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October 2007 Archive (II of II)


This issue came up during a BU16 game recently. Blue team subs in 4 players at a stoppage of play in second half. Only 3 players come off, leaving blue with 12 players on the field. Game is restarted and within two minutes or so, a blue attacker is fouled by red team player in the penalty area. The referee blows his whistle and signals for a penalty kick. The fouled player was not one of the four players who came on the field at the previous stoppage in play.

While the players are in position to take the penalty kick, the Referee notices the extra player on the field. The Referee cautions the player who should have come off the field (not the player who improperly came onto the field) and that player leaves the field. The Referee changes the restart from a penalty kick to an indirect free kick from the goal area for the red team.

After the game, it is suggested that the proper restart should have been the penalty kick. The Referee insists at first that there is an express ATR mandating a restart by an indirect free kick. When that mandate cannot be found, the Referee insists that ATR 3.20 instructs that if a goal is scored when the team has too many players on the field, that goal should be disallowed and the game is restarted with indirect free kick from the goal area. Because a penalty kick is similar to a goal, the indirect kick was mandated by the spirit of the game, if not the laws of the game. The Referee also concedes that logically, any other restart should be changed to a indirect free kick if, during stoppage in play,

Questions: What is the proper restart when, during stoppage in play other after the scoring of a goal, it is discovered that one team has too many players on the field? Does it make any difference if play was stopped to award a penalty kick to the team with more than 11 players on the field? How important is it to identify and caution the correct player -- the substitute who came onto the field to give a team a twelfth player? Whose responsibility is it to assure that too many players do not come on the field, the AR or the CR?

Answer (October 23, 2007):
The only reason for the entire problem was lack of attention to detail by the entire officiating crew, who failed completely to do their duty. In this case, it is impossible to know which player to caution and the referee and assistant referees must bear the blame for that. There are too many imponderables: The player who was already on the field at the substitution is not at fault, nor is the substitute who came on as a new player, clearly expecting that his/her teammate had left the field. The only possible solution is to remove the additional player (as determined by the referee) from the field.

The correct restart is the penalty kick. Play was stopped for the penal offense, not for the additional player on the field, who was discovered only accidentally.

The error lies entirely with the referee and the assistant referees, all of whom should have monitored the substitution process more carefully, as directed by common sense and the Advice to Referees:

If, while the game is in progress, the referee finds that a team has more than the allowed number of persons on the field, play must be stopped and the extra person identified and removed from the field. Other than through referee error, this situation can occur only if someone enters the field illegally. The "extra player" can include an outside agent (such as a previously expelled player or a spectator); a player who had been given permission to leave or been ordered off by the referee for correction of a problem, but re-entered without permission; or a substitute or substituted player who enters without permission and/or during play.

In all competitions, especially those that allow substituted players to return, the officials must be extremely vigilant in counting the number of players who leave and substitutes who enter to prevent problems of this nature. Similarly, players off the field temporarily who require the permission of the referee to re-enter must be monitored to ensure that they do not participate in play until this requirement and any others (e. g., inspection to confirm the correction of the equipment or bleeding problem) are met. 

And some advice that every referee should now know by heart, but obviously these officials did not:

After the player being replaced has left the field, the referee must signal permission for the substitute to enter. A substitution is not complete and the substitute may not take part in the game until he or she has entered the field of play. Referees who deviate from the formal process by which a substitute becomes a player -- whether in the interest of saving time or because the steps are thought to be too complex and cumbersome -- do so at their own peril and will eventually discover that the Laws of the Game specify the procedure for very good reasons. Deviations may lead to situations that the referee cannot settle within the Law.//rest snipped// 

How much trouble would have been saved if the officiating team had followed this advice and done their jobs correctly?



During a recent adult match, a player from the losing team at the 85th minute after the 7th goal is scored decides to sub. While on the middle of the field, removes his jersey and starts to walk off the field. Should he be cautioned for this behavior? if only a caution can be issued during the celebration of a goal then what is the difference between this player and the celebrating one? Both remove article of their equipment while on the field. Please clarify.

Answer (October 23, 2007):
The reason for the restriction on removing the jersey after the scoring of a goal is that removing the jersey is considered to be excessive celebration and is usually also considered to be an act that is provocative, derisory or inflammatory and thus could cause problems with the opposing team. Unless the referee is CERTAIN that the player who removes his jersey while walking from the field is making a "statement" against the other team, that is not an offense -- but see below.

