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Ask a Referee Update: Nov. 1, 2011


THE REFEREE MUST ALWAYS FOLLOW THE CODE OF ETHICS

Question:
Parents sitting within a few feet of the corner flags (basically, their positioning impedes the soccer players from having the appropriate space to kick the ball). I have traditionally had problems with rec parents (in particular) who get mad when asked to move at least 2 yards from the lines or from outside the corner goal area. As a matter of fact, this weekend a newly bridged ref (from grade 9 to grade 8 and whose dad was the coach of the team playing) got mad when asked to move (mind you he was sitting, as a spectator, within 2-3 ft of the flag - if he had laid down he would have touched the flag). During stoppage of the game, he came to the pitch to question why I would make a "ref" (while pointing to his new 2012 badge) move - wanted me to tell him "which rule". I told him I'd be happy to talk to him after the game but not why I was currently reffing. Then he said, "The game has stopped. Tell me why you want me to move". I told him I was in the middle of the game and he needed to leave the field so I could get the game going again. His dad then told him to get off the field so the team could play. Naturally, he did not come to find me at the end of the game.

I plan to talk to the Association today about this behavior; however it seems that there is some "ethical" issue that he may have violated -- particularly since he entered the field and had no reason to be on the field.

Answer (October 31, 2011):
This sort of situation is usually dealt with in the rules of the particular competition under which the game is being played. In other words, the rules of the league or the rec council or tournament, etc. In most cases these rules forbid spectators (particularly partisan spectators) from being behind the goal lines or less than three yards from either of the touchlines,although it will vary depending on where you are.

While the errant official may not have been on the game itself, he clearly violated a number of items under the Referee Code of Ethics:
(1) I will always maintain the utmost respect for the game of soccer.
(2) I will conduct myself honorably at all times and maintain the dignity of my position.
//3 items clipped//
(6) I will be loyal to my fellow officials and never knowingly promote criticism of them.
//2 items clipped//
(9) I will do my utmost to assist my fellow officials to better themselves and their work.
(10) I will not make statements about any games except to clarify an interpretation of the Laws of the Game.
/1 item clipped// (12) I consider it a privilege to be a part of the U.S. Soccer Federation and my actions will reflect credit upon that organization and its affiliates.


FLAG WITHDRAWN BUT GOAL DISALLOWED

Question:
Here is what happened: During the first 10 minutes of the game a goal is scored but right afterward, (during celebration of the goal), to everyone's surprise, the center referee stops play and goes to talk with the side referee. No one knew why at the time. Players that were in the area of discussion said that the center ref asked the side ref why he had put his flag up and then quickly down before the goal was scored. The side ref told the center referee that he did not mean to put up his flag and that it was a goal. The center ref says well you did put up your flag and so I blew my whistle and so whether you meant to put your flag up or not, you did, and so since I therefore blew my whistle I can not call it a goal. The side ref then said well it was a goal I made an error and I clearly saw that the goal scorer was behind the defender and it was a goal. But again the center ref said well I can't count it as a goal. So he calls it no goal and does a drop ball. Now I must add that no one heard the whistle be blown and play continued during the goal being scored, no players stopped playing. What is the rule on this? How can an obvious goal not be counted just because the side ref accidently puts up his flag for a brief moment? And then the side ref says it is a goal. The center ref even came over to the head coach during half time to say that he knew that it was a goal but was sorry that he could not count it but under the circumstances he could not. By the way, this goal ended up being very important to the out come of the game. It was the only goal scored and made the difference between a tie and a win! And the points were needed, now its the difference between 1st & 2nd place in the bracket! Bummer! Thank you for your explanation and can anything be done at this point? Can a protest maybe correct this?

Answer (October 31, 2011):
The referee acted correctly only if in fact he had blown the whistle upon seeing the AR's flag go up. He apparently reacted (albeit inaudibly) to his assistant referee's flag and stopped play for whatever the flag may have meant -- offside, foul, etc. The fact that the AR then lowered the flag does not make any difference in the outcome; the referee's decision was made and the whistle was blown (even if inaudibly). Play stops when the referee decides it has stopped. Anything that happens after the decision to stop play has been made does not change the fact of the stoppage.

No, the referee has not misapplied the Laws or called something counter to the Laws, so we doubt that any protest would be allowed. If the referee included full details in the match report perhaps the competition authority will have pity.


BE THE REFEREE!

