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September 2003 Archive (I of III)


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SHIELDING THE BALL/LEAVING THE FIELD OF PLAY

Question:
A striker, protecting a 1-goal lead late in the game, dribbles the ball to the corner flag and parks it right on the opponents goal line, then aggressively and legally shields a defender who is trying to get the ball without giving up a corner kick. To me, this stops "the continuous flow of action" that the rules attempt to create, thus interfering with the spirit of the game, and also raises the ire of the opposing team due to the stalling and aggressive shielding. So I stopped play, called "unsporting behavior", and gave an indirect kick to the defending team. I issued no yellow card, invoking law 18 for a "victimless crime". The striker was hot, claiming what he was doing was a legal play.

My action would appear to be justified by "commits any other offense not previously mentioned in law 12" clause, except I did not issue a yellow card. Was I wrong for stopping play, or wrong for not giving a yellow card, or is there a better way to deal with this situation?

Answer (September 10, 2003):
Why ever would you caution a player for unsporting behavior for performing a perfectly legitimate act? Any player is allowed to shield the ball from all comers if he remains within playing distance of the ball. And there is a perfectly legitimate way to get around this shielding, too. Read on.

In the normal course of events, players are expected to remain on the field of play. However, they are allowed to leave the field to retrieve balls for restarts on the boundary lines (corner kicks and throw-ins), balls that left the field after fouls or misconduct, and to avoid opponents blocking their way or to get to the ball still in play, as well as to perform the restart itself. It is clear from reading the literature from the IFAB and FIFA that a player in the situation you describe is allowed to leave the field during the course of play to get to the ball while it is still in play. The referee should not consider this act to be a cautionable offense, but rather to be smart soccer.


REFEREES, USE YOUR BRAINS!

Question:
Last night at a U13 Boys game, a player on my team scored on a quick one touch from a cross. The ball went directly into the back of the goal without the keeper touching it. The certified center referee signaled a goal for appox. 3 seconds and headed to the center of the field, my team set up for the kickoff. About 3 seconds after signaling goal, the CR looked over at the AR who was on the goal side and noticed him flapping the flag in front of him. The CR went to the AR and asked him why he was flapping the flag, the CR asked him if it was a goal, he said "no", the AR thought he said "did you see a foul". At this point, the CR took the ball and did a drop at the defenders 18 with my team setup for a kickoff. I immediately asked the AR, what happened, he said "I don't know, I thought you scored a goal". At halftime, I asked the CR what happened and he indicated the AR had said there was no goal. I asked him to talk to the AR. He came back and apoligized, he had misunderstood the AR. Does the goal count?

Answer (September 9, 2003):
May the fleas of a thousand camels infest, etc., etc., both of these referees for taking away your team's goal, and may their arms be too short for them to scratch. Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done about it now. Once the referee has restarted the game, the goal may not be scored again.


PLEASE -- DO NOT PUNISH NON-EXISTENT FOULS!

Question:
White team is attacking and just over the half way line. The ball is kicked in a manner that causes it to deflect off a player and make a high arch towards Red's goal. There is four red players standing in a line about 14 yards from the goal. They are all within the penalty area. The ball comes straight down on top of one Red player who is in line with the other three. Because of the ball's shadow? the player flinches and reacts by batting the ball straight down with her hand. The ball ends up in the same place as if the player would not have touched it with her extended hand. There is no white player within 10 yards of where this occurred. The red player does not play the ball because she knows she touched it with her hand. The ball ends up in a position that is neutral to both red and white (no advantage to either team).

Is the referee supposed to award a penalty kick by letter of the law or let common sense rule and tell the players to "play on - no foul".

Answer (September 9, 2003):
Neither decision you suggest is correct. If the situation was exactly as you describe it, then no foul was committed and the referee need not say anything.

If the players appear confused by the events, the referee might say "no foul" or something similar to ensure that play continues, but he cannot say "play on," because there was no foul.


DEALING WITH SLIDING TACKLES

Question:
I know this may seem odd and far out, but I'm really curious as to the answer to this. If a goalie caught the ball, tucked it into his jersey and sprinted up field into the other goal, would the goal count? He is not touching the ball with his hands in any way after he tucked the ball in his jersey.

