Blue team is ahead 2-1 with 5 minutes to go in the game. The White team makes a long, high cross into Blue team’s box. The ball goes well over everyone’s head by 4-5 feet, and is picked up by the Blue goalkeeper after it bounces to him. The nearest White and Blue player are at the top of the penalty area, so the ball was clearly well over their heads. The Referee who was in position at the top of the penalty arc, starts turning up-field for the punt.

AR1 waves his flag, and calls for a foul against the Blue team, which the Referee obviously did not see. AR1 tells the Referee that a Blue player “obstructed” a White player. Despite the fact that the ball was well over everyone, the Referee decides to call the foul and points to the mark, for a PK.

The Blue team coach calls for an explanation from the Referee and AR1, arguing that (a) the ball was never playable, and (b) impeding (AR1’s “obstruction”) calls for an indirect free kick, not a PK. No explanation is provided by the Referee or AR1 to the coach or any of the Blue players who ask. The Blue team coach, who is sitting on the far side of the midfield line, crosses the midfield line (does not enter the field of play) asking AR1 for an explanation. AR1 tells him to go away or he will be ejected. The coach keeps asking for an explanation. He never enters the field of play or interferes with the game. AR1 tells him that they will not continue the game until he leaves the field. The coach leaves the field, leaving his assistant in charge. This whole exchange takes place in less than 30 seconds and at no time did the Referee get involved.

From AR2’s point of view, the coach did leave his technical area and spoke to AR1, but was never abusive or physically confrontational, never got within 10 feet of AR1, and was never spoken to, warned, or ejected by the Referee. At AR1’s insistence he left he field without argument, prior to the PK.

Indeed, the Referee never spoke with the Blue coach. Even after the Blue coach left “voluntarily,” the Referee never indicated by word or action that he had decided to eject the coach. He did not inform the Blue team, its assistant coach, or anyone else, that the coach was ejected. He never warned the Blue coach or told him to leave the field. He never wrote anything in his game card or report.

After the game, AR1 told the rest of the crew that he told the Referee to call a PK because the Blue player grabbed the White player’s jersey. The Referee said he didn’t see the holding, but accepted AR1’s view. AR1 also tells the Referee, after the game, that the Blue coach was thrown out of the game, and the Referee enters this in the match report, even though he never actually made that call either.

Q1. Regardless of what AR1 told the Blue coach, isn’t the Referee the only one who can decide to eject a team official, or anyone else for that matter? Can the AR single-handedly decide to eject someone?

Q2. Did the coach’s decision to leave the field mean that he was thrown out, even though the Referee never actually ejected him or told him to leave?

Q2. If the Referee never told the coach to leave the field, was he correct in entering the ejection in the match report after the game, at the insistence of AR1? Q3. Was the Referee correct in calling for a PK, instead of an indirect free kick, even though the ball was well over everyone’s head?

Answer (September 6, 2007):
Without knowing more than your side of the story, we can still offer some useful information.

1. The AR is required to keep the referee informed of information on events that take place out of the sight of the referee and to supply additional information on events that the referee has seen (if asked to do so). We might add that the AR’s job is to ASSIST the referee in the management of the game, not to INSIST that a particular call be made.

2. If the coach did indeed leave the field only at the word of the AR and the referee was unaware of it, then the coach was not expelled by the referee and there should be no mention of an expulsion in the match report. The AR may not expel a coach or any other team official; that can only be done by the referee. The AR can draw the referee’s attention to the matter if that is necessary. Waiting until after the game to bring this matter to the referee’s attention is not proper procedure. The matter may be included in the match report, but the AR MUST then justify his or her action in writing, giving full details of the irresponsible behavior by the coach that led to the AR acting without authority to “expel” that coach.

3. How do we know the AR told the referee the foul called with five minutes to go was “obstructing” and not the holding mentioned later in your question? There is no longer any such foul as “obstructing,” by the way; the correct call is “impeding the opponent.” If “obstructing” is indeed what the AR said, then the referee was in error for awarding a penalty kick. The penalty kick would have been correct if the foul was holding.

So that you know for the future, there is no requirement that the ball be anywhere near the action when a foul is called. A foul is committed on the field, by a player, against another player (or, in the case of deliberate handling, against the opposing team and the Spirit of the Laws), when the ball is in play. The ball could be at the far end of the field and a penalty kick could be called at the near end of the field and this would be in accordance with the Laws of the Game.

Leave a Reply