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Ask a Referee Update: Sept. 15, 2010


Is there a period of time before and after a match whereby an incident involving a player and ref is no longer related to the match. An example would be where a player swore at a referee two hours after the match had ended.

I understand the Respect element however I want to ensure the disciplinary is dealt with in the correct context.

Answer (September 14, 2010):
The referee's authority ends after he (or she) and the players and other team personnel have left the vicinity of the field. Any misconduct committed by players or substitutes after the field has been cleared must be described in the game report and reported to the competition authority. The referee may display cards as long as he or she remains on the field of play after the game is over. Referees are advised to avoid remaining in the area of the field unnecessarily, as this can lead to the sort of situation you describe.

After two hours, the statute of limitations on including this matter in the match report has run out. We would suggest that you submit a separate report on the matter to the competition authority and to the state association.


I was an AR in a Division 2 adult match this yesterday. At around the 75th minute, near my touchline, the ball was played forward to a player in an offside position. That player ran into an onside position, then turned around and chased after the ball that had been played. No player, opponent or teammate, touched or played the ball from the original play of the ball until he played it himself. When he "interfered with play," I raised my flag for offside. The center referee blew his whistle. The offending player originally didn't hear the whistle and proceeded to kick the ball into the goal. As this would have leveled the game 1-1, he was understandably upset when he saw that the goal was being disallowed for offside. He came over to me and asked why I called him offside. I answered, quite simply, "You were in an offside position when the ball was played." He asked, "Did I run into an onside position after that?" I replied, "I believe so." He asked, "But I was still offside?" I answered, "Yes, you committed an offside offence since you were in an offside position when the ball was played to you." He then summoned the center referee, saying, "Ref, your linesman doesn't know the rules!" The center official came to me and I clarified what happened. As my call was correct, the defending team restarted play with an IFK.

I take from this that the attacker thought there was some sort of clause in Law 11 allowing a player in an offside position to avoid committing an offside offence by "tagging up" in an onside position prior to running onto the ball. Obviously, there is no such clause. But I've heard this sort of thing before from a few players and coaches. In my situation, the offending player's words and actions contributed to an eventual caution for dissent after he got upset over another offside call I made two or three minutes later. (The second call wasn't protested due to a misunderstanding of the Law; it was simply a mistimed run on his part) This caution is something that could have been avoided if the player had a better understanding of the Laws of the Game. As referees, I feel it is our duty to educate the interested public about the Laws. So what is the origin of this "tag up" misconception, and what can we as referees do to combat further misunderstandings about the Laws? Could I or my center referee have handled the situation better?

Answer (September 14, 2010):
The Laws of the Game were not written to compensate for the mistakes of players (and undereducated coaches). The attacking player was clearly wrong, despite his notion that, if he returned to a supposedly "onside" position to play the ball, he was doing the right thing. Clearly he, his coach and those other, similarly rule knowledge-challenged coaches and players need to review Law 11.

Let it be clear to all: A player may not return from an offside position to play the ball last played by a teammate.

And, finally, to the point of how the officials should handle such a situation: First, your discussion was FAR too extended. Second, you should never have stated that the player was called for offside because "you were in an offside position when the ball was played." The player was called for offside because he did one of the three things he is not permitted to do while in an offside position. Third, the referee should NEVER have let a player even approach an AR to debate a decision -- the response should have been "If you want to discuss a decision, you talk to ME!"


First question:
I've been taught that referees, for good management of a game, for players and spectators will enjoy the game, have to "sell their calls." (For example, don't lightly blow your whistle for a penalty kick. Blow the whistle like you know for sure!) My question is, what is the best way to "sell" the second touch call by a keeper after parrying a ball? Its a rule that many (or I should say EVERY) senior referees and assignors have advised I don't call, a rule players are not aware of because it is never called. I am not afraid to have the conviction to call tough calls, but I need advice on this one. Would a pregame warning to keepers help? Maybe I can get petition for the rule to change to make it so that it applies to the spirit of why the rule was made (prevention of time wasting)? A wink and a nod to use discretion and to think that every shot, no matter how soft, will knuckle and might need to be knocked down?

Second question:
This is about the politics of FIFA, NFHS, and NISOA. Why don't they have the same rules? Is any party trying to unify with the other?

