When Is It Over?

A high school/college player asks:

The game has seconds remaining. There is a deliberate handball in the penalty area. The referee does not see it but the AR raises his flag. The referee then whistles to end the match. The players start walking off of the field. The AR runs up to the referee and they talk. The referee then brings the players back on the filed and awards a penalty.

Can the referee award a penalty after the game has ended?

Answer (note: answered solely in terms of a USSF sanctioned game)

The 2016/2017 Laws of the Game state clearly in Law 5 that “the referee may not change a decision on realising that it is incorrect or on the advice of another match official if play has restarted or the referee has signalled the end of the first or second half … and left the field” (emphasis added).  There are several important aspects of the Law which must be understood  in order to provide guidance on this question.

The AR is an integral member of the officiating team and Law 5 tasks the referee with performing his/her responsibilities “in cooperation with the other match officials.”  This means that the referee has a duty to receive and act appropriately on information provided by an AR.  There are several situations that help us understand the relationship between the referee and an assistant referee.  For example, the Law allows a card for violent misconduct (but not a foul) to survive a stoppage and restart of play if an AR had seen the offense, signaled the referee, and maintained the signal until recognized by the referee.  Another example is an attacker in an offside position who becomes actively involved in play (and is properly signaled for an offside violation by the AR but the signal is not seen), followed shortly thereafter by a foul committed by an opposing player which was seen and whistled by the referee.  Here, the Law allows the referee to accept the offside violation signaled by the AR and, since it occurred before the defending player’s foul, to punish the offside violation and then to deal with the defender’s actions as misconduct occurring during a stoppage of play.

Put these things together and we have (a) the AR signaling a PK offense just before time expires but not seen by the referee until the end of the 2nd half is whistled combined with (b) the fact that, although time had expired, the referee had not yet left the field.  Accordingly, the referee could properly accept the information from the AR, rescind his decision that time had expired (which it hadn’t prior to the offense), and bring the teams back onto the field for a PK — which would be in extended time because time would expire while the PK restart was being administered.   All the rules applying to “a PK taken in extended time” would apply.

Of course, this sort of scenario would not occur if proper mechanics had been followed — specifically quickly making eye contact with both the ARs before signalling for the end of the period (first or second)!   Nor should the correct referee’s decision here be complicated by such extraneous factors as the score (no matter what it is).