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November 2008 Archive (III of III)


I was the center for an adult mens game this week. The attacking team was on a fast break and the thru ball was deliberately handled by the defender to stop the attack. The defender was one of the last defenders (they were almost a straight line). The Attacking player who was to receive the ball would have been on his way to goal with no defender in sight. The deliberate ball handling took place about 35 yards from goal.

I blew the whistle and gave the defending player a straight red. The AR then called me over to tell me that the attacking player who was to receive the ball was in an offside position. At the half, my other AR said I should have considered the distance from goal that the handling occurred and thought I should have given a yellow card.

Does the fact that the attacking player who was to receive the ball was in an offside position change the card or scenario?

Does the fact that the handling took place 35 yards from goal change the card or scenario?

Answer (November 21, 2008):
Yes, as we have answered several times in the past, the fact that the player who might have scored was in an offside position does indeed change the card and the scenario. Although it's a bit late to do anything about it now except remember it for the next time it occurs.

If the referee accepts the assistant referee's flag for the offside -- which he or she seems not to have shown in this case -- that advice is then binding on the referee, who must decide for offside and misconduct. The correct decision is to caution the defender for unsporting behavior and restart with an indirect free kick for the defender's team, taken from the place where the attacker was when his teammate passed the ball.

However, just to head off questions we know will come from others who read this particular Q&A, let us note several things.

1. if the offside is not accepted (and it is certainly difficult to accept an offense that wasn't signaled by the AR in the first place) or if the attacker hadn't been in an offside position, then the issue you raise boils down to this -- but for the handling, would a goal have been scored?

2. And someone is bound to bring in the 4 Ds, which actually figure into that decision only marginally.

3. The referee can't say that DGF occurred simply because, but for the handling, the attacker might have passed the ball to his teammate and his teammate in turn might have been able to take a shot on goal and the shot on goal might have gone into the net. In this case, it is either a red for DGF because the ball would have gone into the net from the player's shot on goal or it would be a caution for a tactical foul (illegally handling to prevent the ball from going to a teammate of the player).


In a Finals game, at the beginning of the second half, team "A" kicks off. Unbeknown to the CR and team A's coach, 10 players are on the field in a 9v9 maximum player count. Within 60 seconds team "A" scores a goal against team "B." It is determined that the extra player touched the ball in the transition, assisting in getting the ball into team "B's back third and ultimately scoring the goal. Team "B"s coaching staff notices the anomaly and brings it to the CR's attention.

Does the goal count?

Answer (November 20, 2008):
No, it does not. The Laws of the Game are explicit -- and it would make no difference if it were U9, U19, or adult professional players.

Goals scored with an extra person on the field of play
If, after a goal is scored, the referee realizes, before play restarts, that there was an extra person on the field of play when the goal was scored:
- the referee must disallow the goal if:
-- the extra person was an outside agent and he interfered with play
-- the extra person was a player, substitute, substituted player or team official associated with the team that scored the goal
- the referee must allow the goal if:
-- the extra person was an outside agent who did not interfere with play
-- the extra person was a player, substitute, substituted player or team official associated with the team the conceded the goal

It is clear from your scenario that the extra player interfered in play, which suggests that the referee's decision should be no goal, follow the restart guidance given in the Laws. That is, provided that the game had NOT been restarted with the kick-off before the extra player was discovered. If the game had been restarted, life is hard and the goal counts.


MLS Playoff game between NY and Salt Lake. Home team fans throw streamers at opposing players taking corner kicks or at the opposing goal keeper prior to a home team corner kick, yet, play is allowed to continue. Also, the throwing of smoke "bombs" onto the field, and again play is allowed to continue. My question is this.

"When is an 'outside agent' allowed to enter the field of play and the referee allowed to ignore it and allow play to continue?" I'm famailiar with Advice to Referees Section 1.8 paragraph D. Streams and smoke bombs are both distractions not only to the fans but also to the players and (in my opinion) "interfers with the game". I guess my position is obvioulsy the exact opposite as that displayed on the field during the game in question. So, which is correct?

Answer (November 18, 2008):
Under the Laws, an outside agent is a person, but that can be extended to other animate beings such as dogs. An outside agent is not a streamer or smoke bomb, although these things can occasionally cause problems. Much of this was covered in a Federation position paper of 3 April 2008 on "Objects on the Field": Under the Laws, an outside agent is a person, but that can be extended to other animate beings such as dogs. An outside agent is not a streamer or smoke bomb, although these things can occasionally cause problems. Much of this was covered in a Federation position paper of 3 April 2008 on "Objects on the Field":
From the U.S. Soccer Communications Center:

Subject: Objects on the Field

Date: April 3, 2008

Soccer matches are exciting events, attended by partisan fans who celebrate the successes and bemoan the reverses of their favorite team. They wave flags, blare trumpets, beat drums, swirl scarves, and, sometimes, they throw things onto the field. Usually, what is thrown onto the field (confetti and streamers) is inconsequential, at most a momentary distraction.

