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September 2007 Archive (II of II)


The situation is that a penalty kick has been taken and you blow your whistle because you deemed the kicker to have taken excessive or unnatural movements on his approach to the ball. In a discussion with other referees, it was agreed that the proper procedure for a missed goal was an IFK for the defense, but there was disagreement on the restart if a goal was scored. While everyone agreed that the laws state that you must do a retake of the kick, one referee--who happens to be a USSF instructor -- insisted that he would not allow a retake because it would be unfair and would simply do the IFK for the defense regardless of the outcome of the kick. I told him that in such a situation, he could put the game in jeopardy of being protested. He felt it was "a referee decision" and not open to protest. I feel he is giving bad advice.

Thank you for help. Your website is a great source of information.

Answer (September 17, 2007):
According to the Additional Instructions and Guidelines for Referees in the back of the 2007 Laws of the Game, your instructor friend is in error. The document states:
Feinting to take a penalty kick to confuse opponents is permitted as part of football. However, if in the opinion of the referee the feinting is considered an act of unsporting behavior, the player shall be cautioned.



Last sunday's USA v Brazil, Eric Wynalda pointed out many things regarding the rules of the game. One in particular was that if you are shielding the ball, you have the right to push back into a defender who is standing behind you. My question is: do you? And I suspect the answer is depends on whether you make contact only or push back so hard the defender loses footing...

Answer (September 14, 2007):
In one sense Mr. Wynalda is correct -- as long as you have and keep the ball at your feet (within playing distance), you could move backwards even if this puts you in contact with an opponent behind you. Where you would get into trouble is if you did this but, in the process, left the ball outside of playability.

All viewers of games and television broadcasts would do well to remember that some players and broadcasters tend to make up their own rules as they go along. After all, if you make your own rules you are never wrong, and that is Rule One for both players and sportscasters.

And in a follow-on question, the referee asked additionally:
ok, you make contact, fine, no foul (I have nevr called a foul at this point), but then you keep digging in and pushing back hard, and then the defender is pushing you forward, but your feet continue to hold..., seems to me that whomever dumps the other player causes a foul... what do you think? (had the exact scenatio today in a regional youth league. no one ever fell, the ball got kicked by a teamate....

Answer (September 17, 2007):
While the player may move backwards with the ball, he or she may not push the opponent out of the way. A player in a position, attempting to play the ball, may only be charged fairly.



In a youth soccer match, a player from Team A is cautioned and leaves the field for a substitute. He immediately desires to return to the game and goes to the halfway line to await the next substitution opportunity. During subsequent play the ball crosses the touch line. Thinking that it is now a substitution opportunity for Team A, the assistant referee raises his flag to signal substitution. Prior to being beckoned by the center referee, the substitute runs onto the field. The throw-in has been awarded by the referee to Team B. Team B takes the throw-in. With the ball back in play, the center referee notices that there are now 12 men on the field. He stops play and issues a caution to the player who left the field after he stopped play rather than the substitute. Is this correct procedure?

Answer (September 14, 2007):
This is one of those problems that could be fixed easily if the officials would only pay a bit more attention to their responsibilities and communicate better with one another. In fact, because of the officials' errors, both players should be cautioned: the player who was on the field left without the referee's permission and the substitute who came in entered the field without the referee's permission.

However, a grain of intelligence might force the referee to use common sense to caution neither player and simply have them resume their original places and then conduct the substitution correctly.



Suppose a team begins engaging in persistent and organized misconduct. At every stoppage in play the team delays the restart by either picking up or kicking away the ball. Obviously, players engaging in delay should be cautioned, but this team is sophisticated enough to ensure that only players who have not yet been cautioned cause the delay. It is further complicated because it is a youth match with free substitution (and a deep bench) so that the pattern can continue for quite some time before players begin being sent-off for a second caution.

One local (and highly respected) referee suggests that upon recognizing the pattern of persistent/team misconduct, the referee can immediately issue two cautions to the next player who delays a restart (and send him off) -- the first caution for the delay and the second for persistent infringement -- thus thwarting the organized misconduct. I disagree, and I base my disagreement on the idea that you can ever punish the same player twice for the same offense. Respected Referee, however, counters that the second caution is not really given to the player, but rather "to the team" for their persistent infringement. I cannot find any support at all for cautions being issued "to the team."

Any advice?

Answer (September 13, 2007):
There is no such thing as a "team caution" under the Laws of the Game. It is certainly possible to caution any player who participates in misconduct. Howwever, it is not clear that if there is a pattern of infringement, such as the pattern of delay you suggest, the referee could also apply the principle of persistent infringement as outlined in the Laws of the Game under Additional Instructions and Guidelines for Referees:
Persistent infringement
Referees should be alert at all times to players who persistently infringe the Laws. In particular, they must be aware that even if a player commits a number of different offenses, he must still be cautioned for persistently infringing the Laws.

