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May 2004 Archive (II of II)

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Question: What is the difference between an indirect and a direct free kick?

Answer (May 25, 2004):
The USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game" tells us:
This restart is called a "free kick" because it may be taken "freely" by the team to which it has been awarded -- without interference, hindrance, or delay. Free kicks are awarded for fouls, misconduct, a combination of the two, or offside. A direct free kick is given if play is stopped for a direct free kick foul committed by a player against an opponent on the field of play (except when it is committed by a defender within his own penalty area -- see Law 14, Penalty Kick). An indirect free kick is given if play is stopped for any other foul or if play is stopped solely to deal with misconduct committed on the field by a player, or for offside. A free kick may be taken in any direction.

A penalty kick is a direct free kick awarded to the attacking team when an opponent commits a direct free kick foul against one of their players in the opponent's penalty area.

Corner kicks, kick-offs, and corner kicks are akin to direct free kicks, in that a goal may be scored directly from a corner kick or goal kick or kick-off, but only against the opposing team.


My questions are regarding the actions taken by an AR. In this one scenario, the AR was arguing with a head coach about minor dissent being shown by the coach. While the game was in progress and ball was in play, the AR does not pay attention to his duties and continues arguing with the one coach. The coach decides it is best not to argue and after the game he would talk to the AR about it. At the end of the game, the AR does not like the tone of voice by the coach and displays the red card. The coaches actions were not deserving of a red card, as stated in the 7 "Send-Off" criterion. Everyone has already left the field, but still the red card is displayed by the AR. Is this a valid move by the AR? Does the suspension still apply though it was given in by an invalid official?

Answer (May 25, 2004):
The assistant referee (AR) should never take time away from duties to argue with players, spectators, or team officials, whether the ball is in play or not. Nor may or can an AR show a card to anyone at any time. That is clearly reserved for the referee. And, unless the rules of the competition specify it, no official may show a card to any non-player or substitute.

There can be no suspension without a report from the referee to the appropriate authorities.


Two incidents with the same referee. During a game last fall (U14 girls), an opponent's player was injured. The ref stopped the game and the restart was a drop ball. He ordered our player not to kick at all, just to stand there. In a recent game, one of our players was injured. He allowed play to continue and we kicked the ball out of play. On the restart he ordered our opponents to throw the ball directly to one of our players. I understand that soccer tradition dictates that a team not lose possession due to injury and that in such situations, teams generally play the ball to their opponents. However, I believe that such actions are the decisions of the players and coaches and that officials should never order players to give up possession of the ball and that doing so reflects poorly on the neutrality of the referee. What is your opinion?

Answer (May 25, 2004):
No referee may instruct any player to play the ball in any particular way. While the referee may suggest that it might be sporting to play in a particular way, the referee cannot and must not play the role of "vigilante for fair play."


I have read a number of discussions regarding religious jewelry. The topic of a young girl that had small stud earrings that could not be removed for religious reasons was brought up. Normally no earrings are allowed even if they are taped up. The reasoning is that if struck on the side of the head the stud could be driven into the side of her neck. What is the official stance on this subject. Should she be allowed to play or not?

Answer (May 25, 2004):
We are not aware of any sort of earrings that may not be removed for "religious reasons." The position of the U. S. Soccer Federation on earrings and other jewelry has been clearly stated in position papers and responses to questions. (It is also the position taken by the International F. A. Board, FIFA, and CONCACAF.) Here is one of the responses from earlier this year:

USSF answer (February 13, 2004):
Beads and other decorative items are not part of the required equipment for players and cannot be sanctioned for wear in competitive play. Law 4 - Player Equipment - tells us:
The basic compulsory equipment of a player is:
- a jersey or shirt
- shorts-if thermal undershorts are worn, they are of the same main color as the shorts
- stockings
- shinguards
- footwear

The referee must enforce the Laws of the Game, particularly as they apply to the safety of players. Law 4 tells us that players must not wear jewelry of any kind. There is only one permissible exception 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. Beads, as decorative items, must be considered as jewelry. They can also be dangerous, particularly at the end of braids. For these reasons, they are not permitted.

