US SoccerUS Soccer

June 2003 Archive (I of II)

Submit your questions via e-mail to

Your question:
I was refereeing at a tournament and was a center for an U12 match. I awarded a direct kick about 20-25 yds out to team A. Team A then asks for ten yards, I instruct Team A to wait for my whistle before restarting. I count off the ten yards, take position, and blow my whistle. Team A then has player 1 straddle the ball as if to tie his shoe and says aloud, "Wait, I have to tie my shoe". While straddling the ball, player 2, who was standing next to the ball, proceeds to tap the ball to player 3 who one times it into the goal. I awarded the goal. My thinking was, I blew the whistle ball, the ball was in play, regardless if player 1 had said anything at all. Team B argued that Team A (player 1) had asked for time to tie his shoe. My reply was, I blew the whistle to initiate play, plus I never acknowledged the player wanting to tie his shoe. Was I right in awarding the goal, or as I overheard (from a coach from the same club) later refereeing another game that I should have awarded a indirect free kick to Team B because of unsportsman like behavior?

USSF answer (June 3, 2003):
Your response to the situation was correct. Just to benefit other referees (and players and coaches, who also read this material), here is some reading material from an answer of April 2002:


General Note Regarding Restarts
"Memorandum 1997" discussed amendments to the Laws of the Game affecting all free kick, corner kick, penalty kick, and kick-off restarts. These amendments centered on the elimination of the ball moving the "distance of its circumference" before being considered in play. In all such cases, the ball is now in play when it is "kicked and moves" (free kicks and corner kicks) or when it is "kicked and moves forward" (kick-offs and penalty kicks). IFAB has emphasized that only minimal movement is needed to meet this requirement. USSF Advice to Referees: further clarification from IFAB suggests that, particularly in the case of free kicks and corner kicks, such minimal movement might include merely touching the ball with the foot. Referees are reminded that they must observe carefully the placing of the ball and, when it is properly located, any subsequent touch of the ball with the foot is sufficient to put the ball into play. Referees must distinguish between such touching of the ball to direct it to the proper location for the restart and kicking the ball to perform the restart itself. In situations where the ball must move forward before it is in play (kick-offs and penalty kicks), there should be less difficulty in applying the new language since such kicks have a specific location which is easily identified.

It is not the referee's responsibility to ensure that the opposing team is prepared for any restart. That is their job. The referee's job is to ensure that the Laws of the Game are enforced. However a cautionary comment is probably in order here: The referee must be wary of being dragged into any otherwise legal deception practiced by the team with the ball. In this situation, the referee (you) may have contributed to the success of the kicking team's plot by not acknowledging the request and delaying the restart until the player tying his shoe was finished. The defenders were possibly lulled by the direct request and the reasonable expectation that the referee (you) would grant that request.

What you are questioning is not "trickery" by the kicking team; it is deception, which is allowed by the Laws. Here is an article that appeared a short while ago in our USSF referee magazine, Fair Play:

Affecting Play
Jim Allen, National Instructor Trainer

Using "devious" means to affect the way play runs can be perfectly legal. The referee must recognize and differentiate between the "right" and "wrong" ways of affecting play, so that he or she does not interfere with the players' right to use legitimate feints or ruses in their game. The desire to score a goal and win the game often produces tactical maneuvers, ploys, and feints designed to deceive the opponent. These can occur either while the ball is in play or at restarts. Those tactics used in restarts are just as acceptable as they would be in the normal course of play, provided there is no action that qualifies as unsporting behavior or any other form of misconduct. The team with the ball is allowed more latitude than its opponents because this is accepted practice throughout the world, and referees must respect that latitude when managing the game. Play can be affected in three ways and each will probably occur in any normal game. In descending order of acceptability under the Laws of the Game, they are: influence, gamesmanship, and misconduct.

