I am getting old and my knees aren’t working as well as they used to. What is the policy on referee’s wearing knee braces?USSF answer (May 21, 2007):
The referee may wear any equipment that meets the same standard as that for player’s equipment. I. e., it must be safe for all participants.


My state association has allowed a club to use an indoor facility for sanctioned outdoor matches. The pitch meets all the requirements as outlined in the laws, but the roof of the facility is somewhat low. I’m guessing that it is about 40-45 ft above the field. How should we deal with balls that strike the ceiling? Should we treat the roof as a pre-existing condition? The roof is a typical hangar/warehouse-type roof with rafters protruding down from the main ceiling. Allowing the ball to remain in play as it caroms around up there might lead to some very unfair and unpredictable situations.USSF answer (May 14, 2007):
Your league will have to come up with its own rules on this.


Our league is presently considering allowing non-English proficient referees to write send off reports in their native language, then have a translator (not specified as a referee in any event) rewrite said form in English for PAD action. Is there an issue here relating to USSF or FIFA guidelines?Our own league rules state that, and I quote from league rules:
3:07:05 Red card ejections cannot be protested. The PAD Committee will determine the penalty based on the report filed by the Referee officiating the game and any reports filed on behalf of any concerned party. However, no player will be allowed to appear before the Committee for this purpose unless agreed to by the working quorum present at that proceeding.

This seems clear to me that a report not filed by the referee himself, that is a report filed by a translator, cannot be used to determine what penalty, if any, should be meted out. And I have a hard time seeing how the “concerned party” clause could apply to translators. We can, of course, rewrite our own rules to allow such a procedure, but would we run afoul of understandings or rules contained within USSF or FIFA memoranda? I find nothing in Law 5 or Law 12 to guide this issue.

This area is full of pitfalls in my opinion, and I will argue those out in our venue, but your help in clarifying governing rules would be appreciated.

USSF answer (May 14, 2007):
There are no USSF policies on this particular situation. Match reports that are for the sole use of the local league may be dealt with as the league requires. If good, reliable translators are available, then the league will probably accept their work gladly. For matters that must go beyond the purview of the league, then you might wish to check with your state youth soccer association.


I was centering a U12Girls game when a loud unruly coach was given a warning midway into the first half. He quieted down till the end of the game. Afterward he came onto the field yelling and screaming. I told him I was going to take his card. He responded that I couldnt because it was after the game. (The kids were still on the field, and I hadnt budged from when the game ended) After back and forth arguing he went behind me while I spoke to the Assistant coach and got his cards from my linesman. I found this out and went to retrieve them, He refused to relinguish them to me. Our Disciplinary team said that since I didnt not show him a second yellow card that they cant discipline him. Is this so? Is there ever a time when a red card or someother form of disciplinary action can be imposed on a rogue coach after the fact?USSF answer (May 14, 2007):
The fact that the behavior occurred after the game is irrelevant. The referee retains full authority both to card (players, subs, etc.) and to order from the field (team officials) as long as the teams are still exiting and the referee is in the area of the field. All the rest of it is subject to local rule. If your league requires that you show cards to team officials–which is in contravention of the Laws of the Game, which limit cards to players, substitutes, and substituted players–then you must show a card.

Your only recourse would seem to be to submit a full report to both the competition (league, club, or whatever) and the state association, outlining precisely what happened.


I was officiating a U-10 girls game. Team A performed the opening kickoff. Obviously, the team and their coach had discussed their strategy for taking the kick-off, but they failed on the execution and played the ball into touch. The coach, frustrated, yelled out, Jesus Christ!. It was loud enough for all players and fans to hear it. I gave him a verbal warning, but should I have done more? Is a religious profanity grounds for a send-off, or does it need to be a secular profanity? I assume I don’t need to provide examples.
USSF answer (May 14, 2007):
A player (or substitute or substituted player) who “uses offensive or insulting or abusive language and/or gestures” is sent off and shown the red card. A coach may not be sent off and shown any card, but may be expelled from the game for irresponsible behavior, which using offensive or insulting or abusive language and/or gestures certainly is. The definition of such language or gestures is in the opinion of the referee, remembering that the important factor is the impact of the language on those participating in the match.


