Reffing a High School match a few weeks ago I was the CR with my assigning secretary one of my AR’s. Our state has adopted FIFA Laws as our Laws of competition this season. During the game I blew my whistle signaling a direct free kick to a team. The foul occurred near the touchline where this player set up to take the free kick. As he backed up to make his approach to put the ball in play he stepped outside the field of play for maybe a couple of seconds. My AR (assigning secretary) began to viciously wave his flag signaling me over because this player needed a yellow card for leaving the field of play without the permission of the referee.

While I know this is a cautionable offense I don’t believe it violates any of the global thumb rules for assessing a caution. I also think it is more the fault of the referee if he ever gives a card for this offense. The player didn’t cheat, didn’t endanger anyone and didn’t take away from the fun of the game. I also told this AR that this player inherently has my permission when making his approach to approach from outside the field of play given the location where the foul occurred. Approaches take place from outside the field of play all the time i.e. a corner kick. Is my interpretation correct?

In hindsight I maybe should have just given the caution because I was chewed out after the game by my assigning secretary and it has cost me future assignments to officiate. I just want to know if I made the right call pertaining to the match so I can be at peace. Thanks for your help.

Answer (November 13, 2013):
Players are normally expected to remain on the field while the ball is in play, leaving only to retrieve a ball and take a restart, or when ordered off by the referee. If a player accidentally passes over one of the boundary lines of the field of play or if a player in possession of or contesting for the ball passes over the touch line or the goal line without the ball to beat an opponent (or any other obstacle), he or she is not considered to have left the field of play without the permission of the referee. This player does not need the referee’s permission to return to the field. Repeat: No referee permission is required for this temporary departure to play the ball, avoid an obstacle, or take a restart.

Please note the phrase: “take a restart.”

So to sum it up: (1) Your assigning secretary was wrong and should be ashamed of him-/herself. (2) The job of the assistant referee, no matter what his/her other duties, is to ASSIST, not INSIST.