To "influence" means to affect or alter the way the opponents play by indirect or intangible means. "Gamesmanship" is the art or practice of winning a game through acts of doubtful propriety, such as distracting an opponent without technically violating the Laws of the Game. However, the referee must be very careful, for while the act may be within the Letter of the Law, it may well fall outside the Spirit of the Law. "Misconduct" is blatant cheating or intentional wrongdoing through a deliberate violation of the Laws of the Game. Many referees confuse perfectly legitimate methods of affecting play through influence with certain aspects of gamesmanship and misconduct. Influence can cause problems for some referees at restarts. The ball is in play on free kicks and corner kicks as soon as it has been kicked and moves, and on kick-offs and penalty kicks as soon as it is kicked and moves forward. The key for most referees seems to be the requirement that the ball must "move." The IFAB has directed that referees interpret this requirement liberally, so that only minimal movement is necessary. This minimal movement has been defined as the kicker possibly merely touching the ball with the foot. All referees must observe carefully the placing of the ball for the kick and distinguish between moving the ball with the foot to put it in the proper location and actually kicking the ball to restart the game. Please note: Feinting at a penalty kick may be considered by the referee to be unsporting behavior, but verbal or physical feinting by the kicking team at free kicks or in dynamic play is not. (See below.)

Influencing play is perfectly acceptable. The International Football Association Board (IFAB) and the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) have consistently ruled in favor of the use of guile by the attacking team to influence play and against the use of timewasting tactics and deceitful acts by the defending team. The IFAB and FIFA are so concerned over the failure of referees to deal with timewasting tactics that they send annual reminders noting that referees must deal with time wasting in all its forms. IFAB has also consistently ruled that the practice of forming a defensive wall or any other interference by the defending team at free kicks is counter to the Spirit of the Game, and has issued two associated rulings that the kicking team may influence (through the use of feinting tactics) and confuse the opponents when taking free kicks. The IFAB reinforced its renunciation of defensive tactics by allowing the referee to caution any opposing players who do not maintain the required distance at free kicks as a result of the feinting tactics, which can include members of the kicking team jumping over the ball to confuse and deceive the opponents legally. (See the Questions and Answers on the Laws of the Game, November 1990, Law XIII, Q&A 7 and 8.) The related practice of touching the ball at a free kick or corner kick just enough to put it in play and then attempting to confuse the opponents by telling a teammate to come and take the kick is also accepted practice.

Gamesmanship, by its very name, suggests that the player is bending the rules of the game to his benefit. However, while he is not breaking the letter of the laws that cover play, he may be violating the Spirit of the Laws. Indeed, acts of gamesmanship in soccer can range from being entirely within the letter of the Law to quite illegal. Examples of legal gamesmanship are a team constantly kicking the ball out of play or a player constantly placing himself in an offside position deliberately, looking for the ball from his teammates so that the referee must blow the whistle and stop and restart the game. These acts are not against the Letter of the Laws, and players who commit them cannot be cautioned for unsporting behavior and shown the yellow card. Referees can take steps against most aspects of this legal time wasting only by adding time. Remember that only the referee knows how much time has been lost, and he is empowered by Law 7 to add as much time as necessary to ensure equality. Acts of illegal gamesmanship fall under misconduct (see below). Examples: a player deliberately taking the ball for a throw-in or free kick to the wrong spot, expecting the referee to redirect him; a coach whose team is leading in the game coming onto the field to "attend" to a downed player; simulating a foul or feigning an injury. Misconduct is a deliberate and illegal act aimed at preventing the opposing team from accomplishing its goals. Misconduct can be split into two categories of offenses: those which merit a caution (including the illegal forms of time wasting) and those which merit a sending-off. While the attacking team may use verbal feints to confuse the defensive wall or may "call" for the ball without actually wanting it, simply to deceive their opponents, the other team may not use verbal feints to its opponents and then steal the ball from them, e.g., a defender calling out an opponent's name to entice him into passing the ball to him. Full details on the categories of misconduct and their punishment can be found in the U. S. Soccer Federation (USSF) publication "7 + 7" and on the USSF Referee Homepage [at the URL given there].

Look at these methods of affecting play as escalating in severity from the legal act of influencing to gamesmanship, which can range from legal to illegal, to misconduct, which is entirely illegal. Each of these methods will be used by players in any normal game of soccer to gain an advantage for their team. Referees must know the difference between them, so that they can deal with what should be punished and not interfere in an act that is not truly an infringement of the Laws. Thorough knowledge of the Laws of the Game, the Additional Instructions on the Laws of the Game, the Questions and Answers on the Laws of the Game, the USSF Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game, and position papers and memoranda from the National Referee Development Program can help the referee make the correct decision in every case.