If questioned by players, you simply refer them to Law 4. If they do not wish to remove their beads to conform with the Law, inform them that the only alternative to removing the beads or jewelry (or other unauthorized equipment) is not to play at all.

NOTE: For further information on the requirements of the Law for player safety, see the USSF National Program for Referee Development's position papers of 7 March 2003 on "Player's Equipment" and 17 March 2003 on "Player Equipment (Jewelry)."

We might add that simply because an item looks religious in nature, such as an earring in the shape of a cross, does not put the item into the religious jewelry/clothing category. The critical criterion is whether the player's religion requires that the item be worn. If that is the case, the player must get permission from the state association to wear such an item and the state association must inform any competition in which the player plays of this permission well in advance of the game. Even with this permission, the final decision in this process is made by the referee, who must decide whether item is dangerous to any of the participants.


This came up in a discussion at our weekly referee meeting. It involves a player that has legally gone off the field of play during the flow of play. We were talking about a player in the goal (between the goal posts and into the netting area). Now if a player running off the field to get around a defender or the AR are struck by the ball while they are off the field, but all of the ball has not crossed over the touchline, and the ball bounces back into play, then the ball is still in play and no violation has occurred, right?. But what if this happens to a player standing in the goal? The whole of the ball has not passed under the cross bar, between the goal posts and over the goal line so it can not be a goal. If it is a playable ball, is that player (a member of the attacking team) considered off side? Restart IDK for defending team anywhere in the goal area. If it is a defender, then the ball in play?

Answer (May 25, 2004):
The player who has left the field entirely during the course of play and, while in the goal, prevents his own team's shot from crossing the goal line completely, has committed no sin. The player would only be considered to be offside if he had been in an offside position and actively involved in play when his teammate shot the ball. That was not the case, so there is no reason to stop play.


Two real game situations:
1. Drop ball (play stopped because of injured player on team A) - Team A wants to put two - three players up around the referee for the drop ball. to my mind this could result in a rugby game breaking out. Although the illustration in the Laws of the Game shows each team represented at a drop ball and the Advice to Referees says that there is no requirement for both or either team to be present at the spot of a drop ball neither the laws nor the Advice to Referees address the issue of multiple players pressing in. My inclination was to tell the additional players to back off. This did not please the coach. Comments please.

2. Defender attempts to head ball away from goal but flicks it toward the goal. Keep leaps for it and catches it. While still in the air, keeper realizes his momentum will carry him and the ball over the goal line so he releases the ball onto the field about 12 inches in front of the goal line. Landing he steps back onto the field of play and picks up the ball to punt. Should this have been called as a "second touch" and an indirect free kick awarded at the 6 yard line?

Answer (May 25, 2004):
1. The referee may not order any players away from a dropped ball--but the intelligent referee will suggest to the players that the ball will not be dropped until most of them back away. If they ask why, the intelligent referee will say that it is an issue of player safety, because the referee is required by the Laws of the Game to protect players. Surely they will understand.

2. Yes, this is a "second touch" situation and the referee should stop play and award an indirect free kick to the opposing team at the nearest spot on the goal area line parallel to the goal line.


A player kicks a ball that is approximately even with her shoulder. In doing so, on the follow through, she kicks in the side of the head an opponent who was attempting to play the ball with her head. Is this a kicking offense, resulting in a direct free kick, or is it playing in a dangerous manner, resulting in an indirect free kick? Thanks.

Answer (May 20, 2004):
There can be no call of playing dangerously if there is contact. The player should be called for kicking and the restart would be a direct free kick.


On a corner kick, 2 players from the kicking team leave the field at the corner, this seemed to be done to confuse the other team. They did this at every corner kick, sometimes one player would actually kick the ball and other times the first player to approach the ball would fake the kick and the next player would kick it. I know that one player is allowed to leave the field to take the kick...but if we let 2 leave for a "trick" play then why not let 3 or 10.

