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May 2005 Archive (II of III)

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Yesterday I lined a match in which the following occurred. An attacker was moving the ball downfield. A defender obtained the ball and kicked it up field. The attacker who is now in an offside position and has indicated by his body language that he is no longer involved in the play, turns around and walks upfield toward his end of the field. A team mate of the attacker who is in the offside position kicks the ball and it hits the attacker in the offside position who is not involved in the play. Does the AR signal for offside even though the attacker was not involved in the play? I did, the CR whistled offside and the match went on. Were we correct?

Answer (May 2, 2005):
Despite his best efforts to stay out of the fray, the player's own teammate dragged him back into the play. Offside, because the player became actively involved through contact with the ball.


Team A decides to change goal keepers as the game is being played, a field player takes the goalies shirt and plays keeper and the goalie plays the field. They are switching as the game is being played. There is no stoppage. The opposing team B comes down the field and takes a shot on goal, the new goalie makes the save with his hands and punts the ball out of bounds.

What is the call?

If team B scores a goal, what is the call?

If team B scores a goal that is deflected off the new goalies hands, what is the call?

Answer (May 2, 2005):
Law 4 tells us that any of the other players may change places with the goalkeeper, provided that the referee is informed before the change is made and that the change is made during a stoppage in the match. If they do it without either of those conditions being met, the referee allows play to continue and both players are cautioned for unsporting behavior at the next stoppage in play. The referee should not stop play merely to administer the cautions.

You need to remember that the person with the goalkeeper's jersey IS the 'keeper, even if he became the 'keeper illegally. In other words, there can be no handling infringement by this person. Why? Because the fundamental signal that a person is a goalkeeper is the possession of the distinctive shirt, not how they got it.


In the dying seconds of the game, there was a lot of action in front of the orange goal. The orange keeper was gathering himself up from a dive to the left. The ball came to a blue striker, about 6 yards in front of the goal, a little to the right. The orange keeper, still not quite on his feet, could perhaps cover half the height of the left third of the goal. The blue striker, with essentially 5/6 of the goal open, drilled a perfect high shot toward the right side of the goal mouth. Easy score... except for the lone orange fullback between the striker and the goal. The defender jumped high and, with both hands, deflected the ball over the crossbar. The referee immediately signalled that time had expired. What should have happened next?

Answer (May 2, 2005):
The referee should have awarded a penalty kick and extended the half until the penalty kick has been completed. Before allowing the penalty kick to be taken, the referee should also have sent off lone orange fullback for denying the opposing team a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball.


I was at a youth soccer game this past weekend where one of the teams were issued a corner kick. The player kicked in the ball and it hit the referee on the field - the referee made no attempt to avoid contact with the ball and actually was standing in the direct line between the corner and the goal. The referee picked up the ball and gave possession to the opposing team. I thought that the referee's job was to avoid contact with the ball when possible. What is the opinion.

Answer (May 3, 2005):
This was obviously a case of poor referee positioning. The referee should have moved to allow the ball to pass, if at all possible. The referee is considered to be part of the field and the ball hitting the referee does not affect play in any way, other than redirecting the ball to an unwanted place. In no event may the referee give the opposing team a free kick for this.


The situation: A defender on team A, leading 1-0, clears the ball up and out of the stadium, about 35 yards up the touch line with less than 2 minutes left in a U-19 game. As AR I watched the ball's flight and directed a bench player for team B where it was. I turned back when I heard the Center tell another player on Team B to grab the extra ball behind the goal, and took my position with the next-to-last defender. To my astonishment, the Center gave team B a free kick. As time was running out they took it quickly, and it was headed in for a goal. After the goal team A asked why it wasn't a throw-in, and the Center admitted he made a mistake. The question: Law 5 says a decision can be changed if play has not been restarted. Was it too late to disallow the goal, and what would the restart be?

Answer (May 4, 2005):
The USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game" tells us: "5.14 CHANGING A DECISION ON AN INCORRECT RESTART "If the referee awards a restart for the wrong team and realizes his mistake before the restart is taken, then the restart may be corrected even though the decision was announced after the restart took place. This is based on the established principle that the referee's initial decision takes precedence over subsequent action. The visual and verbal announcement of the decision after the restart has already occurred is well within the Spirit of the Law, provided the decision was made before the restart took place."

The referee should have been paying closer attention to what was going on and you, as AR, should have brought the erroneous restart to his attention immediately. Unfortunately, it would appear that too much time elapsed, so the goal must be scored.

The referee must include full details of the error in the match report.


Must players participating in kicks to determine outcome wear shinguards. If kicks are not technically part of the match, I cannot see that they are needed but I cannot find anything to either validate this thought or mandate that they are worn. Secondly, if one player asks to remove them ... would you consider it "Fair Play" to announce to all that they are not needed. I would hate to delay an already drawn-out affair, but would not want to be questioned about that decision later either way.

Answer (May 8, 2005):
In the back of the Law book, under PROCEDURES TO DETERMINE THE WINNER OF A MATCH, you will find this entry regarding kicks from the penalty mark:
"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."


