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May 2008 Archive (III of III)


An attacker has been complaining to the AR about his offside decisions. The attacker is subbed and the sub goes by the rule book waiting until the player leaves the field and the CR beckons the sub onto the field. The AR flags to get the attention of the CR, who finds out that, before the player left the field of play, he was verbally abusive and the AR suggests it is enough for the player to be sent off. The CR does not notice the flag of the AR until AFTER the sub has entered the field after having been beckoned by the referee.

The question posed was, essentially, is the departing player a player being sent off (because the misconduct occurred when he was still a player as the sub had not yet been allowed on the field) or is he a substituted player because the referee didn't sanction him until after a valid substitution has taken place? If the former, does his team play short? If the former and there are limited substitutions, was the substitute who was beckoned onto the field ever a player and is the team charged for a substitution?

Answer (May 23, 2008):
If the referee accepts the AR's information -- and why would he not? -- then the player who has now left the field is sent off and his team must play short. The substitute, i. e., the new player who entered the field legally, must be removed from the game at this time, but may be substituted in again for another player at a later opportunity, if one exists.



A player takes a throw-in correctly. The ball does not enter the field of play but remains outside the touch line. What action does the referee take? The throw-in is retaken.

I am assuming that "takes a throw-in correctly" means that the player had both feet on the ground, on our off the touchline, facing the field, both hands on the ball with the ball being brought behind the head and then thrown and released and the ball just doesn't enter the field of play.

What happens if a player takes a throw-in "incorrectly" but the ball never enters the field? What is the re-start if a thrower lifts one foot during the throw-in but the ball never enters the field? I would believe it to be retaken, but a school of thought has arisen by some that feel that the opposing team would get a throw-in.

Answer (May 20, 2008):
You will find your answer in the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game":

Referees must distinguish between a throw-in which infringes on the requirements of Law 15 and one which is not properly taken such that the restart is said not to have been taken. In the first case (infringement), possession of the restart is given to the opponents and taken from the same location; under no circumstances may advantage be applied to a throw-in performed illegally. In the case of a throw-in which is not properly taken, the restart must be taken again by the same team from the same location.

A throw-in may not be performed from a kneeling position under any circumstances.

If the ball touches the ground outside the field before entering the field or if it does not enter the field at all, the throw-in has not properly been taken and must be performed again.

A throw-in which has been performed illegally, for which the referee has stopped play, cannot be given back to the same team in order to perform the restart again. The referee must either decide that the offense was trifling and not stop play, or award the throw-in to the opposing team.

We believe that the "school of thought" to which you refer is probably "attended" by referees who spend too much time with the NFHS rulebook, where the failure of the ball to enter the field on a throw-in is automatically punished by possession of the ball going to the other team for a throw-in by them.

However, the Laws of the Game -- the only rules to be used for games played under the aegis of the U. S. Soccer Federation -- are clear: If the ball doesn't enter the field, it has not been put into play and it really doesn't matter what (if any) technical violations the thrower might have committed in the process. In other words, the thrower could have jumped high into the air but it would still be a retake if the ball never enters the field.

The issue of whether a throw-in is taken correctly or not becomes relevant only in the case of an immediately subsequent violation by the thrower (e. g., second touch or throwing the ball hard at an opponent on the field). In that case, if it wasn't taken correctly, the restart (throw-in by the opposing team) is based on the first violation, after dealing with any misconduct. The Law makes this point explicitly in the case of a throw which results in an opponent being struck violently -- if the throw itself was legal, then striking and misconduct occurred; if it wasn't legal, then only misconduct occurred.

Some people have asked about the phrase at the end of the Additional Instructions and Guidelines for Referees and Assistant Referees in the Laws of the Game. Under Law 15, the final paragraph reads:
If the ball touches the ground before entering the field of play, the throw-in shall be retaken by the same team from the same position provided that it was taken in line with the correct procedure. If the throw-in is not taken in line with the correct procedure, it shall be retaken by the opposing team.

We have run the matter past FIFA and, for the moment, our original answer stands. It may change next year, but, for the moment, what we have stated is correct, at least in the United States.



