Back in Business

The ref is once again answering your questions! Welcome to Dan Heldman, who will be in charge of answering your questions now (with occasional help from Jim Allen, the original Ask a Soccer Ref). Dan has a wealth of experience and knowledge, as can be seen on the About page.

Welcome Dan, and feel free to start asking questions on the Ask a Question page.

A New Look

Please pardon our dust as we update the site with a new look and some new refs to help answer your questions! The a ask a question page should be back soon, along with some other helpful features. Keep checking back!

IFAB: ONE STEP FORWARD, ONE STEP BACKWARD

IFAB: one step forward, one step backward

By Paul Gardner

I think it unlikely that there are many people around who would consider the International Football Association Board (IFAB) to be an up-to-date group. But, the IFAB is making an attempt, it seems. It has just approved a major rewriting of soccer’s rules and David Elleray, the man in charge of the overhaul, says one of its aims is to bring the rules up to date.

The intention, then is good. Whether it’s been achieved, I cannot tell you, as the IFAB appears reluctant to let anyone see the new rulebook. A bad sign, that — it strongly suggests that while the IFAB may be updating the rules, it is not modernizing its modus operandi. The traditional tendency to reveal as little as possible (one that the IFAB shares with referees) remains in place.

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LEAVING THE FIELD OF PLAY WITHOUT PERMISSION—EXCEPTIONS TO THE LAW

Question:
At times I see a number of players in the game on the sidelines. It seems to me they go out of field of play as they wait for the ball then come back in to receive the ball as they run down field. It happens on the parents’ side of the field. As a center, should I be concerned about this? Do I wait for the opposing team to complain or comment?

i am aware of the rule not being able to go in and out of play without approval, but it seems to me many teams are enabling this tactic.

This is youth play Select and Premier level that I see this occurring.

Please advise.

Answer (March 3, 2016):
No. Going outside the field of play may be considered as part of a playing movement (see below), but normally players are expected to remain within the playing area.

Do not permit the players to do what you described in your question. Instead, warn them the first time and then caution them if it continues at that restart or again in the game.

There are occasions when players are allowed to leave the field of play without the referee’s permission, but they apply in only three cases:
1. To retrieve the ball for a throw-in or kick restart.
2. To celebrate a goal, but it is essential that players return to the field of play as soon as possible.
3. To avoid an obstacle on the field, i.e., to get around opponents to play the ball. This also applies when the opponents take the ball to one of the corners; in that case, the player may leave the field to play the ball back into the field. NOTE: This is purely traditional; it was part of the Questions and Answers on the Laws of the Game for many years (removed after 2006), but has not been in print since the Q&A ceased to be published.
Here are two instances, as included in the 1996 Laws of the Game Q&A under Law III (as it was written then):

Q&A on the Laws of the Game through 2006:

1. A player accidentally passes over one of the boundary lines of the field of play. Is he considered to have left the field of play without the permission of the referee?

No.

2. A player in possession of the ball passes over the touch line or the goal line without the ball in order to beat an opponent. What action does the referee take?

Play continues. Going outside the field of play may be considered as part of a playing movement, but players are expected, as a general rule, to remain within the playing area.

Removed after 2006, “because everyone knows that,” the same reasoning applied in not replacing players or substitutes who have been sent off, which is also not included in the Laws.

U. S. SOCCER CONCUSSION INITIATIVE

As part of U.S. Soccer’s Player Safety Campaign, U.S. Soccer unveiled the U.S. Soccer Concussion Initiative that provides guidelines that have been implemented since January of 2016.

The information contained in the initiative is intended to give U.S. Soccer Organization Members, as well as players, parents, team/club staff and coaches and referees, guidance and direction when dealing with head injuries and potential head injuries during soccer participation.

Included in the U.S. Soccer Concussion Initiative are specific changes to rules on substitutions and heading for certain age groups. Those changes included:

Modify substitution rules to allow players who may have suffered a concussion during games to be evaluated without penalty
Eliminating heading for children 10 and under
Please note that U11 is listed in the U.S. Soccer Concussion Initiative document because U11 players can be 10 years old at the beginning of the season
Limiting the amount of heading in practice for children between the ages of 11 and 13

In addition to the safety initiatives, the following modified rule should be implemented:

When a player deliberately heads the ball in a game, an indirect free kick (IFK) should be awarded to the opposing team from the spot of the offense. If the deliberate header occurs within the goal area, the indirect free kick should be taken on the goal area line parallel to the goal line at the point nearest to where the infringement occurred. If a player does not deliberately head the ball, then play should continue.

For more information, please refer to the frequently asked questions, which should help clarify questions regarding the new initiatives.

WHEN IS A SLIDE TACKLE LEGAL OR ILLEGAL?

Question:
I have difficulty at times recognizing a slide tackle that
is a foul versus a legal one. Can you please give some guidance of what to look for and how I can be better at calling a foul on a hard tackle? Sometimes good tackles cause a player to fall so please help me with this.

Answer (February 6, 2016):
The term “slide tackle” refers to an attempt to tackle the ball away from an opponent while sliding on the ground. A slide tackle is legal, provided it is performed safely. In other words, there is nothing illegal about a slide tackle by itself—-no matter where it is done and no matter the direction from which it comes. Referees (and spectators) should not get hung up on the term “slide” tackling. There is nothing regarding “endangering the safety of the opponent” which limits it to a slide tackle. In fact, if, in the opinion of the referee, the tackle endangers the safety of the opponent, it makes no difference if there is contact or not.

The referee must judge whether the tackle of an opponent is fair or whether it is careless, reckless, or involves the use of excessive force. Making contact with the opponent before the ball when making a tackle is unfair and should be penalized. On the other hand, the fact that contact with the ball was made first does not automatically mean that the tackle is fair. The declaration by a player that he or she “got the ball first” is irrelevant if, while tackling for the ball, the player carelessly, recklessly, or with excessive force commits any of the prohibited actions. Remember that it is not a foul if a sliding tackle is successful and the player whose ball was tackled away then falls over the tackler’s foot.

How can tackles become illegal? There are many ways but two of the most common are by making contact with the opponent first (before contacting the ball) and by striking the opponent with a raised upper leg before, during, or after contacting the ball with the lower leg. Referees must be vigilant and firm in assessing any tackle, because the likely point of contact is the lower legs of the opponent and this is a particularly vulnerable area. We must not be swayed by protests of “But I got the ball, ref” and we must be prepared to assess the proper penalty for misconduct where that is warranted.

Certain “prohibited actions” would include lifting the tackling foot to trip or attempt to trip the opponent, using the other foot or leg to trip or attempt to trip the opponent, kicking or attempting to kick the opponent, etc., etc. Surely other similar fouls will come easily to mind.

Remember that “getting the ball first” has NEVER been absolution for whatever else may happen during or immediately after the tackle.

There is nothing illegal, by itself, about sliding tackles or playing the ball while on the ground. These acts become the indirect free kick foul known as playing dangerously (“dangerous play”) only if the action unfairly takes away an opponent’s otherwise legal play of the ball (for players at the youth level, this definition is simplified even more as “playing in a manner considered to be dangerous to an opponent”). At minimum, this means that an opponent must be within the area of danger which the player has created. These same acts can become the direct free kick fouls known as kicking or attempting to kick an opponent or tripping or attempting to trip or tackling an opponent to gain possession of the ball only if there was contact with the opponent or, in the opinion of the referee, the opponent was forced to react to avoid the kick or the trip. The referee may warn players about questionable acts of play on the ground, but would rarely caution a player unless the act was reckless.