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Ask A Referee Update: May 26, 2010


Elaborating on your question of May 5, regarding Mentor / Assessor actions during a game; may I extend the question to cover Assignors?

I am of the opinion, having done some research, that an Assignor cannot and should not, for example, replace a less-than-adequate AR during the course of a match. To me, this at a minimum interferes with the Referee's authority over his/her crew during the match, and also opens the door to a perception that the officials can be replaced until the hosting organization gets the result that they want.

The context for this is that the ARs and even the Referees are very inexperienced, perhaps working their first few games, and so a reasonable observer could agree that the performance of an AR (or Referee) was, in fact, inadequate. It seems to me that the Assignor (and through him/her, the sponsoring organization) can: change future assignments ... including the next game, provide instruction or mentoring, etc.. But once a game has begun the crew cannot be altered except by the referee who may dismiss an assistant for the reasons cited in the Laws.

And perhaps the Assignor should take additional care in the selection of crews.

I am hoping you could confirm or correct my interpretation. I have administrative responsibilities related to assignors in my state

Answer (May 26, 2010):
Once the match begins, only the referee has the power to relieve an assistant referee or fourth official of his or her duties. No assignor, no referee administrator of any sort or level, no instructor, no assessor or any other person has this right. And if the referee does decide to do without the person being removed, the game must be officiated in line with the guidelines given in the Referee Administrative Handbook -- available for download from and published here many times.


Could you help me settle an on-going discussion within our referee board?

Although the rules of the game and most local leagues are clear on adornments worn by players, there appears to be little ever said about adornments worn by referees. Specifically, earrings. Does US SOCCER or FIFA have any directives on this subject? I seem to remember seeing what I thought was an earring on an English Premier League game referee, or was I mistaken?

Answer (May 26, 2010):
With the exception of the referee's watch (and the possible exception of a wedding band), no referee should wear any adornment that is not permitted for players. In other words, NO JEWELRY.


I am looking for advice on whether a commonly used knee brace may be in violation of Law 4. I'm seeing more and more female players recovering from ACL injuries using a brace similar to the one shown in the attached file. In a game I did yesterday I noticed a brace during checkin. I asked the player and coach if a referee had ever disallowed her from playing because of the brace and the answer was no. At the start of the second half the opposing coach approached me to inquire about the brace. He told me that his players were complaining that they were getting 'bumped' by the brace during close in play. No player approached me with that complaint.

Is such a knee brace considered to be dangerous to players?

Answer (May 26, 2010):
Braces may be worn if they meet the same requirement that must be met for any equipment, that it ensures complete safety for all participants. The final decision rests with the referee for this particular game; not the last game, not the next game, but this game.

In addition, a player wearing an item of clothing or equipment which is not standard but which has been inspected by the referee and found not to be dangerous may still not use the item dangerously during play. If the player in question is using the brace to unfairly augment her abilities or as a weapon, then it may not be worn.


At a recent game, an incident occurred and I wanted to get some clarification on what a referee/coach mentor is allowed to do during a game he/she is observing and what other referees who are waiting for their games can verbalize to another referee. I also wanted to get clarification on Law 12 of the game.

Here is what occurred:
My team was on an offensive attack and a cross was delivered into the 6 yd box. One of my players was making a run to the near post to attempt to score a goal. The goalie came off the line and then fumbled the ball and the ball was loose on the ground in front of the goal. My offensive player saw an opportunity to finish a play and proceeded to try to score. The goalie then bent over and to the left to recover the bouncing ball and moved into the path of the oncoming offensive player. The offensive player attempted to twist away from the goalie that was now in the path. The goalie grabbed the ball and immediately proceeded to get in the upright position and collided with the oncoming offensive player. The collision between the two players caused the goalie to go to the ground and the oncoming player was spun around and landed upright facing in the opposite direction. The referee came and showed the yellow card to the offensive player.

After the initial call, the center referee went to the sidelines where the center proceeded to speak to the AR and another person on the sidelines who was not part of the 4 man crew. After several minutes of discussion among them, the center showed the red card to the offensive player for a sendoff.

After the game, I asked who the referee spoke to on the sidelines, as it was a person not in referee attire and not part of the 4 man crew. I was told that it was the referee mentor that the center was speaking to. Several days after, I found out that it was actually just another referee awaiting a game that was involved in a discussion with the center and the AR. The other AR and the 4th official were not involved in the discussion.

