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April 2004 Archive (I of II)

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Can you please give me a concise definition of "Misinterpretation of the Laws of the Game"?

Answer (April 6, 2004):
"Misinterpretation of the Laws" means that a referee has totally misread and misapplied the Law, the Q&A, and the Additional Instructions, as well as the USSF Advice to Referees.

Example: Giving an offside for a player who has not left his own half of the field of play, simply because there was only one opponent between him and the opposing goal.

Example: Giving a direct free kick for the offense described above.

Both of these were in a question that came in this week--from the assistant referee on the game.


It's soccer time again, and I have questions...
1) Quite often, and at all levels, the player taking the corner kick raises his hand upright just before executing the kick. What is the significance of this action and is it required?
2) A Team A attacker receives an on-side pass in the penalty area just above the PK marker, while surrounded by 3 Team B defenders. As the same attacker (from Team A) is about to shoot on goal he is held at the waist from behind by one of the Team B attackers. The attacker still manages to get a shot off and the ball enters the net. Is this an Advantage goal or a PK? What if the ball went straight out of touch, would that change anything?

Answer (April 6, 2004):
1) The raised hand is a signal to the kicker's team that he is about to kick. You will have to check with the player himself to determine the signal's true significance and whether or not it is required.

2) Why would a referee take away a goal scored from a trifling foul and award a penalty kick? Award the advantage, if truly necessary, and score the goal.

If, following the holding, the kicker's shot goes awry and over the goal line, the referee will have to judge whether or not the holding was significant enough to be called a foul. If it was, then the correct restart is a penalty kick.


I would like to get your comments concerning a situation that occurred during a U16 girls game in which I was the referee. During the pace of the game the ball was volleyed from near midfield toward one of the goals. The attacking team's forward and opponent's defender bolted side by side toward the bouncing ball. As they raced past the the top of the 18 the attacker gained a stride and was able to get a partial foot on the bounding ball which the keeper caught. A split second afterwards the defender's extended leg and the offensive player's feet got tangled and the players went down. To the dismay of the attacking team's coach I did not call for a PK, his protest was that a foul in the PA area is a foul and a PK should be awarded. My position is this: both players are fairly and cleanly challenging for the ball. The attacker gained a stride which allowed her to get the shot off. The defender's action precipitated the tangle up and causing both players to go down however the action was not reckless or use of excessive force. To some it may be considered careless however the total situation needs to be ascertained. Would the outcome (attacker getting the shot off and keeper catching the ball) have been the same if the tangle up (trip according to the coach) not occurred? In my opinion the answer is yes, and along with the defender's trip being more unintentional than purposeful and occurring after the shot was taken I decided to not call the foul. A chat with the defender about being more careful sufficed.

Answer (April 6, 2004):
An interesting question and one that we have answered before. It is, of course, your opinion as referee that determines whether or not a foul has occurred. Without wishing to seem to be insulting you--particularly as your decision may well have been correct in the end--your opinion would seem to have been based on erroneous reasoning.

We referees are no longer required to judge "intent" in an act by one player against another, but to judge the result of the act instead. However, we are allowed to distinguish between an act that is accidental and one that is deliberate.

All referees need to remember that "intent" is not an issue in deciding what is or is not a foul, regardless of age, and that something at the youngest age levels might nonetheless be considered a foul if it is determined to be careless. No age is too young to begin learning not to be careless.

For example, in the case of a player stumbling and colliding with an opponent, we would judge the act to be careless, reckless, or involving the use of excessive force--and thus a foul--only if the player had already begun to trip (or attempt to trip), push, kick (or attempt to kick), strike (or attempt to strike), jump at or charge his opponent. If the player was still merely pursuing the opponent and happened to stumble and fall, colliding with the opponent on the way down, there has been no foul, as the act was simply accidental or inadvertent.

Only you, as the referee on the spot, can tell us whether this is in fact what happened.


I had a discussion with the referees at my last game (FIFA/US Soccer Laws). I was standing at the 6 yard line as a defender trying to clear the ball out. It was extremely windy and I miskicked the ball. It glanced off my shin into the air and the wind picked it up and pushed it back towards our goalkeeper. He then picked it up and threw the ball about 30 yards up the field towards the left touchline. The AR on that side of the field then signaled the center referee. The center referee stopped play (while the ball was in play by the touchline). He consulted with the AR, told him that he did not think the pass was intentional and there was no penalty/indirect kick to be awarded. The center referee then restarted the game with a drop ball at the 6-yard line (where the goalie had handled the ball). I think the center referee made the correct call, but restarted the ball improperly. I have 3 questions.

