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April 2003 Archive (Part I of II)

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Your question:
I am a Grade 8 Referee registered with the USSF. I currently only referee youth games for our local youth soccer league. I am just a soccer dad trying to help the organization get going. I was told by another referee that I could not wear my black badge on my referee uniform (the badge that says 2003 referee USSF). He informed me that since these matches are not sanctioned by FIFA, I should not be wearing the badge? This seems sort of silly to me, because the same circle of information is on my right shoulder of my yellow referee uniform shirt. And if this is true, Is there a badge that would be okay to wear? I fell silly having a big Velcro circle on my left shirt pocket?? !!

USSF answer (April 22, 2003): The referee has a right to wear the USSF referee badge as long as he is registered for the current year and is not doing an unaffiliated or outlaw competition. If your local youth league is not affiliated, you should not wear the black USSF badge when working those games.

The symbol printed on your shirt does not signify registration with USSF; it indicates that the manufacturer, Official Sports International, Inc., is a sponsor of the USSF National Program for Referee Development.

Your question:
What are the dimensions of the 6 yard box?

USSF answer (April 22, 2003): The "six-yard box," also known as the goal area, measures six yards out along the goal line from the inside of each goalpost and six yards out from the goal line. That equals 6 plus 8 plus 6 yards long, 20 yards, by 6 yards yards wide.

Your question:
If a player who was on the field in the first half of play commits misconduct that requires a send off just after the teams line up for the second half and it is clear that the player who commited the misconduct will not start the second half as he has been substituted out, should his team play short?

Referees in unlimited-substitution games tend not to have a formal substitution at the outset of the second half. Instead of waving the players on the field they just enter - and I think I'm correct in the interpertation that once they get on the field the referee should count the sides and make sure everyone is eligible and commencing play is an accepted aknowlegment of player entry and substitution.

In the situation I described above, play has not been (re)started for the second half. Is the participant who was a player of record at the end of the half and who is sent off prior to the start of the second half still considered a player of record, or is it that when his replacement enters the Field of Play the player from the first half at that time ceases to be a player?

USSF answer (April 22, 2003): If the misconduct leading to the send-off/red card had occurred any time after the end of the half and before the start of the second half, the offending player's team would have to play the second half of the game shorthanded. In this case, even though the teams were already lined up on the field for the start of the second half and this player was now clearly a substitute, the team will have to play shorthanded, as the second half had not started.

Your question:
Can a player leave the field of play without the referee's permission in order to run back on the field to perform a goal kick?

This situation arose as follows: At a youth BU12 match, the defending team was awarded a goal kick. A player from the defending team placed the ball at one front corner of the goal area. Another player on the same team stood at the other front corner of the goal area. As soon as the ball was properly placed, the player at the other front corner of the goal area ran in a straight line toward the goal line, left the field of play by going over the goal line, continued running around the back of the goal net, then re-entered the field on the other side of the goal and ran up and kicked the ball for the goal kick. It appeared the obvious purpose of this u-shaped maneuver was to give the kicker a lengthy running start in order to possibly increase the distance of the kick. Can a player leave the field of play for this purpose and in this manner?

I am aware that a player can leave the field of play in order to play a ball that is "in play" - such as coming off the field at the touchline to play a ball rolling on the touchline. A player can also come off the field of play to avoid being offside. But in the situation described above, the ball was not "in play."

USSF answer (April 22, 2003): In the normal course of events, players are expected to remain on the field of play. However, they are allowed to leave the field to retrieve balls for restarts on the boundary lines (corner kicks and throw-ins), balls that left the field after fouls or misconduct, and to avoid opponents blocking their way or to get to the ball still in play, as well as to perform the restart itself.

In short, yes. But bear in mind that the referee could, under certain circumstances, consider this act of leaving the field for a goal kick to be a timewasting tactic and deal with it in that light.

Your question:
I assume that if player "A" takes a penalty kick, and the shot deflects back (either off the 'keeper or the post), and then player "A" touches the ball again, that this is not allowed (since the player taking the PK, can not be the first player to touch the ball). Is this correct, that he can NOT be the first player to play the ball after the deflection?? OR, if it deflects off the keeper, is player "A" then not considered the "first player to touch the ball after the kick", and therefore OK for player "A" to to play the ball??

Please clarify.

USSF answer (April 22, 2003): It is true that the original kicker cannot be the first player to play the ball after it is kicked, but nothing in the Law prevents the original kicker from playing a rebound from the goalkeeper. According to Law 14, the kicker "does not play the ball a second time until it has touched another player." The goalkeeper is considered a player, so the goalkeeper can also be "another player," thus allowing the original kicker to play a ball that rebounds from the goalkeeper.

Your question:
Law 8 states to determine which team kicks off a coin is tossed. Home or Visitor team making the coin toss call is not mentioned. Which team is to call flip of coin? I have visitor team call flip. In a game last week a referee had Home team call flip.

Please confirm.

USSF answer (April 18, 2003): It makes absolutely no difference who tosses the coin or calls heads or tails. The referee should bow to custom and usage in the culture in which he is working.

Your question:
I have a question about red cards. Say that someone in the match gets a red card. I understand that the referee sends the player off but, does this mean that there can be a substitution for this player? Or does this team play short for the rest of the match? Say there are multiple red cards does the team play short for as many cards there were?

USSF answer (April 17, 2003): Once a player has been sent off and shown the red card, the player's team must play "short" for the rest of the game. In other words, no, a player who has been sent off may not be substituted. And yes, a team must play one player short for each player sent off and shown the red card -- until the number of players goes below the normal limit, seven. Once a team is below the limit of seven, the referee will abandon the game.

Your question:
If a player intentionally strikes the ball with his/her shoulder, is this considered handling? In this instance, shoulder is defined as the area of the body between the collar bone and the top of the arm.

USSF answer (April 17, 2003): Given your definition of the shoulder, the answer is yes. You will find the information in the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game," sections 12.9-12.11:

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.).

The rule of thumb for referees is that it is handling if the player plays the ball, but not handling if the ball plays the player. The referee should punish only deliberate handling of the ball, meaning only those actions when the player (and not the goalkeeper within his own penalty area) strikes or propels the ball with his hand or arm (shoulder to tip of fingers).

Any use of the shoulder in playing the ball is considered as using the hand. This can mean that, even though the player leaves his hand/arm close to his body, he may have moved the body so as to strike or propel the ball with the arm or hand, and the referee must watch for actions of that sort. Propelling the ball forward using the front part of the shoulder is considered handling, even when the main area of contact between ball and body is the chest.

Your question:
[A coach asks:] What are the rules regarding Foul Language? A few years back I was told at a Referee seminar that the NCAA was "red carding" players for use of foul language. Is this true? I'm appalled at the leniency by referees to the use of profanity in the youth game. What are the actual rules??

USSF answer (April 17, 2003): Well, the U. S. Soccer Federation cannot speak for the college game (NCAA), but in the world game of soccer a player is sent off and shown the red card if he or she "uses offensive or insulting or abusive language and/or gestures." It should be no different in your state than in the rest of the world.

There is also a memorandum of 14 March 2003 on this matter, available for download on this site.

Your question:
On a corner kick, the goalkeeper comes out and catches the ball. After catching the ball in the field of pay and while keeping the ball in the field of play, ONE foot steps over the end line. the other foot is still in the field of play. Is the goal keeper inbounds or out of bounds. Similar questions, an offensive player while controlling the ball and while the ball is in the field of play steps over the touch line and back into the filed of play. Play continues or stops?

