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August 2005 Archive (I of II)

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I just attended a level 8 recertification course. The training video clips were of international matches. The instructor said several times, "If that foul was committed in a youth soccer game, the player would have been given a red card." Here is my question. Why in the courses to they use international match video clips and not video of youth soccer games?

The reason for the question: How is a youth referee to know how to apply the rules to their games when at training we see (and hear) a different judgement applied to games which most referees will only see on television? Wouldn't it be more appropriate to show video from games which are more closely related to the type and style of refereeing that most referees encounter?

Answer (August 10, 2005):
Instructors say a lot of things, but the Law is clear: A foul at the lowest level of play is a foul at the highest level of play. (Although the referee at the top level may choose to apply common sense and tactical understanding of the game to any situation.)

As to videos, it is difficult to get usable videos of youth play. The Federation has produced a number of instructional videos based on youth play. Check with your State Director of Referee Instruction for their availability.


In a tournament last year I was refereeing the final match between a team from california and texas. We finished all of regulation including extra time. At this time one player from the california team took her bag and left because she was worried she would miss her flight. Now she finished the game so there were 11 on both sides but they did not now have 11 for the penalty kicks. We reduced to equate that game but after reading the position papers from 2002 and 2004, i am not sure if i was to reduce since they were not down players do to injury, misconduct or just having fewer players.

Question: were we correct to reduce or not in this case???

Answer (August 9, 2005):
The reduce to equate principle applies only to the number of players actually on the field at the end of the game (including any who may be off temporarily with permission of the referee). The "reduce to equate" principle does not apply in this case. However, the referee need not take any special note of the player's absence unless the kicks from the penalty mark proceed to the point where it is time for the eleventh player (now missing) to take a kick. If the procedure never reaches this point because the outcome is decided as a result of 10 or fewer pairs of kicks, the player's absence made no difference and nothing further needs to draw the referee's attention. If the teams remain tied through 10 pairs of kicks and it now comes time for the still missing eleventh player to take her turn, the referee must abandon the match with no result and report all details to the competition authority. No eligible player can avoid taking a kick if it becomes necessary.


Taught a grade 8 class this weekend, and got a great question about the new "any part" offside interpretation.

If the attacker is to be considered offside if "any part" of his head, body or legs is nearerŠ, then does the same apply to the defender? Put differently, is the part of the defender that is nearest the goal line the determining point?

Example: Defender's leg is sticking perpendicular from his body, pointing toward his own goal line. If the attacker's head is past the torso, but not past the defender's foot, does that qualify for offside position?

Answer (August 9, 2005):
The arms are not considered for either player when determining offside position.


I was refereeing a U23 semifinal game. In the second halve the defensive player takes a throw in a kneeling position. I called it for illegal throw ( law 15) and awarded the throw to the other team. The defensive player made a comment that I have done this before and other referees allowed it and it is legal. My response to defenseman was"it is an illegal throw " and continued with the game. At the end of the game, the assessor told me that I should have prevented the illegal throw by correcting the defensive player when he was in the kneeling position. I believe that at U23 level they should no the correct procedures of throw-in and the team coach should have instructed the correct procedures.

Answer (August 9, 2005):
Players will always use the excuse that the referee in the last game allowed them to do whatever it happened to be. It is indeed an infringement of Law 15 to take a throw-in from a kneeling position.

As to the assessor's comment, let us say this: While preventive refereeing is a good thing in many cases, this usually applies only to infringements of Law 12. There is an old saying among referees: "The Laws of the Game were not written to compensate for the mistakes of players."


An AR gets spit at by someone on the bench. The AR clearly heard the spit and could clearly see the spit go flying past him/her, but since the AR right had his/her back to the bench, the AR has no idea who actually did the spitting. At the next stoppage, the AR raises the þag to the referee and informs them of the incident. The AR suspects who it is because a player has just been shown a caution which was initiated by the AR. The referee asks the coach who did it, but no name is forthcoming.

What can / should the referee do in this situation under the USSF Laws? Should they red card/eject with the player they suspect? Ask the coach to leave (of course, without showing the card) since he is "responsible" for his bench? Or do nothing because they cannot specify an individual.

I know that in NFHS (high school) rules, the coach would get ejected, but I don't think you can do that in USSF. I am just curious what the referee CAN do in that situation.

