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July 2004 Archive (II of II)

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An interesting scenario happened to take place twice for me in the past month, and in [my organization], we feel compelled to defer to more simplistic answers, so I thought this might be a better place to address the issue.

Recently, at [two tournaments] I had the opportunity to both watch and referee a particular GU14 team. This team has one young lady of the Muslim faith whose father requires her to wear a headdress (I don't know the proper name for it, but it covers her head entirely and drapes over her shoulders), long sleeves, and long pants. Naturally, given the religious nature of her change to the uniform standards, there is no basic qualm with her wearing the additional clothing, and both her parents and coach ensured throughout various matches, in these hotter climates, that she was afforded ample opportunity to stay hydrated.

However, she's her team's leading goal-scorer, and the reason why is her inhibition in regards to tackling due to her long pants. Additionally, because female players [in my organization] tend to be a nicer lot in general, her opponents were generally very careful about challenging her directly for fear that they would become encumbered in her additional gear (especially the headdress and long sleeves) and cause a foul in their defending third. During the games I refereed and watched her team, her attire did not result in any additional proclivity for fouls against her. The points being that she gained a very clear advantage due to the additional attire.

So, my question, as you can imagine, is the nefarious beauty of "At what point do religious edicts regarding attire outweight fairness and sportsmanship in our Sport?"

For what it's worth, [my organization]'s answer to this question was "Always", despite the organization's overall deference to safety as prime tenet. I ask the question because [this] decision seems to be counter to the Memorandum dated November 22, 2002, and because the anecdotal reference in the Memorandum doesn't really cover that much religious "covering".

However, in a day and age in which the female side of the sport is picking up Internationally, the particular issue of Muslim women's teams facing Western women's teams might ought to be addressed sooner rather than later.

Answer (July 28, 2004):
The referee needs to distinguish between issues of safety and issues of "unfair advantage." There cannot be any weakening of the referee's authority with regard to player safety. As to any "unfair advantage" that might accrue to the player with religious attire, that is strictly a matter of perception, rather than one of fact. For once, perception is not reality.

We can do no more than emphasize that the position paper of November 22, 2002, cited in full below, is still applicable and that no further position can be taken by the U. S. Soccer Federation. If and when an issue arises on the international level regarding a conflict between the dress of teams from Muslim nations and those of the rest of the world, we will receive guidelines from the International Board and from FIFA.

Subject: Player Dress
Date: November 22, 2002

According to Law 4, The Players' Equipment, a player must not use equipment or wear anything which is dangerous to himself or another player. The basic compulsory equipment of a player is a jersey or shirt, shorts, stockings, shinguards, and footwear. There is no provision for a player to wear a skirt or similar clothing.

However, in an analogous situation, in respect of certain religions that require members to wear head coverings, the Secretary General of the United States Soccer Federation has given permission to those bound by religious law to wear such headcoverings, usually a turban or yarmulke, provided the referee finds that the headgear does not pose a danger to the player wearing it or to the other players. This principle could be extended to other clothing required of members by their religion.

Since the referee may not know all the various religious rules, players must request the variance well enough ahead of game time by notifying the league. The league will notify the state association, which will pass the information on to the state referee committee. The state referee committee will make sure that the referees working that league's matches are informed.

The referee is still bound by the requirements of Law 4 - the player must not use equipment or wear anything which is dangerous to himself or another player, or use this equipment or clothing to circumvent the Laws of the Game. An example would be the use of equipment or garments to trap the ball or to distract an opponent.


[A visiting referee from another country has] two questions. First question is whether players are allowed to eat during a game. For example, can a player who becomes hungry retreats to the bench (being allowed to do so by the ref just like when they change their shoes), eats, and goes back to the field (with the permission by the ref)? I understand that players are only allowed to drink water along a touch line during out-of-play.

Second question is offensive/insulting.abusive language. Since English is not my native language, I often have hard time being sure what to do. Is caution appropriate when someone says, "It wasn't a foul"? What about when he says something like "didn't you see what he did?" I believe f-words are red card. But if you could give me any idea how I can easily distinguish things for a red card from things for a yellow card.

Answer (July 28, 2004):
Players are allowed to eat and drink if they leave the field of play with the permission of the referee. As to water, players need not leave the field, but must stand at the touch line and not bring any containers onto the field.