USSF answer (April 17, 2003): You ask whether the goalkeeper is "inbounds or out of bounds" but this is not the correct question. Frankly, the referee shouldn't really care if the goalkeeper is on or off the field, but only if the ball is on or off the field. Law 9 gives us a very simple test -- has the whole of the ball completely passed over the line?

In the same way and for the same reason, the referee doesn't care if a player steps partially, or even entirely, off the field during play if, in the opinion of the referee, such action was part of normal play. Again, we go to Law 9 for the answer. Play stops only if the ball leaves the field or if the referee stops play.

In short, a player is allowed to leave the field momentarily during the course of play if the situation requires it. A situation that would certainly require this would be playing the ball.

Your question:
I am now moving into centering more U16 and higher club matches, and I am having some second thoughts on calling the PK.

Early on, and I still tend to feel this way, I figured a foul should be a foul no matter where it happens - at center circle or in penalty area. As I have more games under my belt, I realize that the "lesser" or more trifling foul should not get the call in the penalty area. I am ok with that and understand entirely (I think). But a colleague stated that a National ref explained to him that a foul should be a FOUL! to get the PK call, since in awarding the PK we are basically giving the attacking team a goal. I don't know how comfortable I am with this, and since I'm not comfortable I'm asking. I guess I still lean toward the philosophy that a foul at midfield should be a foul in the penalty area. Two scenarios I have experienced or observed:
1. Player shoots from about 16 yards, ball goes straight to keeper. After shot, player is fouled ("sandwiched" by two defenders) and goes down. Foul was a good two steps after shot. (Gulp) I didn't call the PK. Should I have done so?
2. Player shoots while defender has a handful of jersey. No call. However, similarly severe jersey pulls were called outside of the penalty area. (I wasn't the ref this time)

What is your advice to a referee hoping to upgrade this summer?

USSF answer (April 17, 2003): Based on the scenario you described first, it would appear that a penalty kick would have been the appropriate decision -- a direct free kick foul was committed by a defender inside his penalty area (of course, we would "swallow our whistle" for a moment to see if the ball went into the net anyway). As for scenario 2, it would appear that a penalty kick call would NOT have been appropriate since, as you specifically note, the shirt pulling did not interfere with the opponent's ability to make a shot on goal. In this case, the holding was trifling and would not have been called at midfield any more than it should be called here. The "severity" of the holding (shirt pulling) is not the issue, the issue is what effect did it have.

A foul should be a FOUL anywhere to be called. If a "foul" is questionable, in other words, doubtful, then it should not have been called in the first place. The referee who wants a foul to be a FOUL is absolutely correct -- but we suspect that he falls into the trap that swallows many referees, wanting a foul to be something that probably goes beyond the "careless" level which is all the Law itself requires.

A foul in the penalty area must not be any different than a foul at midfield: they must both be fouls as defined in the Laws of the Game and emphasized in the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game":
A foul is an unfair or unsafe action committed by a player against an opponent or the opposing team, on the field of play, while the ball is in play. Deliberate handling of the ball is committed against the opposing team, not against a particular opponent. If any of these three requirements is not met, the action is not a foul; however, the action can still be misconduct.

Under the terms of Law 12, the word "deliberate" in the sense of deliberately committing a foul does not mean that the player intentionally set out to kick, push, trip, hold or otherwise foul his opponent. If that were so, the referee would have to be capable of reading a player's mind. Under Law 12, the referee makes a decision based upon what he sees a player actually do - the result of the player's action - not upon what he thinks is in the player's mind.

The only difference will be whether the foul is a foul punished by a direct free kick (or penalty kick if committed in the penalty area) or one punished by an indirect free kick.


Here is something where I would appreciate an official clarification:
In regards to your April 2 answer:


    I can't find this in the laws of the game or on the "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game" or any the other of the handbooks I have. What determines when the keeper is out of the penalty area and should be penalized for handling the ball? Is it the position of his feet or the ball crossing over the 18 yard line? If his foot is on the line but not over what is the call? What about one foot out and one foot in? I just want to be clear on what to look for?

    Answer (April 2, 2003):
    It makes no difference where the goalkeeper's body or feet are. The only significant factors are the position of the goalkeeper's hands and the position of the ball. If they are in contact simultaneously (and deliberately on the part of the goalkeeper) outside the penalty area, then the goalkeeper has broken the Law.

With the elimination of the steps, the frequency of keepers carrying the ball close to the edge, and to all appearances, beyond the bounds of the penalty area while releasing the ball into play, has increased substantially. Along with this has been an increase in assistants flagging such apparant breaches, overzealous referees awarding DFK's to the opponents, spectator unrest, and even cautions to keepers who apparantly cross the line once too many times. There seems to be some confusion.

Further, even amongst skilled and experienced referees with whom I have discussed this, on-line as well as off, with those whom I work and assign, there is disagreement. The disagreement stems not so much on how we handle it, since most would make no call, but on the technical aspect of the Laws.

My opinion, which, by the way is in the minority, is, since the keeper is entitled to handle the ball within his/her own penatly area, if while releasing the ball from his/her possession, the ball accidentally crosses out of the penalty area while in contact with the keepers hands, it is not an offense at all. It is not a deliberate breach of the laws, not to be confused with a keeper carrying the ball out of the penalty area prior to releasing it or deliberately handling the ball outside the PA, all of which would be fouls.

The opposing view is that if the ball passes fully outside the penatly area while in contact with the keepers hands, even if in the process of being released, it is a deliberate breach of the laws. The rational for not calling the offense is that it is trifling. The keeper should be warned, and if this persists, could even be cautioned.

My question, therefore, is: In your April 2 answer to 'KEEPER'S HANDS AND THE BALL, you said: "...(and deliberately on the part of the goalkeeper)." Does this mean that if, in the process of releasing the ball from his possession, the keeper accidentally handles the ball outside his/her own penalty area, that the keeper had not committed the offense of deliberate handling?

Further, what official guidance might be offered to assist referees and assistants in judging this?

Answer (April 10, 2003):
Some very wise words that were once in the Laws of the Game, Law V, International Board Decision 8, familiarly known as the "V8" clause, instructed referees that "The Laws of the Game are intended to provide that games should be played with as little interference as possible, and in this view it is the duty of referees to penalize only deliberate breaches of the Law. Constant whistling for trifling and doubtful breaches produces bad feeling and loss of temper on the part of the players and spoils the pleasure of spectators." These same words are preserved as an embodiment of the Spirit of the Game in the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game," section 5.5.

If the goalkeeper accidentally carries the ball over the line marking the penalty area while releasing it so that others may play it, this is a trifling infringement and the intelligent referee will overlook the matter. If the goalkeeper does it deliberately, the intelligent referee should first warn the goalkeeper and only stop play and award a direct free kick to the opposing team if it occurs again.