On a girls under 14 game with good skilled players on competitive teams. A long kick is played behind the red teams defenders and is rolling toward the red goal. A blue player has sprinted to the ball and is about to begin dribbling toward goal and a shot. A speedy red player is pursuing from a slight angle and behind the blue player. The red player slides from a slight angle and behind the blue player and kicks the ball out of the blue player's path thwarting the attack. The red player's momentum carries her into the path of the blue player's legs and sends the blue player flying head over heals. There was no opportunity for the blue player to have seen the red player, or been aware of her presence and the ensuing slide tackle.

On this play the referee made no call. The player sent flying later became dizzy and left the field. She collapsed about 10 minutes later and was taken by ambulance to the hospital. The doctors have indicated a concussion and strained neck. In addition the game became much more physical with both teams fouling hard at every opportunity, and parents becoming very upset because of the injured player.

This is a dangerous tactic to prevent an attack and is considered by most to be fair because the defender got the ball first. I say who cares who got the ball first the play was dangerous, and the referee has a responsibility to take some action. The blue team thought they had received no justice and decided to get some on their own.

What do you say?

Answer (September 9, 2003):
There is no black-or-white answer to your question. The likelihood of danger is greater when the tackle is committed from behind and the probability of a foul having been committed is greater solely for this reason -- due in large part to the "can't prepare for the tackle" element when it comes from an unseen direction.

The referee must judge each situation of a tackle from behind individually, weighing the guidelines published by FIFA and the U. S. Soccer Federation, the positions of the players, the way the tackler uses his/her foot or feet, the "temperature" of the game, the age/skill of the players, and the attitude of the players. Only then can the referee make a sensible decision.

While one may (and should) sympathize with the injured player, soccer is a tough, competitive sport, and injuries can happen with no associated infringement of the Law. Players who act on the basis of the opposite presumption, abetted by like-minded spectators, do the sport no good.

Finally, "getting the ball first" has NEVER been absolution for whatever else may happen during or immediately after the tackle.


THE ASSISTANT REFEREE AND THE ADVANTAGE CLAUSE

Question:
Can the AR invoke the advantage clause as outlined in Law 5?

  1. The ball sails over the goal and out of touch.
  2. The ball goes into the goal.

What is the restart for both 1 and 2?

Answer (September 9, 2003):
The assistant referee (AR) may not and cannot invoke the advantage clause. That is reserved solely for the referee. However, the CONCEPT of advantage is used by the AR in deciding whether to give a signal in the first place. The AR should make use of the advantage concept as part of his duty under Law 6 to signal for infringements occurring out of the view of the referee. While not a formal "call" and with no signal as such, ARs should keep the flag down even for violations out of the referee's view IF the referee would likely have applied advantage if he had seen it (or likewise, in the alternative, would have considered the violation trifling).


SHINGUARDS

Question:
I checked the archives and could not find an answer to my exact question, but there were a few involving goalkeepers that were close. I would really like your input.

Answer (August 29, 2003):
We cannot comment on whatever rules may govern the position of the shinguard for high school players. As for players in USSF matches, Law 4 is clear in leaving to the referee the responsibility of determining not only if the shinguards are present but also if they are being worn properly. After all, shinguards cannot protect the shin (shinguard = guard the shin) if they do not cover the shin. The shinguard must provide adequate protection for the player. The decision lies with the referee, not some fashionista.


QUICK FREE KICK/COACHES' RIGHTS

Question:
A direct kick foul is called. The teams line up for the restart. The coach for the team taking the free kick hollers for ten yards. A quick look at the positioning of the players shows the defending team about 8 yards away. The player taking the kick starts his motion towards the ball with the coach still hollering for ten yards. The kick is taken and goes well over the goal post. The coach protest that he has the right to ask for ten yards. Should the referee act on the coaches request for ten yards or should the request come only from the field players?

Answer (August 29, 2003):
Where do people get the idea that coaches have the right to do anything but prepare their players for the game? A coach has no "right" to anything in the game of soccer, other than the right to conduct himself responsibly during the game while offering advice to his players.

More to the point of your question, the referee is under no obligation to stop the kicker from kicking the ball at a free kick, no matter where the opposing players are positioned. Both teams are expected to abide by the requirement to get the ball back in play. All referees should encourage and allow quick free kicks, particularly if that is what the kicking team wants to do. At all free kicks the referee should back away, watch what happens, and intervene in quick free kick situations where an opponent closer than the minimum required distance actively makes a play for the ball (as opposed to, luckily, having the ball misplayed directly to him). The referee must have a feel for the game, how it has been going, how it is going now. That "feel" must be applied to each and every situation individually. There is no black-and-white formula to follow.

