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Ask a Referee Update: June 4, 2011


In indoor soccer, a subsititute dissents after getting a blue card, and a yellow card (2nd blue). The referee issues a red card, does the team play short?

Answer (May 30, 2011):
As we understand it, someone gets a blue card, and then gets a yellow card for misconduct. And then ,separate from the other 2 incidents (later in the game), is judged guilty of dissent as a substitute on the bench. That dissent is a caution, so it's his 3rd card. He gets a red because it's his 3rd card. No, his team does not play short, and nobody serves the 5-minute misconduct in his stead. The documentation on the ejected player should reflect a blue, yellow, yellow, and a red. The red is administratively issued for receiving 3 cards in the same match.

Just FYI, if the sequence is simultaneous, then the answer is different. Same at all levels.


While serving as an AR, I witnessed a flagrant foul in which an attacking player used his cleats to rake the back of a defending player's calf & knee after a ball had been cleared away from the goal. The referee, having turned back up field to follow the developing play, did not see the foul. Of course, I (and the spectators) immediately got the attention of the referee, but as I took my eyes off of the player to make eye-contact with the referee, I lost the offending player in a crowd of players. What really complicated the issue was that both teams had uniforms with numbers only on the back of their jerseys and the offending player was facing me on the far side of the field so I was not able to get his jersey number before he intentionally 'disappeared' into a group of his peers. Obviously, this player should have been sent off and the team should have played short for the remainder of the game, but we didn't know who to send off. The referee made the decision to award the direct kick (and a goal was subsequently scored), but did not send anybody off.

After discussing this incident with other referees after the game, there was a suggestion that, though we didn't know who exactly committed the offense the team should still play short a player so, perhaps, we could have had the coach or team captain pick a player to be sent off and attributed with the foul. Would this have been an acceptable course of action?

Answer (May 30, 2011):
Although it seems unjust, the simple answer is, no, the referee cannot arbitrarily make a team play short under these circumstances. A team may voluntarily play short for as long as it wishes for a variety of reasons, but there is no authority under the Laws of the Game for the referee to enforce such an action except in the specific, limited circumstance of sending off a player from that team and displaying the red card.

Among other things, your loss of focus on the perpetrator (at least based on the description you provided) was due to taking your attention away from the participants in the foul and we trust you now understand that this is not a good idea. As an AR and in the absence of beeper flags, you "get the attention of the referee" by raising your flag and then relying on the AR on the other side of the field to do likewise (called "mirroring" or "cross flagging") if the referee is not looking in your direction. It is one of the responsibilities of the referee to periodically make eye contact with either or both ARs to ensure that, at any given moment, one or the other of them is not trying to communicate a problem, and it is a good idea to discuss such situations in the pregame.


Per Advice dealing with appurtenances, 1.8(c) -pre-existing conditions, specifically overhanging trees. We have several venues that have overhanging tree limbs on one end of the field that happens to behind the goal area/line. If the overhanging tree limbs " do not affect one team or more adversely than the other are considered to be part of the field". There have been two examples where the attacking team has to take a corner kick and the player taking the kick happens to kick it into the overhanging tree limbs, the referee then told the players that the ball is still in play because it did not leave the field of play. In another example, one team who was attacking their opponent's goal had their player take a shot on goal, the ball was going over the cross-bar but for the tree limbs, the ball stopped and dropped in front of their opponent's goalkeeper penalty area and the goal-keeper was able to retrieve the ball, since the ball was still in play, the goalkeeper then was able to punt the ball across the field and their forward was able to score a goal in a matter of seconds. A third example, occurred when the ball was kicked by an attacking team, the goal-keeper was out of position and the ball hit the tree limbs and the ball rolled across the goal-line and underneath the cross bar, thus a goal was scored. In the final example, the attacker took a shot and the ball hit the tree limbs yet the ball was still in play and the team-mate was able to score because the goal-keeper turned one way and the ball fell to the side of him inside of the goal area. In these four examples, how should the referee crew handle these examples. Should they tell the teams ahead of time, should they stop play and do a drop-ball or should the referee say "play-on" and where would play be restarted?