Here is a wacky set of circumstances that, unfortunately, decided a match and tournament championship against us last year. I never understood what happened and it's been gnawing at me ever since:

A youth (U12) girls tournament game:

  1. In a goal area scramble, opposition knocked down our keeper, who remained on the ground motionless.
  2. Roughly simultaneous to (1), the ball was cleared away from the goal.
  3. Opposition recovered the ball near the half line and renewed their attack.
  4. Referee did not notice the keeper down until the attack approached the goal along the end line.
  5. Referee stopped play and motioned the coach onto the field to help the keeper. Referee then asked the coach to carry the keeper off the field at the end line near the goal. The referee also told the coach that a substitution could be brought on from our bench.
  6. Coach assigned a field player to become keeper; that player began putting on keeper jersey while standing on the field of play.
  7. Referee quickly restarted with a drop ball on the 6 yd line, which was uncontested and was shot straight into an unguarded goal.
  8. Coach protested quick restart and the referee acknowledged that no substitution had yet occured from bench players (coach was assisting downed keeper off field). Referee appeared to decide to redo drop ball restart.
  9. After opposition bench protest, referee allowed goal and restarted with a kickoff.

    The opposition should kick the ball out of bounds; but youth players do not always recognize this convention. No law penalizes this if it does not occur, of course. A good referee should stop play earlier. But what should a referee do if the downed player is not seen until late as in this case?

    1. Should play be allowed to continue? (in youth matches the decision to stop play is acceptable for safety reasons)
    2. Can a referee "maneuver" to ensure that the drop ball be uncontested in front of the goal (ie make sure no defenders are nearby or aware of restart)? I know keepers are routinely given uncontested drop balls, perhaps this is the same?
    3. My biggest question: Can a referee restart before bench substitutions are made?
    4. Can a referee restart before a new keeper is ready? I assume this is at the discretion of the referee as long as the keeper has a different colored jersey and is on the field. Should the new keeper have changed her jersey off the field?

    This appeared to be horribly "unfair," but may have been within the laws of the game (perhaps not "law 18")? Or just an arbitrary unsupportable action by the referee? Your comments would be more than welcome.

Answer (April 10, 2003):
First let's clarify some erroneous assumptions that many people make:

  1. It is not always a foul if there is contact and a player, even the goalkeeper, goes down. The makers of the Laws have told us that soccer is a tough, combative sport - where the contest to gain possession of the ball should nonetheless be fair. They have also said that challenges to gain the ball, even when really vigorous, must be allowed by the referee -- as long as they are fair. Referees must strive to promote player safety, but not at the expense of fair play for all.
  2. There is no requirement in the Laws that the goalkeeper be on her feet during play -- or even on the field!

Another erroneous assumption is one we referees tend to make: that we are infallible. If only! The referee in this case made a number of mistakes.

Referee error 1: The referee should stop play for a player down ONLY if he believes that a player is seriously injured and needs to be removed from the field, but not otherwise.

Referee error 2 occurred next: Under the Laws of the Game, an injured goalkeeper may be treated on the field.) Once the referee has determined that the player must be removed from the field and has decided that a substitution may be made, as in this case, then he must wait until the substitute has entered the field and achieved a playing position. This is particularly true in the case of the goalkeeper.

Referee error 3 (at least in the vast majority of matches played in this country): No referee should ever make the mistake of ordering that an injured player be taken from the field without examination -- the referee invites a team official to make that evaluation. While we want to err on the side of player safety, we cannot forget the specter of litigation.

Referee error 4 was that the restart was not correctly taken. The referee should not have dropped the ball without the new goalkeeper in proper position. The correct decision in this case would have been to retake the dropped ball.

While it is tradition that the opponent in such cases kick the ball out of play, it is not required by the Laws. But there was a fifth referee error: There is no requirement in the Laws that a player from each team be present at the dropped ball; nor any player, for that matter. If necessary, the intelligent referee will work the dropped ball so that the appropriate team will receive the ball.


Player A punches Player B. Center sees it and issues red card. He looks to lead AR who indicates Player B did not start it. 20 minutes later, the trail AR ask why both players were not red carded as Player B threw the first punch. One of the higher up refs on a web site says to red card player B at the half and there's nothing you can do about the fact that 20 minutes have passed. To quote ATR the referee "is not obligated to take this action immediately, but MUST do so when the ball next goes out of play." Seems to me he can't issue a card 20 minutes later assuming the bal has gone out of play at least once before the half. Your take?

Answer (April 10, 2003):
Although a referee cannot rescind a caution/yellow card or send-off/red card once play has restarted, a referee may issue a caution/yellow card or send-off/red card immediately upon learning the facts from a neutral assistant referee or fourth official. Nevertheless, the Law is clear that, with one exception, every card must either be given at the time of the misconduct or no later than the very next stoppage. If the referee fails to give the card within these limits, the card cannot be given at all (though full details of the situation should be included in the match report). The exception is that a red card may be shown at any time prior to the end of a match if a player was given two yellow cards without the red card being shown and this fact is brought to the referee's attention by a neutral official.


in a previous question: Marking vs. Impeding the G.K the USSF reply on April 1, 2003: "Overall, not necessarily relative to this one particular situation but during the normal course of play, what I read into this is that USSF is telling me that if an attacking player is impeding (shielding the ball) the defender is allowed to make contact with the back of the shoulder blade in an attempt to play the ball. Yes, No, Maybe???

In this case it is allowed to charge the shoulder blade of the shielding attacker. In another question "What contact allowed when a player is shielding the ball" the answer 3/27 is "Nor may the opponent charge the player in the back". Is it really possible for the ref to distinguish between shoulder blade push and back push?

Answer (April 10, 2003):
Yes, we expect referees to know the difference between a fair charge (defined below in an excerpt from the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game") and serious foul play, a charge in the middle of the back.

    12.5 CHARGING
    The act of charging an opponent can be performed without it being called as a foul. Although the fair charge is commonly defined as "shoulder to shoulder," this is not a requirement and, at certain age levels where heights may vary greatly, may not even be possible. Furthermore, under many circumstances, a charge may often result in the player against whom it is placed falling to the ground (a consequence, as before, of players differing in weight or strength). The Law does require that the charge be directed toward the area of the shoulder and not toward the center of the opponent's back (the spinal area): in such a case, the referee should recognize that such a charge is at minimum reckless and potentially even violent. It is a violation of Law 12 to perform an otherwise fair charge against an opponent who is already being fairly charged by another player. Such an action is at minimum a careless challenge. It is also holding and is commonly referred to as a "sandwich."


We played a game that began raining in the first half. during the half it was coming down very heavy. The ref instructed me that the field was playable and we would continue on. The opposing coach refused to play his team due to the rain and pulled them off the field. The ref then called the game. The ref informed me that the other coach did not want to play and the game would end in a 0-0 tie.

My question is, If the ref declares the game playable, should this not result in a forfeit to the opposing team?

Answer (April 10, 2003):
If a game is abandoned or terminated before it is completed, the determination of the result is up to the competition authority (league, cup, tournament). In most cases, competitions declare that if a full half has been played, the result stands, but that does not apply to all competitions. The referee does not have the authority to declare what the score is or who has won the game. The referee's only recourse is to include in his game report full details of what caused the match to be abandoned or terminated.


A goalkeeper standing in his penalty area strikes an opponent who is off the field of play. After dismissing the GK for VC, what is the restart if this occurred during play? In a similar scenario, the GK leaves the field of play to strike an opponent. What is the restart? What if the GK leaves the field of play to strike a spectator?

Answer (April 10, 2003):
Because the misconduct occurred off the field, if the ball was still in play when the referee stopped play for the violent conduct, the restart would be a dropped ball at the place where the ball was, bearing in mind the special circumstances described in Law 8. If the ball was already out of play, the restart must be appropriate to the reason the ball was out of play. The referee would, of course, send off the goalkeeper for violent conduct and show him the red card.


