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Ask a Referee Update: Oct. 10, 2010


At a U19 top level premier game one of the players had only one arm. His other arm was a "stump" extending approximately to just above his elbow. The issue was that this player due to his disability had a distinctive advantage on the throw-ins particularly in the attacking third. This player was quite athletic, and had developed the ability with one arm to throw the ball with accuracy from one touch line to the far end of the Penalty area extending out from the far post. Effectively with his one armed throw-in technique, the team had the equivalent of a direct kick or corner kick on any throw-in. This player was a very skilled field player, but was able to throw the ball in 50-100% farther than any other player with two hands over the head.

How should a referee, or AR deal with a potential disability issue like this which the team was exploiting his physical characteristics to gain a goal scoring opportunity on every throw-in in the attacking 1/3?

Answer (October 7, 2010):
The following excerpt from the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game" may prove helpful.

A throw-in must be performed while the thrower is facing the field, but the ball may be thrown into the field in any direction. Law 15 states that the thrower "delivers the ball from behind and over his head." This phrase does not mean that the ball must leave the hands from an overhead position. A natural throwing movement starting from behind and over the head will usually result in the ball leaving the hands when they are in front of the vertical plane of the body. The throwing movement must be continued to the point of release. A throw-in directed straight downward (often referred to as a "spike") has traditionally been regarded as not correctly performed; if, in the opinion of the referee such a throw-in was incorrectly performed, the restart should be awarded to the opposing team. There is no requirement in Law 15 prohibiting spin or rotational movement. Referees must judge the correctness of the throw-in solely on the basis of Law 15. The acrobatic or "flip" throw-in is not by itself an infringement so long as it is performed in a manner which meets the requirements of Law 15.

A player who lacks the normal use of one or both hands may nevertheless perform a legal throw-in provided the ball is delivered over the head and provided all other requirements of Law 15 are observed.

NOTE: If the one-armed thrower you describe does not fulfill the requirements of Law 15, then his throw-ins are not legal. In addition, some two-armed players can also throw in the ball to prodigious distances.


Hi! I am a grade nine referee.I have a question concerning u8 soccer, I believe the rule is that a goalie is not allowed to punt the ball over the half line, correct? But in the case that this did happen, what would the correct call be, and where would a kick take place?

Answer (October 4, 2010):
Unless the rules of the competition specify otherwise -- see, for example, the USYSA rules for small-sided soccer -- a goalkeeper may either kick or throw the ball directly into the other team's goal.

US Youth Soccer Official Under 10 and Under 12 Playing Recommendations notes under Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct: Conform to FIFA with the exception that an indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team at the center spot on the halfway line if a goalkeeper punts or drop-kicks the ball IN THE AIR into the opponents' penalty area. (Emphasis added.) This still allows the goalkeeper's distribution for the ball to be punted the entire length of the field; it just cannot go directly into the opponents' penalty area.

There is currently no rule against the goalkeeper throwing the ball the length of the field and scoring.

It could be that your local rules say what you tell us, but we suggest you check with the local authorities to be certain.


I have understood that an AR (in a standard diagonal) should carry the flag in his or her left hand to be closer to and more visible to the referee, then transferring it below the waist to make one of the many right-handed signals. (With the exception that when running towards mid-field while not side-stepping, the flag should be in the right hand, again so it is more visible to the referee.)

I have heard rumblings of a limited change to that procedure by which the AR would carry the flag in the right hand when moving side to side alongside the penalty area. The rationale, I understand, being that more signals are made with the right hand so the signal can be made more quickly.

So my question is which the current proper procedure is -- or is either one acceptable?

Answer (October 4, 2010):
There is no directive requiring the method you suggest. However, we can offer some advice on the matter.

First, if the referee directs the AR to follow this mechanic, then do it because it is just a mechanic and therefore an assessor, asking the AR why he was doing this, would (reluctantly) accept the "Nuremburg defense" (i. e., "he told me to do it" -- "he" being a person in a position of authority), but then the assessor would proceed to grill the referee.

Second, it is arguably a mechanic which replaces an existing standard procedure and thus is not allowed in the Guide to Procedures (which you can find at this URL:

Third, it is possible that you have misunderstood the emphasis -- namely, that several of the flag signals performed by the AR down that close to the goal line are signals for offside, goal kicks, and corner kicks, and they ARE recommended to be performed with the right hand (although so far only the requirements for pro match referees have insisted on using the right hand). In most of the games we do it doesn't matter that much.

Fourth, the emphasis for the last several years has (rightly) been on "getting it right" and not on "getting it done quickly" so the alleged need for a quick signal is not persuasive.

And finally, this is the sort of thing that needs to be discussed at some length in the pregame conference among the officials on the game.


With time running out in the 2nd half and the home team down by a goal, a corner kick is taken by the home team and the ball bounces off of a player and then a home team player heads it into the goal. The CR signals the goal scored and then blows a long whistle signaling the end of the game.

