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Ask A Referee Update: March 30, 2010


I have a question concerning when a player, who has been instructed to leave the filed by the referee for an equipment problem, can return to the field. LOTG law 4, page 19 states that the player can only re-enter the field when the ball is out of play. Advice to referees, par 4.6 page 20 states that the player can re-enter the field when the ball is in play as long as the player enters from the touchline. I don't understand what to do if faced with this situation.

Answer (March 25, 2010):
Several years ago the Federation decided to support a slight divergence between itself and FIFA on this matter, based on a related instruction from FIFA which emphasized the importance of bringing teams back to their full strength as quickly as possible when one of the players was off the field, without substitution, for an injury and, in such cases, the referee could beckon that player to return to the field during play rather than having to wait for a stoppage. Your question inspired us to revisit the matter. The result is that as of this date Advice 4.6 has been amended to read as follows (all original text following the first paragraph remains as it was):

Instructing a player to leave the field to correct an illegal uniform or equipment does not require a report by the referee as this is not a "send-off" for misconduct. The inspection to confirm that the correction has been made is conducted by the referee or, if delegated by the referee in the pregame conference, by the fourth official or an assistant referee if a fourth official has not been appointed. The player must receive a signal from the referee before actually re-entering the field and may do so only during a stoppage.


At our USSF recertification class we were instructed that we now have up to six or seven restarts to "take a missed call back" to the original foul. Example given at class - Assistant Referee signals offside on white & center referee does not see nor acknowledge the offside call due to lack of focus. The AR maintains his/her position of offside during which time 1.)a goal kick took place for red, 2.) then a direct kick for white 3.) a throw-in for red 4.) PK for red resulting in a score 5.) ensuing kickoff 6.) ball out of bounds; at which point center referee now notices the AR still at attention for the original offside 6 restarts past. We were told the Referee should honor the call by the AR and award an IFK to the red team for the original offside infraction. I would not want to be the center referee in that game! Then a few weeks later this situation occurred at the college level. While there were only three restarts in between, the referee went back to the original call by the AR. Seems like a powder keg to me.

Answer (March 22, 2010):
You are absolutely correct. The Federation has never issued any instruction that ARs keep their flag raised through up to six or seven restarts. The Federation's guidance has been published in the Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game. Here is a quote from the 2009/2010 edition:

If the assistant referee signals a ball out of play but the referee does not see the signal for an extended period, during which play is stopped and restarted several times, the assistant referee should lower the flag. The FIFA Referee Committee has declared that it is impossible for the referee to act on the assistant referee's signal after so much play.

If the referee misses the assistant referee's signal for offside, the assistant referee should stand at attention with the flag raised until the defending team gains clear possession or until a goal kick or throw-in is awarded to the defending team.

Although the general rule is that a card for misconduct must be given at the next stoppage of play and that, if this does not occur, the opportunity to punish the misconduct has passed, the International Board's "Interpretations" section has stated that this does not apply to serious foul play. However, in order to make handling such incidents credible, certain conditions must apply. The most important requirement is that the assistant referee must have signaled the original misconduct and maintained the signal despite it not being seen by the referee. USSF has indicated that this requirement should be discussed thoroughly in the pre-game and that the referee should clearly indicate what sorts of misconduct would qualify for this treatment. The International Board spoke specifically of "serious foul play" but USSF guidelines include any form of violence (including "violent conduct"). If the referee becomes aware of the assistant referee's signal for misconduct at a subsequent stoppage of play, the restart (after the misconduct is handled) would remain the same based on what stopped play in the first place. If, upon becoming aware of an assistant referee's signal for misconduct, play is stopped solely for this reason, the restart is a dropped ball where the ball was when play was most recently stopped*.

To avoid such situations, the referee should make eye contact with the assistant referees as often as possible. In addition, the assistant referees must be alert for and mirror each other's signals if needed to assist the referee.

NOTE: The final sentence of the third paragraph of Advice 6.4 has been corrected to match equivalent information in Advice 5.13: The correct restart is a dropped ball, rather than the indirect free kick formerly included there. We apologize for the error, which did not in any way affect the misinformation that raised the original question.


Where online in can I order additional referee badges? Please give me the link.

Answer (March 22, 2010):

Otherwise call the USSF office at 312-525-1215.


A situation similar to this occurred during a recent match where I was an AR, and it got me thinking. On a corner kick, the blue team puts the ball into play and another blue player strikes a shot toward the goal. A red defender (not the goalkeeper), just in front of the goal line and between the posts, blocks the shot with his thigh, popping the ball into the air. Deciding that he has neither time nor space to play the ball legally, the red player then swats the ball away from the front of the goal with his hand. Assuming that the ball was either coming straight up or slightly back out away from the goal after contact with the red player's thigh, would this violation be punishable with a caution for USB and a PK restart, or would this be considered a continuation of the original shot and therefore be punishable with a send-off for DOGSO-H? I know that predicting how a ball might bounce is problematic, but would it make any difference if there was visible spin on the ball, suggesting that it would have spun itself into the goal if it had been allowed to hit the ground?

Answer (March 20, 2010):
No DOGSO-H here unless the referee can determine that, but for the the deliberate handling, whether the ball would have entered the goal.


In a recent professional match, a defender under pressure kicked the ball (with an indeterminate amount of deliberation) back toward his defensive penalty area. As his 'keeper was coming out to play the ball, the 'keeper seemed to make gestures that seemed to be asking the referee whether it would be permissible to play the ball with his hands (i.e., silently asking the referee whether this would be a "back-pass" infringement). It was not clear from the video whether the referee did pre-authorize the 'keeper to use his hands, but the 'keeper did so, and was not penalized for it.

