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Ask A Referee Update: March 11, 2010


This question is specifically regarding the powers of the 4th Official. During the recent Atletico - Valencia game, both the referee and assistant referee miss a handling of the ball within the penalty aria. After a few seconds of play the referee stops play and consults the 4th official who informs the referee of the offense.

Subsequently a penalty kick was awarded and the Valencia player was sent off for DOGSO. My question is that even though the LOTG gives the 4th official the power to "assist the referee at all times," does that include actual fouls that happen on the field within close view of the referee and assistant referees? I believe that the 4th official has this power even though it is not explicitly expressed within the LOTG, however many other officials disagree.

Answer (March 10, 2010):
You are correct: The fourth official has the authority to provide any and all information to the referee.


During a recent U9 Boys Championship Match I was working, one end of the field was very muddy. On several instances, players would kick at the ground before a corner or goal kick, like they were attempting to tee the ball up. I gave a warning to both teams to stop. Of course neither coach agreed with this warning, saying their players needed the extra leverage due to the poor field conditions (although they players did stop). Does this fall under the ATR related to modification of the field? Thanks!

Answer (March 10, 2010):
By allowing play to begin following your inspection of the field, you accepted the condition of the field as safe and usable. To then punish the players for trying to do their best under those conditions is not entirely within the Spirit of the Game. However, the fact that the field is muddy should not be used to protect behavior which, if performed on a pristine field, would be worth a warning to stop it. Teeing the ball up is not permitted if it involves creating hills by scuffing the field. We would certainly warn a goalkeeper who is marking the field to HIS advantage -- muddy or not. Exercise common sense in this situation.


What would you do if a goalkeeper ran off the field and another player took his place without the referee knowing it during play. Also, the other team shoots and the new goalkeeper blocks it over the goal. Then you realize the keeper change. What do you do?

Answer (March 10, 2010):
We have a problem here with the description of the situation. Was this a "player" who was already on the field in another position or was it one of the substitutes from the bench?

The decision would be easy if it had been a player on the field who exchanged places -- without informing the referee -- with the 'keeper (who then remained on the field): Allow play to continue and then caution both at the next stoppage.

However, based on your description, it seems that a substitute (loosely called a "player") came on the field and replaced the former goalkeeper. The presents the referee with a totally different set of circumstances:
1. The referee's acquiescence was not requested nor given for any substitution or exchange.
2. The goalkeeper deliberately left the field of play without the referee's permission, so he must be cautioned.
3. The new goalkeeper entered the field without the referee's permission and is thus still a substitute who has entered the field without permission and then denied the opposing team a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity.

That places the incident squarely under the sending-off offenses in Law 12: A player, substitute or substituted player is sent off if he commits any of the following seven offenses:
* denying the opposing team a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball (this does not apply to a goalkeeper within his own penalty area)

Therefore, because the substitute is not a player and certainly not a goalkeeper, he must be sent off in accordance with the Law.


I would have a question involving the 2009/2010 ATR vs 2009/2010 FIFA Laws and interpretation of the laws. In the ATR 13.6 in reference to free kicks awarding to a defending team in their own penalty area. In the second paragraph it says that all opponents must remain outside the penalty until the ball has gone into play. And I believe that into play means leaving the penalty. But in the FIFA law book in the interpretation of the laws section for free kicks on page 123. Under the "Distance" heading the third paragraph talks about opponents being in the penalty, and the defending team takes a quick kick the referee must allow play to continue.

My question is this, what happens if the defending team kicks the ball to the opponent in the penalty area before the opponents have left the penalty area? Would the kick be a retake for the defending team or is it similar to a regular quick kick where it is taken at the risk of the team taking the kick. Or should I pretend I never saw the part in the FIFA law book.

Thank you for your insight

Answer (March 9, 2010):
In your comparison of one section of the Advice to a section of the Laws covered in the Interpretation section of the Laws, you are comparing apples and applesauce. Advice 13.6 simply repeats what is already in the Law:
Free Kick Inside the Penalty Area
Direct or indirect free kick to the defending team:
* all opponents must be at least 9.15 m (10 yds) from the ball
* all opponents must remain outside the penalty area until the ball is in play
* the ball is in play when it is kicked directly out of the penalty area
* a free kick awarded in the goal area may be taken from any point inside that area

The information on p. 123 of the Interpretation states that the same principle that applies to free kicks outside the penalty area applies to free kicks for the defending team within the penalty area: "If, when a free kick is taken by the defending team from inside its own penalty area, one or more opponents remain inside the penalty area because the defender decides to take the kick quickly and the opponents did not have time to leave the penalty area, the referee must allow play to continue."