Answer (May 26, 2011):
Advice 1.8(c) is pretty clear and we believe it covers your situations fully::
(c) Pre-existing conditions
These are things on or above the field which are not described in Law 1 but are deemed safe and not generally subject to movement. These include trees overhanging the field, wires running above the field, and covers on sprinkling or draining systems. They do not affect one team more adversely than the other and are considered to be a part of the field. If the ball leaves the field after contact with any item considered under the local ground rules of the field to be a pre-existing condition, the restart is in accordance with the Law, based on which team last played the ball. (Check with the competition for any local ground rules.)

Note: The difference between non-regulation appurtenances and pre-existing conditions is that, if the ball makes contact with something like uprights or crossbar superstructure, it is ruled out of play even if the contact results in the ball remaining on the field. Where there is a pre-existing condition (such as an overhanging tree limb), the ball remains in play even if there is contact, as long as the ball itself remains on the field. Referees must be fully aware of and enforce any rules of the competition authority or field owner regarding non-regulation appurtenances.

There is no bias in this guidance toward one team or the other, as each team must play one-half of the game under these conditions.

As the competition appears to play many games at these fields, it would seem that all teams should already be well aware of the conditions before they get to the field. However, the referee could be proactive and remind the teams of the conditions and that the ball will remain in play.

The only permanent solution we can recommend to avoid such events is that the limbs might be lopped off by a trained tree-removal person (with the permission of the landowner, of course).

Finally, let us add that our advice applies only to those portions of the trees that actually overhang the field; not to other portions of the same tree.


red - attacking
blue - defending
U-18 Classic play
one player from both teams were in a hard (FAIR) challenge for the ball in red's defensive third (where both end up on the ground). The ball, then was played all the way up to red's attacking third (60-70 yards), i kept an eye on the players (once on the ground, now up and trotting up field) as long as i could before turning and sprinting to follow the break-away.
The blue defender was beat, red had only the keeper to beat, while 'juking' the keeper, blue was able to catch up just enough to put a leg in and trip red just before red scored on an empty net. No question that this was a send-off for DGF on the blue player.

I quickly run over and showed the red card to blue and send him off. I am setting up for a PK when i see my lead AR waiving his flag. As I go to him he points to a player on the ground in red's defensive third. As I go over to the player my trail AR signals me that he needs to chat. I make sure the trainer and coach know they may 'take care' of the injured player, and then proceed to the trail AR. He tells me that as soon as i turned to sprint to follow play, words were spoken between the two players from the original hard challenge and that red, after the exchange of words, punched blue in the face. I asked him if this occurred before the goal or after. He said it occurred well before.

this is what i did... and my questions!!
i went to the coaches and explained that play was dead as soon as the 'strike' (VC) occurred; therefore, the blue player that was sent-off no longer was sent off and the card retracted, and that the red player who struck blue would be sent-off. After 'sending back on' blue and sending off red i restarted with a DFK for blue at the site of the punch. Even though i don't think anyone was happy i believe my actions were correct.

Were they, and if not, what are the correct actions. I do know that before a restart a ref can change a caution to a sent off if, in reflection, he deems it necessary, but can he change a red to a yellow or a yellow (AFTER THE CARD HAS BEEN SHOWN, BUT BEFORE THE RESTART) to 'a nothing' just a foul?

Answer (May 26, 2011):
This response is based on the assumption that the trail AR actually signaled at the moment of the infringement and you agreed with the information. (More on that in the final paragraph.)

As long as there has been no intervening restart of play, the violent conduct committed by the red player takes precedence over what has gone on in the other end of the field. The restart for that foul (and serious misconduct) is a direct free kick from the place where the infringement occurred. That leaves you to deal with the action that occurred while you were unaware of the violent conduct in the other half.

There can be no denial of an obvious goalscoring opportunity because the ball was technically out of play (even though you had not called it yet). The blue player is cautioned for unsporting behavior or sent off for violent conduct, according to the nature of the contact. (Yes, if there has been no restart a send-off may be converted to a a caution -- or vice versa.)