Question:
I was reffing a recreational league the other day when something incredible happened that took me by surprise. The Blue attacker and Red defender were running after the ball and into the pk box, they were both legally shoulder charging each other, I was about 5 feet from the play (very close to miss) and saw the Red defender stumble (never fouled) and tumbled ahead of Blue attacker, when the Blue attacker jumped over the tumbling Red defender to get to the ball,The defender stretched his legs up deliberately and fouled the Blue attacker. I called the pk (no doubt) and proceeded to yellow card Red defender and red card him (second yellow). Blue attacker refused to take the pk stating he had committed the foul against Red defender instead of the other way around and his teammates retrieved along side him. I had never encountered this situation and proceeded to call back the ejected Red defender back and explained the strange situation and allowed him back in the game and let the Red team take an indirect kick from the place the Red defender had stumbled and fallen. Red and Blue are also friends, which has nothing to do with the game, but I suspect friendship had something to do with Blue's decision to avoid getting his friend (Red) ejected. How should I have handled this situation better.

Answer (October 24, 2011):
The referee is certainly allowed to change a decision, even the awarding of a send-off (red card) if he does so before the next restart, but he needs to have an extremely good reason to do so. The referee also needs to stand by a decision to award a penalty kick if the foul occurred in the perpetrator's penalty area and was clearly a direct-free kick foul, no matter that the player who was fouled objects.

If the player who was fouled does not wish to take the penalty kick, life is hard. In that case, another member of his team must take the penalty kick. If no one cares to take the penalty kick, then the game is abandoned and the referee submits full details of the reason in his report to the competition authority.


PITCH INVASION BY IRATE PARENTS

Question:
In the 30th to 36th minute of a 45 minute second half game for U17B, there was a foul that took down a player and they were injured. That player remained on the field until the coaches could be called on to attend to him. During that time, the parent of this player ran onto the field yelling at the referees that they allowed his son to get injured because they didn't make the calls necessary to stop the rough play. The coaches from the parents' team got the parent off the field of play and away from the referees. The player was then taken off the field. During this time, the referees conferred in a conference and then came back and stated the match was suspended due to parent coming on the field.

Since the match was called in the 36th minute of the 2nd half does the score stand as official? Should the officials have notified the coach to have the parent removed or the match would be suspended before they just suspended the match? Can they have the results of the match overturned to a forfeit for the team with whose parent entered the field of play?

Answer (October 24, 2011):
We cannot understand why the referee needed to have a conference with the ARs to determine that the match was suspended. The match is automatically suspended the moment the referee allows authorized medical (or coaching) staff to enter the field to examine the player.

Surely the referee told the teams that the match had been "terminated" because of the actions of the parents, who entered the field without permission and then verbally attacked the referee.

What happens when a match is terminated is dictated by the rules of the competition (league or state/local association, etc.), not by the referee. The referee must include full details in the match report. Then the competition authority will determine what remains to be done;


GROUNDS FOR PROTEST

Question:
Clearly - a coach could theoretically protest any game, but does the USSF offer any guidelines to leagues regarding what might make a game truly "protestable"?

Or to re-word it - what type of referee errors might be grievous enough to result in a protested match being replayed?

We have differing schools of thought. Some here would say that any misapplication of the law, such as an incorrect restart, would qualify.

Others would pose that the error must directly impact the outcome of the game, for example, not allowing a goal scored from a corner would be a referee misapplication of the Law which directly impacts the outcome. Whereas, awarding a corner kick when it should have been a throw-in, and then the corner results in a goal, would be an indirect impact. The players had the opportunity to mediate that misapplication of the Law.

Of course, leagues prefer not to incur the expense of replaying any games at all. That financial concern aside - are there any guidelines for how a coach or league Board might determine if a protest is worthy on the basis of the referee's performance alone?

Answer (October 24, 2011):
There are no national standards for protesting the result of the game and the acts of the referee. Traditionally there is only one reason to protest the decision of the referee, and that is solely for a decision that is counter to the Laws of the Game. In other words, a situation where misapplying the Laws does indeed affect the game or where a referee clearly sets aside one of the Laws of the Game.. There can be no protest on a matter of referee judgment.

Equally traditionally, many protest committees pay no attention to the facts of the case, no matter how rationally reasoned and presented.


"MOTIVATION" ON THE FIELD

Question:
I am a Boys U-12 coach and also an intermediate referee. I think the following is appropriate and I see no rule against it. But I need an opinion.

