The scenario is the Referee blows the whistle to indicate the first half of the match has ended. During the half-time break, a send-off offense occurs by a member of Team A. The Referee shows the red card to the Team A member.

Let us say that the Team A member who was shown the red card was a player at the end of the half. Must Team A play one man short in the second half? You may ask, “did the offense occur on or off the field of play”. Please answer both of those scenarios if the application of the Laws is different for each.

I believe that if the Team A member was a substitute or substituted player, then Team A does not play short one man the second half.

In youth matches where there is no official scorer or fourth official, the Referee may not be able to determine if the Team A member that was sent-off was a player or substitute.

I reviewed the 2007 Laws of the Game, Advice to Referees and Q/A, and did not find this addressed, though I admit I could have missed it.

Thanks for this forum, as I always enjoy and learn a lot from you.

USSF answer (December 10, 2007):
It makes absolutely no difference whether the sending-off offense was committed on or off the field of play. If the person sent off at halftime was a player at the end of the half, the team plays short in the second half (or, in extra time, in the next period). If the person sent off was not a player at the end of the half, the team does not play short.

This is not covered in the Laws because it would not be a problem in higher-level games. They KNOW who is in the game and who is not, because there is none of the constant shuttling of players in and out of the game that we see in competitions that permit it. It’s not covered fully in the Advice to Referees because we expect the referee and assistant referees (and fourth official, if there is one) to know who was in the game at the end of the half. In the game of soccer played under the Laws of the Game, there is no “scorer” to keep track of these things; we don’t explain the rules for those competitions, as they are not affiliated with the Federation. If the officiating crew cannot determine that the person was in fact a player at the end of the period, then the team does not play short. See Advice 5.17 for part of your answer.

5.17 DISCIPLINARY PROCEDURES BEFORE, DURING, AND AFTER THE GAME Misconduct committed by a player or a substitute prior to the start of the match, during the match, and during breaks between playing periods is subject to a formal caution or a send-off, as appropriate. Yellow and red cards, which are now mandatory indications of cautions and send-offs, may be shown only for misconduct committed by players, substitutes, or substituted players during a match. “During a match” includes:
(a) the period of time immediately prior to the start of play during which players and substitutes are physically on the field warming up, stretching, or otherwise preparing for the match;
(b) any periods in which play is temporarily stopped;
(c) half time or similar breaks in play;
(d) required overtime periods;
(e) kicks from the penalty mark if this procedure is used in case a winner must be determined.
(f) the period of time immediately following the end of play during which the players and substitutes are physically on the field but in the process of exiting.

Cautions issued prior to the start of the game or during breaks between periods are recorded and they are counted for purposes of sending a player from the field for receiving a second caution during the match. To prevent misunderstandings, the referee should inform officials of both teams before the first period of play begins of any cautions or send-offs occurring prior to the start of the match.

If a player or substitute is cautioned or dismissed for misconduct which has occurred during a break or suspension of play, the card must be shown on the field before play resumes.

If a player is dismissed before the match begins, the player may be replaced by a named substitute, but the team is not allowed to add any names to its roster and its number of permissible substitutions is not reduced.

Players or substitutes who have been sent off may not remain in the team area, but must be removed from the environs of the field. If this is not practical because of the age or condition of the player, the team officials are responsible for the behavior of the player or substitute.

There can be no “temporary expulsion” of players who have been cautioned, nor may teams be forced to substitute for a player who has been cautioned.

Postgame: Any misconduct committed by players or substitutes after the field has been cleared must be described in the game report and reported to the competition authority. The referee may display cards as long as he or she remains on the field of play after the game is over. Referees are advised to avoid remaining in the area of the field unnecessarily.

(However, see Advice 5.13.)

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