In a recent game, there was an unexpectedly short halftime break and the referee chose to start the second half before some of the players for Team B were on the field. I know that Law 8 says that “all of the players must be in their own half of the field” before a kickoff can take place, so my view would be that a kickoff cannot legally be allowed at this point (although theoretically someone might be cautioned for delaying the resumption of play).
However another referee says that all that is required to allow the kickoff is for seven Team B players to be on the field (including a GK) and that it does not matter if these seven are anywhere near their playing positions. He says that this is true even if Team B had 11 players during the first half and the referee is well aware that they have more than 11 available for the second half.
So my questions:
1. Can a referee legally order a second half kickoff if the other team has only 7 players on the field?
2. Can a referee legally order a second half kickoff if 11 players have entered the pitch but are nowhere near their playing positions (although they are in their own half)?
3. Even if technically legal, is it acceptable/proper for a referee to do either of the above?
USSF answer (October 29, 2009):
We all need to remember that the players are entitled to a break at halftime. Even if only one player wants the full break time permitted under the rules of the competition, then all players must be given the full amount of time allotted under the rules. It is pretty clear that the referee in your scenario has failed to consider the welfare and safety of the players.
1. Yes, provided that the full time allotted for the halftime break has passed.
2. Yes, with the same caveat.
3. It certainly shows a lack of respect for the players and the game to do what your scenario suggests.
We need to remember that it is THEIR game, not ours.