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September 2003 Archive (II of III)

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I posed this question to four of the referees in our local association and got three different answers (and one abstention). I hope you can get us all on the same page.

30 minutes into the first half of an Under 16 girls game, the referee made a routine tripping call against White, about 25 yards away from White's goal. On the play, the Blue forward was injured. It looked serious at first, but was not. The stoppage lasted at least 15 minutes however, because paramedics were called and had to take her off for stitches.

Before the restart (a direct free-kick for Blue), the referee blew his whistle twice and signaled for half-time. In other words, he did not add any time for the injury. The half-time interval was the normal 15 minutes.

When the teams returned, he had them assume the same sides of the field they occupied during the first half, and started play with Blue's direct free kick. He allowed play to continue for a minute or two, then again blew his whistle twice. He had the players switch sides immediately, and restarted with a kick off.

He ended the second half after about 32 minutes - the same amount of actual playing time that had elapsed in the first half. (Our under 16s normally play two 40-minute halves.) It was a normal league game, with no need to end by a certain time as can happen in some tournaments.

It was a strange sequence. I think it was a mistake to shorten the second half, but otherwise I don't see any violations of the laws. Added time is at his discretion, so it appears OK to end the first half when he did. If he decides that was too short a time, he can rectify his "mistake" before the next restart, so to call the players out to finish the first half seems legit. Did he get anything wrong?

Answer (September 19, 2003):
Law 7 requires two equal halves. Once the paramedics had removed the injured player from the field, the referee should have restarted the game with the direct free kick for the tripping infringement. The time allotted for the remainder of the half should have been the amount necessary to complete the first half of (insert appropriate number) minutes. The referee should then have taken the normal half-time break and played the second half of (insert appropriate number) minutes.

By doing as he did, the referee set aside the requirement in Law 7 for two periods of equal length. This is a matter of fact, not referee judgment. The 15-minute halftime break taken before the resumption of any play was entirely out of line, particularly as the game had been delayed for 15 minutes by the injury.

Full details of how to deal with such a situation are found in the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game":
If the referee ends play early, then the teams must be called back onto the field and the remaining time must be played as soon as the error is detected. The halftime interval is not considered to have begun until the first period of play is properly ended. If the ball was out of play when the period was ended incorrectly, then play should be resumed with the appropriate restart (throw-in, goal kick, etc.). If the ball was in play, then the correct restart is a dropped ball where the ball was when the referee incorrectly ended play (subject to the special circumstances in Law 8).

If the referee discovers that a period of play was ended prematurely but a subsequent period of play has started, the match must be abandoned and the full details of the error included in the game report.


Defender #6 commits a misconduct for which the referee has decided to send him off (direct red or second yellow). However, a really good advantage exists for the attacking team and the referee expects no retaliation. If the referee applies the advantage and does nothing else, this is what will happen. The attacking team will realize their advantage, but will misplay the ball and not score. The ball will remain in play and an undesirable event will occur -- Defender #6 will eventually either score a goal or commit further misconduct.

Within LOTG the referee could (1) stop play immediately and not allow advantage, (2) deal with misconduct after the ball is out of play, or (3) stop play somewhere in between those times solely for the purpose of sending off Defender #6. My question: If the referee opts for (3), when is the best/fairest time to stop play? Would it be immediately after the attacking team misplays the ball and does not score? Or some other time such as when the referee "feels like it?"

Answer (September 17, 2003):
Any of the alternatives could be correct, depending on the game situation. The same is true for the timing if option 3 is used -- it will have to depend on how the referee reads the game at that time

I was at a match the other day, boys 16. On a direct free kick the defending team formed a wall 10 yards from where the ball was placed for the taking of the kick. The boys at this age all very in size and in the wall one of the average sized defenders hosted up on his shoulders one of the smallest player.

Is this not allowed? And, if not allowed, which law is it to apply and when do you apply the law?

Answer (September 17, 2003):
Players are not allowed to use other players or any of the field appurtenances (goal or flags) to support themselves. To do so is to bring the game into disrepute, for which the punishment is a caution and yellow card for unsporting behavior. If the ball is in play, the correct restart is an indirect free kick from the place where the misconduct occurred, bearing in mind the special circumstances described in Law 8 regarding free kicks in the goal area.

If possible, the intelligent referee will take preventive steps in such a situation and, if the misconduct is cautioned before the free kick is taken, will also stay with the original restart (based on the principle that "nothing that happens when the ball is not in play changes the restart").


I am a referee as well as a coach. I participate in a soccer forum on a site hosted by [name deleted]. A member of the forum is reporting that they brought a question to "Ask a Ref". The answer being reported as coming from here concerns me.

What is being reported is that should a CR be unable to complete a match then an AR should move to the CR and the match should be completed with only 2 officials. This does not agree with the instructions on page 35 of the administrative handbook that is also posted on this site. My understanding based on what I read is that if you can not comply with one of the listed options, the match should be abandoned and a report written to the completion authority.
1) Was the question asked and answered "here" or elsewhere?
2) Am I reading the Admin. Handbook incorrectly?

