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May 2006 Archive (II of II)


In the new 2006 Law changes, cautions and sendoff sections have now been divided into portions for players, and separate section for substitutes and substituted players. However, the substitutes/substituted players section seems to omit the obvious offense of "Entering the field without permission". This is an offense which generally occurs more often in fact with substitutes and substituted players than with players (though it can occur with players as well).

Q. Is this omission purposeful (e.g. is it now not possible to caution for illegally entering the field of play (seems unlikely in intent)), or was it simply an error on the part of IFAB that will hopefully some day be fixed in a future version of the Laws?

Answer (May 22, 2006):



I've got a question regarding Center Referee position during a Corner Kick. Specifically, a Corner Kick taken on the Referee's side of the field as opposed to the AR's side of the field. I generally find that I have a good field of view while standing on the Penatly Box/Arc intersection furthes from the kicker. In that position, I can watch the players in the box while the AR watches along the goal line. However, I've recently been told that I should be nearer to the the vicinity of the Penalty Box/Arc intersection nearest the kicker. What say you?

Answer (May 22, 2006):
The referee should always take up a position that is both intelligent and flexible. If you were to look at the USSF publication "Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials," you would find an illustration of the appropriate position--in the form of a suggested "zone," in which the referee moves to suit the way the players are setting up, and from which the referee may move as necessary to have the best view of where play will go and of the assistant referee, as well as staying out of space the players need.

If you don't already have a copy, it may be downloaded from the referee webpage at the US Soccer website.



i centered a game in which none of the players wore jerseys with numbers or any other form of was (fortunately) an uneventful match in terms of player conduct, but it left me wondering how the intelligent referee would go about identifying players if misconduct such as persistent infringement occurred.

Answer (May 22, 2006):
We would recommend never refereeing or running the line in a game in which the players do not wear numbers. That sort of proactive refereeing would do away with the problem altogether.

The matter of numbers is governed by the local rules of competition. If the local rules are totally silent on this matter--or if this is a "pick-up game," in which case it is an unsanctioned match--then there isn't much the referee can do if he or she has accepted the assignment. If the local rules do require numbers, then the referee has a basis for requiring something be done (yet another use for the versatile duct tape roll!) before play begins.



The denial of letting players block the defensive "wall" by attackers getting in front of the "wall" on hands and knees that was in the May 8 edition of Ask A Soccer Referee leads me to contemplate variations of blocking the "wall" that would be acceptable.

It is common for attackers to squeeze into the defensive "wall" and to stand in front of it. Why not kneel in front of the "wall" instead of standing? Why not squat partially or completely with bended knees? Why not stand with interlocked arms or with arms over the shoulders or with outstretched arms held about face height? Why not stand facing the defenders keeping one's face in front of the defender's, even as the defenders try to see beyond?

I'm unsure what the protocol should be in judging what foolishness should be overlooked by the referee and when that behavior becomes an infraction. Kneeling, sitting or lying in front of a "wall" seems a non-beneficial tactic at best and more likely plain stupid.

Since the defenders have no right to form a wall, should not inch forward, can be impeded to the extent that attackers may post themselves in front of the wall (especially in front of that defender who is designated to rush to the ball a trivial moment before it is kicked) it seems to be a situation where the referee should just wait and see what infraction develops, if any.

I need some elaboration beyond the advice that getting on hands and knees in front of the "wall" is unsporting behavior. Thank you.

Answer (May 22, 2006):
Kneeling, squatting or standing with arms linked or outstretched are unnatural positions for players. While the defending team has no right to form a wall--surprise, surprise, coaches!--neither may the defenders be hindered physically from attempting to play the ball legally. Such methods as you describe go beyond the deceptive tactics mentioned in the May 8 answer and, in addition to constituting either holding or impeding, might be considered unsporting behavior.



Since this is not addressed with similar language in the ATR regarding Law 13: I am wondering if all that is stated in ATR 16.3 would also be true if the restart being performed was a free kick (under law 13) instead of a goal kick (including the statement regarding not applying advantage since the second touch is not a violation of law 12).

Answer (May 18, 2006):
Even if the goalkeeper was outside the penalty area, the posited scenario would not constitute an obvious goalscoring opportunity (OGSO), because the Law does not allow a goal to count if it comes directly from the team's own free kick. Accordingly, up to the moment of touching the ball, it could never be considered an OGSO. If the 'keeper handles the ball inside his or her own penalty area, indirect free kick restart; if outside the penalty area, direct free kick for deliberate handling; if the ball makes contact with the 'keeper's hand and then goes into the net, the goal is counted no matter where the goalkeeper is--because this is now an infringement of Law 12. The correct decision, as in the case of the goal kick, is to award the opposing team an indirect free kick at the place where the goalkeeper touched the ball with his or her hands, bearing in mind the special circumstances described in Law 8.



Is the rule for spitting based on disrespect or is there intention to eliminate the passing of germs? I have seen players spit on their palms for getting a better grip on the ball. Is that acceptable or ?

