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May 2007 Archive (I of II)


First I'd like to thank you for providing answers to questions that I also observe while doing games.

I have two questions, both involve action by the keeper.

1. The rule book still has a violation for the keeper "pairing" the ball, and then handling the ball. I have never seen this called in all the games I've done. I called this years ago on a U13 keeper, which caused the coach to go crazy, and after asking around the general response was that no one calls that anymore, even though it is still in the book. I was the AR at a U16 girls match the other night, when two attackers were moving toward the keeper, at the same time the ball had bounced and was at right in front of the keepers face. She took both fist and directed the ball out to the side , then followed the ball, and collected it with her hands. I saw that this took an advantage away from the attacking players, who could have headed the ball toward the goal, or if the keeper would have mishandled the ball, they would have had an easy shot on goal. When I asked the two adult refs during half-time about pairing the ball, they had never heard of this. Should I have raised my flag?

2. While doing a U17 girls match, which I was an AR, an attacker had control of the ball making a fast break to goal. One defender was chasing her shoulder to shoulder, and just before they reached the Penalty Area, the defender reached the ball and kicked it to the keeper, who picked the ball up. I raised my flag, but the center waved me down. At the time, I thought maybe he saw it different, and that the attacker, in his opinion, kicked the ball. At halftime he told me that I need to understand that the intentional pass back to the keeper was only put in the rules to stop delay of game, and that we don't call this. I have called this myself and have seen other adult refs call this in the same situations. This center has been around for a long time and is an assessor. What is the right call?

Answer May 10, 2007):
1. By "parrying" the ball, i. e., pushing the ball with the hands to a place convenient for later play, the goalkeeper has established possession of the ball. Please remember: "Parry" = "possession." If he or she handles the ball after parrying it, that constitutes an infringement of Law 12: "touches the ball again with his hands after it has been released from his possession and has not touched any other player."

If the goalkeeper's act is a parry, rather than simply a "fisting away" of the ball for defensive purposes, then the referee MUST call the foul and the AR, if he or she is the only one to see it, must flag the foul for the referee's attention. Perhaps your "adult" colleagues should pay more attention to the Laws of the Game.

2. If the referee, in his or her infinite wisdom, chooses to wave off your flag, that is the referee's problem. The statement attributed to the referee is partly correct: The change in the Law was made to eliminate time wasting and, if no time was wasted, the referee might choose to exercise his or her discretion in letting it go--i.e., decide that the offense was doubtful or trifling, but it is STILL an offense. However, situations in which this would apply are very few and far between.



A question has been circulating regarding the proper restart for there being 12 players on the field. The presence of the 12th Blue player is discovered after a foul which would result in a penalty kick for Blue. It cannot be determined whether this 12th player was on the field during play, or if he entered after the foul was whistled. After the 12th player is cautioned and removed from the field, is the proper restart the PK for Blue, or an indirect kick for Red? If we knew Blue 12 was on the field prior to the foul, the answer is easy - IFK. If we knew Blue 12 came on after play was stopped, the answer is easy - PK. If we don't know when Blue 12 came on - ???

Answer (May 9, 2007):
Are we talking a "12th" player or an "extra player"? This becomes crucial when determining who the person is and how to punish him or her.

The first thing for the referee and ARs to do is engage in rigorous self-examination as to the reasons this particular person got on the field in the first place. This portion of the Advice applies:
If, while the game is in progress, the referee finds that a team has more than the allowed number of persons on the field, play must be stopped and the extra person identified and removed from the field. Other than through referee error, this situation can occur only if someone enters the field illegally. The "extra player" can include an outside agent (such as a previously expelled player or a spectator); a player who had been given permission to leave or been ordered off by the referee for correction of a problem, but re-entered without permission; or a substitute or substituted player who enters without permission and/or during play.

In all competitions, especially those that allow substituted players to return, the officials must be extremely vigilant in counting the number of players who leave and substitutes who enter to prevent problems of this nature. Similarly, players off the field temporarily who require the permission of the referee to re-enter must be monitored to ensure that they do not participate in play until this requirement and any others (e. g., inspection to confirm the correction of the equipment or bleeding problem) are met.

The second thing to do is to determine which sort of person this "player" is: player, substitute or substituted player, or outside agent (spectator or team official or player sent off earlier, etc.). If it is a player or a substitute/substituted player who entered, the referee must caution the extra "player" for entering the field of play without the referee's permission (if a player) or unsporting behavior (if a substitute/substituted player).

