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November 2007 Archive (I of III)


Scenario: (real adult game)
Blue team is attacking on the White's team side of the field. With the ball in play, Blue defender outside his own penalty area, commits a misconduct (violent conduct - head butt) against on opponent in plain view of AR2..

AR2 raises his flag to gain the attention of the referee (sorry no electronic flags) that has his back turned to him. AR1 mirrors AR2 (the fans are also screaming). The referee turns and makes eye contact with AR2 but does not stop play. Play continues for several more seconds. Now the referee stops play for a foul committed against a Blue player near the touch line on the AR1 side of the field.

During the stoppage, the referee comes over to the AR2 side of the field, he is informed of the misconduct and issues a send off to Blue defender.

Question: Proper Restart
Is the game restarted with a free kick in favor of the Blue team since play was allowed to continue and the reason for the stoppage was the foul or bring the ball back to the spot of the misconduct and restart with a free kick in favor of the White team?

I read both the ATR and the Q&A but I could not find an answer that would clear my doubt.

Answer (November 1, 2007):
Even though the referee stopped play for the foul against the Blue player on AR1's side of the field, rather than for the serious misconduct flagged by AR2 and mirrored by AR1, the correct restart, after the "conference" during which the referee accepts A2's flag, is for the foul committed near AR1. The restart will follow the sending off of the Blue defender for violent conduct.

When the referee accepts the trail AR's signal (and there is CLEARLY no basis for considering the offense either trifling or subject of advantage), then we would count the stoppage as being for the offense signaled by the trail AR. Just because the referee stopped play thinking at the moment that it was for the second offense occurring near AR1, there is no reason why this opinion cannot be changed after receiving more detailed information from AR2. It is often the case that the referee sees the retaliation and misses what causes it. If an AR is able to supply relevant information about the prior offense, the referee can now sort out what happened first and decide on the restart accordingly.

Finally, shame on the referee for not following through immediately on the foul and misconduct committed by the Blue player behind the referee's back. There is absolutely no reason for a referee to look at an AR, see the flag, and continue the game without stopping -- unless there has been some reason earlier in the game for the referee to be wary of the AR's judgment.



Scenario: A spectator with a camera, during the course of the game, stood directly behind one of the goal's net. He only took a few pictures and watched the rest of the first half of the game from that vantage point. It was not known which team he was associated with and his mouth moved although his voice was not heard by the AR.

Ruling? There was no photographer's line marked.

Answer (October 30, 2007):
Lots of people talk to themselves, even aloud, without directing their words toward anyone else. There would appear to have been no real problem here. Under the Laws of the Game (the rules the world plays by) there is no prohibition on spectators contributing their "wisdom" to the players. However, there may be such a rule in one or more of the competitions (leagues or cups or tournaments, etc.) in which the team participates. Check the rules of the competition.

In addition, unless the rules of the competition specify otherwise, the referee has no authority to take action against parents or other spectators unless they enter the field of play.

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, up to and including "grave disorder," which would not seem to apply here. 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. Again, not the case in this situation.

Unless the spectator causes some sort of problem or the rules of the competition forbid spectators behind the goals, there is no reason for any action here.



On two occurrences I have stopped play because of an injury to the head of a player, both times players and coaches were yelling to "kick the ball out" however no one did. With play stopped and the ball still in play and in the possession of one team, is the correct restart a drop ball with both teams participating or only the team that was in possession? Where does possession come into play when the match has been stopped for injuries? I have had a coach complain that the drop ball should be one sided in the "spirit of the game" and another coach argue that his team had possession and that his team should have the ball.

Answer (April 11, 2007):
Many major competitions throughout the world have instructed their players not to follow the traditional "kick the ball out of play" procedure when a player appears to be seriously injured. And the Law instructs the referee to stop play only when he or she believes the player is indeed seriously injured.

The only possible way to restart play after stopping for an injury is a dropped ball. There is no alternative under the Laws of the Game.

