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November 2003 Archive (II of III)

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In my game the other day, one of the captains received a red card for getting in a fight. He then turned to me and said "Go screw yourself you "f" ing B. You "f" ing suck. I then asked for the second captain and gave him a red card for the behavior that was being displayed by this other captain. First of all is this correct? If it is, what happens if there is only one captain sent out. Who would the card be given to then?

Answer (November 11, 2003):
Captains do not receive cards for other players. All players are responsible for their own behavior. A player who has been sent off may be shown the red card only once. Full details on any subsequent misconduct by that (now former) player is included in the match report.


In a select U-16 boys match in a tournament, a ball was kicked to the sideline where it struck the Assistant Referee hard and it in turn bounced hard in deflection towards one team's goal. The ball would obviously have gone out of bounds had it not hit the AR. After it struck the AR the defenders stopped running but an attacker scooted after the ball heading to the goal. The attacker shanked the ball and we had a goal kick. After it hit the AR, the AR signaled that the ball was in play since it never went completely over the line since it ricocheted off of him. The AR is senior to me in experience and a senior officer in our local Referee Association. Although the center, I deferred to his judgment.

The defending team's coach was livid since he stated that the ball should have been ruled out of play because it hit the AR. I know the center is part of the pitch, but what about the AR?

Answer (November 11, 2003):
If, instead of the ball being shanked by the attacker, the ball had entered the goal, the goal would have been scored. Law 9 tells us that the ball remains in play until "it has wholly crossed the goal line or touch line whether on the ground or in the air." Common sense dictates that if the ball is prevented from wholly crossing the line by striking the assistant referee or any other person or object (such as corner flag post or a bag on the line), then it is still in play. Although ignorance of the Law is no excuse for players, the intelligent referee will be proactive and announce that the ball is still in play and prevent further confusion.

Please remember that most coaches know very little about the Laws of the Game and their proper application. Some tend to become excited when something unusual occurs that could harm their team or help the other team -- no matter that it is perfectly legal under the Laws of the Game. In fact, some follow the example of the coach in your situation and become livid. Unfortunately for them, their lack of knowledge can be a big hindrance to the development of their players, to the proper management of the game, and to their own physical and mental health.


One of my players (U11/U12 age group) has soccer cleats with removal metal studs. The studs are oval in shape (they look like the "typical" adidas or nike shape, but are metal instead of rubber). Are these legal to use in USYSA games?

Answer (November 11, 2003):
If the studs are safe -- no burrs or sharp edges -- they are probably legal under the terms of Law 4 and the March 7, 2003, U. S. Soccer memorandum on the safety of player equipment. Many competitions ban the use of metal studs, so please check with your local competition authority (league or whatever), just to be sure.


If I notice that a team repeatedly fouls by tripping their opponents, can I consider this as persistent infringement and caution the person who tripped the opponent even though this was the first time he tripped the opponent and this was the first time this particular opponent was tripped. Sort of a Team persistent infringement. If so, can I consider a subsequent trip by another player of the same team as a second caution and send him off? This situation has occurred in several games I have centered where it seemed that the team was coached to trip if beaten and I want to know if this is a valid use of the PI and 2YC Send off.

Answer (November 9, 2003):
First a word of advice: The referee should not look to be sending off people right and left. The referee should manage play with all the tools in the toolbox, not just cards. if a player demonstrates that he or she does not want to play according to the rules and the referee's guidance, then and only then should cards be considered.

And now on to the question: Although this pattern of infringement is not among those types of action customarily associated with persistent infringement of the Laws, it would seem to deserve a place among them. Here is what the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game" has to say:
Persistent infringement occurs either when a player repeatedly commits fouls or infringements or participates in a pattern of fouls directed against the same opponent. Persistent infringement also occurs if a player repeatedly fouls multiple opponents. It is not necessary for the multiple fouls to be of the same type or all to be direct free kick fouls, but infringements must be among those covered in Law 12 or involve repeated violations of Law 14. In most cases, the referee should warn the player that the pattern has been observed and, upon a subsequent violation, must then issue the caution. Where the referee sees a pattern of fouls directed against a single opponent, it is proper to warn the team that the pattern has been seen and then to caution the next player who continues the pattern, even if this specific player may not have previously committed a foul against this single opponent. If the pattern is quickly and blatantly established, then the warning should be omitted and the referee should take immediate action. In determining whether there is persistent infringement, all fouls are considered, including those to which advantage has been applied.