These principles apply at all levels of the game.

And, in any event, even were the referee to say that cautionable misconduct occurred, the restart (after the card) would be the original free kick, not an indirect free kick new restart because, by definition, the misconduct occurred during a stoppage of play. The most the referee could do here, under appropriate circumstances, is to decide that the ploy was in fact a delay of the restart of play.

Your question:
Question #1:
Why is illegal to "spike" the ball on a throwing? A player in a game yesterday threw the ball in, with two hands, over her head, and had two feet on the ground. The ball landed 2 yards in front of her with a fairly high bounce so the AR ruled it a bad throw for "spiking" the ball on a throw in.

Question #2:
Subsequently to being called for the bad throw in this player used foul and abusive language...not directed at the AR but just in general at the call itself. Is this a yellow card or red card offense?

USSF answer (June 3, 2003):
1. Even if a throw-in may have met the literal requirements of Law 15, it is commonly accepted throughout the world that a throw-in "spiked" into the ground is not legal.
2. The use of offensive, insulting, or abusive language (or gestures) is punished by send-off and red card. However, the referee might decide to caution for the language if it doesn't fit into one of those categories but it is instead unsporting behavior (bringing the game into disrepute) or was committed to express dissent with an official's decision.

Your question:
I recently centered a U-13 Girls game. One of the defenders displayed text book form in her shoulder charges throughout the game. Hands at her side, shoulder to shoulder with other player to drive her off the ball. But, she never made any simultaneous attempt to using her feet to win the ball from the player in possession. Only after she had completely driven the player off did she then collect the ball. The sidelines were screaming for push fouls all game, but there was no violent conduct involved. Perfect form, arms in, constant pressure shoulder to shoulder, but no pushing or hip checking. The only thing that struck me as odd was that she did not go after the ball until the other player was completely driven off. There were one or two occasions where a teammate of the shoulder charging player was able to come in and collect the ball. In all cases, I saw nothing that warranted a foul or impedance call. Did I miss something?

USSF answer (June 3, 2003):
A player charging "for the ball" need not _play_ the ball at all, but she must be challenging for the ball. Please make the distinction necessary to apply the Law correctly.

"Impedance"? Surely you do not mean that you were concerned about electrical charges, rather than soccer charges.

Your question:
I have a couple of questions regarding the type of allowable (or anticipated) modification to the LOTG regarding youth players and substitutions.

The following rule applies to U7-12 ages in a local (affiliated) league:
1. Substitution shall be limited to a maximum of three players per substitution.
2. Players who have been substituted for may re-enter the game.
3. Substitution is not allowed for players ejected from the game.
4. Substitution can be made without the consent of the referee under the following circumstances:
A. The player being substituted for must have left the field of play at the touchline directly in front of his team's technical area.
B. Each player must identify whom he or she is substituting for. (High five, hand shake, or hug)

Failure to follow the above procedures could result in referee awarding a five-minute penalty against the offending team. (Play short)

I don't have any issues with items 1-3, however, number 4 seems to raise some issues (besides the practical effect of turning substitution into the system often seen in indoor soccer).

1. Can such a modification which removes the referee's authority over the making of substitutions be made under FIFA/IFAB/USSF rules?
2. Can a modification which requires a team to play short for an infraction of a modified rule be made under FIFA/IFAB/USSF rules? USSF answer (June 3, 2003):
1. Subject to the agreement of the national association concerned and provided the principles of the Laws are maintained, the Laws may be modified in their application for matches for players of under 16 years of age, for women footballers, for veteran footballers (over 35 years) and for players with disabilities. Substitution is among the areas of the Laws that may be modified. While the Federation probably would not approve items 1 or 4 of the list, there is little that can be done to police it. Referees do have the option of not working in competitions that use rules contrary to the Laws of the Game.
2. The International F. A. Board has reaffirmed for 2003 its instructions that no rules permitting temporary expulsion (being forced to play short for an infringement of the Laws) may be used. Here is an excerpt from USSF Memorandum 2003:
The Board re-affirmed the decision taken at its last meeting that the temporary expulsion of players is not permitted at any level of football. USSF Advice to Referees: This instruction, which was first discussed in Memorandum 2002, is not subject to implementation by the referee: it is a matter for the competition authority. "Temporary expulsion" in this context refers to a rule purporting to require that a player leave the field temporarily under certain conditions (e.g., having received a caution - a so-called "cooling off" period) and does not include situations in which a player must correct illegal equipment or bleeding.

