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Ask a Referee Update: Aug. 1, 2011


In the FIFA competition on July 17, 2011, on TV; what are referees visually examining on the ladies 'soccer participants prior to entering the field by having the ladies unzip their warm-up jackets?

Answer (July 25, 2011):
We cannot know for certain without asking one of the referees; however, we assume they were looking for (1) violations of Law 4 (THE PLAYERS' EQUIPMENT) to ensure that the players are not wearing unauthorized equipment, such as one-piece uniforms, no sleeves on the jerseys, wrong color undergarments, proper shinguards, etc.,jerseys of a uniform color, or (2) to ensure compliance with the rules of the competition (numbers, etc.).


This past weekend I was working a local youth tournament and I have two questions from two different games.

First, while I was on "stand-by" in the referee tent during my 3 hour break, my assignor showed up in a golf cart and took me to a field where we found a young upset female ref and the tournament director at a U-10 game. My assignor told me to finish the last 18 minutes of the game and took the previous ref. After talking to both coaches, I found that an assistant of one team (who's club was hosting the tournament) had been sent-off after arguing numerous calls. I told the head coach of that team that the previous referee's decision stands and the coach needs to leave. The tournament director then came on to the field and said that he had "overruled" the ref and had asked for a new one, which is what brought the other official to tears. I told him 1 you can't replace a ref in the middle of a match and more importantly the referee has sole jurisdiction over the match and cannot be "overruled" after a long discussion which included us reading out of the laws of the game, the ejected coach was allowed to sit away from the players and fans but allowed to stay on site. My question is what should a referee do when a tournament director "overrules" you, even in the middle of the match as this one did? Even though referees know this can't happen the director seemed to think he had the power to do so.

Secondly, in a u-15 Boys game, a "green" player was fouled carelessly about 4 yards from the top of the penalty area, I awarded the free kick, clearly spotted the foul and cautioned the player who fouled him. With time winding down, the "green" coach began to argue that the card should have been red since the offending player had done it "four or five times." I told him that he was given a yellow for persistent infringement. I turned around, allowed the kicker to take the kick, and he scored. Next, my AR ran up to me and said the player had moved the ball 2 yards closer to the goal before taking the kick while my back was turned. While my AR should gave told me before the kick, what should I have done with the information? I cautioned the player for unsporting conduct and re-took the kick (was saved on re-take). Did I make the right call? Thanks.

Answer (July 23, 2011):
1. First, a rule of thumb known only to tournament directors and those of us who have been around for a very long time: If the tournament director says something is so, then he or she is surely right, even when he or she is blatantly and incredibly wrong. Second, always read and be aware of the competition's rules when you accept an assignment; the director might actually have that power and, if you accepted the assignment, you acknowledge that you accept the rules of the competition. Third, yes, you were absolutely correct. Fourth, mark the tournament in your mind and alert your colleagues and local referee association that this particular event allows such travesties to occur and you cannot in good conscience recommend taking assignments to its games.

s2. More rules: (a) Make a decision and stick to it, unless you recognize you truly were in error. (b) Do not allow yourself to be distracted by outside influences with no authority over any aspect of your game, also known as coaches, at a free kick or at any other time. (c) Always know where the ball is. (d) When you have been distracted by an outside influence, check with your assistant referees to be sure nothing has happened during the distraction. (e) Remember rules (a) and (b). Yes, you made the correct call.


Instruction was given at the Region II youth championships that a referee need no longer caution for a tactical foul if that foul was committed by the defending team, was penal, and was committed within their own penalty area, resulting in a penalty kick. Can you please confirm or deny this instruction/interpretation change. In the past this never mattered; a player who committed a foul which in the opinion of the referee was tactical, and did not meet the 4 D's requirement of Denying an Obvious Goal Scoring Opportunity, was cautioned and shown the yellow card, regardless of location of that foul or resultant restart.

Answer (July 19, 2011):
The instructions you were given at the Region 2 Youth Championships are part of a concept approved by FIFA and the IFAB. This concept does not yet have final approval, but a position paper will be issued in the near future.


Do all penalties within the 18 yard box automatically result in a penalty kick? If I recall during my "ref" days (now retired), penalty kicks occur only if the ref determines the offensive player who was fouled had a clear ability to score a goal. That is, if an incidental hand ball (hand hits ball, not ball hits hand) occurs within the 18 yard box and the ref determines there was no scoring opportunity a free kick at the point of contact (even within the 18 yard box) is award the offensive team. Defensive line must be 10 yards away or as far as possible (even if they must stand on the goal line).

Just want to make sure; I've haven't ref'd for many years and wonder if the laws have changed.

Now a spectator.

Answer (July 19, 2011):
What you describe has NEVER been part of the Laws of the Game. We hear of this concept every now and then in various parts of the country and welcome the opportunity to address the matter. Thank you for asking.

