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October 2007 Archive (I of II)


There was a situation in a game that I witnessed today that raised some concern.

Team B had scored a goal. At this point they were losing 5-2. Team A , (ahead), recovered the ball in order to kick off and restart the game. As the player from Team A was carrying the ball back to the center without unnecessary delay, a player from Team B punched at the ball in order to dislodge it from the player on Team A. The player from Team A was able to retain possession of the ball and continued to advance toward the center of the field. The player from Team B at this time punched the player from Team A in the arm, again attempting to dislodge the ball.

No fouls were called.

Two questions come up, does the team against whom the goal was scored have the right to advance the ball back to center, as long as it is done without delay of the game? Who legally has possession of the ball after the goal is scored. Obviously the player who threw the punch is in gross misconduct of the laws of the game and should have been sent off, but was not. Only wondering about who can legally advance the ball back to kick off.

Answer (October 9, 2007):
The reason no "fouls" were called during the movement of the ball back to the center of the field is that no foul may be committed when play has already been stopped.

After the referee has stopped play for the goal, the ball, although "dead" until play is restarted with a kick-off, does belong to the team against which the goal was scored. Traditionally the ball is carried back to the center spot by the team against which the goal was scored (Team A). A player who provokes confrontation by deliberately touching the ball after the referee has stopped play may be cautioned for delaying the restart of play. (See the Additional Instructions and Guidelines for Referees in the back of the Laws of the Game 2007/2008.) This would be the case of the player from the scoring team (B) who was interfering with the Team A player carrying the ball to the center of the field.

The team which has possession (A) may "allow" the opposing team to hold/transfer/carry/etc. the ball by acceding to the action (i.e., not disputing it). However, the opposing team does this at its peril. In the incident cited, Team B, perhaps believing that A was moving too slowly to carry the ball back to the center circle for the kick-off, tried to take the ball that "belonged" to Team A. Team B has no right at any time to request that the ball be given over to it (including such childish behavior as attempting to punch the ball out of the Team A player's control, and even less to punch the opponent's arm directly).

The Team B player should have been cautioned for delaying the restart of play when he/she initially tried to take the ball away from Team A. If this had occurred, perhaps the subsequent punch by B would have been avoided. If the two actions happened so closely together that the referee had no time to issue the caution, then the Team B player should have been sent off for violent conduct and the attempt to delay the restart included in the match report as additional misconduct.



I was recently refereeing a recreational U14 Coed game as an AR. A player during the course of play stepped completely over the touch line and kicked a ball that was still in play. The center referee blew his whistle and called for a throw in, not because the ball had passed completely over the touch line but because the player had left the field of play to prevent the ball from crossing the touch line. I had a discussion with the center referee in which I contended that a player was allowed to step completely beyond the touch line in the course of play. The laws of the game seem pretty clear that a throw in is only called when the ball completely passes the plane of the outside of the touch line.

Who is correct? Are there any rules that prohibits a player from temporary leaving the field during the course of play?

Answer (October 9, 2007):
The referee may not stop the game to award a throw-in until the ball has left the field completely. If the ball had not left the field when the player touched it, then this was a referee error.

As to the act of leaving the field to play the ball, we answered that question as far back as 2001, but it is worth answering it again, just so everyone is aware of it. See the just-published 2007 edition of the USSF publication "Advise to Referees on the Laws of the Game, section 3.9, which says:
If a player accidentally passes over one of the boundary lines of the field of play or if a player in possession of or contesting for the ball passes over the touch line or the goal line without the ball to beat an opponent, he or she is not considered to have left the field of play without the permission of the referee. This player does not need the referee's permission to return to the field.

Those are the only cases in which a player would normally leave the field without the referee's permission and live to play again. There might be others, but those would be at the discretion of the referee.

Your referee would seem not to have read any edition of the Advice (1998, 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2006), much less the new one.



What does the phrase, "home-and-away tie has been drawn" mean? And what is the "Away goals rule?"

Answer (October 9, 2007):
1. The word "tie" is what is confusing you. In British English, the word "tie," as used in soccer, means a match between teams, while the word "draw" means that a game has ended up "tied" in the American English sense of both teams having the same score. A "home-and--away tie" is an arrangement whereby one game is played at the home of Team A and the second game in the "tie" is played at the home of Team B. If this tie is "drawn," then the rules of the competition may call for a tie-breaker procedure. That is where kicks from the penalty mark come in.

2. "Away goals" are those scored when the team is playing at the opponents' field. Many competitions that require a winner of the game (or two games) count one away goal as worth two if the teams are tied/drawn in the sum of the scores of the "home-and-away tie.