Answer (August 9, 2005):
If the officials are not able to identify a culprit definitely, then no individual player may be punished. The coach may certainly be expelled for not maintaining order on the bench. In any event, the referee and assistant referee must submit a full and detailed report on the incident to the competition authority.


This situation happened during a high level amateur game. Following a shot on goal, the goalkeeper gained possession of the ball in the penalty area. He proceeded to dribble the ball in the air toward the boundary of the penalty area.while dribbling the ball completely crossed over the plane of the penalty area (line).Thru an additional dribble in the air (at this point the ball still hasn't hit the ground), the goalkeeper brought back the ball inside the penalty area and grabbed it as he was being challenged at this point by an opponent.

* Did the goalkeeper committed an infraction by ultimately handling the ball at the end?
* Is the goalkeeper allow to carry the ball out of the penalty area, bring it back inside the penalty area and handle it (grab it) without the ball ever being touch by an opposing player?
* If there was an infraction :- What's the infraction ?
- What's the proper restart?

Answer (August 9, 2005):
The goalkeeper is not permitted to retain possession of the ball for more than about six seconds, nor is the goalkeeper permitted to handle the ball outside the penalty area. If either of these infringements occurred, then they must be punished. The correct decision in the case of possession is an indirect free kick for the opponents at the place where the infringement occurred. The correct decision in the case of handling the ball outside the penalty area is a direct free kick for the opposing team at the place where the goalkeeper handled the ball.


Player was sent-off for a 2nd caution. Later in the match a PK for the same team was awarded and converted and team goes up 2-1. At the kick-off the referee notices that the team had been playing with 11 players.

What is the proper way to handle this?

Answer (August 9, 2005):
Deny the goal. Remove the eleventh player and caution him/her for entering the field without permission. Retake the penalty kick. All of this presupposes that "at the kick-off" means BEFORE the kick-off and not after.


In the 2005 Memorandum, in connection with the new IFAB Decision 1 for Law 11, there is the following advice to referees: Although it is not specifically stated, this same concept of "nearer to" should be used in determining if an attacker is in his opponents’ end of the field (i.e., if any part of his head, body, or feet is past the midfield line).

The Law says that a player is not in an offside position if he is in his own half of the field of play. Is the above advice saying that, to be in your "own half of the field," your head, body, and feet need to be TOTALLY in your own half? That is, is the advice saying that someone could be in an offside position if part of his "head, body, or feet" were "past the midfield line" while some other part of his "head, body, or feet" were in his own half of the field of play?

If that's the case (and I feel it is, owing to the wording of the advice), then I'm embarrassed to admit that this teaching has eluded me all these years. Nonetheless, I'd like to hear it from you directly.

Answer (July 25, 2005):
As you note, this is a change in interpretation by the IFAB. It makes some things easier, some things harder for referees. We would expect the referee to exercise common sense and call the offside in such a case only if it is blatant.


What is the referee dress code in respect of officials who wish to officiate while wearing rings in their pierced lips and other such metal ornamentation?

Are there any existing published bye-laws or other communications that state referees are to follow the player dress code (except for permission to wear a wrist watch)?

Even so, I rather expect that youth referees will ask why so many adult referees are allowed to wear gold necklaces while officiating (should we also stop this practice?). And some may observe that the USSF definitely allows referees (at lower level games) to wear peaked hats - which seems to contravene the player dress code.

Again, any help you may be able to give will really be appreciated.

Answer (July 22, 2005):
There should be no need for a written statement regarding referee garb. Referees are expected to look professional for every game they do, regardless of the level of play. Referees should exercise good sense in choosing what to wear--and what not to wear. Law 4 tells us that the players are not permitted to wear jewelry or any other item of equipment or dress that might be dangerous to either themselves or to any other participant.

Law 18 (common sense) tells us that if players are not permitted to wear jewelry, neither should referees or assistant referees or fourth officials wear unnecessary jewelry, including gold chains, lip rings, or any other items that could prove dangerous to either themselves or to other participants. The only exceptions would be wristwatches, a very necessary item of officiating equipment, and plain wedding bands (no stones or other protrusions). As with players, referees may also wear medicalert bracelets that provide necessary information in case of sickness or accident.