At times, however, what is thrown onto the field constitutes a serious interference in the match, either because of the specific nature of the object (e.g., bottles or lit fireworks) or because of the volume of the material covering the field and making the surface dangerously unstable. In such cases, the referee must suspend play, preferably at a stoppage called for some other reason but otherwise without delay if the issue is the safety of the players, the officials, or team personnel in the technical areas. Before play can be resumed, it is the responsibility of the home club (the organization sponsoring the match) to resolve the problem without undue delay. Under certain circumstances, the referee may consider removing players from the field for their safety during this time.

A more difficult case is presented when what is thrown onto the field is not intrinsically dangerous but carries the threat of interfering with play in some significant way. Referees are, of course, alert to such interference when a ball enters the field and comes close enough to play to be mistaken for the match ball. Another example that might be cited is an EPL match (Sheffield United v. Manchester City) in which, about 10 minutes into the first half, the ball was played into the attacking third of the field at a time when more than a dozen balloons were also in the area (it may be important to note that the balloons were generally similar to the match ball in size and color).

On a shot across the face of the goal, the ball hit a balloon, causing the former to be redirected slightly and the latter to be knocked toward the goal. Further play resulted in other balloons moving and bouncing in front of the goalkeeper. A goal was scored during what may have been a very confusing few seconds.

In these "gray area" situations, the referee must evaluate a number of factors in order to determine if and when play should be suspended until the problem is resolved.

* What is the likelihood that the foreign object(s) might interfere with the safe movement of the players?
* What is the likelihood that the foreign object(s) might confuse players and/or disrupt the flow of play?
* Is the problem with foreign object(s) primarily at one end of the field and therefore more likely to disadvantage one team over another?

Play should not be suspended for inconsequential reasons and the referee must remain vigilant to the possibilities of the match being disrupted by the sudden appearance of unwanted objects on the field. Match officials must be sensitive to things which interfere unduly with the beauty of the sport and make a mockery of skilled play.


We put your question to an authority at the Federation, who responds that professional-level referees are instructed to manage their games with an eye toward preserving the entertainment value of the game without sacrificing player safety. Streamers are not necessarily a big safety hazard, while smoke bombs are. The referee's key to deciphering the mystery is player reaction. Players do not tend to mind streamers until they are being thrown in excess "at" the player. The authority also points out that material thrown at the goal is treated more seriously than material thrown around the corner flag. This is because of the possibility of interference with the last line of defense near the goal.


During a recent match a parent wasn't happy with the CR lack of a call or a miss call. He happened to be a referee and the league administrator. He requested that the ARs both be replaced and wanted to replace the center referee. My question is what is the rule for someone stopping play and what are the rules for changing out ARs?

Answer (November 18, 2008):
No spectator, not even a league administrator, has the right to interfere with the officials on a match.


This came out of a recent tournament. U12B game; young referee in center; myself and a very experienced referee as AR's.

The players had been getting a little out of hand, with several instances of late charges“ shoulder of the defender to the back of shoulder of the attacker, after the defender was beaten, rather than shoulder to shoulder. At the half-time break I suggested to the CR that he should watch for these, calling them to help calm down the game.

The other AR agreed, but also asked the question (teaching mode), When is shoulder to back contact allowed? The CR and I thought that this was never allowed, although the foul might be trifling and therefore not called.

The other AR gave as his answer that when the ball is on the goal line, and a defender is legally shielding the ball, an attacker can initiate shoulder to back contact to move the defender off the ball.

I asked for a reference and later (after the game), he told me it was either in the ATR or a memorandum. I have been unable to find this interpretation.

This is important to me because, as I progress up to calling older players, I am seeing this situation. I don't want to award a DFK (or a PK!) for a legal charge.

Also, where does the "shoulder" stop? I know that sounds funny, but the ATR in Section 12.5 refers to "the area of the shoulder" as opposed to "toward the center of the opponent's back (the spinal area) ." Is a charge with the shoulder of one player making contact with the shoulder blade of the opponent legal? I had always thought not.

Answer (November 18, 2008):
We are always pleased to give anatomy lessons. In the "shoulder-to-shoulder" charge, the shoulder is indeed composed of "the area of the shoulder." In other words, the shoulder blade or the front part of the body where the arm and the upper chest meet. All of this is spelled out quite carefully in the Advice to Referees, as you note:
The act of charging an opponent can be performed without it being called as a foul. Although the fair charge is commonly defined as "shoulder to shoulder," this is not a requirement and, at certain age levels where heights may vary greatly, may not even be possible. Furthermore, under many circumstances, a charge may often result in the player against whom it is placed falling to the ground (a consequence, as before, of players differing in weight or strength). The Law does require that the charge be directed toward the area of the shoulder and not toward the center of the opponent's back (the spinal area): in such a case, the referee should recognize that such a charge is at minimum reckless and potentially even violent. (See also Advice 12.14.)