Restart is as stated above, a direct free kick for blue where the original violent conduct occurred in the other half of the field.

The problem mentioned at the beginning of the answer is that if the trail AR did not in fact signal for an offense not seen by the referee, but simply tells the referee later, this makes it very difficult to rewind the action back to that point. If the AR signals and the referee agrees with the AR's advice, thus implementing the "sequential fouls" scenario that we talk about in other documents, then all is well.


What happens if the player does not want to go out the field when a substitution is called? Can the ref force the player out? Who has the final say?

Answer (May 26, 2011):
The player cannot be forced to leave the field. He or she might be in trouble with the team, but no one can make him or her leave. As the Law tells us, "play continues."


Two questions about KFTM: 1) What determines which AR will supervise the players in the middle of the field and which will accompany the referee to the goal, and 2) what is the correct action in the following circumstance? Team A wins the toss and chooses to kick 2nd. A player from team A is mistakenly allowed to kick 1st. The coach of team A brings this error to the attention of the referees before a player from team B is sent to the PA for his/her kick.

Answer (May 23, 2011):
1) The decision as to which assistant referee takes charge of the players in the center circle and which AR works along the goal line is up to the referee.

2) This is an error by the referee and AR, who should know which team kicks first. Cancel the goal and begin the kicks in the proper order. The referee should apologize profusely to both teams and must include full details in the match report.


Loose ball in the box in front of Woodbury goal. Referee blows whistle, having seen a handball. The Woodbury goalie hears the whistle, stops playing. A Watertown player shots and scores. Referee allows goal; begins setting up for kickoff. Upon questioning, referee says he allowed advantage to play out. Woodbury argues misblown whistle, so referee waves off goal and conducts penalty kick.

Obviously Watertown now questions awarding and disallowing of goal.

Questions: Is it correct that: 1) if the referee was going to allow advantage to play out, he should have not blown the whistle; 2) if the kick came less than a second or two after the visual on the handball, the ref should have waited to see if the ball went in and whistled the handball only if it had not gone in; 3) if the ref blew the whistle, even though a shot was happening, or about to happen, the correct thing is to award the PK?

Answer (May 23, 2011):
Yes on all counts.


In a recent viral video of a Conway AR high school match shows the center awarding a free kick to Conway and the Conway players setting up. Two players approach the area of the ball as if both are going to initiate the kick with one passing by the ball and then colliding with the other approaching player and both collapse on the ground while a third player initiates the kick. A score resulted.

Question is, has an offence been committed? My input would be yes that it is unsporting behavior in that the collision was set up as a distraction that is staged, much like a player taking an obvious dive after contacting a player of the opposing team. I can't see the trickery rule applying because it only addresses playing the ball back to the keeper and trying to circumvent a law of the game. I believe the goal was awarded. Not that it matters to me being I have no interest or contact with any team in Arkanas. Just discussing it with some current officials on how we would have called it. I am a laspsed official (not one of the choices below)

Answer (May 19, 2011):
Ah, deceit, the mother of legal gamesmanship. The kicking team is allowed to engage in its little bit of deception at almost any restart. Provided that the players who collide don't turn the event into a moaning, groaning, shrieking distraction, this was likely legal. Some playacting is certainly acceptable, but when an event is played to the hilt it could be seen as constituting either (a) exaggerating the seriousness of an injury or (b) the equivalent of shouting at an opponent to distract (either of which would be unsporting behavior). It all depends, of course, on the opinion of the referee, which would be based on how out of the ordinary the actions of these players were.

The Laws of the Game were not written to compensate for the mistakes of players, in this case the defending team that did not continue to pay attention to the subsequent kicker, the runner, and the ball itself.

CAVEAT: Please note that this is a high school game played under NFHS auspices, and not necessarily in accordance with the Laws of the Game. And the referee might be especially cunning and preempt any problems by stopping play for the "injury," which occurred before the ball was in play, have the players attended to, and restart with original free kick.

A video clip of this incident may be seen at this URL:


In a U8 game, players get to redo a throw in if there is an infraction. This player lifted his foot the first time and was given a second chance. On the second chance, the ball never came in. Does he get a THIRD chance or does the other team get the throw in?