There is no dichotomy here, as any kicking team surrenders its right to players remaining at the required distance if it takes the free kick quickly, without waiting for the referee to remove any opponent who has remained too near to the ball. What this means with regard to your question is that the restart should not be held up by the referee solely because there may be one or more opponents still within the penalty area. In short, the goal kicking team has the right to kick immediately (not with a ceremony) even though there are opponents within the minimum distance.

However, at this time a major difference arises between kicks from within the penalty area and those taken outside the area. This involves what happens if one of those opponents makes contact with the ball while both are still within the penalty area. For a goal kick or a free kick, because the ball is not in play until it leaves the penalty area, there is no distinction between interception and interference -- it's all interference before the ball has been put in play (just as it would be if the contact had been made by a teammate rather than an opponent). If there is interference within the penalty area by an opponent on this sort of kick, the kick must be retaken.


Evidently the Adidas referee jerseys are making it to the states and being sold at TJ Maxx for #25 each. See the discussion at [an internet referee board]. Referees are purchasing these jerseys with the intent of wearing them in USSF games. They will have enough extra jerseys for referees who don't have the Adidas jerseys. Is there any reason that referees cannot wear the Adidas jerseys? I can see a lot of confusion if allowed, with referees being pressured to buy the Adidas jerseys or having to wear borrowed jerseys.

Answer (March 4, 2010):
The uniform sold by Official Sports International (OSI) is the official uniform for referees affiliated with the U. S. Soccer Federation. The standards for that uniform were established by the USSF Board of Directors and may not be changed by anyone else. The design sold by OSI must be worn to all games and tournaments affiliated with the Federation. If referees find another uniform that meets the same design standard, they may wear that uniform for their lower-level games. Unless the Adidas uniform meets those standards, it may not be worn for any affiliated games.

See the USSF Referee Administrative Handbook for a description and pictures of the only approved uniforms:
Standards of Dress and Appearance
Official U.S. Soccer Federation Referee Uniform
Official Sports International (OSI) is the official supplier of referee uniforms to U.S. Soccer.
GOLD SHIRT: with black pinstripes (long or short sleeve)
ONE BADGE ONLY: U.S. SOCCER FEDERATION - WITH CURRENT YEAR (Securely fastened to shirt over left chest. The badge should be for the highest grade for which the referee is currently qualified)
BLACK CUFF: (on long sleeve shirt only) (no cuffs on short sleeves)
BLACK SHORTS: Bottom edge of shorts not less than 3 nor more than 7 inches above the top of the knee- cap.
BLACK SOCKS: with Federation referee crest
BLACK SHOES: (may have white manufacturers design) with black laces
Alternate Referee Uniforms
The following four shirts have been approved by the Federation as alternates that can be worn in case of color conflict. There is no order of preference among the alternate jerseys. The other parts of the referee uniform (shorts, socks, shoes) do not change if the referee wears an alternate shirt.
BLACK SHIRT with, BLACK COLLAR, and BLACK CUFFS (on long sleeve shirts only). RED SHIRT with, BLACK COLLAR, and BLACK CUFFS (on long sleeve shirts only). BLUE SHIRT with, BLACK COLLAR, and BLACK CUFFS (on long sleeve shirts only). GREEN SHIRT with, BLACK COLLAR, and BLACK CUFFS (on long sleeve shirts only).
Logos, Emblems and Badges: Only manufacturer's logos and U.S. Soccer approved badges and/or emblems may be visible on the referee uniform.

Note: Older versions of the OSI uniform may be worn until they need to be replaced.


During a sudden death penalty shoot out the away side's two weakest kick takers have gone down, writhing around and claiming they have hamstring injuries. Their manager says they can't take their kicks, so now the first two takers, penalty experts, should go again. What do you do?

Answer (March 3, 2010):
Under the Laws of the Game, either or both of the two sides may be reduced to one player during kicks from the penalty mark, so the number of kickers is not an issue. In this particular set of circumstances, if there is no doctor available and the players assure the referee that they are indeed "injured," the referee has no recourse other than to accept their statements at face value , bolstered by whatever evidence the referee may have (appearance, surface injury, statements by a trainer, player's mother, etc.), and begin the kicks from the penalty mark with the "available" number of eligible players. In any case, all facts must be reported to the competition authority.

If the referee has any doubts about the players' true state of health -- and who would not, with such an apparently crass display of poor sportsmanship and the attempt to bring the game into disrepute -- he must make that clear in his report. The final decision is up to the competition authority.

U.S. Soccer thanks Jim Allen (National Instructor Staff and National Assessor ret., assisted by National Instructor Trainer Dan Heldman, for their assistance in providing this service. Direction is provided by Alfred Kleinaitis, Manager of Referee Development and Education, with further assistance from Paul Tamberino, Director of Referee Development; David McKee, National Director of Assessment (assessment matters); Jeff Kollmeyer, National Instructor, indoor and Futsal; and Ulrich Strom, National Instructor and National Assessor (matters in general).

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