I was recently refereeing a recreational U14 Coed game as an AR. A player during the course of play stepped completely over the touch line and kicked a ball that was still in play. The center referee blew his whistle and called for a throw in, not because the ball had passed completely over the touch line but because the player had left the field of play to prevent the ball from crossing the touch line. I had a discussion with the center referee in which I contended that a player was allowed to step completely beyond the touch line in the course of play. The laws of the game seem pretty clear that a throw in is only called when the ball completely passes the plane of the outside of the touch line.
Who is correct? Are there any rules that prohibits a player from temporarily leaving the field during the course of play?
Answer (October 9, 2007):
The referee may not stop the game to award a throw-in until the ball has left the field completely. If the ball had not left the field when the player touched it, then this was a referee error.
As to the act of leaving the field to play the ball, we answered that question as far back as 2001, but it is worth answering it again, just so everyone is aware of it. See the just-published 2007 edition of the USSF publication “Advise to Referees on the Laws of the Game, section 3.9, which says:
3.9 LEAVING THE FIELD IN THE COURSE OF PLAY
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, 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.
END OF QUOTE
Those are the only cases in which a player would normally leave the field without the referee’s permission and live to play again. There might be others, but those would be at the discretion of the referee.
Your referee would seem not to have read any edition of the Advice (1998, 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2006), much less the new one.