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Ask a Referee Update: April 26, 2011


I had a question on what constitutes "superfluous items" on a goal post. I was officiating a game the other weekend when the ball bounced off the wheels attached to the goalposts (these are the movable goals), and in the subsequent play the attacker scored a goal. The defenders said that the ball had hit the wheel (that was attached to the goalpost) and came back unto the field of play. I talked to the AR and after the discussion allowed the goal to stand. At half time we went over to the goal post and put the ball down in front of the wheel and noticed that the wheel was placed in such a way that the ball never left the field of play, that part of the ball was on the goal line.

However, I was just reading the ATR and noticed that 1.7.b noted those items that were "non-regulation apparatus" and if the ball touched these items that the ball should be considered out of play, regardless of the ball rebounding back into the field of play.

The question I have is should I have consider the wheel attached to the goalpost to have been a "non-regulation" apparatus and therefore have waved off the goal?

Answer (March 25, 2011):
This answer repeats what we have replied in three earlier answers and in the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game":

The referee should not have allowed the goal to be used in the first place. An appropriate pregame inspection would have prevented such a thing. Wheeled goals fall under the same category as standard U. S. football goalposts. This is covered in the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game":
(b) Non-regulation appurtenances (see 1.7)
These include superfluous items attached to the goal frame (such as the uprights on combination soccer/football goals) and not generally subject to movement. If the ball contacts these items, it is deemed to be automatically out of play and the restart is in accordance with the Law, based on which team last played the ball.

The intelligent referee will either not permit equipment that is not in accordance with the Law or be prepared to face the problems that occur. Full details should be included in the match report.

This question emphasizes the importance of a thorough pregame inspection. However, if the referee has inspected the field and determined that the goals or other appurtenances meet the requirements of the Law, then he or she cannot later rule that the equipment is no longer acceptable--unless something has happened that changes the state of the equipment. In that case, the wheels are still regarded as unofficial superstructure and if the ball is affected by them, the ball is dead and play stops, with an appropriate restart in accordance with the Law (corner kick or goal kick, depending on who last played the ball for a ball that left the field, and a dropped ball if the ball remained on the field).


During an indoor soccer match, a defending player turned his back on a shot by an attacking player. The defender was in the area and his arm was struck by the ball which resulted in a penalty kick. As the referee for this match, I cleared the "18 box" and placed the ball on the spot. When I the blew whistle, a defending player rushed the ball and struck it before the attacking player struck the ball. I blew the whistle and called for a re-kick. Both teams stated that once the referee blew his whistle, the ball was in play and could be struck by any player. I have not found any rule for indoor soccer that states the ball is in play after the whistle, only after an attacking player strikes the ball. Please help.

Answer March 18, 2011):
There are two different restart scenarios that your players are confusing. Indoor has both a penalty kick and a shootout. On an indoor penalty kick, no other players should have been anywhere close enough to do that.

In the case of a shootout, the restart is from the center of the yellow line (50 feet from the goal line). The keeper is to stand on at least one foot on his own goal line, other than the shooter, all the other player must be in the other half of the field. The remaining attacking field players must be outside the center circle, the defending teammates of the GK are inside. Once the referee blows the whistle the ball is "live" and the shooter can dribble, the keeper can come off his goal line, and the players in the other half of the field can then run toward the play.

The penalty kick is pretty much like the outdoor except the goalkeeper must have both feet on his own goal line and can't move forward until the ball is struck. All the remaining field players are back behind the yellow line and must remain there until the ball is struck.

It's unfortunate that you were assigned to indoor without being trained on the rules. However, your men's amateur players are typical. They will say anything to justify what they do, just as outdoor players do.


Are players who go or fall into the net area considered out of the field? If I strike or impede someone from coming into the field of play, what action can the referee take?

Answer (March 17, 2011):
A player who prevents an opponent who has left the field in the course of play from re-entering the field of play has committed at least misconduct (unsporting behavior), for which he must be cautioned.

