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July 2008 Archive (II of IV)


I have an issue concerning the 12th law. In this law (2007/08) it states, "A direct free kick is also awarded to the opposing team if a player commits any of the following four offenses... handles the ball deliberately" (Law 12 Page 25). There are a few reasons I have an issue concerning this law. >PSecondly, this change in the law makes it much less ambiguous. This means there is less reason to argue with the official; it is much easier to argue intent then it is to argue if advantage was gained.

Thirdly, this law makes it much easier for the official to make a decision. It is much harder for the official to decide if the handling was deliberate than it is to tell if an advantage was gained.

Finally, on a side note. I believe law 12 (2007/08) should be left alone in the "Sending-Off Offenses" portion where it states, "A player, substitute, or substituted player is sent off and shown the red card if he commits any of the following seven offenses... 4. denies the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball" (Law 12 Page 26). I don't believe a red card should be given for unintentionally handling the ball preventing an obvious goal-scoring opportunity, but it should still be a foul and a direct free kick (or a penalty kick) should be awarded to the opposing team.

In conclusion, I think that the current law should be changed because it isn't fare, it is easily arguable, and it is difficult to know when to call.

Answer (July 17, 2008):
You seem to have missed the crux of the matter: Handling is an offense ONLY and punished ONLY IF IT IS DELIBERATE. There are many occasions on which a player may handle the ball accidentally,. Some examples: When it is kicked at the player from short range and there is no time to react, when the player turns around (we will assume no guile here) and finds the ball coming at him and there is no time to react, or when the player is protecting him- or herself while in the wall. This is not only soccer law, but soccer tradition.

We have covered the topic in our publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game," which states:
The offense known as "handling the ball" involves deliberate contact with the ball by a player's hand or arm (including fingertips, upper arm, or outer shoulder). "Deliberate contact" means that the player could have avoided the touch but chose not to, that the player's arms were not in a normal playing position at the time, or that the player deliberately continued an initially accidental contact for the purpose of gaining an unfair advantage. Moving hands or arms instinctively to protect the body when suddenly faced with a fast approaching ball does not constitute deliberate contact unless there is subsequent action to direct the ball once contact is made. Likewise, placing hands or arms to protect the body at a free kick or similar restart is not likely to produce an infringement unless there is subsequent action to direct or control the ball. The fact that a player may benefit from the ball contacting the hand does not transform the otherwise accidental event into an infringement. A player infringes the Law regarding handling the ball even if direct contact is avoided by holding something in the hand (clothing, shinguard, etc.).

In comparing the concept of "advantage" under Law 12 with the same concept in Law 11, you are comparing peanuts and watermelons: Both are essentially the same shape, but their constituent parts function differently.

A further point to ponder is that there is no element of intent or deliberation or even advantage when it comes to an offense under Law 11.



This is a field equipment and out-of-play question. The field where I was AR at had portable goals with retractable wheels attached outside bottom side bar. During the course of the game, an on-the-ground shot was taken that hit the front of the wheel and rebounded back into play. I was well positioned to observe that the entire ball did not pass over the goal line, so I not raise my flag.

At half time, the center and I, both agreed that the wheel had prevented the ball from going out of play but neither of us were sure if the correct decision was for play to have continued. Comments?

Answer (July 17, 2008):
The answer is that the referee should not have allowed the goal to be used in the first place. However, once accepted by the referee, the wheel becomes part of the goal post and thus is part of the field, a pre-existing condition that does not benefit one team over the other. This makes it different from the football crossbar, which is easily seen as not part of the soccer goal structure. Therefore, because the wheel was part of the goal structure and the referee and the players were all aware that the wheel was there (and thus aware of the possible problems that might occur), then it was correct to allow play to continue.



A defender has fallen on the ground in the "D", the area just above the penalty area inside the penalty arc. The ball rests nearby in the D, just touching the penalty area line. As an attacker fast approaches, the defender, in a panic, uses his hand to deliberately knock the ball back to his goalkeeper. His hand contacts the ball outside the box and never reaches the penalty area line.

Should a direct kick or a penalty kick be awarded to the opposing team? That is, is the handling considered to be "in the penalty area" because the ball is "in the penalty area", even if the actual contact occurs outside the penalty area?

Answer (July 14, 2008):
If by "just touching" you mean that the "leading edge" of the ball was overlapping the penalty area (PA) line, that placed the ball WITHIN the PA, so it makes no difference that the hand contacted the portion that was outside the PA. The correct restart would be a penalty kick -- after the player was been properly punished.

The correct punishment depends on the position of other players during the event in question. If the deliberate handling did not deny the attacking team a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity, then the punishment is a caution for unsporting behavior.



When an AR begins to side step to stay close to the play and prepare for a potential offside call, what hand should the flag be in? The outside, left hand? Or the far side right hand? I ask because I was initially taught that the flag should be in the left hand, on the outside so that the referee can see it, but then I was watching the Euro 2008 semi-final between Russia and Spain and one of the ARs was holding the flag in his right hand when he would side step and then he would hold it in both hands in between his feet if he was anticipating an offside call was going to have to be made soon. Is it a personal preference thing? Do different countries teach different things?

