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Ask a Referee Update: Sept. 28, 2010


Offside - at a recent [college] match there was a difficult call made by the referee concerning an attacking player. Here is the scenario.

A lone attacking player is played a long ball from the back and at the time of the pass was onside. The pass was not accurate and the last defender tried to head the ball back down the field. The header ended up going backward to the attacker who had continued to run forward (now the attacker found herself between the last defender and the goalkeeper). The on-field call, after a goal was scored, was that the attacker was seeking to gain an advantage by being in the position they were in when they actually received the ball.

I'm not sure how the referee could have determined where the advantage was as the attacker could not have known the last defender would head the ball in her vicinity. This was not a deflection per se nor was the pass made by one of her team mates.

Can you clarify?

Answer (September 28, 2010):
We need to repeat and stress (for ALL readers) that we do not have any competence to answer questions on college or high school rules, so must address your question as if it had occurred in a game played under the Laws of the Game, the rules the entire world plays by. We need to repeat and stress (for ALL readers) that we do not have any competence to answer questions on college or high school rules, so must address your question as if it had occurred in a game played under the Laws of the Game, the rules the entire world plays by.

If a player was in an onside position when the ball was last played by a teammate, then he or she cannot be declared offside if the ball is then deflected, miskicked, or otherwise misdirected by an opponent. Under the Laws of the Game, this referee would seem to have erred, at least in his description of his decision-making process. The word "seeking" was removed from Law 11 many years ago and the critical decision that has to be made in this scenario is whether the defender PLAYED (possessed and controlled) the ball -- including situations in which the defender PLAYED the ball in what turned out to be an unfortunate direction -- or whether the ball merely DEFLECTED from the defender (including situations in which the ball was misplayed). Whether the referee further erred in his basic decision we cannot say in the absence of a clip of the play.


An answer of November 19, 2007, states: If the scrimmage appears as part of the regular assignment process and is listed by the league assignor, it should be considered by the referee to be officially sanctioned. The teams did not call the referees directly to make the arrangements, but went through the official assignment procedure with the league assignor.

My question: What if the referee for the scrimmage was not assigned by the league assignor, is the referee covered by USSF insurance. In my case the coach went out and obtained the center referee. I was not aware of the assignment but the referee was paid by the league coach

Answer (September 17, 2010):
Even if both teams are affiliated with US Youth Soccer, the game itself would not appear to be affiliated if it does not occur within the framework of an affiliated organization. If the teams did not go through the official procedure, we suggest that the referee check with local refereeing authorities to avoid possible problems with liability and insurance coverage.


I have pounded over tons of site to try to figure out the off sides rule on "gaining an advantage by being in that position".

When is that position determined? At time of the offenses last attack, on the rebound from the defender, on the rebound from the goal post. I understand if the offensive player is in an offside position at the time of their teammates playing the ball and it rebounds they are offside if they play the ball.

I don't know how many times I have seen the following scenario. Ball is played by the offense with everyone onside and no player offside, ball rebound (off the goalpost, defender) at the time of the rebound one or more offense players are between the second defender and goalie. Sometimes I see no offside called sometimes I see the offside called. I have heard AR's explain to other people it hit the goalpost or it came off the goalie.

If the rule is where the players are at when the ball is struck by the offense what is the purpose of the "gaining an advantage by being in that position" even being said.

Answer (September 17, 2010):
The rule is that the offside infringements are punished at the place where the player in the offside position was when his teammate played the ball.

You will find the following guidance in the Interpretations of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees in the Laws of the Game 2010/2011:

In the context of Law 11 -- Offside, the following definitions apply:
* "nearer to his opponents' goal line" means that any part of a player's head, body or feet is nearer to his opponents' goal line than both the ball and the second last opponent. The arms are not included in this definition
* "interfering with play" means playing or touching the ball passed or touched by a teammate
* "interfering with an opponent" means preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent's line of vision or movements or making a gesture or movement which, in the opinion of the referee, deceives or distracts an opponent
* "gaining an advantage by being in that position" means playing a ball that rebounds to him off a goalpost or the crossbar having been in an offside position or playing a ball that rebounds to him off an opponent having been in an offside position

When an offside offense occurs, the referee awards an indirect free kick to be taken from the position of the offending player when the ball was last played to him by one of his teammates.

We hope this is helpful. As to what and when it is called, we cannot guarantee that referees will always get the call right.


In our game this past weekend an attacker takes a high shot on goal which our keeper deflects into the air and to her right next to the goal post.

In an effort to prevent the rebound from going into the net, our keeper turns around (she is standing upright and her back is now towards the field of play) and proceeds to catch the ball over her head in her outstretched arms preventing the ball from entering the goal. It is at this moment, arms still outstretched over her head, when an attacker collides with our keeper from behind forcing the keeper into the goal post causing her to lose possession, go down injured as her mid section was driven into the goal post, at which time the ball enters the goal.