If, in the opinion of the referee, any part of the player committing the act is on the field, then the act (foul and/or misconduct) has been committed on the field of play. If the action of the player involves physical contact with the opponent, then the act has been committed on the field of play of any part of either the player or the opponent is on the field. The act has occurred off the field only if no part of the player committing the act is on the field or, where the act involves physical contact, no part of either the player or the opponent is on the field.

Full details of possible restarts in this situation are included here in this excerpt from the Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees (2010/2011):
Restart of play:
* If the ball is out of play, play is restarted according to the previous decision.
* If the ball is in play and the offense occurred outside the field of play:
- if the player 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
- if the player leaves the field of play to commit the offense, play is restarted with an indirect free kick from the position in which the ball was located when play was stopped (see Law 13 -- Position of Free Kick)
* If the ball is in play and a player commits an the offense inside the field of play
- against an opponent, play is restarted with a direct free kick from the position where the offense occurred (see Law 13 -- Position of Free Kick) or a penalty kick (if inside the offending player's own penalty area)
//rest deleted as not germane//


This occurred in a U13B game today.

Forward is lined up, even with the 18, but outside of the penalty area, a step offside, with a defender next to him. Through ball is passed beyond both of them. They both run for the ball. As the AR, I am thinking, forward is offside, but lets see who gets to the ball first.

Defender establishes position between the forward and the ball, and attempts to shield the ball over the goal line for a goal kick.

As they both move toward the goal line, following the ball, the center decides the defender is not within playing distance of the ball, whistles, and calls obstruction, awarding an indirect to the attacking team.

But doesn't awarding obstruction imply the forward would have played the ball, or at a minimum interfered with play, which means he was offside?

Answer (March 12, 2011):
Unless we are misreading your question, the referee's decision would seem to have been incorrect. We recommend for your (and the referee's) reading this excerpt from the Advice to Referees (2010/2011):
"Interfering with an opponent" means preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent's line of vision or movements or making a gesture or movement which, in the opinion of the referee, deceives or distracts an opponent. Interference can also include active physical or verbal distraction of the goalkeeper by an opponent as well as blocking the view of the goalkeeper.

A player who is in an offside position when the ball is played toward him by a teammate and who attracts the attention of an opponent, drawing that opponent into pursuit, is guilty of interfering with an opponent.

Referees are reminded that the reference to "playing or touching the ball" (see Advice 11.5 below) does not mean that an offside infringement cannot be called until an attacker in an offside position actually touches the ball. Please note: Here and elsewhere in the guidance for offside, "play," "touch," and "make contact with" are used interchangeably (as they are in the Laws of the Game and its Instructions). However, these terms are interchangeable only for the attackers. For the defenders, merely touching the ball is not sufficient in the context of an offside decision -- they must actually play (possess and control) the ball, meaning that for them there is indeed a meaningful distinction between "touch" and "play."

"Touching the ball" is not a requirement for calling an offside infringement if the attacker is interfering with an opponent by making a movement or gesture which, in the opinion of the referee, deceives or distracts that opponent.

According to the IFAB Circular of August 17, 2005: "A player in an offside position may be penalized before playing or touching the ball if, in the opinion of the referee, no other teammate in an onside position has the opportunity to play the ball." Further, "If an opponent becomes involved in the play and if, in the opinion of the referee, there is potential for physical contact, the player in the offside position shall be penalized for interfering with an opponent." In addition, referees must remember that the indirect free kick restart for an offside offense is taken "from the initial place where the player was adjudged to be in an offside position."

Therefore, the referee should have called the player in the offside position offside at the moment the defender was distracted by his movement and moved to protect the ball. The indirect free kick would be taken from the place where the forward was when the ball was played by his teammate.

In addition, we must also point out that your reaction-"As the AR, I am thinking, forward is offside, but lets see who gets to the ball first"-was the entirely wrong action to take. In these circumstances, it doesn't matter who gets to the ball first; that reasoning would be used only when the race is between an offside position attacker and another attacker who started from an onside position. The very fact that the attacker's action caused a defender to race with him to the ball is sufficient to stop, square, and raise the flag for what would eventually be an offside signal. What happened afterward (the alleged "obstruction") was not the offense.