The third thing to do is decide on the correct restart. This depends on the answer to the second question (who illegally entered) and on when the person entered.

If the person entered during the stoppage, then the restart stays the same regardless of who the person is and regardless of what you do to him. The basic principle here is that nothing happening during a stoppage changes the restart. In other words, the penalty kick.

If the person entered prior to the stoppage, then the restart is a dropped ball where the ball was if the person was an outside agent or an indirect free kick where the ball was if the person was a player off the field who needed the referee's permission to re-enter, a substitute, or a substituted player. In other words, the penalty kick is canceled and, if it is an indirect free kick restart instead of a dropped ball, the restart is given to the team opposed to the player, substitute, or substituted player who illegally entered.

Unfortunately, the scenario you offered included the fact that no official knew for sure if the person who was illegally on the field entered before the stoppage or during the stoppage. Since knowing this is an important element in deciding the correct restart, all the Law can do is advise you to DECIDE based on the best evidence available plus what seems FAIR to the teams and the game. We cannot tell you anything more than this because the problem as you describe it has no solution under the Law. Referees face this sort of thing all the time and we manage to survive. Make the decision and get on with the game (and don't obsess about it afterward, except to resolve to do better).


THE 4 Ds

I have some questions regarding DOGSO (Denying an Obvious Goal Scoring Opportunity). In US Soccer's Advice to Referee's, it states that there are four criteria that must be present for DOGSO.
1. Number of Defenders
2. Distance to the Goal
3. Distance to the Ball
4. Direction of Play

The first element, number of players says that not more than one defender can be between the foul and the goal, not counting the player that committed the foul. It is possible to have defenders closer to the goal than the location of the foul. If those defenders are not directly between the foul and the goal should they be considered in criteria number one? Should we take the first element of DOGSO with a narrow view or should we look at it with a broader perspective? Should defenders that are closer to the goal than the foul always be counted for DOGSO or never be counted? Or should the referee make a judgement call?

Can a DOGSO foul be committed off the field of play when players leave the pitch temporarily during the natural course of the game? Also would defenders who left the field through the natural course of the game be in consideration for element one of DOGSO?

My next questions are also regarding DOGSO. Is a substitute or player that illegally enters the field considered a defender in determining criteria number one?

Answer (May 8, 2007):
With regard to the first question, the defenders to be counted are those who are actually able to defend (which is the underlying purpose of this D anyway). Likewise, the understanding of "between" or "closer than" is in the same context -- is the defender able to defend? This is not an exercise in geometry, it is decision about whether there is more than one defender who is or would be able to interfere with the fouled player's drive to the goal in such a way as to lessen the obviousness of the opportunity to score. Accordingly, a second defender lying on the ground in a straight line between the fouled attacker and the goal whose leg was broken would likely not be counted, whereas a defender just a yard away from the goal on the left far off the line the fouled attacker was taking from the right in his drive to the goal probably should be counted.

As for whether a defender off the field could do something that would cause him to be sent off under DGF/DGH, we suspect that a fitting scenario would be VERY, VERY RARE. However, consider the following sequence of events: B5 is ordered off the field to correct a bleeding problem. While off the field being attended to, B5 sees A20 attacking down the middle of the field just above the penalty area with no one at all between him and the goal (the keeper had come out but his challenge, which was unsuccessful, left him on the ground). B5 picks up an object and throws it onto the field. (A) It strikes the attacker who is startled/injured/thrown off his stride/etc. or (B) it strikes the ball and knocks it away from A20's control. Wouldn't (A) be DGF and (B) be DGH? We know from other situations that FIFA considers a thrown object an extension of the hand and we also know that merely inserting a body part onto the field is considered the functional equivalent of entering the field.



Recently a story was related to me about a dispute between a referee and a coach who felt victimized by a referee's interpretation of law 8. The official allowed a kick-off, according to the coach, even though the side restarting play had a player run well into the opponent's end of the field between the time the ref blew his whistle and the the time the kick was taken. That player eventually scored a crucial goal.