I got into a debate with a fellow referee in a local adult amateur league the other weekend. It was a friendly disagreement, but I'm appealing to a higher authority to adjudicate which of us was correct, since we couldn't agree.

Red Team is playing Green Team. A Red player fouls a Green player; the center referee stops play and signals a direct free kick for Green. A Red player (perhaps confused, perhaps intentionally) picks up the ball, places it, and kicks it, putting it back into play. The referee whistles to stop play, returns the ball to the spot of the original foul, and signals again for a Green kick.

We could not agree whether the referee was correct in doing so. One of us maintained that the ball was in play once the kick was taken, regardless of who took it, and the referee could not then stop play.

The other one of us argued that the referee could, indeed, stop play, as the kick taken was not a proper restart and that, in fact, had it been an obvious attempt by Red to delay the Green kick, the Red player could even have been cautioned for delaying a restart.

Who was right? A frosty beverage may be riding on the answer!

Answer (May 20, 2008):
The principle expressed in the following excerpt from the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game" fits the situation you presented to a tee. It makes absolutely no difference that in your situation it was the player who screwed up, not the referee. Retake the original restart!!!! If you believe there was some confusion on the part of the Red player, let it go with a friendly warning to pay attention. If you believe it to have been a conscious effort to subvert the referee's decision, caution as suggested in your query.

If the referee awards a restart for the wrong team and realizes the mistake before the restart is taken, then the restart may be corrected even though the decision was announced after the restart took place. This is based on the established principle that the referee's initial decision takes precedence over subsequent action. The visual and verbal announcement of the decision after the restart has already occurred is well within the Spirit of the Law, provided the decision was made before the restart took place.

And where/when do we get OUR frosty beverage??



During the FIFA World Cup matches, it appears the referee and possibly the AR's the 4th man appears to have had a small head set (like one may use for our cell phones for hand free use) who had access to the this communication link..and was it like a conference line bridge between all the referees and a major FIFA official "upstairs in stands"?

Also Are you aware of any proposals being put forth on the Agenda for the Football Board meeting next year in Early 2009 that would make use of replay for limited situations like in the NFL?

Answer (May 19, 2008):
The system is used by the working crew only, with no other people plugged in. We have no idea whether video replay will be on the IFAB agenda for 2009 -- but would tend to doubt it. We have heard nothing one way or the other.



My U10 daughter is a type 1 diabetic and needs to wear a medical bracelet. What is the rules about wearing jewelry or medical bracelets. Can she wear a nylon band bracelet with the standard round metal medical tag?

Answer (May 19, 2008):
Law 4 - The Players' Equipment states very firmly in its very first paragraph: "A player must not use equipment or wear anything which is dangerous to himself or another player (including any kind of jewelry)." This means that all items of jewelry are normally considered dangerous. There are only two permissible exceptions to the ban on jewelry: medicalert jewelry that can guide emergency medical personnel in treating injured players and certain religious items that are not dangerous and not likely to provide the player with an unfair advantage. Anything that is decorative or possibly dangerous to the player or to others is not permitted, but no referee should refuse to allow a medicalert bracelet to be worn if it is properly taped.

While jewelry is not allowed, there are two permissible exceptions to the ban on jewelry: medicalert jewelry that can guide emergency medical personnel in treating injured players and certain religious items that are not dangerous and not likely to provide the player with an unfair advantage.

For further information on the requirements of the Law for player safety, see the USSF National Program for Referee Development's position papers of 7 March 2003 on "Player's Equipment" and 17 March 2003 on "Player Equipment (Jewelry)." These papers are available at the website via the referee home page.

One solution to your dilemma might be the nylon band bracelet you suggested yourself, with the standard round metal medical tag (provided it was not considered to be a danger). Another might perhaps be a tennis armband with the words MEDIC ALERT on it and the actual bracelet beneath it.

