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December 2003 Archive (II of II)

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I am hoping that you can help me resolve a dispute I have had with a couple of referees in my local league over whether or not there is a limit as to how far back from the line a throw-in can be taken. The scenario is relatively simple in that the ball goes out of play, and in seeking the advantage of a quick restart the thrower throws the ball from potentially several yards back from the line and away from the field of play. Assuming no other rules of law 15 are broken (e.g. ball over head, entering field of play from within 1 yard of it going out) etc. then has the throwing player committed an offence simply because he or she took the throw further back than it is normally taken? I have reviewed a number of variants on the rules of the game and cannot find a direct or indirect reference to this.

I hope this is clear and look forward to some thoughts on this.

Answer (December 24, 2003):
Your guidance will be found in the IFAB/FIFA Questions and Answers on the Laws of the Game, under Law 15, Q&A 4: 4. Is there a maximum distance away from the touch line from which a throw-in may be taken? No. A throw-in should be taken from the place where the ball left the field of play. However, a throw-in from a distance of up to 1 m from the exact position is a generally accepted practice.


I am a 16 year old female soccer player from [my state]. Due to an eye disease, I cannot wear contacts. I've tried to wear Rec Specs, but since they wrap-around, the light distortion severely throws off my depth-perception. For a year now I've been wearing PLASTIC frames with polycarbonate lens as well as a strap to keep them secure. Let me stress that the frames are not wire. I was told by a referee that next year all prescription eyewear would no longer be allowed. Is this true? If so, what can I do about it? There is no way for me to wear contacts. Thanks a lot for your time.

Answer (December 22, 2003):
One of the referee's duties is to be certain that the equipment of all players is safe and will not endanger either the player nor any other players. If, in the opinion of the referee, the glasses are safe for the wearer and all other players, then the player may wear them. The referee has neither duty nor power to act as a fashion coordinator or an optician.

Referees should all be aware of USSF Memorandum 2001, which contains the following citation from FIFA Circular 750 and USSF advice to referees on the wearing of eyeglasses:

Players Wearing Spectacles

Sympathy was expressed for players, especially young players, who need to wear spectacles. It was accepted that new technology had made sports spectacles much safer, both for the player himself and for other players.

While the referee has the final decision on the safety of players' equipment, the Board expects that they will take full account of modern technology and the improved safety features of spectacle design when making their decision.

USSF Advice to Referees: Referees must not interpret the above statement to mean either that "sports glasses" must automatically be considered safe or that glasses which are not manufactured to be worn during sports are automatically to be considered unsafe. The referee must make the final decision: the Board has simply recognized that new technology has made safer the wearing of glasses during play.

This guidance from FIFA was updated in a circular this year, but there has been no change in either FIFA or USSF policy since the circular of 2001.


U-12 Boys "B" travel team match. Playing on field that has dual markings for Field Hockey and Soccer. Inspect the field during pre-game and find that the PA is marked by yellow lines, as are part of the touch lines. I conduct each team's check-in at their respective 18 yard lines to make them aware of markings and remind the Keepers in particular to be aware.

Just before end of 1st half, Attacker runs on to ball in open space just past midfield, in center of field. Feints around and beats the 2nd Last Defender, but this move slows him down enough to allow another defender to close in on Attacker. New Defender is matching Attacker stride for stride, but ¼ to ½ a step behind. I am trailing about 25 feet directly behind the two players, waiting for Defender to make a move for the ball, or Attacker to feint again.

Attacker's next touch pushes the ball about 10 feet ahead of himself. I suspect the close pressure from the defender caused him to put a little too much on his touch. Meanwhile, the keeper has timed things perfectly and slides to collect the ball cleanly with no contact. ŠŠ.Except, he ends up about 4 feet over the 18 yard line.

I blow the whistle and call hand ball. The keeper looks up at me with a quizzical expression on his face, then turns over his shoulder, sees the line behind him, and drops his forehead to the turf with a groan. I produce the yellow card and explain to him that it is for USB (specifically, handling ball outside of area). I also told him that given the conflicting markings, I was giving him a break because the play was close to being DOGSO/H with automatic red card. The kid was great in that he actually understood that in this situation, that was a potential consequence.

It was close in that 3 of the 4 conditions for OGSO were clearly met. But the Attacker had pushed the ball just a little too far ahead of himself to still be within playing distance. Plus, I did think that the poor field markings called for some discretion. If the field markings had been proper, I would have thought a little harder about whether this was in fact an OGSO.

