Advice – dealing with Appurtenances – Pre-existing Conditions
Per Advice dealing with appurtenances, 1.8(c) -pre-existing conditions, specifically overhanging trees. We have several venues that have overhanging tree limbs on one end of the field that happens to behind the goal area/line. If the overhanging tree limbs ” do not affect one team or more adversely than the other are considered to be part of the field”. There have been two examples where the attacking team has to take a corner kick and the player taking the kick happens to kick it into the overhanging tree limbs, the referee then told the players that the ball is still in play because it did not leave the field of play. In another example, one team who was attacking their opponent’s goal had their player take a shot on goal, the ball was going over the cross-bar but for the tree limbs, the ball stopped and dropped in front of their opponent’s goalkeeper penalty area and the goal-keeper was able to retrieve the ball, since the ball was still in play, the goalkeeper then was able to punt the ball across the field and their forward was able to score a goal in a matter of seconds. A third example, occurred when the ball was kicked by an attacking team, the goal-keeper was out of position and the ball hit the tree limbs and the ball rolled across the goal-line and underneath the cross bar, thus a goal was scored. In the final example, the attacker took a shot and the ball hit the tree limbs yet the ball was still in play and the team-mate was able to score because the goal-keeper turned one way and the ball fell to the side of him inside of the goal area. In these four examples, how should the referee crew handle these examples. Should they tell the teams ahead of time, should they stop play and do a drop-ball or should the referee say “play-on” and where would play be restarted?
USSF answer (May 26, 2011):
Advice 1.8(c) is pretty clear and we believe it covers your situations fully::
(c) Pre-existing conditions
These are things on or above the field which are not described in Law 1 but are deemed safe and not generally subject to movement. These include trees overhanging the field, wires running above the field, and covers on sprinkling or draining systems. They do not affect one team more adversely than the other and are considered to be a part of the field. If the ball leaves the field after contact with any item considered under the local ground rules of the field to be a pre-existing condition, the restart is in accordance with the Law, based on which team last played the ball. (Check with the competition for any local ground rules.)
Note: The difference between non-regulation appurtenances and pre-existing conditions is that, if the ball makes contact with something like uprights or crossbar superstructure, it is ruled out of play even if the contact results in the ball remaining on the field. Where there is a pre-existing condition (such as an overhanging tree limb), the ball remains in play even if there is contact, as long as the ball itself remains on the field. Referees must be fully aware of and enforce any rules of the competition authority or field owner regarding non-regulation appurtenances.
There is no bias in this guidance toward one team or the other, as each team must play one-half of the game under these conditions.
As the competition appears to play many games at these fields, it would seem that all teams should already be well aware of the conditions before they get to the field. However, the referee could be proactive and remind the teams of the conditions and that the ball will remain in play.
The only permanent solution we can recommend to avoid such events is that the limbs might be lopped off by a trained tree-removal person (with the permission of the landowner, of course).
Finally, let us add that our advice applies only to those portions of the trees that actually overhang the field; not to other portions of the same tree.