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June 2008 Archive (III of IV)


NOTE (June 13, 2008):
Offside: Defender Off the Field
By now, many of you have seen and/or heard about the controversial goal in the Holland vs. Italy match in Euro 2008 this past week. Despite its controversy, the referee team was correct in allowing the goal and in their interpretation of Law 11, Offside. Below, we will review the decision and explain why many announcers were doing the game a disservice by providing incorrect information to the fans. * The Situation
During a free kick by the Dutch team, the Italian goalkeeper pushes his own defender out of the way and off the field, where the defender and a Dutch attacker are both down. The Dutch attacker rises quickly and returns to the field. The Italian defender remains off the field. The ball is played away from the goal and is kicked back to a Dutch player who has the Italian goalkeeper between himself and the goal line and the Italian defender lying on the ground outside the field. The ball is crossed and redirected into the goal by the attacker.
Video Clip 5: Holland vs. Italy (25:17)
Review the video clip and ensure you clearly see the situation as it develops. At the end of the clip, there is a better graphical display of the position of the players. Then, ask yourself the question that follows below.
* The Question
Should the Dutch attacker who scored the goal have been called offside? He had only one opponent between himself and the goal line. There was an opponent lying on the ground just across the goal line.
* Clarification
If a defending player deliberately steps behind his own goal line in order to place an opponent in an offside position, the referee shall allow play to continue and caution the defender for deliberately leaving the field of play without the referee's permission when the ball is next out of play. That did not happen in this situation.
However, in this case the defender left the field of play as a result of being pushed aside by his goalkeeper. Players in either of these situations - whether they left the field during the course of play or stepped off to place an opponent in an offside position - are considered to be part of the game and thus accountable when determining offside position by their opponents. The only difference is how these players would be treated from a disciplinary point of view (no yellow card was warranted in this case).
* Summary There were two Italian defenders to be calculated into the equation, the goalkeeper and the player on the ground just outside the goal line. The referee's interpretation that the player off the field of play was still involved in the game was correct.
If this interpretation did not exist, then defending players would use the tactic of deliberately stepping off the field of play to put their opponents in an offside position and that is both unacceptable and counter to the Spirit of the Laws of the Game. Unless a player has the permission of the referee to be off the field (in the case of an injury), they are considered to be on it, involved in active play, and deemed to be part of the game.
The Law was applied correctly and the Dutch attacker was not in an offside position when his teammate passed the ball. Hence, the referee was correct in allowing the goal to be scored. The situation above raises many related questions regarding offside and defending players leaving the field. The following examines a few of these common questions and scenarios.
* Different Scenarios
1. The Italian defender left the field deliberately to place the Dutch attacker in an offside position

Play would continue and the defender would be cautioned at the next stoppage of play for leaving the field of play without the referee's permission.
Video Clip 6: Colorado at Kansas City - 2001
This video clip provides a visual example of scenario 1 above in which a defender deliberately attempts to leave the field of play to place an opponent in an offside position. In this case, the defender would not be cautioned because he is not all the way off the field at the time the ball is played by the attacker. If he were fully off the field at the time of the initial shot/pass to goal, the referee would be required to caution the defender for leaving the field of play without the referee's permission. For further explanation of the events in this clip, referee to U.S. Soccer's August 23, 2001 position paper entitled, "Offside and Misconduct by a Defender." (Click on the link to access the paper)
2. The Dutch attacker pushed the Italian defender thereby forcing him off the field of play
Play would be stopped for the foul committed by the Dutch attacker against the Italian defender. The restart would be a direct free kick for the defending team from the place of the infringement, keeping in mind the special circumstances involving offenses within the goal area.
3. While off the field of play, the Dutch attacker, as he was getting up after having fallen, held down the Italian defender
Play would be stopped; the Dutch attacker would be cautioned for unsporting behavior and the game would be restarted with a dropped ball at the place where the ball was when play was stopped.
4. While off the field of play, the Italian defender held down the Dutch attacker
The referee would invoke the advantage and play would continue. At the next stoppage the referee would caution the Italian attacker for unsporting behavior.
5. The Italian defender is clearly injured and off the field of play
The referee makes a decision that the defender is seriously injured and cannot return to play by himself. Once the referee has acknowledged the seriousness of the injury, the player may not participate in the play and must not be considered to be in active play (at this point, he would not be considered in determining offside position and should not be considered in the equation as either the first or second last opponent). For purposes of Law 11, the defender is considered to be on the goal line for calculating offside position. This player, however, may not return to play without the referee's permission. Remember, the referee is instructed in Law 5 to stop the game only for serious injury.
* Other References
U.S. Soccer has published "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game." Within this publication, refer to sections: 11.8, 11.9, 11.10, and 11.11.

The entire item, including URLs for the two video clips, can be found at



Can a shinguard be used as an arm protector? I saw that in a U13 girls game and the referee said it was OK because the shinguard did not have any metal in it.

Answer (June 12, 2008):
A shinguard is meant to protect the shins. However, even faster players, who are able to pass their opponents, are not allowed to wear them on their calves, the back of the shin, to protect them from the rear. Shinguards are meant to be worn to protect the shin, not the arm, where they are more likely to be used as a weapon.