At half, the keeper's coach asked me what the yellow card was for. I explained that it was in lieu of a potential DOGSO/H + Red Card, and a way to emphasize to the keeper to be aware of the field markings. He was satisfied. I think his player had a better grasp of the Laws than he did.

Given the situation as described, was this a valid call within the LOTG and a reasonable way to handle the situation? Can the case be made for a different call, with or without modifying any of the elements?

Interestingly, a nearly identical scenario was one of the prep questions at my recertification clinic last month. We were working in groups to answer the prep questions and my table had 6 adults. A mix of Grade 8's and 7's. We all agreed that that scenario did not meet OGSO criteria. I raised the idea of Caution for USB. A couple of us agreed that that might be warranted in some situations, but most did not see the need for a caution in addition to DKF restart.

Answer (December 19, 2003):
In your analysis, you appear to be applying criteria which are involved in a red card for offense #5, when in fact what occurred was offense #4. The "4 Ds" memo is specific in its terms -- it is talking about offense #5 in connection with these conditions. The general rule of thumb in #4 violations is that the red card is justified only if (in the opinion of the referee), but for the handling offense (in this case, by the goalkeeper outside his PA), the ball would have gone into the net.

In addition, the terms of the USSF position paper of September 16, 2002, on "Obvious Goal-Scoring Opportunity Denied (The 4 Ds)" do not include any reason for a gratuitous caution for unsporting behavior where it is not merited. Nor is this true of any other document dealing with the correct application of the Laws of the Game. If you thought the 'keeper was confused by the "nontraditionally" marked lines, then a simple foul for deliberately handling the ball outside the penalty area would suffice.

Please, let common sense prevail.


The State Youth Association that I referee for has an absolute ban on casts. No player may play with a cast,period, and this includes padded casts. I have contacted them and they have reiterated that casts cannot be made safe and are not allowed. I have had a few referees tell me that as per Law 5, only the referee may decide what is safe and what is not and if they think the cast has been made safe,they'll allow it. I think this is crazy as if there's an injury someone's going to get sued for allowing something to be worn specifically forbidden by the local jurisdiction. Moreover, are not we as referees obligated to adhere to State and Local modifications? I would greatly appreciate your opinion. Thanks.

Answer (September 9, 2003):



Answer (December 19, 2003):
The referees who told you that the referee may decide what is safe and what is not are correct. Law 5 states that the referee "ensures that the players' equipment meets the requirements of Law 4." However, if the rules of competition specify that a player may not wear a cast or some specific piece of equipment other than the required uniform, then any referee who takes a game from that competition must follow the rules. There are no ifs, ands, or buts.

A good general principle to follow in this is that the rules of competition may be more restrictive than the Law allows, but they cannot allow something that the Law flatly forbids.


I had a situation happen to me during a college game a couple of weeks ago and I need help with the appropriate decision.

5 secs left in the game, corner kick comes in, offensive player # 1 heads the ball and Defender A intentionally handles the ball as it was about to enter the goal. With the ball back in play, offensive player # 2 heads the ball into the nets, and Defender B attempts to play the ball intentionally with his arm but the ball continues into the goal and I therefore award GOAL at the sound of the Buzzer.

Here are my questions:
1- If I had blown the whistle at the first handling, easy Send off and a PK.
2- If I blew the whistle at the time of the Second infraction before the ball entered the goal and award a PK. Do I have 1 Send off or 2 send offs?
3- How about if the second header puts the ball over the goal and therefore left me with one handling of the ball, advantage applied did not pan out, ball goes out Goal Kick, I think I still must send off Defender A, and award Goal Kick? (Probably very hard to Sell). Your advice would be greatly appreciated, been discussing this with a lot of referees and instructors, and we all feel your advice would help us all.

Answer (December 17, 2003):
The answers are fairly simple when sitting at the computer, but perhaps not so simple while on the field. Let us consider the questions solely on the basis of the Laws of the Game, rather than the rules of any other competition -- although in this case there is no difference.

1. Correct. Send off for denying the opposing team a goal or a goalscoring opportunity; restart with penalty kick. However, the referee should not stop play immediately for the handling but wait to see what follows; a sure score is better than the less-than-100-percent chance of a penalty kick.