And let it be repeated here: The coach has no right to anything other than to remain in his technical area (bench area) -- if he behaves responsibly. And hollering at the referee is not responsible behavior -- nor good coaching.


ONE-ARMED/ONE-HANDED THROW-INS; THREATS OF "PROTEST"!!

Question:
Good morning, my son is 10 and he plays on a select U11 team and has been playing soccer for 5 years. At age three he lost his left arm below the elbow, and has always thrown the ball in with his one hand. We have taught him to throw the ball over his head and keep his elbow in front of him (not off to the side like a goalie throw).

In all these years of playing never has a referee or coach complained or ruled that he can not throw the ball in because he only has one hand, as long as his arm stays in front. Last weekend we played in a tournament and made it to the championship game. We played the home team so it was a very exciting game, at halftime we were up 2-1, the other coach came over to the referee and our coach and said if my son (Hunter) continued to throw in the ball they would protest.....is this legal, can they protest because my son has only one hand to throw in the ball.

Because he lost his arm at a young age and has compensated for it, his other arm is very strong and he can throw the ball pretty far down the field...but I've seen many techniques of throw in's...even flips! I know the rule is two hands but because he has only one hand can he continue to throw in without the threat of another coach protesting! I wonder if his team was winning would he have said anything????

Answer (August 29, 2003):
Here is what we teach our referees, as printed in the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game":
QUOTE
15.3 PROPERLY TAKEN THROW-IN
A throw-in must be performed while the thrower is facing the field, but the ball may be thrown into the field in any direction. Law 15 states that the thrower "delivers the ball from behind and over his head." This phrase does not mean that the ball must leave the hands from an overhead position. A natural throwing movement starting from behind and over the head will usually result in the ball leaving the hands when they are in front of the vertical plane of the body. The throwing movement must be continued to the point of release. A throw-in directed straight downward (often referred to as a "spike") has traditionally been regarded as not correctly performed; if, in the opinion of the referee such a throw-in was incorrectly performed, the restart should be awarded to the opposing team. There is no requirement in Law 15 prohibiting spin or rotational movement. Referees must judge the correctness of the throw-in solely on the basis of Law 15.

The acrobatic or "flip" throw-in is not by itself an infringement so long as it is performed in a manner which meets the requirements of Law 15.

A player who lacks the normal use of one or both hands may nevertheless perform a legal throw-in provided the ball is delivered over the head and provided all other requirements of Law 15 are observed.
END OF QUOTE

The concept is that the thrower makes a best effort to conform to meet the requirements of the Law. With one single caveat, any intelligent referee will allow people without the full use of both arms to take a throw-in without punishing them for not using both hands. The caveat: the referee must ensure that the one-handed throw is balanced and does not result in too much one-handed giving an unfair advantage to the thrower's team.

And we also instruct our referees to pay no attention to threats of protest from anyone who has a stake in the outcome of the game.


SUBSTITUTION RULES

Question:
Has the USSF adopted the rule that NCAA & NFHS have done? That is, allow both teams to substitute on a substitution time for a specific team when they choose to substitute.

Answer (August 28, 2003):
Under the Laws of the Game, players may be substituted at any stoppage in play. What confuses you and others is the tendency in some leagues and tournaments to adopt what are often called "youth substitution rules." These "rules" differ from the substitution rules established under the Laws of the Game. Although variations in substitution rules are allowed for youth (U-16 and below), veteran players (i. e., adults over 30), female players, and players with disabilities, their widespread and nearly automatic use in the United States in competitive play generally and for groups other than these mentioned is curious.

If you are interested in seeing the use of substitution rules which more closely resemble those used in the rest of the world, you should encourage your local associations and tournaments, not USSF, to avoid adopting these various restrictions on substitutions, particularly in competitive -- as opposed to recreational -- play.


CALLING OFFSIDE; IRRELEVANCY OF TEAM COMPLAINTS

Question: I ask this question on behalf of some adult players to provide an official response so that they can read it and believe it. This play happened in an adult co-ed game recently and caught a number of people off guard, including the refs (I was one of them), until we convened and got the correct decision. I had never experienced this play in my 8+ years of officiating.

Player A from the attacking team positions himself in his attacking half of the field. The defending team takes positions on the center line and in their attacking half of the field leaving Player A alone, in what looks like an obvious offsides position (no defender nearer to the goal). The restart at this time is a goal kick by Player A's team from their defensive end of the field. The goalkeeper kicks the ball directly to Player A all alone in the opposition's defensive end and promptly goes to goal for a try. The goalkeeper makes the save, but the defending team is screaming for offsides because there are no defenders behind Player A nearer to their goal.