How do I determine how much time to add at the end of a period?

Answer (March 12, 2011):
Allowance for Time Lost
Many stoppages in play are entirely natural (e.g. throw-ins, goal kicks). An allowance is to be made only when these delays are excessive.
The fourth official indicates the minimum additional time decided by the referee at the end of the final minute of each period of play.
The announcement of the additional time does not indicate the exact amount of time left in the match. The time may be increased if the referee considers it appropriate but never reduced. The referee must not compensate for a timekeeping error during the first half by increasing or reducing the length of the second half.

The referee must make allowance for time lost, but must use common sense; if the time lost is less than the suggestions below, add only the actual time lost.
Substitutions - 30 seconds
Assessment of injury (simple) - 30 seconds
Assessment of injury (trainer) - 60 seconds
Removal of injured player - 2-3 minutes
Time wasting - 15-30 seconds
Wasting time (goal kick, corner kick) - 30 seconds
Any other cause (simple) - 15-30 seconds
Caution - 30 seconds
Caution with injury - up to a minute (or more)
Send-Off - 60 seconds
Send-off with injury - up to a minute (or more)
Goal celebration - 60 seconds
Bench ;problem - 60 seconds
Goalkeeper violations - 5-6 seconds must be enforced

Please note that these are only suggestions. The decision of the referee is final


Scenario: A three man crew is assigned to the match. Center official notifies the two AR's by phone that he will be late to the match 15 minutes before scheduled kick off time. AR's notify both coaches and both coaches want the game to start on time, therefore AR1 is now the center with AR2 on the line and no club AR for the other line. After 20 minutes, the center official show up and takes a flag and becomes the other AR. During a stoppage of play at about 25 minutes, the assigned center trades places with acting center.

Question: Is this approved procedure or should the acting center official remained the center official for the match?

Answer (March 8, 2011):
Whoa! Let's back off here and look at the real problem. Coaches have no say as to who referees their game, at least not in the game played under the Laws of the Game and under the aegis of the U. S. Soccer Federation. Nor can they insist on starting the game immediately if an official is late in arriving, particularly if that official has notified his/her fellow officials and given an arrival time. The game can wait those 15 minutes.

However, if there is some rule of the competition that requires games to start NOW and not a minute later than NOW, the officials may then work precisely as in your scenario.

As to the question itself, the answer is no, this is not an approved procedure in higher-level competitive soccer. Once a referee has begun a game in higher-level play, he or she cannot be "substituted out" for another. However, the procedure might well work in lower-level play.


See questions of January 19 and February 22, 2011

March 2, 2011:
Clarification of why certain situations do not meet the requirements:
Several questions have come in recently dealing with obvious goalscoring opportunities (OGSO) and we have replied based on the specific wording of each question. See entries of January 19, 2011 (DOGSO: THE DEBATE ON DG-F IS OVER!), and February 22, 2011 (DOGSO-F). It appears that some readers may have been confused by our replies (and in some cases, thought our answers were incorrect in any event). These scenarios have been discussed extensively and the following represents the single, condensed, and official response.

Scenario 1: Red takes a free kick from outside his own penalty area and inadvertently plays the ball toward the goal. The Red goalkeeper, to prevent a goal, stops it with his hands.

This cannot be an obvious goalscoring opportunity because a goal cannot be scored directly against the kicker's own team on any free kick. The goalkeeper has committed an indirect free kick foul but there cannot be a red card send-off for the goalkeeper's action based on this scenario.

Scenario 2: The Red goalkeeper punts the ball but the ball deflects from the referee and is heading back into the Red goal. To prevent this, the goalkeeper stops the ball with his hands.