2. You would have one send-off and (perhaps) one caution. Having in effect given the advantage -- wittingly or not -- by not calling the first deliberate handling by Defender A, you allowed play to continue and the second shot was taken. Even though the second shot was successful, you would still send off and show the red card to Defender A for denying the opposing team the original goal or goalscoring opportunity. If Defender B actually touched the ball while attempting to deny the goal or goalscoring opportunity, he would be cautioned for unsporting behavior and shown the yellow card. If Defender B did not make contact with the ball, then he has not committed any misconduct and may not be punished.

3. Hard sell or not, you must still send off Defender A and award the goal kick.


I read that...goalposts and crossbars must be made of wood.....and they must not be dangerous to players. What about the use of hooks to secure the net? Are there any guidelines that advice not to use hooks to secure the nets? The hooks can cause injury and degloving of hands/fingers. Is there any literature on this? What is the recommended way to secure nets...velcro, oversize rubber bands.

Answer (December 17, 2003):
You have obviously been reading the wrong literature. Goals may be made of any substance that is not dangerous. The only requirement as far as materials go is that the goals must be colored white.

We are not aware of any literature on the matter. Field owners, competitions (leagues, etc.), and teams should consider carefully what might be safe and what might be dangerous. The final decision is up to the referee.


Player A1 has the ball and is about to make a throw-in. His teammate A2 runs off the field, around the back of A1 and back on to the field to receive the throw-in. It is clear that this is a tactic being used by A2 to avoid being covered by the defense.

Is this a legal play or should A2 be cautioned for leaving the field of play without the referee's permission?

Answer (December 16, 2003):
Stop the throw, have a FRIENDLY BUT VERY PUBLIC CHAT with the player who has left the field for this purpose, reminding him that he is not allowed to leave the field without your permission -- other than during the course of play, when he needs to get around an opponent or something similar --and that leaving the field in this way could be a cautionable offense. Once he is back on the field, allow the thrower to take the throw-in.

You will find that the public admonition will prevent others from attempting this same trick. This is a case of not making trouble for yourself when you can use the situation as a learning experience for all the players and still foil the player's gamesmanship.


During discussion with a group of referees, there was a question about a specific situation on offside. Player A takes a shot on goal. At the time of the shot, defenders X and Y (as well as the goalkeeper), were nearer the endline than player A and the ball. The shot rebounds off of the crossbar and player A collects it, shoots again and scores. At the time he collected the ball he now was nearer the end line than defenders X and Y and had only the goalkeeper as the only defender between him and the endline. The question is the attacker A offside on the second shot?

For background purposes, the majority of the group said no due to the position of the ball. A vocal minority said yes due to the position of the attacker in relation to the defenders. Thank you in advance for settling this discussion.

Answer (December 15, 2003):
Let the vocal minority conjure this: A player cannot be in an offside position if he is not nearer to the goal line than the ball. It makes no difference how many or how few opponents are between him and the goal line if he is behind the ball. In addition, a player is not his own teammate and thus may play again a ball he has just played -- unless he put the ball into play at a restart. If a player plays/shoots the ball at goal during active play and the ball rebounds to him from the crossbar or the goalpost or the goalkeeper, he is not in an offside position and thus cannot be offside.

You will find a excellent example of players behind the ball but ahead of all the opponents save the goalkeeper when the ball rebounds in the USSF videotape from the Women's World Cup 1999, USA vs. Nigeria.


Two issues have recently surfaced dealing with errors (judgement, procedures, or both) by the referee team. In both cases, the question to you is, "What is the proper restart?"

ISSUE 1: there is an attack on goal, along AR1's touch line, when the ball is suddenly slotted through the defense to a teammate wide open in front of the goal, one-on-one with the GK, when the AR pops his flag for offside. The referee whistles to stop play, and thereafter both referee and AR see another defender hiding behind the goal, in an effort to draw the offside call. Since this is a stoppage, there appears no question but that the referee must Caution the Defender now, if he intends to address that unsporting behavior. However, the original stoppage was clearly the result of referee error - acknowledgement of a non-existent Offside infraction. What is the proper restart?

ISSUE 2: an attack is heading toward the AR, when suddenly the referee sees the attacker, while dribbling toward the AR, take a swing at the Defender. The referee immediately whistles play dead, issues a Red card to attacker for SFP, and orders a DFK to the defenders. Before the restart, he checks with his AR, and discovers that his AR knows that Defender first spat at attacker.
Part A: AR had flag up before the referee whistled, but referee did not check with AR until after issuing the Red, and indicating direction of DFK.
Part B: AR raises his flag as or after referee is whistling; but referee does not check with AR until after . . .
Part C: AR did not have his flag up (I can think of two reasons this could well happen: ARs relatively new to the faster-paced, older players, more skilled game, than their previous referee assignments - this has to happen to all of us at some point, as we advance; and 2, the AR wasn't 100% sure it was a spit until the players got closer, when he could now confirm with visual evidence)

The question, in one way, boils down to this: may a referee ever change an otherwise properly-awarded restart, if he discovers prior to the restart, there was a Foul (as well as misconduct) precipitating the "event" he stopped play for?