1) The law states it is unlawful for the goalkeeper in his own penalty area to handle the ball after being deliberately kicked by a teammate. Does this mean that even on a miskick, where a player meant to kick the ball (i.e. a bad clear), just not to the goalie, would count here? Could the goalie pick this ball up on a miskick.

2) I agree that the game should have been restarted with a drop ball, but shouldn't it have been restarted where the ball was when the referee stopped play?

3) How do the words intentionally and deliberately play out here?

Answer (April 6, 2004):
1. The goalkeeper may certainly handle the ball when it has been clearly misdirected by a teammate. (An example might be a player trying to clear the ball and slicing it or having it caught and carried back by the wind, so that it goes back to the goalkeeper.) Referees should punish such handling only when, in the opinion of the referee, the pass was deliberate.

2. The ball should have been dropped at the place where the ball was when the referee stopped play.

3. The word "intentionally" does not occur in the Laws of the Game. (However, the word "intent" does occur once, in the Additional Instructions at the end of the book, where referees are instructed to caution players who delay the restart of play by certain tactics.) The word "deliberately" means that the player did what he or she planned to do.


One of my players left the field when I sent in substitutes, 5 went in 6 came off. I notified the AR and wanted to send him in, I was told that I had to wait until a normal substitution situation , I thought I needed to get the Refs. Ok and he could enter at any time after the ref waved him in. I waited 6 minutes till he went in playing a man down. Please advise the proper procedure for me.

Answer (April 6, 2004):
In this case, your player should be allowed to enter at any time, whether play is stopped or not, but only with the referee's permission. Because this is not a substitution, this would apply even under the rules of a competition that specifies that a substitute may enter only at particular times.


Play is on when you see, off to the right, a player go down and writhing in pain. You didn't see any foul but due to concern of player appearing to be seriously injured you stop play. Once you stop play, he amazingly jumps up and runs to where you are. He earns himself a caution for exaggerating the injury. Do you restart with dropped ball from place ball was when you stopped play for the injury? Or do you view the misconduct as occurring simultaneously and punish this with a restart of an IFK from where the player was?

Answer (April 5, 2004):
When play is stopped for a player who is seriously injured, the normal restart would be a dropped ball from the place where the ball was when the referee stopped play (taking into consideration the special circumstances described in Law 8). However, if the "serious injury" turns out to be simulation, the referee cautions the player for unsporting behavior and shows the yellow card. The restart in this case is indirect free kick from the place where the infringement occurred (taking into consideration the special circumstances described in Law 8).


Please forgive me if I'm only supposed to send questions about the laws of the game to but I did not know who else to ask.

Where could I find a bylaw or rule on the USSF web site which says use of tobacco by USSF referees is not allowed?

Someone has asked me for documentation and while I remember my referee instructor mentioning this, I do not remember where he said the rule could be found.

Answer (April 5, 2004):
You will not find this restriction in the Laws of the Game, nor anywhere else. However, you will find in the International Football Association's (IFAB) Questions and Answers to the Laws of the Game that a player may not use tobacco during a match. (Law 12, Q&A 3) The Q&A does not say tobacco, but does say "lights a cigarette." The connection is clear and definite.

As defined in the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game," "during a match" includes:
(a) the period of time immediately prior to the start of play during which players and substitutes are physically on the field warming up, stretching, or otherwise preparing for the match;
(b) any periods in which play is temporarily stopped;
(c) half time or similar breaks in play;
(d) required overtime periods;
(e) kicks from the penalty mark if this procedure is used in case a winner must be determined; and
(f) the period of time immediately following the end of play during which the players and substitutes are physically on the field but in the process of exiting.

It is a tenet of the National Program for Referee Development that a referee should do nothing in the vicinity of the field that he or she would not allow a player to do. Thus the use of tobacco in any form would be a violation of the referee's compact with the United States Soccer Federation.


I have a question about physical contact between a referee and a youth player that is initiated by the referee. There are obviously extremes on both ends; the acceptable being a handshake after a game, the unacceptable being a referee striking a player. The physical contact I am not sure about is that in between. At a recent game I witnessed the referee pull a player aside by grabbing the player's wrist. Another incident occurred shortly after in the game where the ref put his hands on another players shoulders while talking to the boy. The ref said that the player claimed to have something in his eye and he was checking, but the appearance at the time was more confrontational. The age of the players in this game was 12/13.

I am personally a referee myself and a parent of two boys who play competitive soccer. When I ref a game I make a conscious decision not to make any type of intentional contact with the players other than to shake hands after a game and then only when initiated by the player. As a parent I do not want a referee to use physical force, threats of force, or even any unnecessary physical contact with my boys. At the same time, I have never seen any type of real guidelines on what could be considered appropriate or inappropriate contact initiated by a referee with a player and only go by my own feelings on the issue. I do understand that this is a very complicated issue with different answers based on the situation, the age and sex of the referee, the players, and even the level of the match, so I am trying to find out what is considered acceptable.