With regard to your question of possession, there is no such thing in the Laws of the Game once the referee has stopped play. Possession by one team or the other does not enter into the picture at all. (Maybe you are thinking of high school soccer?) The referee must make his or her own decision as to how to manage the dropped ball after having stopped play for the injury. The intelligent referee will remember that there is no requirement that players from both teams - or that any player at all - must take part at a dropped ball.



If a goalie and an attacking opponent arrive to the ball at the same time with the opponent diving feet first without any kicking motion but merely poking the ball loose with their foot, is this allowable or does the opponent clearly have to touch it first?

Answer (October 29, 2007):




Answer (April 11, 2007):
(With sincere apologies to the person who sent this; we lost the e-mail address. Darn!)
While the referee must always remember that the goalkeeper's position is a particularly dangerous one, there are times when the onus for fair play falls squarely on the opponent. This is one of those times. If a player dives feet first at an opponent, that is usually considered a form of "jumping at" at opponent.

It is a general principle underlying the Law that players are not permitted to "play" the opponent rather than the ball. That is enshrined in the concept of "jumping at an opponent." "Jumping at" means precisely that: launching one's body toward the opponent. It can be from a standing or "flying" position. It can be done in two ways: (1) to intimidate or (2) in a feigned (really meant to distract or intimidate the opponent) or genuine but unsuccessful attempt to gain the ball. It is most often seen under the pretext of heading the ball, but may also be seen when a player launches himself through the air, feet first, to "tackle" away the ball.

Example: A8 is running upfield with the ball. Defender B3 jumps at A8 to startle him, causing A8 to flinch and lose possession.

What to do? B3 has committed the foul of jumping at an opponent if he does it in a manner considered by the referee to be careless, reckless or using excessive force. If the foul was careless, the result would be a direct free kick (or penalty kick if committed within B's penalty area) for team A. If the foul was reckless, the result would be a caution/yellow card to B3 for unsporting behavior and a direct free kick (or penalty kick) for team A. If the foul involved excessive force, the result would be a send-off/red card for B3 and a direct free kick (or penalty kick) for team A.

Normally contact is not required, as specified by the word "at" in the name of the foul. However, another form of "jumping at" an opponent is the two-footed tackle, which by definition has to be a jump - launching one's body toward that of the opponent. If that two-footed tackle is for the ball, it is likely fair, but if the jumping player lands on the ball just as the opponent's foot is kicking it, the referee should consider the tackle dangerous and punish it with an indirect free kick. If contact is made with the opponent, give a direct free kick. If it is reckless, caution it. If it is done with excessive force, send the player off.

Faking: Another form of "jumping at" is to make the foul appear to have been committed by the opponent when the player with the ball has actually committed it. That sort of foul is common in youth soccer, where some players jump into an opponent and, while doing so, turn their back. Since that essentially makes them an unguided missile, it highlights the danger of jumping at an opponent with the back turned. Direct free kick for the opponent's team.

Where to punish: At the spot where the opponent was affected by the jump. If a player starts his jump outside the penalty area but completes it inside, the referee must give the direct free kick (or penalty kick, if applicable) inside the penalty area.

There are two things to remember about "jumping at" an opponent. First, contact is not required for the foul. The foul is in the intimidation or distraction of the opponent by the jump. Second, this is one of those fouls where the "rule of thumb" about "playing the player rather than the ball" is particularly apt as a shorthand way of viewing the offense -- the foul is almost certain when the offending player is looking at the opponent rather than the ball.



The following incident occurred during a recent Midwest Regional League match between U15 girls. Near the beginning of the second half with the score tied at 0, a defender on Team A won the ball in her own third and began dribbling up the side on which I was the AR. The wing midfielder on Team B pursued the defender and caught her at midfield. The defender played the ball a little forward to set up a long pass and the opposing midfielder stepped between the defender and the ball. Without intending to, the defender kicked the midfielder in the back of the legs, she fell forward, and landed on the ball. The Referee blew his whistle and pointed in the direction of Team A. When he came over to spot the ball, I asked him whether the ball should not be given to Team B since it was their player who got kicked. He agreed and reversed the call. Team A's coach went ballistic saying that his player had possession. He became so loud that the Field Marshal came over to calm him down, but he began yelling at the FM and was escorted from the field (the Referee did not dismiss him).