The referee must first decide whether or not language or gestures are offensive, insulting, or abusive. If they are, in the opinion of the referee, offensive, insulting, or abusive, then they must be punished. Referees must exercise common sense and punish any such acts that exceed the limits of acceptable behavior. See the USSF position paper on language, dated March 14, 2003, which may be downloaded from this site and several others.


In a U-19 boys at a youth regional championship game, the referee issues a yellow card to #12. This was the second yellow card to #12 which could have resulted into a send off. The referee does not realize that this was the second caution because he was using a write-on card and due to sweat and rain, the card/#12 has been smeared. Since his write-on card does not show the #12, the player is left to continue. None of the crew (Ref, SAR, JAR and 4th) realized this error. The game continued with #12 still in it and his team still playing full. During a substitution opportunity, #12 was substituted. Eventually, the field marshal for this game spotted the error and immediately drew the attention of the referee. The referee stopped the game, issued a red card to #12 who is now sitting on the bench, removed the substitute for #12 and the game resumed with the one team playing with 10 men. (In this tournament, there is no reentry of substitutes.)

Questions: (1) Is the referee's decision correction correct? (2) Since #12 is no longer a player at this point, should his team be made to play short?

Answer (July 28, 2004):
As long as the situation was brought to the referee's attention during the game, the decision to issue the red card to #12 was correct. The decision to remove the player who had been substituted in was also correct, despite that player's innocence. Number 12 was sent off for conduct that occurred when he was a player, so the referee had no choice but to remove the innocent player. However, the referee made a serious error in using a "write-on" card under the conditions you describe.


On the kickoff , on the first touch the kicker rolls the ball forward two or three inches and WITHOUT removing his foot flicks the ball backwards. It does go forward and it is not a second touch. I have asked several ref's in the area and all agree it is wrong but can't decide exactly why or what to call, if anything.

Answer (July 28, 2004):
You have described a "roll"-off, not a "kick"-off. The ball must be KICKED forward, not rolled forward, just as it says in Law 8: "the ball is in play when it is kicked and moves forward."


I was recently centering a men's league game, and a rather odd situation occured. Team A was attacking Team B's goal inside the 18 yard box. I noticed my AR's flag begin to wave rapidly, and I blew my whistle and ran over to speak with him. I figured I may have missed a minor jersey tug, or something may have been said that may have deserved a card. However, this wasn't the case. He told me that a player on Team B had lost a shoe, and that the restart should be an indirect kick from where the shoe first came off. At this point, I assumed that he was saying the play was dangerous. I, however, did not think it was dangerous, but I obeyed him, and issued an indirect kick inside the box. He is a state referee, and I am only 17, so I didn't protest this (after the game even). Was this the correct ruling?

Answer (July 21, 2004):
According to the Questions and Answers on the Laws of the Game, 2004 edition, Law 4, Q&A 10 (no change from the 2000 edition):
10. A player accidentally loses his footwear and immediately scores a goal. Is this permitted?
Yes. The player did not intentionally play barefoot, because he lost his footwear by accident.

There is certainly no issue of "playing dangerously" here. The state referee would appear to be taking advantage of his seniority to show you who is really "the boss." Law 4 is pretty clear on what must happen if there is an infringement, so let's go with that: "For any infringement of Law 4 play need not be stopped. The player at fault is instructed by the referee to leave the field of play to correct his equipment. The player leaves the field of play when the ball next ceases to be in play, unless he has already corrected his equipment."

As to the state referee, we suggest that his mechanics and judgment do not follow the instructions in the USSF publication "Guide to Procedures for Referees and Assistant Referees (newly reissued for 2004). Nuff said.


Within the past several years, I, as well as many of my associates, have noticed a marked increase of televised incidences of open dissent within the MLS.

My family, along with three other families, have Galaxy tickets within 10 rows of the Touchline, at about the 28 yd line. We have also witnessed a marked increase in the use of abusive language towards the Referee and his Assistants, in the past couple of years. For instance on a recent, what would have been a pleasant summer evening, enjoying our local team playing futball, parents and children, within ear-shot of the field (at least 20 rows, at the magnificent Home Depot Center) were bombarded with players yelling at the Referee and/or AR's "....what the f.... are you blind?" or " you 're out of your mind, I was nowhere near him", and on and on ad nauseum!

