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August 2008 Archive (I of III)


"RIGHTS" AT A FREE KICK

Question:
What rights do the kicking team have in the wall during free kicks? If the defending team sets the wall and a member of the attacking team wants in the wall too, where can he go? This is usually done to duck under or jump over the free kick. Must they set up on the ends? Are they allowed to get between the defenders? I see them pushing for position and am not sure what their rights are since it is their team that is being penalized.

Answer (July 25, 2008):
The defending team has only two rights at a free kick:
(1) The right to retire immediately a minimum of ten yards away until the ball is in play, i. e., is kicked and moves. Any player who fails to do so runs the risk of being cautioned and shown the yellow card for failure to respect the required distance at a free kick, no matter what they may see in professional games.
(2) The right not to be diverted by the referee interfering with the action in other than a ceremonial free kick situation. This is what the referee is doing when he or she starts talking with the opponents -- even if saying nothing more than to back away -- or, worse, when the referee is actively engaged in being "the first brick in the wall" while still allowing the kicking team to kick whenever it wishes. The USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game" lays out a fairly simple set of rules for the referee -- keep your mouth shut unless you have to or are asked to step in -- in which case the free kick automatically becomes a ceremonial restart and the first thing out of the referee's mouth had better be an admonition to everyone that the free kick cannot now be taken without a signal by the referee.

The kicking team has rights too: the right to a "free" kick, free of interference from the opponents and, if they wish to take the kick quickly, free from the interference of the referee. The referee cannot abdicate the responsibility to ensure that the free kick is indeed "free."

No member of the kicking team may force his or her way into the wall set by the defending team. If there is a hole in the wall, the player may go there, but may not then interfere with the ability of the defending team to play the ball. Such players may go to the ends of the wall or set up in front of the wall, paying heed to the caveat in the first sentence -- no interference with the wall once the ball is kicked.

 


TACKLING FOR THE BALL IN THE 'KEEPER'S POSSESSION

Question:
if an attacker slides feet first at a keeper (not trying to injure, but trying to get a piece of the ball) keeper is on the ground making an attack and the play is boom boom yet keeper has connection with the ball and attackers feet(cleats) hit keeper, what is the appropriate call if any??????????

Answer ((July 24, 2008):
If we understand your question correctly, the player attempts to slide tackle the ball away from the goalkeeper who is holding the ball with his hands. If that is the case, the player has committed a direct free kick foul. The following excerpts from the 2008 edition of the "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game" may be helpful in determining the correct punishment, if any is necessary.
12.7 TACKLING
The referee must judge whether the tackle of an opponent is fair or whether it is careless, reckless, or involves the use of excessive force. Making contact with the opponent before the ball when making a tackle is unfair and should be penalized. However, the fact that contact with the ball was made first does not automatically mean that the tackle is fair. The declaration by a player that he or she has "got the ball first" is irrelevant if, while tackling for the ball, the player carelessly, recklessly, or with excessive force commits any of the prohibited actions.

A foul committed while tackling an opponent with little or no concern for the safety of the opponent shall be cause for the player to be sent from the field and shown the red card for serious foul play.

12.16 GOALKEEPER POSSESSION OF THE BALL
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.

 


ADVANTAGE

Question:
At an advanced referee clinic recently the following scenario was discussed, and there was uncertainly regarding the proper ruling. The scenario was as follows:

A defender, from a throw-in in her own half, throws the ball to her keeper who stands in her own penalty area. The keeper accidentally deflects the ball into her own goal with her hands.

Question: is this a goal or must we punish the offense by the GK of touching the ball with her hands from a throw-in by her own teammate?

If 'goal' the proper call (which seemed to be the majority opinion), what is the basis, in the LOTG, for ignoring the GK's offense? Was it "trifling" or "doubtful," or is "advantage" to be applied here, or is it something else?

Answer (July 24, 2008):
As the goalkeeper has committed an infringement of Law 12 (as well as of Law 15), the referee may invoke the advantage and award the goal.

 


UNAUTHORIZED MODIFICATIONS OF THE LAWS OF THE GAME

Question:
A neighboring state has instituted a modification for youth games and I am uncomfortable having to enforce should I elect to officiate there. (I live nearby and could work games there.)