My team is names AC Milan. Throughout the game I usually scream "who are we?" My team on the field respond, "AC Milan". I use this as a way to motivate my kids. Also to make sure we are a team. I do this every once in a while throughout the game.Not specifically when we score.

This is ok to do, correct?

Answer (October 24, 2011):
It is okay only if the referee on the game does not view it as an attempt to intimidate and/or distract the opponents. If he or she detects either intimidation or distraction, then the players doing the responses on the field could be cautioned for unsporting behavior and you, the coach, could be removed from the game (expelled) for irresponsible behavior. The referee must judge the appropriateness of both the WHEN and the WHY of the coach's and players' actions.


SUBSTITUTES MUST BE READY TO GO

Question:
Question: I have two questions re: U10 Girls soccer:

1) We have played a team multiple times that if they are ahead, will substitute their goalie with less than 5 minutes left in the game.

When they substitute, the girl coming into the game is not ready...not pinny, no gloves. Instead, we have to wait for them to switch pinny and goalie gloves. This eats up the clock and obviously slows the momentum of the game in their favor. What are the rules in relation to subing a goalie?

2) One of our girls was going to a 50/50 ball with the opposing team.

Our girl was tripped and while trying to get up, got kicked in the head (and was not playing the ball). The ref called a dangerous play on our girl and gave the opposing team the free kick. If she is not playing the ball and merely trying to get up (while the other team is kicking the ball into her and kicking her), shouldn't it be a dangerous play with a drop ball?

Answer (October 24, 2011):
1) As with the substitution of any player, the referee must ensure that the new goalkeeper is already fully prepared to enter the field before the referee permits the restart to be delayed for the substitution.

Players, including goalkeepers, must be ready to play with all uniform/equipment parts in place when they appear at the midfield line to indicate a request to substitute. The only "delay" allowable in a goalkeeper substitution is to hold the restart until the new goalkeeper has reached the goal.

2) If the situation was precisely as you describe it, then the referee would seem to have made an error in calling playing dangerously on your player and not calling a foul on the girl from the opposing team, who kicked your player. In no case can the kicking by the opposing player be considered to be playing dangerously by either player: it is clearly at least careless play by the opponent and must be punished with a direct free kick.


TWO INCIDENTS IN A HIGHLY-CHARGED GAME

Question:
I'm a fairly new referee, and I'm hoping to get some insight into a particularly difficult game I was an AR for over this past weekend.

I'm writing to get an opinion regarding two incidents that occurred during a highly charged U15 game in [my state] over the weekend. First, I'd like to address the general atmosphere of the game. It was a very physical game with lots of bumping and jostling for position, and several cautions were issued in the first half. At one point during the first half I overhead the coach of the blue team instructing one of his bigger players that he should, to paraphrase, dish it back as hard if not harder than it was being served. I kept an eye on that player and did not notice any overly-aggressive behavior, so I thought nothing of it. Before the end of the half the red team, down 1-0, tied the game up through a fantastic half-volley from around 20 yards out. The goal scorer had been a threat all game and was clearly the red team's most talented player. By the midpoint of the second half that same red player had been knocked around a bit, and the situation reached a boiling point when he was tackled by a blue player well after the ball had left his feet. The blue player was cautioned, but at this point in the game several red players pointed out that they had overheard the blue coach instructing his players to target the red team's goalscorer. The players of both team were mostly Hispanic, and as such these instructions would have been given in Spanish. None of my crew spoke the language and, as such, we had no way of knowing if the red team's claims were true. I called the center ref to my position and explained the first half incident I had overheard, but he decided to only warn the coach and not take any further action. While there was no direct proof that the coach was instructing his players to target the opposing team's best player, the actions of his players on the field as well as the conversation I'd overheard earlier led me to believe that the Red team's claims of deliberate targeting were substantiated. Were I in the center, I believe I would have dismissed the coach from the game. In this situation do I have enough evidence to do so? Would the correct call be a dismissal of the coach or, as my center did, simply offer a stern warning?