The home team players celebrate and walks off the field and the visiting players also walk off the field. As the teams get ready to exchange post-game handshake, refs approach both coaches and reverses the last goal as a 'no goal' citing an offside violation against a home team scorer and declares the visiting team as winner by a goal.

Can the refs reverse call(s) or non-call(s) made during the game after officially ending the game? If so, then is there a time limit or restriction on what type of calls or non-calls can be reversed?

Answer (October 4, 2010):
Law 5 (The Referee) tells us:
Decisions of the Referee
The decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play, including whether or not a goal is scored and the result of the match, are final.
The referee may only change a decision on realizing that it is incorrect or, at his discretion, on the advice of an assistant referee or the fourth official, provided that he has not restarted play or TERMINATED THE MATCH. (Emphasis added.)

Since the referee had terminated the match, the goal decision has to stand and the decision to change it was in error (as well as protestable, because the referee "set aside a Law of the Game"). After including full details in the match report and submitting it to the appropriate authorities, all that remains is for the referee to either learn from this or turn in his badge.


I was refereeing a U15 Boys game and I was an Assistant Referee. A situation arose in which "gold" kicked the ball toward "whites" goal. The ball went far to the right, and landed on the goal line still in, but barely. It was on the goal line inside the penalty area and since it was still in bounds, I never signaled goal kick.

I was refereeing a U15 Boys game and I was an Assistant Referee. A situation arose in which "gold" kicked the ball toward "whites" goal. The ball went far to the right, and landed on the goal line still in, but barely. It was on the goal line inside the penalty area and since it was still in bounds, I never signaled goal kick.

However the keeper came over, dribbled the ball back to the 6 yard box, and took what he thought was a goal kick.The keeper kicked it, but it never left the box and gold, the keeper's opponent, shot the ball into the goal. I tucked my flag an ran up the line to signal a goal, but the referee disallowed it thinking it was a goal kick, even though I never signaled for one. This, to me was a pure case of bad communication but is there any way it could have been handled better?


Answer (October 1, 2010):
This was a matter of the referee not paying attention to what you, the AR, were telling him -- that the ball was still in play. Two thoughts occur, both proactive in nature:
* You could have told the goalkeeper that the ball was still in play, loudly enough for others to hear it, or
* You could have kept the referee informed that the ball was still in play by using a supplementary signal, such as the unapproved but widely used one-handed "advantage" signal, to show this. This should have been discussed in the pregame conference. (To quote the Guide to Procedures: "Other signals or methods of communication intended to supplement those described here are permitted only if they do not conflict with established procedures and only if they do not intrude on the game, are not distracting, are limited in number and purpose and are carefully discussed within the officiating team prior to the commencement of the match.")


At a recent referee meeting the presenter insisted rather forcefully that the AR should give hand signals to indicate that the ball is still in play (when the ball runs on or near the touchline in the AR's quadrant) or that there is no offside infraction (for example during a fast break).

Such signals are supposed to be given with the hand that does not hold the flag placed palm up and the elbow bent or not, at the AR pleasure.

My recollection is that this style of signalling went the way of the dodo about 10 years ago, but cannot find a document supporting my position. The best I can find is the "guide to procedure" at, which says (if I read right) something along the lines of "the AR signals with the flag" So, let me ask a multiple-choice question.

Hand-signals by the AR are:
1) requested (must be given at all possible opportunities)
2) recommended (should be given but only when absolutely necessary)
3) tolerated (if the AR cannot keep his hands to himself, better signals are a better choice than other unspeakable things)
4) discouraged (please, don't give hand signals)
5) deprecated (if you give hand signal I will send you back to remedial training)

If you could provide an accessible reference and authority for the reply it will be greatly appreciated.

(BTW: why is the 'guide to procedure' available only in Spanish? is it because English-speaking referees are supposed to already know-it-all? let me assure USSF that is not the case, and I speak from direct experience)

Answer (September 30, 2010):
We are concerned about your query, as the information provided to you is somewhat false. The Guide to Procedures spells out very clearly what the approved signals are. It also, right at the beginning (where some people don't read), states that other signals can be used only if they meet several reasonable requirements: (a) they don't REPLACE any of the mechanics in the Guide, (b) they are not overly demonstrative or attention-grabbing, and (c) they are discussed in the pregame (the presumption is that they are either requested or approved by the referee). This is distinguishable from the issue of non-standard signals given by the referee which, while they must also meet these requirements, are only to be used sparingly as an aid to communication with the players, team officials, and spectators.

The informal and unofficial signal sometimes used by assistant referees to describe a ball that is still in play -- a lowered hand waved at the wrist -- is tolerated and even encouraged, provided that it meets the criteria in the previous paragraph. This same signal is also used by lazy ARs to show that there was no foul or immediate offside.

The Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials is available in English, and the 2010/2011 edition can be found on the website at:

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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