I want to ask this question in the dual vein of resolving the “official” response, and to make sure that I teach it “officially” correct. It may be minutia, but also as an assessor I want to make sure I’m conveying not only good info, but officially correct info. This deals “how long you hold the indirect kick signal” and the “angle” of the free kick signal.Indirect Freekick Signal
In a recent Q&A there is a question on how long the indirect signal should be held and the response was: “If the ball is kicked away from either goal, you may drop your arm entirely, as there is no way in which the ball can enter the goal without another player either touching or playing it.” I remember reading a similar Q&A response to the same question that the answer was given to the effect, if in the opinion of the referee the kick from the indirect kick will not go directly into the goal, the referee may lower his arm. While in essence these seem like the same explanations that are slightly different. I like the latter, because it says it in a nut shell, and actually includes the former explanation. My question; is it OK to explain/teach the mechanic in this matter using these words? I find too many of us older refs still sticking to the old mechanic of holding until the ball is touched or goes out of play, and it looks awkward. I like the new mechanic.

Direct Freekick Signal
This may sound like minutia, but again falls into the category of what I should instruct/assess correctly. As an old ref (1986) I was taught and instructed to teach the “45 degree” criteria. However, I’ve seen many good/top referee use what I call “just above horizontal” signal, and I’ve adopted it. IMO, I think it’s a much more distinct signal from any perspective and clearly distinguishes itself from the familiar corner kick signal which I describe just slight lower than straight up. I still see the reference to “45 degree” and the hangup may be in what each of us defines as 45 degrees. But if one looks at the FIFA/USSF example in the law book, and “Procedures” (even in the NFHS book), the signal clearly is lower than 45 degrees, and just above horizontal. While this really doesn’t seem in conflict or maybe minutia, I think it signifcant enough to clarify. I too often see many experience referee signally 45 degrees or higher. To me it looks like a corner kick signal. From a parallel perspective it is high enough to look even like an indirect free kick signal. Hence I personall prefer, and would like to teach the “just above horizonal” vs the “45 degree” reference. Your advice?

USSF answer (May 14, 2007):
The Q&A you cite could not have come from USSF sources. This answer from 2003 applies to the referee’s signals for indirect and direct free kicks:
To indicate a direct free kick, the referee simply points an arm at approximately 45 degrees in the direction the kicking team is attacking. To indicate an indirect free kick, the referee indicates the direction and then raises his arm above his head. He maintains his arm in that position until the kick has been taken and the ball has touched another player or goes out of play.


First I’d like to thank you for providing answers to questions that I also observe while doing games.I have two questions, both involve action by the keeper.

1. The rule book still has a violation for the keeper “pairing” the ball, and then handling the ball. I have never seen this called in all the games I’ve done. I called this years ago on a U13 keeper, which caused the coach to go crazy, and after asking around the general response was that no one calls that anymore, even though it is still in the book. I was the AR at a U16 girls match the other night, when two attackers were moving toward the keeper, at the same time the ball had bounced and was at right in front of the keepers face. She took both fist and directed the ball out to the side, then followed the ball, and collected it with her hands. I saw that this took an advantage away from the attacking players, who could have headed the ball toward the goal, or if the keeper would have mishandled the ball, they would have had an easy shot on goal. When I asked the two adult refs during half-time about pairing the ball, they had never heard of this. Should I have raised my flag?

2. While doing a U17 girls match, which I was an AR, an attacker had control of the ball making a fast break to goal. One defender was chasing her shoulder to shoulder, and just before they reached the Penalty Area, the defender reached the ball and kicked it to the keeper, who picked the ball up. I raised my flag, but the center waved me down. At the time, I thought maybe he saw it different, and that the attacker, in his opinion, kicked the ball. At halftime he told me that I need to understand that the intentional pass back to the keeper was only put in the rules to stop delay of game, and that we don’t call this. I have called this myself and have seen other adult refs call this in the same situations. This center has been around for a long time and is an assessor. What is the right call?