As points to ponder, consider using common sense in these cases. "Excessive celebration" equals playing time lost. In addition, some cultures do no accept displays of body skin; in such a place the referee would take that into consideration when a player removes his jersey while leaving the field. The referee must use common sense.



This happened to me & our crew in a HS playoff game: During the normal course of play, an attacker & defender, running shoulder-to-shoulder, go over the goal line, out of play, just to the right (AR's side) of the goal. The ball is shot wide of the goal, and while still out of play, and with the ball barely on the end line, the attacker stabs at the ball with his foot, passing it back into the center of the penalty area, leading to a shot & goal.

At the time of the pass the defender was still off the field as well, and roughly even with the attacker who passed the ball. They were roughly equal in their distance from the goal line (about 1 foot or so), as they were attempting to get back onto the field. At the time the shot was taken from inside the penalty area, both of these players were about 3 feet off the field, and had stopped & turned to get back into play. Thus when the player in question played the ball they were still clearly out-of-play, but heading back towards the field.

Had the defender been back on the field, would this have constituted offside? Or is it not legal to penalize an attacker for offside who is in fact off the field of play? If a player off the field IS penalized for offside, where is the ball placed?

In the end, the Center & I (the AR dealing with this bang-bang play), ruled the goal legal. Were we correct? Fortunately, the goal had no bearing on the outcome.

Answer (October 22, 2007):
We do not and cannot give answers to questions on high school rules or games, as they do not fall under the aegis of the U. S. Soccer Federation. That said, here is what the response would be if the game had been played under the Laws of the Game. Although we can point out several indisputable principles, the answer is not conclusive; there are simply too many imponderables. Therefore, we have presented the matters that must be considered. The final decision is up to the referee on the game.

Part of your answer will be found in the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game":

If a player accidentally passes over one of the boundary lines of the field of play or if a player in possession of or contesting for the ball passes over the touch line or the goal line without the ball to beat an opponent, he or she is not considered to have left the field of play without the permission of the referee. This player does not need the referee's permission to return to the field. 

The rest of the answer is to be found in a combination of general principles to be found in "Advice to Referees" and "Questions and Answers":

A defender who is momentarily off the field legally (not attempting to place a defender in an offside position) is still considered, in determining the second to last defender, as being on the perimeter line nearest to his off the field position. Although there is no specific rule or tradition governing this, the same rule could be applied to an attacker. A player who has left the field and returns to play the ball is ON the field of play, even if only his (or her) foot enters the field. In this case, the attacker was clearly on the field when he played the ball -- no matter where the bulk of his body was, we MUST count him as being on the field because (a) the ball was on the field and (b) he played the ball.

According to your description of the event, the two players in question were approximately even with each other while off the field when the attacker's teammate last played the ball. Considering only these two players (the attacker and defender off the field) plus the last defender who is on the field (let's say it was the goalkeeper), what are the possibilities?

1. If the GK is on the goal line, this puts both the defender and the attacker off the field past the GK if we have to look at their actual physical positions. The attacker is therefore in an offside position under all circumstances (and therefore violating Law 11 when/if the attacker moves back toward the goal line and interferes with play). No goal.

2. If the GK is on the goal line, and we are to treat the attacker as being where he physically is but the defender is considered to be on the goal line, then the attacker is past both defenders and is in an offside position. Coming "back" from an offside position to play the ball is a violation of Law 11. No goal.

3. If the GK is on the goal line and we are to treat BOTH the attacker and the defender as though they were on the goal line, then the attacker is even with both the last two defenders and is therefore NOT in an offside position. When he moves "back" to play the ball (entering the field by stretching his leg back to play the ball), he is coming from an onside position and cannot be violating Law 11. Goal counts.

4. If the GK is above the goal line, it doesn't matter how we resolve the question of whether the attacker off the field is on the goal line or not because, under all circumstances, the attacker HAS to be in an offside position and therefore CAME FROM an offside position to interfere with play. No goal.

As you can see, only one of these possibilities produces a valid goal and that possibility requires the goalkeeper to have been on the goal line when the play started.

Thanks for providing us with a very interesting challenge.



I recently attended a select soccer tournament in [another state] where the following event occurred:

During a break away, off sides was called against the player who emerged from the pack with the ball. The coach (Team A) erupted in protest as the ball was awarded to the opposing team, using no profanity or threatening language. The official, ignoring the coach, proceeded with play and awarded the ball to the opposing team. No warning was issued from the official, no card was displayed, play continued. The coach returned to the bench with no further protest.

