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June 2008 Archive (II of IV)


I was watching the Euro Cup 2008 qualifier between Italy and The Netherlands. The first goal generated some controversy.

During a free kick, the keeper pushed a defender beyond the goal line. The Dutch recovered the deflected ball and put it back into the box to where Van Nistlerooy directs the ball into the goal. Based on the players on the field, he was clearly in an offside position but the flag was not raised.

My question is whether or not the defensive player that was on the ground beyond the goal line should have been counted as the last defender, meaning the attacking player was not offside, even though he was not within the boundaries of the field? Or is the fact that he did not come back into play prior to the goal means that he is not an active player and the call should have been that the attacking player was offside?

Answer (June 10, 2008):
You seem to have a grasp on the problem, which is actually not a problem at all -- no matter what the TV announcers may have suggested.

This information in the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game" should give you all the additional information you need:
A defender who leaves the field during the course of play and does not immediately return must still be considered in determining where the second to last defender is for the purpose of judging which attackers are in an offside position. Such a defender is considered to be on the touch line or goal line closest to his or her off-field position. A defender who leaves the field with the referee's permission (and who thus requires the referee's permission to return) is not included in determining offside position.



My question is about the concept of punishing the "first foul." Situation: a player goes up for a header, using the shoulders of an opponent to launch himself. No horizontal movement, just vertically up. The opponent, sensing this, bends over and causes the opponent to fall over him ("tabletop"). Should the resulting DFK be for the team of the player who went up for the ball (ignoring the shoulder-push and punishing the tabletop) or for the team of the player who had his shoulders pushed on in the first place (with a possible caution or chewing-out for the tabletop)?

Would it change if the original shoulder-pusher had horizontal motion over the player who decided to bend over so he fell?

Answer (June 9, 2008):
Why worry about "problems" over what the Laws tell us to do? In situations like this the referee can and must punish both offenses -- provided, in his or her opinion, they are indeed both offenses.

The first offense, using the opponent's shoulders as a support, is an old and time-honored way of cheating. It is called holding and is punished with a direct free kick AND a caution for unsporting behavior. The tactic of using a teammate's shoulders is not a foul, but is certainly misconduct and would be punished by a caution for unsporting behavior and an indirect free kick for the opposing team at the place where the offense occurred.

The second offense, in which the opponent bends over and thus trips the initial offender, might ordinarily be called a foul, but that cannot happen in this case, because the foul has already occurred and whatever follows it can only be misconduct. If, in the opinion of the referee, this is indeed an offense, rather than the natural aftermath of having extra weight and leverage applied to one's shoulders by an outside force, then the referee must punish it with a caution for unsporting behavior. However, the restart would still be for the first offense.



I watched the highlights for this game on the MLS website. In the highlight video for the MLS game on June 7th between DC United and Chicago Fire a DC United player (Luciano Emilio) scores a goal at the end of the game (92+minute) and then the video shows that he covers his face with his jersey while celebrating his goal. I thought this was a Cautionable offense in accordance with the Laws of the Game but the misconduct summary does not indicate that a Caution was given. Why was no Caution given in this case? In the 2007/2008 FIFA Laws of the Game page 117 shows this exact misconduct (with picture) and says that the player must be cautioned.

Answer (June 9, 2008):
Your interpretation of the Law is correct, but we referees are human beings, just like the players, and sometimes we "blink" when something happens.



On Sunday I watched the FC Dallas vs. Denver Rapids where one forward got called offside 5 times. I read online where someone was calling for a yellow for "persistent infringement of offside". I have never heard of this and I can't find anywhere that I could justify a yellow for persistent infringement for being offside.

I also would have to ask myself if I thought this yellow would help the game.

Please let me know if a yellow can be given here?

Answer (June 4, 2008):
It is perfectly legal to be in an offside position. The person who posted the suggestion you saw online is probably the person who asked us the very same question almost five years ago about high school soccer, to which we replied on October 23, 2003: No, there is no such rule in soccer, whether at the high school level or in the . . . worldwide game of soccer. . . . Persistent infringement applies to any and all infringements of Law 12 and to some infringements of Law 14.



A fourth official observes an offense worthy of a send-off during play, but it is not seen by either the referee or ARs. What can the 4th official do?