The official purportedly acknowledged this and justified his non-call for a re-take of the kick-off on the basis that there's no law saying the player crossing into his opponent's end had to wait for the ball to be put in play. In checking law 8, I read that the kick-off procedure is:
* all players are in their own half of the field
* the opponents of the team taking the kick-off are at least 10 yds. from the ball until it is in play
* the ball is stationary on the center mark
* the referee gives a signal
* the ball is in play when it is kicked and moves forward

While the law seems to suggest that players STAY in their own half of the field until the ball is put in play, it in fact doesn't state that. However, if players are allowed (as referees sometimes appear to allow them) to run significant paces ahead of any initial play on the ball after the whistle to begin play is blown, is that what the law was meant to allow? I see nothing in the "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game" or elsewhere for the guidance I am requesting from you.

Answer (May 3, 2007):
Yes, ALL players are expected to remain in their own half of the field until the ball is in play. Being in play means that the ball has been kicked and moved forward. That forward motion may be only slight, but it must occur. That's the Law.

Custom seems to be a bit more laissez faire, with the player who is to receive the kick-off normally a step or two into the other team's half. Despite being counter to the Law, this is accepted practice throughout the world.

Occasionally one will see other players immediately flying down the field at the moment the referee gives a signal (usually the whistle) and the kicker approaches the ball. While this is done, it is counter to the Law and is NOT accepted practice. Lazy referees will not punish it. Intelligent referees will.



We have a center referee and 1 AR for a Youth Match- AR 2 is a no show- We will recruit a club AR for AR 2-

I have been told that in this case, my AR 1 cannot do anything that the AR 2 cannot do: IE: Since the club AR is only calling the ball out of Touch or over the goal line the AR 1 must do the same.

The justification is that it would be unfair that one team in a given half has an AR indicating Offside, Fouls ETC and one team does not. There is a chance that a game affecting call could be made that would unfairly impact one of the teams-

Then there is the question does the AR 1 need to remain on the diagonal zone they started from or can this be changed at the half in order to be fair to both teams-

I can't find advice that addresses the above which then leads one to believe that the center referee has the latitude to instruct the AR1 and AR2 as he sees fit and could move them around accordingly-

Please let me know what your thoughts are on this point- Thanks,

Answer (May 2, 2007):
Lies, all lies. The neutral AR does his/her normal job, while the club linesman does only that which a club linesman can do, as stated in the Advice to Referees:
Where neutral assistant referees are not available, the referee may use club linesmen. Club linesmen should report to the referee before the start of the game for instructions. The referee should 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.

As to what the neutral AR does and where he or she is deployed, that is at the discretion of the referee.



I have begun working games for another soccer association and the A/R uses a hand signal which I find unusual. On a close offside call the A/R will run down the touch with the flag in his outside hand and the other hand will be extended away from the body similar to a one armed advantage call. I assume they are doing this to inform me that the play was onside. Doesn't the mere fact that they are following the ball down the touchline tell me that the play was onside. This is a new one and me and I would like your thoughts.

Answer (May 2, 2007):
The extended hand is actually an old signal, one that was discouraged for a long time, calling it a "negative signal," but which has come up again. There is nothing really wrong with it, but your reasoning is clearly absolutely correct. The matter has not come up since the answer below was published August 27, 2004:
There was a time (longer ago than 3-4 years, however) when negative signals or, more generally, any signals not specifically approved by FIFA or USSF and not described in the Guide to Procedures were discouraged. With the publication of the 1998 Guide to Procedures, that emphasis began to change. The 1998 Guide stated:

Other signals or methods of communication intended to supplement those described here are permitted only if they do not conflict with established procedures and only if they do not intrude on the game, are not distracting, are limited in number and purpose, and are carefully described by the referee prior to the commencement of a match.

This included so-called "negative signals" (for example, the assistant referee indicating "no offside"). If the officiating team discussed such a signal ahead of time and it met the criteria, using it is okay so long as it is kept within reasonable limits. Remember, the purpose of any signal is to communicate so it must do that much at least.

USSF's approach continues to follow this guideline. Even the occasional use of some gesture by the referee to indicate a handling offense or tripping is acceptable if, in the opinion of the referee, it is NEEDED FOR THIS PARTICULAR GAME to communicate essential information in a critical situation. "Negative" or non-standard signals should not become standard practice for every game.