As to caps or other hats, other than Harry Potter, no referee is permitted to wear a peaked hat. Federation policy on hats was published in the October 1999 issue of Fair Play and has been reiterated several times in this venue:
Q. May referees wear caps and sunglasses?
A. With regard to caps, the policy of the United States Soccer Federation was stated in the Spring 1994 issue of Fair Play magazine: "Under normal circumstances, it is not acceptable for a game official to wear headgear, and it would never be seen on a high level regional, national or international competition. However, there may be rare circumstances in local competitions where head protection or sun visors might sensibly be tolerated for the good of the game, e.g. early morning or late afternoon games with sun in the officials' line of sight causing vision difficulties; understaffed situations where an official with sensitive skin might be pressed into service for multiple games under strong sunlight or a referee who wears glasses needing shielding from rain."
Sunglasses would be subject to the same considerations. In addition, we ask referees to remember that sunglasses have the unfortunate side effect of suggesting that the referee or assistant referee is severely visually impaired and should not be working the game. They also limit communication between the officials and the players by providing a barrier against eye-to-eye contact. Sunglasses, if worn, should be removed prior to any verbal communication with players.


I have two questions I believe should be fairly simple to answer. I have been in discussions with other referees at a recent tournament and have found differing opinions on both of these items.

First. in regards to Law 12, "An indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a goalkeeper,inside his own penalty area.....
* touches the ball with his hands after it has been deliberately kicked to him by a team-mate"

Does the deliberately refer to the kick itself, simply meaning if the player means kick the ball regardless of the direction they intended the ball to go. An example of this would be where a player intends to kick the ball up field away from the goal but "mis-kicks" and the ball goes off the side of their foot into the penalty area and the keeper picks it up the ball off the mis-kick.

Or does the deliberately part mean the kick had to be deliberately made to a place where the keeper can pick up the ball, which would exclude the above scenario of a mis kicked ball.

The wording of the law seems to indicate that the kick only need to be deliberate and not the direction, but that contradicts what I was taught during my certification / re-certification classes. Your guidance here would be much appreciated.

Second question, in regards to Law 12 IFAB Decision 6
"A player who removes his jersey when celebrating a goal must be cautioned for unsporting behavior."

Does this also apply to a player removing their jersey after the whistle had blown indicating the the end of the half (first or second) before exiting the field of play? I can not find that instance mentioned in the FIFA laws or the FIFA Guidelines. In fact I only see where is expressly state removing the jersey in celebration after a goal. I don't believe it applies to this situation. This past weekend at a local tournament, I had another referee who was watching the game chastise me afterwards (which I believe was very unprofessional of them, even if I was wrong, which I don't think I was) for not issuing a yellow card to a player who did remove his jersey on the field of play but only after the final whistle had blown ending the game. I talked with some other referees later and again found differing opinions on this subject.

Answer (July 21, 2005):
1. The rule against the goalkeeper picking up or touching a ball deliberately kicked to him or her comes into effect when certain technical requirements are met: the ball must have been kicked (i. e., played with the foot); the kick must have been deliberate, rather than a miskick, an attempt to clear, an accidental deflection or a misdirection; the ball must have been directed (i. e., clearly played deliberately) to a place where the goalkeeper could pick it up; and the goalkeeper must play the ball with the hands before an infringement has occurred.

Referees should punish such handling only when, in the opinion of the referee, the play by the teammate was deliberate. If the teammate deliberately kicked the ball to a place where the goalkeeper could play it, then the goalkeeper will infringe the Law by playing it with the hands. However, the 'keeper may play the ball in any way that does not involve handling (e.g., show could kick it, head it, etc.).

If the teammate has played the ball with the foot, trapping the ball and leaving it for the goalkeeper to pick up, that is the same as kicking the ball deliberately to the goalkeeper.

The rule against the 'keeper picking up the deliberately kicked ball is intended to prevent time wasting and thus, fairly obviously, to increase the time the ball is available for either team to use in an attack on the opponents' goal.

The call is always in the opinion and at the discretion of the referee, who is the only person capable of making the judgment as to the deliberateness of the kick. If there is any doubt in the referee's mind as to the deliberateness of the pass, then common sense should prevail and the supposed infringement should not be called.

2. The intent of the rule against removing the jersey after the scoring of a goal is to rid the game of actions that are aimed at taunting the other team. It would seem to have nothing to do with the act of a player removing the jersey after the game is over. Let your colleague worry about refereeing his or her game, rather than trying to tell you how to referee your game. As to any misconduct, that is a separate issue from removing the jersey in celebration of a goal.