Answer (May 18, 2011):
According to the USYS U8 small-sided rules, this is the procedure:
Law 15 The Throw-In: some U8 players do not yet have the eye-hand coordination to execute a throw-in to the letter of the law. However, some U8 players have sufficient eye-hand coordination to attempt the throw-in. One 'do- over' per thrower should be the normal response if the throw-in is incorrect. The adult officiating the match should explain to the child how to execute the throw-in correctly.


The revised format of the Week in Review contains representative video clips and expert description and commentary from Michael Kennedy that is greatly appreciated. This type of approach serves to clarify a variety of game situations and provides explanations of correct decisions based upon the Laws of the Game (LOTG). Michael also invites viewers to submit questions. My question and request for clarification arises from a subject covered in week 7.

The first video clip from week 7 shows a player in an offside position that was not punished for being in that position because he received the ball directly via a throw-in from his teammate. As mentioned in the presentation, Law 11 Offside states "There is no offside offense if a player receives the ball directly from: a goal kick or a throw-in or a corner kick." Additional information on this subject is also provided in the USSF publication, "Offside Made Easy", wherein the offside law is restated and the word "directly" is clarified to mean that no one else touched or played the ball.

Now, suppose that during the execution of a goal kick, throw-in, or corner kick, the ball is deflected off the head of: 1) a teammate, 2) a defender, or 3) both a teammate and defender (difficult to determine if just one) and goes to the player in the offside position. What is the correct decision?

For each of these three cases, please provide the correct decision based upon the LOTG along with any supporting reference in the LOTG or other official written documentation. If there are exceptions to Law 11 as written, please provide the rationale and reference to supporting written documentation (I haven't found any, but there possibly could be--hence this email).

The aforementioned scenarios seem to have varying interpretations of law and resulting decision depending upon who one speaks with-referees, instructors and assessors. We would all probably agree that 1) referees need to make correct decisions based upon the written laws and other official publications that support sound decision making; and 2) official validation and written verification are preferred to unsubstantiated and unsupported individual views.

Answer (May 18, 2011):
In 2001 we ;published a document entitled "Speaking Directly," which covers all these situations. Thank you for encouraging us to publish the article once again.

Speaking Directly
If a "direct" free kick is kicked directly into the opponents' goal, a goal is awarded. (This is not the case with an "indirect" free kick, where a goal cannot be scored if the ball does not touch a second player - which can be the goalkeeper, who is, after all, also a player - before entering the goal.)

That is the primary meaning of "direct"; however, there are references in the Laws of the Game to "direct" or "directly" which do not apply to scoring goals. These references seem to confuse some referees:
- Law 11 states that there is no offside offense if a player receives the ball directly from a goal kick, a throw-in or a corner kick
- throw-in taken by a teammate
- Law 13 and Law 16 declare the ball kicked from within a team's own penalty area to be in play from a free kick or a goal kick only when it leaves the penalty area and goes directly into play
- Laws 16 and 17 tell us that a goal may be scored directly from a goal kick or a corner kick, but only against the opposing team
The use of "directly" in Laws 12, 13, 15, 16, and 17 is fairly clear: if the ball goes from point A to point B without interference, something can or cannot happen. That is not true of the use of "directly" in Law 11. Tradition and custom give us a slightly different meaning of the word "directly" in the context of offside.

If at a goal kick, throw-in, or a corner kick taken by his team, a player receives the ball directly from the restart, there is no problem. Nor should there be any problem at a corner kick, as it is physically impossible for a player on the field of play to be offside directly from a corner kick. The confusion arises at throw-ins or goal kicks when the ball is deflected or misplayed by an opponent and then comes to the teammate of the thrower or kicker who is in an offside position. In such cases, the referee must disregard the deflection or misplay of the ball by the opponent, as there has been no infringement of the Law. However, if the ball were to be deflected or misplayed instead by a teammate of the thrower or kicker on its way to the player in the offside position, that player must be declared offside.


for u8 what is the correct timing ?

