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July 2007 Archive (I of II)


First of all, I really appreciate your "Ask a Referee" Forum. I read it often to reinforce my understanding in regards to handling both rare and common issues that arise during a match.

I referee a lot of youth matches and I have seen a fair share of poor sportsmanship displayed by fans (mostly parents)-who loudly protest every call made against their team and scream about fair challenges that result in little Johnny or little Suzie hitting the turf. I have witnessed fans inciting aggressive and dangerous behavior on the pitch resulting in cautions and send-offs. This behavior permeates from U10 on up.

I know that as a center I have the power to terminate a match if any unsafe condition(s) exists-I have never gone to this extreme, but I have ejected spectators from the area who consistently exhibit bad behavior.

My question to you is what is the recommended way to handle a situation where the fans are affecting play on the pitch in a negative way? Should I as the referee eject the fan, or should I instruct the team or tournament officials to do that? Is there a USSF position paper that addresses this issue?

Answer (June 20, 2007):
The referee may have team officials removed from the area of the field of play, but, unless the rules of the competition in which you referee permit it, you have no direct authority to remove spectators. Without something in the rules of the competition, the only option open to you is to speak with the coach or other team official and let them know that they must do something to curb the offending behavior by the spectator. Tell them that if this behavior does not cease, you will be forced to suspend the game for "grave disorder," and if the person is not removed within a reasonable time (set by the referee), the match will be terminated with a full report to the competition authorities to follow.



I have a question dealing with mechanics. I was an AR on a game today and there was a moment of confusion at the goal line. An attacker played the ball to a teammate who was about three yards away and was just barely in an offside position when the ball was played. As the ball was traveling to the attacker, it deflected off a defender and went out of bounds, passing less than a foot away from the attacker who made an attempt to play the ball. The referee was in a bad position to judge offside and obviously was not aware that an offside infringement had occurred. I put my flag straight up to indicate the offside, and after making eye contact lowered the flag horizontally to indicate the middle of the field is where the infraction occurred. However, the referee who had seen the ball touch the defender, signaled for a corner kick because he thought I had called a goal kick. I quickly beckoned him over and told him an offside had occurred prior to the ball going out of bounds. From there, we sorted out what and where the restart would be.

Although we were able to figure our way through this, is there any procedure that could have made this situation less confusing and more efficient? If I may offer my own personal thought, it seems logical to me that when the AR signals for the ball out of play on the goal line and he or she needs to raise the flag, he or she should raise it in the hand closest to the goal line (often the right hand) and then proceed to indicate either a corner kick or goal kick. On the other hand, if an AR needs to indicate offside, he or she should raise the flag vertically in the hand closest to the half line (often the left) and then proceed to signal which part of the field the offense occurred in. However, as I said, this is just my own personal opinion on the matter since the Guide to Procedures never says anything about specific hands the flag should be in.

I realize that this type of situation is probably rare, and even the action of calling the referee over to sort things out is probably adequate to resolve any problems. Nevertheless, it just seems to me that there should be a more effective and efficient way to do this so that the crew can look even more professional.

Thanks for your time in this probably trivial question.

Answer (June 18, 2007):
This is an excellent question, as similar problems arise frequently because referees do not give thorough instructions and ARs do not ask enough questions in the pregame conference. The Federation teaches that the AR should never flag for any infringement where it is obvious that the referee can see what happened. If this particular procedure had been discussed in the pregame conference, as it should have been, then the referee would have known that something else had happened. As you describe your signal, the referee would have recognized that an offside occurred before the ball was deflected out of play by the defender. In point of fact, the referee should have known the AR was signaling an offside, because he raised the flag straight up first. If the AR had been signaling "just" a goal kick, the AR would have signaled this by pointing the flag straight out immediately -- pointing it straight up and then, after eye contact, pointing toward the goal area for a goal kick would have been correct only if the ball had indeed left the field for a goal kick and then been played back onto the field.



Without having the time to read all the archives, these questions have come up: 1. In normal play and not from a free kick, a teammate deliberately passes the ball back to his goalkeeper but it is over and over the GK's head. In order to prevent an accidental own-goal, the GK handles the ball. Is this a DOGSO or an IFK for the opponent?

2. A player completes a legal throw-in to a teammate who heads it back to their own GK. Is this trickery? I contend it is not but there are USSF instructors who insist it is.