Answer (September 7, 2010):
First question:
a) Never, NEVER lecture the players before the game. Why? Because they will then expect you to live up to every word, something you cannot possibly do
. b) Don't call a foul because the players don't know that this is a violation? Please! That is the most idiotic bit of sophistry we have ever heard! If no one ever calls the foul, how will the players ever learn? Pay no attention to such "old referees' tales."

We might add that this is one of those calls that you need to be sure about and, particularly, that it made a difference in the run of play (i. e., the keeper took second possession in order to prevent an opponent from challenging for the ball).

Second question:
There are no politics involved here. The NFHS and the NCAA (not NISOA, which is simply a referee organization) do not belong to the U. S. Soccer Federation and are thus not bound by the Laws of the Game, the rules the rest of the world plays by.


I am grade 8 referee with about a years experience. I am getting progressively assigned to more competitive games. As a result I am seeing things/tactics I have not been exposed to and was wondering how to handle them. I was recently the center referee on a U14 competitive girls game where one team had a tactic of a quick, light pull on the sleeve of the player they were defending if they got beat. It did not seem to affect the direction or speed of the offensive player so I dismissed it as trivial. However, the girls started to get irritated by this tactic and were bringing this to my attention. I called a few fouls on different players but the tactic did not stop. The team that was the recipient of this tactic was also winning handily so I just let it go. Looking back at this I think these were tactical fouls and I should have cautioned players. How should this tactic have been handled? Call a foul the first time and tell the team that if it happens again the player will be cautioned?

Caution the player the first time it happens? What happens when the player cautioned quits the tactic but the other players on the team continue? Would you caution the other players as they commit the tactical foul as well? What would you do if other players continue this tactic until they were cautioned? I like to reflect on or analyze my games to see what I could do better so I can continue to improve so feedback would be appreciated. Thanks

Answer (September 7, 2010):
Depending on the age/skill level, warn the first (and possibly the second) time this holding occurs with younger/less-skilled teams, but call the foul (or apply the advantage) immediately with older, more skilled players. If the tactic continues after you have called the holding foul, caution that player for persistent infringement. Do not permit this or any other delaying or harassing tactic to continue without acting decisively to rein it in.


Last night [a local official] instructed our officials that the sand bags out at [a local park] which anchor the goals are not sufficient. Since these are the same sand bags used for Regionals, I am certain they would not have been used if they were not acceptable. Can you please clarify?

Answer (September 6, 2010):
As we stated on March 15, 2006, this is a matter of player safety. There is no reason to look beyond Law 1. In describing the field and its appurtenances, Law 1 tells us, under "Goals": "Goals must be anchored securely to the ground. Portable goals may only be used if they satisfy this requirement." Using sand bags is one way of doing this, but even they present some danger. The decision can be made only by the referee on the spot.


I met a USSF Grade 8 referee this weekend who was on a field next to the one was refereeing on. I noticed that he had a flag sewn to the sleeve of his uniform. Two part question:

Is this legal, and if so, how would we know (where in the documentation does this exist)?

This particular referee is English and the flag on his uniform was the Union Jack. Is this legal? Why/why not?

Answer (September 1, 2010):
If the referee chooses to wear it, the USA flag patch is to be worn on the left sleeve, between elbow and shoulder.

The wearing of the USA flag path was originally permitted as a reminder of 9/11 and is still allowed. There is no basis for a person registered with the U. S. Soccer Federation to be wearing the Union Flag or any other nation's flag on his uniform, no matter what his nationality.


I am currently a coach, parent, and member of our local soccer club board of directors. I have been around soccer most of my life. Our local youth premier league had their opening weekend recently, and I saw 4 occasions of what I would I thought was a strange call. This happened in U11 girls, U13 girls, U11 boys, and U12 boys.

The call as stated by the referee in all occasions was simply "last defender" One coach asked the referee what this meant, and was not answered beyond those words. The call incurred a yellow card in each case.

The first instance was in U11 boys. One of our defenders was playing catch up with a break away, and was just about to gain the goal side on the other player. The other player tried to take a quick shot, and kicked the turf and went tumbling. No contact happened, but I chalked it up to a center ref not leaving the center circle.

