In a recent match I had, a female player had her head gear off and in her hands while playing the ball and challenged by an opponent. I stopped the game and gave an indirect free kick to the opposing team for stopping the game, but did not give a caution.
Was I correct in the decision or did I misapply the laws? I could not find an answer in the law book or in advice to referees.
My question is, is it permissible for players to play with items in their hands such as head gear, water bottles, shin guards, cleats / boots, or an miscellaneous items while in possession of the ball and being challenged by an opponent? If not, what is the punishment and restart?
Answer March 8, 2014):
If the player did not use her headgear (not yet legal for anyone other than the goalkeeper) to play the ball or to ward off the opponent, then no offense has been committed. However, the referee should ensure that she replaces or legally disposes of the headgear as quickly as possible. If no offense has been committed, play is not stopped. If the player (other than the goalkeeper within her own penalty area) uses the headgear to play the ball, it is deliberate handling. If she uses the headgear to play the opponent, it is either holding or pushing. Deal with such infringements in accordance with the Laws.