3. When time is extended for the taking of a Penalty Kick, do players have to remain on the field or can all go to the team benches except for the kicker and GK? This is another I believe where players have to remain on the field because the ball is still in play but some USSF instructors claim all players but the kicker and keeper can leave.

Answer (June 18, 2007):
1. No, it is ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE for the goalkeeper to be sent off for denying an obvious goal or goalscoring opportunity to the opposing team by deliberately handling the ball in his/her own penalty area. It's in the Law: 4. denies the opposing team a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball (this does not apply to a goalkeeper within his own penalty area)

2. Read through this excerpt from the draft for the 2007 edition of the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game." The only change is the addition of the note at the end.

A goalkeeper infringes Law 12 if he or she touches the ball with the hands directly after it has been deliberately kicked to him or her by a teammate. The requirement that the ball be kicked means only that it has been played with the foot. The requirement that the ball be "kicked to" the goalkeeper means only that the play is to or toward a place where the keeper can legally handle the ball. The requirement that the ball be "deliberately kicked" means that the play on the ball is deliberate and does not include situations in which the ball has been, in the opinion of the referee, accidentally deflected or misdirected. The goalkeeper has infringed the Law by handling the ball after initially playing the ball in some other way (e.g., with the feet). This offense, like any other, may be ignored for the moment if it is trifling or doubtful (see Advice 5.6).

NOTE: (a) The goalkeeper is permitted to dribble into the penalty area and then pick up any ball played legally (not kicked deliberately to the goalkeeper or to a place where the goalkeeper can easily play it) by a teammate or played in any manner by an opponent. (b) This portion of the Law was written to help referees cope with timewasting tactics by teams, not to punish players who are playing within the Spirit of the Game.

A goalkeeper infringes Law 12 by touching the ball with the hands after receiving it directly from a throw-in taken by a teammate. The goalkeeper is considered to have received the ball directly by playing it in any way (for example, by dribbling the ball with the feet) before touching it with the hands. Referees should take care not to consider as trickery any sequence of play that offers a fair chance for opponents to challenge for the ball before it is handled by the goalkeeper from a throw-in.

NOTE: The goalkeeper may always handle the ball inside his own penalty area unless he/she: * Takes more than 6 seconds while controlling the ball with his/her hands before releasing it from possession
* Regains hand control prior to a touch by another player
* Touches ball with the hands after it comes directly from a throw-in or deliberate kick to the 'keeper by a teammate

3. They must all remain on the field of play. No one is allowed to go to the bench area other than for medical attention. The ball is certainly not in play.


[NOTE: The response to question 1 was modified on June 21.]

1. I'd like to know if you agree or disagree with the following. The situation as described in the recert was that the kicker of a PK commits an infraction before kicking the ball, but after the referee blows the whistle to take the PK. He shoots wide. What is the restart? I got it right, because I guessed correctly that the exam writer was only interested in infractions of law 14, but that isn't stated in the question and is an assumption that turned out to be correct. Let's assume for a moment the following scenario: the GK is doing the crazy-leg thing a la Dudek in Champions League 2005. The kicker gets angry and uses foul and abusive language to the keeper while making his approach to kick the ball. The kick is taken and goes wide. Now if the referee decides that he allowed the kick to be taken he gives the IFK, but can no longer eject the offending player. He has allowed a restart. In order to eject the player, the referee has to decide that he had not yet allowed the play to start and therefore the restart would be a PK (by a teammate this time). If this logic is correct, it would have made a great connection to the speech that [one speaker]gave. The referee needs to have done his homework and recognize what is at stake in the game. If it is 1-0 and one or both teams are battling for league leadership and there are 30 seconds left in the match, the defending team (or another competing team) will feel fairly angry if the PK gets to be retaken and scores even if they are now up a man. If the game is 3-0 either way, ejecting the player probably makes more sense, and the referee should decide that he hadn't allowed the play to begin, but the player just kicked quicker than his stopping whistle.