Luckily we had our Law books with us and showed the teams that an attacker cannot be called for offsides on a goalkick when the player receives the ball directly from the kick. This is one of 3 cases where an attacking player is not offsides (the other 2 being on throw-ins and corner kicks). There are a lot of questions regarding this "interpretation" and its apparent unfairness from Team B. It was near halftime when the incident occurred, so we were able to calm players down and restart after an extended halftime intermission. I told the players I would write a letter to the senior officials to get a response that they could read.

I would appreciate an "official" reply to show these folks at the next game to increase their awareness and provide them a better understanding of the game.

Answer August 27, 2003): The task you have set seems impossible to fulfill. If the team would not believe what is written in the Laws of the Game, why would they believe something from the U. S. Soccer Federation? All we can do is point out the relevant portions of Law 11, Offside, and hope that the players can understand.

Law 11 tells us that it is not an offense in itself to be in an offside position. It also tells us that there is no offside offense if a player receives the ball directly from a goal kick, a throw-in, or a corner kick.

This basic premise of the Law is accepted and practiced throughout the world. If the defending team is careless enough to allow the attacking team to take advantage of the Law, then shame on them.

Two elements are most disturbing. The first is that this should have been taught in Refereeing 101, meaning that there should not have been any need for a conference. The second is that referees must realize that a team's complaint/argument as to the alleged unfairness of any rule is irrelevant.


MAKE THE CALL!

Question:
What do you do if the ball squeezes between two players on opposite teams shoes and goes out??

Answer (August 26, 2003):
You make a decision -- and then you sell it!


PUTTING THE BALL IN PLAY

Question:
The rule states after the first player touches the ball and it moves foward the ball is in play. My questions are :
How must the ball be touched and how much movement is foward?
Can a player step directly on top of the ball and it is now in play and the ball in the opinion of the referee did not move forward?
Also can a player touch the ball and roll it foward and backward without removing their foot and the ball is only touched once because their foot never left the ball?

I hope you can clarify the rule. I have had a team do this and I am sure I will see more of these restarts this fall.

Answer (August 26, 2003):
For purposes of the restart, the advice you seek on restarts in which the ball is kicked will be found in the USSF Addendum to the Memorandum 1997, distributed to all referees in 1997:
QUOTE
General Note Regarding Restarts
"Memorandum 1997" discussed amendments to the Laws of the Game affecting all free kick, corner kick, penalty kick, and kick-off restarts. These amendments centered on the elimination of the ball moving the "distance of its circumference" before being considered in play. In all such cases, the ball is now in play when it is "kicked and moves" (free kicks and corner kicks) or when it is "kicked and moves forward" (kick-offs and penalty kicks). IFAB has emphasized that only minimal movement is needed to meet this requirement. USSF Advice to Referees: further clarification from IFAB suggests that, particularly in the case of free kicks and corner kicks, such minimal movement might include merely touching the ball with the foot. Referees are reminded that they must observe carefully the placing of the ball and, when it is properly located, any subsequent touch of the ball with the foot is sufficient to put the ball into play. Referees must distinguish between such touching of the ball to direct it to the proper location for the restart and kicking the ball to perform the restart itself. In situations where the ball must move forward before it is in play (kick-offs and penalty kicks), there should be less difficulty in applying the new language since such kicks have a specific location which is easily identified.
END OF QUOTE

You are incorrect in saying "The rule states after the first player touches the ball and it moves forward the ball is in play." When a premise is false, the conclusions are usually tainted.

What Law 8 actually says is that "the ball is in play when it is kicked and moves forward." Merely touched does not constitute a kick. A kick is normally defined (everyday use) as a "strike, thrust, or hit with the foot." The Law is not concerned with the ball merely quivering or trembling as a result of contact with the foot. The Law presumes spatial movement on the field and, in the case of a kick-off (or penalty kick), forward spatial movement.

Rolling the ball forward is exactly that -- rolling the ball forward -- it is not a kick. Referees face the same sort of issue on a throw-in: if a player drops the ball from over his head, this may appear to meet all the requirements of Law 15, except for the simple fact that it was not a throw.

As for how much movement forward is needed, after the kick, the answer is equally simple -- only minimal movement is required. Assuming an actual kick has occurred and the ball actually moves (spatial displacement) and the direction is not backward, it is now in play and we can get on with our lives.


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.

Submit your questions via e-mail to askareferee@ussoccer.org.

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