I’ve had a number of matches recently where players have had their shinguards fall out of their socks. These are the shinguards that just slip into the socks. I’m looking for a little guidance on how to deal with this as play continues. My guess is I can deal with an advantage situation for the team that didn’t lose the shinguards and immediately whistle (resulting in a dropped ball restart) if a player who loses his shinguards has an advantage. In my game yesterday, when a player lost his shinguards for the second time, I told him if it happened again I was going to send him off until he could figure out how to keep his shinguards on. When it happened again, he immediately stopped playing the ball and retrieved his shinguards (which I thought was a good solution and I told him this). This actually happened more than once after that, and he always retrieved his shinguards first.

Answer (June 6, 2007):
Safety of the competitors is the most important element of the game. Shinguards are a required item of player equipment and are meant solely for player safety. If the player is not wearing the shinguard(s), he or she is not properly dressed and should not be allowed to play until properly equipped. Under the Law, the player should be sent from the field temporarily to repair the condition. At less-skilled levels of play, your method should work fine, as long as you are able to monitor it and the other elements of the game at the same time.


I was looking to get some information on the rules that are enacted when a player is down on the field. Specifically, if team A is in clear possession of the ball (for example, if team A’s goalie has the ball safely in his arms) and the referee stops the game because a player is down on the field, what is supposed to occur when the player finally gets up or is helped off the field? I saw a game where this occurred and the referee called for a drop ball at the location where the player went down (even though it was at mid field and Team A’s goalie had the ball in his box). Despite playing for over 25 years, I did not know what the rules governing this situation were and wanted to know.

Answer (June 6, 2007):
First things first: The referee should NEVER stop the game solely because “a player is down on the field.” Law 5 (The Referee) clearly states that the referee stops the game only for serious injury, not simply because a player is down. We might point out here that the definition of “serious” can vary with the age and skill levels of the players concerned.

When the referee does stop play for serious injury — and did not determine that this serious injury was caused by a foul or serious misconduct by another player — play is restarted with a dropped ball from the point where the ball was at the moment play was stopped. This applies even if the ball was in the possession of the goalkeeper. You will find this restart under Law 8 (The Start and Restart of Play):
Dropped Ball
A dropped ball is a way of restarting the match after a temporary stoppage that becomes necessary, while the ball is in play, for any reason not mentioned elsewhere in the Laws of the Game.


Recreational Soccer League, under ENSA League Rules U9/U10, for Method of Scoring we are to Conform to FIFA Rules.

Under FIFA, Laws of the Game 2006, Law 8, A goal may be scored directly from the kick-off.

My Question: Has this rule been changed to where it does not count as a Goal?

Answer (May 31, 2007):
Here is what the youth rules for 2006-2007 tell us about U10 small-sided soccer:
Law 8 – The Start and Restart of Play: Conform to FIFA with the exception of the opponents of the team taking the kick-off are at least eight (8) yards from the ball until it is in play.

Law 10 – The Method of Scoring: Conform to FIFA.

The Addendum to the U10 small-sided rules tells us:
Law 10 Goal Scored: shall conform to FIFA and the sections concerning Winning Team and Competition Rules shall conform to US Youth Soccer guidelines.


Ok, I understand two things from the USSF position papers about offside and the AR’s job to make the call:
1. After the ball is played and there is an offside player and an onside teammate running towards the ball and the onside teammate has a reasonable chance of getting there first, the AR should not make the offside call unless the offside player touches the ball first.
2. Independently of the first item, there is a situation where an offside player (only) and a defender are running towards the ball. If there is potential for physical contact here, the AR should make the offside call for interfering with an opponent.

Now, my hypothetical scenario is this. Let’s say there is two teammates running towards the ball, one onside and one offside. Both have an equal chance of playing the ball first. According to guideline #1, the AR should wait until one of the players has touched the ball. But what about when a defender (or defenders) also run towards the ball? Should the AR immediately flag the offside? Should the AR decide if there is potential physical contact between the offside player and the defender before making the call? In this situation, should the AR just wait to see who gets the ball first?