USSF answer (May 10 2007):
1. By “parrying” the ball, i. e., pushing the ball with the hands to a place convenient for later play, the goalkeeper has established possession of the ball. Please remember: “Parry” = “possession.” If he or she handles the ball after parrying it, that constitutes an infringement of Law 12: “touches the ball again with his hands after it has been released from his possession and has not touched any other player.”

If the goalkeeper’s act is a parry, rather than simply a “fisting away” of the ball for defensive purposes, then the referee MUST call the foul and the AR, if he or she is the only one to see it, must flag the foul for the referee’s attention. Perhaps your “adult” colleagues should pay more attention to the Laws of the Game.

2. If the referee, in his or her infinite wisdom, chooses to wave off your flag, that is the referee’s problem. The statement attributed to the referee is partly correct: The change in the Law was made to eliminate time wasting and, if no time was wasted, the referee might choose to exercise his or her discretion in letting it go–i.e., decide that the offense was doubtful or trifling, but it is STILL an offense. However, situations in which this would apply are very few and far between.


A question has been circulating regarding the proper restart for there being 12 players on the field. The presence of the 12th Blue player is discovered after a foul which would result in a penalty kick for Blue. It cannot be determined whether this 12th player was on the field during play, or if he entered after the foul was whistled. After the 12th player is cautioned and removed from the field, is the proper restart the PK for Blue, or an indirect kick for Red? If we knew Blue 12 was on the field prior to the foul, the answer is easy – IFK. If we knew Blue 12 came on after play was stopped, the answer is easy – PK. If we don’t know when Blue 12 came on – ??

USSF answer (May 9, 2007):
Are we talking a “12th” player or an “extra player”? This becomes crucial when determining who the person is and how to punish him or her.

The first thing for the referee and ARs to do is engage in rigorous self-examination as to the reasons this particular person got on the field in the first place. This portion of the Advice applies:

If, while the game is in progress, the referee finds that a team has more than the allowed number of persons on the field, play must be stopped and the extra person identified and removed from the field. Other than through referee error, this situation can occur only if someone enters the field illegally. The “extra player” can include an outside agent (such as a previously expelled player or a spectator); a player who had been given permission to leave or been ordered off by the referee for correction of a problem, but re-entered without permission; or a substitute or substituted player who enters without permission and/or during play. In all competitions, especially those that allow substituted players to return, the officials must be extremely vigilant in counting the number of players who leave and substitutes who enter to prevent problems of this nature. Similarly, players off the field temporarily who require the permission of the referee to re-enter must be monitored to ensure that they do not participate in play until this requirement and any others (e. g., inspection to confirm the correction of the equipment or bleeding problem) are met.

The second thing to do is to determine which sort of person this “player” is: player, substitute or substituted player, or outside agent (spectator or team official or player sent off earlier, etc.). If it is a player or a substitute/substituted player who entered, the referee must caution the extra “player” for entering the field of play without the referee’s permission (if a player) or unsporting behavior (if a substitute/substituted player).

The third thing to do is decide on the correct restart. This depends on the answer to the second question (who illegally entered) and on when the person entered.

If the person entered during the stoppage, then the restart stays the same regardless of who the person is and regardless of what you do to him. The basic principle here is that nothing happening during a stoppage changes the restart. In other words, the penalty kick.

If the person entered prior to the stoppage, then the restart is a dropped ball where the ball was if the person was an outside agent or an indirect free kick where the ball was if the person was a player off the field who needed the referee’s permission to re-enter, a substitute, or a substituted player. In other words, the penalty kick is canceled and, if it is an indirect free kick restart instead of a dropped ball, the restart is given to the team opposed to the player, substitute, or substituted player who illegally entered.

Unfortunately, the scenario you offered included the fact that no official knew for sure if the person who was illegally on the field entered before the stoppage or during the stoppage. Since knowing this is an important element in deciding the correct restart, all the Law can do is advise you to DECIDE based on the best evidence available plus what seems FAIR to the teams and the game. We cannot tell you anything more than this because the problem as you describe it has no solution under the Law. Referees face this sort of thing all the time and we manage to survive. Make the decision and get on with the game (and don’t obsess about it afterward, except to resolve to do better).