The U. S. Soccer Federation cannot give blanket permission for any item of non-standard equipment. This band would still have to be inspected and approved by the referee on each game in which your daughter plans to participate. It is our position that jewelry worn solely for medical purposes may be permitted but only if, in the opinion of the referee, the item is not dangerous. Such items can often be worn safely if appropriately taped. If the referee does not approve the band, because it does not appear to be safe for all participants, then your daughter will not be able to play. As stated in Law 4, the decision of the referee is final.

ADDENDUM: A reader suggests wrapping the medicalert bracelet in plastic wrap to make it even less dangerous.



know that it in most cases a referee would not allow advantage when a foul is committed against a team in their defensive end (and often not at midfield either). However, I always thought that it was ultimately left to the referee's judgement. For example, if a defender, just before being fouled from behind, booms a ball from her 20 yard line up past midfield to send a teammate towards goal on a breakaway, then I thought the referee had the right to play advantage and not stop play.

However, just yesterday I saw the following, reportedly from a USSF instructor, on a referee's message board. It basically says that advantage can never be called in the defensive third - especially in youth games - and even at the World Cup level, "that a referee should not be applying Advantage even at mid-field."

Here is this USSF instructor's position:
"I am writing you about a discussion I have been told about on another site involving the application of Advantage. From what I am told, it centers around a foul that occurred in the defensive 1/3 with the ball at midfield and a seemingly clear path to goal. The referee stopped play and stated that there is no advantage in the defending 1/3. Several folks seem to feel that the referee was wrong, including you.

Well, actually, he was right! One of the new concepts that is being taught to National Referees is the "4 P's". When following this concept, especially in youth games, advantage in the defensive or neutral thirds of the field should not be given by the referee. The reasoning is simply based on the lack of 2 of the 4 P's:

1) Potential for attack: ability to continue a credible and dangerous attack.

2) Proximity to opponent's goal: closeness to goal.

Few youth players can keep the ball on their foot, running full speed, for 40-60 yards. Thus, the 'potential' for a credible attack is not there in most games. Add that there just might be 1 player on the opposing side that could catch that player within 10-15 yards, thus ending any breakaway. This is why 'proximity to goal' is key.

The closer you are to the goal, the more credible your chances to score!

FIFA has stated this idea for some time. If you look at several of their tapes of various World Cup competitions, you will find that they state, even at that level, that a referee should not be applying Advantage even at mid-field. You will even find several position papers discussing the application of advantage within the attacking 1/3 as being the only place the referee needs to be attentive to advantage given the proximity to goal." END OF QUOTATION

So my question:
Does the above represent the official position of the USSF, including the statements that "advantage in the defensive or neutral thirds of the field should NOT be given by the referee" and also about "the attacking 1/3 as being the ONLY place the referee needs to be attentive to advantage given the proximity to goal" ? OR

Is the referee supposed to use some judgement, rarely giving advantage in the defensive or midfield areas but reserving the right to do so if a long pass results in a breakaway opportunity. With this philosophy, the above statement could properly be rephrased to: "advantage in the defensive or neutral thirds of the field should RARELY be given by the referee".

(The above assumes, of course, that there is no reason to stop play for game control reasons if the foul was particularly severe and a card needs to be given immediately.)

P.S. I understand the rationale behind the stated "four P's", but I find some of the extrapolation in the above statement to be a bit flawed: "few youth players can keep the ball on their foot, running full speed, for 40-60 yards. Thus, the 'potential' for a credible attack is not there in most games" . . . Yes, most youth players cannot run full speed with the ball at their feet for 50 yards. But in a lot of youth games if a player receives the ball behind the last defender at midfield, they will boot it well ahead of them and run onto it and not choose to keep the ball at their feet. That will allow the attacker to get all the way to the top of the penalty area against many GK's, while touching the ball perhaps two times and running at full speed in between. To me, this is a MUCH bigger advantage than a DFK from a team's own 18 yard line - especially in a girls U13 game, where the DFK's may not go very far.

Answer (May 15, 2008):
We are not aware of any statement from FIFA/IFAB declaring that advantage should not, much less may not, be given in the defensive third or only in the attacking third. "Proximity to the opponent's goal" (one of the 4 Ps) is a sliding scale -- an offense occurring in the defensive third may rarely warrant an advantage call, but "rarely" does not equal "never."

