The various scenarios about the Holland-Italy goal put forth on “Referee Week in Review” are very thorough and I hope every referee is aware of each of them. However I do have some questions on Scenario 5. It addresses the hypothetical that “the Italian defender is clearly injured and off the field of play,” and states:

“The referee makes a decision that the defender is seriously injured and cannot return to play by himself. Once the referee has acknowledged the seriousness of the injury, the player may not participate in the play and must not be considered to be in active play (at this point, he would not be considered in determining offside position and should not be considered in the equation as either the first or second last opponent). For purposes of Law 11, the defender is considered to be on the goal line for calculating offside position.

This player, however, may not return to play without the referee’s permission. Remember, the referee is instructed in Law 5 to stop the game only for serious injury.”

Under this scenario, the referee must “acknowledge the seriousness of the injury” and, once this is done, the player cannot participate in the play nor return to play without the referee’s permission. My question is how, in a situation as we had in Holland-Italy, the referee could inform the downed player or anyone else that this player no longer counted for any offside determination and also could not re-enter the field. If play continued upfield, the referee could not possibly get near enough to the downed player to issue any instructions and, even if he could, most players on the field likely would be unaware of the exact situation. How would the attackers know where to line up to stay onside? How would the downed defender, if he got up and was able to continue play, know that he was not allowed to re-enter the field?

Any clarification of what to do in this situation – both for the U15-18 level and for higher level games – would be much appreciated.

My instinct would be to either count the downed player or else decide his injury is severe enough to stop play.

USSF answer (June 23 2008):
In the case under discussion, the goal was scored within three seconds of Panucci leaving the field after being pushed by his teammate, Buffon. That was not enough time for the referee to make any determination as to whether or not an injury existed, much less to judge its seriousness.

Soccer is a contact sport. The referee is required to stop play if, in his or her opinion, a player is seriously injured. He or she does not stop play for a slight injury. Remember that referees will rarely stop play within three seconds. If it’s clearly a severe injury, such as to the head, then yes, there should be an immediate stoppage. However, referees will usually take more than three seconds to make a judgment on the extent of a player’s injury. Panucci was at most slightly injured, if at all. He got up after the goal and did not need any treatment. In addition, it makes little difference whether he fell on or off the field of play. He could have fallen in the goal area. He had been part of the defense and still was part of play, part of the move, part of the game, when the goal was scored.

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