2. There are times when we are to call fouls for things that don't seem to match the letter of the law. An example is the following: The attacker is dribbling the ball and the defender is directly in front of him a few yards up field. The defender slides directly into the ball, and because the attacker is directly behind the ball, there is no way for him to avoid taking the player out. What is the foul? It isn't "tackles an opponent to gain possession of the ball, making contact with the opponent before touching the ball". It isn't a trip or attempted trip, because clearly the ball was being played, and tripping a player using the ball is certainly legal. The defender is allowed to stop a ball from the side that the attacker is running with causing the attacker to fall over it. One would like to say the tackle was made carelessly or recklessly, but those don't apply to the "tackles an opponent.." The law clearly states the decision is strictly whether the ball hit first or not. When we make this call, what rule do we cite to the coach or player, when they inevitably argue this call?

3. I had an interesting conversation with a state referee in January. I had just watched him give an IFK in the penalty area for a player impeding another through contact, just as the infamous test question from a couple of years ago discussed. As we chatted, I mentioned that what occurred was exactly the test question and it seems like it should have been a PK (yes I had a bias in this game). He said he remembered the test question as well and agreed that what occurred was exactly what it stated, but. and this is the interesting part, he is accustomed to doing higher level games and. (this is pretty close to a quote) . if in one of those matches an assessor saw him even call such a foul in the penalty area despite it being a foul anywhere else on the field, he would have been hammered for it. As a coach, one always suspects this is the case, but usually one thinks that it is just fear by the referee, not an organized conspiracy. Is this really what higher level referees are taught? I had always believed the mantra that a foul is a foul whether it is in or out of the penalty area. I try to call games that way. Is that just what level 8s are taught. Is the real way a secret only taught to state refs and up? Or was this guy in need of some counseling? When I am refereeing should I apply his advice or does location of the foul not matter?

Answer (June 18, 2007):
1. The penalty kick has been taken, the kicking team had its fair chance to score, it didn't. Game over (penalty kick in extended time). The referee must then show the red card to the kicker for using offensive or insulting or abusive language and/or gestures. The end of the match IS the next stoppage and the Laws of the Game allow a red card to be shown after a match is over since all parties are still in the area of the field.

2. "I/He got the ball first" is not a defense for any foul tackle. It's not what the player does to take the ball that constitutes a foul when making contact with the ball before making contact with the opponent, but what he does afterwards. If, after taking the ball, the tackler lifts or curls his leg to trip the opponent or uses both legs to take the opponent down or goes "over the top" of the ball (despite making contact with it), then there is at least a foul and likely a caution or send-off (particularly in the case of the "over-the-top" foul) with it. We see no problem with charging (no pun intended) a player with a careless or even a reckless charge when he steps in front of an opponent vigorously dribbling the ball and therefore causes the resulting contact. The player who does this is clearly not playing the ball but playing the player. Further, it is not "shoulder to shoulder," which remains the traditional, meaningful core element of a legal "charge." It is at minimum impeding -- done in such a way as to force contact solely because of the momentum of the opponent (see Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game 12.14, below).

3. Oh, goodness gracious, you have found us out! Yes, there are secret sessions only for state referees, giving them all the information that is denied to the less-privileged masses. And of course assessors will hammer any referee who awards a penalty kick for a direct-free-kick foul in the penalty area. NOT!

Your state referee needs to get a life and follow the instructions given in the Laws of the Game (2007, under GUIDELINES FOR REFEREES) Š
"Impeding the progress of an opponent means moving into the path of the opponent to obstruct, block, slow down or force a change of direction by an opponent when the ball is not within playing distance of either player. "All players have a right to their position on the field of play, being in the way of an opponent is not the same as moving into the way of an opponent. "Shielding the ball is permitted. A player who places himself between an opponent and the ball for tactical reasons has not committed an offence as long as the ball is kept in playing distance and the player does not hold off the opponent with his arms or body. If the ball is within playing distance, the player may be fairly charged by an opponent."

Š and in the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game":
"Impeding the progress of an opponent" means moving on the field so as to obstruct, interfere with, or block the path of an opponent. Impeding can include crossing directly in front of the opponent or running between the opponent and the ball so as to form an obstacle with the aim of delaying progress. There will be many occasions during a game when a player will come between an opponent and the ball, but in the majority of such instances, this is quite natural and fair. It is often possible for a player not playing the ball to be in the path of an opponent and still not be guilty of impeding.

The offense of impeding an opponent requires that the ball not be within playing distance and that physical contact between the player and the opponent is normally absent. If physical contact occurs, the referee should, depending on the circumstances, consider instead the possibility that a charging infringement has been committed (direct free kick) or that the opponent has been fairly charged off the ball (indirect free kick, see Advice 12.22). However, nonviolent physical contact may occur while impeding the progress of an opponent if, in the opinion of the referee, this contact was an unavoidable consequence of the impeding (due, for example, to momentum).