The third P in the "4 Ps" is "Personnel" -- which means that the advantage decision must take into account the players, both attacking and defending, who might become part of the ensuing play. The referee must look at their numbers and their individual skills in determining the likelihood (not the certainty but, rather, the probability) of an advantage for the attacking team in not stopping play.

All advantage decisions are at the discretion of the referee, based solely on his or her judgment as to the specific circumstances of each individual offense. Most of the time, an advantage decision cannot be second-guessed because to do so would require knowing what would have happened in the absence of the decision. Either giving it or not giving it could be effective but it can seldom be described as "wrong." As a consequence, it is almost impossible to put together a brief scenario and then expect anyone, no matter how experienced or expert, to definitively state that an advantage decision would be right or wrong -- the number and complexity of the factors going into making the decision are too great to permit this.

It is usually more advisable to actually see a presentation (such as on the "4 Ps") for oneself than to listen to or read about second, third, or fourth hand recollections of it from other parties. The presentation itself is the only official position of USSF on the matter -- everything else is personal opinion, filtered through potentially faulty memories.

Finally, while we recognize that everyone has a right to speak his or her own thoughts on almost any topic under the sun, responses on any sites other than and are not officially approved by the U. S. Soccer Federation and are best treated as unofficial and not approved.



Where in the Laws of the Game does it say that when a player is sent off and shown the red card, that that team must play with one less player.

This is something everyone knows, and I have found it in Advice to Referees, but I can't find it in the Laws of the Game.

Would a team be able to later challenge the referees' decision to "play short"?

Answer (May 14, 2008):
There has been no change in the Law nor in the interpretation of the Law since we published this answer on May 5, 2003: Simplification is everything, or so the IFAB thought back in 1997. Believing that everyone "knew" this to be so, they eliminated the phrase from the Laws. And that is why USSF issued this position paper back in 1999
No Replacement for Player Sent Off after the Game Has Started
International Football Association Board (IFAB) Decision (3), on Law III, formerly stated: "A player who has been ordered off after play has started may not be replaced," containing this prohibition was omitted by the IFAB in the extensive revision of the Laws that took place in 1997. The rewrite was extensive and included both new language and revisions of existing language: numerous provisions in the 1996 edition of the Laws of the Game were removed and have not reappeared in subsequent revisions. Nevertheless, the provisions of IFAB Decision 3 on Law III (and numerous other decisions) remain valid to this day.

The intention of IFAB was to clarify and simplify concepts, to replace older terminology, to present concepts which are more easily translated into languages other than English and to shorten the Laws of the Game overall. The excised IFAB decisions should not be considered a rejection of the requirement, but an affirmation that a separate, additional statement of the concept involved was unnecessary. In other words, the IFAB believed that the basic principle that a player sent off after the game has started may not be replaced was so well understood by the entire soccer community that it did not need to be mentioned in the Laws.
//rest deleted//



The question concerns what constitutes a foul with regard to an attacking player "marking up" the goalkeeper.

A typical scenario would be a a corner kick by team A.

Goalkeeper for team B is well positioned just in front of the goal line inside the posts, facing the corner the kick is coming from. A player from team A marks the keeper and positions themselves either directly in front of the keeper (literally with their back pressed to the keepers chest) or shoulder to shoulder.

As the keeper moves to clear some space, the attacker adjusts and maintains a similar posture, shadowing the keeper in what seems to clearly be an attempt to distract the keeper or impede the keeper's ability to see or play a ball without having to move around player A.

Does this constitute a foul by the marking player, perhaps as misconduct or can it be considered impeding the progress of a player?

In short, is it a foul? And if so, what steps can the keeper take to counter the tactic and not be consider guilty of pushing or dangerous play?

Answer (May 14, 2008):
If the referee sees the situation developing, there are two choices: wait until the ball has been kicked to see what happens or step in proactively.

