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December 2008 Archive (III of III)


what is the radius of the PENALTY SPOT and the CENTER SPOT?

Answer (December 27, 2008):
The prescribed size of the penalty mark for games played under the Laws of the Game is nine inches (0.22 m) in diameter -- although you will no longer find it in the Laws of the Game.

Between 1975 and 1996-1997 (the orange book), the body of the Law contained no mandated dimension for the penalty mark. It said only that a "suitable mark" would be present. Going at least as far back as 1984, however, the accompanying field diagram labeled the mark as a 9-inch (0.22 m) diameter circle. In 1997 this was dropped from the diagram.

Just to be sure, we checked this with Stanley Lover, one of the acknowledged world experts on the Laws and their history, on the matter:

Agree, the 9 inch dimension has never been specified in the laws but there is a clue to its origin.

Way back in the 1956 FA Referees' Chart the Preface refers to the inclusion of "interpretations of the laws, made from time to time by the Referees' Committee of FIFA...and published for the first time as 'International Board Decisions' "
These included a table of metric equivalents of Imperial measurements.
The field diagram was as before - Imperial only - and remained unchanged, I believe, until the 1997 fiasco.

However, my first FIFA laws book of 1973 shows a 9 inch dia. penalty 'spot', although, strangely, the metric equivalent (0.22m) was not added to the table until 1974. The FA Chart 74-5 also added the 0.22m figure.

This suggests to me that, before 1956, the FIFA Referees' Committee published various interpretations of the laws - to guide non-UK countries - including its version of the field diagram. At some time up to 1956 it was decided to put a size to the penalty mark, which equated to the diameter of the ball (logical), but without proposing it to the IFAB to be in formal law.

Although 'Penalty mark' is the formal law description it has left the door open to the use of a short line, as you mention in some USA soccer associations. As you know the original penalty-kick reference was a line so there is logic in that too. However, for donkeys years it was a 'Penalty spot' in FA charts and accepted as such.

Just to confuse the issue a bit more - the FIFA 1973 law book diagram labels the 'mark' as a 'spot', but in the 1974 issue it's a 'mark' !

We can find no information on an actual specified size for the center mark or center spot. One sees different sized center marks all over the world. It is simply a convenience for the placement of the kick-off and its size makes absolutely no difference.


Regarding shoes: Is black shoe with black logo the only permitted style or is a black shoe with white stripe/logo permitted?

Answer (December 27, 2008):
Page 36 of the Referee Administrative Handbook 2008/2009 specifies shoe color: BLACK SHOES: (may have white manufacturers design) with black laces.


Situation is this: Team A has a free kick in good goal 20 meters from team B's goal. Free kick taker in Team A wants the referee to move the wall further from the ball. The referee says the distance is ok. The free kick taker in team A then shoots the ball with full power deliberately into the wall of team B players to demonstrate he considers the players are standing to close. Decision? Restart of play?

Answer (December 27, 2008):
Referees are not capable nor trained in reading the minds of the players. It is hard to accept the notion that a player who kicks the ball at full force at goal -- with opponents happening to be standing in the way (regardless of the distance) -- could be considered guilty of committing violent conduct or any other infringement of the Law. Asking the referee to decide that there has been an infringement, e. g., violent conduct, has meaning only if there is a possibility of it being true. Kicking the ball hard at goal, hopefully THROUGH the wall, is an understandable and acceptable tactic. The kicker may hope that the force of the kick will power the ball through the wall or that, in anticipation of the ball being kicked forcefully, an opponent in the wall may duck and allow the ball to go through. We see no reason for any stoppage in play, nor for any action against the kicker.


Question: In an English Championship league fixture, Michael Duberry was asked to remove his white under-shorts as they clashed with the all orange Reading strip. I recall this ruling coming in during the 1990s when multicolored "cycle shorts" became the rage, and it was made mandatory to match them to the teams shorts in terms of color. I also recall reading a FA ref manual that states something to the effect that they "must not extend below the knee", which would outlaw the full length tights worn by Giggs, Ronaldo and John Barnes. Is this rule still in place? And what about the sleeve color of under shirts (with the new trend of short-sleeve club shirts with lycra under shirts, must they match?)

Answer (December 22, 2008):
Law 4 tells us:
Basic Equipment
The basic compulsory equipment of a player comprises the following separate items:
- a jersey or shirt with sleeves- if undergarments are worn, the color of the sleeve shall be the same main color as the sleeve of the jersey or shirt
- shorts - if undershorts are worn, they are of the same main color as the shorts

Shorts by definition do not extend below the knee -- at least not nowadays.

The tights worn by players do not fall into the category of shorts and should not be treated as shorts.

Referees need to exercise common sense and not go out of their way to upset the other participants over trifling matters.


I was reading the Position Paper of November 18, 2008 regarding Player-Coaches. The second to last paragraph states in part "It states " a player-coach who has been red carded can not be present at the team's next match in either a player or any team official capacity".

I always thought a send off only applied to the remainder of the current match being played and that further suspension, including the team's "next match", was at the discretion of the competition authority.

Answer (December 22, 2008):
Aha! Well, now you have learned something, coach. The suspension mandated by the IFAB and FIFA is for the remainder of the game from which the player or team official is removed and for one game beyond that. And, if the competition authority (the people who run the league, cup, tournament, whatever) have it in their rules, that person may also have to sit more than one extra game.

And of course what the competition authority can do is not limited to a lengthier suspension. They can add whatever penalties are allowed for in their own rules, and they can, in the case of a player-coach, differentiate between the two roles in applying additional penalties.


