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Ask A Referee Update: Feb. 3, 2010


In the USSF training (at least in my area) for many years now the instruction has been that for out of bounds calls for which the officials do not see/know which team ought to get the possession, a throw in or a goal kick should be awarded to the "defense."

I assume this has been USSF's preference all along as well. Given the emphasis today by FIFA and USSF on "scoring" and "offensive play" for soccer should we officials now be awarding throw ins and corner kicks for the "attacking" team rather than the defense when we are uncertain who last touched the ball? (Yes, I know this circumstance should never occur - esp. with 3 officials - but unfortunately it does!)

Answer (February 1, 2010):
Although INFORMAL advice for many years was to award the ball to the defending team on any questionable situation where the ball had passed out of play across one of the boundary lines, that WAS NOT and IS NOT the Federation's formal guidance on a ball passing out of play.

Referees should take care not to use any unofficial option as a means of avoiding a difficult but necessary decision as to which team should have the restart. Nor should the referee use the dropped ball to restart play as a crutch in those cases where there is some question about the correct restart. The referee must make a decision and announce it firmly.

This excerpt from the Advice to Referees 2009/2010 should give referees all the guidance they need:
The referee should promptly signal a clear decision on the direction for the restart when the ball appears to have gone off the field from "simultaneous" touches by members of both teams. Under the Laws of the Game, it is not permissible to give a dropped ball restart in situations where the referee cannot decide which team has possession. sThe players quickly identify referee indecision, and will use it to their advantage.

To emphasize the point: MAKE A DECISION, REFEREE!


Where can I find the Advice to Referees?

Answer (January 31, 2010):


Bolton v Arsenal 1.20.2010, around minute 34 if i recall...

Bolton foul at about 25 yards from their goal, and the ball ends up with Fabregas. Advantage is indicated by the referee: Fabregas dribbles twice and loses the ball.

The referee subsequently awards the free kick from the 25, as the advantage is not realized.

Or is it? After all, the offended team did maintain the possession and move the ball forward, however briefly.

It seems that once advantage is determined, the foul should be ignored unless it rose to the level of a caution (this one did not).

I am aware that in the penalty area, if an attacker is fouled but retains possession, often the penalty call is deferred until it is known if an effective shot on goal is achieved.

In this case, however, it seems that the defenders suffered double jeopardy.

Do you have advice as to how much opportunity, whether it be time of possession or effectiveness of attack, should be given the team/player who is fouled to realize advantage?

Answer (January 29, 2010):
The referee in this game followed established principles by invoking the advantage clause and then determining that the advantage had not accrued to Arsenal. His decision was correct. If, after observing a foul or misconduct by a player, the referee decides to apply advantage and within a second or so the player loses possession of the ball, the referee may still penalize the original offense.

It all pivots on the time lapse (which you didn't define beyond "dribbles twice" and "however briefly"). It is important to note that even the International Board's measure of time ("2-3 seconds") is itself imprecise, so it all comes down to the opinion of the referee.

Some citations from the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game" (2009/2010) seem appropriate here (all from Advice 5.6): One way to determine when to invoke the advantage is to apply the Four Ps: Possession, Potential, Personnel, and Proximity. Possession means active and credible control by the player who was fouled or a teammate. Potential means the likelihood of continuing an immediate and dangerous attack on the opponents' goal. Potential is evaluated by judging the Personnel involved (the number and skills of the attackers relative to the number and skills of the defenders within 2-3 seconds of the offense) and Proximity (the distance to the opponents' goal; the less the distance, the greater the potential).

In cases where the referee is applying the advantage clause, the advantage signal should be used to demonstrate that the game is being allowed to flow. Use of the advantage signal sends a visual message to the players/spectators that the referee saw the infraction, thereby mitigating potential negative feedback.


My question is regarding Assistant Referee mechanics and signaling. Particularly for goal and corner kicks.

My question is regarding Assistant Referee mechanics and signaling. Particularly for goal and corner kicks.

As an AR I am level with the 2nd to last defender, which is outside of the penalty area. The attacking team takes a hard shot, and I chase the ball down to the goal line. Being that it is a hard shot, it crosses the goal line by the time I am level with the penalty mark.

Where do I make my signal for goal kick? Do I continue to run towards the goal line until I am level with the goal area (6 yards from the goal line) and then signal? Or signal from where I am standing when the ball crosses the goal line?

I have the same question regarding corner kick signals. If the shot deflected off a defender and crosses the goal line when I am level with the penalty mark. Do I continue my run until I am beside the corner flag before signaling?

Great site! I check it every day for new advice. I hope you can give me some good advice for this one.

Answer (January 28, 2010):
Thank you. Flattery is always acceptable here. As to your question:

First, make every effort to follow the ball down the field. That said, we all know that a ball can travel faster in the air than most ARs can run along the line.

Therefore ...

If you are close to the goal line (e .g., 2-3 yards) or if it is clear that the restart will be a goal kick, continue on down to the goal line and signal for the goal kick. However, if under the circumstances you are caught fairly far away from the goal line when the ball leaves the field OR if there is likely to be controversy about the restart, it is generally better to stop where you are, make eye contact with the referee, and signal so that the referee gets your information quickly. Then, after the referee clearly agrees, proceed to the position on the line which the Guide to Procedures advises you take initially for a goal kick restart.

This advice would be equally true if the ball left the field for a corner kick -- except that, if you do go down to the goal line, take a step or two back upfield before signalling so that the flag is not pointing off the field.


In Jan 24 2010 game between Inter Milan and AC Milan, at the later time in the second half, Inter Milan defender Lucio standing in the goal area to defend and AC Milan's forwarder shot towards him. Lucio dodged with a hand waved over his shoulder and stopped the ball. AC Milan was awarded a penalty. Lucio was shown the 2nd yellow card and sent off.