1. If the referee waits until the ball has been kicked to see what happens, there are two possibilities. If the player who is posting on the goalkeeper is attempting to play the ball, his tactics are legitimate. On the other hand, if the player is clearly attempting to interfere with the goalkeeper's ability to play the ball, the tactics are not legitimate and the referee should call the player for impeding the goalkeeper and award an indirect free kick to the goalkeeper's team from the point of the foul -- bearing in mind the special circumstances applying to infringements within the goal area.

Unless this tactic is repeated, there is no need to caution the impeding player.

As to countermeasures taken by the goalkeeper against the marking player, they should be punished only if the opposing player is clearly attempting to play the ball and not playing the goalkeeper. The referee must exercise common sense.

2. If the referee decides to be proactive, he or she may stop play before the kick takes place and step in immediately and prevent a foul or even misconduct from occurring by having a word with the prospective perpetrator, whether it is the marking player or the goalkeeper. This keeps the ball with the team that won the corner kick (or other restart) and should defuse a potential escalation of the action into misconduct.



Can you please clarify in Advice to Referees latest edition section 3.12 it advises: Under no circumstances team requires to equate in case it's player is injured or ejected due to misconduct.

What need clarification is that it is only after the kicks from penalty mark started. In addition it says that even if there is one player only left, kicks continue while it should probably says two due to Goal Keeper. This came in a latest state written test

I have another question in regards to the taking of kicks from the penalty mark to decide a match. What is the rule if a player is ejected (or injured) when game ended but prior to first player taking the kick? thanks

Answer (May 14, 2008):
For everyone's benefit, here is what Advice 3.12 says
Only the players who were on the field at the end of the game (or temporarily off the field for treatment of injury or repair of equipment) may participate in kicks from the penalty mark. The kicks from the mark phase of the match begins at the moment regulation play ends (including any overtime periods of play.) All players who are not injured must take a kick before anyone on the same team takes a second kick. Only the goalkeeper may be substituted in the case of injury during the kicks phase and only if the team has a substitution remaining from its permitted maximum. If a player is removed from the field for misconduct or is unable to participate in the taking of kicks due to an injury, the contest continues without him or her. Under no circumstances will a team be required to "reduce to equate" if the opposing team loses one or more players due to misconduct or injury. Although Law 3 requires that a match may not be started with fewer than seven players on each side, this does not apply to the taking of kicks from the penalty mark. If one of the teams is able to field only five or six players for the kicks, the taking of kicks may begin, and it may continue as long as there is one player left. Until a result is produced, both teams must continue to use their eligible players without duplication until all (including the goalkeeper) have kicked, at which time players who have already kicked may kick again. If one team has fewer players than the other, it will need to begin using again its players who have already kicked sooner than will the opposing team.
Note: It is not necessary for players to kick in the same order if a second round of kicks is required. (See also Advice 19.1 and 19.2.)

The process of kicks from the penalty mark (KFTPM) begins as soon as the referee has ended the final period of play. That is the only time that the reduce to equate principle comes into play: If one team has more eligible players at that moment, it must reduce its number of eligible players to match that of the other team. Once the beginning number of players/kickers for the kicks If a team loses a player through injury (other than the goalkeeper, see 3.12) or dismissal during the KFTPM, the opposing team does not have to reduce its numbers.

The reason that the number of players can drop to only one, if that becomes necessary through injury or dismissal, is that the normal minimum number of players does not apply during the KFTPM. Although it may seem strange, if there is only one player remaining, he or she can kick and then act as goalkeeper when the other team kicks. The player would not be performing both tasks at the same time. (And this is almost surely simply a theoretical thing, as no players would want their team down to only one player in this crucial situation.) The only difference in the KFTPM process would be that, while kicking, the kicker could not stand in the usual place for the goalkeeper during the KFTPM by other members of his/her team.

If a player is dismissed after the end of the game, but before the kicks actually begin, that player's team will have one less player during the KFTPM. The other team does not have to reduce its numbers.


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 Julie Ilacqua, Managing Director of Referee Programs (administrative matters); David McKee, National Director of Assessment (assessment matters); and Ulrich Strom, National Instructor and National Assessor (matters in general).

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