We would suggest that the system of warning the players that a pattern has been observed be followed. Also, please remember that the concept of a "team caution" does not exist under the Laws of the Game, so you could not caution (yellow card) and then send off (red card) one player for doing the same thing for which you had just cautioned one of his teammates.

And a final word of advice: Referees should use common sense in applying any of the discretionary cautions. Do not make trouble for yourself by carding unnecessarily and just because you feel the player is acting incorrectly. Your decisions must be based in Law, not some gut feeling.


The laws of the game state that the ball pressure to be between 8.5 and 15.6 psig. I pumped a ball up and did a squeeze comparison. To me it was quite a difference. Like squeezing an orange in one case and a rock in another ! From my experience as a player and officiating soccer I frequently see the ball at about 9 to 10 psig. So out of curiosity my question is what are some of the factors that determine the pressure that the ball is pumped up to ? Is it age, cultural or field conditions that determine what the referee selects ? Any good rules of thumb to follow ? What ball pressures do you see being used at the professional and World Cup level of play ? Have you seen a game where the ball was pumped to 15.6 psig ?

Answer (November 8, 2003):
As long as the pressure within the ball meets the requirement of the Law and is between 8.5 and 15.6 psi (aka 0.6-1.1 atmospheres), no one is particularly concerned about it. The actual playing "feel" of the ball is generally dictated by cultural preferences, which are in turn governed by normal field conditions and the state of the weather thereabouts. The balls used at the higher levels of play are generally inflated at a fairly high pressure to make the ball move better through the air and to bounce more truly from the ground. There is no magic formula of such-and-such pounds per square inch. For more information, please consult the article on "Ball Power" by Stanley Lover. You can find it in the Spring/Summer issue of the USSF referee magazine "Fair Play," which may be downloaded from the US Soccer website.


Assume the AR is at about the 18 and even with the second to last defender. As play moves forward a shot is taken at the goal and the keeper deflects the ball over the end line (for a corner kick). Should the AR signal corner kick from his position on near the 18 and then move to the corner or run to the corner and then signal. I know this sounds a little trivial but it happens to me quite often and I just want to be sure I am in the proper position.

Answer (November 8, 2003):
The assistant referee (AR) is supposed to remain level with the ball or the second-last defender, whichever is nearer to the goal line. If that is not possible and the ball goes beyond the second-last defender, the AR must quickly run to the goal line to catch up with the ball. However, in the case where the ball (moving faster than the AR) leaves the field, it is more important that the AR provide immediate assistance to the referee by signaling the proper restart.

Stop, square to the field, and signal (remember, if it is to be a corner kick, the flag is pointed downward at a 45 degree angle in the direction of the corner, even if this means that the flag is not pointing directly at the corner because you are upfield). As soon as eye contact is made with the referee, drop the flag and as quickly as possible take up the correct position for the restart.


While clearing up arcane protocols - During my playing days I learned that the correct way to "officiate" a forfeit was for the team present to kick off and shoot the ball in the goal. Kind of fun, especially as the team usually selected the GK to score. Do you know if that was ever an official procedure? I doubt it as the result of a forfeit is often 2-0 and how would you handle the ghost kickoff between the victor's goals? :-)

Thanks for you column. As I am a referee instructor I get the most interesting questions and hunger to know as much as I can.

Answer (November 4, 2003):
There is no formal procedure such as you describe. The only "official" thing to do is to confirm that one team can and one team cannot field the minimum number by formally requiring the team(s) to be on the field as though the match were ready to start. When one team can put at least seven players on and one team cannot, that's it.

In no event may the referee declare a forfeit, because there is no such option under the Laws of the Game. All we can do is declare the match abandoned due to an insufficient number of players on one or both teams. It is then up to the competition authority to determine if the match is forfeited or has some other official outcome under the rules.


A player took a ball off the forehead, knocking him to the ground and appeared to be unconscious for a moment. Immediately, the referee commanded the remaining players to get on the ground on one knee. Is this enforceable? It doesn't appear in the laws anywhere. Is it the best interest of or beneficial to the injured player?

My larger concern is for the other players on the field, as aerobic recovery would be better served by gradually slowing the work rate instead of coming to a dead stop. I've seen it done may times, and, can't understand why it happens. It also seems somewhat demeaning.

The referee and I spoke after the match about it. He said it was about respect for the injured player.

Looking for enlightenment.

Answer (November 4, 2003):
There is no requirement in the Laws of the Game, nor in common sense, to "take a knee" if a player is down. The referee is required by Law 5 to stop play immediately if a player is seriously injured. The referee might consider stopping play for any "injury" if the players are very young.

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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