I have been in soccer for many years, first as a player later as a team coach and finally as a referee, in all these years I make the same question to any buddy who know about soccer rules.

The law book (Law 4) read: "A player must not use equipment or wear anything which is dangerous to himself or another player (Including any kind of Jewelry" However I see that many players in the big ligs (MLS, Mexican, Europe etc.) wear jewelry and taping earrings during the games, my question is, the referees that work these games belong to a different FIFA group? why these referees allowed these players play with jewelry? As you may know, the job of the referees is very difficult, and for those of us at the amateur level it is very hard to explain to the young players why they cannot wear jewelry when the FIFA referees in these games continue to permit the players to do so.

I hope that in the future FIFA, USSF and the other federations take a good look at this situation and enforce the rule at all levels.

Answer (April 10, 2003):
The U. S. Soccer Federation has made its position clear to all referees, from those at the top of the ladder to those just starting out: NO JEWELRY!

Here is an answer to a similar question, provided on April 2, 2003:

    Law 4 - The Players' Equipment states very firmly in its very first paragraph: "A player must not use equipment or wear anything which is dangerous to himself or another player (including any kind of jewelry)." This means that all items of jewelry are normally considered dangerous. There are only two permissible exceptions to the ban on jewelry: medicalert jewelry that can guide emergency medical personnel in treating injured players and certain religious items that are not dangerous and not likely to provide the player with an unfair advantage.

    Taping earrings should not be permitted by any referee, as there is still the danger of injury to the player. Taping does not negate "must not . . . wear. . . any kind of jewelry."

In addition, all referees affiliated with U. S. Soccer must follow the guidance of the Federation, published in March of this year, regarding player equipment/jewelry:

    To: Referees Officiating Professional Matches
    All Affiliate Members
    National Referee Instructors and Trainers
    National Assessors
    From: Alfred Kleinaitis
    Manager of Referee Development and Education
    Subject: Law 4, Players' Equipment (Jewelry)
    Date: March 17, 2003

    Law 4 (The Players' Equipment) states very clearly that "A player must not use equipment or wear anything which is dangerous to himself or another player (including any kind of jewelry)." In addition, FIFA included in the 2002/2003 edition of the Laws of the Game a section on "Additional Instructions for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials" in which this requirement is further emphasized: "Referees are reminded that, in accordance with Law 4, players may not wear any kind of jewelry." Referees officiating in professional matches must ensure that this clear restriction is properly enforced.

    USSF reaffirms its advice to referees that jewelry worn solely for medical purposes may be permitted but only if, in the opinion of the referee, the item is not dangerous. Such items can often be worn safely if appropriately taped. Additionally, for married players, a wedding ring may also be permitted if it does not include any dangerous projections. An item of jewelry permitted by the referee under these provisions must have been carefully inspected prior to the commencement of the match.

    The match must not be permitted to start with any player wearing illegal equipment or apparel, including jewelry. Players who insist on retaining such items will not be permitted to participate in the match. Any player who, having been instructed to correct illegal equipment, nevertheless attempts to participate in play without having made the correction is subject to being cautioned for dissent.

    The referee, assistant referees, and the fourth official all share in the responsibility to enforce the clear requirements of Law 4 related to jewelry and are advised to discuss in their pregame meeting specific measures each will take to ensure compliance prior to as well as throughout the match.

    Cc: Chair, State Referee Committee, State Directors of Instruction, State Directors of Assessment, State Referee Administrators, State Youth Referee Administrators

It doesn't get any clearer than that.


how many minutes in a quarter foR u-8?

Answer (April 10, 2003):
U-8s play four 12-minute quarters in small-sided games. If they play other than small-sided games, the time in the periods is up to the competition.



  1. There are strong opinions has to whether it is acceptable to end a game during a dead ball interlude. To wait until a player completes a thrown in or launches a goal kick in order to blow the game over seems to be silly and not keeping in the spirit of added time which makes up for lost time for pauses in the game above and beyond reasonably paced restart efforts.
  2. There are strong opinions as to whether it is acceptable to end a game by a very strict adherence to a fixed time so that in between the time a ball is struck and it enters the goal, and the referee determines that full time has been played, he/ she can state that the game is over and the goal is not counted. Some referees feel that there is an unofficial prerogative to allow a direct attack on goal to play out fully before the whistle blows. I know that when full time is over,it is over, but please elaborate.

Please provide your thoughts and the official positions in both cases.

Answer (April 9, 2003):
There is no set or particular moment to end a game. Law 5 empowers the referee to act as timekeeper and to keep a record of the match. Law 7 instructs the referee to add time (at his discretion) for time lost in either half of a game or in any overtime period for the reasons listed in Law 7 (Allowance for Time Lost). Referees allow additional time in all periods for all time lost through substitution(s), assessment of injury to players, removal of injured players from the field of play for treatment, wasting time, as well as "other causes" that consume time, such as kick-offs, throw-ins, dropped balls, free kicks, and replacement of lost or defective balls. Many of the reasons for stoppages in play and thus "lost time" are entirely normal elements of the game. The referee takes this into account in applying discretion regarding the time to be added. The main objective should be to restore playing time to the match which is lost due to excessively prolonged or unusual stoppages. Law 5 tells us that the referee's decisions regarding facts connected with play are final.

Some referees will end the playing period while the ball is in play and there is no threat to either goal, such as allowing a team to take a goal kick and then ending the period. Others will end the playing period at a stoppage. Our advice is to do what is comfortable for you, the referee, and fair to the players.


With the attacker A, running down the middle behind the last defender, his team mate makes a long throw-in. Before the ball reaches attacker A from the throw-in, the defender B catches up and attempts gain control of the ball. However, being a little late, the ball glances off defender B, and reaches attacker A, who is still in an offside position.

What is the call?

  1. No offsides since the offside position is allowed at throw-ins, when received directly.
  2. Offsides is the call, since when the defender touched the ball, the attacker was in an offsides position, and since the attacker had not received the ball directly from the throw-in.

Does the call change if the one who deflects the ball to the attacker A in an offside position, is his own teammate, who was also in an offside position at time of the throw-in?

Answer (April 9, 2003):
First the vocabulary lesson, then the answer. There is no such word or condition as "offsides" in soccer. The word is "offside." The other word is used in the game played with the pointy ball.

There can be no offside in this situation. At a throw-in it makes no difference if the ball deflects off an opponent. This is treated as if the ball had come directly to the person in the offside position. (If it had deflected off a teammate, then offside would come into consideration.)


I played in a match yesterday and had a questionable call made in the game, FIFA rules do not state whether or not this is the case or not so I have to ask you. Substitution was made and as the player was coming off the field and arrived at the touch line, he received a red card. Does the team go down to 10 men after that? In my opinion that is the case, the same as if he was actually on the field. They continued with the full sqaud of 11.

Answer (April 9, 2003):
In all cases, the player who was being substituted out will be sent off (for whatever serious misconduct he committed) and shown the red card. If the referee and assistant referee or fourth official followed the requirements in Law 3 for substitution, in other words, if the new player (to be substituted in) had not yet entered the field, then the substitution was not completed. If the substitution was not completed, his team must then play short. The game restarts for the reason it had been stopped prior to the substitution.