USSF answer (May 31, 2007):
To quote a recent Federation memorandum, “In situations where an attacker is coming from an onside position and another attacker coming from an offside position, each with an equally credible chance of getting to the ball, it is imperative that officials withhold a decision until either it becomes clear which attacker will get to the ball first (even if this means having to wait until one or the other player actually touches the ball) or the action of the attacker coming from the offside position causes one or more opponents to be deceived or distracted.”


I was an AR during a O30 match when the ball went in-touch on the far end of the field from me (in front of the attacker’s bench area). A defender went to retrieve the ball (perhaps thinking it was his team’s throw-in).

While the defender was retrieving the ball, an attacker picked up a free ball from his bench-area and quickly restarted with a throw-in. The ball was then played forward by an attacker to a teammate who would have been offside EXCEPT for the defender now returning from having retrieved the previous in-touch ball. The defender was still off the field of play and the attacker proceeded with a clear run at the goal.

Offside or not? [I did not call offside considering him as still the second-to-last defender: “11.11 Defender legally off the field of play” within “Advice To Referees on the Laws of the Game”]

To complicate matters a little more, the ball that the attacker picked up from his bench area was not one of the game balls given the referees prior the game. The center ref obviously let play restart (probably not even aware that the other ball was being retrieved by a defender). As an AR, what is my responsibility in this situation?

Answer (May 29, 2007):
The Laws of the Game were not written to compensate for the mistakes of players. The defender, obviously a splendid and generous person, committed the error of not watching what was happening. Life is hard, no offside.

However, the fact that the ball put into play by the opposing team was not an approved ball is a more serious matter. A goal may not be scored if the ball is not one approved by the referee prior to the game. If the referee did not recognize the switch and stop play, then you, the AR, who did recognize that fact, should have signalled to the referee.

You have actually given us a two-part problem. First, what SHOULD have been done? Second, given that what SHOULD have been done wasn’t, how do we make things right (if possible)? It is possible that the above two paragraphs do not provide the full practical answer. Given that the AR should have made the referee aware of the illegal ball, does it follow that, if he eventually did do so but this occurred after the goal was scored, must the goal be disallowed and, in effect, the match rewound back to the throw-in to be done with a correct ball? What if play had restarted with a kick-off after the goal and THEN the referee was finally made aware that the ball was illegal? What if no one made the referee aware of the illegal ball until the match ended? Does this have to be included in the match report? Suppose the losing team became aware of the illegal ball — does this make the match protestable (did the referee “set aside a law of the game”)? We leave this for you and other readers to ponder.


Please explain tactical fouls and do tactical fouls necessitate a cautionable offense and what would the caution be?

Answer (May 30, 2007):
A tactical foul is one committed in the hope of delaying or spoiling the play of the opposing team, rather than one committed in an effort to win the ball. Yes, they are cautionable offenses. The caution would be for unsporting behavior.


I appreciate the advice you have given on other situations. My friends and I have an interesting game situation, and we were hoping you could offer some guidance. Please see the email chain below (reformatted and re-ordered for clarity) for the original situation, as well as some of our attempts at answers.

[In summary, the problem was this:]

This happened in a youth game today:

The referee correctly stopped play for a deliberate pass back to the goalkeeper when the keeper picked up the ball while standing on the penalty spot. The referee incorrectly signaled for a penalty kick. The penalty kick was taken and a goal was scored without touching anyone except the kicker when the kick was taken. Before the kickoff was taken after awarding the goal, the referee realized that the wrong restart was awarded for the pass back.

1 – Should the goal count?
2 – What is the correct restart?

The substance of the three correspondents’ analysis was:
no goal; goal kick (or the original indirect free kick). In the end, they forwarded the problem to us.

Answer (May 29, 2007):
Sorry to disappoint, gentlemen, but the referee waited too long to correct the restart. Once the penalty kick (or whatever erroneous restart it may be) has been taken and the players and officials have all assembled for the kick-off (or corner or goal kick), then the previous restart is long past and cannot be recalled. The referee must include full details in the match report.