NOTE: We apologize to the person who asked this question; we have lost his e-mail address and could not respond directly.



This situation happened in a U16 girls semi final match. The offensive player was fouled in the penalty area and a penalty kick was awarded. The teams lined up for the kick. The player taking the kick then took the kick before the referee blew his whistle. The keeper saved the shot. Then the referee decided that since he did not blow his whistle the kick should be retaken. The same kicker then again took the kick before the referee blew his whistle and missed the shot wide. The kicker was then given a yellow card. The referee then allowed the team to retake the kick again. The team switched kickers, waited for the whistle and scored on the third attempt. The game ended 1 to 0.

Should this team been allowed to continue to infringe on the rules and still be allowed to take the kick over and over?

Also should the team have been allowed to switch kickers?

Answer (June 12, 2008):
In most cases, infringements of Law 14 occur only between the referee's signal for the restart and the ball being kicked and put into play properly. Violations of the Law prior to the referee's signal are handled the same as any other misconduct occurring while the ball is not in play.

The referee dealt correctly with the player who kicked the ball twice before the referee had blown the whistle: first a warning, then a caution, each followed by a retake of the penalty kick.

The team is allowed to change kickers if the kick is being retaken.



I was refereeing a U9 Boys game and the ball was in the penalty area. One defender decided to go around the back of the goal (leaving the field of play during play) to go to the other side of the field (rather than running across the field).

Is this a cautionable offense? During the game, I waited until the next stoppage and just told the players that they couldn't go behind the goal and run across. It was U9, so I thought a simple explanation/warning would suffice.

However, I was reading the ATR and it said that "if a player in possession of or contesting for the ball passes over the touch line or the goal line without the ball to beat an opponent, he or she is not considered to have left the field of play without the permission of the referee."

So, now I am wondering if my "warning" was correct. The player didn't really leave the field to commit trickery or force an offside call or anything, but just to beat an opponent (or 3). I always thought that players could go off for a second or two during the course of play, and this seemed to be an extreme. Now I'm not 100% sure. I just wanted to do a quick "double check" here.

Answer (June 10, 2008):
The intent of the Law is that players remain on the field while the game is underway. Avoiding an opponent by running outside the field and around the goal is inventive, but would not qualify within the Spirit of the Game. The player should be cautioned for deliberately leaving the field of play without the referee's permission.



I do not understand something in the MLS Lessons Learned for Week 9 of 2008. It contains instructions on Second Cautionable Offenses and Persistent Infringement. Part of it says that the player who repeatedly fouls a single opponent will be cautioned for persistent infringement. It then goes on to say that when a team 's members engage in a series of fouls against a single opponent, one after another, the final player who is called for this offense is cautioned not for persistent infringement but for unsporting behavior, and that unsporting behavior is reported in the match report as the reason for the caution. That seems strange. What's the deal here?

Answer (June 10, 2008):
The pertinent section in the memorandum ( reads:
Note: When a referee identifies a case of persistent infringement that falls under category 2 above ("Players who are repeated fouled"), the game report should list the caution as being issued for "unsporting behavior." This should be the case as this is more of a philosophical approach to persistent infringement.

From this we learn that a player who personally persists in infringing the Law by fouling one or more opponents is cautioned for persistently infringing the Laws of the Game. However, the player who is the final person in a series of fouls against a single opposing player has committed only the single foul against this person and may not be cautioned for persistently infringing the Laws of the Game. Instead, that player is cautioned for unsporting behavior and that is how the caution is reported.



Today I was refereeing a recreational game. There was a throw-in where the thrower essentially spiked the ball hard just inside the field of play (it bounce 20 feet up). There was no player near by, however, I called an incorrect throw. Of course the Coaches complained.

The basis for my call was the guidance in the USSF "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game", section 15.3. However, at half-time, I looked again at the Rules of the Game booklet. It is silent on the spiking of the ball. With no mention in the Laws Booklet, I am inclined to not make such a call in the future.

Please Clarify whether spiking is really ever grounds for 'improper throw-in', and if so, why and under what circumstances.

Answer (June 10, 2008):
While the act spiking the ball is not mentioned in the Laws of the Game, it is traditionally forbidden because putting the ball in that manner is disrespectful of the Game and of the opponents. It attracts attention to the player and brings the game into disrepute.



You blow your whistle for the start of the game (kickoff) and before the attacking team takes the kick, a defender encroaches into the center circle. You blow your whistle again and instruct the attacking team to re-take the kickoff. However, before you do so, the defender uses obscene language and you send him off. Should the defending team play short or not. My reasoning would be that the game officially starts when the ball legally moves forward and the defending team would be allowed to substitute for the player that was sent off.

Answer (June 10, 2008):
You are absolutely correct. Because the ball was not put into play properly before the misconduct occurred, the game has not started. As to what happens next, Law 3 tells us: "A player who has been sent off before the kick-off may be replaced only by one of the named substitutes."


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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