During the Manchester United VS Real Madrid Match Manchester Uniteds keeper deliberately handled the ball outside of his penalty area but did not prevent a goal scoring opputunity as he handled the ball just outside the right corner of his penalty area preventing the ball from going out for a goal kick and there was no opposition within 10-20 yards. The commentators where saying that he should have been sent off and I just want to know what apart from a direct free kick from where he handled the ball should be done.

Answer (April 9, 2003):
Caveat: The U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) does not presume to tell the referees of other national associations how to referee the game. This answer would apply to a game played under the auspices of the USSF.

If the goalkeeper did not deny the opposing team a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity when he handled the ball, then nothing else should have been done -- provided the referee did indeed award the opposing team a direct free kick from the place where the goalkeeper deliberately handled the ball outside his penalty area.

It is unfortunate that many commentators, no matter their nationality, are not well aware of the Laws of the Game and their proper application.


A scenario was presented in a class module titled "Refereeing for the Good of the Game." The purpose for the class is to provide referees with tools/ideas to keep the game going without being too stuck on being a "by the Book" referee.

Attacking player Red at 10 yards in front of the attacking goal, shoots on goal. Defender, fullback, Blue, in haste and under pressure from a second Red attacker, within the goal area at 3 yards in front of the mouth of goal, deliberately kicks the ball to the Goalkeeper, not too far away, but also in front of the mouth of goal at 3 yards distance. The GK handles the ball. Referee stops play for GK handling the ball on a deliberate kick to the GK by a teammate, awarding an IFK, arm raised up. The Goalkeeper (being the gentleman that he is) drops the ball at said spot (3 yards in front of the mouth of goal) and retreats. Red attackers 1 & 2 quickly approach the ball for a quick kick. One touches, the other kicks the ball over the goal line wide of the goal. All the players, Red and Blue, prepare for a goal kick restart.

The positioning or actions of the referee are not mentioned at all in this scenario other than what is written above.

My question: Does, or may, the referee allow the Red's IFK quick kick, from three yards in front of the attacking goal, that went wide of the goal to remain, then restarting with a goal kick? This will keep the flow of the game continuing on without bringing players back to do it again.

Or does the referee have the IFK retaken at the appropriate spot on the goal area line closest to the point where the GK handled the ball? This will ensure that the ball is properly put into play.

Answer (April 9, 2003):
The game was restarted improperly. Place the ball at the appropriate spot, as indicated in your question, and retake the indirect free kick. Read into this answer a condemnation of the referee for not being on the spot to ensure a correct restart in the first place.


We had a situation on Saturday that I would like to run by you. One of our kids made a shot at the goal. The goalie trapped the ball, but then he reached out with both hands to grab an opposing player running by. Luckily he missed. My question is, had he been able to grab the kid . . . what, if any, penalty could have been called?

Answer (April 9, 2003):
If the goalkeeper had actually done this, laying hands on the opponent within the goalkeeper's penalty area, the referee would have had no recourse but to award the opposing team a penalty kick.


I was a center at at U12G game with real ARs. There were about 2 minutes left in a 1-1 game. I was standing at the upper left corner of the penalty area and the AR was to my right at the corner on the end line. A player took a shot which the goalie caught and took a step backwards. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the AR quickly raise his flag and immediately take it down. I then turned my attention away from play (the goalie was running out to punt the ball downfield) and watched him run upfield. Upto that point, we did not have eye contact. There was quite a bit of controversy from the sidelines as to the fact the goalie had brought the ball back into the goal, completely crossing the goal line (how people at the center stripe could see that when I couldn't is beyond me, but spectators are always right .) Since play was continung, I assumed that the AR was moving upfield since the ball was punted away (all this took place in 5-6 seconds). I didn't feel that I could stop play since I wasn't convinced a goal had been scored.

The game ended 2 minutes later in a chorus of controversy. Not withstanding the fact that USSF teaches ARs to raise the flag and move upfield as a signal for a disputed goal), I felt that the AR should have stayed in place with the flag raised until I made eye contact and perhaps then run upfield. If I had seen the AR standing in place, I would have realized what had happened and stopped play at that point. To me, this would have been no different than the situation on a goal being scored and the AR calling offsides.

Upon speaking to the senior referee of our league, he felt that the AR did the right thing. His concern was that if the AR had stood there, I could have interpreted that as an offsides call. My response was that context is important here. There were defenders standing on the goal line and there couldn't be offsides.

Obviously, at least to me there needed to be some unusual action. So what is the real story here? I realize that USSF teaches that AR signals should be subtle, but in some cases, it seems to me that signals should not be subtle.

Answer (April 7, 2003):
This issue is not a disputed goal but a goal which has been scored despite the appearance of players continuing to play the ball. Nowhere in your scenario did you indicate whether you had discussed the situation with the assistant referee (AR) in question. Not having this information, we can only speculate.

First, the correct signal for a ball into goal and then pulled back into play is as you described it -- the AR stands with his flag up, makes eye contact with the referee, and then moves upfield to indicate a good goal.

Your presumption about what the AR should have done is misleading, however. The AR standing with the flag up in the air is only asking for the referee's attention -- a sort of "Hey, ref!" signal. The eye contact is the referee's answer -- "Yeah, what is it?" It is what comes next that is important. Offside could be signalled, but so could a foul or misconduct, a throw-in, a goal kick, a corner kick, or, as here, a goal. If a goal had been scored by an attacker in an offside position, the signal by the AR would have been completely different than what the AR did in this case.

The problem that occurred here is that, from your point of view, the AR did not wait for eye contact before running upfield. However, you say you saw the flag go up and should have wondered why the AR would do this and then run upfield. On the other hand, you did say that you saw the flag go up and thus, presumably, the AR saw you see this -- this might have, in his mind, constituted the requisite eye contact and thus his actions were perfectly understandable and, from his point of view, correct.

The entire scenario should be taken as an object lesson for referees and assistant referees to slow things down a bit and make their actions more deliberate. There are few things that can happen on a soccer field, from the referee's point of view, which are so critical that good decisionmaking couldn't be made better by waiting a second or two.


Which is the best position in corner-kick in your opinion for the referee?

Answer (April 7, 2003):
There is no "best" position for the referee at a corner kick. Proper positioning must be intelligent and flexible, allowing the referee to see what is going on at the restart. Some referees will position themselves near the goal post, while others will take up a position nearer the corner of the penalty area, 14-17 yards from the goal line. It is a matter of "reading" what is going on in the game and preparing for it. It also involves proper use of the assistant referee at that end of the field. It is also advisable to vary your position throughout the game so that players cannot predict where you will be and thus "hide" violations from you.


As I understand it, the modified LOTG for small-sided soccer games where there is no goalie indicate that all free kicks are indirect. Is it necessary to give the IFK signal for every free kick, or what would the proper signal be?

Also, since there are no DFK's is it correct to assume that no goal can be scored directly from a goal kick or kickoff?

Answer (April 7, 2003):
Although it is not stated specifically, under small-sided rules the kick-off is treated as an indirect free kick, just like all the other kicked restarts (including the corner kick). For the education of the players, and to remind the referee, give the indirect free kick signal at every kicking restart.


Team A is attacking, B is defending. B has used the quick offside trap to catch attackers off guard several times (by quick I mean stepping forward right before a pass is made to place their opponent offside). Team A catches on to the tactic and purposely leaves a man in line with defenders to be placed offside. Team B, seeing the "decoy," prepares to step forward and put him offside. Sure enough, Team A player makes motion to pass to the potential offside player, prompting Team B to move forward, only this time faking the pass and dribbling full sprint past the defenders who are expecting the offside call and moving in the wrong direction.