Answer (May 11, 2006):
Spitting at another person is an extremely disrespectful and disgusting act, universally held in contempt.

Spitting on one's hands to get a better grip on the ball, on the other hand, is an accepted means of increasing grip. The amount of spittle remaining when the ball is next played by another player is negligible.



In attending a recent recertification clinic, It was mentioned that Soccer Docs will be allowed in Youth games U9-U19. In researching this, I have found no written policy by USSF or referee position papers on this. I do understand about religious head apparel that is acceptable as long as it is not a danger to anyone.

Are the Soccer Docs acceptable(in the opinion of the referee) or not. Is there any written statement either way. I just want to make sure that we are consistent with the laws of the game and that our referees in our soccer club are consistent as well.

Answer (May 11, 2006):
Players may wear any equipment that is not dangerous to themselves or other participants. This was clearly outlined in a USSF position paper of 3 September 2003, which is still valid:
>From the U.S. Soccer Communications Center -- Sept. 4, 2003
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, facemasks, 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.

The Federation cannot and does not either approve or disapprove of any headgear.



A tie game is to be decided by penalty kicks.The teams are told to not leave the field. A minute is spent organizing the taking of the kicks. We pick the goal,etc. During this time the adults are allowed to get a drink on the field. As we get started, a player announces: so and so left the field to get a drink. The league coordinator and the other ref tell the player he can't kick since he left the field. After much ado, he is sent off. Was this decision proper?

Answer (May 10, 2006):
Common sense tells us, even though a player is not supposed to leave the field once the process of kicks from the penalty mark has begun, that going off the field for a drink and then returning for the kicks is a VERY minor infringement of the Laws, one that should be considered trifling. Unless the player leaving the field was deemed to be part of a stratagem to confuse the officials and thus an effort to result in someone participating who was NOT eligible, then let it go.



During a game today (and in most youth games), the referee automatically asked my players to step back and give the other team a mandatory 10 yards.

I have 2 problems with this assuming "Persistent Encroachment" is not occurring (6-8 yards off the ball is fair unless asked for by the opposing team):
1. The player on the ball, not a sideline parent or coach must ask for the 10 yards. It is should not be assumed that the team with the free kick wants 10 yards.
2. What if the team on the ball wants to play quick and does not want or need the 10 yards?

The referee came up to me after the game and told me I need to tell my girls that they needed to give 10 yards, regardless if the player asks for it or not. At first I responded, that is not what the Laws of Games state, he continued to argue with me in front of the players and said he has been doing this for 20 years and has read the RULES 500 times.

Can you please clarify? I live with two referees who hear this all the time from me.

Answer (May 9, 2006):
Your contention that the players do not have to move back 10 yards immediately at a free kick is a false one. Law 13 (Free Kicks) tells us quite clearly: all opponents are at least 9.15 m (10 yds) from the ball until it is in play (except at an indirect free kick within their own penalty area, when they may remain on their goal line and between the goalposts). There is no requirement that players must ask for the ten yards.

You are failing to distinguish what the Law requires versus what the referee needs to enforce. While the players must retire the obligatory distance from free kicks and corner kicks and now from throw-ins as well, the referee's job is to keep his mouth shut and let the attackers (the ones in control of the restart) decide whether, how, and to what extent they want this requirement enforced. Otherwise, the referee should treat the offense as trifling unless the opponent ACTUALLY interferes with play from within 10 yards (usually meaning makes contact with the ball through some deliberate action as opposed to receiving a ball kicked directly to him/her).

In significantly more words, here is what we advise referees, taken from the upcoming 2006 edition of the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game":
If the referee decides to delay the restart and to enforce the required minimum distance, the referee must quickly and emphatically indicate to the attackers that they may not now restart play until given a clear signal to do so. Under these circumstances, an attacker who restarts play without a signal should be verbally warned and, upon repetition, be cautioned for unsporting behavior. The free kick in such cases must be retaken, regardless of the result of the original kick. An opponent who moves closer to the spot of the kick (from any direction) before it is taken must be cautioned and shown the yellow card if the referee has delayed the restart to ensure that the opponents are at the minimum distance.

If one or more opponents fail to respect the required distance before the ball is properly put into play, the referee should stop the restart to deal with this infringement. The free kick must be retaken even if the momentum of play causes the ball to be kicked before the referee signals. The infringement plus the referee's decision to deal with it cancel any apparent restart regardless of a delay in announcing the decision. However, referees are also expected to consider whether the infringement on the minimum distance was trifling (had no effect on the freedom of the attackers to restart) and, if so, to refrain from issuing a caution and to allow play to proceed.

The referee is expected to deal with opponents who fail to respect the required distance, even in situations in which they were induced to do so by attackers appearing to put the ball into play, but where the ball was not kicked (touched with the foot and moved).

An attacking team which chooses to take a free kick with an opponent closer than the minimum distance may not thereafter claim infringement of the distance requirement, even if the ball is kicked to the infringing opponent, who thereby is able to control the ball without moving toward it. In such a case, the referee cannot caution the opponent who has not remained the required distance from the ball.


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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