Answer (May 13, 2011):
According to the US Youth Soccer rules for small-sided U8 soccer: Law 7 - The Duration of the Match: The match shall be divided into four (4) equal, twelve (12) minute quarters. There shall be a two (2) minute break between quarters one and two and another two (2) minute break between quarters three and four. There shall be a half-time interval of five (5) minutes.


The ball is shot, the keeper fumbles it, but vision of the goal line is not clear. I look to my AR to see if the ball crossed the line, and instead the AR gives different flag signals that are confusing(such as pointing to the attacking side and pointing at the goal) (and also she did not give the signal for the goal, which is to run back to the center with flag down). The keeper punted the ball before I could ask my AR what she meant and I waited until the ball went out of play (about 45 seconds) to stop play. Then I ran over to my AR and asked her if the ball crossed the line and she said yes. She confirmed the goal and I counted the goal (also the team that scored was already winning if that plays a part, after the goal it was 2-0).

I know the AR messed up the call but would you stop play right there if the ball is already in play to confirm or wait until it went out of bounds, or would you have continued to allow play to go on and not count the goal and not consult the AR. Also it was for the recreational championship.

Answer (May 13, 2011):
Because the ball was never out of play, it is theoretically legitimate to award the goal after so much time has passe; however, this is not something that the referee should allow to become common practice.

One way of doing that is to use the pregame conference to ensure that your ARs know what signals to use to indicate a goal, ball over the line and back into the field, etc. This information is taught in the entry-level course, but many instructors fail to follow up classroom instruction with practical work, so the less-experienced AR may not remember. If you do not know your AR and have never worked with him or her before, make use of the pregame conference to remind both ARs what signals you want to see in such tough situations.


I was refereeing a U12 Recreation game. A player was on a breakaway when aggressively tripped in front the penalty area, one-on-one with the keeper. I blew for a direct free kick outside the penalty area and caution the player. I soon realized that it was Denying the obvious goal scoring opportunity and worthy of a red card. Was it too late to issue a red card after issuing the yellow? Even though the foul occurred outside the penalty area, should I have awarded a penalty kick? What do I write in the game report. An aggressive foul with and issued yellow or a blow DOGSO?

Answer (May 13, 2011):
If play had not restarted, you could have corrected your original call and sent the player off for denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the offender's goal by an offense punishable by a free kick or a penalty kick.

If you did not do that immediately, you can now submit a supplemental report on the entire incident and include full details of what should have been covered in the original incident. Any decisions on punishment will be made by the competition authority.


I have an interpretation question for you. First, let me give you the context; I was assessing a referee for upgrade (8 to 7) in a B-U18 match. In the 19th minute the referee noticed that one of the players was wearing two earrings which were either missed in the pre-match inspection or were added subsequently, and he correctly instructed him to leave the pitch.

As we discussed this after the match, I pointed out that there was another player (an opponent) who had his wrist taped and I asked if the referee had checked to see what it was covering. I was told by one of the AR's that the League had directed their referees in their preseason meeting that they were not permitted to ask a player to remove a band-aid or tape to ascertain whether the band-aid or tape was covering an earring, etc.

According to this AR, they were specifically told that they could not ask a female player to remove a band-aid which covered her eyebrow even though they were confident that it was covering a stud. Apparently the league is concerned about some kind of liability.

This direction from the league is the source of my question. It is directly opposite of what I have always told referees as concerns gloves, hats, bandages, wraps, etc. I feel that not only do referees have the power to ask to see under such coverings to ascertain whether they are covering or hiding illegal or impermissible equipment, etc., but further, they have an obligation to do so. My belief is that if a player refuses to satisfy the referee by demonstrating that there is nothing unsafe or illegal under such coverings then s/he should not be allowed to participate in the match. I would appreciate your advice on this question. Thanks!

Answer (May 5, 2011):
No league may require a referee not to enforce the Laws of the Game to the fullest, particularly when it pertains to participant safety.