Can a referee give a caution for persistent infringement (PI) in the following scenario: A team has decided to employ a tactic to commit small fouls against their opponents after a player has released the ball from his possession. For example, a clip at a heal, a late push, or something where the team is clearly trying to throw off their opponents and upset them by committing these "late" fouls. These fouls are spread out across the team (so not enough for a specific player to earn a caution for PI), and each foul by itself does not really warrant a caution for unsporting behavior (USB). However, if the group of fouls is looked at as a whole, it is clear this team is tactically employing these late, small fouls to frustrate and annoy their opponents and seems to be against the spirit of the game. When the referee has recognized this pattern, is he justified in giving a caution for PI to a player on that team (even if he was not involved in the earlier fouls)? Is this similar to the situation where a player can earn a caution for PI if the team is clearly targeting a single opposing player? Or would a caution given in this case fall under USB?

Answer (May 2, 2007):
This is not a situation in which the case for persistent infringement has been made. It seems to be more of a situation in which the team has been coached to frustrate, annoy, and intimidate its opponents by these fouls. There is no consistency in the pattern of fouls, but there is a plan to disrupt the opposing team's flow of play through fouls, rather than through fair play. That is a matter for referee management of the game, but not immediately one of misconduct. The referee should call and and punish the fouls and warn players about these individual fouls. If the players who have fouled before and been warned for it then continue to foul their opponents willy-nilly, this becomes persistent infringement and must be punished as such.



What special considerations are required if a player is wearing an artificial limb? Should the limb be padded? If it is an artificial leg, is a shin guard required on that limb?

Answer (May 1, 2007):
Players with casts are allowed to play, provided the cast is properly padded and is not used as a weapon during a challenge for the ball. In our opinion an artificial limb should also be padded. Because shinguards are basic compulsory equipment. the player wearing the artificial limb should also wear a shinguard with the limb.

The primary concern is the safety of all participants and the final decision is made by the referee on the particular game.

The USSF position on non-compulsory equipment was set out in this memorandum of September 3, 2003:

To: State Referee Administrators //snipped//
From: Alfred Kleinaitis
Manager of Referee Development and Education
Subject: Players Wearing Non-Compulsory Equipment
Date: September 3, 2003


On August 25, 2003, FIFA issued Circular #863, regarding the legality of players wearing non-compulsory equipment.

FIFA notes that, under the "Powers and Duties" of the referee in Law 5 -- The Referee, he or she has the authority to ensure that the players' equipment meets the requirements of Law 4, which states that a player must not wear anything that is dangerous.

Modern protective equipment such as headgear, face-masks, knee and arm protectors made of soft, lightweight, padded material are not considered dangerous and are therefore permitted.

FIFA also wishes to strongly endorse the statement on the use of sports spectacles made by the International F.A. Board on March 10, 2001, and subsequently in FIFA Circular #750, dated April 10, 2001. New technology has made sports spectacles much safer, both for the player himself or herself and for other players. This applies particularly to younger players.

Referees are expected to take full account of this fact and it would be considered extremely unusual for a referee to prevent a player taking part in a match because he or she was wearing modern sports spectacles.

Referees are reminded of the following points which can assist in guiding their decisions on this matter:

Look to the applicable rules of the competition authority. - Inspect the equipment.
- Focus on the equipment itself - not how it might be improperly used, or whether it actually protects the player.
- Remember that the referee is the final word on whether equipment is dangerous.



I observed an interesting situation last weekend. At the start of the second half, the ref counted players and somehow missed the 12th on Team B. Team A kicks off and immediately loses the ball. Team B takes it in and scores in the first few seconds. To the ref's credit, he senses something is amiss and begins to count players. Team A's coach picks up on this and and starts screaming "No goal! Too many players!" The ref goes to both coaches and says something. He then waves off the goal and restarts the second half. We found out later he told the coaches his watch had not started so he just restarted the 2nd half, disallowing the goal. Interesting way to solve a problem, but is it correct?

Answer (April 30, 2007):
A very creative solution, but, despite demonstrating the referee's ability to think outside the box, it was not quite correct.

We supplied this answer last December. It is still valid:
USSF answer (December 12, 2006):
In all cases the extra player is removed and cautioned (unless an outside agent) for unsporting behavior.

If the extra player is discovered only after the ball has been kicked off, the goal counts. The game is restarted in accordance with the Law--i. e., if it went out of play, the restart is a throw-in, corner kick, goal kick, or free kick, depending on the reason the ball was out of play. If the referee stopped play, it is an indirect free kick from the place where the ball was when the referee stopped play.

