I was watching a Girls U14 match (11v11 on a full-sized field with 35 min halves) that started late due to bad weather. With about 15 minutes to go in the game, it was almost too dark for me (standing on the sidelines around midfield) to see either goalkeeper — it was nighttime (no longer “dusk” or “twilight”). I was there because I had friends with daughters on BOTH teams.

Some of the parents of both teams were asking me if we could switch to a nearby lighted field (within the soccer complex). I responded that in this situation, I felt the Laws of the Game only allow for a match the be suspended, abandoned or terminated. I also stated that I saw no reason that switching fields would violate the laws of the game.

In my opinion, the referee should have abandoned the game (but in this game, I was just a spectator with a referee license). I was not going to criticize HIS decision to the parents, but I did say if I were the referee, I’d abandon the game and restart from the beginning OR have used prudence and NOT started the game that late.

Since suspending the game is only “temporary,” I considered “over-night” to be too long to be “temporary.” I felt the match should be abandoned and restarted FROM THE BEGINNING on a later date.

Since the score was 2-1, I didn’t think the coaches would agree to an early “termination.”

This was a D-1 “league game,” not part of a tournament.

Questions: 1a) Could the referee have suspended the game and CONTINUED FROM THE POINT HE STOPPED THE GAME in the morning or on some other day?

1b) If it is resumed from where the referee stopped play, does the same referee crew have to finish the game or can they be replaced by different personnel?

2) Could the referee have suspended the game and moved to the nearby lighted field?

3) How long is “too long” for a “suspension” of a game? My thought is a 3-4 hours at the most and then the game should be “abandoned.”

USSF answer (January 16, 2012):
“Suspension” is not an option in this case. Although we see matches stopped and delayed for light failure at lighted stadiums, under the Law the referee may suspend the match only for any infringements of the Laws (at his discretion) or because because of outside interference of any kind, not for weather or lighting conditions (including darkness).

Therefore, depending on the rules of the competition, the referee could decide to delay, postpone or terminate the match. In the event of poor light , it may be possible to commence or continue the game after a suitable delay at another field if the rules of the competition do not forbid it and the owner of the field will permit it. In some circumstances, it will be obvious that the game will not commence or restart.

Because of the initial delay due to bad weather, the best solution would have been for the referee to speak to both teams prior to the beginning of the match and suggest that the halves be shortened. If the teams did not agree, then the match would have been postponed to another time/date and the competition authority would have to deal with it. The refree’s job is to do what is best for the game, not for him- or herself.