Under Law 4 (see Interpretations) covering items of jewelry is forbidden: "Using tape to cover jewelry is not acceptable." If any covering (including but not limited to tape) is being used by a player in a place where such a covering is not normally expected and where jewelry is often found, the referee has an obligation to ensure that the player is not hiding illegal equipment and should approach the player in the same manner as would be used in any jewelry situation: "I need to see what is under the tape. You have the right to refuse but, under these circumstances, I have the obligation to not allow you to play." Tape is, after all and by itself, "equipment" and, as such, needs to be inspected to ensure that it (or whatever is under it) is not dangerous.

Law 4 tells us:
A player must not use equipment or wear anything that is dangerous to himself or another player (including any kind of jewelry).

The referee is required by Law 5 to ensure that the players' equipment meets the requirements of Law 4.

We provided the following answer on December 15, 2010, regarding jewelry: "There is no "FIFA" definition of anything in the Laws. The definitions are all made by the International Football Association Board (IFAB), the people who make the Laws, of which FIFA is a member. And they do not define jewelry for the simple reason that jewelry is jewelry, a decorative (usually) piece of adornment worn to enhance one's beauty or to plug some product or cause. All jewelry is prohibited by the IFAB in Law 4, no matter what its appearance may be. Jewelry in any form is dangerous, which is why the IFAB has prohibited it; players' hair or fingers may be caught and severely injured.


My sons U11 Soccer game STARTED with the opposing team playing with 1 additional player than my sons team team. This additional player was not detected by anyone, including the referee, his 2 assistant referees, or our coach. The opposing team scored one goal prior to the additional player being detected by one of the parents of my sons team. After detection of the additional player, 6+minutes into the match, play was stopped after the ball went out of bounds. The additional player was brought to the attention of, and verified by, the referee. The referee instructed the opposing teams coach to remove one of his players and play resumed. The final score of the match was 3-2, my son's team lost.

I know there are rules/laws covering playing with additional players? Are there any laws governing STARTING a match with additional players?

Is there responsibility assigned to anyone to count the number of players prior to starting a match? Isn't it the responsibility of the coach to know the laws/rules of the game, including the legal number of players to play?

Answer (May 1, 2011):
Common sense dictates that the referee count the number of players on each time after every substitution and prior to the kick-off. That answers part of your question. The rest of your answer will be found in the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game":

There are two critical questions to be answered in determining the proper response to the presence of an extra person on the field following the scoring of a goal:
* Was the presence of the extra person discovered before the kick-off restart or only afterward?
* Who is the extra person - a player ordered off who returned illegally, a substitute or substituted player who entered illegally, or someone else (team official, spectator, red-carded player, etc.) referred to generally as an "outside agent"?

(a) Extra person discovered after the restart
If, after play is restarted with a kick-off and, during a subsequent stoppage, the extra person is discovered, the goal counts and play is restarted based on the reason for the current stoppage. If, however, play is stopped after the kick-off solely because the referee has become aware of the presence of an extra person, the goal stands and the game is restarted in accordance with the Law:
* an indirect free kick where the ball was when play was stopped if the extra person was either a substitute (or substituted player) or a player off the field with the referee's permission or at the order of the referee (e.g., for an equipment or bleeding problem).
* a dropped ball where the ball was when play was stopped if the person is an outside agent or a red-carded player.

(b) Extra person discovered before play restarts.
The referee must disallow the goal if the intruder was:
* a player, substitute (or substituted player), or a team official of the team that scored the goal, or
* an outside agent who interfered with play or a player.

The referee must allow the goal if the intruder was:
* a player, substitute (or substituted player), or a team official of the team scored against, or
*an outside agent who did not interfere with play or a player.

If the goal is disallowed, the restart is a goal kick.

In all cases, the intruder must be removed from the field and cautioned if the person is a player or anyone else over whom the referee has authority. Team officials should be informed that their action was ill-advised and, if appropriate, they should be expelled from the field and its surrounds for irresponsible behavior. The match may be suspended and, if necessary, terminated where outside agents are invading the field.

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 Ryan Money, Manager of Referee Education Resources; David McKee, National Director of Assessment (assessment matters); Jeff Kollmeyer, National Instructor, indoor and Futsal; and Ulrich Strom, retired National Instructor and National Assessor (matters in general).

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