All -- let us stress it: ALL -- direct free kick fouls committed by the defending team in its own penalty area must be punished with a penalty kick, whether or not the player who was fouled had a clear chance to score a goal. Other punishment may also be meted out, but that is outside the parameters of your question.

Accidental (or "incidental") handling of the ball such as you describe is not a foul of any sort, so should never be punished in any way -- although we are aware that some referees do it.

If an indirect free kick offense (foul or misconduct) were to be committed within its penalty area by the defending team, the restart would be an indirect free kick and the defending team would have to remain at least ten yards from the spot of the kick , unless it was within the goal area. Again, other punishment might also be levied, depending on the particular offense and its consequences.


What is the official stance of Chicago in regards to referee sleeve lengths? Frequently in the MLS, referees wear different length sleeves. It has been stated by grade 5 referees in my association that wearing different length sleeves constitutes non-uniformity, and that one can be docked points in an assessment for such. Who is correct?

Answer (July 18, 2011):
We are unaware of any precise measurements for referee jerseys. A review of the Referee Administrative Handbook informs us that the wearer must always look professional and that the jerseys themselves may be of the short-sleeve or long-sleeve variety. The equipment worn by officials in the MLS is supplied by sponsors of the League and falls outside the requirements for other refereeing officials.

If you mean that a refereeing crew should not mix short sleeves and long sleeves, that is correct, but at lower levels of play it must sometimes be done. We cannot expect every beginning referee to have a complete wardrobe.


What is the grade level of an entry level referee instructor, assignor, and/or director

Answer (July 18, 2011):
There are three sorts of entry-level referees. The first is Grade 9, recreational referees; the second is Grade 12, assistant referees; the third is Referees Grade 8.

Instructors come in three varieties: Recreational Youth Instructors, Grade 11, are allowed to teach only the Recreational Referee Course (Grade 9) only. Associate Instructors, Grade 9, may teach under the direction of a senior instructor. Referee Instructors, Grade 7, may teach the full entry-level course under the direction of a senior instructor and have completed a course in ITIP (Instructional Theory INto Practice).

If by "directors" you mean assessors, there is only one entry-level grade, Grade 9, an Associate Assessor. If by "directors" you mean something else, we are at a loss to define it.


ATR 3.9 states: "if a player . . . contesting for the ball passes over the touch line or the goal line without the ball to beat an opponent, he or she is not considered to have left the field of play without the permission of the referee. This player does not need the referee's permission to return to the field."

Attacker A shields the ball at the corner flag from Defender B1, attempting to run down the time. Defender B2 leaves the field over the touch line and tackles the ball while re-entering the field from outside the touch line. Is this legal?

Answer (July 18, 2011):
You have neglected to cite the entire first paragraph Advice 3.9, which states unequivocally: 3.9 LEAVING THE FIELD IN THE COURSE OF PLAY
Players are normally expected to remain on the field while the ball is in play, leaving only to retrieve a ball or when ordered off by the referee. If a player accidentally passes over one of the boundary lines of the field of play or if a player in possession of or contesting for the ball passes over the touch line or the goal line without the ball to beat an opponent, he or she is not considered to have left the field of play without the permission of the referee. This player does not need the referee's permission to return to the field.

In the scenario you lay out, the defender's action was not accidental. It was, however, solely for the purpose of getting to the ball and lasted only long enough to get around an opponent. Accordingly, the defender's momentary departure from the field was "in the course of play" and therefore entirely legal. In fact, the defender was only forced to take this action by the attacker who placed the ball and his body in such a configuration that the only way the defender could get to the ball was to leave the field.


Two opposing field players are going up for a header. If one of the players jumped up and over the opponent, knocking the opponent out of the way or to the ground, I'd be calling a foul.

What if the jumping player in the above scenario was a goalkeeper trying to reach a ball with her hands? Is the goalkeeper given any special allowances? I heard an instructor say "yes" and that fouls in this sort of situation are not called (as seen on TV), but it seems to me that the defender has just as much right to fairly challenge for the ball as the goalkeeper and to not be unfairly charged/pushed/struck.

(I indicated a game level of U13-19, but would the answer be different if we're talking about pros?)

Answer (July 18, 2011):
What referees call and what referees SHOULD call are often two different things. The Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees (p. 114) tells us: "All players have a right to their position on the field of play, being in the way of an opponent is not the same as moving into the way of an opponent." In other words, no player, whether field player or goalkeeper, is allowed to go through any other player, whether field player or goalkeeper, to get to the ball.

Because the goalkeeper's position is inherently dangerous (subject to hard challenges in the air, diving to the ground, lying on the ground, etc.), goalkeepers are allowed some leeway in doing their job. This means that they are permitted to reach over players and make some contact with the opponent, as long as it is not done carelessly, recklessly, or with excessive force.

