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February 2006 Archive (I of II)


I know that the Law and the Advice to Referees both state that the throw-in must be taken within one meter (or yard) from where it went out. While I follow this, some referees have told me that if a player moves farther than 1 meter away from the goal they are attacking that I should just let play continue because the player is disadvantaging his own team. Is this true, or is there some hidden advantage in moving downfield?

Answer (February 8, 2006):
No, this is not true. Referees should enforce the Laws with common sense. Even though the purpose of the throw-in is simply to get the ball back into play, yes, there may be a hidden benefit in moving farther away from the required spot to take the throw-in. The issue is whether the violation is trifling or doubtful, but you must be aware of what the basic requirement of the Law is before you can decide if a violation is significant enough to be penalized. In moving away from the required spot, the player may be gaining playing room for the team by throwing the ball to a teammate who is able to begin a better attack.

Any deviation from the correct location could benefit a team and so the referee must be prepared to enforce the requirement regardless of whether the thrower is farther up or down the touchline or farther back from the touchline. This is entirely separate from the practical issue of whether, at any given location, the deviation is trifling and thus, even though contrary to the requirement in Law 15, the referee should penalize the violation.



During the first half of the game, one of the Red team's players commits a cautionable foul on a player from team Green. Everyone including the coach of the team that committed the foul knew there was going to be a card issued. The referee from about 15 yards asked the AR1 if it was #5 that should be cautioned, and the AR says yes. The referee issues the card to #5.

At half time when the crew tried to compare notes, it turns out that the #5 who was cautioned was from the team that was fouled and the team Red that committed the foul (the team that should have been cautioned) did not have a player with #5.

The referee informed the Green team's coach that he had mistakenly cautioned Green #5. He then told the Red team's coach that the caution issued to Green #5 was actually for one of the Red players and showed the card to Red #20. The coach agreed with the decision, but made the referee understand that the card should have been issued at the time the offense was committed and not after the game had restarted and not during the half.

The referee did write this in the game report.

What is the correct decision, given the fact that game had already started.

Answer (February 6, 2006):
Once the referee has restarted the game after issuing a caution or a sending-off, the decision may not be changed in that game. Even though the error was discovered at halftime, the referee cannot change it. Although it may not seem fair, the best that the referee can do is to inform the teams that he or she recognizes the error and will address it in the match report.

Upon recognizing that a mistake has been made, the referee should advise both team coaches of the error and that he or she will be reporting the facts to the appropriate authorities. The referee should remind the Red coach that Red 20 remains on a caution and the Green coach that any subsequent disciplinary action taken against Green 5 during the game will also be reported and the original offense--that should have been cautioned at the time--may be taken into consideration by the authorities. The referee should report all the relevant facts, together with reports from the assistant referees (assuming that they were appointed officials and not club linesmen) and the fourth official, if there was one.

It is clear that there was a lack of awareness by all three/four match officials and someone should have taken responsibility before the game recommenced. Situations like this emphasize the importance of correct bookkeeping and communication among the officials. If an AR recognizes that the referee is cautioning or sending-off the wrong player, the AR must do whatever is necessary to inform the referee before the game is restarted.



While reffing youth games, I often talk to players to "calm down" or "stop pushing" as a way of educating young players. However, there is a difference between giving advice and coaching.

In a recent game, an attacking player was injured and his teammate kicked the ball out of bound. When the game restarted, I advised the opposing player to throw the ball back to the other team. He ignored me, threw the ball to one of his own player who kicked the ball into the net and scored.

This was shocking to the other team as they heard my "advice" to their opponent and were expecting to get the ball back. The coach also accused me for giving illegal advice or coaching the players.

I let the goal stand because there is nothing in the rule book that tells me otherwise. However, can I caution the player who did the throw-in for "un-sporting conduct"?

Answer (February 3, 2006):
While it is traditional for the team taking the throw-in in such a situation to throw the ball to a place where the team that kicked the ball out may play it, there is no requirement under the Laws of the Game. The player was certainly unsporting, but not within the meaning of the Law. Let it go.

And you might learn a lesson: No matter how well intentioned you may be, you will never please everyone. Stop giving advice in such cases.