According to 13.5 "Enforcing the Required Distance" on a direct kick, the referee "must quickly and emphatically indicate to the attackers that they may not now restart play until given a clear signal to do so." Here then, is my question: If the referee says to the attacker "go ahead" and doesn't blow a whistle, is that considered a "clear signal"? And if so, is any consequent goal valid since the defending team was waiting for a whistle?

Answer (May 8, 2005):
Advice 13.5 refers to what is called the "ceremonial free kick," which is what must be conducted when the referee has already held up the kick because it is impossible for the kicking team--the team against whom the foul was committed--to take a free kick. The Law does not require that the referee blow a whistle. It requires only a signal, which might be a nod, a wave, a brief word, or a whistle. And the Law makes no requirement at all for notifying the defending team that a kick is about to be taken. Why should the referee give an advantage to the team that committed the foul?


Is it permissible, after a game, for a coach to approach a referee for an explanation of a call during the game?

Answer (May 8, 2005):
It is certainly permissible, but the referee is not required to give the coach any explanation. A perceived "wrong" answer can only exacerbate some situations.

Some referees, while normally very nice people--just like most coaches--tend to get a little edgy when questioned about calls by someone not a referee or an assessor. Surely coaches would not appreciate it if the referee were to come up after the game and ask why the coach had instructed the players to do something that allowed the opponents to score the winning goal.


I have been a Grade 8 Referee for 11 years and I work mostly youth games. Each year I print out the current text of the 7 Cautionable and 7 Sending Off offenses. I am curious as to the logic of making few cautionable offenses mandatory and most discretionary. Can you explain why 'Unsporting Behavior/j.Unfairly distracts or impedes and opponent performing a throw-in' is a mandatory caution yet similar offenses such as 'Unsporting Behavior/h. Interferes with or prevents the goalkeeper from releasing the ball from the hands into play', Delays Restart of Play/all items, and Failure to Respect Distance/all items only warrant a discretionary caution? Isn't the issue with all of these offenses the delay of the game? The latter two, Delay Restart and Failure to Respect Distance are far more common and disruptive to the game in my experience. Just last week I centered a Cup game and it was obvious that one team was coached to send three players to stand less than one foot in front of the ball after their opponent had been awarded a free kick. I see this all too often and it is an obvious delaying tactic. Why isn't this offense dealt with more seriously, at least on par with getting in the way of a throw-in attempt? Delaying the restart of a free kick in the offensive zone is surely more serious than impeding a throw-in. Free kicks are often goal scoring opportunities whereas throw-ins are usually not. And while correcting equipment is one of my pet peeves, how does re-entry without permission warrant harsher treatment than the delaying tactics previously mentioned?

Answer (May 8, 2005):
The "mandatory" cautions are those that are specifically described and required by an individual Law. There are 3 in Law 3, 1 in Law 4, 4 in Law 12, and 1 in Law 15. All other cautions are discretionary.


What is trickery? Under Restrictions on the goalkeeper page 53 Rule 12-7 Note: Players may not use trickery to circumvent Article 3 and 4. Examples: Players may not flick the ball with their feet to their own head, chest, and knee and then pass it to their own goalkeeper who touches it with the hand. This also applies to flicking the ball to a teammate who then plays the ball back to the keeper. Remember, this same principle is to be used on throw-ins.

The reason for this email is that a COACH CLAIMS THAT THEY HAVE BEEN USING THIS PRACTICE all season, OF THROWING the ball to a teammate, who then DELIBERATELY plays the ball back to the keeper. This is NOT a violation until the keeper uses his or her hands. This act was viewed as a violation and the opposing team was awarded an INDIRECT KICK.

IS THIS STATEMENT ENTIRELY TRUE?? Can an player not pass the ball to a team mate to head/chest etc to the GK?

Answer (May 12, 2005):
Sorry, we do not deal with high school rules, which are often not applicable to the world game of soccer.

When considering the possibility of trickery, the referee must decide if the action was natural (a normal sort of play, the sort of thing you would see in any sequence of play) or contrived (an artificial, unnatural play, which, in the referee's opinion, is intended solely for the purpose of circumventing the Law and preventing the opponents from challenging for the ball).

In a match played under the Laws of the Game, the throw you describe is entirely legal but the subsequent play by the teammate (all other things equal) is not. However, this is not trickery, just a simple violation of Law 12, which does not arise until and unless the 'keeper actually touches the ball with his hands. But definitely not trickery.


Some refs are questioning whether or not it is legal for a player to play the ball after the goal keeper has punted the ball and the ball is only inches from leaving his foot. They are saying this is fair since the law says "it is an offense for a player to prevent a goalkeeper from releasing the ball from his hands". In this case the ball has left his foot but only by inches. I say the player is guilty of unsporting behavior because he is interfering with putting the ball back into play. What do you say? Where is this written?

Answer (May 12, 2005):
Caution for unsporting behavior. The intent of the Law is to give the goalkeeper room to put the ball into play for everyone. There can be no interference during the entire act of distribution.