I have a question on a subject that has come up before - kicks from the mark. I attended a tournament in NJ this weekend that claimed to follow USSF/FIFA rules. In the event of a tie, their rules said that "If a clear winner is not decided after the overtime periods, penalty kicks will be taken in accordance with FIFA "Taking of Kicks from the Penalty Mark"". So far, so good, but the rules then state:
o Penalty Kicks would continue as follows:
* Referee will determine goal to be used.
* Both coaches will select 5 players from their team - Only those players on the field at the end of overtime will
be able to participate in the penalty shoot-out.
* Referee will determine by coin toss of which team shoots first and what goal will be used.
* Five rounds of kicks will be taken.
* In the event a winner is not determined, coaches select the order of 5 of the remaining 6 players on the field at the end of overtime. "Sudden Victory" will follow.
* In the event a winner is still not determined. The coach will select any 1 players with "sudden victory" rules in effect. A player may not shoot a second time until all players have shot once.

Unless I am mistaken, this tournament's version of "kicks from the mark" may be wrong in three or four areas: (1) they require the coach to select five kickers at the start; (2) after five kicks, they require the coach to select five more kickers; (3) in the second round, they also require the coach to select an order of kickers (and I was told by an official that an order would also be required in the first round); and (4) if it is tied after ten kicks, they say that the coach will then select one player - I assume this means they assume that only the ten field players will be used and that the GK will be skipped, thus a kicker must be selected on Round 11 - otherwise there would be no need to select a player following the first ten kicks (however, the first part seems to contradict the following part that a player can't shoot again until everyone has shot once).

In the past couple of years this is the fifth tournament I have attended where officials (and many referees) have insisted that teams must submit five kickers, plus the order in which they will shoot, prior to the beginning of a "PK shootout". Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, three of the five events were in New Jersey. My assumption is that some people have been confused by NFHS rules and somehow combined elements from each, and that the mistaken procedure has then been passed along to other tournaments. By the way, perhaps of more concern, one of the officials who believed these procedures are correct said: "I have been involved in five high-level tournaments in the past year and every one of them required that the coach submit a list of five kickers in order prior to the start."

Could you please give your comments on the procedures used by this tournament. Also, do tournaments following USSF rules have the right to alter procedures such as kicks from the mark?

And in a follow-on question:
A follow-up on the questions I sent to you earlier today. I found out that prior to OT, the center referee told both coaches that if the game went to OT, no coaches would even be allowed on the field for the kicks from the mark. Presumably they would just give him a list of the kickers and the order. I know that the list and order part is wrong, but is there anything in the rules at all to allow him to prohibit coaches from being on the field during the kicks? This again is supposed to be USSF rules.

Answer (June 18, 2007):
In the 2007 Laws of the Game, under "PROCEDURES TO DETERMINE THE WINNER OF A MATCH OR HOME-AND-AWAY," we find:
Kicks from the penalty mark
- The referee chooses the goal at which the kicks will be taken
- The referee tosses a coin and the team whose captain wins the toss decides whether to take the first or the second kick
- The referee keeps a record of the kicks being taken
- Subject to the conditions explained below, both teams take five kicks
- The kicks are taken alternately by the teams
- If, before both teams have taken five kicks, one has scored more goals than the other could score, even if it were to complete its five kicks, no more kicks are taken
- If, after both teams have taken five kicks, both have scored the same number of goals, or have not scored any goals, kicks continue to be taken in the same order until one team has scored a goal more than the other from the same number of kicks
- A goalkeeper who is injured while kicks are being taken from the penalty mark and is unable to continue as goalkeeper may be replaced by a named substitute provided his team has not used the maximum number of substitutes permitted under the competition rules
- With the exception of the foregoing case, only players who are on the field of play at the end of the match, which includes extra time where appropriate, are allowed to take kicks from the penalty mark
- Each kick is taken by a different player and all eligible players must take a kick before any player can take a second kick
- An eligible player may change places with the goalkeeper at any time when kicks from the penalty mark are being taken
- Only the eligible players and match officials are permitted to remain on the field of play when kicks from the penalty mark are being taken
- All players, except the player taking the kick and the two goalkeepers, must remain within the center circle
- The goalkeeper who is the teammate of the kicker must remain on the field of play, outside the penalty area in which the kicks are being taken, on the goal line where it meets the penalty area boundary line - Unless otherwise stated, the relevant Laws of the Game and International F.A. Board Decisions apply when kicks from the penalty mark are being taken
- When a team finishes the match with a greater number of players than their opponents, they shall reduce their numbers to equate with that of their opponents and inform the referee of the name and number of each player excluded. The team captain has this responsibility.
- Before the start of kicks from the penalty mark the referee shall ensure that only an equal number of players from each team remain within the center circle and they shall take the kicks.