Answer (July 14, 2008):
This response is based on the referee and the ARs running a standard diagonal, based on a theoretical line from one goalkeeper's righthand corner to other goalkeeper's righthand corner. (In practice, of course, the referee covers more of the field than that -- or certainly should!) The IFAB's guidance,followed by UEFA, is based on that diagonal, and they instruct their referees to carry the flag in the left hand (the one nearer to the field and the referee and, if the restart is to be in the other direction, to the right, to switch the flag from the left hand to the right hand. The flag needs to be easily seen by the referee (referee/field side, carried straight down, not swung back and forth while running). Since 2007 IFAB guidance has been that the flag be raised in the right hand when the AR gives the signal for offside and goal kick. This has the advantage of providing the AR with a better view of what is going on between him/her and the referee.

USSF guidance is that the AR carry the flag in the hand nearer to the referee. When the signal is to be made the AR stops, lifts the flag in the hand that will show the direction (if that is necessary), and then shows the direction. (If the direction is opposite to that in which the AR has been running and the flag must be switched over, this must be done before the flag is raised.)

If the referee determines that, based on field conditions or the need for closer management of players, he/she and the ARs should run the lefthand diagonal, then the procedure would be reversed.



At a recent AYSO tournament I noticed that on a number of teams, there would be two players with the same number. When I asked the referee officials about this, I was told that there was nothing in the Laws to preclude this. However, in other answers you have cited "ancient and well-established tradition" (my wording, actually) for common sense rules that are not explicitly spelled out. It seems to me that this would be such a rule, as the referee uses player numbers to record misconduct and, in AYSO, playing time. I would appreciate an official answer to cite for when, not if, this issue reappears.

Answer (July 14, 2008):
The Laws of the Game do not require player numbers; that is a function of the rules of the competition (league, cup, tournament, or whatever else). It is indeed traditional and simple good sense that players wear individual numbers to distinguish themselves from one another; however, some competitions may not require either rosters or even the numbers to tie them to that roster. If the competition does require rosters, that suggests it also requires numbers. If that is the case, then the problem will die away if the referee enforces the requirement. If either or both of these is not required, then the referee's only practical recourse is to ensure that he or she obtains a name from any carded player (and affixes in his/her consciousness some player features to assist in tracking the person).



This subject probably has been beaten into the ground before but in my referee association interpretations are all over the map. In Advice to Referees, Law 13 - Free Kicks, 13.3 says "The referee should move quickly out of the way after indicating the approximate area of the restart and should do nothing to interfere with the kicking team's right to an immediate free kick . At competitive levels of play, referee should not automatically "manage the wall", but should allow the ball to be put back into play as quickly as possible, unless the kicking team requests help in dealing with opponents infringing on the minimum distance ." 13.5 (first paragraph) says "If the referee decides to delay the restart and to enforce the required minimum distance..." Second paragraph says "If one or more opponents fail to respect the required distance before the ball is properly put into play, the referee should stop the restart to deal with this infringement."

So here is how I would manage a free kick: A) Indicate spot where kick is to be taken. B) Move away to observe kick. C) If attacking team asks for ten yards, move defense (wall) ten yards from ball and tell attackers not to play ball until signal is given (I also read Law 13 to say that a whistle is not required, only a "clear signal"). D) Give signal for restart. E) If a defender intrudes upon the required distance on the restart, I could whistle a retake, and give a caution, if the defender's action interferes with the restart (I would play advantage if not). F) If ten yards is not asked for, and a defender purposely interferes with the restart I may whistle a retake and issue a caution depending upon the outcome of the restart. On any restart I would not call for a retake if the defenders interfered with the play but the attackers maintained advantage. I know things vary slightly with different levels of soccer, but I am talking about competitive level.

Some referees will always tell defenders to back off and or/manage the entire restart without a "ten yards" request from the attackers. Am I erring in some way? Should I back off defenders? Or is the way I now manage a free kick OK? I would appreciate an answer from an authority, USSF, so I can argue the correct points.

Answer (July 10, 2008):
Whatever works for you, //name deleted//, but there are some other things to consider.

The sequence you describe works fairly well with a couple of minor exceptions. First, regarding "step" (C), be aware that not every time the ten yards is asked for does it actually need to be enforced. Make a quick judgment as to whether in fact the opponents are far enough away and, if they are, order the attackers to proceed with the restart. Second, also regarding step (C), you may not have intended it but the actions in this step are reversed -- if requested to enforce the minimum distance, the first action you need to take is to state clearly (by word and/or commonly understood gesture) that the restart cannot occur except by your signal and then back the opponents up the necessary distance. Third, in situations where an opponent attempts to interfere from within ten yards but is unsuccessful (and therefore you choose not to caution), don't ever forget the value of talking to or warning the player about his or her behavior. Finally, vary the procedure as needed so long as you honor the basic underlying principle -- namely, the opponents have no rights in a free kick situation, their actions are already suspect and they must generally be on the best behavior, so your job is to intrude as little as possible and let the attackers control the situation. That is, after all, why we call it a FREE kick.



a friend of mine is a State 1 and told me the following scenario that occurred to him in a recent match:

Ball is in attacking third for 'keeper's team, so AR is watching play, while maintaining position regarding second-last defender. As the AR turns his head, he becomes aware of the attacking team's 'keeper standing in his own goal, with his back to the play, relieving himself.

When my friend relayed this to me, my initial thought was a caution for leaving w/out permission. However, the AR brought up the viable position of an ejection for Abusive Language and/or Gestures.

What do you think? For what it's worth, he did not inform the referee of the situation at any time.

Answer (July 9, 2008):
A referee of any grade level should know better than to withhold information from the referee in charge of the match. While we appreciate the goalkeeper's obvious wish to both irrigate and fertilize the grass in the goal, this is unsporting behavior -- bringing the game into disrepute -- and the goalkeeper must be cautioned and shown the yellow card.


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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