The coach (Team B) advised the coach for Team A that he was having him ejected for unsportsmanlike like conduct. While no card was issued from the official nor a verbal warning , Team B coach, cited his role as a site director for the tournament, contacted a field marshal who removed the coach from the field thus ending the game due to non availability of a coach.

In a subsequent game, the same coach, Team B, attempted to do the same procedure, on another offside call which went in his favor as the opposing coach, Team A protested the call in the same way. In this case, the field marshal did not respond, and the official continued play, issued no cards nor warning to the coach (team a).

As a former high school basketball official, I found this behavior by an opposing coach (team b) extremely inappropriate. I saw this as an attempt to gain advantage over a team. I also noted that after the game, when questioned by other coaches, he advised them it was within his authority as a site director to protect the officials from abuse. If the official does not issue a warning, card, or other action, how can a coach who is actively participating in the game apply discipline to another coach? He cited he was covered by appropriate rules?

Answer (October 16, 2007):
Under normal circumstances both the Team B coach and the field marshal were wrong. Such actions are not allowed by the Laws of the Game. However, as this was a tournament, there may be some validity to the field marshal's action, depending on whether it is covered in the rules of the competition. Nevertheless, that does not excuse the coach of Team B for his irresponsible behavior in calling for the field marshal when the referee felt it was not worth dealing with.



I was wondering the correct restart for giving a warning for dissent. In hindsight, I should not have stopped play since the offense was not severe enough for a yellow card but I wanted to calm the player down before things escalated. I gave a drop ball at the site where the ball was when I blew my whistle, but I think I should have given an indirect to the opposing team at the site where the infringement occurred. The infringement was made by a player on the field of play.

Answer (October 15, 2007):
Ah, the beauty of hindsight! And the beauty of the dropped ball in cases of referee error.

In this situation you could not have restarted with an indirect free kick, because you stopped the play for a warning, not an actual infringement. We have covered this in the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game," ATR 5.7:

The referee has the power to stop the match for any infringement of the Laws, to apply advantage under the appropriate conditions, or to decide that an infringement is trifling or doubtful and should not be called at all. However, the referee also has the power to stop play for other reasons, including misconduct for which the referee intends only to warn the player regarding behavior and not to issue a caution. In these circumstances, the referee should take care that ordering such a stoppage would not disadvantage the opposing team. As the stoppage will not have occurred for a foul or misconduct, play would be restarted with a dropped ball*.



In a recent travel game, team A was awarded a DFK, one of the players from team A positioned himself to take the kick, then after a short period of time another player came to take the direct free kick. He took his time, in all about 30 seconds ran off the clock before the kick was attempted. After a warning to speed things up, the referee blew his whistle and awarded the kick to the other team. The were no substitutions made which would have given cause for the delay.

Is there a time limit on taking DFK? If it was deemed a delay of the restart should the player have been cautioned?

Answer (October 15, 2007):
This would be one of those cases where referees invent their own rules, rather than following the Laws of the Game. The referee in this situation had no authority under the Laws of the Game to take away the free kick from the kicking team, no matter how long they delayed the restart. In this case, the referee can only caution a player (or players) for delaying the restart of play. Then, despite the delay(s), the restart must be in accordance with the reason the ball was out of play, in this case a direct free kick for the "injured" team. The referee will then add time as necessary to make up for the delay.



In a game I was refereeing, a team tried to take a corner kick with one player toe-touching the ball without the ball moving and another player taking off with it on a dribble. I called for a re-start asking the players to actually move the ball.

What is the correct ruling for restarts on corner kicks and indirect free kicks? Does the ball need to rotate or be passed with the foot in order to have a legal re-start? Toe-Taps? Are they still legal?

Answer (October 15, 2007):
It is clear that you will be a good referee, as your instincts meet the gap in your knowledge. Now it's simply a case of bringing your knowledge up to the level of your instincts.

In the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game" you will find this excerpt, ATR 13.5, which deals with when the ball is in play. It also applies to corner kicks. (And to answer your specific question: No, toe-taps are not legal, and never really were.)

