John, a U13 – U19 referee, asks:
Team A has the ball. A player from Team B goes down injured. I stop play. Team B player then gets up after a few seconds on the ground. Restart is a drop ball, but to show good sportsmanship team A should get the ball back. What role can a referee play in letting this happen?
No role whatsoever, beyond allowing the teams to do whatever the wish.
First of all, if you stopped play solely for the injury (which is what would produce a dropped ball restart), the player must leave the field – if not substituted for, the player can return only with your permission and only once play has been restarted; if the injured player was substituted for, then the team is not playing down and the injured player can return to the field (as a substitute) only at some later legal substitution opportunity. If the injury involved bleeding or blood on the uniform, then that must be taken care of before allowing the player to return under any circumstances.
The point that has to be emphasized here is that, if you stop play for an injury not accompanied by any other reason (e.g., no foul), under the Law that is by definition “serious” because otherwise you would not have stopped play for it. Allowing the player to stay on the field despite the Law is incorrect even if that is because you felt “better safe than sorry” – which is not a bad approach – but, in any event, you are still bound by the Law. You are not allowed to change your mind based on any subsequent judgment on your part. You live with the consequences.
Just because you didn’t call anyone onto the field does not and cannot justify allowing the player to remain. You are obligated the moment you whistled for the stoppage. The Law provides for the departure because it assumes you called for outside assistance as that is your duty. This is precisely the point. Having stopped play solely for this reason, you have already declared it to be a serious injury and so, the moment you finished blowing the whistle, your next act should be to wave medical assistance (even if that is only the coach, trainer, or a parent) onto the field. If they don’t come because they disagree with your decision or simply don’t want to do anything about it, that is their prerogative (you can’t make them do so, in which case the player has to leave on his or her own power) but make an appropriate note for your report in case you were right to begin with, but the player must still leave somehow. What counts here is that you authorized their entry onto the field — after that, it is on their shoulders.
It is not your job to make any “final” determination as to whether the injury is serious or not – you did what the Law expected you to do when you made the initial decision to stop play. The only time you get to independently decide whether to call for medical assistance and thus trigger the requirement that the player must leave the field is if the injury occurs at a stoppage. Then and only then do you make some appropriate effort to determine whether outside assistance is needed (which doesn’t necessarily mean you even have to talk with, much less inspect, the player. In fact, standard referee procedure is, if you stop play for an injury, you not only whistle, followed immediately by a signal for outside assistance, but you don’t even stay around after that, you don’t hover over the player, you don’t even stay in the general area – you use the time while the player is helped off the field (assuming the circumstances don’t include any of the reasons for allowing assistance to be rendered on the field) to do other things far away for the site – talk with your AR, explore the field, get a drink of water, make notes about the injury that would go into your match report, etc.
If you follow these well-settled protocols, there is no need to expect, much less have, either team feel obligated about the outcome of the dropped ball restart. And there is certainly nothing you could or should do about it even if you personally felt a team should be obligated to do anything other than fairly compete for the ball at the restart within the bounds of the Law.