Although a goal could be scored directly from the punt and the goalkeeper's action did prevent a goal, it is again the case that a red card cannot be given in the scenario. First of all, the goalkeeper's action involved handling -- but not a handling offense -- and handling by the goalkeeper is specifically exempted if it occurs within his team's penalty area. Second, what about the argument that the "second touch" offense by the goalkeeper is punishable by a free kick? Doesn't this come under the fifth send-off offense? The clear and unequivocal answer is, no. Denying a goal or goalscoring opportunity by an offense punishable by a free kick or penalty kick requires that the offense be committed against an attacker (in the language of the Laws of the Game: "an opponent moving towards the player's goal ....") Go back to the 4 Ds which we use to evaluate an OGSO: do any of them apply? The only one that could be considered relevant is "number of defenders" but the other three cannot be applied.

Distance to the ball? Whose distance? The attacker who was fouled ... but there was no attacker who was fouled. Distance to the goal? Not applicable because there was no foul. What was the "direction of play" (not the direction of the ball)? Was the opponent who was fouled moving towards the goal? There was no opponent who was fouled.

In short, there can be no OGSO for either DG-F or DG-H if (a) the offense in question directly follows a restart performed by a player on the team which committed the offense or if (b) the offense was not committed against an opponent. The offense may result in a red card for other reasons but not for denying or interfering with an obvious goal-scoring opportunity.


During a GU-14 game, two players from opposing teams collide and fall to the ground. One player gets up and walks away; the other player remains seated on the ground crying, but otherwise exhibiting no other outward signs of injury. As the referee approaches the crying player, a spectator rushes onto the field and runs towards the crying player. After assessing the situation and determining that the player is not injured, merely winded, the referee proceeds to admonish the spectator for rushing onto the field. The spectator hurls expletives at the referee and yells "that is my daughter, you can't tell me what the f*** to do." How should the referee handle this situation?

Answer (March 1, 2011):
This is inexcusable behavior at the U14 level, especially for a parent. The entry into the field without permission might be excusable-but only barely-at the U9 level or younger, but beyond that there is absolutely no excuse for such interference by a spectator. You have already stopped the match. If the spectator does not leave the field when you request it, first go to the coach and inform him/her that if the spectator does not leave the field you will abandon the match and let the league sort out the matter. Include full details in the match report. In no case are you required to accept language of this sort at any level or from any person.


I have a question about some wording in the ATR guide. We have a local facebook group where one of the guys posted this scenario:

A defender is taking a free kick outside of the penalty area and passes the ball back to where he thinks the goalkeeper is. The goalkeeper, in actuality isn't there and now the ball is rolling towards an empty net. The defender realizes an attacker is charging at the ball with intent to score. Just before the attacker reaches the ball to shoot it in, the defender slides in a taps the ball away with his foot. The second touch by the defender is an infringement resulting in an IFK -- Should it also be DOGSO-F? Should the defender be sent off?

In the ATR 12:37, it says a DOGSO when a player or substitute "(b) denies an obvious goalscoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the player's goal by an offence punishable by a free kick or penalty kick".

Is a second touch considered an offence or infringement? If it's not a DOGSO, then perhaps the wording needs to be changed in the ATR so that this statement can't be taken out of context.

Answer February 22, 2011):
Please remember that the acronym DOGSO-F does not exist in the Laws of the Game. It is simply a device to aid the referee's memory. In accordance with Law 12, sending-off offense 5, a player, substitute or substituted player may be sent off if he commits any offense "denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the player's goal by an offense punishable by a free kick or a penalty kick." The F in the acronym stands for "free kick or penalty kick," not "foul."

Is the second touch an infringement punishable by an indirect free kick for the opposing team? Yes, it is. May the defender be sent off for this infringement in the scenario you present? No, because there is no obvious goalscoring opportunity (as the ball going into the goal directly would result in a corner kick for the opposing team) and thus no obvious goalscoring opportunity has been denied.

There is no need to revise the Advice in this regard.