Here is their modification:
If play is stopped for a reason without a prescribed restart (e.g., injury stoppage) they award an indirect free-kick to the team that was in possession of the ball at the time instead of a drop ball. (NFHS influence at work here, I suspect.)

It caused some issues here at a tournament where I was assigning referees when those neighboring referees attempted to use that restart in our games.

I don't see this as fitting into any of the five listed items on page 3 of the Laws of the game, "Notes on The Laws of the Game."

Answer (July 24, 2008):
The restart described is not authorized under the Modifications described in the Introduction to the Laws of the Game 2008/2009. The correct restart for a non-foul/misconduct stoppage not described elsewhere in the Laws is a dropped ball -- see Law 8. As we do not know -- i. e., have not been able to determine -- whether or not the state association involved has applied this ruling across the board, we cannot give a more complete answer.

The indirect free kick restart described is taken from high school rules, which are not applicable to games played under the aegis of U. S. Soccer or U. S. Youth Soccer. It is true that an indirect free kick restart is authorized if a player commits any other offense, not previously mentioned in Law 12, for which play is stopped to caution or send off a player, but that would not be the case in the situation you put forth.

The only further advice we can give is that the Federation has no direct control over such modifications, but a referee who accepts a game operating under rules of competition that mandate unauthorized modifications must officiate the game under those rules. In other words, know the rules before accepting the assignment.

On the other hand, referees who come from a state where such modifications are used must not seek to apply them in another jurisdiction playing under different rules of competition.

 


ACCIDENTAL VS. CARELESS, RECKLESS, USE OF EXCESSIVE FORCE

Question:
In a recent U14 boys game, an attacker and a defender were "tangling" one-on-one, with the attacker bringing the ball down the left side of the field and into the penalty area while the defender ran on his inside, contesting for the ball. As they arrived just outside the corner of the goal area, their forward motion stopped abruptly and in the process the players became entangled and both fell to the field, with the attacker outside of the defender in relation to the goal area. In the referee's opinion, there has been no foul.

Still in a one-on-one situation (the goalie had stayed on his line and neither player's teammates had arrived on the scene), the attacker scrambles to get to his feet, ostensibly planning to step or jump over the defender on the ground and shoot the ball, which is now just inside the corner of the goal area. As he attempts to stand up, the defender rolls back and forth a little, perhaps in an attempt to get up himself, or perhaps in an attempt to delay the attacker until help can arrive.

The attacker manages to get on his feet and as he steps over the body of the defender, he ends up slightly stepping on and pinching the side of the defender between his foot and the turf, leaving the defender in some pain. He manages to get to the ball, but by now the goalie has come out to defend and his shot goes wide for a goal kick.

My question is to what degree the attacker must take care not to step on his opponent in this situation? In the opinion of the referee, the attacker did not intentionally injure his opponent; however could it be dangerous play on the attacker? How much responsibility does the attacker have to not step on his rolling-around opponent as he attempts to get up and put the ball in the goal, especially given that in the opinion of the referee it was reasonably likely that the defender was rolling in a way that would help prevent his opponent from getting up (although certainly not definite enough to call a foul on the defender and award a penalty)? Is this an outcome based situation, that since the defender was injured that by definition the attacker's lack of care resulted in a dangerous play? If so, could one also argue that the player on the ground was also at fault for dangerous play or impeding by rolling around a little and making it difficult for his opponent to get up (even if he was not intending to delay his opponent, just like the attacker wasn't intending to step on the defender)?

Answer (July 23, 2008):
Of course the attacker should exercise due caution in getting up from original accidental spill, and the opponent must exercise precisely the same due caution. If the opponent -- whether deliberately or through simple lack of awareness -- interferes with the attacker's ability to play the ball afterwards, the possibility exists for the fouls of tripping (unlikely unless the referee deems the act to be deliberate), impeding the progress of an opponent, or playing dangerously. It is also possible that there is no foul at all.. Only the referee on the spot can make this decision.

