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September 2003 Archive (III of III)

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We had a conversation between a few referees come up in regards to markings on the field. It was my opinion that in order for the game to be played there must be field markings including; goal lines, touch lines, 18yrd box, mid field, 6yrd box ect, in order for a game to be played. There was another opinion saying that the game would still be played even if there were no field markings and that devices such as cones could be used to line the field in the absence of painted lines.

Please help clarify this. I have looked in Advice for the Referees and I have found nothing to support playing the game without field markings.

Answer (September 26, 2003):
While unmarked fields may be acceptable for scrimmages or practice games, they are not acceptable for competitive soccer.


I have a question about FIFA's view of referee authority/discretion...

In a recent high school game, the field temperature at game time was very hot. High humidity added to the concern for player well-being. At game time, an on-the-field thermometer read 98 degrees (F). "Weather.Com" information suggested that game temperature would be over 90 degrees and would "Feel Like" 102 degrees (becase of the humidity). In summary, it was hot and uncomfortable. Both teams' coaches approached the three-official refereeing team to ask whether a 5 minute "hydration break" could be inserted in the middle of each half to allow the players to take in fluids. The referees responded that "they did not have the authority" to split the game into what would essentially be "four quarters". There might be rules in place by the local high school athletic association that denies the referee to make modification such as the one suggested. That is undetermined at this time.

My question, however, is this: Are there any FIFA rules or opinions that would prohibit the referees from exerting their game authority in such a way that they would not be allowed to implement a game stoppage if they felt it was appropriate?

Answer (September 26, 2003):
The referee has no direct authority to vary the rules of the competition or to stop the game for unspecified reasons. However, the spirit of the game requires the referee to ensure the safety of the players. Preventing injury from heat exhaustion would fall into that aspect of the referee's duties. The following answer may be summed up in two words: common sense.

In this situation, both the referee and the team officials share in the responsibility to protect player safety. The referee could, at a stoppage called for any reason, "suggest" the taking of water by any players interested in doing so. The timing of such a break and its length would be at the discretion of the referee. Obviously, the referee could decide to take this approach on his own initiative, with or without prior consultation with the coaches. However, either or both coaches could approach the referee prior to the match and suggest the need for extra hydration, in which case the intelligent referee would be well advised to listen and act accordingly. Of course, the Law also permits players to take water during the match so long as they do not leave the field, water containers are not thrown to them while on the field, and the water itself is not placed along the outside of the field so as to interfere with the responsibilities of the assistant referee.


If a parent on the opposite sideline from the coaches, keeps bugging the Ref - bad call, call some our way, are you Blind. Or, they tell their team's kid to take him out, or go trip him, or push him back. What am I -- the Grade 8 Linesman on that side of the field, or in a SAY game, the one Ref on that half of the field -- to do ? Stop Play & walk over to the coach or coaches - point out the Fan, and issue the Card to that coach & then tell them to go quite that person down or else I'll be back to Red card you (coach) ?

Does that sound correct - (Zero Tolerance) ?

Answer (September 26, 2003):
One of the first things the intelligent referee learns is that spectators generally know very little about the Laws of the Game, but they are willing to tell the referee how to call the game and how all the Laws should be interpreted. What is a referee or assistant referee (AR) to do?

The referee's authority begins when he arrives at the area of the field of play and continues until he has left the area of the field after the game has been completed. The referee's authority extends to time when the ball is not in play, to temporary suspensions, to the half-time break, and to additional periods of play or kicks from the penalty mark required by the rules of the competition. While the referee has no direct authority over spectators, there are things that can be done. The authority of the referee over persons other than players and team officials is limited by the Law, because the Law assumes that the game is played in a facility with security staff in attendance. Those referees whose matches are watched by parents, etc., right at the touch lines, need to understand that they are not totally at the mercy of the spectators and other non-playing or coaching personnel.

In most cases, the referee should work actively to tune out comments by the spectators, particularly at youth matches, most of whom know little about the game, but who want to "protect" their children. Why should the referee tune them out? Because the referee can do nothing about comments that do not bring the game into disrepute. If the referee fails to "tune out" the spectators, they will take over (psychological) control of the game and the referee is lost.