Does the use of this decoy still constitute involvement and thus offside (without him in the picture the defenders would not step forward, instead collapsing on the attacker), or is this just another smart and sneaky tactic that makes soccer enjoyable?

Answer (April 7, 2003):
Yes, this is one of those smart and sneaky tactics that are both legal and enjoyable to watch. The only way to win is to score.


Can you please provide me with the measurements of the team technical areas and the 4th official "area"?

Answer (April 7, 2003):
The information you seek on the technical area is in the Laws of the Game:

    The Technical Area

    The technical area described in Law 3, International F.A. Board Decision no. 2, relates particularly to matches played in stadia with a designated seated area for technical staff and substitutes as shown below.

    Technical areas may vary between stadia, for example in size or location, and the following notes are issued for general guidance.

  • The technical area extends 1 m (1 yd) on either side of the designated seated area and extends forward up to a distance of 1 m (1 yd) from the touch line.
  • It is recommended that markings are used to define this area.
  • The number of persons permitted to occupy the technical area is defined by the competition rules.
  • The occupants of the technical area are identified before the beginning of the match in accordance with the competition rules.
  • Only one person at a time is authorized to convey tactical instructions and he must return to his position after giving these instructions.
  • The coach and other officials must remain within the confines of the technical area except in special circumstances, for example, a physiotherapist or doctor entering the field of play, with the referee's permission, to assess an injured player.
  • The coach and other occupants of the technical area must behave in a responsible manner.

There is no defined area for the fourth official, other than between the two technical areas, where the fourth official can carry out his or her defined duties.


Our Club uses referees for U-5 and U-6 games mainly as a training ground. No official score is posted for these games. I understand that many young children have not mastered complete physical control of their legs and arms, and that most of the time their games are what we normally refer to as "mob ball", so there are many accidental falls, trips, etc.

Do you have any advice on how fouls should be called for these games? For instance, at these ages, an opposing player might accidentally kick an attacker in the shin guard or trip him while trying for the ball. I want to be objective, but it can be difficult when parents are screaming at you because their child is laying on the field after a fall.

In other words, does a foul need to be intentionally committed for play to be stopped?

Answer (April 7, 2003):
The referee is always given the discretion to determine what is a foul and what is not, no matter what the level of play. In youth play the referee should strive "to keep the playing environment FUN, SAFE and focused on the child." Youth soccer at the youngest ages is an educational experience, not simply a game, and the players need to learn in a civilized way what they can and cannot do. If the referee, whether a registered referee, a team official, or a parent/coach, coordinator, manager, or observer, stops "play for a foul or other reason, he or she must take the time to explain to the players WHY!

All referees need to remember that "intent" is not an issue in deciding what is or is not a foul, regardless of age, and that something at the youngest age levels might nonetheless be considered a foul if it is determined to be careless. U-5/6 is not too young to begin learning not to be careless.


I would like clarification on when the official must blow his whistle on an offside call. We were playing a game and there was an offside call the ball went to the keeper and play probably should have gone from there, instead the referee awarded the indirect kick without blowing the whistle to stop play. Is this the correct procedure or do you have to blow the dead before awarding the free kick.

Answer (April 7, 2003):
The referee must signal a decision to stop play in some way. This is usually done with the whistle. The signal should occur soon after the referee has made the decision to stop play (which is the actual moment when the infringement is called). The referee sends the message from brain to hand and mouth, and then blows the whistle or makes some other signal announcing the decision.


Two questions for you.

  1. In a recent game I was the AR. A player was deliberately fouled over the goal line (off the pitch) in retaliation for a previous foul the referee chose to ignore. The referee gave the red card and sent the player off. What is the correct restart in this situation? I thought it would be a goal kick (since it was misconduct off the pitch and the restart was a goal kick anyway), he did a DFK from the goal line (outside of the 6 yard line) where the incident occurred. Who was correct?
  2. When a pass is deliberately played to the GK and he plays it with his hands the correct restart is a IFK. But from where? The place where it was played to the GK or where the GK handles the ball?

Answer (April 7, 2003):

  1. An infringement of Law 12 that occurs off the field of play cannot be classified as a foul. It is misconduct. The referee was correct in sending off the player and showing the red card, but the restart was certainly incorrect. If the ball was still in play when the referee stopped play for the misconduct, then the correct restart would have been a dropped ball at the place where the ball was when play was stopped.
  2. As you state, the restart in this case is an indirect free kick. According to Law 12, the indirect free kick is taken from where the offense occurred. The offense occurs, according to the Law, where the goalkeeper "touches the ball with his hands after it has been deliberately kicked to him by a team-mate." (If this occurs within the goal area, the kick is taken at the point on the goal area line parallel to the goal line nearest to the place where the goalkeeper touched the ball.


I had a coach who said he had been a State referee for twenty years tell me there was a rule change on throw-ins when the ball does not enter the field. He claims possession changes if the ball does not enter the field. I explained the ball is not in play if it does not enter the field. The team awarded the throw keeps possession.

Has there been a change and if so what is it?

Answer (April 7, 2003):
Well, the coach and self-proclaimed "State referee" is wrong. He is referring to a change in the high school rules two or so years ago. This rule does not apply to the rules of any game of soccer played under the auspices of the United States Soccer Federation and using the Laws of the Game.


Recently we were at a game where both sideline judges were fathers of boys on the opposing team. Offsides was called by the sideline judges against our team. Several parents stated that they thought this wasn't allowed since the sideline refs were 'bias' by relationship default. Is this true?

We lost a great goal and the game (due to this call in particular) and the game was particularly rough on and by a couple players.

Answer (April 7, 2003):
Where neutral assistant referees are not available, the referee may use club linesmen, such as the parents you describe in your question. Club linesmen must remember, and the referee must make it clear, that the decision of the referee is final and must not be questioned. The relationship of club linesmen to the referee must be one of assistance, without undue interference or any opposition. Club linesmen are to signal only when the ball is entirely over the goal line or touch-line. In other words, no assistance on offside. A referee who allows club linesmen to make any other game decisions is a referee asking for trouble.


I was making a copy of it and i left it in the copying machine at the store. I know it was careless. But now its gone. What do I do?

Answer (April 7, 2003):
Go to your State Referee Administrator or State Youth Referee Administrator and ask if you can purchase a new badge from them. If that fails, call the USSF referee department in Chicago (312-808-1300), who will be happy to sell you a new badge, plus shipping and handling.


My question is twofold: During penalty kicks some players will use a stutter step to try and throw off the timing of the goalie to see if he is committing to one side or the other. If during the kicker's approach to the ball he stutter steps and then stops at the ball because the goalie has not committed is the kicker allowed to back up and restart his run for the penalty shot, or if the kicker stutter steps to the ball kicks and misses the ball because he is looking at the goalie to see where the goalie comitted is the kicker allowed to restart his run to the ball? In neither case the kicker touched the ball. What if the situation repeats itself a second time?

Answer (April 7, 2003):
Feinting at a penalty kick, provided it is done without lapsing into unsporting behavior, is allowed. The judgment of unsporting behavior is at the discretion of the referee, who should remember that players are permitted to deceive their opponents at the taking of free kicks outside the penalty area using well-rehearsed drills. The penalty kick should be treated in the same way. Remember that the penalty is awarded because of an offense by the defending team. One example of unsporting behavior would be to step over the ball, hesitate, and then bring the foot back again to kick the ball. The kicker's behavior must not, in the opinion of the referee, unduly delay the taking of the kick.