This scenario assumes the initial spitting occurred within the "2-3 seconds" for advantage; clearly, if the Initial foul was seen and ignored by both referees, or by either, after 3 seconds, there is no authority under TLOG to stop play for the FOUL (and "if no one saw it, it never happened").

I believe that both LOTG and SOTG lead one to the conclusion the ref ought to change his restart (it should now be DFK to attackers), and change the basis of his Red card to attacker from SFP to VC, while giving Defender his Red card for Spitting.

What is the correct restart here?

Answer (December 15, 2003):
ISSUE 1: The initial flag and stoppage of play were in error, as no infringement of Law 11 occurred. The referee determined only after play had been stopped that a player had left the field in an attempt to place the opposing player in an offside position. The player who left the field must be cautioned and shown the yellow card for unsporting behavior (committed off the field of play). The correct restart in this case is a dropped ball at the place where the ball was when play was stopped, keeping in mind the special circumstances described in Law 8.

The dropped ball restart is not because of an "inadvertent whistle" or, in this situation, the wrong belief that there was an offside violation, as might be the case with the "phantom" fullback, but because of the defender's misconduct committed _off_ the field. The fact that the reason for stopping play was invalid does not lock the referee into a dropped ball restart if he learns that, prior to stopping play, some other event -- foul or misconduct -- occurred.

Even if the referee and assistant referee had detected the player leaving the field before the AR raised the flag and the referee blew the whistle, the game would not have been stopped to punish him (in accordance with IFAB/FIFA Q&A 2000, Law 11, Q&A 3), but the player would have been cautioned when the ball next went out of play.

ISSUE 2: Although he should have done so, it makes no difference whether the AR signals for the spitting offense or not, so long as he informs the referee prior to the restart. As long as play has not been restarted, the referee may change his decision and award the foul and send off (red card) the defending player for spitting at an opponent. He must then send off and show the red card to the attacking player for violent conduct, rather than serious foul play. The correct restart is a direct free kick for the attacking player's team.


The Decisions of the IFAB for Law 12 go on at length - and we discuss it for way too long in the Introductory Class - regarding attempted trickery to circumvent the pass-back prohibition from a player to his 'keeper.

Does the same trickery concept also apply to a throw-in from player to team-mate who then heads the ball to his 'keeper? Until a week ago I would not have even thought to ask the question - assuming the answer to be "Yes - that trickery is also prohibited." But in an EPL game, I saw EXACTLY that play allowed by the referee. I was waiting for the whistle, the caution and the IFK but they never came. Play merely continued on with the 'keeper's punt. Is this one of those that they allow at that level but I have to enforce in my typical youth games? Or have I merely mis-extended the "trickery prohibition" into an area not so intended?

Answer (December 15, 2003):Yes, the same concept of "trickery" applies to the prohibition against the goalkeeper handling the ball directly from a throw-in by a teammate as for a ball played from a teammate's foot during play. However, the likelihood of trickery on a throw-in is probably much lower, given the nature of the play.

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 the case of throw-in _directly_ to the goalkeeper, the referee would not consider as trickery any sequence of play that offers a fair chance for opponents to challenge for the ball before it is handled by the goalkeeper. The same would be true for a throw-in redirected by a teammate of the goalkeeper.


Sometimes when calling obstruction or dangerous play it can be confusing which team is getting the indirect free kick. For example the blue team player plays in a dangerous manner and the referee blows the whistle. If the referee immediately raises his arm to signal indirect free kick both teams may not know who gets the kick. If the referee raises his arm giving a direction of the kick, then raises his arm up to indicate indirect, some players may think the kick is direct because they took the restart very quickly and everyone missed the indirect signal from the referee.

Anyway what is the correct procedure for the referee signaling for obstruction and dangerous play to properly inform everyone which team takes the kick and that the kick is indirect?

Answer (December 15, 2003):
And lo, in addition to whistle and hands, the referee has a tongue and a voice, and is able to inform the players through the use of them.

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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