Note: We must emphasize that the intelligent referee who is able to "tune out" spectator comments and gibes is acting for himself -- and properly so -- but MUST act more aggressively and proactively when such spectator behavior is directed at assistant referees, particularly youth ARs. That's how we lose them. The referee must have ZERO tolerance for abuse aimed at the ARs and should instruct them in the pregame to bring it to the referee's attention the moment it even begins to approach the high end of their ability to handle it on their own.

If this does not work, the next thing to do is to use the proper chain of communication. The referee at the amateur level will ask the captain of the team whose supporter is making trouble to deal with the matter. At the youth level, it is often better to go outside the chain and speak directly to the coach of the team, as youngsters are usually reluctant to become mixed up in adult problems.

If the referee decides that the activity by the spectator constitutes "grave disorder" (which could be defined to include anything which adversely affects the referee's control of the game and/or undermines his authority), the referee can suspend the match while others handle the problem. (These "others" would be team officials or competition authorities who are at the field.) The referee can also terminate the match if appropriate action (e. g., the person is forced by someone to leave the area of the field) is not taken. In all cases, the referee must include full details in the match report.


Can a complaint be filed with ussoccer against a referee that demonstrated bias towards one team during a U-16 game in the [deleted] league? I know this is very subjective but I am very upset that Ref. consistently had what I call a quick whistle against one(visiting team) team and a slow (one onethousand, two onethousand) and at least three instances put the whistle in his mouth but no call made against the other team. Fouls were liberally called against the visiting team(including two red cards)one team meanwhile the other team played with their elbows up and took dives to stall for time without calls being made. After the game the refs approached the visiting bench and ordered the players who had been red carded to shake hands with the other team. I thought I was witnessing prison guards and not Referees. I find bias towards one team at this level totally unacceptable and feel the Ref should be disciplined. The coaches of the team are appealing the red cards and have written a "scathing" referee report to the local league. I think more should be done. Please advise me of my options.

Answer (September 24, 2003):
Any problems with referees must be reported to the State Referee Administrator, the State Youth Referee Administrator, or the State Referee Copmmittee.


The following situation occurred in a youth game where I was not in attendance. A parent, knowing I was a referee asked me what the correct decision should have been. Here is the situation.

Player for Team A takes a shot on goal from approximately 10 yards. Shoe of Player A proceeds to the goal along with the ball. The shoe strikes the goalie for Team B in the forehead causing him to not play the ball. The ball goes into the net.

I felt the referee had one of three possible responses:
1.) Let the goal stand. No infringement of the laws, but obviously unfair to Team B's goalie.
2.) Consider the appearance of a show flying toward the goalie as an outside interference per Law 5 allowing the referee to stop, suspend or terminate the match because of outside interference of any kind as soon as the shoe left Player A's foot. The restart being a drop ball at the point where Player A took the shot.
3.) Consider the flying shoe to constructively put Player A in a position of playing in a dangerous manner and award an indirect kick to Team B at the point where Player A took the shot.

I was told the referee chose option 1. My personal choice with the advantage of hindsight is option 3. Please let me know your opinion and/or official USSF response.

Answer (September 23, 2003):
The correct answer is none of the above.

As defined in the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game" (ATR) and clear from the perspective of the Spirit of the Game, a foul is an unfair or unsafe action committed by a player against an opponent or the opposing team, on the field of play, while the ball is in play. (ATR 12.1) Although the loss of the shoe was inadvertent and accidental, it was also careless. A careless act of striking toward an opponent is punishable by a direct free kick for the opponent's team, taken from the spot where the object (or fist) hit (or would have hit) its target (bearing in mind the special circumstances described in Law 8).

Although the shooter wanted to play the ball when he kicked it and did not hit the goalkeeper with his shoe deliberately, he has still committed a foul. Direct free kick for the goalkeeper's team from the place where the shoe struck the goalkeeper (bearing in mind the special circumstances described in Law 8).


