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Ask a Referee Update: Nov. 5, 2010


Where should the referee and the assistant referee focus their attention at a throw in? AR on players in the field and CR on the player throwing the ball in?

Answer (November 5, 2010):
There is no fixed mechanic for this. All matters of this nature -- which official does what on restarts in particular parts of the field -- should be discussed and clarified in the pregame conference.


I saw your answer to the question [of October 21, 2010] regarding new and old style referee uniforms.

All referees at the 2010 Far West Regionals were required to have the new style uniform. Some of the referees had to spend hundreds of dollars on new uniforms.

Additionally referees in the finals wore the Adidas kits. Take a look at the photos at

Referees are being forced to use the new style OSI gear despite what USSF says officially and Adidas is sneaking in. USSF needs to be more sensitive to the costs associated with refereeing. We don't need new styles and we don't need 5 colors. This especially impacts our new and youth referees who can barely afford one color jersey. In addition to being a referee I'm also an assignor, so I see the impact on the youngsters.

Thanks for listening to me whine.

Answer (November 5, 2010):
We understand the problems of economy and regulation, but there are good reasons for the requirements at the Far West Regionals. We understand the problems of economy and regulation, but there are good reasons for the requirements at the Far West Regionals.

1. Adidas is one of the national sponsors of USYS, the organization that runs the youth regional tournaments. It is traditional that their uniforms are worn for the finals at USYS regional youth tournaments.

2. Official Sports International (OSI) is the official supplier of referee uniforms to U. S. Soccer and the longest-standing sponsor of the referee program. We encourage all referees to buy uniforms and equipment from them as much as possible. From the pictures on the website, it appears that the referees wore only OSI uniforms for the preliminary and semifinal games.

3. It is traditional that each referee wears nothing but the most up-to-date gear at the regional tournaments, which are a showcase for the players who have qualified and a great honor for the referees who have been selected. It is regrettable that some referees had to spend a considerable amount of money to purchase new uniforms, but they also had the right to turn down the opportunity to go the the Regionals.

4. As noted in the answer of October 21, referees may use the "old" OSI uniforms for as long as they are presentable. If any referee has a problem with uniform requirements for tournaments, he or she should call Adrian Garibay, the Federation's Director of Registration and Referee Administration, at 312-528-1275.


In a B14 match attacking Red player A takes a shot from 25 years away that strikes the crossbar, and ricochets to the ground, and bounces up about waist high, about 3-5 feet in front of the Blue goalkeeper. Attacking Red player B is only 2 feet from the ball, and he swings his leg sideways to kick the ball back into the net just as the Blue goalkeeper swoops in to scoop up the ball. The blue goalkeeper never gets his hands on the ball but just as he is about to, Red player B's foot strikes the ball and Blue keepers face simultaneously. The ball goes into the net. The keeper goes down but recovers and finishes the match. All partiesŠ. the center referee, his assistant referee, the coach of both the Red and Blue teams agrees there was no intent by Red B to strike or injure the keeper.

However, the coach of Blue team argues that since player safety is a referee's paramount concern that the center ref should have either: (1) blown his whistle to stop the play before the injury; or (2) stopped play, disallowed the goal and awarded an indirect free kick to Blue for dangerous play. The coach of the Blue team argues that the interpretation of "in the possession of the goalkeeper" be expanded to include those situations where in the opinion of the center referee, the keeper is in imminent possession of the ball, and due to the proximity of an attacking player, stop play with his whistle to protect the keeper, and restart the plate as if the attacking player had interfered with the keeper or fouled him. What is the proper decision for the center referee in these circumstances and if the coach is correct, what is the authority in the LOTG or ATR for his position?

Answer (November 5, 2010):
Let's break this down into smaller parts to help make the entire problem understandable for referees, coaches, and players alike.

Yes, safety is the referee's first concern under the Laws. However, referees -- and coaches and players -- need to remember that the position of goalkeeper is inherently dangerous and the goalkeeper is allowed a bit more leeway than other players in placing him- or herself in danger and thus affecting how the opponents can act. Everything he or she does when attempting to clear a ball or take it away from an onrushing attacker is dangerous. Why? Because it is the 'keeper's job to stop the ball from going into the goal, no matter at what height above the ground it may travel. Unless the 'keeper did something that was careless or violent or reckless, and you said that he did not, then there was no foul, but simply bad luck. This is one of the lessons referees, players, and coaches need to learn.

Would we allow this for the opposing attackers? Not if it places the goalkeeper in danger that he cannot avoid. Is this inconsistent? Yes, but it is the way the game has always been played.

The goalkeeper is considered to be in control (= possession) of the ball when the ball is held with both hands, held by trapping the ball between one hand and any surface (e. g., the ground, a goalpost, the goalkeeper's body), or holding the ball in the outstretched open palm. And the "hand" in this case can consist of as few as one finger of the 'keeper's hand.

The Laws do not grant the referee the power to extend the definition of goalkeeper possession, nor to legislate new meanings on the field of play.