While the referee might allow a player to get away with this once, it would be very unprofessional to allow a kicker or a series of kickers to pull the same trick again. If the referee believed the player deliberately missed the ball early to shake the 'keeper's concentration, then a caution/yellow card for unsporting behavior would be in order. If the referee believed that it had been merely the kicker's enthusiasm or an honest mistake, the referee would warn the first kicker before taking any disciplinary action.

Nor should referees limit any feinting unnecessarily. Remember that the penalty is awarded because of an offense by the defending team.

Any instance of unsporting behavior must be in the opinion of the referee, based on that particular act in that particular game at that particular moment of the game. Although there are certain actions that will always be unsporting behavior, we cannot arbitrarily set a list of actions that must be called as unsporting behavior in the case of feinting at a penalty kick. The referee has to take responsibility for some of his own decisions.


Is there a distinction between these two events in enforcing the GK six-second law?

  1. Goalkeeper deliberately parries the ball to ground and retains possession in penalty area for more than six seconds while playing ball with his feet.
  2. Goalkeeper has possession of ball with hands, but drops ball to ground and plays the ball with his feet for more than six seconds in penalty area.
I believe #1 could be deemed to be time wasting as GK never gave up possession. #2 would not.

Answer (April 7, 2003):
There is a great difference between the two situations. When the goalkeeper parries the ball, he has established possession and the six-second count begins then. When the goalkeeper releases the ball to the ground, he has relinquished possession and the ball is available for all players.


I officiate local Park District games and have a question regarding "guest players". Often, when I show up to referee a match, one side is short of seven players, while the other side has well over eleven. My question is, is it permitable for players from one team to play for the other side because of player limitation? Does it depend on the league? Thank you for your time.

Answer (April 7, 2003):
According to Law 3, if a team cannot field the minimum number of registered players, the game cannot go on. However, the rules regarding who is or who is not able to play on a team are entirely up to the league or tournament that sponsors the match. If they allow it, so should the referee.


Can a goalkeeper "drop kick" the ball on a Goal Kick verses punting the ball? I have been told no by another Grade 8 referee.

Answer (April 7, 2003):
At a goal kick the ball -- stationary on the ground -- is kicked from any point within the goal area by a player of the defending team. 


While kicking the game ball the kicker swings his elbow (arm) back and hits an opponent in the nose which causes an injury, what is the call?

Also, two players are running side by side and the offensive player goes down. Both players were bumping each other for over 10-15 yards, what is the call?

Answer (April 3, 2003):
Your descriptions of these situations, while colorful, are not precise enough to allow us to give you a good answer. Was the kicker swinging in anger or intimidation, or was it simply to maintain balance? There is a big difference in what should and would be called. In the second situation, both players appear to have been very offensive.


What do you do when a parent approaches you and says that the other team has a select player playing in rec. league? They have a newspaper picture from 2 weeks earlier with this girls picture along with the select team. Is this illegal and what should be done about it?

Answer (April 3, 2003):
This is a problem for the competition authority to resolve, not the referee. If the player has a legitimate pass and is listed on the team roster, there is nothing the referee can do.

Although the referee is not in a position to make any ultimate determination here (the player must be allowed to play), the referee can and should include details of the incident in his game report.


In a professional match, the same player (Smith) receives a caution in the 5th minute and another in the 25th minute, but the referee crew doesn't realize the same player was cautioned twice and consequently allows Smith to participate for the remaining twenty minutes of the first half. Play is stopped and restarted many times. The officials notice their error while in the locker room at the beginning of the half time intermission.

Question #1: Can Smith participate in the second half?

Question #2: If no to #1, does Smith's team play short for the second half?

Question #3: If no to #1, when should the referee notify Smith that he has been sent off?

Question #4: If no to #1, does the referee display a red card to Smith?

Answer (April 3, 2003):

  1. No.
  2. Yes.
  3. As soon as he figures it out. In other words, before the start of the second half.
  4. Yes, if it is done on the field before the start of the second half. If the referee informs Smith in the locker room that he has been dismissed, then no card is necessary. (And full details must be included in the referee's match report.)


can u tape an earing up durning a soccer match if the person can not take it out or will you tell them to take it out or not play?

Answer (April 2, 2003):
Law 4 - The Players' Equipment states very firmly in its very first paragraph: "A player must not use equipment or wear anything which is dangerous to himself or another player (including any kind of jewelry)." This means that all items of jewelry are normally considered dangerous. There are only two permissible exceptions to the ban on jewelry: medicalert jewelry that can guide emergency medical personnel in treating injured players and certain religious items that are not dangerous and not likely to provide the player with an unfair advantage.

Taping earrings should not be permitted by any referee, as there is still the danger of injury to the player. Taping does not negate "must not . . . wear. . . any kind of jewelry."


I was wondering if you could tell me if there are and what kind of rules about numbers on players jerseys? for instance is there size requirements or duplicate number restrictions, where can numbers start on the number line or how big a number can be used?

Answer (April 2, 2003):
The Laws of the Game neither require numbers nor set standards for them. Numbers are governed by the rules of the competition in which the player's team is participating, i. e., the league, cup, or tournament in which the team competes. The referee should worry only about any requirements regarding numbers in the rules of the competition in which he or she is officiating.


I can't find this in the laws of the game or on the "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game" or any the other of the handbooks I have. What determines when the keeper is out of the penalty area and should be penalized for handling the ball? Is it the position of his feet or the ball crossing over the 18 yard line? If his foot is on the line but not over what is the call? What about one foot out and one foot in? I just want to be clear on what to look for?

Answer (April 2, 2003):
It makes no difference where the goalkeeper's body or feet are. The only significant factors are the position of the goalkeeper's hands and the position of the ball. If they are in contact simultaneously (and deliberately on the part of the goalkeeper) outside the penalty area, then the goalkeeper has broken the Law.


A situation occured recently where I was the linesman. At the exact time where a ball went over the touch line, I made a call for Team A, and the referee made a call for Team B. I would like to think that I was right, but, hey, I wholeheartedly agree that the referee can certainly override my call.

But, in this instance when we both signaled opposite directions of the call, I then saw the referee's call and immediately changed by signal to coincide with his. But, at the very same time that I was altering my call players from Team A were pleading to the referee, "ref, look at your linesman's call please". Now the referee did indeed notice me, but now my call was agreeing with him. Keep in mind that no more than 2 or 3 seconds have expired during this whole exchange of words and directions of my flag. Boy, did feel stupid. I felt that my call was correct to start with as I was in a better position to see it, and I felt that I should have communicated this to the referee.

So what should I have done differently? Anything? How could I have communicated my disagreement with his call without causing any undo concern on the part of the players. Should I have left my call as I made it until waved off by the referee? Should I immediately change my call to agree with him? I appreciate any thoughts and words of wisdom you could impart.

Answer (April 2, 2003):
The first rule of the assistant referee (AR) is to assist, not insist.

If the referee is about to carry out a decision that may be based on erroneous data, it is the duty of the AR to ASSIST the referee by bringing that fact to the referee's attention. However, before doing so, the AR must be absolutely certain that the referee did not or could not have a clear view of the entire situation. The referee must then confer with the AR to confirm the nature of the infringement (keeps field in view while moving to touch line and while conferring). If there is no way for the AR to communicate disagreement with the referee's decision without disrupting the game, then the AR must swallow his or her pride and let it go. Once the AR has given the pertinent information to the referee, the AR has done his or her duty and CANNOT INSIST that the referee decide in a certain way. The referee makes the final decision.