The second incident occurred with around 5 minutes remaining in the match. At this point the red team was winning 2-1, and the atmosphere had gotten even more difficult. Both coaches were being aggressive in their dissent of referee decisions and players were beginning to act similarly. A blue player played a through ball which was contested by a blue player and the red goalie. The two players slid feet first and collided at full speed. It was clear that both players were in a considerable amount of pain but it was also clear there were no severe head or bone injuries. With these two players down, the referee allowed play to continue around 30 seconds longer. I did not get a chance to ask him why he did not stop the game immediately, but I believe it was because the blue team had a clear advantage with the goalie down and the ball in the red penalty area. The ball was eventually cleared by the red team and the game was stopped. After a minute or two on the ground, the blue player was helped up and off the field by his coach and a teammate. The red team claimed that they had only one goalie, and as such the referee allowed them to treat their player around 5 more minutes. The blue team was furious that the game had been stopped for so long, believing that the goalie should have been substituted for one of the general players on the red team's bench. They even went to far as to claim that the referee was required to have the goalie taken off the field and substituted. I have several questions regarding this situation. First, what is the suggested protocol for stopping play when a team has a clear advantage? In this case, the blue team had a clear advantage with the red goalie injured on the ground and the ball in the red penalty box. Should play be allowed to continue until the advantage is ended or is it the duty of the referee to stop play immediately when two players have sustained significant, but not severe, injury? Could the referee have stopped play immediately and determined the play reckless on the part of the blue attacker? It was a clear 50/50 ball, but had the goalie gone into the challenge head-first as opposed to feet first he would have certainly sustained a severe head, neck, or facial injury. This being the case could a foul be called on the blue attacker for a careless or reckless challenge? This call would have the advantage of stopping play immediately without regard to the blue team's advantage. If a goalie is down for a significant period of time is the referee required to ask that he be substituted? The final question addresses the method of restarting the game had it been stopped immediately to address the injury on the field. In this case, play would have been halted by the referee when the blue team had a clear advantage. Is it the duty of the referee to restart the game in a manner that restores this advantage and, if it is, what would have been the best method of restoring such an advantage?

I apologize for the length of the email. I'm sure you guys get lots of these and I don't mean to take up a disproportionate amount of your time. I'm anxious to hear the opinions of some experienced referees regarding these situations. As I said before, I'm very new to refereeing, and while I do have aspirations of reaching the highest levels, games like these make me wonder if I have the willpower to control highly intense games and make correct decisions that keep the match fair. I believe that, were I in the situations described above, I would have dismissed the blue coach for instructing the deliberate targeting of a player and I would have called the blue player for a reckless challenge. Both decisions would have been aggressively disputed, since the sending off of a coach is extreme and the blue player would have had to be cautioned for the challenge on the goalie. That caution would have been the player's second caution and would have resulted in a sending off. I look forwards to hearing what you guys have to say about the situations. Thanks for listening.

Answer (October 13, 2011):
Incident 1:
If you did not understand the words of the coach's message to the player, then you could not report it to the referee unless you had some other indication that the player was supposed to "take care of" his opponent. You might have mentioned it to the referee immediately if you had a suspicion, but that is not conclusive proof. By reporting it when you did, you at least provided some assistance to the referee for the match report.

By taking no action against the coach beyond the caution, the referee did not display the courage expected of a referee. We hope your rules of competition require this caution, as no team official may be cautioned (or sent off) for anything; they may only be expelled for irresponsible behavior, which this act certainly merited.

Whatever the coach may or may not have said or exhorted his players to do, the primary focus of the referee must be on what the players actually DID. They can choose to ignore their coach's advice or they can be egged on by it - it is still their behavior on the field which determines the referee's response to any particular incident.

Incident 2:
* Audible or visible dissent by a coach is irresponsible behavior, for which the correct punishment is expulsion. "Aggressive" dissent requires immediate expulsion.
* "Serious" is in the eyes of the beholder. If the referee believes the injury to be serious, he should stop the game immediately, no matter what the game situation. The referee's primary job is player safety, not playing the advantage for a dubious reason. And in making this decision, the referee MUST take into account the age and experience of the players. Given this was a U15 match, there does not appear to be any reason to delay the stoppage.
* An injured goalkeeper may be treated on the field for as long as it takes to determine whether he or she can continue to play. The opposing team has no vote here.
* Any punishment for misconduct van be made only by the referee ont he spot. It's a "youhaddabethere" situation. However, sliding in feet first against a goalkeeper warrants consideration of at least carelessness, if not actual recklessness, or even excessive force if the tackle were performed at high speed and/or two-footed and/or with studs exposed and/or with one or both feet raised above ball height
* If play was stopped immediately to address the (serious) injury, the only possible restart -- barring a foul -- is a dropped ball at the place where the ball was when play was stopped.. No, referees do not normally slant the restart to account for a possible "advantage' for one of the teams.

