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Ask A Referee Update: April 22, 2010


A long ball is played in to an onside attacker behind the defense about 40 yards from the goal. The nearest defender is in close pursuit and (unlikely to catch the attacker) and the GK is coming out to cut down the angle. On his next touch the attacker pushes the ball out just a little too far allowing the charging GK to get his foot on it. The GK strikes the ball into the defender and it bounces back behind the GK right to the attacker. The attacker had moved out of the path of the charging GK after the attacker has lost control of the ball. The referee whistled the attacker as offside stating the attacker had gained an advantage by being in an offside position. I was a spectator for this one but disagreed with the call because when the attacker received the ball from the deflection (GK to defender)it was not played to him by a teammate but rather the defense. It seemed to me, in order for the referee to be correct, the attacker satisfied the criteria for offside all by himself and basically put himself offside. What is the correct ruling here?

Answer (April 22, 2010):
There is no offside violation possible here by the attacker because the attacker was never in an offside position at a time when the ball was last played by a teammate. The last time the ball was played by one of his teammates, the attacker was onside. Even though he was ahead of the ball and ahead of the second-last defender and the goalkeeper, that doesn't matter, The attacking team player who last PLAYED the ball before it came back to our attacker from the defender, was the attacker himself. In other words, he could not possibly be called offside.


If a referee submits a referee's report about an incident during a match and the date on the report is different from the the date the actual match was played, is this report valid? the report submitted by this referee gives a different date from the match day he was referring too. Secondly can the match report contain incidents that he said alledgally happen. This refers to an incident he didn't actually see him self. Should he just report the facts of the incident. Does this type of report make the match report invalid.

Answer (April 19, 2010):
Inaccurate data on a match report is generally unacceptable. The final decision on that rests with the competition authority and the panel it has appointed to review the matter.

That is the reason why we constantly stress that referees check their data several times and proofread their reports before sending them in.

As to incidents that the referee did not actually see, we submit that, as the referee is obliged to take into account any events seen by an assistant referee or fourth official, there is no reason why the same information (assuming it is relevant) should not be included in the match report.

Of course, if there was no AR assigned and the lines were run by club linesmen, then the referee can only report incidents he did not see as hearsay, not as fact.


am currently being told by higher level referees and the referee advisor for our area that I should not issue yellow cards for delaying the restart even though the laws say this is a yellow card offense. I tell the captains of both teams that I will issue a card if a player does not give 10 yards, or an attempt at 10, when i point to the spot for the kick. The players involved are all u-15 and above so they know the law but are being coached to delay the kicks so that their team can get into position. It is hard to enforce this rule when you see the upper division referees as well as the FIFA referees repeatedly telling players to move back and then marching off 10 instead of issuing a card for a player blocking a quick restart. What is the official position on this?

Answer (April 19, 2010):
Well, right or wrong and based only on the information you provided, the official position in your area seems to be not to referee in accordance with the Laws of the Game. However, that is not the official position of the U. S. Soccer Federation.

The Federation encourages referees, ARs, and fourth officials to first ask the players to get into position and take the restart correctly. If the players do not respond to this verbal encouragement, then the referee must take action in accordance with the Law. You will find the procedure outlined in the Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees under Law 12:

Delaying the restart of play
Referees must caution players who delay the restart of play by tactics such as:
* taking a free kick from the wrong position with the sole intention of forcing the referee to order a retake
* appearing to take a throw-in but suddenly leaving it to one of his teammates to take
* kicking the ball away or carrying it away with the hands after the referee has stopped play * excessively delaying the taking of a throw-in or free kick
* delaying leaving the field of play when being substituted
* provoking a confrontation by deliberately touching the ball after the referee has stopped play

Referees who fail to follow this procedure do the game and the players a disservice.


The following occurred in a U15 elite boys match.