There is no specific number of infringements which constitutes "persistence" or the presence of a pattern -- this is entirely a matter of judgement and must be reached in the context of effective game management.

In the situation you and "Respected Referee" have discussed, it is not clear that the referee can apply the principle of persistent infringement.

However, as a pattern appears, the referee could certainly take the opportunity at one of the stoppages for misconduct and speak to the team captain or coach or both, stating that if this pattern continues, the referee will expel the coach for irresponsible behavior. If the pattern continues beyond that stage, the referee can then terminate the game. In all cases, the referee must include full details in the match report.



I attended a U13 Class 3 boys game today and an attacker in a break-away with only the goalkeeper between him and the goal appeared to yell something like "HAH!" while pressing his attack. It was not clear if this yell was an attempt to distract the opponent. He beat the goal keeper and scored the goal but the referee blew his whistle, denied the goal and gave the attacker a yellow card for unsporting behavior. I can find no literature to support the finding of unsporting behavior in this circumstance. Also after the call there were many who thought it was the goalkeeper who had yelled this. Either way is there any support for this type of behavior being classified as unsporting behavior?

Answer September 12, 2007):
Yes, yelling at an opponent is traditionally considered to be unsporting behavior. However, in this case there is no clear indication here that the yell was directed at the goalkeeper (or at the attacker).

In the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game" you will find these citations:
- Commits an act which, in the opinion of the referee, shows a lack of respect for the game (e.g., aggressive attitude, inflammatory behavior, or taunting). (Better known as "bringing the game into disrepute.")
- Verbally distracts an opponent during play or at a restart

Either could include yelling. However, we also need to remember that under the Laws of the Game the attacking team is entitled to somewhat more lenience that the defending team in this regard. Unless the yelling is clearly intended to distract the opponent, such as a goalkeeper yelling at the player about to take the penalty kick, it is usually considered trifling.

With regard to yelling as a form of misconduct, the referee is obliged to be satisfied that the shouting was indeed intended to distract and in fact had the effect of distracting the opponent. The referee should look for some element of deception--i. e., performing the shout from out of sight or very close (to startle), deceiving an opponent as to the shouter's identity (to obfuscate the status as an opponent), etc.



This may seem like an obvious question. I have been a referee for many years and I always believed that a ball is not out on the touch line unless no part of the ball is touching the line.

At a recent "A" division soccer tournament game that I was coaching, a veteran AR strongly insisted that the correct interpretation of the rule was that a ball is out if 3/4 of the ball is outside the touch line. He then proceeded to call approximately 20 balls out of which about half were still touching the line. Being a fellow referee, I did not make much of an issue of it at the game, other than to ask that he confirm the rule with the CR, which he did not.

Has FIFA recently altered the interpretation of when a ball is considered out?

Answer (September 12, 2007):
No, there has been no change. As long as any part of the ball breaks the vertical plane (we are talking outer side here) of the touchline, the ball is in play. Unfortunately, many "veteran" referees start coming up with their own rules. It beats reading the Laws each year.



I was center at a game today where both goals were set up (and securely anchored) about 2-3 inches behind the goal line. There was no way to correct the situation, as the anchors were deep in the ground and no one had proper tools available.

In theory I should probably have refused to start the game. But that is simply not a realistic option, especially if one team has traveled to the game from a significant distance.

My question is this: we are normally taught to call the game "as the lines are drawn," that is, even if the lines are crooked or the areas measured incorrectly (one exception would seem to be an incorrectly marked penalty spot). How should this case be handled? I would assume that a goal could still only be scored if the ball had entered the goal and fully crossed the "imaginary" line between the goal posts. Correct?

Answer (September 12, 2007):
In a non-competitive atmosphere, it MIGHT be all right to play this game "as the lines are drawn," but if this is a competitive league or tournament, then the requirements of Law 1 must be applied strictly.

In a non-competitive game, the "line" that counts is that which runs between the goal posts, not the marked line.



Blue team is ahead 2-1 with 5 minutes to go in the game. The White team makes a long, high cross into Blue team's box. The ball goes well over everyone's head by 4-5 feet, and is picked up by the Blue goalkeeper after it bounces to him. The nearest White and Blue player are at the top of the penalty area, so the ball was clearly well over their heads. The Referee who was in position at the top of the penalty arc, starts turning up-field for the punt.

AR1 waves his flag, and calls for a foul against the Blue team, which the Referee obviously did not see. AR1 tells the Referee that a Blue player "obstructed" a White player. Despite the fact that the ball was well over everyone, the Referee decides to call the foul and points to the mark, for a PK.

The Blue team coach calls for an explanation from the Referee and AR1, arguing that (a) the ball was never playable, and (b) impeding (AR1's "obstruction") calls for an indirect free kick, not a PK. No explanation is provided by the Referee or AR1 to the coach or any of the Blue players who ask. The Blue team coach, who is sitting on the far side of the midfield line, crosses the midfield line (does not enter the field of play) asking AR1 for an explanation. AR1 tells him to go away or he will be ejected. The coach keeps asking for an explanation. He never enters the field of play or interferes with the game. AR1 tells him that they will not continue the game until he leaves the field. The coach leaves the field, leaving his assistant in charge. This whole exchange takes place in less than 30 seconds and at no time did the Referee get involved.

