US SoccerUS Soccer

Ask A Referee Update: June 28, 2010


I have a NON-controversial World Cup Referee question! My mom asks me this every World Cup. You have a team from Asia playing a team from Africa with a ref from South America. When the ref calls players over to talk / scold, how do they communicate?

Answer (June 28, 2010):
Thank goodness for non-controversial questions!

English is generally recognized as the most-used language in the world for transactions between non-native English speakers who do not speak the other person's language. All FIFA referees are required to be proficient in English. Of course, that does not apply to players, so the conversations are likely conducted with sign language (as we have seen) or in "Globish," some variation of English that is generally understandable by both sides.


A hypothetical question arose at our USYSA State Cup this weekend. Suppose two teams from the same club have advanced through their brackets to the state championship game, and are scheduled to play each other in the final. One team (the 'A' team from the club) has already qualified for Regionals via a regional league play-in, but the other team (the 'B' team) has not. If the club's coaches want the 'B' team to advance to Regionals as well, is instructing the 'A' team to allow the other team to score on them for an easy win something the referee has the authority to act upon (presumably, by warning and/or dismissing the coach(es) of the 'A' team for bringing the game into disrepute)? Your answer of September 7, 2006 indicates that deliberately kicking the ball into one's own goal is an example of bringing the game into disrepute (for which a player should be cautioned), yet your answer of October 2, 2008 makes reference to the rules of competition (as far as tournament standings and advancement) not being the referee's problem.

Obviously, the club could just "forfeit" their better team by not showing up, thereby advancing the lesser team. But if the coaching staff decides to play the match as a farce, is it the referee's issue to deal with? Or the competition authority?

Answer (June 21, 2010):
You would seem to have missed an answer from 2002 that states exactly what was in the IFAB Q&A of 1996 and 2000, as well as 2004, 2005, and 2006. Although it is no longer included in the Laws of the Game, the following answer from the IFAB Q&A 2006 remains valid:

Law 5:
13. How should a referee react if, during the course of a match, he realizes that one of the teams is deliberately trying to lose? Should he draw the attention of the team in question to the fact that if they continue to play in that way, he will terminate the game in accordance with the provisions of Law 5?

The referee has no right to stop the match in this case. END OF QUOTE

That, of course, does not prevent the referee from including in the game report any information he (or she) hears or learns of before, during, or after the game that substantiates collusion to "fix" a game.


In the on-line comments that I read concerning the controversial call that denied the United States a third goal in the US -- Slovenia World Cup game, I found the following statement:

"Q. A game has been abandoned because of severe weather conditions. During the game, a player was sent off and received a red card for serious foul play. The rules of the competition specify that the game must be replayed in full on the following day. In other words, it is not to be a continuation of the abandoned game. May the player who was sent off participate in this game? How many players may his team use?

"A. Because the game will be replayed in full at a later date, both teams may start with the maximum allowable number of players, plus the number of substitutes prescribed by the rules of the competition. The player who was sent off in the abandoned game may not participate in the game, nor may he be included in the roster of players and nominated substitutes for the game."


In an NPSL match, as the match went on and became more contentious, the assistant coach as well as several substitutes began standing in the technical area, occasionally making dissenting remarks.

One comment by an assessor was to allow only one team official to stand at a time.

Is there any USSF requirement that players or coaches remain seated?

As a fourth official, can I demand that the players or coaches remain seated?

Answer (June 17, 2010):
The competition rules of [the former indoor league] NPSL do nor require team officials to stand one at a time, nor that they remain seated. The same applies to the published USSF indoor rules, probably because most facilities don't always even have seats in the benches.

However, if the teams were playing outdoor soccer, the Law does require that only one team official at a time be standing in the technical area. [Note: This league is an outdoor league.]


I am reading many of your archives with much delight; I came across one in particular (Infringement by Kicker at Penalty Kick - Feb. 2010). You indicated that feinting of penalty kicks was going to be a topic of discussion at the IFAB meeting in March, 2010. I am curious, was there any further clarification or changes that came out of this meeting?

