At a kick-off, a player is straddling the halfway line (or, more dramatically, has one foot on the line and the other in the opponent’s half). Referee did not call an infringement or foul of any kind, trifling or otherwise.

My Background: Law 8 doesn’t say that a player can’t be in the opponent’s half, only that he must be in his own half. It seems to me that when the Laws say “outside”, they mean “completely outside, and not on, over, or above the line”. My interpretation of “inside” would be “any part of the head, torso, legs, or feet on, over, or above the line”.

I believe the referee’s decision was correct, but a colleague (a referee instructor) said that, for the purposes of Law 8, a player is not in his half if any part of him can be considered to be in the opponent’s half, thus any player having his head, torso, leg, or foot on, over, or above the line violates the Law, and the referee must either order the kick-off retaken or adjudicate the infraction as trifling and let play continue.

Question: At kick-off, is a player considered to have “gained the line” (to borrow an ice-hockey term) in the scenario above? More specifically, we both agreed that play should continue in the scenario, but disagreed as to whether it is a trifling infringement (ATR 5.5) or no offense.

USSF answer (September 15, 2011):
Yes, ALL players are expected to remain in their own half of the field until the ball is in play. Being in play means that the ball has been kicked and moved forward, even if that forward motion may be only slight. Custom seems to be a bit more laissez faire, with the player who is to receive the kick-off normally a short step or two into the other team’s half. Despite being counter to the Law, this is accepted practice throughout the world.

In most cases, the offense, if any, is TRIFLING, particularly when the teammate of the kicker is slightly or even mostly over the line by a step or so and this is the player who is going to “receive” the ball from the kick-off. However, a player who is more than a brief step or so over the halfway line should be instructed to return to his own side of the halfway line.