3 minutes into a match two players challenged for a ball on the touchline 3 yards up from where I was the AR. The player in white, slid in and was the last to touch the ball (in my opinion) before it went out of touch. I signaled a throw in for red. The white player who last touched the ball was on the ground about 2-3 yards from me.

He stood up and stepped forward a little. Clearly invading my personal body space his face was now about 10 inches from mine and he was about as tall as me. He looked me right in the eye in a clear intimidating fashion. I should have told him to immediately back off, but I was just shocked a player would do this 3 minutes into a game. He stood there 3-4 seconds, turned away and said, "Why don't you watch the f***ing game".

This was clearly a straight red card for vulgar language and I called the center over and told him what happened and he issued a yellow card.

My question is specifically this. If the player had done nothing more than standing up and stepping forward in an act of intimidation as I described, should this be a red card?

Answer (April 19, 2010):
Yes -- with some hesitation. We would really like to have been there to see the player's manner -- to see, for example, whether the player could argue that the act of getting up naturally put him in such close proximity to the AR, to see whether, having gotten up, the player moved closer, etc. A red card is a fairly stiff penalty for intimidation via occupying personal space with no touching, no language, etc., but only the referee or AR on the game would know which was most appropriate for this particular moment of truth. An immediate clear and concise verbal report to the referee would be most beneficial. In this case the referee chose the caution, an action he will have to live with.


Is it true that there are only three cautions that can be given to a player on the bench? If that is true, is it true that entering the playing field without permission is not one of the three?

Answer (April 19, 2010):
Yes, it is true (see below). The substitute who enters the field without the permission of the referee is cautioned for unsporting behavior.

Disciplinary Sanctions
The yellow card is used to communicate that a player, substitute or substituted player has been cautioned.
A substitute or substituted player is cautioned if he commits any of the following three offenses:
* unsporting behavior
* dissent by word or action
* delaying the restart of play

You will find the notice about cautioning a substitute for entering illegally in the 2008 supplemental memorandum on law changes:
Law 12
The International Board has reconfirmed this year, by making no change in the list of reasons for which a substitute or substituted player may be cautioned, that a substitute or substituted player who illegally enters the field is to be cautioned for unsporting behavior. Law 12 The International Board has reconfirmed this year, by making no change in the list of reasons for which a substitute or substituted player may be cautioned, that a substitute or substituted player who illegally enters the field is to be cautioned for unsporting behavior.

. . . and in the Advice to Referees, Advice 12.28.1.


Three attacking players. Player 1 has the ball and passes it forward at which time his two team-mates are in onside positions. As the ball rolls toward Player 2, Player 3 runs into what is now an offside position. Player 2 dummies the ball - never touching it - allowing it to roll between his feet and on toward Player 3.

If dummying is playing then Player 3 is guilty of offside. If dummying is not playing then Player 3 is not guilty of offside.

What call does the AR make?

Answer (April 19, 2010):
The AR keeps running with the play; no offense has occurred.

We should note that one of your premises is incorrect: It is NOT "now an onside position" since the position is judged when a teammate last plays or touches the ball. It would be "now an offside position" if and only if never playing or making contact with ball somehow constituted playing the ball.


is it possible to call dangerous play instead of direct kick foul when physical contact is made? ie: ball is rolling toward and near goal line, defender is 1 step ahead of attacker, both runner toward goal line, defender reaches around the ball to clear it back toward halfway line and kicks attacker in the process. not kicks toward attacker but makes physical contact, kicking the attacker on his follow through. my ar's argued the defender didn't see attacker gaining ground and didn't intend to kick him, dangerous play. i believe as soon as physical contact is made, dangerous play is no longer an issue, it must be straight forward direct free kick for "kicking an opponent". is it possible to call "dangerous play"?

Answer (April 17, 2010):
No, it is not possible to call playing dangerously when there is contact. In this situation we see no foul at all, simply incidental contact. No kicking or attempting to kick, no playing dangerously. It is simply a trifling contact that is not a foul, unless the referee believes in his or her heart of hearts that the act was premeditated -- and your description of the situation does not suggest that.