Answer (September 17, 2003):
[NOTE: THIS ANSWER PRESUPPOSES THAT THERE ARE NO OTHER QUALIFIED OFFICIALS AT THE FIELD] 1. Yes, the question was asked and answered here. That answer was approved by Julie Ilacqua, Managing Director of Federation Services for the United States Soccer Federation, as was this one. The original answer is reproduced here for clarity: QUOTE Original Question:
Is is proper for a CR & and AR to switch at the half? I've heard that some believe this is okay, say for example in hot climates. I can't find this addressed anywhere in LOTG or Ref Admin book.
USSF answer (September 16, 2003): You will not find it addressed in any of the books because it is a situation that cannot and should not occur. The only occasion on which a referee would relinquish his or her authority over a match would be if the referee had become too ill to continue. In that case, the referee would not run the line either, but would go home. Unless there was a fourth official to take over as either referee or as an assistant referee -- depending on the rules of the competition -- the remaining two officials would work the game on their own. One would become the referee, working mostly on one side of the field, while the other assistant referee would remain as an assistant referee, working the other side of the field, but extending his or her range a bit to provide more assistance to the new referee.

It has never been the policy of the United States Soccer Federation that a referee and an assistant referee may exchange jobs in the middle of a game other than through incapacitation of the referee, which is why the situation posited in the question should never have occurred.

2. Yes, you are reading the Referee Administrative Handbook (RAH) incorrectly. You are correct in that the RAH does specify that the game be controlled under the Diagonal System of Control (DSC), meaning three officials. However, the text (cited below) goes on to say that the National Referee Committee "prefers" the various alternatives listed. When those alternatives cannot be fulfilled, then common practice throughout the United States is as described in the answer of September 16, 2003.

Herewith the text of page 35 of the RAH:
Systems of Officiating Soccer Games

The Laws of the Game recognize only one system for officiating soccer games, namely the diagonal system of control (DSC), consisting of three officials - one referee and two assistant referees. All national competitions sponsored by the U.S. Soccer Federation. require the use of this officiating system.

In order to comply with the Laws of the Game which have been adopted by the National Council, all soccer games sanctioned directly or indirectly by member organizations of the U. S. Soccer Federation must employ the diagonal system (three officials). As a matter of policy, the National Referee Committee prefers the following alternatives in order of preference:
1. One Federation referee and two Federation referees as assistant referees (the standard ALL organizations should strive to meet).
2. One Federation referee and two assistant referees, one of whom is a Federation referee and one of whom is a trainee of the local referee program.
3. One Federation referee and two assistant referees who are both unrelated to either team participating in the game but are not Federation referees, (only if there are not enough Federation referees to have #1 or #2).
4. One Federation referee and two assistant referees who are not both Federation referees and who are affiliated with the participating teams, (only if there are not enough Federation referees to have #1 or #2).

Member organizations and their affiliates should make every effort to assist in recruiting officials so that enough Federation referees will be available to permit use of the diagonal officiating system for ALL their competitions.


A defender has been beat and the forward with the ball is moving in on the goal. The defender attempts a slide tackle from behind, but misses. The forward immediately scores on that play.

With play stopped for the goal, should the defender that attempted the slide from behind be warned by the official verbally or given a yellow card, even if no contact is made?

Answer (September 17, 2003):
Why? Why punish a perfectly legal play -- and it is NOT an infringement to tackle fairly from behind -- if there was no foul committed?


We were have a discussion about Law 12 and "Jump At a Player". The majority of those in the discussion only called this foul when there was contact between players. I look in the Advice to Referees and did not find any reference. Can you give me a call on this point and how far or close must players be when another player jumps into the air when not attempting a "header"?

My understanding of the word "AT" is defined as "in the direction of" or "toward the direction of"; am I taking this to mean the wrong thing? I have always considered this to be a way to intimidate a player who was not as aggressive, especially at younger age groups U12 and less. I do not see this move in the pro or world cup games.

Answer (September 17, 2003):
Some of your interlocutors do not appear to understand the English language very well -- or soccer. "Jumping at" means precisely that: launching one's body toward that of the opponent. It can be from a standing or "flying" position. It can be done to intimidate or in a feigned (really meant to distract or intimidate the opponent) or genuine but unsuccessful attempt to gain the ball. It is most often seen under the pretext of heading the ball, but may also be seen when a player launches himself through the air, feet first, to "tackle" away the ball. You will find two references to jumping at an opponent in the USSF publication "Instructions for Referees and Resolutions Affecting Team Coaches and Players," published annually.

4. Offenses against goalkeepers
It is an offense if a player:
(a) jumps at a goalkeeper under the pretext of heading the ball;

7. Jumping at an opponent A player who jumps at an opponent under the pretext of heading the ball shall be penalized by the award of a direct free kick to the opposing team

Two things to remember about "jumping at" an opponent:
(1) Contact is clearly not required for this foul
(2) This is one of those fouls where the "rule of thumb" about "playing the player rather than the ball" is particularly apt as a shorthand way of viewing the offense -- the foul is almost certain when the offending player is looking at the opponent rather than the ball.