Defenders or attackers, on the other hand, must take their chances as they find them. Jumping straight up or backing in to win the ball is not a foul unless the opponent is already in the air and moving to play the ball.


On a corner kick, player A places ball in the arc. Player B runs out of play and around the goal to the resume position on the back post. Opposing team had players on the post. Corner is crossed in by Player A and scored by Player B who ran out of play. Should Player B be allowed to return to the field since he deliberately ran off the field? Should Player B wait to be signaled back on by the official after the corner was played in? Shouldn't this be a yellow card?

Answer (July 15, 2011):
The Advice to Referees tells us:
Players are normally expected to remain on the field while the ball is in play, leaving only to retrieve a ball or when ordered off by the referee. If a player accidentally passes over one of the boundary lines of the field of play or if a player in possession of or contesting for the ball passes over the touch line or the goal line without the ball to beat an opponent, he or she is not considered to have left the field of play without the permission of the referee. This player does not need the referee's permission to return to the field.

If the player ran out of the field after the ball was placed and before the kick was taken _and returned only while the ball was in the air_, that player has left the field of play without the referee's permission. Blow the whistle, cancel the goal, caution the errant player for leaving the field without permission, and restart with an indirect free kick for the defending team from the place where the ball was when play was stopped.


Concerning display of cards. In a men's amateur game, league requires the teams to be ready to play no later than 15 minutes after posted game time. Home teams does not have 7 properly equipped and documented (pass)players at expiration of grace period. Referee crew informs the team that because of these issues the game will not start and the league informed. A member of the home team directs foul and abusive language at the referee crew. If used during a game, would have resulted in the sending off and display of the red card.

Because the game was already terminated(declared a forfeit) I did not display the card, treating the situation as if the game had ended and the misconduct occurred as the crew was walking off the field.

In this situation, should a card have been displayed or just a report of the misconduct made to the league?

Answer (July 15, 2011):
Show the card and inform the player that you will be reporting the incident to the competition authority -- and then do it, including full details.


Some folks were having a discussion on exactly what is required for a player to meet the requirement of being "outside of the penalty area" at the moment a PK is taken. Could you please address the following situations in terms of whether they are technical violations of the law and also as to whether they might well be deemed to be trivial by a referee:

1. As the PK is taken, an attacker has a foot on (but not over) the 18-yard line. Other foot is OK.

2. As the shot is taken, an attacker has one foot touching the line and partly over it. Other foot is OK.

3. As the shot is taken, an attacker has one foot behind the line and one foot significantly over it (i.e. closer to the goal line).

4. As the shot is taken, a player has both feet behind the line but is leaning forward so that the upper part of her torso is over the line.

Thanks for your help.

Answer (July 15, 2011):
Technical response: The lines are part of the areas they delineate. Ergo, the lines marking the penalty area are part of the penalty area and thus any particle of a foot on or over the line constitutes a breach of the procedure for penalty kicks.

sPractical response: Use common sense and punish only that which needs to be punished for the good of the game.


Why is a goalkeeper stepping off his line on a penalty kick and saving the ball not considered DOGSO-F since his actions clearly denied an obvious goal scoring opportunity by committing an infraction that would have resulted in a free or penalty kick?

Answer (July 13, 2011):
All infringements of Law 14 are punished according to Law 14 itself. When any member of the defending team violates Law 14 (of which the goalkeeper moving illegally is one example), there are only two possible restarts -- a kick-off or a retake of the penalty kick.

If the restart is a kick-off, it means that the interference was not successful and therefore a red card for denial of an obvious goalscoring opportunity is not permitted. If the restart is a penalty kick, it is a retake of the original penalty kick, not a new restart, and thus it also does not come under the requirements for dismissal for denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the player's goal by an offense punishable by a free kick or a penalty kick.


In the taking of KFTPM to decide a tournament winner the teams make 10 goals each. The 11th player makes a goal but now the opponent's 11th player is missing.

What should happen now?

Answer (July 2, 2011):
Provided the team's 11th player was on the field at the beginning of the kicks from the penalty mark, this portion of the Advice to Referees applies:

Once the procedure of taking kicks from the penalty mark has begun, players are not permitted to leave the field, even if they have already taken a kick. If a player leaves the field and is not available to take the prescribed kick (either for the first time or subsequently), the referee can declare the missing player no longer eligible and then proceed with the kicks from the penalty mark without him/her. A full report regarding the situation must be submitted.

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 Ryan Money, Manager of Referee Education Resources; David McKee, National Director of Assessment (assessment matters); Jeff Kollmeyer, National Instructor, indoor and Futsal; and Ulrich Strom, retired National Instructor and National Assessor (matters in general).

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