This past weekend I was centering a BU14 game with 2 AR’s that I had not worked with in the past. Our pre-game conference unfortunately, did not cover the situation which unfolded as follows. During the first half a Blue Attacker struck a volley shot from about 25 yards out. I was positioned approximately 10 yard from the shot and about 30 yards from the goal line. The shot was driven over the outstretched arms of the opposing keeper and then struck the crossbar, directing it downwards toward the ground. The ball struck the ground and due to the spin on the ball bounced back out towards the top of the goal area, where it was eventually cleared by the defense. From my vantage point, I could not tell if the whole of the ball had cross over the goal line and a goal had been scored. I looked to my AR, who was positioned about 10-12 yards from the goal line (even with the 2nd to the last defender) and clearly in a much better position than me to see if the ball had entirely crossed over the goal line, albeit, not in the optimal position of being on the goal line. He raised his flag excitedly waiving it, but then put the flag down & waived his free arm at waist level from side to side, in what I believed to be a negative manner. (Here is where the confusion began) I called to him to inquire if the ball had crossed the line. Due to his negative gesture, I believed he was indicating “no goal” and indicated verbally for play to continue. At no time did I blow my whistle to stop play. Several minutes later at the stoppage for halftime I went to AR and confer with him at which point he indicated that the ball had in fact crossed the line and was indicating that it was a goal. At the time I had discovered my error, we did not correct it and the game ended with the Blue team losing 2-1, as opposed to a 2-2 tie. I believe that I incorrectly applied a portion of the law concerning when a goal is scored with too many players on the field and play is restarted, that the goal may not be disallowed. (ie an error may not be corrected after play has been restarted) The game report was submitted with an description of the error that was made. Furthermore, league officials were present at the game & I immediately made them aware of the matter as well.
At halftime, I reviewed the AR’s procedures and signals for indicating a goal and getting the center Referee’s attention if a problem arises, but again, the mistake had already occurred. This will now be part of my pre-game instructions.
I have reviewed the Laws of the Game, specifically Law 5 – The Referee and Law 10 – The method of scoring and cannot find anything specific to this situation. I also reviewed Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees. My next thought was to check Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game, but then submitted my question here. Clearly the pre-game could have been a bit more thorough and communication between the myself and my AR should have been better, However, the error was made and I now find myself searching for an answer to address the issue.
Law 5 clearly states “that the decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play, including whether or not a goal is scored and the result of the match are final. The referee may only change a decision on realizing that it is incorrect or, at his discretion, on the advice of an assistant referee or the 4th official, provided he has not restarted play or terminated the match.
Here is my question. Play was never restarted and continued on as I believed that no goal had been scored. The match was not terminated and merely ended upon the expiration of regulation time. I suspect that the answer will be the final determination will be left up the the league. However, in the future, procedurally, should the error have been corrected at halftime or at the next stoppage in play when the error was discovered or did I handle it correctly in documenting it in the game report & leaving it up to the league to resolve?
USSF answer (December 20, 2011):
Your problem lay in failure to follow standard procedures during the pregame conference and during play. If you had followed them, as we know you will in future, you would have stopped play immediately.
The correct procedure in the case of goals seen by the lead assistant referee is to follow the guidance given on p. 25 of the USSF “Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials.” If the ball briefly but fully enters the goal and is continuing to be played and this is not clearly seen by the referee, the AR raises the flag vertically to get the referee’s attention and then, after the referee stops play, the AR puts the flag straight down and follows the normal procedures for a goal. In turn, the referee should check visually with the assistant referee long enough to see a signal for a goal in cases where the ball is being played close to the goal and may have briefly but fully entered the goal.
In cases of doubt, stop play immediately and check verbally with the AR. If (as would have happened here) you decide that a goal WAS scored, well and good. If it turns out that the AR’s arm waving meant that there was no goal, then ou can always apologize to the players, something referees do not do often enough, and restart with a dropped ball.
We assume that this sentence, “I believe that I incorrectly applied a portion of the law concerning when a goal is scored with too many players on the field and play is restarted, that the goal may not be disallowed. (ie an error may not be corrected after play has been restarted),” refers to whether you might have stopped play upon realizing (somehow) that a goal had been scored. For this, we recommend following the International Football Association Board’s instructions that, when the ball leaves the field and the referee does not see (or does not understand) the AR’s signal, play can be stopped at any time the realization dawns unless “too much play” (including a stoppage and a restart) has gone by. In this case, the ball going into the goal is merely a specific example of the ball having left the field.