It is quite the vogue nowadays for teenage girls to wear long fingernails (natural and fake). Our local referee association makes it a point every year to remind its referees to make the youth players remove such items as jewelry, all bracelets, metal hair pins, etc. because they may cause injury to the players. However, when the subject of long fingernails comes up in the discussion, there seems to be no agreement that they are dangerous.

Recently I witnessed a GU-16 match in which a player sustained a painful injury caused by an opponent’s fingernail. The victim sustained a wound around her neck, from just below her ear to the center of her collarbone, that measured about 0.5 in. X 6 in.

Should referees be inspecting the players’ fingernails and prevent players from wearing long fingernails? Some youth leagues ban long fingernails, or require them to wear gloves or tape. Is this an acceptable technique to prevent injury?

As a referee I would be hesitant to enforce such actions unless other referees are also on board with it and the enforcement is uniformly administered.

How does USSF feel about this issue?

Answer (July 19, 2005):
There are a number of position papers and memoranda on player equipment and safety. You will find them on the website. They include the position paper of September 3, 2003, "Players Wearing Non-Compulsory Equipment"; the position paper of March 17, 2003 on "Players' Equipment (Jewelry)"; and the position paper of March 7, 2003 on "Player's Equipment."

However, in this case a referee need simply remember the concrete guidance given in Law 4: "A player must not use equipment or wear anything which is dangerous to himself or another player." Fingernails are classified as something that is worn. If, in the opinion of the referee, fingernails or any other thing the player wears are dangerous, then they may not be worn. Taping fingernails or earrings is not an acceptable alternative. Long fingernails must be removed (made an acceptable length) or the player does not play.

NOTE: This does not require anyone to be "on board," it simply means that referees should enforce the Law.


I hope you may be able to help me out. Let's assume that a player receives a red card for a serious infraction. IN our region, the referees, using a matrix, provides a recommendation regarding the number of games that the player is suspended. The Commissioner will then make a determination on the suspension based upon the referees recommendation and other items. Let's also assume that the Commissioner agrees with the referee's recommendation of a 2-game suspension.

Is there anywhere in the USSF rules that state that the 2-game suspension needs to be two CONSECUTIVE games. I know that this may sound a little ridiculous, but this situation has recently happened to me and I am just trying to understand why we would let a player decide "when to serve his/her suspensions."

Answer (July 18, 2005):
All games for which a player is suspended are served consecutively before the player may play again. That is soccer tradition and in full accordance with a directive from FIFA.

However, we are more concerned about the way suspensions are determined in your area. The competition authority has the responsibility of deciding how many games a player must be suspended. To preserve their neutrality and objectivity, referees should and must have no part in the suspension process.


If a defender slides at high speed with cleats up towards an attacker dribbling the ball and manages to make contact with only the ball but the momentum of the ball with the defender behind it takes the attacker down in a manner that could cause serious injury, is it consistent with the LOTG to consider the defender guilty of reckless or serious foul play, even if there is no player-to-player contact? Would a caution for dangerous play or unsporting behavior be more appropriate for this situation?

This discussion came up at our referee meeting this evening when we were discussing the new directive that reckless and serious foul play should be determined regardless of the direction of a slide tackle, but the consensus seemed to be that there had to be contact between the players to call it a foul.

Answer (July 15, 2005):
You are confusing "reckless" and "with excessive force." Here is the information you need, straight from the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game":

"Careless" indicates that the player has not exercised due caution in making a play.
"Reckless" means that the player has made unnatural movements designed to intimidate an opponent or to gain an unfair advantage.
"Involving excessive force" means that the player has far exceeded the use of force necessary to make a fair play for the ball and has placed the opponent in considerable danger of bodily harm.
If the foul was careless, simply a miscalculation of strength or a stretch of judgment by the player who committed it, then it is a normal foul, requiring only a direct free kick (and possibly a stern talking-to). If the foul was reckless, clearly outside the norm for fair play, then the referee must award the direct free kick and also caution the player for unsporting behavior, showing the yellow card. If the foul involved the use of excessive force, totally beyond the bounds of normal play, then the referee must send off the player for serious foul play or violent conduct, show the red card, and award the direct free kick to the opposing team.

As to the tackle itself, if, in the opinion of the referee, the tackle endangers the safety of the opponent, it makes no difference if there is contact or not. Referees (and spectators) should not get hung up on slide tackling. There is nothing in the directive about endangering the safety of the opponent which limits this to a slide tackle.

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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