 


RESCINDING A CAUTION OR SEND-OFF

Question:
I have heard a story or two of referees who have mistakenly cautioned a player, and before the play is restarted, realized their mistake. It is clear to everyone that the mistake may be corrected as long as the play has not been restarted properly, but I have heard of a few different mechanics for doing so. What is the mechanic for communicating to the players and spectators that the player who initially received the caution or was sent-off is not the correct player and that he or she is not being punished? I have been told to show the card again in front of the player, then bring it down in a vertical wavy line (instead of straight down), then give the card to the correct player; I have also seen the card issued again, then then the referee point to the player and move his arms as an umpire in baseball would signal, "Safe." A third way I have witnessed is the referee displays the card to the player again, and uses his/her free hand to lower the hand holding the card. I may n ot be good at searching, but I cannot find the proper mechanic for correcting this mistake.

Answer (July 23, 2008):
There is no standard method for announcing that the referee has rescinded a card before the restart. The methods you describe would seem to be too demonstrative and confusing for the player, the teams and their officials, and the spectators. We might suggest simply notifying the player concerned that the caution or send-off has been rescinded. Then the referee should deal with the proper player and inform both team captains what has happened. To remove all confusion, the referee might also inform team management. The referee should ensure that the assistant referees -- and the fourth official, if appointed -- are also aware of the change.

Most of all, we recommend taking the time to get the facts straight in the first place, so that such mistakes do not occur.

 


IMPEDING VS. OCCUPYING SPACE

Question:
X has the ball. Teammate Y provides square support. Defender is containing X only. There's a lot of open space in front of Y.

Situation 1: X cuts toward Y, winds up to pass to Y, defender runs toward the passing lane, Z cuts in front of defender. = Clearly impeding the progress.

Situation 2: change the order of events.

Teammate Z runs forward and stops, about 3-4 feet from defender, between defender and that open space. Z then passes, and Y runs to, the open space in question. Y receives the pass, and carriers, shoots, whatever - and has an extra second or so to play the ball.

Defender has to run around Z to get to either the pass or Y - - there is enough room to do this but the extra second or two it takes is all that Y is looking for.

By the time defender chose what direction to go in and began to progress in that direction, Z, stationary, was already an obstacle is there an obligation to move?

To be clear, yes, the reason Z chose that spot to occupy was that it was in between the defender and a passing lane. Z didn't just happen to be standing there and X wasn't just being opportunistic.

But at the time, it wasn't a passing lane being used and defender was not moving toward it, and had not decided to move toward it.

I've had my youth players do this countless times, and it's been effective - usually the defender is so agitated at falling a step behind the play that he or she races after the pass, leaving Z uncovered.

They've never been called for impeding the progress when they've done this.

Last week in an adult pick-up game I was the Z - - it was a hot day and toward the end of the game, the defender just kind of stumbled into me, which I didn't expect, as I'd been a good 3-4 feet away definitely not trying to invite contact or positioned closely enough that contact would have been the likely result.

The defender thought I'd committed a foul.

By the letter of the rule, when Z chose the spot to occupy, that spot didn't obstruct or impede the defender's progress - the defender wasn't running to what would a few seconds later become the passing lane, thus Z's going to that spot can't be impeding the progress.

Thus it can only be impeding the progress if there's an affirmative obligation, if you're stationary, to move out of a player's way.

Also, there are 9 other defenders - Z doesn't know for a fact that defender would choose that path, defender could retreat or stay and cover Z, trusting another defender to come over. But Z knows that that defender would have the best chance of intercepting the pass.

I'm thinking that the fact that I've never seen that called in a refereed game means there's no such obligation to move - that if you're standing already in a spot that becomes tactically advantageous, not offside, on the field, etc....., you can keep standing there.

Can you confirm that?

Answer (July 21, 2008):
Simple answer covering all eventualities: A player is allowed to occupy space but is not allowed to move into space that an opponent is actively using with the result that the opponent is forced to stop, swerve, or slow down to avoid contact. Under normal circumstances, "impeding" does not involve physical contact (which is why it is a "lesser" offense) -- if contact occurs, the impeding player is now guilty of a direct rather than an indirect free kick offense.

 


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. Direction is provided by Alfred Kleinaitis, Manager of Referee Development and Education, with further assistance from 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).

Submit your questions via e-mail to askareferee@ussoccer.org.

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