Answer (May 20, 2004):
Players are allowed to leave the field without the referee's permission on two occasions: (1) during the course of play to play the ball if there is an obstacle that prevents normal play and (2) to retrieve the ball and put it back into play at a stoppage.

In the case of putting the ball back into play, it is common practice and tradition for only one player to do this. If, in the opinion of the referee, activity off the field constitutes unsporting behavior, the referee should warn the player(s) on the first instance and then caution and show the yellow card for either unsporting behavior or leaving the field of play without the permission of the referee.


What would be the correct mechanical signal by an AR to the Referee, if an Indirect Free Kick foul was committed. (Example: the referee was out of position, blocked from view, and the AR waved flag.) Heard this one at the refs' tent at a tournament.

Answer (May 18, 2004):
There is only one standard signal for the assistant referee to use to indicate a foul not seen by the referee -- flag straight up in the air, brief waggle after making eye contact, and then 45 degrees upward up or down field indicating the direction of the restart if the referee stops play. It doesn't make any difference if the foul itself requires a direct or an indirect free kick. The referee may, in the pre-game conference, request some additional signal to indicate an indirect free kick if this is felt necessary.

However, careful thought on the matter would suggest that an indirect free kick foul would be rare. The basic charge given to the assistant referee, in addition to the fact that the offense occurred out of the view of the referee, is that the referee would have stopped play for the foul if he had seen it (i.e., not trifling, not doubtful, and no advantage). It is highly unlikely that an indirect free kick foul would meet all these criteria -- only a dangerous play or impeding the progress of an opponent come to mind as even possible.

The referee can usually be confident that such a signal by an experienced, knowledgeable assistant referee is almost certainly an indication of a direct free kick foul.


What should the referee do, if anything, when a coach and a substitute on the bench start arguing and start calling each other unpleasant names? This would be in U19 youth soccer.

Answer (May 18, 2004):
The referee may dismiss both persons (coach/other team official and substitute). The referee may show the red card only to the substitute, not the coach/other team official, unless the rules of the competition permit it.

The coach will be dismissed for irresponsible behavior, the substitute for using offensive or insulting or abusive language and/or gestures.


A tournament director writes: I would appreciate your response to the following situation that occurred recently during a youth recreational tournament.

The referee assignor, who was also the coach of the team scheduled to play, assigned her husband as center referee on her U14G semi-final game and her daughter was a player on that team. Should this have taken place? By the way, a complaint was made by the opposing coach after the game started because of this situation.

Answer (May 18, 2004):
In the Referee Administrative Handbook, p. 33, it suggests that assistant referees should not be related in any way to either team participating in the game unless it is impossible to get other affiliated officials assigned. Unfortunately, sometimes the referee game assignors do not have enough bodies to go around and ask parents or siblings to referee games in which their kin will be playing.

In this situation a complaint should be filed against the assignor/coach and her husband, the referee, who surely knew his daughter was on that team, under Policy 531-10, which expressly addresses conflict of interest. It then should be sorted out within the state through a hearing process.

You can download a PDF copy of the USSF Policy Manual at this URL:

NOTE: The remainder of the response was a direct quote of Policy 531-10 and has been deleted.


A ball goes out of touch last contacted by a white player. Just inside their half of the field, the Green team attempts a quick throw to catch the white defense out of position and would have had a good chance to run on goal. As the legal throw crosses the half line a member of the white team that is waiting his turn to be substituted into game, reaches out, (without entering the field) catches the ball, and then drops the ball into the field of play stopping the quick attack. What is the call? What is the correct restart?

I felt the answer is; caution the sub for unsporting behavior and restart with a drop ball near the touchline where the interference occurred. I used ATR 1.8 (d) and ATR 12.25 for my rationale.

Answer (May 15, 2004):
If the substitute handled the ball, he must have entered the field of play, at least with his hand. The referee should caution and show the yellow card to the substitute for entering the field without the referee's permission. The substitute could also be cautioned and shown the yellow card for unsporting behavior. The correct restart is a dropped ball from the place where the ball was when play was stopped.

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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