If the hand is considered everything from the shoulder down, what is the "foot"? Is it the entire leg or the actual physical foot?
[NOTE: The questioner asked about a question dated May 12, 2003 regarding a deliberate pass to the goalkeeper; see the Archives.]

Answer (Septmber 14, 2003):
In an answer published in February 2002 we defined kicking thusly: "To kick is to play the ball with the foot, which is defined as anything at the ankle or below. Thus, the only legal means of restarting with a "kick" is to play the ball with the foot."

This definition applies only to restarts. We can envision -- and have seen -- those instances on the field where a player inadvertently "kicks" the ball with his shin. That inadvertent act, too, would qualify as kicking, but only during active play.


I have a question about the penalty for dangerous play against a GK. It seems if the goalie has possession of the ball and the attacker makes a dangerous play, the penalty is actually worse for the goalie's team. That is, an indirect free kick near the goal is better for the attacking team than a goalie kick near the 18 yard line. I know I could give a yellow card but our region frowns on that for U10s. Do I understand the rules correctly?

Answer (September 14, 2003):
It would be rare indeed for an act of playing dangerously to be considered misconduct, unless it involved denial of an obvious goalscoring opportunity. The referee must call the game the way the Law is written, not the way the Law "should be" written.


We were taught players could exert shoulder to shoulder pressure against an opponent to gain possession of the ball. Now we see players who immediately raise their arms to block or fend off an opponent and thus gain possession of the ball. At one time this action was considered "holding" or "pushing" and was called a foul. We were told to "play the ball and not the man." Today's referees no longer call this holding off of an opponent a foul. Additionally, in trying to win possession many players will first force the opposing players away from the ball by any means and then collect the ball. Again, the first play seems to be to push the opposing player and only then play the ball.

It now seems that when you are within a stride or two of the ball you can do anything to your opponent to gain possession. The refs rarely call fouls in these situations. Just what are you allowed to do to your opponent to gain possession? Or what can't one do? What has changed?

Answer (September 14, 2003):
The pushing and holding off you describe is a coached action, used because referees have shown they do not have the courage to call foul play. It is just one of many acts that are not properly punished.


What is your advice on how to handle those players that want to wear a sweatband on their head or sweatbands on their wrists. Their reasons are of course that they don't want sweat dripping into their eyes. I have never considered these items as necessary or part of standard equipment and I ask players to remove them.

Answer (September 12, 2003):
Sweatbands and headbands are generally accepted as supplementary player equipment throughout the world. The referee is the sole judge of the permissibility of these items, which must meet the requirement in Law 4 that they not be dangerous to any player. The referee's opinion would be guided by a recent FIFA circular and the USSF memorandum of March 7, 2003, on player equipment. Other guidance might come from local competition authority requirements.


Question:During a quarter final game this week I was surprised to see the coach of the opposing team not only come over to the other team's side to instruct his players, but right in front of the other coach, as well as being on the playing field and with one of his players beside him, bouncing and playing with a ball in his hand. At one point during play the coach was almost in the goal box of the opposing team. He was asked to move a few times and just ignored the requests. The referee was told, and choose to ignore this as well. This is a U10 Boys house league. Just wondering what your thought is.

Answer September 12, 2003):
In an answer of October 22, 2002, we noted:
"The Laws of the Game tell us that '[a]ll [team] officials must remain within the confines of the technical area, where such area is provided, and they must behave in a responsible manner.' The Laws also tell us about the technical area and its measurements. Without going into precise detail on the matter, we can agree that this suggests that -- no matter how innocent their intentions -- team officials should remain along the touch line and stay out of areas where they could be considered to be interfering with play or not behaving in a responsible manner, even in under-tiny soccer. Spectators may remain behind the goal line, but only if they are far enough away so as not to interfere with the game."

We can add that, under the Law, any POSITIVE coaching is allowed from the technical area, as long as only one person speaks at a time and then returns to his seat on the bench. As a practical matter, particularly at the youth level, any POSITIVE coaching is allowed. In either case, whether at the level of the least experienced players (and coaches) or at the highest levels, any case in which the coach behaves irresponsibly will result in the coach being dismissed. (Two examples from among many: ranting at the referee, overt participation in deception of the opposing team.)

On August 29, 2003, we asked: "Where do people get the idea that coaches have the right to do anything but prepare their players for the game?" And then we answered our question by noting that a coach has no "right" to anything in the game of soccer, other than the right to conduct himself responsibly during the game -- from within the technical or bench area -- while offering advice to his players. A referee who allows coaches or other team officials to parade around the field, in contravention of the requirements in Law 5 that coaches behave responsibly and that referees not permit anyone other than players to enter the field, should be ashamed.

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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