Answer (June 4, 2008):
We know from the Laws of the Game that the fourth official "assists the referee at all times." The fourth official must also "indicate to the referee when the wrong player is cautioned because of mistaken identity or when a player is not sent off having been seen to be given a second caution or when violent conduct occurs out of the view of the referee and assistant referees" and also "has the authority to inform the referee of irresponsible behavior by any occupant of the technical area." So it is clear that the fourth official has the authority to advise the referee in matters of game management and player control.

This is reinforced in the Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials, where we learn that the fourth official "Notifies the referee as quickly as possible if a player or substitute has . . . committed violent conduct out of the view of the referee and assistant referees."

The answer is analogous to the situation of the assistant referee who observes serious misconduct and begins to flag it before the ball next goes out of play; even though the game may have restarted before the referee sees the flag, the AR must keep the flag up (and call out, if necessary) to gain the referee's attention.

In the situation you cite, the fourth official must do whatever is necessary and possible to gain the referee's attention as quickly and expediently as possible. Depending on where each of the members of the officiating team is at the moment, it might be best for the fourth official to call to the referee directly, if he or she is nearby, or, if the senior AR is nearby, to use the AR's means of communication to get the referee's attention. Allowing too much time to pass while being polite and circumspect in notifying the referee would only worsen the inevitable tension between the players and lead to loss of control by the referee.



At a recent tournament [in my area], I was working with a State referee. He was the referee of the match. The pre-game went like this. "I am going to make your job very easy. You are not to call any fouls. The only job that you have is to monitor the offside. The new mandate on a professional level and MLS is to have the referee call all the fouls so we don't have three different types of foul calls on the pitch." I have a hard time believing this guy. I have not seen any memorandum indicating such suggestions. If this is a new thing that I am not aware of please show or direct me to such mandate. If is pure fabrication on this referee/assessor/instructor part then we have a problem. If his pre-game/assessment/instruction to young referees of such then this horse pucky is being passed on to other poor referees that only going to believe such non-sense.

To what extent does USSF allow referees to massage laws of the game and make up their own ideas and rules as they go along? Please advise.

Answer (June 4, 2008):
The Federation does not do any such thing. Current guidance for referee working games under the aegis of the U. S. Soccer Federation is covered comprehensively in the USSF publication "Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials."

This "State referee" would seem to be doing what was common practice throughout the world 30-40 years ago, Things have changed a lot since then, as those of us who were around at that time are happy to testify.



The 2007 ATR is quite specific that a tap on top of the the ball, stepping on the ball, or dragging of the ball does not count as the first touch for an indirect free kick - the ball must be touched in a kicking motion. So far this season I have refereed mover 50 games and have talked to thirty or more referees. Not one coach, or even one referee has been aware of this ATR. I have taken the tack this season to inform both teams during equipment check that I would be following the ATR and then giving the coach a copy, so that they would know where I was getting my information from. I have had now problems. However, this does require a little "speech" to the players, a luxury one does not always get.

At the recent [local] tournament I had the opportunity to talk to several level 5 referees about this ruling - they were unanimous in telling me that you don't tell teams about this ruling and you certainly don't follow it - if you disallowed a goal because the only touches were a tap on top of the ball and a kick that put the ball in the goal you wouldn't make it off the field in one piece.

I'm now in a quandary - do I follow the ruling - if so, do I tell the teams before the game. Imagine this situation - League tournament finals, score tied, one minute to go, defender makes a high kick - IDFK just outside, or inside, the penalty area. Kicking team lines up four players who run at the ball in turn. The first player jumps over the ball, the second player taps the top of the ball, the third player kicks it, loops it over the wall tough play for the keeper. The keeper, following the ATR, knows that a goal cannot be scored, and not risking touching the ball, backs away from the ball and lets it go untouched into the goal. What's my call? Do I follow the ATR and signal for a goal kick, following a ruling that NOBODY else in the stadium knows, risking major mayhem, or do I make the easy call - GOAL penalizing the goalie for knowing the rules?

That raises a second question - why isn't a ruling that makes such a fundamental change in how what can be a critical play is judged, better advertised?