Answer (June 10, 2010):
Yes, there was further clarification, with good news for referees and bad news for crafty players. Here's a quote from the Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees (in the back of the Law book):
Feinting at the run-up to take a penalty kick to confuse opponents is permitted as part of football. However, feinting to kick the ball once the player has completed his run-up is considered an infringement of Law 14 and an act of unsporting behavior for which the player must be cautioned.

And see this text in the Memorandum on Law Changes 2010 published by USSF:
USSF Advice to Referees: Players may feint during the run to the ball (so long as this does not involve, in the opinion of the referee, excessive changes in direction or similar delays in the taking of the kick) but feinting actions once the run to the ball is complete are now to be considered a violation of Law 14 by the kicker. This would include clearly stopping and waiting for a reaction by the goalkeeper before taking the kick or any similar clear hesitation after the run to the ball is complete and before kicking the ball into play. In other words, once the kicker has reached the ball, the kick must be taken without hesitation or delay. In most cases, the referee should allow the kick to proceed and then decide on the appropriate action to take based on the outcome of the kick: if the ball went into the net, the goal is canceled and the kick retaken; if the ball did not go into the net, an indirect free kick is given to the opposing team where the violation occurred. In either case, before play is restarted, the kicker must be cautioned for unsporting behavior.


The Laws define the terms "careless, reckless and with excessive force" for penal offenses:
1. Kicks or attempts to kick an opponent.
2. Trips or attempts to trip an opponent.
3. Jumps at an opponent.
4. Charges an opponent.
5. Strikes or attempts to strike an opponent.
6. Pushes an opponent
7. Tackles an opponent.

This makes it much easier for Referees to gauge the respective punishment when the force reaches a certain level. However, is it possible to do any of the above without a foul actually being called since it was neither careless, reckless, nor with excessive force?

A defender and attacker are running full speed, side-by-side shoulder-to-shoulder and stride-for-stride. The defender makes a cut and to make the cut he extends his leg outside his normal gait. The attacker's leg clips the defender's leg and the attacker goes down like a sack of potatoes. There is nothing to be considered careless, reckless or with excessive force. The referee considers the tripping to be unintentional and accidental and allows play to continue. But who on the field is going to accept that when the defender wins the ball? The attacking team is going to be irate and the defending team is going to think that they got away with one. The offense is "Trips or attempts to trip an opponent". A trip is a trip, intentional or not. Should the referee call a tripping foul? Or does the brave referee make the non-call with the comfort in knowing that he's the only one on the field that knows he's right?

Answer (June 10, 2010):
You might wish to search through the archives to find this answer (only an excerpt given here) of April 15, 2010. It should answer all your questions on this matter.

"Careless" indicates that the player has not exercised due caution in making a play.

"Reckless" means that the player has made unnatural movements designed to intimidate an opponent or to gain an unfair advantage.

"Involving excessive force" means that the player has far exceeded the use of force necessary to make a fair play for the ball and has placed the opponent in considerable danger of bodily harm.

If the foul was careless, simply a miscalculation of strength or a stretch of judgment by the player who committed it, then it is a normal foul, requiring only a direct free kick (and possibly a stern talking-to). If the foul was reckless, clearly outside the norm for fair play, then the referee must award the direct free kick and also caution the player for unsporting behavior, showing the yellow card. If the foul involved the use of excessive force, totally beyond the bounds of normal play, then the referee must send off the player for serious foul play or violent conduct, show the red card, and award the direct free kick to the opposing team.

And it is worth repeating -- yet again -- that the occurrence of contact between players does not necessarily mean that a foul was committed. Contact occurs and it is accepted and welcomed, as long as it is accomplished legally -- and that includes most accidental contact.

And the referee can very effectively reinforce his or her conviction that no foul has occurred by shouting out "No foul!" Never leave doubt in the minds of the players as to your comfort with your decision.

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).

Submit your questions via e-mail to