Answer (April 5, 2004):
No referee should ever lay hands on any player for any reason other than to help a player in need of assistance to rise from the ground. Some referees will attempt to break up fights, but that is not recommended.


Further to your goalkeeper safety answer on 12-Feb-04, in a match on 27-Mar-04 the opponents goalkeeper in his penalty area tried to tackle the ball (fairly) from an attacker with both feet. The keeper wound up on the ground with the ball under and between his legs. When the attacker tried to kick it out, the referee awarded a DFK to the defenders and called it "in the keeper's possession." The attacker's foot made contact with the ball but not the keeper. The keeper was not touching the ball with his hands or arms.

The attacker's coach objected to this call because keeper possession is defined as "contact with hands or arms." I told the coach the correct call should be dangerous play on the attacker and the ball (IFK) should still be awarded to the defenders. It still didn't seem fair play by the keeper. Could the call have been anything else - to award the ball to the attackers?

Answer (April 2, 2004):
What is fair to one may not seem fair to another. Was the goalkeeper given a chance to get up and play the ball properly? If so, but the 'keeper chose not to do so, then the 'keeper should be called for playing in a dangerous manner and the 'keeper's team should be penalized by the indirect free kick for the opponents. If the goalkeeper had no clear chance to stand and play the ball properly, then the correct call, if not the correct words by the referee, would be kicking (or attempting to kick) by the player on the opposing team, and the goalkeeper's team would be awarded a direct free kick. (Under some circumstances, the referee might consider a send-off for serious foul play.)


1. During a "drop ball" restart, one team elected not to participate. The player on the team that did, kicked the ball twice when the ball was dropped. There is nothing in the rules stating that this is ok or not so what's the call? Is the player entitled to kick the ball twice? 2. During a penalty kick the defending players all yelled in an un sports man like manner just as the opposing player was about to kick the ball and thereby distracting that player. The ball did not go in. What should be the call? If it is un sports man like and every player was involved, who should be cautioned and what should the restart be? Should the player attempting the kick be allowed another chance?

These were youth games- U14. I was the ref so I wanted to see if I made the correct call. I've check the various ref manuals and could not find a reference for these events.

Answer (April 2, 2004):
1. At a dropped ball, the ball is in play the moment it hits the ground. Because he or she did not put it into play, there is no reason to punish a player for playing the ball twice. The two-touch limitation applies only to restarts performed by a player.

2. Follow the instructions in Law 14: Allow the kick to be taken. If it enters the goal, score the goal. If the ball does not enter the goal, retake the penalty kick. For game management purposes, this is not a situation in which you would simply warn the opposing player(s). Therefore, do not retake the kick until you have cautioned at least one of the players on the opposing team for unsporting behavior and shown the yellow card. Your choice as to which player(s) to caution, but it might be wise to select a player who has not previously been cautioned.


An offensive player receives the ball near the penalty spot, he has 2 defenders and the goalie in front of him, he dribbles past the first defender, cuts right and dribbles past the second defender, he then nears the post, changes the ball from one foot to the other as the goalie dives to block the shot, the keeper knocks the off ball foot with his reach, disbalancing the shot, the shot goes wide, penalty kick is awarded. QUESTION. Is this a red cardable, last man situation?

Answer (March 23, 2004):
That is a problem that can be resolved only by the referee on the spot, the only person who has seen what has gone on and the only person qualified to judge. Any and all situations regarding the possible denial of a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity are, in the final analysis, decided by the referee on this basis. No one can make this decision from the comfort of a computer, standing on the sidelines as a spectator, or from a seat in the stands or in front of the television set. As a matter of fact, the same could be said of any decision for a foul or misconduct.



Answer (February 3, 2004):


I had a concern about a play. The play is: The goalie comes out of his box playing it on the ground with two defenders behind him, one to his right and the other to his left. The goalie accidentally kicks it to the opposing player. The forward gets the ball and deliberately shoots towards the goal and the goalie purposely blocks it with his hands outside of the penalty area. The referee whistles for the foul,the opposing team quickly puts the ball down and shoots it towards goal and it goes in. The referee counts it as a goal and after gives the keeper a yellow card. We've been having this confusion for awhile now because it happened to one of our fellow refs. Is this correct? Thank You for your time; it is greatly appreciated.

