if only temporarily — and thus a large part of our problem is solved because the injured player, now with bleeding staunched and no blood evident, can return to the field as a substitute … which means a stoppage and therefore an opportunity to once again communicate with the AR confirming the resolution of the problem.

However, if there was no substitution for the injured player (whether purely as a decision by the coach even if it were permitted or because Law 3 is controlling and the coach either has no substitutions remaining or doesn’t want to use one for what she hopes to be a temporary condition), the situation dynamics are different.  Because the affected team is “playing down,” the injured player is allowed to return to the field (with your permission, of course) as soon as the condition that caused her to leave is corrected — which often means during play.  Four things become critical: (a) the injured player should be advised (by you and/or the AR) that, upon completing whatever course of action has been required to solve the problem, the player must move down the touch line to be closer to (but not in the way of) the AR; (b)  the AR must find an opportunity offered by the play on the field to make the necessary inspection while still performing Law 6 duties; (c) the AR must signal you if and only if she has determined that the correction has been made; and (d) you must see this signal and provide the necessary permission.

Each of these four steps must be discussed in the pre-game (they can be briefly stated and would take up only 15-20 seconds).  Step (a) is self-explanatory.  Step (b) usually involves the AR raising the flag straight up until eye contact is made with you and then briefly signaling for a “substitution” with the formerly injured player at the AR’s side (the combination of circumstances is saying “I’ve checked, the problem is solved, and the player awaits your OK to enter”).  Step (d) requires that, to the extent possible, keep checking back to that AR to see if she is signaling or, in the alternative, the other AR follows the first part of step (b) and then, having gotten your attention, points to the opposite side of the field.  And, yes, it is perfectly OK to wave permission to re-enter from far away,  with minimal diversion of your attention, if the system has worked as described.

We leave to your creativity how to modify the above outline for scenarios involving the need for ordering a player off the field (aside from a send-off, of course) for something more complicated than visible bleeding/blood.

Challenge #5

A Blue player falls to the ground yelling about an apparent ankle injury.  Red has the ball but deliberately plays it off the field across the touchline about 20 yards up from the goal line to allow the injured player to be treated.

As soon as the injured Blue player is removed from the field and while the Referee is attempting to determine if there is to be a substitution, Blue #35 throws the ball back toward a Red fullback based on the tradition of returning possession to the Red team.  However, before the Red fullback gets to the ball, Blue #18 intercepts the thrown ball, turns, shoots on goal, and scores.  In the ensuing shouting match between Red and Blue, Blue #18 claims that she hadn’t been paying attention and didn’t know that the opposing team had played the ball out for the injury.

The Red team is very vocal in its criticism of the Blue team and of the Referee.

Answer (Craig P.  from Maryland answered correctly first):

Blue #35 performed the throw-in without the permission of the Referee.  We should safely presume that, with an injury stoppage, the Referee used the standard mechanic of clearly (verbally and visually) announcing that taking the throw-in would require the Referee’s express signal (a whistle).  Everything after the ball was illegally thrown onto the field is null and void.  After the dust settles, the ball is returned to the team originally given the restart and, upon the referee’s whistle, the game resumes.

We would have preferred a quicker response to the illegal restart which might have avoided at least some, if not all, of the subsequent controversies.  We particularly hope that, through inaction, the Referee did not concede to the play as it unfolded.  Further, if play continued with no Referee intervention, at least there was a fairly immediate stoppage (for the goal), at which point we would hope that a member of the officiating team took the opportunity to apprise the Referee of his error – it could still be corrected by canceling the goal and returning to the original throw-in.

However, if enlightenment never descended upon the officiating team, then (taking it as a given) there was no illegality in the twisting of an old soccer playing tradition.  It was not “the Law” so, ignoring the original sin, everything that followed was otherwise entirely legal.  The goal would count.

By the way, we should note that the International Board commented on this sort of problem arising from kicking the ball off the field to allow for an apparent injury to be dealt with.  The Board stated some years back that the “tradition” is not desirable and could be avoided by the Referee quickly and clearly be seen evaluating a possible injury situation and then either stopping play for it or indicating that it was not serious, thus making the “kick the ball off the field” player response not only unnecessary but also incapable of resulting in the confusion (so the player said) which followed.  Stopping play for a serious injury is the Referee’s job, not a player’s job.

Challenge #4

Blue #11, seeing that the opposing goalkeeper is out of position at the far left side of the goal, makes a shot from twelve yards out.  The ball is moving toward the top of the goal and is likely to just make it under the crossbar.  Green #39 (a fullback defender) recognizes that, with less than a minute remaining, the winning goal is about to be scored so he grabs onto the crossbar and hangs on it.  With his weight pulling down the at least slightly flexible crossbar, the ball instead strikes the top of the crossbar and leaves the field over the goal frame.  What action or actions should the Referee take?