We recently played a game that went past dusk and into "quite dark". The referees started the game about 15 minutes late because one of the linesmen didn't show up on time, and by halftime it was obvious that the game was going to extend into darkness. We were worried before the game started that we wouldn't have time to complete the game given the fact that we were playing one week before daylight savings time started(game day of March 31st, 2003). We had a lead of 1-0 and dominated play in front of their goal mouth for almost the entire game. Whenever the other team would get the ball over midfield, the coach and parents would scream for the players to kick it high towards our goal. We couldn't follow the game from the sideline very well because of the darkness, meaning it was equally difficult for the referee to officiate infractions in the minimal light. In the final minute of the game a girl from the opposing team scored a goal on a long kick from approximately 40 yds out that our goalie couldn't react to until she saw it at the last moment. He set the ball up to restart, and soon after it was struck he blew the whistle as regulation time ended.

My question is this: When should a game be called for darkness and what are the ramifications of ending it early? The referee at our game said that a game should only be stopped for two reasons; if conditions become dangerous and if there is an unfair advantage for one team. Obviously, we felt there was an unfair advantage for the other team. The goal they scored was the only shot on goal they had the entire game. I've seen professional games stopped for too much water on the pitch, heavy fog, and dangerous weather. I've also seen a professional game end because a number of banks of lights went out leaving the pitch dimmed dramatically. I look forward to, and will appreciate, your answer.

Answer (April 2, 2003):
There are no fixed rules for determining when to call a game for darkness. Once the game starts, the referee is the sole judge of whether or not the light is insufficient to see. Some referees have common sense; others do not.

If a game is abandoned or terminated before regular time is up, the Laws of the Game (which are written for the highest competitive level) require that the game be replayed in its entirety -- as though the game had never taken place. However, this is seldom the rule followed at lower competitive levels where individual leagues and tournaments often specify a less drastic outcome. The most common rule is that a game which is ended prematurely (for whatever reason) will stand as official if at least the first half was played.


Question #1 - Is there a standard location of an area or box in which the coach and players must remain during the game? We had a ref in a division 1 game (U16 girls) tell our coach that they could not move out of a certain area or they would be cautioned. I've never heard of this before.

Question #2 - I know that regulation field size is generally referred to by how long and wide they can be, but is there a minimum size of field of play that is required for a game to be considered legal? We've played on a couple of fields in which the penalty box and sidelines were only a yard or two apart. For a high quality team of 16 year old girls, it felt like a postage stamp. It completely changed the style of game and made it very difficult for us to play on this teams home field, giving them a true "home field advantage".

Question #3 - Are flip throws considered illegal for some reason? We have a girl on our team that can flip-throw a ball to the center of the field every time, however we've had two games in which the referees wouldn't let her do it. In both games she was given a yellow card when she did it the first time.

Answer (April 2, 2003):

  1. At the higher levels of the game, the field markings include "technical areas" on either side of the halfway line. Coaches are not allowed to leave their technical areas during the halves. Such technical areas are rare at the lower levels of the game.
  2. The minimum legal-sized field is 50 yards wide by 100 yards long.
  3. There is nothing wrong with the flip throw-in. Shame on the referees who would not allow them, and double shame on them for cautioning your player and showing her the yellow card.


In a youth match a coach wishes to abandon the match because "the referee is not good enough for this match." He illegally enters the FOP at a stoppage for this purpose, but the players refuse to leave the FOP. They wish to continue playing. With regards to this situation what are the rights and responsibilities of (1) the referee, (2) the players and (3) the coach?

Answer (April 1, 2003):
Once the game begins, only the referee has the right to decide whether the game continues, is suspended temporarily, terminated or abandoned. The coach has absolutely NO rights in the game other than to advise his team in a responsible way.


I have a question as I was uncertain as to a best practice on how to handle the following situation that has occurred in several of my matches.

Upon receiving a free kick near the attacking goal, the attacking team would place an single player 2-3 yards directly in front of the goalkeeper. I viewed this a potentially explosive situation, especially in the adult matches that I had, in that often times there would be a defender right next to this attacking player in front of the goalkeeper and the goalie would take exception to this positioning. Luckily (for me) the ball never traveled near this player positioned in front of the goalkeeper but I wasn't exactly certain as to how to handle these situations either. USSF advises us (Instructions to Referees, Nov 2002) that no player shall intentionally impede (position) the goalkeeper during corner kicks but makes no reference to free kicks.

This is what I have done in the past: position myself down low off to the side of the goal so I had clear view of the players as well as the ball. I would comment to the players in front of the net that I expect fair play once the ball is kicked. Other than that I didn't know how to handle it.

Nor am I certain as to how much leverage I should provide the attacking player or how much leverage to provide the goalkeeper in both playing the ball. I am fairly certain that youĂ­re going to inform me that I should allow the both players a fair amount of latitude if the ball comes screaming at the netm, but any advice (especially relative to preventative maintenance techniques) would be greatly appreciated.

Relative to allowing the goalkeeper the play the ball should I entertain the following USSF advice (Instructions to Referees, Nov 2002) "charging from behind is permissible only if the opponent is intentionally impeding (shielding the ball). The charge, however, must be made fairly and under no circumstances to the back" Overall, not necessarily relative to this one particular situation but during the normal course of play, what I read into this is that USSF is telling me that if an attacking player is impeding (shielding the ball) the defender is allowed to make contact with the back of the shoulder blade in an attempt to play the ball. Yes, No, Maybe???

Answer (April 1, 2003):
If the player marking the goalkeeper at a restart plays the goalkeeper rather than the ball, he is engaged in unsporting behavior and should be cautioned and shown the yellow card. This was made clear in the USSF 2002 publication "Instructions for Referees and Resolutions Affecting Team Coaches and Players [at] Regional and National Cup Competitions and Tournaments" It is equally applicable to all games played under the aegis of the United States Soccer Federation.

    4. Offenses against goalkeepers
    It is an offense if a player:
    (c) who is standing in front of a goalkeeper when a corner kick is being taken, takes advantage of his position to impede the goalkeeper before the kick is taken and before the ball is in play (misconduct, no change in the restart)

As to the goalkeeper taking exception to the positioning of an opponent at a restart -- life is tough. The goalkeeper will just have to learn to live with it -- in accordance with the guideline above.

In the case of player shielding the ball from an opponent, your surmise is correct.


What is the proper procedure for management of unruly parent spectators? I had an unfortunate State Youth Division One experience. I am aware I should utilize the team captains to talk to their coaches who in turn speak to their spectators. At a recent game my AR was harassed to the point where termination would have been the best solution. One fellow referee suggested carding the captains, until the spectators got the point to settle down. What is your opinion?

Answer (April 1, 2003):
Unless the rules of the competition specify otherwise, the referee has no authority to show the card to a coach or other team official, nor may the referee take action against parents or other spectators unless they enter the field of play. And the referee should not even think about carding captains for anything other than their own behavior.

However, the referee does possess a powerful tool with which to control spectators. The referee may stop, suspend or terminate the match because of outside interference of any kind. If no other recourse remains, the referee may inform the team that the match is suspended and may be terminated unless "that person over there" is removed from the area of field.

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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