At our USSF recertification class we were instructed that we now have up to six or seven restarts to “take a missed call back” to the original foul. Example given at class – Assistant Referee signals offside on white & center referee does not see nor acknowledge the offside call due to lack of focus. The AR maintains his/her position of offside during which time 1.)a goal kick took place for red, 2.) then a direct kick for white 3.) a throw-in for red 4.) PK for red resulting in a score 5.) ensuing kickoff 6.) ball out of bounds; at which point center referee now notices the AR still at attention for the original offside 6 restarts past. We were told the Referee should honor the call by the AR and award an IFK to the red team for the original offside infraction. I would not want to be the center referee in that game! Then a few weeks later this situation occurred at the college level. While there were only three restarts in between, the referee went back to the original call by the AR. Seems like a powder keg to me.

USSF answer (March 22, 2010):
You are absolutely correct. The Federation has never issued any instruction that ARs keep their flag raised through up to six or seven restarts. The Federation’s guidance has been published in the Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game. Here is a quote from the 2009/2010 edition:

If the assistant referee signals a ball out of play but the referee does not see the signal for an extended period, during which play is stopped and restarted several times, the assistant referee should lower the flag.  The FIFA Referee Committee has declared that it is impossible for the referee to act on the assistant referee’s signal after so much play.

If the referee misses the assistant referee’s signal for offside, the assistant referee should stand at attention with the flag raised until the defending team gains clear possession or until a goal kick or throw-in is awarded to the defending team.  

Although the general rule is that a card for misconduct must be given at the next stoppage of play and that, if this does not occur, the opportunity to punish the misconduct has passed, the International Board’s “Interpretations” section has stated that this does not apply to serious foul play.  However, in order to make handling such incidents credible, certain conditions must apply.  The most important requirement is that the assistant referee must have signaled the original misconduct and maintained the signal despite it not being seen by the referee.  USSF has indicated that this requirement should be discussed thoroughly in the pre-game and that the referee should clearly indicate what sorts of misconduct would qualify for this treatment.  The International Board spoke specifically of “serious foul play” but USSF guidelines include any form of violence (including “violent conduct”).  If the referee becomes aware of the assistant referee’s signal for misconduct at a subsequent stoppage of play, the restart (after the misconduct is handled) would remain the same based on what stopped play in the first place.  If, upon becoming aware of an assistant referee’s signal for misconduct, play is stopped solely for this reason, the restart is a dropped ball where the ball was when play was most recently stopped*.

To avoid such situations, the referee should make eye contact with the assistant referees as often as possible.  In addition, the assistant referees must be alert for and mirror each other’s signals if needed to assist the referee.

NOTE:The final sentence of the third paragraph of Advice 6.4 has been corrected to match equivalent information in Advice 5.13: The correct restart is a dropped ball, rather than the indirect free kick formerly included there. We apologize for the error, which did not in any way affect the misinformation that raised the original question.

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