That is the traditional area of "the shoulder" in soccer, as defined since time immemorial.

ADDENDUM: In response to a question from the asker, we reiterated that charges to the spine or spinal area are definitely not permitted and should be considered sending-off offenses.


There is much written about Substitution Procedures under Law 3 about players leaving and entering the field and about referees being diligent about players being completely off the field before allowing the substitute to enter.

However, one (this referee) cannot find any information about the responsibilities of the referee in allowing that said substitute, who is now the player of record, being allowed time to take position on the field before the referee allows the restart. One would think the center referee has the responsibility to determine the new player be allowed to be properly positioned before the restart. Is there anything written or "understood" about this scenario?

Allowing a free kick to be taken before a player is properly placed is sure to cause a problem. An assessor told me allowing the player to access their proper position before the restart whistle is a mere courtesy. This cannot be correct.

Answer (November 17, 2008):
Common sense and tradition dictate that the referee delay the restart until the newly-entered player has reached a reasonable position on the field. The need for such a delay is obvious in the case of a substitution for a goalkeeper, but is less obvious for players who have no set position on the field.


If a substitute enters the field of play before being beckoned, and while the player is still on the field, can the referee force the player off the field and mandate the team play short until the next substitution opportunity?

Answer (November 17, 2008):
The substitution procedure is quite clear: A substitution is not complete until each step has been properly executed. Before a new player may enter the field, he or she must be given permission by the referee. If that new player enters the field without permission, the process and thus the substitution has not been properly completed.

It would seem to be a bit extreme to force the player to wait until the next valid substitution opportunity. The Law states only that permission to proceed with a substitution may be refused under certain circumstances, e. g., if the substitute is not ready to enter the field of play. (See Interpretations, Law 3.) In your scenario, the referee should stop play, if it has restarted, require the player who entered early to leave the field and then return and only then allow the restart to be taken.

In short, then, the onus falls on the referee, who must use common sense in dealing with this problem. The substitute can enter the field this way under only two scenarios -- either he enters before his player has left and without being beckoned, or he has been beckoned to enter before the player has left. In the latter case, it is the referee's fault and the referee must bear the entire burden of sorting out the consequences. This includes NOT punishing either the substitute or the substitute's team for the referee's screw-up.

In the former case (which is the scenario described here), the substitute has entered the field illegally and could therefore be cautioned for unsporting behavior. Even if the substitute is not cautioned, however, it remains the referee's fault if play is restarted because, according to the Interpretations, play cannot restart except by a whistle signal by the referee. That is likely one of the reasons why the Laws now specify that the restart has become ceremonial whenever a substitution has been requested -- so that play CANNOT restart until the referee has sorted out all the issues of a substitution which has not gone accordingly to the correct procedure. Again, common sense is the key to solving the problem.

See earlier questions and answers for the hornet's nest that can be stirred up by allowing this to happen in a fast-moving game.


I was watching a game on TV from England's premier league and was surprised to see a player with a diamond on each ear lobe during the whole game. I'm concluding the center referee didn't care about this infraction because it was obvious that four officials couldn't possible have missed this glaring jewelry. I suppose he thought it was not hazardous.

It was demeaning to the game to see a player in repeated closeups flashing his elegance right at the referee team. Then I thought assisting the assigned referee does not mean capitulation to his peculiar whims. So, what course is available to the assistant referees and fourth official? Can they refuse the assignment until the center referee gives way or should they just take it in stride and report it in their game report?

Answer (November 17, 2008):
The longer we live, the more we see -- and the more we notice that both players and referees sometimes flout the Laws of the Game, or at least fail to follow them clearly and logically.

No, the assistant referee and the fourth official may not boycott the game for referee failures of this sort. They can certainly make their observations known and must then cooperate with all instructions from the referee that do not cause the assistants or fourth official themselves to violate the Laws. If the failure by the referee is an egregious one, then the assistant(s) or fourth official should report it to the appropriate authorities.


Law 7 which speaks to the duration of the match doesn't advise when the ref should start his clock. Law 8 advises when the ball is in play, but doesn't refer back to Law 7.

Suppose at game time, the ref calls the teams out. They fail to take the pitch despite repeated invitations to do so. Can the ref start the clock, or must he wait till the ball is in play per Law 8?