Two questions:
1. What is the correct call? Should the Referee have called a foul? Should the ball be given to Team A or Team B?
2. Should we have stuck with the original call, since neither coach was complaining about a free kick for Team A at midfield?

I don't think the call affected the outcome, a 0-0 draw. However, I still felt bad that Team A had to play without their coach for most of the second half.

Answer (October 29, 2007):
1. If we read the scenario correctly, the referee should have called a foul on the player who kicked the opponent in the back of the legs. That would give the ball to Team B.

2. If the original call was wrong, then there was no reason to stick with it.

Referees (and ARs) must learn to be alert to complaints by coaches and players, but not necessarily to "hear" them or allow them to influence any decisions; the referee should measure the content of the complaint against what he or she has seen on the field thus far in the game and allow that to guide decision making Remember that coaches usually see the game only in one light, that which is most favorable to their team. They will complain about anything that does not go their way. This seems to work out well in this country, particularly if the coach has a foreign accent. However, if you watch higher-level teams, whose coaches and players are highly experienced, you will find that most of them -- except perhaps in this country, where whiners abound -- do not object to calls that go against them, knowing that the referee is not going to change his or her mind.

As to the field marshal escorting the coach from the field, that is a matter covered by the rules of the competition, something not governed by the U. S. Soccer Federation.



I have a question about a recent middle school boys game. Team A took a shot on goal and a player from Team B handled the ball on its way towards the goal (attempting to deny an obvious goal-scoring situation). However, the ball still crossed the goal line for a goal. The referee waved off the goal and awarded a PK but did not send off the defender. What is the correct ruling on this, allow the goal to stand and either not card the defender (or possibly issue a yellow card?) or disallow the goal and send off the defender?

Answer (October 29, 2007):
We must state once again that we do not deal with the rules for games that are not played under the Laws of the Game. However, if this game had been played under the Laws of the Game, we would make the following observations:
1. Denial of a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball is a sending-off offense. The referee may apply the advantage and, if the ball does enter the goal, the player who attempted to deny the opportunity must be cautioned for unsporting behavior.
2. The goal should have been scored.
3. Only a very foolish referee would take away a goal already in the net and award a penalty kick that cannot assure a goal.



This question concerns an event during a competitive U17B match for which I was the center. During the run of play, team B crosses the ball into the box. The A team goalie comes out, jumps with his hands up, and "flaps" at the ball making just enough contact to spin the ball backwards to a waiting team B player who heads the ball into the net. The B player was in an offside position at the time of the cross.

I ruled this a good goal on the basis that the goalie had made a play on the ball which effectively changed possession. Since the ball played back from a defending player, the B player could not be offside and was free to attack the ball.

I will add that the goalie had made previous successful clearances of crosses and corners with his hands in addition to catching the ball.

Follow up question (which depends on the answer to above). If the keeper had attempted to catch the ball but just missed it off his finger tips, would this be the same as a deflection and, hence, offside judged against the B player?

Answer (October 29, 2007):
Deflections by any opposing player do not affect the status of a player in an offside position; the attacking team's player must be called offside if he or she becomes involved in play (as defined in Law 11). Unsuccessfully "making a play" for the ball does not establish possession. Nor, for that matter, does successfully "making a play" for the ball if it then deflects to the player in the offside position who becomes involved in play.

Note that there are differences here between "being involved in play," "playing the ball," and "making a play" for the ball. (As noted above, see Law 11 for involvement in play.) "Playing the ball" in these circumstances means that the defender (in this case the goalkeeper) possessed and controlled the ball. However, if the defender possessed and controlled the ball badly, it's still "making a play," but if it wasn't possessed and controlled, it wasn't played in the sense you suggested in your scenario.