Overall, we might suggest that the referee showed too little courage throughout the game. If a game starts poorly and becomes wild and woolly, then the referee must ensure that it slows down and remains a part of the beautiful game, not some sort of war.


THE FINAL WORD

Question:
On 10/3/11 you said "In the scenario you present, the deliberate handling by the goalkeeper outside his own penalty area, no obvious goalscoring opportunity has been denied. There is no evidence that, but for the handling by the goalkeeper, the ball would have gone into the goal. The horse is dead. Long live the horse."

Your second sentence has no bearing on the first sentence. The law says the offense is "denying . . . a goal or an obvious goal scoring opportunity." While I agree that a goal has not been denied (as the ball was not moving towards the goal), I am shocked to hear that an attacker in the "D" with only the keeper to beat is not an obvious goal scoring opportunity.

Which D is not ticked here?

Number of defenders: 0 not counting the offender.

Distance to goal: 20 yards. While not inside the area, it's certainly closer than many breakaway OGSO I've seen called.

Distance to ball: Unclear in the scenario, but would the keeper have handled it if he wasn't under pressure?

Direction of play: Not entirely clear, but I take "running onto play" to indicate he was in a position to shoot."

I'm not saying it's always a send-off when the keeper handles outside of the area (I've had 2 this season and not sent-off for either), but to dismiss it just because the ball isn't moving is not consistent with the 4D philosophy.

Answer (October 11, 2011):
You seem to have missed the clear interpretation of DG-H provided in the original training materials for OGSO and confirmed clearly in Advice to Referees 12.37(a). Your argument is without merit.

We shall spell it out one last time (we have done this several times before). The elements of the 4 Ds may be used in determining if, in the opinion of the referee, the ball would have gone into the net but for the handling offense (e.g., the more defenders there are between the handling and the goal, the more likely it is that ONE of them at least would stop/redirect the ball on its path; the farther away the handling offense occurred from the goal, the greater is the distance the ball must travel in its path to the goal and so the more likely it is that its target area is so wide that it only encompasses the goal rather than being aimed at the goal itself; and so on).

However, the Ds when applied to DG-H are merely guidelines, not hard and fast rules as they might be when applied to DG-F. For example, the "D" related to direction of play is reduced to a simple linear vector decision -- is the ball going into the net? Likewise, the "D" related to distance to ball is totally irrelevant.

The 4 Ds apply to DG-F precisely because it is an attacker who is being fouled whereas DG-H involves a foul committed WITH the ball, against the Spirit of the Game, rather than against an opponent. In the two "Ds" which were "not entirely clear," this lack of clarity stems precisely from the simple fact that they don't apply at all. You have defined them in a way that meets your needs, not the letter and spirit of the Law. For example, the "D" for distance to ball is DEFINED as the distance between the attacker who was fouled and where the ball was when the attacker was fouled. Because this attacker had not had possession of the ball, the question as to whether that distance was or was not great enough for the fouled attacker to continue his possession/control of the ball and thus to continue his attack is irrelevant.


AR FLAG UNSEEN BY REFEREE

Question:
During the course of a game the assistant line judge raised a waving flag to indicate a purposeful hand ball on white. The foul along with the assistants waving flag was not seen by the referee.

White clearly gained an advantage on the field of play over black and the progressive play resulted in a white goal. Which in my opinion should have been brought back but the assistant lowered his flag before the goal without black gaining possession or an advantage. My question is if an assistant notices a foul but it is unseen by the referee is there a certain amount of time this foul should be called or was the assistant justified in lowering his flag due the referee's unawareness even though black never gained possession or an advantage?

It is my opinion that the assistant should have not lowered his flag unless black gained possession thus resulting in a black advantage.

The play should have then been brought back resulting in a no goal.

Would this be the correct play procedure or etiquette?