The ball is in play (able to be played by an attacker other than the kicker or by an opponent) when it has been kicked and moved. The distance to be moved is minimal and the "kick" need only be a touch of the ball with the foot in a kicking motion. Simply tapping the top of the ball with the foot or stepping on the ball are not sufficient.

When the restart of play is based on the ball being kicked and moved, the referee must ensure that the ball is indeed kicked (touched with the foot in a kicking motion) and moved (caused to go from one place to another). Being "kicked" does not include an action in which the ball is dragged by continuous contact with the foot. Being "moved" does not include the ball simply quivering, trembling, or shaking as a result of light contact. The referee must make the final decision on what is and is not "kicked and moved" based on the spirit and flow of the match. In all events, the ball must be put into play properly.

The referee must judge carefully whether any particular kick of the ball and subsequent movement was indeed reasonably taken with the intention of putting the ball into play rather than with the intention merely to position the ball for the restart. If the ball is just being repositioned (even if the foot is used to do this), play has not been restarted. Likewise, referees should not unfairly punish for "failing to respect the required distance" when an opponent was clearly confused by a touch and movement of the ball which was not a restart.

The referee must make the final decision on what is a "kick" and what is "not a kick" based on his or her feeling for the game-what FIFA calls "Fingerspitzengefuehl" (literally: "sensing with one's fingertips"). The bottom line is that not everything that produces movement of the ball is a kick and thus would not legally put the ball into play in any of the kicking restarts.



A goalkeeper in a recent game made a save. He then started to jog with the ball in his hands toward the forward part of the penalty area. He released the ball in an attempt to punt it but missed it completely with his foot. The ball rolled away but remained in the penalty area. He ran over and then picked the ball up with his hands again. Is this allowable? Should he have had to play it with his feet? Or is it an infraction since he had released the ball?

Answer (October 15, 2007):
Let's begin the answer with an excerpt from the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game":
The goalkeeper is considered to be in possession of the ball while bouncing it on the ground or while throwing it into the air. Possession is given up if, while throwing the ball into the air, it is allowed to strike the ground.//rest snipped//

The same is true of releasing the ball to kick it. Once the ball has been released by the 'keeper, he or she may not pick it up again. However, in the younger or less-skilled age groups, the intelligent referee will consider the situation carefully and perhaps decide that the infringement is "trifling," i. e., not worth punishing at this particular age or skill level. If that occurs, a warning to the 'keeper would be in order, just to reinforce the fact that the infringement has occurred.

NOTE: See also the following item on another goalkeeper topic.



We have recently come across a situation in a game where an opposing coach and I are not in agreement on a call based upon our prior experiences as well as our interpretation of the laws of the game. I am hopeful you can clarify the situation and provide us with the correct decision. Below, please find a brief description of the incident and our two interpretations.

In the game a couple of weeks ago, a keeper was in the process of punting a ball to her team mates at the top of the penalty area. However, in the process of preparing to punt the ball, she took at least two running steps outside the penalty area while holding the ball. The referee immediately blew his whistle and awarded a direct free kick from the spot of the infraction, which was about one and one half yards outside the penalty area. The kick resulted in a goal scored by one of my players. However, the opposing coach did not agree with the call and felt our team should have been awarded an indirect free kick if any award was to be given for the infraction. The opposing coach felt a warning would have been a more appropriate call since he felt the steps taken by his keeper were not done intentionally. The game continued without any incident but we both felt our interpretation of the laws of the game were correct.

Since the incident occurred in the game, we have both reviewed the laws of the game and come up with different conclusions. We are very interested in finding out the correct decision, but please understand we are not involved in any contentious discussion over the situation now or at the time of the game. I will include both of our interpretations so you can share your thoughts regarding the matter and help educate two soccer coaches.

In my interpretation, I feel a direct free kick is the correct call based upon the laws of the game I have posted below as well as my previous experience with this type of call in prior years. Since the keeper handled the ball outside the box, I feel the laws related to a player handling the ball deliberately is the most relevant law associated with the situation especially since the goalkeeper was outside the penalty area.

A direct free kick is also awarded to the opposing team if a player commits any of the following four offences:
- handles the ball deliberately (except for the goalkeeper within his own penalty area)

A direct free kick is taken from where the offence occurred.