Your question:
I recently overhead two referees discussing this incident which actually occurred in a game:
During an attack on goal, the ball popped into the air. The defender backpedaled while attempting to play the ball with his head. His legs got tangled with each other and he fell over, banging into the attacker, knocking him down, in the penalty area, while he was attempting a shot on goal. The Center Referee made no call stating that there was no intent on the part of the defender to foul the attacker. I was dumbfounded when I heard this! In interviewing many other experienced referees, I found that at least half of those I spoke to shared this view.

Is this "intent" clause a way for referees to duck out of making tough calls? I thought a foul had to be "careless, reckless..." but not necessarily intentional. Do we have to assess the payer's intent now before making a call? Please shed some light on this.

USSF answer (June 2, 2003):
Let there be light! Despite the fact that we referees are no longer required to judge "intent" in an act by one player against another, but to judge the result of the act instead, we are allowed to distinguish between an act that is accidental and one that is deliberate.

In the case you cite, of a player stumbling and colliding with an opponent, we would judge the act to be careless, reckless, or involving the use of excessive force -- and thus a foul -- only if the player had already begun to trip (or attempt to trip), push, kick (or attempt to kick), strike (or attempt to strike), jump at or charge his opponent. If the player was still merely pursuing the opponent and happened to stumble and fall, colliding with the opponent on the way down, there has been no foul, as the act was simply accidental or inadvertent.

Referees who call such acts fouls are doing a disservice to the game and to other referees. These are cases where the referee simply calls out "No foul" -- or something similar; anything other than "Play on" or "Advantage" -- because there has been no foul.

Your question:
If a goal post is smaller in dimension front-to-back than the goal line, does the front of the goal post go to the front edge (field side) of the goal line, outside edge (out-of-touch side) or split the difference and go within the goal line?

Example: Our U-10 size goal posts are 4" wide but only 2" deep. Goal line is sprayed 4" wide. Where is the front edge (or back edge) of the post located?

The USSF 2002-2003 Law Book, Law #1 states: The goal post must be in the center of the goal line.

My Grade 8 USSF referee instructor said the front edge of the goal post must be on the front edge of the goal line.

My association's three senior referees (over 10-20 years of experience each) states the back edge of the post must be on the outside edge of the goal line. Please give me an "official" answer.

USSF answer (June 2, 2003):
You and your association's three senior referees may well be astounded to learn that the goalposts used in your example do not conform to the Laws of the Game and should not be used in any competitive match. Law 1 tells us: "Both goalposts and the crossbar have the same width and depth which do not exceed 12 cm (5 ins). The goal lines are the same width as that of the goalposts and the crossbar." That means that a four-inch wide goal line requires a goalposts that are both four inches wide and four inches thick.

However, if there is no alternative to the goals available for the game, then the goals should be so aligned that the back or outside edge of the goal post is at the outer edge of the goal line, thus allowing the referee and assistant referee to determine more precisely whether or not a goal has been scored.

Your question:
Isn't there a rule that says the GK can't move forward prior to the ball being kicked in PK's? Both goalie's, but especially AC Milan's GK, were jumping way off their line as soon as the whistle was blown, and not only did the ref's not call it, but no one said anything about it. There was one goal where the keeper took literally four steps off the line before the ball was kicked. Am I misunderstanding the rule? or is it just not enforced at the higher levels of soccer?

A friend of mine was in a tournament and had three of the five shots called back to retake for this infraction, but professionals can get away with it. What's the deal?