If the extra player is discovered BEFORE the kick-off, the goal is canceled only if the extra player was on the scoring team or if the extra person was an outside agent who, in the opinion of the referee, did not in any way interfere with play or any player. The restart is determined by who the extra "player" was. If it was an outside agent--not a player or a substitute or substituted player--the restart is a dropped ball at the top of the defending team's goal area. If it was a player who had left the game with the referee's permission but re-entered without permission , the restart is an indirect free kick for the defending team, to be taken from within their goal area. If it was a substitute who had entered without the referee's permission, the restart is an indirect free kick to be taken from the defending team's goal area.



How does USSF look at referees whom do not give signals on throw-in, corner kicks and goal kicks but verbalize their decisions? As an AR, I mirrored what the referee was verbalizing but, I simply like to know the proper protocol.

Answer (April 30, 2007):
The point of signals is to let everyone involved in the game know what is happening (players, ARs, team officials, etc.), not just those within earshot. Just as with the advantage signal needing to be as public as blowing the whistle, simply verbalizing possession for a TI, GK, or CK (even if understood perfectly by the players in the immediate vicinity) may not be enough for others who need the same information but who are farther away. Unless one's voice is sufficiently stentorian to be heard around the entire field, visual signals are needed.



There has been a great deal of debate on some web forums regarding the Red Bull New York v. Houston Dynamo game last Saturday. (4/21/07)

From the wing, a player crossed the ball square into the area clearly on target to 2, unmarked, wide open strikers about 7-8 yards from goal. A player on Houston jumped up, while in the area, and grabbed the ball deliberately with 2 hands fouling up a certain goal scoring opportunity.

The debate has been whether or not he should have seen red, under UEFA standards he easily could have been, according to my understanding of USSF rules, he didn't meet all of the so called "4 D's" since the cross was definitively heading towards goal but rather square to goal.

Is this a proper reading of USSF standards or could the Houston player, in fact, have been shown red?

Answer (April 30, 2007):
We did not see the game and cannot tell from your description whether or not the conditions for denying the opposing team a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity, and thus for sending off the evildoer, were met.

There is already a send-off offense for deliberate handling, number 4 under the seven send-off offenses: denies the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball (this does not apply to a goalkeeper within his own penalty area). It does not require any particular alignment of players for either team, but simply the occurrence of the offense.

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

In addition, the terms of the USSF position paper of September 16, 2002, on "Obvious Goal-Scoring Opportunity Denied (The 4 Ds)" do not include any reason for a gratuitous caution for unsporting behavior where it is not merited. Nor is this true of any other document dealing with the correct application of the Laws of the Game.

The defender should have been cautioned for unsporting behavior (commission of a tactical foul that broke up attacking play), not for handling to prevent a goal, and play restarted with a penalty kick as the offense occurred inside the defender's penalty area.

Please, let common sense prevail in the web fora.



The local youth league requires players that are sitting out a game due to either a red card or accumulation of yellow cards, be present at the game for the sit-out to count. This weekend I was the center ref for a U-19 boys game, and one of the teams had a player serving a sit-out. Towards the end of the game, this player starting yelling foul and abusive language at an opponent. The AR on that side of the field attempted to diffuse the situation, but was unable to get the player to shut-up. During the next stoppage of play, the AR got my attention, informed me of what happened, and I then issued a red card to this player, and made him leave the area.

My question is, since this player in not eligible to participate, is he still considered a substitute? In other words, can I still show him a red card? It is more a technique question, as I can expel anyone from the team area for improper behavior, but I can only show a card to a player or substitute. If I didn't follow the proper procedure, what would the proper procedure be?

Answer (April 30, 2007):
The fact that the player was present at the game should have been enough to satisfy the league's requirement. You may be sure that the league will pay special attention to a player who does not take to heart the lesson they were trying to teach.

If the player is required to be present, even in a non-playing role, he is considered to be a part of the team, a quasi-team official for lack of any other convenient term. It would not be proper to show this person a card, but as a team official he would be expelled for irresponsible behavior. The referee must provide full details in the match report.

Referees should not be held responsible for enforcing league-imposed punishment. That is a matter for the league to police.  

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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