US SoccerUS Soccer

June 2008 Archive (IV of IV)


I know these hypothetical situations from a bunch of refs sitting around with nothing better to do aren't your favorite things, but hopefully you'll be willing to address this one. We do generally stick to issues that have actually happened to someone, but this one came up and none of us feels certain to have the correct answer.

A foul is committed by the defense in the PA in the closing seconds of a tie game. The referee points to the spot and announces that the PK is being taken in extended time. He also reminds both teams that after the kick is taken, the only player that may touch the ball is the keeper, and that after the kick is finished, the game is over.

The kicker takes the kick, which is deflected by the keeper up into the air. At the taking of the kick, the keeper was on his line, and all other players remained outside the PA/behind the ball until the ball was kicked - that is, all the requirements for a legal kick appear to have been satisfied, and the only question is whether or not the ball will enter the goal. However, the keeper loses the ball in the sun, and it bounces off his back towards the goal. By all appearances it will enter the goal, however, a defender who rushed in after the kick performs a goal-line clearance.

I have gone back and forth on this. Does the game end as a tie (or go to extra time) because the PK was properly taken and did not enter the goal? Or is there a retake? I suppose a third option might be a caution for the defender and IFK in from the 6, but that seems out due to the extended time issue. In going back to ATR 14.7, it seems appropriate to categorize the defender comparable to an outside agent as he could not legally play the ball, and order a retake as "Although the ball was put into play, the team given the PK is deemed not to have had a fair opportunity to score under these circumstances." A caution for the defender for UB would likely be appropriate as well - I don't think you can send him off for DOGSO because the offense is not punishable by a FK (no FK in extended time) or PK (the PK is for the previous foul).

OTOH, 14.7 also says that if the interference occurs after the keeper plays the ball, it's a dropped ball (from the 6 presumably), which would lead one to believe that the kick is in fact over despite the defender's illegal interference, and all that can be done is to caution the defender and end the game.

Would you be willing to address this scenario?

Answer (June 24, 2008):
First things first! Your scenario, while admittedly hypothetical, contains one element that should never come up in any soccer game in which time is extended for the taking of a penalty kick: No players other than the kicker and the goalkeeper should be anywhere near the penalty area in which the kick is taking place. Allowing that to happen is a major referee error and hard to forgive. In this case, the (hypothetical) referee has sown the seeds of his own destruction.

As to the answer to your scenario, you have not yet seen Advice 14.13, which will appear in the upcoming 2008 edition of the Advice to Referees. It should answer your question:
The penalty kick or kick from the penalty mark is completed only when the referee declares it so, and the referee should not declare the kick to be completed if there is any possibility that the ball is still in play. In other words: So long as the ball is in motion and contacting any combination of the ground, crossbar, goalposts, and goalkeeper, a goal can still be scored.

A penalty kick or kick from the penalty mark is not completed, and must therefore be retaken, if anything unfairly or illegally interferes with the movement of the ball from the moment of the kick to the arrival of the ball at the goal. Examples of such interference would include the ball bursting on its way to the net or the intervention of an outside agent (e. g., spectator) while the ball is still moving to the net. Any interference that occurs after the ball has reached the net (resulting in the ball entering the net, missing the net entirely, or being saved by the goalkeeper) is handled as if the same event had occurred during play. The basic principle underlying this guidance is that the team taking a penalty kick or a kick from the mark must be given a fair chance to score and any illegal obstacle hindering the movement of the ball to the net must result in a retake of the kick.

In this scenario, the Law regards the defender as an outside agent and thus the kick must be retaken. The defender -- who should not have been anywhere near the field -- must be cautioned for unsporting behavior.

NOTE: We are aware that the answer contradicts the current Advice 14.8, which will also be changed to reflect the fact that the referee may not remove the players from the field at a penalty kick in extended time, but that he or she can order them to remain well away from the penalty area.