Answer (October 11, 2011):
Our instructions to referees (and players and coaches and spectators who care to read them) on the matter are collected in the USSF publication "Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials." The citation below pertains to your scenario:

QUOTE
Lead Assistant Referee
* Determines that the infringement was not or could not be seen by the referee and that, per the pregame conference, the referee would likely have stopped play for the infringement if it had been seen
* Signals with the flag raised vertically in the hand appropriate for the restart direction and, after making eye contact with the referee, gives the flag a slight wave
* If the referee stops play, signals with the flag held 45 degrees upward in the direction of the restart if the foul was committed by any player outside of the penalty area or by an attacker inside the penalty area
* If misconduct is observed associated with the foul, makes eye contact with the referee and advises either a yellow card by placing the free hand over the badge on the left jersey pocket or a red card by placing the free hand on a back pocket on the shorts
* Indicates the location of the restart if necessary
* If the referee does not see the signal, continues to hold the flag straight upward in accordance with the pregame conference
* Per pregame conference, assists in enforcing the required minimum distance if closer to the restart location
* Takes position to assist with offside on the free kick and monitors other player actions in accordance with the pre-game conference
Trail Assistant Referee
* Mirrors the lead assistant referee's flag signal if this is not seen by the referee and, upon making eye contact with the referee, directs the referee's attention to the lead assistant referee
END OF QUOTE

In this case, the game does not seem to have stopped until the ball entered the goal. The assistant referee should have kept his flag raised throughout this sequence of play and then, when the ball entered the goal, dropped the flag and stood at attention to gain the referee's attention. After a discussion between the two, the referee should have disallowed the goal and brought the ball back to the spot of the foul and awarded the direct free kick to black for the deliberate handling by the white player. The referee should make eye contact with each of his ARs frequently. This referee appears not to have done so.


TROUBLE-MAKING SPECTATORS

Question:
At a U15 Girls match this weekend, the game seemed to go without too much incident and not too many insults to the officiating crew.

It was IMMEDIATELY after the game that the situation eroded. The game was played on an outlying field that was away from the rest of the tournament and apparently no "field marshals" were assigned to the game.

Towards the end of the game, one of the parents from the team who was loosing positioned himself with the parents of the winning team.

Immediately after the game, he began to "start trouble" by provoking arguments with the winning team. The situation was volatile, but after a few minutes the winning parents seemed to leave the area before the incident could get out of control.

I have been taught that the referee is in charge of the game, technical area, the players and SPECTATORS from the time the referees arrive on the pitch until they depart (even before and after the game). I know exactly how to handle this DURING the game, but this was after the game had technically ended and while the referee crew was still on the pitch. (There were less than 50 spectators -- of which only about 10-15 were involved)

It seems to me that a few well-placed words from the referee could have ended the situation rather quickly.

My question is, since there are NO other unbiased officials of the tournament, does the referee have any authority under the "laws of the game" to "persuade" the spectators that it is not in their best interest to continue their arguments.

Should I, as THE referee, get involved on a MORAL ground just to try to stop the situation from escalating? Obviously, I am not going to step into a fist-fight, but should I, as a 40-year old adult, step in to prevent the "arguing" that could lead to something stupid?

Answer (October 11, 2011):
The Laws ask only that the referee deal with situations in which someone unauthorized enters the field, in which case the referee should suspend play and perhaps terminate the game if the situation cannot be handled by the appropriate authorities. Unless there is some rule of the tournament that permits you to deal with spectators or anyone other than team officials, you have no authority to deal with such persons at any time, whether before, during, or after the game, unless there is some question of player safety off the field. Your job is to ensure that the players are safe, not Mom or Dad.


WATER BREAK AT SIDE OF FIELD/COACH STOPS BALL FROM LEAVING

Question:
We had a training session recently and 2 very interesting questions came up.

1. A game was being played during hot weather. A player came to the sideline for a drink of water without leaving the field of play. As he was taking a drink the ball came his way and he took off dribbling the ball with water bottle (plastic) in hand. Which Law has he broken? Should the player be cautioned? What would the restart be?

2. During a game the ball had been hit hard and was certainly going out of play with no players ever getting a chance of making it to the ball to stop it. As the ball headed towards a coach he put his foot on the ball to stop it from going way beyond the field of play. The problem is that the coach stopped the ball before it had gone out of play. Has the coach entered the field illegally? And should he be cautioned as such? And a Free Kick awarded to the opposing team? Is the coach treated as an "outside agent" in this instance and a drop ball used to restart play? Or do we recognize it as a glaring error by the coach who had good intentions and award the throw as if the ball had gone out of bounds?