From AR2's point of view, the coach did leave his technical area and spoke to AR1, but was never abusive or physically confrontational, never got within 10 feet of AR1, and was never spoken to, warned, or ejected by the Referee. At AR1's insistence he left he field without argument, prior to the PK.

Indeed, the Referee never spoke with the Blue coach. Even after the Blue coach left "voluntarily," the Referee never indicated by word or action that he had decided to eject the coach. He did not inform the Blue team, its assistant coach, or anyone else, that the coach was ejected. He never warned the Blue coach or told him to leave the field. He never wrote anything in his game card or report.

After the game, AR1 told the rest of the crew that he told the Referee to call a PK because the Blue player grabbed the White player's jersey. The Referee said he didn't see the holding, but accepted AR1's view. AR1 also tells the Referee, after the game, that the Blue coach was thrown out of the game, and the Referee enters this in the match report, even though he never actually made that call either.

Q1. Regardless of what AR1 told the Blue coach, isn't the Referee the only one who can decide to eject a team official, or anyone else for that matter? Can the AR single-handedly decide to eject someone?

Q2. Did the coach's decision to leave the field mean that he was thrown out, even though the Referee never actually ejected him or told him to leave?

Q2. If the Referee never told the coach to leave the field, was he correct in entering the ejection in the match report after the game, at the insistence of AR1? Q3. Was the Referee correct in calling for a PK, instead of an indirect free kick, even though the ball was well over everyone's head?

Answer (September 6, 2007):
Without knowing more than your side of the story, we can still offer some useful information.

1. The AR is required to keep the referee informed of information on events that take place out of the sight of the referee and to supply additional information on events that the referee has seen (if asked to do so). We might add that the AR's job is to ASSIST the referee in the management of the game, not to INSIST that a particular call be made.

2. If the coach did indeed leave the field only at the word of the AR and the referee was unaware of it, then the coach was not expelled by the referee and there should be no mention of an expulsion in the match report. The AR may not expel a coach or any other team official; that can only be done by the referee. The AR can draw the referee's attention to the matter if that is necessary. Waiting until after the game to bring this matter to the referee's attention is not proper procedure. The matter may be included in the match report, but the AR MUST then justify his or her action in writing, giving full details of the irresponsible behavior by the coach that led to the AR acting without authority to "expel" that coach.

3. How do we know the AR told the referee the foul called with five minutes to go was "obstructing" and not the holding mentioned later in your question? There is no longer any such foul as "obstructing," by the way; the correct call is "impeding the opponent." If "obstructing" is indeed what the AR said, then the referee was in error for awarding a penalty kick. The penalty kick would have been correct if the foul was holding.

So that you know for the future, there is no requirement that the ball be anywhere near the action when a foul is called. A foul is committed on the field, by a player, against another player (or, in the case of deliberate handling, against the opposing team and the Spirit of the Laws), when the ball is in play. The ball could be at the far end of the field and a penalty kick could be called at the near end of the field and this would be in accordance with the Laws of the Game.



When a player is off sides but not influencing the play and the ball is brought forward, when can this player receive the ball? Essentially a player in the off sides position can not receive the ball until when?

Answer (September 6, 2007):
A player is not offside but is IN AN OFFSIDE POSITION if he or she is in the opponents' half of the field, ahead of the ball and nearer to the opposing goal than the next-to-last opponent. (One of these two opponents may or may not be the goalkeeper.) A player who is in an offside position when his/her teammate plays the ball may not receive the ball nor participate actively in play without being called offside. This player may not receive the ball legally until he or she has returned to an onside position. This usually involves moving him- or herself back to an onside position before a teammate next plays the ball. A player in an offside position should not be called offside if an opponent clearly gains full possession and control of the ball -- and the player has not been interfering in play or with an opponent.



I am trying to figure out why a deliberate handling infringement by the kicker is discussed in Laws 13, 14, 16 and 17. It seems that once the ball is in play, a deliberate handling infringement as discussed in Law 12 would cover this. Is there something about denying a goal or an obvious goal scoring opportunity that requires this to be distinguished from a Law 12 infringement?

Answer (September 5, 2007):
We need to remember that the Laws are written for the players, too, even though most of them do not ever bother to read them. Although the same might be said for most referees after their first year of refereeing. The emphasis on deliberate handling in Laws 13, 14, 16 and 17 (and you forgot 15) is to remind both players and referees that the game must be restarted for more serious offense if two infringements are committed simultaneously. In this case they are: a second play of the ball before someone else has touched or otherwise played it and deliberate handling. The second play of the ball is usually simply an indirect free kick offense, whereas the deliberate handling is a direct free kick offense. Most referees would recognize that, but some would not.


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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