I know that extra signals are something that is frowned upon by the games under the aegis of the USSF. However, would it be appropriate in the pregame discussion as a assistant to let a center know that you are going to put your flag halfway up; that is running with it slightly raised as opposed to down at your side? The biggest trouble I am having with players or fans is when I am waiting to determine if the player in an offside position or the player who was not in an offside position(at the time the ball was played to them by a teammate) will make the next play on the ball.

Answer (June 24, 2008):
We are not certain that this unofficial signal would do much to help you. Our fear is that it might confuse everyone, the busy referee, the players, and those wonderful spectators, by suggesting that the flag was about to be raised the entire way in the next instant. We recommend a wait-and-see posture instead.

The Federation does not necessarily frown on unofficial signals, but the USSF Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees provides a set of standard signals that should not be changed lightly -- other signals may be used provided they meet certain criteria (spelled out in the Guide itself).



On a restart; Can a player scoop/lift the ball in the air for another player to volley it?

Answer (June 24, 2008):
Yes, that is legal. A player may take a kick restart by lifting the ball with one or both feet simultaneously. Law 13, under the new 2008/2009 Interpretations of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees, tells us: "The ball is in play when it is kicked and moves. A free kick can be taken by lifting the ball with a foot or both feet simultaneously."

However, the player who is allowed to do that by flicking the ball to another player may NOT play it a second time him- or herself. If the ball is truly flicked up and then propelled (contact with the ball is lost and then regained), then a second-touch violation has occurred.



The attacking team makes a long pass downfield. The ball is heading toward the goaline, just inside the penalty box. An attacker is sprinting downfield trying to get to the ball before it rolls out of bounds. A defender is giving chase as well.

The attacker is able to stop the ball right before it crosses the goalline, and the ball rolls backwards about a yard, sitting inside the penalty box, about halfway between the side of the goal box and penalty box.

However, the momentum of the sprint to the ball causes both players to leave the field of play by a few yards. The attacker is a bit more agile than the defender, and is able to change direction first.

However, prior to the re-entering the field, the defender turns, and grabs the attacker's jersey, preventing him from getting to the ball and making a cross to an open player.

My very small, meager, and limited understanding of the Laws (I have no business earning a badge and suiting up in the yellow shirt on Saturdays) are that the action by the defender is classified as misconduct, as it occurred off the field of play. In all likelihood, the defender shall be cautioned for unsporting behavior for the blatent shirt pull. However, the only possible restart in this case is a dropped ball at the point where the ball (if outside the goalbox, moving it parallel if not) was when the misconduct occurred.

If my interpretation is correct, to put it mildly, this really sucks for the attacking team. Sure, the defender gets a caution, but for robbing the attacking team from having the ball in a prime location, the result is a dropped ball. That just seems to go against the spirit of fair play.

I would also hope the referee in this situation would double check with his AR who studiously sprinted down the sideline as well to make sure that tug on the shirt didn't happen to conclude with any part of it occurring over a blade of grass on the outside edge of the goalline, inside the penalty box, where a penalty kick could be awarded.

Answer (June 23, 2008):
Any infringement of the Laws committed while off the field by players who have left the field during the course of play must be punished by a caution for unsporting behavior or a send-off for violent conduct, as applicable to the action. The only restart permitted by the Laws of the Game is a dropped ball at the place where the ball was when the infringement occurred (keeping in mind the special circumstances regarding restarts in the goal area).



I was working a tournament and the field that I was on had the temporary style goals. Because of the style of goals and the way the ground was the top right corner of the goal was leaning back from the field. We had a player come down the left side of the field and at about 5 feet off the end line took a shot. The ball crossed the opening of the goal and hit the inside of the upright near the top on the right side. Due to the angle of the shot the ball then bounced back toward the player that took the shot. With the amount that this corner was leaning back when the ball hit the inside of the post the ball had fully crossed the line. My A/R was right on the line and put his flag up. When I looked at him he sprinted up the field and I awarded the goal.

