The recent events in the NFL made me think of writing in to discuss a call from several years ago:

In a recreation level tournament, I was involved in the following call and while I think I blew the call, I want to get your opinion. In a well played but very aggressive match at the U-17 level(several yellows had already been issued to both teams), with less than 5 minutes left in the second period, player A1 was fouled while on the attack just outside the penalty box. Player B1 was called for the foul (not serious enough to warrant a card) and Team B proceed to set up a wall in preparation for the direct free kick. Player A1 asked for his 10 yards, so when I walked it off, it put the wall of Team B inside the penalty box. As player A1 took the shot, one of the players from Team B within the wall stepped forward toward player A1. I was the ref watching for any offside and as soon as the player from Team B stepped forward, I blew the whistle. The unfortunate thing is, the ball went into the net for what Team A thought was a score. In that split second, I realized that I blew the whistle too early and had to proceed forward from there. I waved off the goal, carded the player from Team B for the “failure to retire” and since the foul occurred within the penalty box, awarded Team A the penalty kick. Unfortunately, the shot off the penalty kick did not go in the net. One of  my question is this, while I know there is no such things as a delayed foul, could I have applied “advantage”, waited to see what happen to the shot, and then carded the player on Team B for “failure to retire” and re-awarded the direct free kick which as a result of the foul would have made it a penalty kick? Am I correct that while the ball is in actively in play, any whistle basically immediately make the ball “DEAD”?  Team A did not need the goal that I waved off to win the match, but I went up to the Coach of Team A and explained myself as best as possible with regards to the fact that I felt like I blew the call.

USSF answer (October 3, 2008):
You are correct that the whistle stops play and we were with you until you awarded the penalty kick. Whatever for?? The correct restart was a retake of the original direct free kick. As we state in the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game,” Advice 13.3: “If one or more opponents fail to respect the required distance before the ball is properly put into play, the referee should stop the restart to deal with this infringement as required by the Law. The free kick must be retaken even if the momentum of play causes the ball to be kicked before the referee signals.”

And the entire problem would have never come up if you hadn’t whistled too soon. Consider holding off a moment unless there is some mischief that MUST be dealt with NOW.

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