In a recent competitive U-17 match, the assigned ARs did not arrive by game time. By mutual consent, play began with parent volunteers running the sides. Midway through the first half, one assigned AR arrived and replaced the parent volunteer as on Team A's attacking side. At the half, the Referee and AR discussed concerns about Team A's attacking players and Team B's defenders "getting chippy" with each other. Believing that the remaining parent volunteer could not handle the situation (in fact, it would seem the parent volunteer had no authority to handle the situation), the Referee switched the AR to the other side of the field. As a result, for most of the game, Team A was subject to the AR's authority to call offside violations, while offside violations by Team B could only be called by the Referee from a position behind the play. In that second half, two breakaway attacks by Team A were stopped by the AR's offside calls. Team B scored one goal on a breakaway by a player who appeared to be in an offside position when the ball was played to him. The question is whether the AR switch was permissible. Should not the Referee have monitored the player situation himself from his central field position?

Answer (May 12, 2005):
The referee is allowed to place the assistant referee where that official is necessary for match control. This is particularly true when one of the ARs has not appeared. In such cases the AR runs one half of the field, using the flag, while the referee covers the other side of the field as well as the center of the field. Only the referee is allowed to use a whistle.


Had an atypical situation in last weekend's U-Girls 16 recreational game. Four players were absent, including three of our four referees. Two of the four are the sole keepers on their school teams, and parents have told me that they are playing rec soccer to have field time. So, when we were down 5-0 at the half and no one else was willing to go in goal for the second half (one girl has played in the past, but three weeks ago gave up 3 goals in the first half visiting this same field--she refused to do it again) I put the keeper shirt (yellow with striped black "bat wing" design) on one of the midfielders and put an extra sweeper in the defense. It actually worked-we played much better and it was more than 20 minutes before they scored their 6th.

After the goal, I pulled out that midfielder and put in a forward who was too large for the keeper's jersey. She wore our gold t-shirt alternate jersey over her royal blue jersey (opponents in black and white). This was the situation for several minutes, during which the opposing coach brought me a green pinny from his bag and asked me to put in on his keeper. I told him no thanks-I don't consider them safe in game play.

Three minutes later an opponent threw an elbow into the gut of the girl who didn't want to go in goal and she went down. Center allowed play to continue (the girl screened the foul-he never saw it) until he saw she wasn't getting up and stopped play. As he signaled me to come out, the opposing coach walked up to the AR with the pinny, spoke to him, and handed him the pinny. The AR and I were walking onto the field about 10 yds apart and I said to him "She's not going to wear that-I don't consider it safe."

My question for Ask a Referee is: Would "She'll wear it if we tell her to," spoken with a challenging tone, be considered an appropriate use of the Assistant Referee's authority?

After I checked on my player, the Center and AR told me my player was going to put on the pinny. I reiterated that she was not going to wear it because it wasn't safe. The center said that his AR needed to be able to distinguish between himself and my player so that he could do his job. Before I could offer to find something else, my first half keeper walked up and said she'd go back in goal. We were given enough time for her to get her gear, and the situation resolved itself.

Since we started the game with a gold and black keeper shirt, I would have expected the crew to wear red. But since they didn't certainly the problem had to be resolved, no argument there. But I was offended by his tone and his position that a officiating crew felt it could require a player to put on an additional piece of equipment provided by an opposing coach without even speaking to me first as the coach of that player.

Did they overstep their authority. Is it not limited to "She can't remain on the field in that shirt" and leave it to me to pull her off and come up with an alternative?

Answer (May 12, 2005):
No official, whether referee, assistant referee, or fourth official, should ever speak to anyone in a "challenging" tone. Referees should be firm and professional, but not aggressive.

As to the goalkeeper jersey, no official has the authority to declare that a player must wear any particular item of equipment. The referee's authority extends only to enforcing the requirements of Law 3 and 4 as regards the keeper's jersey. If, despite having accepted the gold color earlier in the match, the referee decides that the gold color cannot be worn by the keeper, the most that can be done is to require a change in color but not to force the wearing of a specific jersey. If the referees chose to wear gold despite the original partial conflict with the goalkeeper, they should not quibble over the tee shirt. Nor should referees accept information of any sort on the other team's colors from the opposing team's coach.

Referees need to remember that they are there for the players and the good of the game, not vice versa.


My question is from the recent BOLTON WANDERERS v CHELSEA match. The Referee correctly cautioned a Chelsea defender (Claude Makelele ) for "unsporting behaviour" because he impeded a throw-in. The Referee awarded an indirect kick.

Shouldn't the throw be retaken? Doesn't the misconduct occur PRIOR to the ball going into play? After the ball is in play, isn't the defender allowed to attempt to play the ball?

FIFA' 2004 Q&A page 44:
5. An opponent stands in front of a player at a throw-in to impede him. What action does the referee take?
He allows the throw-in to be taken if the opponent remains stationary and inside the field of play. If he moves or gesticulates to distract the thrower, he is cautioned for unsporting behaviour.

Answer (May 14, 2005):
As the IFAB Q&A suggests, the throw-in should be retaken if there has been interference. Something else may have occurred that we are unaware of to cause the referee to restart with an indirect free kick following the caution.

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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