Answer (October 10, 2011):
1. As he had not left the field, the player committed no offense by playing the ball; however, by carrying the unauthorized bottle of water with him, he was playing in violation of the requirements of Law 4. If a player is discovered to be wearing (in this case "carrying") unauthorized equipment during play, the referee need not stop play, but should immediately inform the player that the item in question must be removed from the field. The player must leave the field only if he is unable or unwilling to comply and could be cautioned if he willfully refuses to comply or, having been told to remove the item, is discovered to be carrying the item again. 1. As he had not left the field, the player committed no offense by playing the ball; however, by carrying the unauthorized bottle of water with him, he was playing in violation of the requirements of Law 4. If a player is discovered to be wearing (in this case "carrying") unauthorized equipment during play, the referee need not stop play, but should immediately inform the player that the item in question must be removed from the field. The player must leave the field only if he is unable or unwilling to comply and could be cautioned if he willfully refuses to comply or, having been told to remove the item, is discovered to be carrying the item again.

2. No, the coach (or any other team official) is not regarded as an outside agent. Team officials are in a separate category under the Laws. (See the Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees in the back of the book.)

Despite the coach's good intentions (keep this in mind), he has entered the field without the permission of the referee. Under the Laws of the Game coaches cannot and must not be cautioned or sent off and shown any card at all (unless the rules of the competition require it); however, they can be expelled for irresponsible behavior, one example of which is entering the field without permission. If, as in this case, we recognize the coach's act as motivated by good intentions, rather than any base desire to aid his team (and his earlier actions in the game will provide a good gauge for this decision), the referee will stop play immediately, because the coach has interfered with play. If the coach's behavior is irresponsible the referee must expel him from the field of play and its immediate surroundings. In this case, the referee will have a quiet word with the coach and restart play with a dropped ball in the position where the ball was at the time when the match was stopped.2. No, the coach (or any other team official) is not regarded as an outside agent. Team officials are in a separate category under the Laws. (See the Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees in the back of the book.)

Despite the coach's good intentions (keep this in mind), he has entered the field without the permission of the referee. Under the Laws of the Game coaches cannot and must not be cautioned or sent off and shown any card at all (unless the rules of the competition require it); however, they can be expelled for irresponsible behavior, one example of which is entering the field without permission. If, as in this case, we recognize the coach's act as motivated by good intentions, rather than any base desire to aid his team (and his earlier actions in the game will provide a good gauge for this decision), the referee will stop play immediately, because the coach has interfered with play. If the coach's behavior is irresponsible the referee must expel him from the field of play and its immediate surroundings. In this case, the referee will have a quiet word with the coach and restart play with a dropped ball in the position where the ball was at the time when the match was stopped.


REFEREE-AR COMMUNICATION AT A GOAL

Question:
If an attacking team shoots a shot on goal against the defending team and the ball bounces off the top goal post and straight down, clearly going over the line, but then spins back out of the goal and the AR signals that a goal has occurred, but the Referee yells play on because he either doesn't believe it was a goal or didn't look at the AR then what should the AR do in that situation if he is sure it was a goal but has not been acknowledged by the referee or fears the referee may be overruling him incorrectly and play continues?

Answer (October 6, 2011):
If the referee does his (or her) job correctly and the AR does his (or her) job correctly, there should have been no problem in awarding the goal immediately, provided they used the information supplied in the USSF publication "Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials."

The referee's job is to check visually with the AR and ensure that his view of the AR is maintained long enough to see a signal for a goal in cases where the ball is being played close to the goal and may have briefly but fully entered the goal. The AR's job, if the ball briefly but fully enters the goal and is continuing to be played (and the referee's view of the situation was obscured), is to raise the flag vertically to get the referee's attention and then, after the referee stops play, to put flag straight down and follow the prescribed procedures for a goal (see the Guide). You do not tell us how you signalled the goal, but might it have been counter to the guidance given in the Guide to Procedures?

If the referee and the AR do not use the correct procedure and play continues, the AR's next job is to get the information to the referee as quickly as possible. We certainly hope that the referee and the ARs discussed a suitable procedure for such events during their pregame conference. One way to do this would be to stand at attention at the goal line and not move with play; when the referee realizes that the AR is not moving with play, then he should stop the game and speak with the AR.


HOLDING OFF THE FIELD OF PLAY

Question:
A through ball is played to the vicinity of 1 attacker and 1 defender. Both players run to the ball, which the attacker gets to first. He manages to stop the ball on the goal line on the corner of the six yard box (the ball is in the penalty area), but both players momentum takes them off the field of play. When the attacker turns to try to get back onto the field, the defender grabs him, preventing him from regaining possession of the ball, which he obviously would have been able to do. This happens about 6 feet off the field. What action should the referee take in this situation?

This question came up during a referee meeting, and there were mixed opinions. Some said it should be a PK, others said IFK. There is also the question of red/yellow cards. I was just hoping to get some clarification.