Answer (first provided by Steve B, a referee from Honolulu – who, having won the coveted “First Provider” award two months in a row now — is hereby suspended from winning for a while): Green #39 has handled the ball illegally.  How? By grabbing onto the crossbar, that part of the goal frame is considered to be an extension of his hand.  The handling is, of course, an offense and meets the technical definition of “denied goal by handling” since the scenario gives us that the ball was either headed into the net or close to it.  He is shown the red card and sent off.  The restart is a penalty kick.  Additionally, if desired, the Referee could include in the game report that Green #32 had also committed a cautionable offense (unsporting behavior – the crossbar was bent down and was thus an offense involving the field of play, similar to making unauthorized marks on the field or removing a corner flag) but, of course, no yellow card would be shown.

Challenge #3

At the taking of a penalty kick A15 is identified as the kicker.  Upon the completion of all other requirements for the restart, the Referee whistles for the kick to be taken and A15 taps the ball lightly at an angle to her right.  A27, properly positioned when the Referee whistled, begins a hard run toward the ball while A15 begins walking at a forward angle to her left to leave a clear path for her teammate.

When A27 arrives at the ball, she and the ball are about 10 yards from the goal line while A15 has moved to a position roughly 9 yards from the goal line.  This play had been planned in advance by A15 and A27 to give the latter a chance to score and complete a “hat trick” to crown A27’s last game she would be playing for her team.  A27’s shot on goal, however, was inches too high and it rebounded from the cross bar to A15, who had stopped to watch the success of their plan.  A15, in an attempt to give A27 another chance to score, played the ball back to A27 who, this time, accurately shot the ball into the goal past team B’s confused defending goalkeeper.

What is the restart?  Explain.

Answer (first provided by Steve B., a referee in Honolulu):  When A27 took a shot on goal, following A15’s unexpected short pass forward to allow A27 to rush in and attempt to achieve a hat trick, A15 herself had moved sufficiently forward that, at the moment her teammate touched the ball, she was in an offside position.  Her own subsequent touch of the ball after a rebound from the crossbar was an offside offense due to “gaining an advantage” and “interfering with play” while in an offside position.  With this recognized, the goal must be nullified.  It was necessary to read this Challenge closely to understand that the entire play sequence up to A15’s touch on the rebound was entirely legal and, except for the “trick” play, entirely unexceptional.  As you read future Challenge questions, please assume that all pertinent information will be provided.

Challenge #2:

Red #12 is dribbling the ball and Blue #20 is actively challenging, both  running at full speed less than two yards from Blue’s goal line and to the left of the goal.  Red backheels the ball to a teammate and the momentum of both players carries them off the field where they get tangled up and fall to the ground.  At this point, Red #6 has the ball about ten yards up from the goal line with only the Blue goalkeeper standing on his goal line between Red #6 and the goal.

Red #12 is the first to recover.  He springs to his feet and rushes back to the field.  When Red #12 is approximately 1 yard into the field, his teammate passes the ball to him.  Red #12 pivots left and neatly places the ball low into the goal just in front of the left post.

The assistant referee raises his flag for an offside offense, the referee cancels the goal, and Blue takes an indirect free kick where Red #12 received the pass from his teammate.

Were these decisions correct?  Why or why not?

Answer (first correctly provided by C. J. from California): The decision is incorrect and the goal should have been awarded.  If there was no complicating infraction by either Red #12 or Blue #20 while off the field, then Blue #20 is considered to be standing on the goal line where he left the field.  Therefore there are two defensive players (GK and Blue #20) closer to the goal line (actually, they are both on it) than Red #12 when he receives the ball and therefore he was not in an offside position.  Fundamentally, defensive players cannot “put themselves out of the play” OR “put an attacker in an offside position” by leaving the field of play (further, a defender who tries this risks a caution).

Challenge #1:

At the taking of a penalty kick, the Red kicker inadvertently just grazed the ball and it began rolling toward the goal slowly.  As it was moving forward, a large dog ran onto the field, grabbed the ball in his mouth (it was a very large dog!) and began running around the field in a playful manner.

What action(s) should you take?

Answer: The ball was legally put into play (kicked and moved forward) but, on the way to the net, an outside agent interfered with play.  Law and tradition have long stated that every penalty kick (or kick from the mark) must involve a realistic chance to score — which did not happen here as the ball was prevented from continuing in its path forward.  The kick must be retaken.  There is no requirement that the original kicker must perform the retake.  The 2016/2017 version of the Laws describes this scenario and outcome in general terms at the bottom of p. 96.  No response answering this challenge correctly was received.