I am an assignor for club soccer in our area and have been officiating for 4 years after 12 as a coach and playing many years ago. I am always trying to improve myself as a referee. My question concerns application of the advantage clause. Question – One of the referees I assign is quite good and has been a referee for many years.

He takes a bit of free time to help with more inexperienced referees, however, I am a bit concerned about his application of advantage. It seems to me he waits quite long at times to determine if advantage has truly occurred. An actual situation occurred in a high level match I observed him working as follows: Player A1 is dribbling the ball and from approximately 25 yards away from team B’s goal takes a shot toward B’s goal. Defender B1 outside his own penalty area handles the ball and the ball immediately rebounds to same player A1 directly almost at spot of original shot.

As player A1 dribbles forward, referee correctly signals and calls advantage. Player A1 then dribbles to his left, feints and goes around defender B1. Player A1 passes to player A2 who attempts a shot which rebounds off of crossbar to defender B1 who is now just inside the penalty area. Defender B1 controls turns and kicks the ball up-field.

Referee stops play and calls original handling the ball foul on B1 which was the source of the advantage. While I cannot be sure of the actual elapsed time, it seems to me team A received their advantage, had opportunity to play to another team A player who took a chance at a reasonable scoring opportunity. My personal feeling is the handling foul should have been “waived” as team A was able to get quite a bit of action as well as a scoring opportunity out of the advantage. I almost felt like the referee was giving team A two chances at scoring a goal. This is not the first time I’ve seen him call back the advantage with such a large amount of time elapsed from the original foul. Am I wrong here? I cannot discuss this with the referee in question as he does not like to be challenged on his decisions.

USSF answer (August 23, 2010):

The USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game” tells us in Advice 5.6:
“The referee may return to and penalize the original foul if the advantage situation does not develop as anticipated after a short while (2-3 seconds). Referees should note that the “advantage” is not defined solely in terms of scoring a goal.”

The situation you describe obviously went on for more than the 2-3 seconds outlined in the Law. If that was all that was involved, the referee should not have called play back in this situation.

However, looked at a bit differently, one could also argue that the referee had the opportunity to decide that the advantage did not apply if, at the time the ball rebounds from the handling (although, if it “rebounds,” was it really a handling offense because rebounds would not normally meet the requirement of Law 12 that the ball was deliberately propelled) to the original attacker, the number and skills of the defenders now arrayed against further play by the attacking team was more advantageous for the defense than it would have been without the handling “foul.” In short, depending on the circumstances (and the application of the “Four Ps”), either the foul (if it truly was a foul) should have been called back about the time the ball reached the original attacker OR it should have not been called back at all if the referee has allowed play to continue for so long.