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Ask a Referee Update: Dec. 6, 2011


Could I please call on your expertise vis-a-vis the Laws Of The Game?

If the same team kicks off in both halves -
(a) The Referee quickly realises his mistake, the score is 0 - 0, what does he/she do?
(b) A goal is scored, before the Referee realises his mistake, what does he/she do?
(c) The Referee goes through almost the entire second half, not realising his mistake. A goal is scored in the last 5 minutes? The Referee now realises what has gone wrong. Now what?

Running away, although attractive, is not an option!

Answer (November 30, 2011):
(a) How quickly? If before the next stoppage, call it back and have the correct team perform the kickoff. If there has been a stoppage, suck it up and vow not to do it again (with details and a full confession in the match report).
(b) Goal stands. Suck it up and vow not to do it again (with details and a full confession in the match report).
(c) Goal stands. Suck it up and vow not to do it again (with details and a full confession in the match report).


If the ref calls,corner kick , the kick is taken, ball is in play then a goal is scored. After the goal is scored can he say,"oops, it was supposed to be a throw in not a corner kick" The ref claims he can change the call before the ball is put in play....was the fact that the corner was taken and goal scored considered "in play"?

Answer (November 29, 2011):
Just as the referee cannot rescind a caution (yellow card) or a send-off (red card) after play has been restarted, neither can the referee change the restart itself if it has been taken.

If the referee discovers after play has restarted that the wrong restart was taken, the referee must provide in the match report all details relevant to the mistake.

The failure of the referee to include in the match report accurately and fully any such errors is a serious breach of the referee's responsibilities.


Having a debate here about definition of 'delay of game'.

On a kick-off from the half line, after a goal, or starting a game, if a team does an improper kick-off (i.e. ball does not move forward, and cross over the half line) several times, is this delay of game? I have seen teams do this in the past. I would allow this twice, then give an IDFK to the opposite team. I was recently told by a senior official that this is not a delay of game and not IDFK. Well, if so, what do you do about it?

Answer (November 17, 2011):
The tactic you describe could be considered to be delaying the restart of play. A number of examples are given in the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game":
The following are specific examples of this form of misconduct (some of which may also be committed by substitutes):

* Fails to restart play after being so instructed by the referee

* Excessively celebrates a goal

* Fails to return to the field from a midgame break, fails to perform a kick-off when signaled by the referee, or fails to be in a correct position for a kick-off

* Performing a throw-in improperly with the apparent intention of being required to perform the throw-in again, thus wasting time

* Unnecessarily moving a ball which has already been properly placed on the ground for a goal kick

* Provokes a confrontation by deliberately touching the ball after the referee has stopped play

Because the ball was out of play at the delay, the restart after any caution in this case would still be the kick-off.


During a recent U19 Boys competitive match as the trail AR and during the second play was about 50 yards up field, just outside the 18. I observed the defending team re-take possession of the ball, and due to attacking pressure, the ball was passed to a central defender who was at the top of the 18 facing up field. As the defender received the ball he turned and faced his own goalie. The defender popped the ball up in the air with his foot, and then headed the ball to his keeper, who caught it in his hands. The Referee and the lead AR were both in a good position to observe his play, and did not whistle nor did the AR raise his flag. Being on the team sideline, the coach and several of the players were quick to speak up that the defenders actions were clearly illegal. The coach and his assistant both approached me, respectfully, and asked if I had observed the play and what was I was going to do. I simply stated the Referee and AR were both in an excellent position to observe the play, and no call had been made.

During the post game discussion I mentioned the incident, and both the center and the AR stated that they did not know that his actions were considered trickery, and an indirect kick should have been awarded.

I continue to have doubts regarding my decision to not signal. This was a close game that ended 2-1, with the losing team missing a possible goal scoring opportunity by the referee team error.

So I ask: When is it appropriate for the trail AR to signal, if ever, an observed violation of the laws of the game at distance, which can have an effect on the final score?

Answer (November 13, 2011):
From your description, the defender's action was clearly a case of trickery for which play should have been stopped, an indirect free kick given where the defender was who committed the trickery (trickery does not depend on the goalkeeper handling the ball), and a caution should be given for unsporting behavior. However, also from your scenario, it appears that you clearly understood this.

So, as you also note, the real question is what you should do about it.

Unfortunately, this is where things get a bit murkier. Your responsibility as an AR is to (a) be very sure that what you saw either could not be seen at all or, if seen, was not recognized as an offense; and (b) to decide that your intervention is needed for the good of the game and to avoid the commission of an egregious error. Because you were the trail AR, this burden is particularly heavy because you must include both the referee and the lead AR in your evaluation. You noted that the event was clearly in the view of the referee so that leaves ignorance of the nature of the event -- intervention in such cases must rest on a quick evaluation of the likelihood of such an error because, on the surface, it could be either an error or a concrete decision that the event did not meet the requirements of the offense (in other words, the referee saw it, recognized the possibility, and then made a conscious decision that the facts didn't fit the conclusion).

This is why, in such cases, the AR needs to be 100% sure.

If you ARE sure, then the action you must take is well described in the Guide to Procedures -- stop, square to the field, raise the flag straight up, hope the lead AR cross flags (mirrors you) and is seen doing so by the referee who is then directed across the field to your signal, you waggle the flag briefly when eye contact is established, and then see if the referee whistles play dead (as should happen if the referee trusts your judgment).

What follows depends on the referee: if it is a case of not recognizing the offense, the referee will likely want to find out from you the reason for the flag and you need to be prepared to succinctly describe the offense, identify the guilty defender by name and/or number, and state the correct restart (plus whether you believe a card should be given). After that, it is up to the referee.


It's very near the end of the game and Team A is losing to Team B.

Team A has a throw-in near the benches and is pressing very hard to equalize the score. As Team A's player begins to take the throw-in Team B's substitute goalkeeper, sitting on the bench, throws another ball into the field to prevent the restart.

The referee correctly identifies the goalkeeper, shows the red card, and sends him off for the misconduct. Now here's the issue.

Some referees are opining that a substitute is considered "bench personnel" while at the bench. Therefore, the GK is sent off for "irresponsible behavior."

I argue that a substitute is a substitute, not bench personnel. As such the substitute GK can only be sent off for one of the seven reasons stated in Law 12 -- and "irresponsible behavior" is not one of them.

Your response?

Answer (November 6, 2011):
Neither the substitute goalkeeper nor any other player may be sent off for the offense of "irresponsible behavior." He may only be cautioned for unsporting behavior, unless something else occurs during the period following the initial cautionable misconduct of throwing the extra ball onto the field.

This was made clear in a position paper of March 22, 2006, on "Management of Behavior in the Technical Area." The pertinent quote from that paper Is: ",. . . in match conditions where spectators are not allowed near the immediate area of the field (for example, restricting spectators to stadium seats or behind barriers), the persons allowed in or near the field are strictly limited to players, substitutes, and team officials. For purposes of this memorandum, anyone officially allowed in the technical area who is not a rostered player or substitute (or substituted player) is a team official."

Thus, no player (including substitutes and substituted players) may be sent off for "irresponsible behavior." Such persons are not "bench personnel" and are thus not subject to the same treatment as team officials (coaches, trainers, medical personnel, etc.). Players (including substitutes and substituted players) may be sent off only for one of the seven reasons listed in Law 12, which covers players, etc:

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 Ryan Money, Manager of Referee Education Resources; David McKee, National Director of Assessment (assessment matters); Jeff Kollmeyer, National Instructor, indoor and Futsal; and Ulrich Strom, retired National Instructor and National Assessor (matters in general).

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