I volunteer to referee for a recreational league of players ages 11-13. My question is regarding a dropped ball. One of the red team defenders was injured on the field and I stopped play (the white team had the ball in red’s penalty box). After the player was removed from the field, I did a dropped ball in the center circle (wrongly I know now).

After reading the FIFA laws, I know what the book says, however in every college and professional soccer game I have watched, a dropped ball was in the goal box where the goalie picked it up after the bounce, or in the center circle where the opposing team (the one who didn’t have the ball) kicks it down to the other team willingly.

What I did was talk to the red team and told them to kick it down to the white team and we would start play after the ball was dropped.

Unfortunately, the ball was kicked high and the white goalie caught it on the bounce and carried it into the net. This wasn’t my intent and after speaking with the coaches, the goal was disallowed (both agreed), and I dropped it in front of the white goalie. The complaining came more from the parents.

Keeping in mind that this is a rec league and some kids are still learning, I find the dropped ball to be extremely dangerous. What should my call and subsequent action have been and what is the gentleman’s agreement that should have been followed by the kids regarding a dropped ball?

USSF answer (October 22, 2008):
We congratulate you for volunteering to officiate and, even more, for being serious enough about it to think carefully about these situations and to look for ways to ensure fairness for the players.  We wish more referees would do that! Despite this, however, there are certain things even volunteers must be aware of, regardless of the level of play.

First, referees should not make “gentleman’s agreements” with players. Although the game was founded on the principle that it was played by gentlemen and those who played it would behave accordingly, that went out the door well over a hundred years ago. We do not bargain with players. Instead, we establish rules (beyond those in the Laws of the Game) early on, even for the less-experienced and less-skilled players.

Before dropping the ball — at the place where it was when play was stopped, just as it calls for in the Law — the referee should know who will be present at the drop. If players are too close, or are swinging their legs like pendulums on a clock gone haywire, the referee tells them to be still or to move back or whatever else seems necessary. He or she also reminds them that they cannot play the ball until it hits the ground.

If the referee wants the ball to go to a particular team, in a sense of fairness (as you describe above), he or she engineers the drop so that that particular team gets the ball. The referee cannot order the other team to stay away, but he or she can make a strong suggestion, calling upon that team’s sense of fair play.

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