Answer (October 4, 2011):
The defending player has held the opponent while both are off the field of play, a cautionable offense but not a foul.

Punishment:
* If the defender is already off the field of play and commits the offense, play is restarted with a dropped ball* from the position in which the ball was located when play was stopped, unless play was stopped inside the goal area, in which case the referee drops the ball on the goal area line parallel to the goal line at the point nearest to where the ball was when play was stopped

Something else for you to consider is to "wait and see" if another attacker will get to the ball so that, despite the original attacker being held, his team could maintain the advantage - in which case, the referee could come back to the misconduct at the next stoppage.


THE DEAD HORSE REMAINS DEAD

Question:
I hope a dead horse but here goes anyway:
The ball is loose just outside of top of the penalty area, say in the D. And suppose that the ball isn't moving at all. An attacker is running onto the ball and the only defender, say the keeper runs out and picks up ball outside the penalty area. Can the referee send the keeper off if the referee deems that this action denied an obvious goal scoring OPPORTUNITY?

Answer (October 3, 2011):
In the scenario you present, the deliberate handling by the goalkeeper outside his own penalty area, no obvious goalscoring opportunity has been denied. There is no evidence that, but for the handling by the goalkeeper, the ball would have gone into the goal. The horse is dead. Long live the horse.


EQUAL AND SAFE PLAYING CONDITIONS FOR ALL PLAYERS

Question:
Earlier this month, I was refereeing [at a] Labor Day Cup. It was very, very windy.

An attacker shot the ball from a far distance towards the goal.

However, the wind pushed the net on the other side of the crossbar. The net shockingly prevented the ball from entering the net. (Did I mention how windy it was?) The net did NOT detach from the crossbar, but the wind was so strong the net was sitting in front of the goal.

What does the law say about the net? Well, from what I've researched, you do not have to have a net. From my perspective, the net (once it is pushed by the wind onto the field) becomes an outside agent even though the net is still connected to the posts. The referee should restart with a dropped ball from goal area line outside of where the contact was made. "Selling" this call would be nearly impossible, so I thought I would ask you guys on the best way to handle a situation like this.

Answer (October 3, 2011):
No, the net cannot be considered an outside agent in any game situation. In this case, referee failure to follow the dictates of Law 5 was the cause of the incident

As you say, the net is not required by the Laws of the Game; however, it is normally required by most rules of competition (such as the tournament at which the incident occurred). The organizers should have ensured that the net was firmly mounted on the goal and secured to the ground. The referee and the rest of the officiating crew should have inspected the field an all its appurtenances before the game began (and again prior to the start of the second half or any additional periods) and also ensured that the net was firmly mounted on the goal and secured to the ground.

Therefore, the fact that the net was blowing around must be regarded as a natural occurrence. There is no solution other than the one you suggest: once the net has been repaired, the referee must drop the ball from the spot at which the interference occurred (in accordance with Law 8): "The referee drops the ball at the place where it was located when play was stopped, unless play was stopped inside the goal area, in which case the referee drops the ball on the goal area line parallel to the goal line at the point nearest to where the ball was located when play was stopped. Play restarts when the ball touches the ground."

The same logic could be applied to other situations caused by referee inattention to the Law and his or her duty to protect the players and, most important, to provide a "level" playing field so that each team receives fair and equal treatment. For example, suppose the scenario had involved a goal frame which, due to the high winds, was pushed forward toward the field such that the crossbar (though still attached) was ahead of the goal line rather than straight above it. Suppose further that a shot on goal was made at an extreme angle such that the ball struck the crossbar and the deflection enabled the ball to stay on the field whereas the ball would have gone into the upper left corner of the net if the crossbar had been properly positioned.

In short, the refereeing crew MUST remain alert at all times to changes in the conditions of the field and its appurtenances and ACT IMMEDIATELY when these conditions change. Protecting the safety of the players is paramount among the referee's duties.


U.S. Soccer thanks Jim Allen (National Instructor Staff and National Assessor ret., assisted by National Instructor Trainer Dan Heldman, for their assistance in providing this service. Direction is provided by Alfred Kleinaitis, Manager of Referee Development and Education, with further assistance from Ryan Money, Manager of Referee Education Resources; David McKee, National Director of Assessment (assessment matters); Jeff Kollmeyer, National Instructor, indoor and Futsal; and Ulrich Strom, retired National Instructor and National Assessor (matters in general).

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

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