Some referees say this is a good goal and others say it was not. In your opinion did we call this correct?

Answer (June 23, 2008):
The Law requires that the ball cross the entire goal line, below the crossbar and between the goal posts. If that was the case in your game, then the goal was legal.

Your question brings up an important point regarding the pregame inspection: If the referee inspects the field and finds it meets the standards required by Law 1, when in fact it does not, then he or she places his or her authority and credibility in danger when a situation like this occurs. Lesson to be learned: Be certain that both teams know of the condition and how you will call goals. This, of course, violates our general instruction that referees not lecture the players or make "promises" as to what they will do, but this is the exception that proves the rule.

Even if the referee has inspected the field before the game, this sort of thing could happen if a player had run into the temporary goal just a moment before the situation you describe occurred. We believe that the whole of the ball crossing the whole of the goal line between where the goal posts SHOULD be is enough to call it a goal.



I am the AR2 for a match which the CR is having assessment by an assessor. There is a situation which happens near the AR1, which the defender attempt to hit the attacker after a confrontation from the attacker. It was after the defender made a foul on the attacker.

The CR give a DFK for the attacker but he did not give Red Card for the defender who attempt to hit the attacker. It is very obvious that i think both the CR and the AR1 noticed that but CR did not give the card or AR2 did not remind the CR to give the card. It might be lack of knowledge of the law, or not courage enough.

As i am the AR2 on the other side of the field, i also do not have the courage to ask the referee over to remind him to give the card.

Can i ask him over to advise him on any decision which happens near the other AR?

If yes, can i ask him over if the attacker has already took the quick restart from that DFK, which is the ball is in play? Should i flag up? or should i just shout/call for him?

Answer (June 23, 2008):
Confining our answer strictly to the United States, we can say with confidence that the trail AR is much too far away from the location of whatever went on to attempt to intervene with advice on what the referee should do, particularly in view of the likelihood that the referee and/or the lead AR saw what happened. If the trail AR feels that a mistake in judgment or courage was made, he could discuss it at the midgame break or at the end of the match . . . or listen in as the assessor discusses it. The ultimate solution for the trail AR is to decide not to work with either of the other two officials again if he felt strongly about the matter.



Defender in effort to clear the ball from the penalty area trips all on his own. He falls forwards and intentionally puts out his arms ahead of him to break his fall. His hand lands on the ball and pushes it out of the penalty area. Fair or foul? Is the intent to put his hands out sufficient to constitute intent to handle though he had no apparent intent to handle the ball. It is surely hand to ball, not ball to hand.

Answer (June 23, 2008):
A player attempting to break his fall must put his hands somewhere. If they simply happen to touch the ball that is already in the spot, no infringement of the Law has occurred. Do not make trouble for yourself by inventing fouls. It will only injure your credibility with the players.



i saw this school game when the referee given the Blue Team number 9 a yellow in the 1st Half. During the 2nd Half, the Red Team number 9 committed a foul and the referee give him a yellow card, but referee thought that the number was given the 2nd yellow card, he gave him the red card. That direct free kick resulted as a goal. The referee realised the mistake after the coach complaining and ask the Red Team number 9 to continue with the play. The referee restart the ball with a centre kickoff.

I understand that the referee made the mistake for allowing the goal as the goal scoring team has more players on the field due to the referee mistake. In the case, the goal should be disallowed, but the restart will be that direct free kick again?

Answer (June 23, 2008):
Under the Laws of the Game, once the referee has restarted the game, he or she cannot change what happened before the restart. Therefore the Red number 9 remains sent off and his team must play short for the rest of the game. j The referee must include full details of the entire incident in the match report.

The goal stands and the restart is a kick-off, at least in the United States of America.



can you please refer to a checklist that will cover the pregame instructions? thank you

Answer (June 23, 2008):
We are not aware of any formal checklist of pregame instructions, although our sponsor Official Sports and some other vendors do carry them. The referee should review the guidance given in the USSF publication "Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials," pointing out any additional tasks that need to be done. In turn, the ARs should ask questions to clarify what it is the referee expects in given situations.



