During a recent high school game the goalkeeper was stepped on by an attacker in what appeared to several non-working referees in attendance (including myself) to be a deliberate act. Neither of the two working referees saw the actual contact as their vision was blocked by other players. The 2-man system is used regularly for HS games in our area to save on expenses. Of course they should have had a better position but that is the problem with a 2-man crew.

The goalkeeper had dived for a through-ball and retained possession although play was stopped for his obvious injury. When the referees went to check on the goalkeeper, there were pronounced cleat marks on his leg and he was unable to continue in the game. They did not call a foul, however, claiming they had not seen exactly what happened.

In such a case, can a referee justify calling a foul based on the physical evidence of the keeper’s obvious injury and perhaps even issue a caution to the offending player? The keeper had possession 1 – 2 steps ahead of the attacking player, so it is hard to imagine the attacker being unable to avoid the contact.

BTW… The keeper was my son so I am certainly biased in my thoughts on the situation. It would be good to know your opinon for the future, however, regardless of how you come down on the issue. It is something that I might have to deal with on the field as well.

USSF answer (March 17, 2008):
Disclaimer: We do not deal with high school rules and certainly not with the two-man system of refereeing.

The referee cannot call and the assistant referee cannot flag for a foul he (or she) has not seen While it is clear from the obvious “hoof marks” on the goalkeeper’s leg that someone stepped him, without a clear view of the incident, it would not be possible to (a) conclusively rule out that it was a teammate of the goalkeeper or (b) that it happened completely by accident, rather than as a result of a foul. The circumstantial evidence may be strong, but it is still only circumstantial.

No matter which system the officials are working, they must work — let us emphasize it, WORK — to be in position to see what is going on when players are competing for the ball. This inability to see some situations is, as you point out, one of the flaws in the two-man system.

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