Referees should not always be looking to call fouls in 50-50 or trifling situations. Furthermore, this is NOT what the "dangerous play" offense is all about! A referee CANNOT convert a player's act to dangerous play simply because there was no intent.


The following occurred in a U15 boys recreational match.

I was the AR on the side of the field where this occurred. Ball was traveling on the ground towards the goal, outside the penalty area about 23-25 yrds from goal. The keeper got confused, thought he was still in the box and ran out and picked it up. The Center Referee called the handling violation. At this point the keeper was clearly out of position. An offensive player realized the situation and ran up to the ball and was going to attempt to kick it into the open goal.

Another defender ran up 2 yards from the ball to stop the play from occurring. The offensive player gestured to the defensive player, then quickly passed to the right and play continued, not resulting in a goal.

Two questions
1. At the next stoppage, would it be appropriate for the Referee to issue a yellow card for failing to respect the required distance to the defender?

2. If the offensive player had kicked the ball towards goal, and it had deflected off the defender, and in the opinion of the referee it would have gone into the net, would this be a red card for DOGSO?

Answer (April 16, 2010):
1. What the referee should have done was to stop play immediately and caution the defender for failure to respect the required distance.
2. Such foolishness would be unnecessary if the referee followed the advice in 1.


I was centering an Academy game and the away team was deep into their offensive penalty box with an attack. They took a shot at the goal which the keeper stop but did not gain immediate control of the ball with his hands. The keeper fell to the ground (on his back) and managed to trap the ball under his legs. For the that instant the ball was fully in control by the keeper with his legs. The attacker was kicking at the ball and managed to get it out from under his legs and shot and the goal and it went in. I did not allow the goal and felt I had 2 rational reasons. My first thought was the keeper did have "control" of the ball with his legs and therefore the attack should have been stopped. The second thought was that it was dangerous play to try and kick the ball out from his legs (especially considering it was lodged under them) and an indirect free kick should have been awarded.

My question is this, does a keeper have to control the ball with his hands for it to be considered under control or if he or she has definite control with other parts of his body (legs, stomach) is that considered control?

Answer (April 16, 2010):
While we agree with your notion that the referee should have stopped play immediately, it would not have been because the goalkeeper had possession of the ball. Possession by the goalkeeper requires "hands-on" control of the ball, something he did not have. Here is an excerpt from the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game" that spells out goalkeeper possession:

The goalkeeper is considered to be in control of the ball when the ball is held with both hands, held by trapping the ball between one hand and any surface (e.g., the ground, a goalpost, the goalkeeper's body), or holding the ball in the outstretched open palm. Once established, possession is maintained, when the ball is held as described above, while bouncing the ball on the ground or throwing it into the air. Possession is given up if, after throwing the ball into the air, it is allowed to hit the ground. For purposes of determining goalkeeper possession, the "handling" includes contact with any part of the goalkeeper's arm from the fingertips to the shoulder.

While the ball is in the possession of the goalkeeper, it may not be challenged for or played by an opponent in any manner. An opponent who attempts to challenge for a ball in the possession of the goalkeeper may be considered to have committed a direct free kick foul. However, a ball which is only being controlled by the goalkeeper using means other than the hands is open to otherwise legal challenges by an opponent. The referee should consider the age and skill level of the players in evaluating goalkeeper possession and err on the side of safety.

We see no offense by the goalkeeper. If, as it appears, the goalkeeper had the ball between his legs and did not delay unduly in attempting to extricate himself from this predicament, he did not play dangerously and the opponent was wholly at fault for taking unfair advantage of his situation. Merely making kicking motions would constitute the dangerous play offense, but actually making contact with the kicking motion turns it into a direct free kick offense plus a card (the referee would normally think red -- due to "kicking," but this could possibly be downgraded to a yellow if there were mitigating circumstances.)

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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