Answer (March 21, 2004):
Unfortunately, the referee acted incorrectly in this case. If the referee believes that the goalkeeper denied the opposing team a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball outside his penalty area, the correct punishment is to send off the goalkeeper and show him the red card. In this particular case, it is unlikely that the referee would send off the goalkeeper, as there were two defenders behind the 'keeper when he committed his handling offense.

In any case of misconduct, if the referee fails to caution (yellow card) or send off (red card) the player immediately and the opposing team takes its free kick quickly--which it is allowed to do unless the referee stops it--then the referee may neither send off nor caution that player after play has restarted. This shows just how important it is for the referee to manage restarts effectively.


The following hypothetical question was asked during a recent entry-level clinic I taught. The more I think about it, the more my brain falls victim to paralysis of analysis.

The ball is in play under the control of the red team at the edge of the blue team's penalty area. The Referee is well positioned on the left wing, trailing play by about 5 yards, where he can observe play and maintain eye contact with his lead AR. When the Referee sees his lead AR's flag go up, he whistles a stoppage in play. The lead AR then points in the direction of the trail AR.

The Referee looks back to his trail AR, who has his flag raised and gives it a wave. The referee back pedals to the trail AR to ask him what he observed. The trail AR tells the Referee that he observed the red sweeper and a blue forward exchange blows while standing near the half-way line in the center of the field. Unfortunately, the trail AR confessed that he was mostly watching the ball and did not observe who struck the first blow.

After deciding to send-off the two pugilists for violent misconduct, the Referee must now restart play. Since play was stopped for what turned out to be a penal foul (striking) he decides the restart must be a direct free kick from the point of the infraction. But, he wonders, in which direction should this free kick be taken?

The class had fun coming up with alternatives, including (1) give the free kick to the attacking team, since they had possession when play was stopped; (2) just guess which direction to call and hope you're correct; (3) restart with a dropped ball where the ball was when play was stopped; and (4) restart with a dropped ball at the point where the violent misconduct took place.

My immediate response to the class was that the Referee needed to earn his money and decide which direction play should go with a direct free kick, and that after the game he should have a very long, heart to heart talk with the trail AR.

So tell me, what is the officially correct answer?

Answer (March 19, 2004):
The "officially correct answer" is precisely as you stated--the referee must make a decision and stick with it under any circumstances. Restarting with a dropped ball is not an option.

In addition, it might be useful to note that there was a referee error embedded in the question: "When the Referee sees his lead AR's flag go up, he whistles a stoppage in play." At the point of seeing the assistant referee's flag go up, the referee has no idea what the AR is trying to do other than gain the referee's attention and, accordingly, stopping play THEN is incorrect. The flag straight up in the air is nothing more than a "Hey, ref!" call. The subsequent eye contact is the referee's reply of "Yeah, what is it?" and this must then be followed by some AR action that tells the referee why the referee's attention was wanted. In this case, the lead AR, who has mirrored the other AR's flag, points to the trail AR, who then informs the referee that an event has occurred out of the view of the referee for which the referee would have stopped play if he had seen it. This is the correct point at which to stop play.


What should the referee do if a player who is outside the penalty area intentionally stops the goalkeeper from releasing the ball?

I told one of our referees here that play should be stopped, the player should be cautioned and play restarted with an indirect kick to the goalkeeper's team. He said no because the player is outside of the penalty area. It is only when the offence occurs in the penalty area that the referee should take such action.

Answer (March 19, 2004):
The makers of the Laws of the Game changed the Law some years ago to prevent time wasting by the team with the ball, such as the goalkeeper standing around holding the ball. Now that a limit has been set on the time during which the goalkeeper may hold the ball, the Law expects all players to refrain from delaying or otherwise interfering with the goalkeeper's right to release the ball into play for all players. Any interference with the movement of the goalkeeper who is trying to release the ball into play is illegal, particularly any movement to block the goalkeeper's line of sight or motion. Interference with the release of the ball is purely a positional thing, regardless of whether the goalkeeper is moving at the time.

It makes no difference where the interfering player stands, whether inside or outside the penalty area.


At a recent game, a player chasing a ball across the touch line, twisted his knee. The Center Referee made a comment that the player injured himself while playing the ball into touch. I asked him isn't this out of touch, as the ball was leaving the field?

So my question is when a ball leaves the field over the touch line does it go out of or into touch?

Answer (March 19, 2004):
The term "touch" in describing the area surrounding the actual field is an old one in soccer. It goes back to the nineteenth century, when the first player getting to the ball after it left the bounds of the field could "touch" it and the ball became his to put back into play. Although that no longer applies and there are strict rules about who puts the ball back into play, depending on who last touched, played, or made contact with the ball before it left the field, the term "touch" is still used to describe the area outside the "touch lines."

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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