Answer (June 3, 2008):
It is not surprising that many State-level referees, no matter which state they come from, do not follow the instructions in the Advice to Referees. We find this to be the case throughout the United States, because so many "senior" referees and assessors seem to know more than the Federation about how games should be refereed.

No matter what your colleagues may tell you about what is in the Advice to Referees, it is the interpretation of the U. S. Soccer Federation and should be followed by all referees, assessors, and instructors. Anyone who troubles to read the introduction will find that the Advice is intended to be read by referees, instructors, assessors, players, coaches, parents, and anyone else wants to know what to expect from the officials in a game.

Section 13.5 of the Advice has been changed for 2008, but only "gently." It now reads: QUOTE
The ball is in play (able to be played by an attacker other than the kicker or by an opponent) when it has been kicked and moved. The distance to be moved is minimal and the "kick" need only be a touch of the ball with the foot in a kicking motion. Simply tapping the top of the ball with the foot or stepping on the ball are not sufficient.

When the restart of play is based on the ball being kicked and moved, the referee must ensure that the ball is indeed kicked (touched with the foot in a kicking motion) and moved (caused to go from one place to another). Being "kicked" can include an action in which the ball is dragged by continuous contact with the foot. The referee must make the final decision on what is and is not "kicked and moved" based on the spirit and flow of the match.

The referee must judge carefully whether any particular kick of the ball and subsequent movement was indeed reasonably taken with the intention of putting the ball into play rather than with the intention merely to position the ball for the restart. If the ball is just being repositioned (even if the foot is used to do this), play has not been restarted. Likewise, referees should not unfairly punish for "failing to respect the required distance" when an opponent was clearly confused by a touch and movement of the ball which was not a restart.

The referee must make the final decision on what is a "kick" and what is "not a kick" based on his or her feeling for the game-what FIFA calls "Fingerspitzengefühl" (literally: "sensing with one's fingertips").

The intelligent referee will do at least two things here:
1. Recognize the situation for what it is and deal with it correctly.
2. Not to explain all this to players or coaches or spectators either before the match or at the time of the first indirect free kick (which is the only situation where the distinction is important).

We continue to emphasize to new referees that, for example, the "captains talk" (the coin toss) is not the time to lecture on the Law.



This situation happened in a recent tournament (thankfully I was not involved in it!):

With 3 minutes left in the second OT of a tournament final and the score tied, one of Team A's strikers (A1) is injured and is subbed out (unlimited substitution rule in effect). He is thus not one of the 11 players on the field for Team A when time expires and the winner must be determined by kicks from the mark.

However, one of the AR's does not properly do his job and Player A1 ends up going onto the field to replace the player who subbed in for him minutes before. (There is nothing particularly sneaky about this, and A1 may not have been aware of the USSF rule for kicks from the mark. In HS, of course, he could have legitimately taken one of the kicks.)

The kicks then proceed beyond the fifth players into "sudden death", where A1 makes the kick that theoretically wins the match. However, the opposing coach immediately objects - stating correctly that A1 was not on the field at the end of the game. The CR, remembering the injury substitution, recognizes that the coach is correct.

So the question is:
1. Does the kick count, based on the theory that play has "resumed" since the illegal entry by A1, or is the goal negated, or does Team A get to re-do the kick with a legal kicker? Also, should A1 and his coach be cautioned?
2. Would there be any difference if A1 converted the first kick of the shootout, but his being on the field illegally was not noticed until several other players had taken their turns?

Answer (June 3, 2008):
Other than the clear requirement that only players who are on the field or off temporarily with the permission of the referee are allowed to participate in kicks from the penalty mark, this situation is not covered in the Laws of the Game. The kicks may go no farther and the referee must include full details in the match report. The competition authority must determine what happens to this game.


U.S. Soccer thanks Jim Allen (National Instructor Staff/National Assessor), assisted by Dan Heldman (National Instructor Staff), for their assistance in providing this service. Direction is provided by Alfred Kleinaitis, Manager of Referee Development and Education, with further assistance from Julie Ilacqua, Managing Director of Referee Programs (administrative matters); David McKee, National Director of Assessment (assessment matters); and Ulrich Strom, National Instructor and National Assessor (matters in general).

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