USSF answer (June 2, 2003):
This is an excellent time to point out a change in the Laws of the Game, specifically the Additional Instructions for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials, effective 1 July 2003. Although the change affects only competitions that begin on or after 1 July 2003, the information is valid at this very moment. The following is a quote from the USSF Memorandum 2003 (which may be downloaded from this site):

The Penalty Kick It is an infringement to enter the penalty area before the kick has been taken. The goalkeeper also infringes the Laws if he moves from his goal-line before the ball has been kicked. Referees must ensure that when players infringe this Law appropriate action is taken.
Law 14 was amended in 1997, taking away the necessity for referees to caution when player(s) entered the penalty area prior to the penalty kick being taken. The amendment also allowed the goalkeeper to move along his goal line. Nowadays, infringements often occur at a penalty kick, yet the referee seldom takes action.
USSF Advice to Referees: The reference to "enter the penalty area before the kick has been taken" includes players moving closer than ten yards to the ball (i.e., entering the penalty arc) and moving closer to the goal line than the ball (i.e., moving closer to the goal line than twelve yards). Referees must also ensure that the goalkeeper does not move off the goal line before the ball is in play. However, although the International Board emphasized the need for referees to take appropriate actions when players violate the requirements of Law 14, referees must continue to differentiate between those violations which clearly had an impact on subsequent play and those trifling violations which clearly had no impact.

Your question:
I want to know what to do if a parent keeps bothering you and the ref does nothing about it.

USSF answer (June 1, 2003):
Close your ears and get on with the job -- and at the next stoppage get the referee's full attention and remind him or her of the referee's obligation to protect the entire officiating team. If the referee takes no action at that time, the best you can do is to continue working and then submit a full report to the appropriate authorities after the game.

Your question:
In your opinion at what age level or skill level should a ref start applying the LOTG pertaining to GSO? I know your always apply the LOTG but you know what I mean.

Example: Two of the games I did during a tourney were U10 and U8. In both games there was an incident where attacker gets around last fullback starting 1 on 1 with goalie when fulback pushes player in the back and they fall.

I was told by a high up ref in our state that at U6 there is no GSO. What about at U10? I did the final game and had a similar situation except IMHO, there were some defenders that could have caught up with the attacker and at least blocked the shot, so no GSO. But what if no one could have caught the player. Is it a GSO or not? I usually do U12 or U14 and I know there are a lot of GSO and a few DGSO's.

USSF answer (June 1, 2003):
If a player denies the opposing team a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity, no matter what the age or skill level, the Law must be followed. The intelligent referee will remember that these events occur only if they are, in the referee's opinion, actual denials of goals or obvious goalscoring opportunities.

There is also the problem that you are mixing several age groups. At the U-6 level, it would be rare for any referee ever to call an obvious goalscoring opportunity, because, at that level, they aren't generally even supposed to be keeping score (no goal ... no OGSO). Soccer below the U-10 level is not what is contemplated by the Laws, so the intelligent referee would do well to think of it as more or less organized exercise. U10 and above, go with the Law.

Your question:
In the professional "A League" match, a coach submitted his teams roster for that game. While the teams were warming up before the game a named starter was injured and would not be able to play in that game. The coach approached the referee crew to ask if he could move a sub to the starting 11 and put another name on the roster as a substitute.

The referee crew allowed the coach to remove the starters name from the roster and move a named sub to the starting 11. However we did not allow the coach to add another sub to his roster. Therefore he only had 6 possible subs to choose from instead of 7 for the 5 subs he is allowed during the match.

My question is where can we find the written rule or memorandum that explains this type of situation?

USSF answer (June 1, 2003):
The same principle expressed in the MLS handbook for referees, Section 11.2.3 (A) "Pregame Injury, Illness or Dismissal," should apply to any professional game:
"After the exchange of the Official Game Rosters, Roster changes by either head coach shall be made only in case of injury, illness or dismissal during the warm-up period. A player who is removed from the official starting lineup shall not be eligible for substitution into the Game, with the exception of the Goalkeeper. However, an eligible Active Roster Player may be added to the Official Game Roster to replace an injured or ill Player, not a dismissed player. A starting player's vacant Roster position may only be filled by a current, named substitute from the Official Game Roster. The replacement player can only be added to the list of eligible substitutions, not as a starting Player. Any Player dismissed prior to the Game is not eligible and may not be replaced on the Roster (a named substitute may fill the roster position of a starting Player who has been dismissed).

"No changes or additions to the Official Game Roster may occur once the Teams exit the locker rooms for Pre-Game introductions when the Game Roster becomes frozen and final."