If a match is forfeited, how is the result posted and who if anyone gets credit for the goal or result? thanks

Answer (October 3, 2007):
Not sure what you mean by "posted," but the competition authority (the people who run the league or cup, etc.) sets the number of goals awarded. No player gets credit for any of the goals awarded by the competition authority.



Setup: I was A/R, flagged an "offside" infraction, referee didn't see my flag, ball went on down the field toward defender's goal. I kept holding my flag up like a good, little soldier. Another defender came in, got the ball, and was fouled( yellow card issued). I still held my flag. Referee (his back to me, in far quadrant) made note of infraction on his paper, signaled start of play, ball moved down the field, and play was off and running. I finally dropped my flag as the blood was draining and making me light headed.

My opposite A/R never echoed my signal - which might have helped, granted. And I was surprised that not one player or coach hollered, "look at your A/R" (which might have help also). But the fact is that since the offside penalty should have stopped play and there was a subsequent yellow card given, it would seem that the yellow card was negated (or should have been negated) because of the foul. (but, since the referee didn't call it, then I guess it wasn't a foul after all - sort of like, "if a tree falls the words and no one hears it" scenario)

Question is this: how long does an A/R actually hold his/her flag? Play did technically go in favor of the defenders (as it should with an offside call. If a referee ignores the A/R's signal, and subsequent fouls occur (in this case, a yellow card issued), is there anything an A/R should do to bring attention to this? (and yes, I am a firm believer in the adage that an A/R is there to assist, not insist - I'm just looking for advice on how to handle situations like this if it comes up again)

Answer (October 2, 2007):
You would appear to have broken one of the prime commandments of the assistant referee by INsisting on a call rather than ASsisting. No matter that the other AR did not mirror your flag and the referee ignored it totally, the AR does not hold the flag up until his/her arm drains of blood, except in three situations:
1. OFFSIDE . . ., but ONLY if the attacking team still in possession
2. Ball out of bounds and comes back on the field
3. Violent conduct that the referee did not see

You will find the following information in the 2007 edition of the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game," now available for purchase on the website:
If the assistant referee signals a ball out of play, but the referee does not see the signal for an extended period, during which play is stopped and restarted several times, the assistant referee should lower the flag. The FIFA Referee Committee has declared that it is impossible for the referee to act on the assistant referee's signal after so much play. If the referee misses the assistant referee's signal for offside, the assistant referee should stand at attention with the flag raised until the defending team gains clear possession or until a goal kick or throw-in is awarded to the defending team. To avoid such situations, the referee should make eye contact with the assistant referees as often as possible. In addition, the assistant referees must be alert for and mirror each other's signals if needed to assist the referee.

The assistant referee should maintain a signal if a serious foul or misconduct is committed out of the referee's sight or when a goal has been scored illegally. The referee should cover this situation during the pregame conference with the assistant referees.

So, in line with the last paragraph of the quote, what were the referee's pregame instructions? (A) There weren't any at all (bad ref, no donut), (B) there were instructions which the AR followed to no avail (also bad ref), or (C) there were instructions and the AR didn't follow them (no donut for the AR).

Resolve this problem and the bad situation goes away.



Today I was playing in a game it was roughly the 50th minute. I had been in my opinion fouled outside the box I was minorly injured on the play so I stayed down for a few seconds then the ref came over to me as I was trying to get up and resume play he told me "You should pull your shinguards up" in an agressive tone as I was trying to get up and keep playing I told him to "Shut Up" and I was immediatley shown the red card and I had had no previous infringement the rest of the game prior to that. What would be the referee's correct action?

Answer (October 2, 2007):
This is a trick question, right? You are pulling our leg on this one, right?

Let's get two things straight from the start: (1) The only opinion that counts in this game is that of the referee. If he believed that you had been fouled, he would likely have called it. In this case he chose not to believe that. (2) The referee's primary job in the game is to protect the players, especially from physical injury, but in some cases also from psychological injury. It would seem that the referee discerned that you were suffering from a temporary mental problem and he chose to remind you that your health comes first.

As to the punishment: What you did is called using "offensive or insulting or abusive language and/or gestures," and it is indeed a send-off offense. By your attitude, from which he was trying to protect you in the first place, you forced him to send you off. Please remember this in the future.



I recently received an assessment from a national assessor on a U-16 Division 2 game. I had called a foul in the penalty area against the defender, which called for a PK. The assessor said the call was correct; however, he said I was too far from the play to effectively "sell" the call if I had needed to. I was around the 35 yard line and the foul was just inside the penalty area about the 17.

My question is this...what distance should you strive for from the ball (accepting the fact that transitions and other situations sometimes make the ideal distance impossible)?

Answer (September 27, 2007):
We hope that you misunderstood the national assessor's comment. As you are a first-year referee, he may have been suggesting that being closer to all action would help you sell your calls better.

