I was recently officiating a U8 game in a rec league when I encountered a few problems related to field markings. The biggest problem was that there were no penalty box markings on the field (but there were goal box markings). I received several complaints from coaches when goal kicks were being taken because (they said) players from the other team were too close to the ball while the kick was being taken. I am aware that fifa law requires opponents to remain outside the penalty box during the taking of a goal kick, however, due to the lack of a penalty box, I was uncertain what a fair distance would be. Another issue was when a goal keeper picked up the ball outside of the goal box, the coach of the opposing team thought that it should be a hand ball. The goal box however, was much too small an area to be the keeper’s handling area. The rules for the league were identical to Fifa law when it came to this situation, so I was confused on what course of action to take. In the end, In the end, I explained to the coaches that I would allow the keeper to handle the ball apx. 5 yards outside of the goal box, and I would place players from the opposing team 5 yards outside of the goal box during the taking of goal kicks. Please let me know if this was the appropriate action to take when I had a lack of information, or if I should have done something different.

USSF answer (October 8, 2009):
If the game was being played in accordance with the USYSA rules for small-sided soccer, then the field was actually marked correctly (at least in regard to the central question raised here). If your game was a full-sided game, then there is no doubt that problems would have arisen, as the U8 field you describe should not be used for full-sided games.

This situation should be covered in the rules of the competition, in this case the rec league. Most competitions, unless they are held at a neutral field, advise that the home team is responsible for proper preparation of the field. If the home team failed in its duty and you could not arrange for the markings to be correct, you had a choice: Inform the teams that nothing could be done and that they would have to take your decisions as fact — which the Law tells us they are — or abandon the game and report full details to the competition authority.

We suggest you check with your assignor for the rules of the competition before accepting any games you might not be prepared for. And it is the assignor’s job to ensure that you are in fact up to date on the rules for any game to which he or she assigns you.

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