During an over 40’s mens’ recreational league match this weekend, there were 2 issues that another referee who is an assessor, told me I did incorrectly that surprised me.

1. During a throw-in, the player raised the ball just above his head and threw it in. Since law 15 states that the thrower delivers the ball from behind the head, I awarded a throw-in to the other team. After some discussion, it does raise the question, how far behind the head does the ball need to go before being a legal throw in?

2. During play near mid-field, a blue team player kicks a hard ball at close range (about 2 yards) from the white player who is running toward the ball. The white team’s player, in a flinch reaction, puts his hand up to protect his face and the ball hits his hand. He does not direct the ball after the contact. At the time, I did not consider it deliberate, and let play continue. This “no call” decision was based on the Advice to Referees as well as the 2009 Referee Program Directive on Handling the Ball, Part 4, where it talks about a purely instinctive reaction to protect sensitive areas of the body. This is consistent with the Advice to Referees. The other referee told me that not only should I have called handling, I should have given a yellow card because he considered it a tactical foul. I believe that it was neither a foul nor a misconduct.

USSF answer (July 14, 2009):
1. Referees need to remember that, in addition to the Letter of the Law, they need to be in tune with the Spirit of the Laws.  A throw-in is simply a way of restarting the game.  The decision on how far behind the head the thrower must bring the ball is a matter for the referee to decide.  While the requirements of Law 15 are pretty specific, not bringing the ball fully “behind” the head is a relatively trivial infringement of those requirements.

2. Many referees have yet to learn that refereeing is not a case of “us” against “them,” but a matter of finding the best solution to a problem by balancing the Letter and the Spirit of the Law.  As you describe the situation, and remembering the sources you have cited, we believe that you reached the correct decision in this case.

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