My first question is this, is the referee mentor or another referee allowed to give input in a game that they are not officiating? Does the referee mentor have the capacity to give advise in regards to a specific incident during a game and help the center referee determine what call to make? Can a referee who is not part of the 4 man crew render advice that potentially alters the call of the center referee?

Second, the player was sent off for violent conduct. In reading the FIFA Law 12 in regards to violent conduct, I highlighted a statement that I felt was misapplied at the time of the send-off. It clearly states that violent conduct is when an opponent is not challenging for the ball. In the incident that occurred, the ball was loose and therefore the goalie did not have clear possession of the ball. The offensive player was challenging for the ball. The collision resulted due to the fact that the goalie moved into the path of the oncoming player to recover a dropped ball. In reading Law 12 in regards to the verbage of violent conduct, my player should not have received this send-off. Am I reading this Law correctly and was it misapplied in regards to this incident? A player is guilty of violent conduct if he uses excessive force or brutality against an opponent when not challenging for the ball.

Violent conduct may occur either on the field of play or outside its boundaries, whether the ball is in play or not.

He is also guilty of violent conduct if he uses excessive force or brutality against a team-mate, spectator, match official or any other person.

I would appreciate any clarity you can give.

Answer (May 25, 2010):
First question: Mentors (and assessors) are not allowed to interfere with the referee's management of the game until the game is over. During the game (from the first kick-off until the final whistle), the referee should not consult with or be bothered by anyone other than his or her assistant referees and fourth official, if there is one. No referee, instructor, mentor, assessor, assignor, or administrator who is not assigned as referee or assistant referee or fourth official is allowed to interfere in any way until the game is over. This answer of earlier this month may be of help in that regard:

USSF answer (May 4, 2010):
Unless there is some special rule in your state that does not exist in other states, the mentor (or the assessor) is not allowed to interfere with the referee's handling of the game until after the game has ended; not at a stoppage, not at halftime. He or she cannot intervene to make the referee change a call or take back a card or anything else. That sort of thing is done in the postgame conference.

However, the mentor (but NOT the assessor) could quietly suggest to the nearer assistant referee that the referee might wish to do this a bit differently -- provided that the game has not already been restarted. The AR could then pass this information on to the referee.

Second question:
What is of greater concern to us is your perception of the incident in which your attacker was involved with the opposing goalkeeper. As you describe it, we see your player in the aggressor role, bowling over the goalkeeper who was simply doing her job -- protecting her goal. In doing so, your player would seem to have committed serious foul play, not violent conduct, by using excessive force and total disregard for the safety of her opponent, in an attempt to win the ball.

These definitions from the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game," also meant for the reading pleasure of coaches, players, and spectators, may be helpful:

It is serious foul play when a player uses violence (excessive force; formerly defined as "disproportionate and unnecessary strength") when challenging for the ball on the field against an opponent. There can be no serious foul play against a teammate, the referee, an assistant referee, a spectator, etc. The use of violence or excessive force against an opponent under any other conditions must be punished as violent conduct.

It is also serious foul play if a player commits any tackle which endangers the safety of an opponent. In this case, the tackle may be from behind, from the side, or from the front.

This does not include serious misconduct by substitutes, who should be punished for violent conduct if they commit an act as described in the first paragraph of this section. (See 12.34.).

It is violent conduct when a player (or substitute or substituted player) is guilty of aggression towards an opponent (when they are not contesting for the ball) or towards any other person (a teammate, the referee, an assistant referee, a spectator, etc.). The ball can be in or out of play. The aggression can occur either on or off the field of play.

A player is unlikely to be "contesting for the ball" if the player's action against the opponent occurs from behind and with the ball on the opposite side of the opponent or with the ball beyond playing distance.


May AR1 assume the duties of the 4th official vis a vis managing the technical area? Like most leagues in our area a 4th official is not assigned to the officiating crew. I realize the AR's main focus lies elsewhere but there are times when the technical area needs to be managed.

Thank you for your time.

Answer (May 25, 2010):
It is traditional that the senior assistant referee perform the duties now assigned to the fourth official (when a fourth is assigned). In fact, the position of fourth official was created to relieve the beleaguered senior AR of some of his (or her) burden of duties.

However, all fourth official duties (as with all other duties assigned to the AR in Law 6) take second place to the AR's responsibility for assisting with offside decisions.

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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