Answer (November 17, 2008):
The time cannot start until the game is underway. The game cannot get underway until the ball has been put into play. The ball cannot be put into play until the minimum number of players specified in the rules of the competition are present and on the field. If the teams delay getting their players on the field, then the referee must include full details in the match report.

The local rules of competition could specify something different. For EXAMPLE only: clock starts at scheduled game time and the length of each half is reduced by half the length of time it takes the teams to field at least the minimum number). It is not uncommon for tournaments to do something like this, but that is not part of the Laws of the Game nor a practice that is widespread.


I recently took a 50-question USSF recertification test. Two of the "official" answers seemed to deviate from statements made by you on this column.

The first question involved OS or not by two attackers standing apart at the top of the goal area during the taking of a free kick just off-center and outside the PA. The question stipulated that they did not move. Nonetheless the "correct" answer was OS, presumably for visual obstruction of the keeper. See your answer of 3/4/08 on this column.

The second question involved the r/s, if after a goal and before the k/o, it is discovered that one team had an extra person on the FOP.

The "correct" answer was no goal, if the extra person was on the goal scoring team, and goal, if extra person was on the other team. The question made no mention of any involvement in play by the extra person. In the absence of the latter it would seem to me that the answer is goal in either event. See your answer of April 2, 2008.

Thank you in advance for your assistance on this query.

Answer (November 17, 2008):
In the both your questions you are talking apples and applesauce, in other words, two totally different situations. The two questions on the recert test are not affected by the two answers on Ask A Referee or Ask a Soccer Referee. The one in your first test question involves players standing at the top of the goal area, and the scenario does not tell us where they are in relation to the goalkeeper. More specifically, we fail to see how an answer about jumping up and down in a "wall" or in front of a keeper can have anything to do with a recert test question about offside. The question in the item dated 4 March 2008 involved a player who stood directly in front of the goalkeeper and who, IN THE OPINION OF THE REFEREE, did so to block the goalkeeper's view. And there was a caveat in the 4 March question involving "merely standing." It was stated that "this would be acceptable behavior unless (a) the attacker moves as the goalkeeper moves (which makes it similar to such behavior at a corner kick) or (b) is so close physically to the goalkeeper that it could be interpreted as an aggressive occupying of 'personal space.''" Neither is the question regarding the extra person in any way related to what was discussed in the 2 April answer, which dealt with an outside agent entering the field. Apples and applesauce; related, but not related, made of the same materials yet totally different.

Finally, without knowing exactly (a) what level test you took (7/8 or 5/6) and (b) the questions whose official answers you question, there is little we can do. There is no such thing as an "official" 50 question recert test -- there is only a 100-question grades 8/7 test -- if a state association chooses to pull only 50 questions out and use them for recertification purposes, there isn't anything we can (or should) do about it, but who knows what other changes might have been made. On the surface, the official answer on the first question (whatever it is) sounds acceptable -- if they were just standing but still obstructing the keeper's view while in an offside position, then they were clearly in violation of Law 11 and should be declared offside. On the second question, the situation again seems straightforward and not contradicted by anything we have said -- namely, if a goal is scored but before the kick-off restart is taken, it is determined that the scoring team had an extra player illegally on the field, then the goal would not count regardless of what role (if any) the "extra" player had in the scoring of the goal.


This happened while I was watching a U14B Class II select game prior to the one I was supposed to ref.

The CR was a very well respected guy that has a lot of experience in our league. One of the AR's (on the coaches side) kept bragging about how good he was where he moved from (California, I think) and kept making really bad comments about the performance of the CR.

In my opinion, the CR was doing a pretty good job in a very physical game.

At one point in the game, the CR called a PK in the area that was on the other side from the AR I am talking about. Well, the AR went ballistic and ran all the way to the other side of the field and started arguing with ther CR on how that was not a PK, etc, etc...

From that point on, it turned really nasty as the AR kept making bad comments of the CR performance, very loud so everyone could hear. The CR acted very calmed and didn't really paid attention to the AR comments, but certainly did not help with the game.

My question is: Can a CR dismiss an AR who is having this type of behavior and ask one of the clubs to assign a linesman?

I am hoping the CR wrote a very long report about the AR, and hopefully I won't see that AR again.

Answer (November 17, 2008):
Yes, a referee may indeed dismiss an assistant referee who is behaving in that manner. Here is the word, straight from Law 6:
In the event of undue interference or improper conduct, the referee will relieve an assistant referee of his duties and make a report to the appropriate authorities.

And the referee should report the AR to the state referee authorities for breach of the Referee Code of Ethics.

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 Paul Tamberino, Director of Referee Development; David McKee, National Director of Assessment (assessment matters); and Ulrich Strom, National Instructor and National Assessor (matters in general).

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