Further clarification:
Denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity in the express language of Law 12 requires that the offense be committed against an opponent who is moving toward the offender's goal at the time of the offense. The offense which is central to this scenario was not committed against any opponent, much less one moving toward the player's goal at the time. The language of Law 12 is very clear-we assume purposely-about separating out two different reasons for sending a defender off for a so-called tactical or "professional" foul: one is handling, which is not committed against any opponent but against the Spirit of the Game, and the second is any other kind of foul which IS committed against a specific opponent. One cannot help but conclude from this that a foul or misconduct, regardless of the circumstances, which is not committed against an opponent and which is not handling is therefore not a sending-off offense under Law 12 (at least not under reasons #4 or #5. If it was a tactical foul (which this was not) and was the offender's second caution, then there would be a send-off, just not under sending-off reasons #4 or #5.

Nor is sending-off reason #4 at issue, because it is limited solely to a handling offense, not just touching the ball (which might include a second touch offense).


situation: a forward was supposedly fouled outside the box but the ref played the advantage & allowed the forward to play on.

the fouled player maintained the ball & took an unimpeded shot on goal. he missed. the ref then called the ball back to where he said the foul occurred for a direct free kick. should the ref have called it back after he let the team play on til he shot on goal? the ref only made the call to bring the ball back after the player missed his shot.

Answer (February 22, 2011):
The referee cannot guarantee that a goal will be scored when he or she invokes the advantage. If this player had an unimpeded shot on goal, then the advantage has been fulfilled and the referee MUST NOT go back to the foul. Life is hard; shoot better next time.


What limits, if any, apply to participation of outside agents in retrieving a ball that has left the field of play and/or expediting the process of returning the ball to play?

Example: In a U-19 boys game the red goalkeeper collects the ball near the top of his own penalty area and kicks it high and long toward the blue goal. After the ball has been kicked, Red players R1, R2 and R3 streak across the halfway line into the blue half, hoping to collect the ball. They run past B1, the lone Blue defender (other than the keeper) in the Blue half. B1 manages to settle the kick from the red keeper, then kicks it sharply toward the touch line where the Blue substitutes, team officials and spectators are standing. B1's intent is to give his teammates time to return to the defensive end while the Red team retrieves the ball and executes the throw-in. However, an outside agent (substitute, team official or spectator) catches the ball on the fly about 10 feet outside the touch line and chest-passes it briskly to R4 who has just left the field where the ball went into touch. R4 receives the ball and immediately executes a strong throw-in toward R1/2/3 who manage to score. What should the referee do?

Related question: Under what circumstances, if any, can/should an AR arrest a ball that has passed into touch in his immediate vicinity?

Answer (February 5, 2011):
Given the particular questions you ask, the answers are:
1. There are no limits unless the "helpers" are not helping expedite the restart. If the "helpers" are delaying the restart, the referee must step in and put an end to it. (Remember no cards may be shown to coaches or spectators unless the rules of the competition allow for that.) The referee must also add any time lost because of the delay.

2. Unless the ball is about to fall into the clutches of greedy alligators or disappear into a wormhole, there is no reason for the AR to touch the ball in any way. Seriously, the AR should act only if needed to protect himself from being struck. It is almost instinctive (particularly if the AR is a former or current player) to want to stop the ball in an effort to be "helpful," but this is a misplaced act of good will,because in doing so the AR has actually helped the team with the throw-in to restart more quickly that might have otherwise been the case. And if the AR fails to do the same thing for the other team at any time for any reason, they may think the AR is favoring their opponents. Furthermore, stopping the ball draws attention away from the AR's main, Law-mandated responsibilities.


In indoor soccer, if a ball is struck BEFORE but crosses the goal line AFTER the final whistle, has a goal been scored or is the game over immediately upon the final whistle?

Answer (February 4, 2011):
We cannot speak to whatever rules may be played at the arena you use, but normally with indoor rules you have to live with the arena horn. The rule states: ". . . the whole of the ball must cross the goal line BEFORE the horn begins to sound for a goal to be scored." We suspect that is why pro indoor uses goal judges, even though the referees on the floor have the final decision.

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).

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