I have been reading your column for years and it is a great teaching forum. I have not seen the following question addressed (maybe I missed it). I maintain the following scenario constitutes an illegal use of the hands. Some referee colleagues disagree. A player deliberately retracts and then propels forward the front of his shoulder to strike the ball, for example, in an attempt to pass it to a teammate. Contact with the ball occurs just under the collar bone. The motion used is mostly the shoulder coming forward rather than bending at the waist and using the chest. I have previously not permitted this as it is clearly deliberate and has constituted, in my opinion, illegal use of the arm, even though the ball has not really come in contact with the upper arm. In support of my position, I site to them that in all my years of watching professional soccer, I have never seen this type of action at this level of play. I have seen players redirect the ball by letting it deflect off their chest but never have I seen the motion described above. What is your opinion, illegal or not?

Answer (January 25, 2006):
As long as the player does not use any part of the arm itself, there is no deliberate handling in this situation.

And thank you for the compliment. We try our best.



The Laws of the Game state that Extra Time may be used as a procedure to determine the winner of a match. The Laws also state that competition rules may provide for two further equal periods, not exceeding 15 minutes each, to be played.

Can rules of competition (as in a youth tournament) still allow for a single period of extra time or "golden goal" period to determine the winner of a match?

Answer (January 25, 2006):
Competitions may not make rules counter to the Laws of the Game, which specify:
Away goals, extra time and taking kicks from the penalty mark are methods of determining the winning team where competition rules require there to be a winning team after a match has been drawn.

The Laws then go on to lay out the guidelines for away goals, extra time, and kicks from the penalty mark. There is no provision for a single period of extra time or a period in which a "golden goal" may be scored.



A player claims he can wear his turban as it is his religious right. The opposing coach and player's say that the player gets an unfair advantage when going to head the ball, should this be allowed?

Answer (January 23, 2006):
This position paper of 15 April 1999 should answer your question:
//Addressees deleted//
Subject: Player Dress

According to Law 4, The Players' Equipment, a player must not use equipment or wear anything which is dangerous to himself or another player. The basic compulsory equipment of a player is a jersey or shirt, shorts, stockings, shinguards, and footwear. There is no provision for a player to wear a skirt or similar clothing.

However, in an analogous situation, in respect of certain religions that require members to wear headcoverings, the Secretary General of the United States Soccer Federation has given permission to those bound by religious law to wear those headcoverings, usually a turban or yarmulke, provided the referee finds that the headgear does not pose a danger to the player wearing it, or to the other players. This principle could be extended to other clothing required of members by their religion.

Since the referee may not know all the various religious rules, players must request the variance well enough ahead of game time by notifying the league. The league will notify the state association, which will pass the information on to the state referee committee. The state referee committee will make sure that the referees working that league's matches are informed.

The referee is still bound by the requirements of Law 4 that no player use equipment or wear anything which is dangerous to himself or another player, or use this equipment or clothing to circumvent the Laws of the Game. An example would be the use of the equipment or garment to trap the ball or to distract an opponent.

April 5, 1999



The 2005 Questions and answers to the LOTG prescribes an indirect kick for the following action.

13. While the ball is in play, a substitute throws an object e.g. footwear at a player of the opposing team. What action does the referee take?
Play is stopped and the substitute is sent off for violent conduct. Play is restarted with an indirect free kick to the opposing team at the place where the ball was located when play was stopped *.

However, the USSF Advice to Referees has a table under the heading of violent conduct that indicates the result would be a dropped ball, due to the fact that a substitute was guilty of misconduct. Am I reading this incorrectly?

Answer (January 23, 2006):
Brief and simple answer first: There are several Q&As where the reader must presume that the evildoer either entered the field or left the field to perform the deed. In this case, the Q&A item PRESUMES that the substitute entered the field of play. Accordingly, the restart (indirect free kick where the ball was) was for this rather than for the violent conduct.

Long-winded answer with rationale second:
- If the sub remained off the field and threw the shoe, this would be misconduct committed off the field by a nonplayer--restart is dropped ball where the ball was.
- The ONLY indirect free kick restart performed where the ball was rather than where the violation occurred is the illegal entry of a substitute.
- If the Q&A answer had been based on the theory that the restart was based on misconduct and that this misconduct was ON the field because that is where the target was, the location of the indirect free kick restart would have been where the target was.
- The only factual situation that fits "indirect free kick where the ball was" is that the stoppage was for the illegal entry of the substitute--who then committed violent conduct by throwing the shoe. Unfortunately, the FIFA Q&A forget to mention this little piece of information.


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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