Positioning is critical when making calls in the attacking third of the field. Position is determined by having the best viewing angle of the challenge. Being between 10 and 15 yards from play without interfering with players space is optimal. In the case of your call, if you were certain that the foul occurred within the penalty area (and your assistant referee did not suggest otherwise), then the decision to award a penalty kick was correct.



I am hoping that you can clarify an issue for me: Impeding the progress of an opponent is noted in Law 12 as a foul awarded an IFK. In the 'Additional Instruction for Referees . . .' in the back of the Laws of the Game (p61 of the USSF 2006/2007 edition) under the heading of 'Screening the Ball' it is noted that a DFK is awarded if a player prevents an opponent from challenging for the ball by illegal use of the hands, arms, legs or body. I am confused what the distinction would be between a 'impeding' call (IFK) and the 'illegal screening' call (DFK). Can you help?

Answer (September 27, 2007):
There is no difference at all. "Illegal screening" and "impeding" are one and the same thing. are referring to a player who holds an opponent. Holding can be done with the arms, legs, or body.

Under normal circumstances, "impeding" means that there was no physical contact. When physical contact occurs, which is what the "Additional Instructions" meant when it referred to "illegal use of the hands, arms, legs or body," the foul has been converted into "holding" and is punished with a direct free kick. The Additional Instructions of 2006/2007 are now outdated, by the way, by the 2007/2008 Laws of the Game.



I have a question regarding Law 4, specifically as it pertains to shinguards. It is probably easiest to present a scenario and ask for your response. For example, a player places socks on, shinguards placed on over socks, sock pulled down completely over shinguards and tucked into the shoes. This seems to me that, assuming the shinguards are constructed of a suitable material, and covered entirely by stockings and still provide a reasonable degree of protection this would indeed comply with law 4 of the FIFA Laws of the Game. I would appreciate any further clarification of this rule. Thanks for your time and attention to this matter.

Answer (September 27, 2007):
As you describe it, the shinguards are not covered by the socks within the meaning of the Law. They must be placed totally beneath the socks to comply with Law 4.



The following situation has been a subject of debate among a few of us here in [our state]: At the kickoff, a player rests his foot on top of the ball and rolls it forward, but then without lifting his boot from the ball rolls it backward to a team-mate behind. The question is whether this is a valid restart. On the one hand, the ball is in play because it has been touched and moves forward into the opponents' half, and is not played twice because the ball was never released. On the other hand, the ball changes direction 180 degrees, as it would do with a second touch, thus violating the spirit of the law.

This has been happening with more frequency here in amateur league games. The first time I saw it I made the players restart and told them to forget about the 'trickery'. I'm not sure this was correct, but it was accepted. I then brought it up in a group of very senior referees, including a national referee of longstanding. Basically everyone stood around scratching their heads, so we agreed it should be presented to you for your opinion. As a final note, on Sunday, a kickoff was taken as above, but instead of releasing the ball backwards, the player, again without releasing it, or in any other way making a second touch, brought the ball forward again into the opponents' half (thus, I suppose, complying with the spirit of the law as well as the letter, so I let it go).

It's probably not a big deal, but we would appreciate some guidance.

Answer (September 27, 2007):
While the procedure you describe, rolling the ball forward, etc., is not what we would allow on a free kick (see below) and certainly not what is required by Law 8, it is commonly accepted practice for kick-offs at all levels of soccer. We have seen it allowed even at the current Women's World Cup in China and in other high-level competitions throughout the world.

The kick-off, like the throw-in, is simply a way to get the game restarted when the ball has left the field. It is, and should be, regarded as a relaxed and less tense way of doing so. We allow trifling infringements of Law 15 in this regard, and we should do the same in the case of the kick-off.

What you describe does not meet the requirements of Law 8 for a kick-off. As always, however, the issue is indeed whether the action is a violation (it is), but we must consider whether the violation should/must/needs to be handled by a stoppage and a retake of the restart. Unless the player performing the kick-off incorrectly gains some unfair benefit, we are inclined to consider the violation trifling (on par with a teammate illegally standing just over the midfield line on a kick-off to "receive" the ball). As it occurs at the very highest levels on a routine basis, you might, at most, warn the kicker that what just happened was a technical violation of the Law. However, we would recommend that you consider it trifling and punish it only if the players begin to take even greater advantage of the referee's kindness.

If we are dealing with a free kick, the requirements of Law 13 would apply completely: 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" does not, for example, include an action in which the ball is dragged by continuous contact with the foot. Being "moved" does not, for example, include the ball simply quivering, trembling, or shaking as a result of light contact. 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. In all events, the ball must be put into play properly.


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. Further assistance is provided by 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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