THE 4 Ds

I have some questions regarding DOGSO (Denying an Obvious Goal Scoring Opportunity). In US Soccer’s Advice to Referee’s, it states that there are four criteria that must be present for DOGSO.
1. Number of Defenders
2. Distance to the Goal
3. Distance to the Ball
4. Direction of PlayThe first element, number of players says that not more than one defender can be between the foul and the goal, not counting the player that committed the foul. It is possible to have defenders closer to the goal than the location of the foul. If those defenders are not directly between the foul and the goal should they be considered in criteria number one? Should we take the first element of DOGSO with a narrow view or should we look at it with a broader perspective? Should defenders that are closer to the goal than the foul always be counted for DOGSO or never be counted? Or should the referee make a judgement call?

Can a DOGSO foul be committed off the field of play when players leave the pitch temporarily during the natural course of the game? Also would defenders who left the field through the natural course of the game be in consideration for element one of DOGSO?

My next questions are also regarding DOGSO. Is a substitute or player that illegally enters the field considered a defender in determining criteria number one?

USSF answer (May 8, 2007):
With regard to the first question, the defenders to be counted are those who are actually able to defend (which is the underlying purpose of this D anyway). Likewise, the understanding of “between” or “closer than” is in the same context — is the defender able to defend? This is not an exercise in geometry, it is decision about whether there is more than one defender who is or would be able to interfere with the fouled player’s drive to the goal in such a way as to lessen the obviousness of the opportunity to score. Accordingly, a second defender lying on the ground in a straight line between the fouled attacker and the goal whose leg was broken would likely not be counted, whereas a defender just a yard away from the goal on the left far off the line the fouled attacker was taking from the right in his drive to the goal probably should be counted.

As for whether a defender off the field could do something that would cause him to be sent off under DGF/DGH, we suspect that a fitting scenario would be VERY, VERY RARE. However, consider the following sequence of events: B5 is ordered off the field to correct a bleeding problem. While off the field being attended to, B5 sees A20 attacking down the middle of the field just above the penalty area with no one at all between him and the goal (the keeper had come out but his challenge, which was unsuccessful, left him on the ground). B5 picks up an object and throws it onto the field. (A) It strikes the attacker who is startled/injured/thrown off his stride/etc. or (B) it strikes the ball and knocks it away from A20’s control. Wouldn’t (A) be DGF and (B) be DGH? We know from other situations that FIFA considers a thrown object an extension of the hand and we also know that merely inserting a body part onto the field is considered the functional equivalent of entering the field.


Recently a story was related to me about a dispute between a referee and a coach who felt victimized by a referee’s interpretation of law 8. The official allowed a kick-off, according to the coach, even though the side restarting play had a player run well into the opponent’s end of the field between the time the ref blew his whistle and the the time the kick was taken. That player eventually scored a crucial goal.
The official purportedly acknowledged this and justified his non-call for a re-take of the kick-off on the basis that there’s no law saying the player crossing into his opponent’s end had to wait for the ball to be put in play. In checking law 8, I read that the kick-off procedure is:
* all players are in their own half of the field
* the opponents of the team taking the kick-off are at least 10 yds. from the ball until it is in play
* the ball is stationary on the center mark
* the referee gives a signal
* the ball is in play when it is kicked and moves forward

While the law seems to suggest that players STAY in their own half of the field until the ball is put in play, it in fact doesn’t state that. However, if players are allowed (as referees sometimes appear to allow them) to run significant paces ahead of any initial play on the ball after the whistle to begin play is blown, is that what the law was meant to allow? I see nothing in the “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game” or elsewhere for the guidance I am requesting from you.

USSF answer (May 3, 2007):
Yes, ALL players are expected to remain in their own half of the field until the ball is in play. Being in play means that the ball has been kicked and moved forward. That forward motion may be only slight, but it must occur. That’s the Law.

Custom seems to be a bit more laissez faire, with the player who is to receive the kick-off normally a step or two into the other team’s half. Despite being counter to the Law, this is accepted practice throughout the world.

Occasionally one will see other players immediately flying down the field at the moment the referee gives a signal (usually the whistle) and the kicker approaches the ball. While this is done, it is counter to the Law and is NOT accepted practice. Lazy referees will not punish it. Intelligent referees will.