The opposing coach feels first and foremost, the referee should have given the player a warning but if the referee felt compelled to award a free kick, the FIFA rule for an indirect free kick should have applied as follows:
An indirect free kick is also awarded to the opposing team if a player, in the opinion of the referee:
- plays in a dangerous manner
- impedes the progress of an opponent
- prevents the goalkeeper from releasing the ball from his hands
- commits any other offence, not previously mentioned in Law 12, for which play is stopped to caution or dismiss a player
The indirect free kick is taken from where the offence occurred.

The opposing coach feels that the word deliberate in the laws related to the four offenses mentioned above means the player handled the ball with "intent" and since the opposing coach felt the player did not intend to gain an advantage, the rules for an indirect kick should apply.

I feel a keeper holding onto a ball is doing so deliberately and consequently should be called for the offense if they step out of the box.

Since we are bound to run into this situation again some time down the road, I would really love to hear the proper ruling regarding the matter. The opposing coach has a wonderful team and our players get along very well together, but we are both interested in seeking the proper ruling. Interestingly, he has asked officials from his town and they support the idea an indirect kick should have been awarded if the referee felt the need to make any call to begin with. I have sought advice from referees and the director of soccer in my town and received confirmation the correct decision was made and a direct kick should have been awarded. I find it amazing we can have so many differences in opinion over the same situation and am very hopeful there is a clear ruling on this matter. I would hate to feel this type of situation is subject to different interpretations to the laws of the game which quite frankly, would make it difficult for any referee to make a call.

Thank you in advance for your help with this matter and I anxiously look forward to hearing back from you.

Answer (October 12, 2007):
Under the Laws of the Game your interpretation is absolutely and indisputably correct: The proper restart would be a direct free kick for the opposing team just outside the penalty area, at the spot where the goalkeeper first deliberately handled the ball outside her own penalty area. So, having stated the facts and feeling very magnanimous, let's look at the opposing coach's side as well.

There is some merit in what the other coach says about the "intent" behind the 'keeper's infringement and the fact that the referee might have given her a warning to be more careful in the future. And that is something the referee might do, depending on what has been happening in the game up to this point -- earlier actions of the goalkeeper, for example. His point about the indirect free kick, however, is a red herring and not apposite here as none of the points under Indirect Free Kick occurred.

While the referee may choose the best solution from among the possibilities available, in this case the only possibility under the Law is direct free kick. (This is clear from the two citations from Law 12, so nothing more need be said on that.) The word "deliberate" would not apply in any case, as the goalkeeper was indeed already DELIBERATELY handling the ball when she left the penalty area; the fact that she (possibly inadvertently) left the penalty area does not change that fact and the referee could punish her for it, as happened in your case. Again, if the referee believed that the goalkeeper's departure from the penalty area while still deliberately handling the ball was inadvertent or trifling (i. e., it made no difference in the way play ran or continued), then a simple warning after play had next stopped would have been sufficient.

Remember that the "correct" solution is not always the "best" solution. The intelligent referee will know the difference.



There is a great deal of discussion where I am located about sleeveless jerseys. The point has been made that a few years back this was addressed by the statement that jerseys must have sleeves, however many feel this was repealed. So the question is what is the 'current' regulation on sleeves as well as sleeves which are gathered up by string, tape or velcro, or some other device.

Answer (October 10, 2007):
There has been no change since FIFA revised its stand on jersey sleeves. In a memorandum issued on November 4, 2002, the U. S. Soccer Federation stated::

USSF has been informed by FIFA that it has decided to temporarily set aside the new provision regarding jersey sleeves found in International Board Decision 1 of Law 4. Accordingly, effective immediately and until further notice:
a. Referees will have no responsibility for determining the legality of jersey sleeves or for enforcing the provision in Law 4 related to jersey sleeves.
b. Referees are directed not to include in their game reports any information regarding the presence, absence, or altered status of jersey sleeves unless required to do so by the rules of competition under which a particular game is being played.
c. The only concern a referee has with respect to the condition of a player's jersey is safety.
d. Referees are, however, expected to enforce all relevant provisions in the Rules of Competition governing a match, meaning, if a state association, organization, league or tournament has a rule regarding jersey sleeves, that rule should be enforced. 

There is no further guidance regarding velcro or string or tape ties to keep the sleeves up beyond the use of common sense and the application of Law 4 to cases where these ties endanger the player him-/herself or any other participant.


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 Julie Ilacqua, Managing Director of Referee Programs (administrative matters); David McKee, National Director of Assessment (assessment matters); and Ulrich Strom, National Instructor and National Assessor (matters in general).

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