I think the May 21, 2008 memo should have included a reference to page 111 of the Interpretations where the only violation mentioned for a "pass back" to the goalkeeper is "...deliberately kicked to him by a teammate..." Or maybe include part of the Memorandum in the Interpretations. I can see coaches feeling justified in berating a referee if the referee called the offence as specified in the Memorandum if the coach was only aware of the "pass back" violation as specified in the Interpretations.

Just a thought

Answer (December 17, 2008):
1. When the May 21 2008 Memo on official changes in the Laws of the Game was prepared and published, the current year's Lawbook was not available and so we could not know what the Interpretations would say on any topic, much less this one.

2. When we were ready to prepare and publish the supplemental memorandum, we reviewed the Lawbook (including the Interpretations section) closely to identify those areas where IFAB had changed the language enough that the "clarification" appeared to modify our current understanding and implementation of the topic. The topic of the "pass back to the keeper" was not one of them. Nothing appeared in the Lawbook (or the Interpretations section) that significantly altered any of our earlier memos on this topic or what is plainly stated in Advice to Referees.


What discretion, if any, does the referee have in deciding to call a foul as a dangerous play, which results in an indirect free kick, versus a reckless/careless foul, which results in a direct free kick. For example, a player carelessly raises his cleat too high, interfering with an opponent, versus the cleat making the slightest contact with an opponent, versus the cleat making solid contact with an opponent. What about a slide tackle that is whistled because it was careless under the circumstances, but not so dangerous as to warrant a direct free kick, according to the referee? Is there discretion under all circumstances of dangerous play and fouls/misconduct?

Answer (December 17, 2008):
We always encourage referees to use their discretion in making any call, based on the factors that went into making the decision in the first place. However, too many referees blur the lines between the various fouls, particularly the clear difference between playing dangerously and committing a direct-free-kick foul. In most cases this is done because the referee doesn't want to appear too harsh or, much worse, because the referee is afraid to call a foul a foul. How many referees have you seen who say that the same foul they would have called a direct-free-kick foul at midfield is not a penalty-kick-foul when committed in the penalty area? They then chicken out and call it dangerous play, depriving the offended team of a fully justified penalty kick.

You have to make the decision and stick with it. The offense in this case is not simply against the Laws of the Game, but against the whole tradition and spirit of the game.


A goalkeeper gains possession of the ball in their area. They get ready to punt the ball. They let go of the ball at the top of the penalty area line. They release the ball from their hands in the area but their foot makes contact with the ball during the act of punting outside the penalty area. Is this a violation? Does the entire act of punting have to take place in the penalty area? Or is it no violation. because the ball was released from the keeper's hands within the penalty area?

Answer (December 16, 2008):
The answers to your questions in the order in which they were asked:
1. No.
2. No.
3. Yes.


Was just catching up on Ask A Ref.

I was reading November 2008 III of III. There was a question about a couple of recert questions, and the guy mentioned a 50 question recert test. The answer seemed to imply that the number of questions on a recert can vary widely across the country.

I just took my test tonight (8 recert) and it had 75 questions. Not that I really care, but I thought the test was standard across the USA, so every 8 recert would take a similar 75 question test.

And we had a 12 recert taking a 50 question test, so that may explain that guys' understanding of the laws.

Anyway, another topic. I saw a professional game on tv a few weeks ago. I think it was MLS. Situation was this - note Im seeing all this on tv without a lot of explanation from the announcers.

Attacker kicks ball out over goal line. Keeper looks over to sidelines, lifts up one leg, points to cleat, then rolls hands around like for a substitution, implying he wants to change his cleats. The trainers run out onto the field, he changes his cleats. He goes to reset the ball for the goal kick, and just before he kicks the ball, the center comes over and shows him a yellow card.

Again, no explanation from the announcers - they dont know definitively what is going on anyway. Side note - am I crazy, or does John Harkes not have a clue about the laws of the game?

I presume the caution was for delaying the restart. But if the delay was caused by the changing of the cleats, can the ref logically show a caution for that, when he allowed the trainers onto the field in the first place?

If you know what really happened in this situation, I would like to know, as it keeps me awake at night, but more importantly it might make a good instructive question for Ask A Ref.

Answer (December 12, 2008):
1. Recertification testing
The Federation supplies tests of 100 questions for use in testing referees in grades 12 through 5 to the state directors of instruction. Recertification testing is run differently in each state. Some states randomly select 50 (or 75, as in your state) questions and use them for recerts. Other states take these tests and rewrite them to suit themselves, changing answers from the correct one to an answer that fits the particular need of the state or the individual instructor. Unfortunately, there is little the Federation can do about this.

2. Television commentators
Most -- not all, but certainly most -- television commentators, even those who have played professionally and internationally, have no clear grasp of the Laws of the Game. They look at the game from the viewpoint of the position they played (or their experience in other sports), rather than at the overall picture. Additionally, the commentators are also watching the game unfold from a significantly different location than are the referee and the assistant referees. They do the game a great disservice by suggesting that the referees do not know what they are doing.

3. The incident
The game you saw was the playoff game between the Chicago Fire and the New England Revolution. Prior to taking the goal kick, the Chicago goalkeeper, Bush, indicated that he was injured and the referee permitted the trainers to enter the field. However, then Bush also indicated that he wanted to change his boots, as they were not suitable for the field conditions. He failed to get the referee's permission for this and then took too long with it and the referee rightly cautioned him for delaying the restart of play.

There are, of course, other questions that could be asked, such as what was the score (and the rhythm) of the game? Was the delay for tactical purposes? Was Chicago trying to "use" this time to interfere with the Revolution's pace of play? However, the core of the matter is the actual delay of the restart.

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 Paul Tamberino, Director of Referee Development; David McKee, National Director of Assessment (assessment matters); and Ulrich Strom, National Instructor and National Assessor (matters in general).

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