Your question:
Indirect free kick about 20 yards out. A wall is set up with a defender on both posts. The attacker kicks is directly to the goal knowing it is a IDF, the defender on the near post it's clearing going in but foolishly knocks tha ball over the cross bar. Since this is a IDF should the restart be... Yellow card corner kick, or penalty kick?

USSF answer (June 1, 2003):
There can be no goalscoring opportunity on an indirect free kick, so the correct answer depends on what you mean by "knocks the ball." If you mean the player "knocked" the ball with his hand, then the correct answer is caution/yellow card for unsporting behavior, with a penalty kick restart. If you mean the player "knocked" the ball with some part of the head, torso, or legs/feet, then the answer is corner kick.

Your question:
Recently, in a U17 game that came down to a penalty shootout, a player stepped up to take her shot, which was saved by the opposing keeper. However, the referee allowed the shooter to re-take her shot, which resulted in a goal. Under what circumstances can the referee allow the shooter to re-take his/her shot in a penalty shootout?

USSF answer (June 1, 2003):
Given your scenario, there are only two reasons to retake the kick from the penalty mark. If the referee gives the signal for a kick to be taken and, before the ball is in play, one of the following situations occurs:
The goalkeeper infringes the Laws of the Game:
- the referee allows the kick to proceed
- if the ball enters the goal, a goal is awarded
- if the ball does not enter the goal, the kick is retaken

A player of both the defending team -- including the goalkeeper -- and the attacking team -- including the kicker -- infringe the Laws of the Game: - the kick is retaken

There are other reasons to retake penalty kicks, and these might apply to kicks from the penalty mark, but they do not apply to your scenario.

Your question:
Law 16 states that the ball must be kicked beyond the penalty area. No dispute. But in a recent adult match, the ball was kicked to a defender, who touched the ball with his foot while the ball was still on the PA line. No attacking player was within 20 yards. The CR whistled it, and ordered the kick to be retaken. While this is technically correct, isn't it trifling? Since it had no impact on the game, wouldn't the CR have been wiser to simply ignore it and allow play to continue, since the restart is simply a retake of the kick? If it were a youth match, I might view it differently, but no one gained any advantage, and it was not an attempt to circumvent the LOTG.

USSF answer (June 1, 2003):
Trifling is in the eye of the only beholder who counts, the referee.

Your question:
A ball is placed inside a corner arc in preparation for a corner kick. Player A taps the top of ball with the sole of her shoe and then runs away. Player B (on the same team) then runs over to the ball and dribbles it out of the corner arc.

Law 17 (and 13 as well) says that "the ball is in play when it is kicked and moves". The coach who has taught this play believes the ball is "kicked" (with the sole of the shoe) and that the ball "moves" (it just happens to move downward). Others believes that this type of "kick" violates the spirit of the Law.

FIFA's Q&A Law 13, Question #5 indicates that a free kick may be taken by lifting the ball. Is a ball that is "tapped" (i. e., pushed down) considered "kicked" and "moves"?

USSF answer (June 1, 2003):
While the referee should strive to be as accommodating as possible regarding the "moves" requirement on free kicks, a simple push downward with the sole of the shoe would probably not qualify as a kick at the ball.

Your question:
The situation is as follows: the blue team has pulled all of their defenders up so that they are straddling the halfway line. A red attacker [red-1] is about ten yards closer to the blue goal [in an offside position]. A red player plays the ball toward red-1. Red-1 stands as though he could play the ball but instead allows Red-2 [who was not in offside position] to run onto the ball and play it. The questions: (1) Should the assistant raise his/her flag signalling an offside; and, (2) Should the referee blow his whistle and stop play for an offside offense.

USSF answer (June 1, 2003):
This is an old and time-honored (and legal) tactic to beat the offside trap -- provided that the player in the offside position clearly signals his non-participation in the play by standing at attention or turning his back to play.

Just to make it clear: No, the assistant referee should not flag and, no, the referee should not blow his whistle. And the player's action must be clear and definitive to avoid the offside decision.