Hi. The various scenarios about the Holland-Italy goal put forth on "Referee Week in Review" are very thorough and I hope every referee is aware of each of them. However I do have some questions on Scenario 5. It addresses the hypothetical that "the Italian defender is clearly injured and off the field of play," and states:

"The referee makes a decision that the defender is seriously injured and cannot return to play by himself. Once the referee has acknowledged the seriousness of the injury, the player may not participate in the play and must not be considered to be in active play (at this point, he would not be considered in determining offside position and should not be considered in the equation as either the first or second last opponent). For purposes of Law 11, the defender is considered to be on the goal line for calculating offside position.

This player, however, may not return to play without the referee™s permission. Remember, the referee is instructed in Law 5 to stop the game only for serious injury."

Under this scenario, the referee must "acknowledge the seriousness of the injury" and, once this is done, the player cannot participate in the play nor return to play without the referee's permission. My question is how, in a situation as we had in Holland-Italy, the referee could inform the downed player or anyone else that this player no longer counted for any offside determination and also could not re-enter the field. If play continued upfield, the referee could not possibly get near enough to the downed player to issue any instructions and, even if he could, most players on the field likely would be unaware of the exact situation. How would the attackers know where to line up to stay onside? How would the downed defender, if he got up and was able to continue play, know that he was not allowed to re-enter the field?

Any clarification of what to do in this situation - both for the U15-18 level and for higher level games - would be much appreciated.

My instinct would be to either count the downed player or else decide his injury is severe enough to stop play.

Thanks for your input.

Answer (June 23, 2008):
In the case under discussion, the goal was scored within three seconds of Panucci leaving the field after being pushed by his teammate, Buffon. That was not enough time for the referee to make any determination as to whether or not an injury existed, much less to judge its seriousness.

Soccer is a contact sport. The referee is required to stop play if, in his or her opinion, a player is seriously injured. He or she does not stop play for a slight injury. Remember that referees will rarely stop play within three seconds. If it's clearly a severe injury, such as to the head, then yes, there should be an immediate stoppage. However, referees will usually take more than three seconds to make a judgment on the extent of a player's injury. Panucci was at most slightly injured, if at all. He got up after the goal and did not need any treatment. In addition, it makes little difference whether he fell on or off the field of play. He could have fallen in the goal area. He had been part of the defense and still was part of play, part of the move, part of the game, when the goal was scored.



Several referees were discussing a general offside situation where a ball is headed backward by a defender. For example assume A1 sends a high diagonal ball towards the 18 yard line. D1 heads it only to have it go backwards to an attacker behind him in an offside position.

These refs believe that, because the act of heading the ball is a "deliberate act, not a deflection", that it will automatically reset the offside situation, regardless of where the ball ends up. Thus the attacker who ends up with the ball behind the defender is not offside, regardless of whether it was the defender's intent to play the ball backward and regardless of whether the header was controlled or if it simply skimmed of the very top of his head.

While I realize the final judgement is always itootr, I think that most of the time when a defender heads a ball backwards to an attacker, giving the attacker a good scoring opportunity, that this is not a controlled play but rather the equivalent of a mis-hit kick.

In that case, if my judgement is that the ball was mis-hit by the defender and hence accidentally went backwards, I don't believe it would reset the offside situation.

Could you please clarify this situation. Thanks.

Answer (June 18, 2008):
Looking solely at your direct question, the fact that the act of heading the ball is "deliberate" has no bearing on the matter. If the opponent (D1) did not establish full control of the ball originally played by A1 toward his/her teammate, then the heading of the ball is a deflection or touch, not possession or control. Therefore, the attacker in the offside position to whom the ball was headed by D1 is offside if he becomes actively involved in play.