Further along in the 2007 Laws of the Game, under "GUIDELINES FOR REFEREES," which will replace the old IFAB/FIFA Q&A, we find:
Kicks from the penalty mark
* The kicks from the penalty mark are not part of the match.
* The goal may be changed only if it becomes unusable
* Once all eligible players have taken a kick from the penalty mark, the same sequence does not have to be followed as in the first round of kicks.
* Each team is responsible for selecting the players from those on the field of play at the end of the match and the order in which they will take the kicks.
* A player other than the goalkeeper who is injured may not be substituted during the taking of kicks from the penalty mark,
* If the goalkeeper is sent off during the taking of kicks from the penalty mark, he shall be replaced by a player who finished the match
* A player, substitute or substituted player may be cautioned or sent off during the taking of kicks from the penalty mark
* The referee shall not abandon the match if a team remains with less than 7 players during the taking of kicks from the penalty mark.
* If a player is injured or sent off during the taking of kicks from the penalty marks and the team has one player less, the referee should not reduce the number of players taking kicks for the other team. An equal number of players from each team is required only at the start of the taking of kicks from the penalty mark.

The United States Soccer Federation has not established any rules for kicks from the penalty mark that differ from those above. Some competitions may introduce slight variations, but these are not approved by the Federation. If a referee accepts an assignment in these competitions, he or she must follow the rules of that competition.

There are some universally-accepted points of procedure for kicks from the penalty mark that are not listed above:
The team (coach) may "select" from among those players on the field or temporarily off the field at the end of full time the players who will be the first five to kick, but the referee should not accept any list of players from either team. The same is true for the players who will take any kicks subsequent to the initial five for each team.

Coaches are allowed on the field for the initial consultation with their team prior to the first kick from the penalty mark. The referee may not ban them from the field unless they have behaved irresponsibly. They must leave the field of play when the kicks are about to begin.



[Two related questions came in. We have combined the questions and answers]
1. A question has risen in another forum concerning a statement in section 14.3 of the Advice to Referees. Specifically, at the taking of a penalty kick, if the kick is taken before the referee signals, ATR 14.3 asserts that the kick must be retaken, regardless of the result of the first kick. However, some very experienced and knowledgeable referees maintain that, if a PK (taken before the referee signals) is missed, it is contrary to the spirit of the game to allow the kicking team a second chance.

My question is, is ATR 14.3 correct? Or am I misunderstanding something about fairness in this situation?

2. We had an interesting scenario here during one of our state cup finals. Game went to kicks to break the tie. One of the kickers approaches and kicks the ball prior to any signal by the referee. The kick does NOT enter the goal. The referee, based on discussion with AR, decides not to retake the kick.

Is this correct?

We have reviewed the ATR & FIFA Q&A regarding Law 14. Both make reference to attacker or kicker infringement based upon the referee signalling proceed with the kick.

Answer (JUNE 17, 2007):
1. Yes, Advice 14.3 is correct. It makes no difference what "some very experienced and knowledgeable referees maintain," because the Law is clear. There can be no change of the restart if it is taken before the referee's signal. If there is an infringement AFTER the referee's signal, then the restart can be changed.

2. It is implicit in Law 14 that there can be no infringement of the requirements of Law 14 before the referee has signalled for the kick. Therefore, any act that occurs before the referee's signal cannot change the restart. If the act constitutes misconduct, the referee should deal with it accordingly.

Please note that, contrary to rumors, no announcement was made at the 2007 National Referee Certification and Recertification seminars that the referee could restart in such a case with an indirect free kick.


U.S. Soccer thanks Jim Allen (National Instructor Staff/National Assessor), assisted by Dan Heldman (National Instructor Staff), for their assistance in providing this service.

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