Your question:
The scenario: A ball is cleared by the defense into the air and over midfield. The attacking team player is in position to recieve the ball, but instead of heading it, decides instead to hit it with his shoulder, which he clearly "shrugs" in an effort to propel the ball forward and to the side to space so he can play it. I stopped play for deliberate handling in this case. Of course, the player was flabergasted that he used his shoulder and that's not handling. I assured him shoulder use was, in fact, handling. I know that the rules state that use of the outside of the shoulder constitute handling, but does use of the top of the shoulder constitute likewise (this is the area that was used by this player)? I was pretty confident when I made the call, but as I have mulled it over since, I am not as sure as I thought.

USSF answer (May 29, 2003):
For purposes of determining deliberate handling of the ball, the "hand" is considered to be any part of the arm-hand from fingertip to shoulder. Using the top of the shoulder is not considered as using the hand.

NOTE: This represents a change to the information in the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game," section 12.11, which will be reworded to reflect this change in the next edition.

Your question:
A referee has called for a penalty kick, can the coach switch the goalie with another player already on the field?

As an example, we were late in a game where we were winning 2-1, and we only had 11 players so our normal goalie had been rotated out onto the field as sweeper, to give the girls a break. Then we had a player commit a foul within the box. The referee correctly called for the penalty kick, then I asked if I could sub the goalie. I was told no. The other team kicked the penalty kick which went over the net, then the referee said the kick had occurred without the proper start signal, so the kick was retaken. Is this also correct? The game was tied on the 2nd penalty kick, the game lasted 1 more minute.

USSF answer (May 29, 2003):
Why doesn't someone with good experiences with a referee ask questions?

In the first case, the referee did indeed screw up. A field player may exchange places with the goalkeeper at any stoppage in play, provided the referee is informed before the change is made. This does not count as a substitution, so your terminology may have confused the referee.

In the second case, the referee was correct. A penalty kick must be retaken if a player kicks before the referee has given the signal to kick.

Let us add that someone may have been confused by rule differences. Under the Laws of the Game, of course, the goalkeeper could be substituted in accordance with Law 3 because it was a stoppage (assuming the team had a substitution left). In high school rules, this would not be permitted unless the goalkeeper were injured or otherwise required to leave the field (high school rules do not differ from the Laws of the Game on the question of swapping a field player and the goalkeeper).

Your question:
At a recent youth tournament, with a number of fields side by side, a ball from one game is kicked onto a nearby field in the vicinity of the penalty area, in the midst of active play and near that game's own ball. A player on this field, mistaking the rogue ball for that game's ball strikes it and it hits the goal tender knocking him down briefly. While he is down a goal is scored with the legitimate ball. The goal was counted. Was that the proper call, and if not what should have been done, and why?

USSF answer (May 29, 2003):
No goal can be awarded. The intelligent referee will stop the game and restart with a dropped ball at the point where the original ball was when the second ball entered the field.

Your question:
Could you explain referee assault? Give examples? What is NOT referee assault? Is there a place that this is written? It is very controversial and many people - refs. and others - think that just touching the referee accidentally is a red card. Are there red card and yellow card assault differences?

USSF answer (May 29, 2003):
The information given here applies to all games played under the aegis of the United States Federation other than those played within the realm of Professional League Member activities (which are dealt with under a separate policy number). Full details may be found in Policy 531-9, Misconduct Toward Game Officials (amended 7/20/01). This response does not cover either hearings or appeals. For details on those matters, consult Policy 531-9.

The term "referee" includes all currently registered USSF referees, as well as any non-licensed, non-registered person serving in an emergency capacity as a referee (under Rule 3040) and any club assistant referee.

Referee assault is an intentional act of physical violence at or upon a referee. In this response, "intentional act" means an act intended to bring about a result which will invade the interests of another in a way that is socially unacceptable. Unintended consequences of the act are irrelevant.

Assault includes, but is not limited to the following acts committed upon a referee: hitting, kicking, punching, choking, spitting on, grabbing or bodily running into a referee; head butting; the act of kicking or throwing any object at a referee that could inflict injury; damaging the referee's uniform or personal property, i.e. car, equipment, etc.

Referee abuse is a verbal statement or physical act not resulting in bodily contact which implies or threatens physical harm to a referee or the referee's property or equipment.

Abuse includes, but is not limited to the following acts committed upon a referee: using foul or abusive language toward a referee; spewing any beverage on a referee's personal property; spitting at (but not on) the referee; or verbally threatening a referee.