There are, however, other aspects to be considered. The defender could be deliberately heading the ball back (say, to his keeper so that the keeper could handle it) and not know that there was an attacker back there also. In such a case, it is a deliberate play and the attacker should not be punished for the defender's error by being called for offside if he then gathers the ball and attacks the goal.

A defender might also deliberately play (possess and control) the ball by heading it but misdirect the ball so that it goes to this attacker ... and again the attacker should not be called for offside.

Why should a defender gain the benefit of an offside call against this attacker simply because the defender didn't play the ball accurately or well -- he still played it. Deflections, ricochets, bounces, and the like would not of course constitute a play.

In closing, we need to remember that officials, whether referees or assistant referees, should not defend for the defenders.



Player's foot slides over the top of the ball as his opponent tries to kick the ball.

Players cleat is over the ball while the opponent's leg is swinging toward it. Contact is made, unavoidably by the opponents ankle to the first player's cleat. Had the opponent's timing been better the contact (cleats to ankle) would have still occurred.

I felt the first player was careless allowing his foot to go over the top of the ball and awarded a DFK against him. Nobody liked my call. The sore ankle team thought a caution / send-off was in order, the cleat over ball team went to the "I got the ball first". I get 50/50 opinions on this situation. Can you give me any easy guidance?

Answer (June 18, 2008):
"Cleats up" means little if that is the only way the player can play the ball. What the referee must be concerned about is the nature and result of the play.

Referees should pay particular to the actual foul here, the "over the top" (of the ball) tackle. Unless the referee on the spot detects some malice in the play, this is a simple foul. However, if it is done other than through accident -- and "accident" would appear to be the case here -- it is the sending-off offense of serious foul play. The final decision must rest with the referee on the spot.



If a player taking a throw-in complies with all four of the 'Procedures' listed in Law 15, but takes it from further than one yard (one meter) of of where it crossed the touchline, (and the ball directly enters the field of play) is that throw regarded (under ATR 15.4) to have been taken 'illegally' - and so possession given to the opponents, or is it taken 'improperly' - and the team permitted to throw it again?

Answer (June 16, 2008):
The requirement that the ball be thrown in from no more than one yard (one meter) of the place where it left the field is one of those items that the International F. A. Board, the authors of the Laws of the Game, assumes that everyone knows and therefore does not need to be included in the Law. (The same is true of the fact that a player sent off may not be replaced; these and a few other items used to be in the Laws, but are now "universally accepted" and thus no longer included.) It should be regarded as one item in the procedures for throwing in the ball correctly. Therefore, failure to throw the ball in from within the correct distance could be regarded as a reason to award the throw-in to the opposing team.



I was the center ref in a boys under-12 match. An orange defender and a white attacker were side by side chasing the ball and entered the PA at full speed. I was trailing the play and observed the white attacker take a shot. I followed the flight of the ball and seemingly at the moment it passed over the goal line, the orange defender took down the attacker with a hip. It did not appear intentional but more a consequence of the pair's momentum. I called a PK, but later I considered the position of the ball at the time of the foul. If it had already passed the goal line, and was therefore out of play, would the correct procedure have been a misconduct on orange (yellow, not red since I didn't consider it serious foul play) and restart with a goal kick?

Answer (June 16, 2008):
If the ball had left the field -- only you can judge that, not us -- then it was out of play. If the ball was out of play, then no penalty kick could be awarded. If the act was not deliberate, then nothing should have been done to punish the orange attacker or his team; no caution, no send-off, nothing. Restart with a goal kick. And if the ball had been out of play, it could not have been serious foul play, because players cannot contest a ball that is out of play.



The referee calls half-time in a game between reds and blues. A blue player had been badly fouled just after the whistle. He then reacts and punches the red player in the face in the tunnel on the way to the changing room.

The players come out for half time, but the blue's manager decides that he knows the player will get sent off and tries to substitute him before the restart.

Would the red player be booked for the late and bad challenge on the blue player?