A rule: Being able to use the ball subsequent to contact equals possession; deflection is not possession.



In a competitive division match, a player who was playing poorly was asked to come the sideline by the coach. I noted this as I turned to follow play and gave a quick glance over my shoulder as I continued down field. When I turned back again, I noticed the player sitting on the bench. A minute or so passed before the next stoppage and the player remained on the bench. Before allowing play to resume, I approached the coach and player on the bench and explained that the player failed to obtain my permission before leaving the field of play and I displayed the yellow card. The coach did not agree with the decision.

After the match, I consulted the Advice to refresh myself on the subject since it wasn't something I was used to seeing. The Advice seemed to 'advise' that this may be a trifiling incident and that I should have considered a simple warning. After consulting several other referees, they all seem to think that my situation did not fit the situations described in the Advice and that I was correct to display the card.

I'm not sure the situation is really well covered. The player did not simply forget to obtain my permission. The coach was going off the premise, so I believe, that she did not need to ask my permission.

What say you?

Answer (October 24, 2007):
We are not sure why you feel that the situation of the player leaving the field without permission is not well covered. The Advice is quite clear about the ramifications of the several variations on this offense:
Players who leave the field without the referee's permission most often do so for unsporting reasons - for example, to create an unfair offside situation (see Advice 11.10). They may also leave the field to indicate dissent or to "manage" the referee's next decision.

If a player does leave the field for some other reason without the referee's permission to do so, and this results in gaining a tactical advantage for his or her team, the player has committed misconduct and must be cautioned and shown the yellow card.

Where it is apparent to the referee that the player leaving the field without permission has not done so to express dissent or to gain an unfair advantage (e. g., exited to change shoes or replace a torn jersey) and has merely forgotten to obtain permission (or thought he or she had obtained it), the referee should consider this a trifling breach of the Laws. A word/warning to the player should be sufficient in such circumstances, even if that player then re-enters the field without obtaining the referee's permission.

A case could be made that the true violator of the Laws here is the coach. She behaved irresponsibly by calling the player from the field without your permission and leaving the player there. That would be grounds for her expulsion from the field and its immediate environs. However, we suspect that the coach is as ignorant of the Law as the player and the referee should consider giving the coach the same sort of slack as we recommend for the player -- under these circumstances. The core issue here is the difference between a correct decision and the best decision. Cautioning the player and expelling the coach would be "a" correct decision, but "the" correct decision might be something else. The referee's decision must be based on the level of play and the experience of the players and the coaches.



I know this has been addressed previously but I just can't seem to locate the answer. I award a free kick and one or more defenders runs over and stands directly in front of the ball about a foot away. I actually hear their coach telling them to do so. (The coach later tells me that he coaches his players to do this so as to make the attacker ask for the 10 yard "cushion.") It is my understanding of the laws that this is a violation of the letter and spirit of Law 13 and that the player are interfering with the restart of play and could, perhaps should, be cautioned. Notwithstanding what we see in the EPL and MLS, what is the position of USSF on this scenario?

Incidentally, I did caution the player who did this.

Answer (October 24, 2007):
Coaches will do almost anything that aids their team, including teaching the players to cheat in this and other ways. There is only one way to stop it and the Law is quite clear on what should be done. Every player who "fails to respect the required distance when play is restarted with a corner kick, free kick or throw-in" should be cautioned for that offense. That applies to your current situation; however, very often minor transgressions of this requirement can be taken care of by talking to or warning the player, but violations as blatant and cynical as this one call out for an immediate, no-questions-asked caution.


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. Direction is provided by Alfred Kleinaitis, Manager of Referee Development and Education, with further assistance from Julie Ilacqua, Managing Director of Referee Programs (administrative matters); David McKee, National Director of Assessment (assessment matters); and Ulrich Strom, National Instructor and National Assessor (matters in general).

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