Verbal threats are remarks that carry the implied or direct threat of physical harm. Such remarks as "I'll get you after the game" or "You won't get out of here in one piece" shall be deemed referee abuse.

Penalties and Suspensions
(A) Assault
(1) The player, coach, manager, or official committing the referee assault is automatically suspended as follows:
(a) for a minor or slight touching of the referee or the referee's uniform or personal property, at least 3 months from the time of the assault;
(b) except as provided in clause (c) or (d), for any other assault, at least 6 months from the time of the assault;
(c) for an assault committed by an adult and the referee is 17 years of age or younger, at least 3 years; or
(d) for an assault when serious injuries are inflicted, at least 5 years.
(2) A State Association adjudicating the matter may not provide shorter period of suspension but, if circumstances warrant, may provide a longer period of suspension.
(B) Abuse
The minimum suspension period for referee abuse shall be at least three (3) scheduled matches within the rules of that competition. The State Association adjudicating the matter may provide a longer period of suspension when circumstances warrant (e.g., habitual offenders).

Procedure for Reporting Assault and Abuse
(A) Procedures for reporting of referee assault and/or abuse shall be developed and disseminated by the National Referee Committee to all Federation registered referees for use in their National State Association.
(B) Referees shall transmit a written report of the alleged assault or abuse, or both, within 48 hours of the incident (unless there is a valid reason for later reporting) to the designee of the State Association and the State Referee Administrator. For tournaments or special events, the referee shall transmit a written report to the tournament director on the day of the incident and to his home state SRA within 10 days of the incident.

Any instance of referee assault or abuse by a player or substitute is immediate grounds for dismissal/red card -- and for a team official it is grounds for dismissal alone, as no card may be shown to a team official. In addition to the report of the assault, the referee must also include full details in the official match report.

Your question:
Can you have a member of your team stand in between the kick-taker and the defensive wall. So for example the wall's 10 yards away from the ball can one of your own players stand 5 yards away from the ball.

USSF answer (May 27, 2003):
Yes, a member of the kicking team may stand between the wall and the kicker. The only restriction on distance from the ball is on the opposing team, not the kicking team. The opposing team must remain ten yards away from the ball until it is in play.

Your question:
Through the ten years I have been actively involved in youth soccer U-5 to U-15. I have also been playing for close to thirty years. It is obvious that most officials avoid calling dangerous play. High kicking, boot up tackling, sliding from behind, low heading and playing the ball on the ground are routinely encouraged by officials not controlling the game. I understand FIFA rules that the coaches are to coach teams not officials. However the number of negligent officials greatly outweigh the good and need to be corrected during the game. Until officials are held accountable for game management by the licensing authorities and graded on performance I feel that coaches must still instruct officials when players safety is in question.

An official in a U-9 game I had a few days ago would not leave the midfield line during the game. He was never in a position to align himself up with the last defender since the last defender on his side never approached the mid fields strip. At some point coaches need to assist officials who have a very small grasp on the game. If officials were trained to listen to corrective critisim rather that take "the dont talk to me I am a god mentality" the games would be played and officaited in a better manner. There is no place in youth sports for primadonnas Coach of Official.

USSF answer (May 27, 2003):
The coach who wants to see better officiating can do several things to help:
(1) Report both the good and the poor official to the State Referee Administrator and to the assignor for the competition. If you are consistent in your criticism, win or lose, and others contribute the same sort of consistent reporting, the refereeing should improve. Many assignors are very conscientious in trying to match officials with the most suitable games. Others are not and will assign any warm body to a game. That is something that can be addressed only within your state association -- and it must be documented. Ranting without documentation gets nowhere.
(2) Obey the Laws of the Game and behave responsibly. This can prevent the players from becoming more excited about the referee than about playing the game as best they can. It will also help to prevent the parents from going over the top with their abuse of the referee. The coach has the right to speak to the referee only to exchange introductions at the beginning of the game. The coach has no right to offer any criticism to the official, whether directly or obliquely, in any form other than a written report to the appropriate authorities.
(3) Coach the players to play the game, not the referee. And set an example in this, as suggested in (2) above.
(4) Take a refereeing course and do a few games in the middle. Then come back and tell me how easy it is.

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.

Submit your questions via e-mail to