Would the blue player get sent off before the sub can be made?

Would the substitute get sent off after it has been made?

Would the manager be sent off for unsporting conduct?

Answer (June 16, 2008):
The referee's power to show cards and mete out punishment begins during the period immediately prior to the start of play and extends through the period of time immediately following the end of play, i. e., the end of the game, while players and substitutes are physically on the field but i the process of exiting. Any misconduct by a player that occurs during the halftime interval may be punished as if it had occurred when the ball was in play. To prevent misunderstandings, the referee should inform officials of both teams before the first period of play begins of any cautions or send-offs occurring prior to the start of the match; the same is true of any cautions or send-offs occurring during the halftime interval.

Under no circumstances could the act in question be considered a foul, as the ball was out of play. The act you describe would be considered violent conduct, a sending-off offense. The blue player should be sent off prior to the beginning of the second half. No substitution would be allowed. There would be no need to do anything to the manager, whose action would be common sense, not irresponsible behavior.



Yesterday, a very highly qualified referee, and that is a sincere statement, stated that the placement of the ball for the indirect free kick resulting from the goalie picking up a deliberate pass back was where the pass originated from.

In this example, not in the penalty area where the goalie picked the ball up, but some 30 yards up field near the halfway line.

His justification was that the foul did not occur when the goalie touched the ball but when the pass was made by the defender and that this was a somewhat "recent advice" to officials regarding "returning the ball to the origination of the foul" or some such notion that he believes was handed down by the rules interpreters.

Three certified officials, 2 of us that were playing in the match and the Match Ref, were later amicably discussing the decision and could agree.

I seem to only be able to find in the rules and advices that the indirect free kick is taken from the spot of infringement.

I believe the foul only occurs when the goalie picks up the ball and the Indirect free kick should always be in the penalty area, since if he touches it outside the area it would be a Direct free kick.

The applicable rule appears to be: Law 12
An indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a goalkeeper, inside his own penalty area, commits any of the following four offenses:
- touches the ball with his hands after it has been deliberately kicked to him by a teammate

Correct? Yea or Nay?

Answer (June 16, 2008):
If so many officials are getting it wrong, perhaps it is fortunate that you sent in this question. You are, of course, correct and the "very highly qualified referee" is dead wrong.

It is not an infringement of the Law to kick the ball to the goalkeeper, as the goalkeeper has the right to play the ball with the feet at any legal opportunity. The Law spells out perfectly clearly when the offense takes place: When the goalkeeper "touches the ball with his hands," etc. The restart takes place at that place, bearing in mind the special circumstances regarding free kicks in the goal area.



In regards to Law 12, awarding an Indirect Free Kick to the opposing team when the goal keeper ". . . takes more than six seconds while controlling the ball with his hands before releasing it from his possession", there was a situation on a recent adult match.

During "active play", the ball is picked-up by the goal keeper legally within his penalty area, and upon realizing that he was taking a bit long in releasing the ball back into play, I announced "six-seconds, keeper". The keeper then drops the ball in front of him and begins to move the ball with his feet while still inside his own penalty area. The keeper was still trying to find one of his teammates to pass the ball to, and I announced "six-seconds" once again.

The two announcements of the six-second warning happened in about a four-second window, and then the keeper kicked the ball outside the penalty area.

After the second verbal announcement I made, one of the goal keeper's teammates told me that the keeper was not in violation of the six-second rule because the keeper had released the ball from his position, thus the ball now being in active-play.

I was not sure if the actions explained here that the keeper took to not be in violation of the six-second time-limit was valid, thus avoided being cautioned for wasting time.

Could you please elaborate if in this situation the goal keeper violated the six-second rule, or not?

Answer (June 16, 2008):
Technically the goalkeeper must release the ball within six seconds of having established full control, which would not count rising from the ground or stopping their run (if they had to run) to gain the ball. However, goalkeepers throughout the world routinely violate the six-second rule without punishment if the referee is convinced that the goalkeeper is making a best effort.