Over the past few years, I have worked a number of U10 and U12 games that turned into whitewashes with scores of 10 to 0 and 12 to 0 or more. Typically the coach of the winning team will restrict his players from taking shots towards the end of the game, require a certain number of passes before a shot can be taken or allow only certain players to take shots on goal in an effort to keep the score down. However, these tactics usually come way too late in the game and don't really work. Once my 3-1/2 year old is old enough to begin playing soccer and I enter the coaching ranks again, I believe that I would like to try a different approach to curb scoring in a lopsided victory. If my team is on its way to an obvious run away win, I will begin to remove players from the field. Perhaps my team will have only 8 or 9 players on the field when the game ends, however, I believe it would be a much better game for all involved especially at U10 and U12. My question is about removing these players from the field. Once a team starts the game with 11 players what is the correct procedure for reducing player strength to 10 or fewer players. During a stoppage in play, do I simply call for a substitution and have a player leave the field with no substitute entering the field of play. What would be the correct procedure?

Answer (September 23, 2003):
Law 3 requires only that a team not have more than 11 and no less than 7 players on the field at any time during a game -- or whatever numbers are set by the rules of the competition in which the teams are playing. There is no requirement in the Law that a team must have the full number of players on the field at any one time. A player must simply ask the referee's permission to leave the field if the coach wants to reduce the number of players on the field. This can occur at a stoppage or during play.


Team A moves the ball down the field and into the penalty area of Team B. There are 3 or 4 of Team A's players in the box as well. A bit of jostling goes on near the 6-yard box, but keeper comes out and picks up the ball. As both teams' players are moving out of the penalty area, a player from Team B throws an elbow at a Team A player. This happens a step or two inside the box, but as the players are moving away from the keeper and toward the middle of the field. These are U-18 players, FYI. How would you suggest it be handled?

The referee at the time whistled a foul, carded the Team B player, and awarded a penalty kick. Proper? Would you have done that? Looking for an answer that is not just right, but correct and wise.

Answer (September 21, 2003):
If the referee determines that a player has committed a direct-free-kick foul within his team's penalty area, the only possible course of action is to award a penalty kick to the opposing team. Any misconduct involved will also have to be punished.


Stop me if you've heard this one before ... it's been all over the internet lately.

A player commits a technical offense in his own penalty area. The referee stops play for the offense, then mistakenly awards a penalty kick instead of an indirect free kick. The ball is kicked directly into the goal. Prior to the kickoff, the AR finally gets the referee's attention and tells him that it should have been an IFK. Can the referee go back, take away the goal, and restart with the correct IFK? Is an incorrect restart actually a restart?

I know the referee only has until the next restart to change his mind. But which restart is that? The incorrectly awarded PK? Or the next restart after that mistake, the kickoff?

Answer (September 20, 2003):
Don't believe everything you read on the Internet. Most of it is urban myths -- except what you read here.

The USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game" tells us:
"If the referee awards a restart for the wrong team and realizes his mistake before the restart is taken, then the restart may be corrected even though the decision was announced after the restart took place. This is based on the established principle that the referee's initial decision takes precedence over subsequent action. The visual and verbal announcement of the decision after the restart has already occurred is well within the Spirit of the Law, provided the decision was made before the restart took place."

Everything depends on the state of the referee's mind (aside from confusion and inadequate training). If the referee stopped play for what in his mind was a direct free kick offense by the defenders inside their penalty area, then the penalty kick was the correct restart for that state of mind and, once it occurred, was a proper restart and all subsequent play has to be counted (including a goal). Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa in the game report if he then has to change his mind based on evidence/argument from his fellow officials after some later discussion.

If the referee stopped play for an indirect free kick offense (which he recognized as an indirect free kick offense) but got the restart wrong, calling incorrectly for a penalty kick instead of an indirect free kick, then the restart was a mistake which could be corrected anytime up to the kick and even afterward if discovered "quickly" (don't tie us down to a particular length of time), and any goal scored would be cancelled because it would have been the result of an improper restart. Mea (but not maxima) culpa in the game report. This would be equivalent to the referee knowing that the ball left the field across the touch line but stating that the restart would be a free kick and then correcting himself even if a player had picked up the ball and thrown it onto the field.

Doesn't seem fair? Too bad, but the referee will have to live with his mistake. Which brings us to communication between the referee and the assistant referee (AR).

Why did the AR take so long to get the referee's attention? Referee and AR are supposed to exchange information at every possible opportunity, particularly at stoppages, to ensure that things are going correctly. The AR had plenty of time to get the information to the referee, even if it meant coming into the field to pass that information. There is NO EXCUSE! for slipshod communication.

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.

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