Question 1: The big question that I have is referee uniforms. I have talked with many referees, and thought myself. Those new Adidas Referee Uniforms are very nice, and give the referee some class. Do you know if the next uniform will be these, and when will we change to our next kits. Please pass this on round the office.

Question 2: During a corner kick, before the ball was kicked a player was fouling another player by pushing her away, not allowing her to defend her own goal. I told them to stop, and it worked. But is there any special change as in it is a DFK to the defending team or does the restart remain the corner kick?

Answer (May 26, 2007):
1. The design of the referee uniform is determined by the USSF Board of Directors, not the referees and not the referee department.

2. Once play has been stopped for an infringement, the restart may not be changed for any misconduct that occurs before the restart.


Law 5 states that the Referee is responsible for the Match Report.

1a. If a Referee needs or requests information from an Assistant Referee, or the Assistant Referee offers it, how is this information incorporated into a Match Report?

For example, does the Referee attach the ARs own report, or does the Referee re-write any written report given by the AR based upon the Referee’s discretion?

1b Are there any circumstances where Supplemental Reports are provided separately by Assistant Referees?

Answer (May 25, 2007):
The referee solicits information from the ARs in preparing a match report. The officials should compare notes and ensure that all information is reported accurately on the report. Generally, there would be only a single report.

In the case of misconduct against an official, fight or brawl, protest, or other special situation, an AR might prepare a separate report of what he(she) observed during an incident for submission. (The report may be requested by the competition authority.) That information would reflect only the view of the AR and should not be altered by the referee before submission. However, the substance of the report should be aligned with the information provided by the other officials in their reports.


I know that in a number of cases that if a team has too many men on the field, the “extra” player should be carded. However, I think that this normally applies to players who entered the field without the permission of the referee. My question has to do with proper procedure if the referee fails to follow proper substitution procedures and the result is 12 men on the field. (Yes, I know that referees should always use proper procedure for subs but, at least in my area, many do not.)A. For example, assume that two players are waiting at midfield to enter the game. At the next stoppage, the referee improperly signals for them to enter the game without waiting for two players to exit. There is some confusion and only one player exits the field. Then the referee signals for play to resume without counting the number of players on the field. In this case, once it is discovered that there are twelve players on the field, should anyone be carded? (Other than perhaps the referee!)

B. Similarly, if a team accidentally sends out twelve players to begin the second half, and the referee signals for play to begin without counting the number of players on the field, should anyone be carded when it is discovered that there is an extra man on the field?

It seems to me that neither of these situations call for a card since the player did not enter the field without the permission of the referee or attempt to deceive anyone, and his/her presence on the field was essentially validated by the referee. Could you please let me know what the proper USSF procedure would be in these instances – card or no card.

USSF answer (May 22, 2007):
Referees (and assistant referees) who fail to follow the procedures laid out in the Laws of the Game, the Advice to Referees, or the rules of the competition in which they referee deserve whatever problems this lack of professionalism brings them.

In both cases you describe, the intelligent referee–who appears not to be operating in either of the situations–will simply remove the offending player(s) from the field, perhaps issuing a verbal warning not to repeat the offense.

However, we must add a caveat, as most teams and players, whether for good or bad, know precisely what they are doing, especially as the age and experience of the players increase, and a simple warning may not be enough. Particularly in Case B, the team and its coach(es) know how many players should be in the game and who they are. Most coaches will notice the discrepancy on their own and ask the referee for permission to remove the extra player. If the extra player is discovered fairly early in the half, a warning should be enough. If the infringement has continued for some time, then a caution is deserved.

On the whole the answer lies in determining exactly WHY the situation arose in the first place, leaving aside not following proper procedures–see the first paragraph! Was it a case of the substitute coming onto the field when he knew he shouldn’t or a case of the (departing) player deliberately not leaving the field when he knew he should or was it simply an error?

Finally, referees and assistant referees–they must also accept part of the blame–who fail to follow procedures and persistently allow this sort of infringement of the Laws to go on should be sentenced to some hours in penance, doing community service.