The goalkeeper has no more rights than any other player, with the exceptions of protective equipment and not being challenged when attempting to release the ball into general play. When not in possession of the ball, the goalkeeper may be fairly challenged. And the fairness is determined by the referee, not the coach and not the player.

There is no rule that "protects the goalie" from contact initiated by other players -- as long as that contact is not against the requirements for a fair charge and does not happen when the goalkeeper is attempting to release the ball for others to play -- in other words, to punt or throw the ball out of the penalty area.

Any time a player (either a field player or a goalkeeper) raises his/her leg above knee level there is the likelihood that someone will be hurt. As age and skill levels go down, the referee must interpret both "possession" and "safe challenge" more conservatively. Something an adult player might be allowed to do is not always the same as something a youth player (U14 for example) would be allowed


As a referee, how do you know if prescription eye glasses would be a problem as "Players may not wear anything that the referee considers dangerous to themselves or to their teammates or opponents."

In a competitive u15 game last weekend the referee would not let a player play with his glasses, and while I understand it is the referee's decision, what advice do I give the parents so they can get appropriate eye-wear?

Answer (October 25, 2010):
The USSF guidance is contained in the following position paper of March 7, 2003, on player's equipment.

Re: Player's Equipment

Date: March 7, 2003 The USSF guidance is contained in the following position paper of March 7, 2003, on player's equipment.

Re: 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.

This, of course, includes eyeglasses of any sort.

Back in 2001 USSF gave this advice to all referees: "Referees must not interpret [a statement from the IFAB -- the people who make the rules of our game] to mean either that "sports glasses" must automatically be considered safe or that glasses which are not manufactured to be worn during sports are automatically to be considered unsafe. The referee must make the final decision: the Board has simply recognized that new technology has made safer the wearing of glasses during play."


as coach a do have the right to ask for stop the game if there is no safe environment for my team?

which specific circumstances are allow to ask for stop game and is this subject to sanction or disciplinary action?

if there is racial treatment on field coach can ask referees to stop game?

Answer (October 25, 2010):
Concern 1: Possible unsafe environment and the referee is not aware or appears not to do anything about it. Note that there are no specific circumstances that dictate a "safe environment." You will have to define your own safe environment. Different levels of skill and player ages mean different things to everyone. We are assuming this is a youth game, because the normal reaction of a youth coach is to protect his/her players. In an adult game, the players themselves would likely find a way to sort this out. (And possibly not in a pleasant way.)

Our response: We tell our referees to talk to the coach when there is a problem in a youth game. There must be communication between the coach and the referee in youth level games. This is particularly important if the referee is an adult, because a young player will hesitate to bring the problem as it is to the referee.

Concern 2: Players of the other team are making remarks that are racially offensive and the referee has not responded.

Our response: It seems clear that this particular referee had no clue what was going on in this game. Our suggestion is that the coach politely approach the referee at a stoppage -- most likely halftime or if the referee gives the coach some other opportunity to speak -- and point out the racial remarks. If the remarks continue and are clearly heard by the referee and are not being dealt with, the coach needs to evaluate whether the "atmosphere" of the game is not appropriate and no longer playing is the only option. We would hope that the referee will listen to the polite remarks from the coach, evaluate the situation and his/her previous approach to the game, and act to resolve the situation, thus reinforcing the mutual respect that should exist between the referee, the coaches, and the captains of the teams. The game is for all participants to enjoy and unfair play should not be permitted.

Concern 3. Concern about possible sanctions if coach pulls players off the field

Our Response: We are not aware of any sanctions or disciplinary action associated with telling the referee that your team will be leaving the field There is certainly nothing about this in the Laws of the Game. You will have to check with the competition authority, that is, the people who run the league, to see what their rules on this are.

When the game is not going well, many communities will react and pull the team from the field. This is considered the most serious demonstration of dissent with the referee and everyone looks at the referee as the guilty party. No referee wants this to happen in his or her game, as it is extremely embarrassing. Approach the referee and make your point politely and firmly. That is the best we can suggest. However, we are aware that some referees do not always seem to know what is best for the game.

Please remember that If the referee is unaware of the issues that the coach sees, then this referee is likely not to be approachable by the coach and any dialogue is going to be difficult. The key point is that the coach should consider making a polite attempt to contact the referee, either through a team captain, an assistant referee or fourth official (if there is one), or directly (when opportunity arises, such as a stoppage nearby, at halftime, etc). If all efforts fail, the coach does have an obligation to his players and may take the drastic action of removing his team from the field. If he does take that action he needs to be prepared to face the consequences as the referee is required to file a game report, and, given the incident, will most likely be asked what happened and will present his own side of the story to the league authorities.

U.S. Soccer thanks Jim Allen (National Instructor Staff and National Assessor ret., assisted by National Instructor Trainer Dan Heldman, for their assistance in providing this service. Direction is provided by Alfred Kleinaitis, Manager of Referee Development and Education, with further assistance from Paul Tamberino, Director of Referee Development; David McKee, National Director of Assessment (assessment matters); Jeff Kollmeyer, National Instructor, indoor and Futsal; and Ulrich Strom, National Instructor and National Assessor (matters in general).

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