The referee awarded the attacking team a goal stating as the goalie did not have the ball tucked into her body she did not have possession. A point in which we argued as the goalkeeper is considered to be in control (= possession) of the ball when the ball is held with both hands, held by trapping the ball between one hand and any surface (e.g., the ground, a goalpost, the goalkeeper's body), or holding the ball in the outstretched open palm.

Even if you agree with the referee's definition of possession, shouldn't a charge at minimal have been called against the attacker (another point we argued) with the potential of a send-off for serious foul play?

Is there any plausible reason the goal should have been allowed?

Please clarify.

Answer (September 17, 2010):
Let us lay out the facts and our perceptions of the incident. No blame assessed; make your own decision.

It makes no difference from whom the list of times when the goalkeeper is in possession of the ball came, but we would clarify that if the goalkeeper has the ball firmly gripped in her hand (i. e., the hand is not open), that would also qualify. If she had the ball in both hands (as your description seems to suggest) before she was charged from behind by the attacker (of which more later), then she was certainly in possession.

As to the charge from behind: A player may charge an opponent from behind, but only in the area of the shoulder and only if the opponent is shielding a ball that is within playing distance. This can include a certain portion of the shoulder blade. The charge may not be done with excessive force (a sending-off offense), as suggested by your description.

As the deflection by your 'keeper would seem to have been purely defensive in nature (rather than a parry, which she could not play again with her hands and avoid an indirect free kick for the opponents), the 'keeper was perfectly entitled to go after the ball.


I have a question related to the priority of the duties of the referee. I have searched US Soccer and the position papers and noticed there is a position paper related to the duties of the Assistant Referee, but nothing as to the referee's priority. Now I understand that this forum may deal with generally higher level questions, but when you (as a lone referee) are assigned to a match (more typically a low competitive youth match, but not unheard of to reach mid-level youth matches) what is the priority of responsibilities to the teams/players and the game. From my understanding if you are to use "Club Linesmen" then they are limited to only calling the ball in-and-out of touch. This would put the burden of responsibility for "Enforcing the Laws of the Game" solely onto the referee. In a perfect world we, as a referee culture, would like to have 3 USSF Certified Referees on every match and be in 100% perfect position 100% of the time and make 100% perfect calls. However, as a referee of nearly ten years I know that is not always possible, especially when there is only one referee to cover an entire match. One such example would be, when a lone referee has to position themselves close to the penalty area during a corner kick and the ball is cleared up field quickly to an attacker who may, or may not, be in an offside position.

Now since the primary function of the referee is to ensure the safety of the players (through the Safety - Equality - Enjoyment Philosophy) I would believe that direct free kick fouls and misconduct would be the most important duty of the referee, then followed by offside (Law 11 violations) then followed by ball in-and-out of play (Law 9). I understand that offside violations can be game critical decisions, but ultimately no one can be physically harmed by an missed offside violation; whereas, a foul can have lasting physical problems for a player for years to come (ie knee injury).

Thank you for your time.

Answer (September 17, 2010):
SAFETY first, but the FAIRNESS and ENJOYMENT of the players are ensured by calling what NEEDS to be called. At any given moment, virtually anything might impinge on fairness or enjoyment, so the referee must be prepared to call ANYTHING. However, a referee can only call what he (or she) sees and the fact that, as a lone official on the field, it is more difficult to see things depending on what is going on doesn't change this principle. That said, we must add that, after a long enough time doing this game, one begins to "see" things that mere mortals in the exact same position on the field might not. Finally, let us close with the reminder that, according to Law 5, all decisions of the referee regarding matters related to play are final. Period. No argument allowed.


Today, we played the best team in our division. We beat them 3-2, after one of our sweeper scored his second goal of the night with 5 minutes left. As you could imagine we were all excited, especially our goal scorer. He ran away from the goal, put his shirt over his face and then got tackled by our team, it was like we won the Stanley Cup or something. The ref walks over to him after he got up, pulls out a yellow and then a red card. Our coach went balistic (bc of the referee) and asked him what the call was. So he asked him politely and the referee's response was, "Number 10 received a red/yellow for unsportsmanlike conduct due to excessive celebration." Our coach responded to that by putting a new player into the game. The referee stopped him and said that we cannot substitute a player because it was a red/yellow. Our coach said to him that it's the same as a soft red, the referee said, "No, it's different." in frustration, our coach responded, "how is it different?!?!" and the ref simply responded saying, "it just is." so the big question is, what is a red/yellow? I have seen a player on the opposing team receive a hard red for excessive celebration I've heard of a soft red, when a player receives 2 yellow cards and i have also seen it being called a yellow-red. Any help would be greatly appreciated because I try to understand the game and it's rules as best as possible.