In discussing this, some referees see no problem with this. Others suggest that the referee should not get involved in giving "extra help" in this fashion to either team. This seems qualitatively different than the verbal guidance that referees typically give to players who are close to the edge of an offense ("Stay off his back", or "Let go of the shirt"), in that it is asking prior permission to avoid an offense. For example, I believe that an assistant referee should not respond to a nearby attacker's query, "Am I offside?" before the player decides whether to chase a long pass - mainly because the AR can't determine that until the player actually makes chase.

Without criticizing the referee involved in this match (and, honestly, without knowing whether this referee did any such thing), what guidance does USSF give its referees on this issue?

Answer (March 19, 2010):
The decision as to whether a player deliberately kicked the ball to his/her goalkeeper or to a place where the goalkeeper could play it is up to the referee on the game.

As to "individual help," without having either seen the match or spoken with the referee, we cannot give you a definitive response. In general it is good for referees to speak with the players, but definitely not good to give advice on how to play. Giving advice would simply encourage the players to give the referee "advice" on how to referee -- and we get enough of that without soliciting it.


I was reffing a U-13/U-14 girls match and these girls kept going at it and i kept calling the fouls. Then about the fourth time the girl persistently infringed the laws of the game and the indoor rules so i issued a Blue card (2 minute warning with no subbing) and the coach got all upset and said "that's not how soccer is played you are wrong and its not a 2 minute and i should be able to sub" and i told him that, that's how the rules are here. He then kept going about and i gave him one last warning and about a few minutes later he was all upset about a tripping call, so i then stopped the match and ejected him from the field of play. Was this a right call??

Second.. The next week i refed his team again and the game was fine all but the last 10 minutes of the game. I issued one of his players a Blue Card and he got all upset that i gave a card. Then a few minutes later i gave both the "white" player and "Blue" player a yellow for checking into the boards and the Blue coach was still worked up about the call but i didn't eject him because there was only about 3 minutes left in the game so i just issued another warning and kept the game going. Was this the right call or should i have ejected him again??

Answer (March 18, 2010):
Your scenario presents some difficulties You say these girls "kept going at it." Does that mean both teams were playing the same way? Were they just playing physical soccer and can you look at what you're saying are infringements of the law as "trivial" and not needing to be called because that's the way both teams want to play? When it comes to game management, indoor is no different than the other games in soccer, if the players are playing hard, they all accept the contact and are not complaining, then the referee might want to adjust to how tightly the game is called. Always consider other "options" before you resort to using cards. In your first situation, if a player is truly blatantly and persistently infringing the indoor playing rules, the 2-minute blue card is an appropriate option. It sounds as if the coach needs to read the local indoor rules. From the sound of it, unless the coach is using foul or abusive language or directly affecting the game with his outbursts, you might want to ignore him or tolerate his lack of understanding of the local rules. Absent that, the appropriate way to give him a warning in indoor is a "bench warning." That's when, at a stoppage, you formally hold your arm up in the air with a closed fist, point to his bench, and say something like, "That's a bench warning" loudly enough for all to hear. Also inform them that further unacceptable outbursts will result in a Team Time Penalty. Now you have the option of giving a 2-minute Team Time Penalty against his team for his outbursts. You'll also want to take a few seconds to write it down on your match report before you proceed.

Next, before the next week's games, you should have notified your indoor assignor of the situation and tried to avoid working that same team again for a while. The blue card is probably correct, but remember to use your options and manage the game without cards where possible. If you gave the players from both teams the yellow cards during play, that was in error; you should have given blue cards to them instead of yellow. In indoor Yellow cards are issued for misconduct when the ball is not in play, or for things like Dissent, Encroachment or Delay of Game. Yellow cards are hard 5-minute penalties where the team doesn't play short-handed. The player in the penalty box can't leave after his 5 minutes until a guaranteed substitution occurs, and then he can only go to the bench, not directly to the field.

It sounds as if you handled the coach correctly the second week. Again, unless the coach is using foul or abusive language, or directly affecting the game, find a way to ignore his comments. It also sounds as if you're doing the games one man. If you're working a 2-man system, change sides with your partner so the coach can be managed by your partner since you saw him just the week before.


With the introduction of the third official sock design, what are the requirements for referees wearing matching socks.

I have been told conflicting things by assessors as to the socks matching. I understand at all high-level games the referees should match 100% (even style of jersey (new or old)), but for youth games, there are many times when the referees do not all have pairs that can match.

What is the official stance on socks?

Answer (March 18, 2010):
At the moment there is no official policy on this, but the rationale you have provided in your question is correct.


At the kick-off, how many players may stand in the center circle?

Answer (March 15, 2010):
As many members of the kicking team as can fit into their half of the center circle.


My son is a goalie on his team. At a particular game, we were playing during a rainy day. The white line on the 18 was not visibly able to be seen due to so much rain. He reached down and picked the ball up with his hands just past the 18 line. The ref gave him a red card and threw him out of the game saying that he tried to stop the other team from scoring a goal. It was a playoff game and he became very upset. Was the ref correct in giving him a red card?

Answer (March 12, 2010):
We cannot say that the referee's action was correct unless someone can answer the question, "But for the handling, would the ball have entered the net?"

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 Paul Tamberino, Director of Referee Development; David McKee, National Director of Assessment (assessment matters); Jeff Kollmeyer, National Instructor, indoor and Futsal; and Ulrich Strom, National Instructor and National Assessor (matters in general).

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