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2010 Referee Week In Review - Week 12


The Referee Week in Review is designed to address the issues facing referees at all levels by using video highlights from professional games as well as the U.S. National Teams. Written by U.S. Soccer Director of Referee Development Paul Tamberino and U.S. Soccer Manager of Assessment and Training Brian Hall, the Referee Week in Review will highlight specific areas of focus and current U.S. Soccer initiatives designed to improve performance and aid in the development of officials across the country.

Week In Review 2010
Week 12 – Ending June 13, 2010
Only four matches were played in the week leading up to the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The week’s decision of contention involved an incorrect offside decision that resulted in the winning goal. There were also two examples of top-class officiating in which the referee utilized the advantage clause to promote attacking soccer. One of the advantage decisions resulted in a goal being scored while, in the second example, the referee cautioned the offender, at the next stoppage in play, approximately two minutes and 16 seconds after applying the advantage.

Week In Review Podcast: For each “Week In Review,” U.S. Soccer produces a related podcast that covers the topics of the week.


Gaining an Advantage: Law 11 – Offside

The Laws of the Game provide three cases in which a player in an offside position may be penalized for being in the offside position at the moment the ball touches or is played by one of his team:

  1. Interfering with play
    Playing or touching the ball passed or touched by a teammate.
  2. Interfering with an opponent
    Preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or movements or making a gesture or movement which, in the opinion of the referee, deceives or distracts an opponent.
  3. Gaining an advantage by being in an offside position
    Playing a ball that rebounds to him off a goalpost or the crossbar having been in an offside position or playing a ball that rebounds to him off an opponent having been in an offside position.

In order to correctly interpret offside, referees and assistant referees (ARs) must have an understanding of key offside concepts. Two of the offside concepts will be examined this week: rebound and played.

Offside positioned players can only be declared offside when the ball “touches or is played by one of his team.” At the same time, offside positioned players can infringe the law when they receive a ball that has been played by a teammate even though the ball has rebounded off the opponent (as well as goalpost or crossbar) – this is the concept of gaining an advantage by being in an offside position.

In cases where the ball is last played by an opponent, a player in an offside position cannot be declared offside. In 2009, “Week In Review 23” explored a situation in which the opponent (defender) played the ball prior to it being received by a player who was in an offside position. A defender is to be considered to have played the ball when the defender is under no pressure from an opponent and has a controlled opportunity to play (kick, pass, head) the ball. A misplay or poor execution of a player under no pressure should be considered playing the ball.

Playing the ball by the defender should not be confused with a rebound or deflection in which the defender does not have the opportunity to play the ball. The opponent’s distance from the attacker who first plays or touches the ball should be a consideration in determining whether the defender has played the ball or whether it has just rebounded or deflected from him. The closer the distance, the less chance for the defender to have a “controlled” opportunity to play the ball and, therefore, the increased likelihood for the defender’s contact with the ball to be considered a rebound or deflection.

Video Clip 1: Los Angeles at Real Salt Lake (79:20)
This clip provides a good example of an attacker gaining an advantage from being in an offside position. There are two offside positioned attackers at the time the ball is played by a teammate. The ball is first played by an attacker. Immediately after the attacker plays the ball, the ball rebounds or deflects off the defender to an offside positioned teammate of the attacker. The offside positioned player should be declared offside as he gained an advantage from being in an offside position.

Why is this a rebound and, therefore, offside? Although the ball comes off the defender, he does not have a “controlled” play of the ball. In addition, the defender is only a foot or so away from the attacker at the time the attacker plays the ball. As a consequence, the defender cannot play the ball. This play is not a misplay or a result of poor execution by the defender.

The AR should raise the flag for offside as the offside positioned player gained an advantage from his offside position. An indirect free kick should be awarded for offside.

Although the situation would not have developed if there was a correct interpretation and application of the offside law, the referee is required to caution the goal scorer for unsporting behavior as the result of his removing his shirt to celebrate a goal being scored.

Note: In cases where the offside player is so clearly in an offside position (approximately five yards behind the second-to-last defender), the referee is encouraged to take ownership of the infringement. The referee, clearly seeing that the attacker has “gained an advantage from being in an offside position,” should make the offside call. Or, minimally, consult with the AR immediately following the scoring of the goal.

Advantage and the “4 P Principle” – Law 5

The subject of advantage and the utilization of the “4 P Principle” was the subject of the last version of the “Week In Review 11”. In summary, the “4 P Principle” provides a framework for referees to evaluate and apply the advantage clause:

  • Possession of ball
  • Potential for attack
  • Personnel
  • Proximity to opponent’s goal

FIFA’s “Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees” permits the referee to caution the offender who committed the offense leading to the advantage, if the offense is cautionable, at the next stoppage in play. It is important that the referee make a mental note of the offender as it may take a considerable time for the next stoppage to be realized. At this point, the referee would issue the caution to the offender.

Note: It is good practice for ARs and fourth officials to also make mental notes of the number of the player who will be cautioned. To assist the referee team in identifying the offender, the referee may find it helpful to indicate (point to) the player who will be cautioned and verbalize (“I am coming back to you”) in order to ensure not only the referee crew knows who the offender is but to ensure all players know that the referee will be taking action.

Video Clip 2: Philadelphia at Kansas City (34:40)
The referee applies an effective and clear advantage near the attacking team’s penalty area. All components of the “4 P Principle” are evident as the referee’s decision results in a goal.

The AR also contributes to the goal through an excellent decision to keep the flag down on a close offside situation. Image 1 provides a good visual depiction of the AR’s decision. The AR is able to make this split second decision because he is aligned with the second-to-last defender and he has positioned his body and shoulders to be square to the field thereby enhancing his visual perspective of the pass and associated attacking run.

Image 1

Note: ARs should look for opportunities to be square to the field when play allows. Lateral movement (sidestepping) gives the AR a broader/wider perspective and a better view of play, players and the ball.

Video Clip 3: D.C. United at Seattle (58:37)
The referee successfully applies advantage in the attacking third as it leads to a shot on goal. The referee waits a split second (using the “wait and see” principle relating to advantage) to see if the advantage will materialize and he then uses the approved upward wave of the arms to signal his advantage application. Upon indicating advantage, the referee makes a decision that the foul is reckless and, thus, cautionable for unsporting behavior.

Play continues for approximately two minutes and 16 seconds until the next stoppage in play (throw-in). At this time, the referee issues the caution to the player who committed the reckless foul leading to the advantage. During this two-minute span, the referee must log the offending player’s number in his mind so that he can deal with the misconduct at the next stoppage. The fact that it took more than two minutes for play to stop should not influence the referee’s misconduct decision. If the foul leading to the advantage was cautionable, the referee must issue the misconduct regardless of the amount of time it took for the next stoppage.

Note: This clip illustrates the need for all members of the referee team to make a mental note of the offender (the fourth official can write the number down on his notepad). The extended time the ball is in play after the reckless tackle can cause referees to lose track of the offender.

Looking Forward – Week 13
The focus of the “Week In Review” during the MLS two week FIFA World Cup break will shift to some special topics and officiating tidbits geared to help match officials at all levels. Stay tuned.