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Ask A Referee Update: Feb. 14, 2010


Perhaps this slightly outside of your purview, but since USSF does sanction Indoor Referees and Indoor Rules, let's assume that was the rule of competition instead of this house league.

A player committed a reckless foul and was issued a 2-minute Time Penalty and shown the blue card. On his way out of the arena, he slammed the door in anger. Similar to the act of throwing a water bottle on the field, which I know the WIRs have defined as violent conduct, I equated this as the same, and sent him off. Was I justified? If so, is this an absolute (and also, is the act of throwing water bottles in anger always an act of 100% misconduct mandating punishment by a send-off/dismissal?), or does the Referee have "wiggle room" to manage the situation?

Answer (February 13, 2010):
Unless there is some other rule in this competition, under indoor rules the act of slamming the door falls under the category of "misconduct" and should be handled by showing an immediate yellow card and giving that player an additional 5-minute misconduct penalty for the dissent. The team must then have a substitute join the original player in the penalty box; the sub would serve the original 2-minute penalty and come out to put the team at full strength if a goal was scored against them, or at the end of the 2 minutes. Since the penalties would be concurrent, the original offender would serve 7 full minutes, and cannot leave the box until a guaranteed substitution opportunity after the 7 minutes expires, because his team is not playing shorthanded.


I have a question about free kicks. If a defender, less than the required distance, intercepts a free kick by moving/lunging to the side (NOT forward) is this acceptable per the new parameters involving free kicks? The 2009 directives were not especially clear on this point.

Answer (February 13, 2010):
You would seem to have not read quite far enough in the Directive on Free Kick and Restart Management. The second bullet point under 4.

Quick Free Kick -- Deliberately Preventing the Free Kick from Being Taken reads: * Intercepts the QFK after the kick is taken: The referee may exercise discretion depending upon whether he/she felt the defender deliberately prevented the ball from being put into play. The referee must take into consideration whether the attacking team had the opportunity to play the ball and whether the attacker knew the position of the defender at the time the QFK was taken.
- If the attacker knew where the defender was at the time the QFK was taken, then the likelihood that the defender prevented the free kick from [being] taken is minimal. In this case, it can be assumed that the attacker "assumed the risk."

This point is nicely illustrated in the new USSF DVD, Managing the Free Kick. Your State Director of Referee Instruction should have a copy of the DVD.

The DVD differentiates between Interference and Interception. In brief (see the video for full details), the video encourages to "wait and see" when an opponent stands too near the ball and the kicking team does not ask for the full distance. Interference occurs when the defending player, as the ball is kicked, steps TOWARD the kicker and plays the ball. This is failure to respect the required distance when play is restarted with a free kick, a cautionable offense.

Interception occurs when the defending player, as the ball is kicked, either moves to the side or sticks his/her foot to the side to play the ball; there is NO forward motion.

These changes in procedure have been made on the advice of FIFA, based on training they are giving to referees around the world.


Defending team has been awarded a free kick outside the penalty area. The kicker pass back the ball to his goalkeeper. The keeper touches the ball with his hands but the ball, anyway, enters the goal.

How the referee should reiniciate the game?

1. Awarding an IFK against the goalkeeper because he used his hands after the ball was passed to him by a team mate?

2. Allowing the goal because the goalie touched the ball before it entered the goal? or

3. awarding a corner kick because a team can not kick a free kick into its own goal?

Answer (February 12, 2010):
For direct free kicks taken outside the penalty area, the Law requires only that a ball is kicked and moved to be in play and thus be eligible to enter the goal for a score (or a corner kick, if taken by the defending team). That happened. The ball was kicked by a player directly to his own goalkeeper. If the goalkeeper had let the ball go, it would have been a corner kick for the opponents. If the goalkeeper had stopped the ball with his hands, it would have been an indirect free kick for the opponents. Unfortunately for his side, the goalkeeper touched the ball but allowed it to continue on its way to goal. The referee should invoke the advantage clause and record the goal. Restart with a kick-off for the defending team.


