I recently attended a soccer match where the following occurred:

A player on the attacking team was injured in the penalty area of the defending team during a corner kick. The center referee only noticed the injury after it occurred due to the number of players in front of the goal. Both the center referee and the AR did not call a foul. It was realized after that the girl had been kicked in the throat during a scramble for the ball. The injury was tended to, but no foul was indicated and the restart was a free kick to the defending team, which she was instructed to kick directly to the opponent’s goalie as a sign of sportsmanship.

Later in the match a corner kick was taken by the other team. A defender stopped this ball by actually catching it with her hands (in the penalty area). No foul was called and the coach went ballistic (understandably). The Center referee indicated that he did not call a foul (which would result in a penalty kick, i.e. a sure goal) because he did not call a foul in the previous incident… in essence he was calling it a “wash”.

Is this something that referees do? Can they have discretion when calling fouls if they feel a mistake has been made in a previous call?

USSF answer (September 19, 2008):
We are stumped on this one, because you have not told us how play was stopped. If the game was not stopped by the referee to deal with the injury — and referees should stop the game ONLY for SERIOUS injuries — and no foul was called, then the correct restart is for the reason that the ball went out of play. If the game was stopped by the referee to deal with the injury — see above — then the restart would be a dropped ball at the place where the ball was when play was stopped. The indirect free kick might have been correct under high school rules, but certainly not under the Laws of the Game. Another inventive referee at work.

Yes, a very inventive referee — and a referee who cheats on the Letter of the Laws and the Spirit of the Game. Soccer referees do not do “make-up” calls. This referee should be reported to the competition authority and to the referee authorities in your state, so that he can undergo some additional instruction.

If a referee makes a mistake, he or she should NEVER do a “balancing of calls” by making another bad call for the opposing team. Two wrongs do not make a right and the referee must always make the best possible decisions within the framework of the Laws.

Nor do mistakes by referees give the coaches permission to rage at them. We are concerned about you (and others, you are not alone) saying that the coach “went ballistic” and then in this case adding “(understandably).” No coach has a right to “go ballistic” — if they have a concern about a referee’s decision, they should suck it up and follow through with the sort of report we described above. We don’t want anyone believing that we would condone such behavior (any more than we condone the referee’s egregious errors in this situation).

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