Answer (September 17, 2010):
We certainly understand your confusion in the context of such an exciting moment -- and we might even understand the referee's confusion -- but we must reiterate as we have done numerous times in the past that this site is specifically for questions arising from a match played under the Laws of the Game in the United States. We cannot answer any questions authoritatively about matters arising from other sets of rules or even the FIFA Laws of the Game as they may be applied in other countries.

That said, we do have some knowledge of what you are describing (simply from reading the Rules). Of course, under the Laws of the Game, there is no such thing as a "hard" or "soft" red card. These are found only in the rules issued by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and refer to a red card for which the ejected player cannot be replaced (hard) or for which the ejected player can be replaced (soft). A "soft" red card (actually, a yellow and a red card shown simultaneously) is given if the player had previously in the match already been shown a yellow card. A yellow and red card are also shown (even if there was no previous yellow card) if a player commits a "delayed, excessive, or prolonged act by which a player attempts to focus attention upon himself/herself and/or prohibits a timely restart of the game." This appears to be what earned your player the "yellow/red" because his action (pulling the shirt over his head), which would also have earned him a yellow card under the Laws of the Game, is considered a form of "show-boating" and involves delaying the restart of play. However, under the Laws of the Game, this would only have been a yellow card (unless the player had previously been cautioned) whereas, under high school rules, it is a "soft" red -- he had to leave the field.

Where your referee appears to have become confused is that, by definition, a soft red does not require the team to play down. Indeed, NFHS rule 12-8-2 specifically declares that, for this yellow/red, "the number of players on the field shall not be reduced" (meaning that the team doesn't have to play down). See also the "Misconduct Penalty Chart" in Rule 12 which states that, for a "yellow/red," the player "may be substituted."


This week's Week 23 USSF Week in Review features Brian Hall discussing the concept of advantage in the penalty area (referring to the 8 minute mark of the audio portion).

Mr. Hall states that advantage on a DFK foul by the defending team in its own PA can only occur if a goal is scored almost immediately; if not, the foul should be called an a penalty kick awarded.

Here is my theoretical situation. Let's say a GK commits a DFK foul on an attacker, who releases the ball and the ball rolls to a teammate who now has a shot from 2 yards away on the 8-foot by 24-foot goal frame. It's a "can't miss" opportunity. But amazingly, the attacker somehow manages to mis-kick the ball and chips it wide of the post or over the crossbar (this is not impossible... a search of "Missed goals" on YouTube will turn a few of these up).

Clearly it behooves the referee to play advantage and give the golden scoring chance. But, according to Mr. Hall, once the shot misses the PK should be awarded. This is going to seem like double jeopardy for the defense, and will undoubtedly result in much angst and potential dissent from the defense.

The missed goal is not the fault of the foul or any play by the defending team; it is due to the technical inadequacy of the attacker.

I'm fine with following this directive, but I want to make sure that this is what is truly intended. I can sense situations developing in which we are following this direction and have to deal with subsequent dissent for the interpretation.

Answer (September 17, 2010):
For something over a year now, the Federation has espoused precisely the line expressed in the Week in Review. This line distinguishes between the concept of advantage anywhere else in the field and how the concept differs in the penalty area. What it comes down to is this:

For something over a year now, the Federation has espoused precisely the line expressed in the Week in Review. This line distinguishes between the concept of advantage anywhere else in the field and how the concept differs in the penalty area. What it comes down to is this:

As regards procedures, the mechanics of advantage in the penalty area would be to keep your mouth shut and the whistle down, no matter what. No referee should ever be caught on tape giving the non-PA advantage signal for something that occurred inside the penalty area.

As regards the substance of advantage, inside the penalty area advantage is defined solely in terms of scoring a goal "immediately" (i.e., within a play -- roughly -- a pinball-type carom off one player to another player and then into the goal would be included). If a goal is scored "immediately," count the goal and card only if the original offense by the defender deserved it outside the context of S4 or S5 (Law 12 reasons for sending-off). If a goal is not scored, regardless of the reason, whistle and call for a penalty kick.

U.S. Soccer thanks Jim Allen (National Instructor Staff and National Assessor ret., assisted by National Instructor Trainer Dan Heldman, for their assistance in providing this service. Direction is provided by Alfred Kleinaitis, Manager of Referee Development and Education, with further assistance from Paul Tamberino, Director of Referee Development; David McKee, National Director of Assessment (assessment matters); Jeff Kollmeyer, National Instructor, indoor and Futsal; and Ulrich Strom, National Instructor and National Assessor (matters in general).

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