I was in a recent over-30 game I was in had the referee stop play when he noticed there were too many men on the field. A correct call. However, in this particularly league there is no 4th official and there were no AR’s. No one from either team knew who or when the extra player entered the field but all parties thought it happened during a recent substitution several minutes prior when several players came onto the field and several came off. Since the referee did not know who the extra player was that entered illegally, he gave the caution to the player that was closest to him. However, this player had a previous caution and thus just earned a red card for his second yellow and was sent off. Was the referee correct in this situation?  He claims that it’s the player who is closest to him who gets the caution.  I am a referee as well and I think it’s up to the captain of the team to pick the player to receive the yellow card. The referee is not the one to make this call.

USSF answer (August 19, 2008):
No, the referee was not (and would not be) correct in automatically cautioning the player nearest to him. Another case of inventive — and really silly — refereeing. The entire problem was the referee’s fault for not paying attention to how many came out and how many entered the field. Referees cannot caution willy nilly, as this would likely destroy what little remained of their credibility after the initial error of failing to pay attention. There was no need for a second caution to an apparently innocent party, which could and should have been avoided. The referee’s third lapse was in not considering what possible good a caution would serve, regardless of who got it.

There is at least one thing that might be done, such as asking of the captain (or even the coach) who the last substitutes coming in were and which players were supposed to have left. That will usually find the player who was also not paying enough attention.

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