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).

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