We got two questions:
1. should this dodge and pat action be viewed as undeliberately handling the ball, which is not a foul, and avoid the penalty?
2. if it is a deliberate handling of the ball, should this be viewed as prevent an obvious goal-scoring opportunity and send off Lucio?

Answer (January 27, 2010):
1. No, this was clearly deliberate handling. Lucio "made himself bigger" by raising his hand to an unnatural position and thus deliberately handled the ball.

2. That is certainly possible, but the referee on the game saw it as a cautionable offense. U. S. referees are advised that the criterion for denying a goal by handling is that if the handling had not occurred, would the ball have gone into the net. If the referee decided that the ball wasn't going to go into the net without the handling, then a red card would not be correct.


With time running out at the end of a game the blue team scores to tie the game. A player from the blue team runs into the goal to retrieve the ball so that they can hurry up to try and get the ball back into play. While doing this, he gets into a tussle with the goalie from the red team who was also trying to get the ball. What should the call be? Should either player be cautioned for unsportsmanlike conduct? or for delay of the game?

Answer (January 23, 2010):
After the referee has stopped play for a goal, the ball, although "dead" until play is restarted with a kick-off, does belong to the team against which the goal was scored. Traditionally the ball is carried back to the center spot by the team against which the goal was scored (Red). A player who provokes confrontation by deliberately touching the ball after the referee has stopped play may be cautioned for delaying the restart of play. (See Law 12, "Delaying the restart of play," in the Interpretations of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees in the back of the Laws of the Game 2009/2010.) This would be the case of the player from the scoring team (B) who was interfering with the Team A player carrying the ball to the center of the field.

The team which has possession (Red) may "allow" the opposing team to hold/transfer/carry/etc. the ball by acceding to the action (i. e., not disputing it). However, the opposing team does this at its peril. In your game, Blue, perhaps believing that Red was moving too slowly to carry the ball back to the center circle for the kick-off, tried to take the ball that "belonged" to Team Red. Blue has no right at any time to request that the ball be given over to it (including such childish behavior as attempting to grab the ball or punch the ball out of the Red player's control.

Rather than immediately cautioning either player, the true owner (against whose team the goal was scored) and the "wannabe" owner (whose team will be defending at the kick-off), it would be better if you simply spoke quickly to both players, admonishing the wannabe owner to leave the ball alone. You could also tell the player that you will judge whether there is any "delay" in getting the ball back to the center spot and will, if necessary, add time to make up for any time lost.

There is little reason to immediately caution either player if you do what we suggest above. In any event, the possibility of a caution would depend on HOW the Blue player attempts to gain possession (i. e., how aggressively, how prolonged, etc.). We cannot see how the mere fact of attempting to gain possession is itself cautionable.

The critical fact that makes the player's action cautionable is that his attempt to retrieve the ball caused a tussle with the true "owner" of the ball, the GK. If this hadn't been inserted into the scenario, then th


Attacker A1 has the ball. Defender is about 7-10 yards from A1. Behind defender are attackers A2 and A3 about 3-4 yards in an offside position (no question about their offside position).

A1 attempts to play ball in direction of A2 and A3 but ends up kicking it directly to Defender, who gains control of the ball. Defender, for whatever reason, kicks the ball over the goal line.

We had half the room saying offside because when the ball was played his teammates were in an offside position.

Other half said no offside. Based on A2 or A3 not touching/playing the ball or that they did not interfere with the defender, and the defender clearly gained controlŠno offside and re-start corner kick.

Answer (January 23, 2010):
If it is clear to the referee (and the AR) that A2 and A3 did not interfere with either play or an opponent while in the offside position, and that the defender established possession of the ball (i. e. it was not a deflection), then there is no offside. It is not an offense to be in an offside position so there should be NO QUESTION that a flag could EVER go up simply because there are one or more attackers in an offside position. Restart with a corner kick.


The same question(s) applying to two different codes, football (soccer as you call it) and futsal:

A team, who was ahead by two goals is scored against with two minutes left to play, leaving them with only a one goal lead. The ball is correctly placed for kick-off (as are all players), and the referee signals for the kick-off to be taken. The team taking the kick-off, after a reasonable amount of time, refuses to take the kick-off.

1) Should the player closest to the ball be cautioned for delaying the restart of play?

2) If after being cautioned, the player still refuses to take the kick-off, what action should the referee take?

3) Is abandoning the match a possibility, should the team refuse to take the kick-off in a timely manner (especially in competitions with no additional time)?

4) Do your answers differ between futsal and football?

Answer (January 23, 2010):
1. If the kicking team excessively delays the taking of the kick-off, the referee certainly has the power to caution a player for that reason.

2. a. If, after the caution, the player still refuses to take the kick-off, the player could be cautioned a second time and then sent off for receiving a second caution in the same match.
2. b. The referee would then suggest to the team that someone else should take the kick-off -- and add that time is being added for the entire time of the delay, so that the team knows their refusal to restart will save them no time at all.

3. Yes, abandoning the match is a possibility, but the referee should work to get it finished properly. (See 2.b., above, which could also be applied at Steps 1 or 2.a.)

4. Yes, they do differ.

A caution is not mandated in the Futsal Laws of the Game because the referee should simply call the 4-second violation for failing to restart play within the 4 seconds, and then award an indirect free kick to the opposing team. However, if the previous offending team then interferes with the indirect free kick restart, a caution would be in order for the player who interferes with the restart.

It is noteworthy in the scenario you describe that in the Futsal laws of the game, the clock is not restarted until the ball is correctly put back into play. Hence, there is no real advantage for the team to delay the restart.

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); and Ulrich Strom, National Instructor and National Assessor (matters in general).

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