Your warning to the goalkeeper was correct, at least on the first offense. However, once the 'keeper has released the ball from his or her hands, the ball is now available for anyone to play with their feet -- including the goalkeeper.



In your response to the question about wearing a shin guard on the arm where you said that this should not be allowed because it is "likely to be used as a weapon".

Assuming that this is in addition to the normal shin guard on the leg, it seems your answer is conflicting with the directive that head padding and other such protective gear must be allowed if they are not, by themselves, dangerous. If used as a weapon, we must deal with that during the game.

Is there an inconsistency here?

Answer (June 16, 2008):
No, there is no inconsistency at all. Shinguards are to be worn on the shins, not on the calves, not on the arms, not anywhere but on the shins. Players may wear reasonable equipment to protect themselves from injury, but may not wear anything that could cause injury for themselves or any other participants, including "body armor."

In other words, shinguards may not be worn on the arms, nor anywhere save the shins.

For further information, see the USSF position papers of March 7, 2003 . . .
Subject: Player's Equipment

Date: March 7, 2003

USSF has received a number of inquiries recently about how officials should handle situations where players wish to wear equipment that is not included in the list of basic compulsory equipment in FIFA Laws of the Game. Referees are facing increased requests from players for permission to wear kneepads, elbowpads, headbands, soft casts, goggles, etc.

The only concrete guidance in the Laws of the Game is found in Law 4:

"A player must not use equipment or wear anything which is dangerous to himself or another player."

This is followed by a list of required uniform items: jersey, shorts, socks, shoes, and shinguards. Obviously, this language is quite general. USSF suggests the following approach to issues involving player equipment and uniforms:

1. Look to the applicable rules of the competition authority.
Some leagues, tournaments, and soccer organizations have specific local rules covering player uniforms and what other items may or may not be worn on the field during play. Referees who accept match assignments governed by these rules are obligated to enforce them. Note, however, that local rules cannot restrict the referee's fundamental duty to ensure the safety of players.

2. Inspect the equipment.
All items of player equipment and uniforms must be inspected. However, anything outside the basic compulsory items must draw the particular attention of the referee and be inspected with special regard to safety. USSF does not "pre-approve" any item of player equipment by type or brand -- each item must be evaluated individually.

3. Focus on the equipment itself -- not how it might be improperly used, or whether it actually protects the player.
Generally, the referee's safety inspection should focus on whether the equipment has such dangerous characteristics as: sharp edges, hard surfaces, pointed corners, dangling straps or loops, or dangerous protrusions. The referee should determine whether the equipment, by its nature, presents a safety risk to the player wearing it or to other players. If the equipment does not present such a safety risk, the referee should permit the player to wear it.

The referee should not forbid the equipment simply because it creates a possibility that a player could use it to foul another player or otherwise violate the Laws of the Game. However, as the game progresses, an item that the referee allowed may become dangerous, depending on changes in its condition (wear and tear) or on how the player uses it. Referees must be particularly sensitive to unfair or dangerous uses of player equipment and must be prepared to order a correction of the problem whenever they become aware of it.

The referee also should not forbid the equipment because of doubts about whether it actually protects the player. There are many new types of equipment on the market that claim to protect players. A referee's decision to allow a player to use equipment is not an endorsement of the equipment and does not signify that the referee believes the player will be safer while wearing the equipment.

4. Remember that the referee is the final word on whether equipment is dangerous. Players, coaches, and others may argue that certain equipment is safe. They may contend that the equipment has been permitted in previous matches, or that the equipment actually increases the player's safety. These arguments may be accompanied by manufacturer's information, doctor's notes, etc. However, as with all referee decisions, determining what players may wear within the framework of the Laws of the Game and applicable local rules depends on the judgment of the referee. The referee must strive to be fair, objective, and consistent – but the final decision belongs to the referee.

and September 3, 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.


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).

Submit your questions via e-mail to