The second instance was in the U12 boys game. This time our player was making a run on the goal, and the opposing defender made a perfect tackle on the ball. Surprisingly there was no body contact, or slide involved. It was just a good solid tackle of the ball. The kind of defensive save that makes you cheer even when it prevented your team from scoring. The referee was at a very good vantage point to make this call.

The third was in U11 girls game. This time the defender was containing the girl nicely. Had per pressed to the outside, making a shot difficult at best. The girl took a sweeping kick, and the defender made her tackle on the ball at this time. The ball shoots out along the goal line.

The fourth instance was in the U13 girls game, and the offensive player came from the corner into the penalty area, and tried to make a move past the defender. Her move took her straight into the stationary defender, and she fell.

In all these case the ruling of the referee was "last defender", and a yellow card was issued. It appears that in our league this year, it is illegal to be the last defender, but I was wondering if there were a better explanation for these calls.

Answer (September 1, 2010):
We see two possibilities here for the totally non-standard term "last defender."

1.It could possibly have been the referee's way of saying that the player who was cautioned had committed what used to be called a "professional foul," usually committed as a last resort to stop a promising attack.

2. Or, this was a foul committed by a defender against an attacker under circumstances in which all the elements (the "4 Ds") of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity have been met, in particular including the number of defenders where the referee has judged that there was only one or no defender between the location of the foul and the goal, not counting the defender who committed the offense. Of course, given this, the card should have been red, not yellow.

We are aware of no possibilities beyond these and can only say that some referees, just like some coaches, are very inventive.


During the Concacaf Champions League game between Santos Laguna and the Columbus Crew on Tuesday August 24th a goal for the Crew was disallowed. Renteria, the Crew player who assisted on the goal, was not wearing a jersey with name or number, having had to change it due to the presence of blood. After treatment he was waved onto the field at least twice by the center referee which is clear from replays and the fourth official made no attempt to stop him from entering the field. The goal is scored almost immediately. It is only then that the coaching staff of Santos besiege the fourth official (who is Mexican as well). After a conference between the center and the fourth the goal is disallowed, Renteria is cautioned and has to come off to change his jersey. restart is a goal kick.

Answer (September 1, 2010):
Your description of the situation seems to suggest that the game was stopped because the player had no numbers or name on his shirt, not because he entered the game without the referee's permission. That is a matter regarding the rules of competition, not the Laws of the Game and interpretations thereof, and thus falls outside our competence to answer.


alright so first question is about the penalty box and penalties committed by the defending team. is there such thing as an indirect free kick in the box and if so is it taken from the spot of the foul? what is done then about moving players ten yards away if its within 10 yards of the goal? hand ball fouls, is there a difference between intentional and unintentional as pertaining to penalties, beside a obvious handball being a cardable foul?

and this is half question half opinion, it seems to me fouls that could be called direct penalties and then fall under a penalty kick restart aren't all goal scoring opportunities. Is there any way of dealing with these types of fouls besides awarding a penalty? and in my opinion it seems more just that they award a corner much like field hockey's penalty corners. just doesn't make sense to award a player who had his back to goal on the edge of the area near the endline should receive a pk for being fouled in a non scoring opportunity.

thanks for clearing everything up.

Answer (September 1, 2010):
1. Yes, the referee may award an indirect free kick (IFK) to the attacking team in the defending team's penalty area. That would be done for any infringement punishable by an IFK.

If the IFK is to be taken from closer than 10 yards to the goal line, the defending team may stand on the goal line.

There is no such thing as an "unintentional hand ball." Handling is either deliberate or it does not exist.

2. Sorry, life is very hard and the Laws of the Game are quite explicit. A penal foul (direct free kick/DFK foul) is a DFK foul, no matter where it occurs, unless it is in the penalty area. In that case, if it was committed by the defending team, it becomes a penalty kick. There is no connection between most penalty kicks and a goalscoring opportunity.


I have been refereeing since I was 11 years old and have been to many Regional and ODP events. This is my 4th year of refereeing. I was curious if there is a way around the minimum age requirement on the Grade 7 Referee Status. You must be 17 to become this grade, but is there a way to get this age requirement disregarded if s

Answer (August 31, 2010):
The requirements for upgrade are set by the U.S. Soccer Federation Board of Directors or the U.S. Soccer Referee Committee. They are the only bodies that can make this change. Consult your state association for advice on this.

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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