1. I am a referee. I am currently awaiting my Final Field Assessment for my National AYSO Badge. I passed my USSF State Badge (88%) and am awaiting assessment. I referee high school.
2. I understand and completely agree with the Foul Language Memorandum.
3. I am a complete supporter of the 1st Amendment of the United States of America, Constitution.

However, what disturbs me about this trend of using abusive language towards referees and their assistants is:
1. The MLS seems to be turning a 'blind eye' towards this obvious degradation of The Game.
2. The increased televised coverage of emotional outbursts of vulgarity toward the referees or assistant referees (although naked streakers are 'blocked-out' (too vulgar?))
3. Because of this increased media coverage and acceptance by the viewing public........

My job as a referee is becoming increasingly more difficult, because players, coaches and spectators are now thinking that is acceptable for players and coaches to constantly argue and challenge any referee decision. I know I can counsel and talk to the players ( as I do.) I know I can show a card for dissent (and according to my local association, I 'Must Card for Dissent,' as I do.) But, is there anything you guys at the top of the foodchain can do to enforce the LOTG at the National Level ( please ask Arena to discuss this with his players also), so that our jobs at bottom would be a little easier?

Answer (July 20, 2004):
Both the Federation and the MLS share your concern about this situation. Both had been feeling very good about the decrease in the level of dissent over the past several years.

The MLS instituted a mandatory incremental fine schedule for cautions/yellow cards for dissent and game disrespect (formerly called "bringing the game into disrespute) and greater sanctions have been imposed. By increasing the values for most cautions/yellow cards by 1 point, it now takes approximately 4 cautions to earn a suspension, rather than 5 as in the past. The change makes it tougher on the players, rather than easier. Excellent effects had been noticed, despite the fact that MLS has changed its point system to actually decrease the number of cards which lead to suspension.

The bottom line is that the referees must still get it done on the field. They have been given all the tools and the full support of both League and Federation. In fact, dealing with dissent is a topic on almost every conference call and is one of the points of emphasis at every National Camp. Some, but certainly not all, officials have too much tolerance for dissent despite our best efforts. The MLS has promised that this will be a topic of discussion at the referee meeting at the All Star game.


I have been questioned concerning the legal way to wear an ankle brace. Typically the lace up type. My stand is that they should be under the sock just as a shinguard. I cannot find any clear directions in the LOTG or the ATR. Can you help me out?

Answer (July 20, 2004):
Ankle braces may be worn in any way that is safe for all players, the same requirement that must be met for any equipment. There is no specific or exclusive way, other than one which ensures complete safety for all participants. The final decision rests with the referee for this particular game; not the last game, not the next game, but this game.


Situation: A goalkeeper in his PA realizes the errant backpass from his fullback is about to enter the goal. The GK stops the ball completely with his hand.
1. Is this an intentional pass to the keeper?
2. Is this an offense?
3. If an offense, is it punishable by send off for SFP, denying an OGO? or
4. If an offense, is it punishable by an IFK by the attacking team?

Answer (July 20, 2004):
1. Likely yes, but only the referee on the spot will know if the "errant backpass" was a ball deliberately kicked to a place where the goalkeeper could play it.
2. Possibly. See above.
3 and 4. If it is an offense, it would not be serious foul play, which requires that two opposing players be competing for the ball and that a direct-free-kick foul have been committed. That is not what you described. It is also not denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity, because the goalkeeper is specifically exempted from being sent off for handling which prevents a goal-even if the handling is an offense. If the referee finds any infringement of the Law, then it would be simply that the goalkeeper has played a ball deliberately kicked to him by a teammate, for which the correct restart is an indirect free kick.


I referee in an adult league with several referees who are older (over 60) and in poor physical shape. Unfortunately, most of the referees I am assigned to work with cannot keep up with the pace of the game, and seem unable to see many of the obvious fouls that occur right next to them. Several serious injuries have occurred recently, and I am concerned about continuing to referee with these officials who cannot see well enough or are not fit enough to keep the game in control. Do I need to worry about liability when I am officiating, if the other referee's negligence causes serious injury? Do players have any legal recourse when they are injured due to negligence of the officials not doing their job appropriately?

Answer (July 19, 2004):
You need to file your concerns in writing with your State Referee Administrator. You should say that you are concerned about your own liability and want those responsible for the games to know that you are concerned and that the assignments of these officials should be looked at. That puts you on record and should something happen, you should be fine with your liability insurance. Tell the SRA what league you officiate in and the location of the league-your SRA has many thousands of referees to deal with.

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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