Player leaves without permission and commits obvious violent conduct that referee is going to punish. Does he first caution for leaving and then send-off for VC and show yellow/red? Or is it ok to go to straight red? I know if it's not VC it's yellow/yellow/red. My gut says who cares if he left during normal course of play, it's VC so just go straight to that.

Answer (February 11, 2010):
The referee's decision in this case rests on the needs of the game and how the referee must manage the game. While it may seem natural simply to reach for the red card and send off the player who has left the field without permission, that player has committed a cautionable offense prior to the violent conduct -- and the cautionable offense governs the restart if the violent conduct occurs off the field of play: if the player leaves the field of play to commit the offense, play is restarted with an indirect free kick from the position in which the ball was located when play was stopped (see Law 13 -- Position of Free Kick).


At a major state recertification seminar today, we discussed deception on the taking of a PK - more specifically, the case when a player goes beyond legal deception and on to infringement.

The case in question is a player who approaches the ball, overruns it, then backs up.

My position was simple: LotG state that if the kicker infringes, the ref allows the kick to be taken, and either orders a rekick or orders an IFK out, depending on if the ball entered the goal or not.

Our instructor stated that the correct procedure is to blow the whistle at the point when the kicker backs up, without allowing the kick to be taken, and award the IFK immediately. He stated this was direction from FIFA.

At a break, I asked our guest speaker, a former FIFA ref, and that ref did not know. It was suggested that I contact you.

If our instructor was correct, please direct me to the appropriate FIFA publication. I pride myself on knowing the laws and would like to understand this better.

Answer (February 8, 2010):
We are not aware of any changes in Law 14 as published for 2009-2010:
Infringements and Sanctions
If the referee gives the signal for a penalty kick to be taken and, before the ball is in play, one of the following occurs:

the player taking the penalty kick infringes the Laws of the Game:
* the referee allows the kick to be taken
* if the ball enters the goal, the kick is retaken
* if the ball does not enter the goal, the referee stops play and the match is restarted with an indirect free kick to the defending team, from the place where the infringement occurred

See also this excerpt from Advice to Referees 14.9 INFRINGEMENTS OF LAW 14:
Infringements after the referee's whistle but before the ball is in play may be committed by the kicker, the goalkeeper, or by any of their teammates. Violations of Law 14 by the kicker in particular include back heeling the ball (14.12), running past the ball and then backing up to take the kick, excessively changing directions in the run to the ball or taking an excessively long run to the ball (which, in the opinion of the referee, results in an unnecessary delay in taking the kick), or making any motion of the hand or arm which (in the opinion of the referee) is clearly intended to confuse or misdirect the attention of the 'keeper. In almost all such cases, the referee should let the kick proceed and deal with the violation in accordance with the chart [given in the excerpt from the Law, above], which outlines the proper restarts for clear infringements of Law 14. However, in the case of a kicker creating an unnecessary delay in taking the kick, the referee should intervene, if possible, warn the kicker to proceed properly, and signal (whistle) again for the restart.

So, only in the case of the kicker taking an excessively long run to the ball should the referee intervene ("if possible") before the kick is taken -- the implication being that, if intervention even in this case is not possible, the referee follows the general advice on Law 14 violations. The Federation has dealt with one or more aspects of this situation in Memos in 2005, 2007, and as recently as August 2009 (a "stutter step kick" with a clip).

NOTE: Feinting at penalty kicks is going to be a topic of discussion at the IFAB meeting of March 6, 2010. it is possible that this answer might change based on the outcome of the discussion.


At a game in which I was the AR, there was a situation in which I felt multiple players should have been issued two yellow cards. However, the referee chose only to give each player one caution:

With a few minutes remaining, players A, B, and C were unhappy with the referee. The outcome of the game was already decided (it was a 3-0 game), so during a stoppage of play, the players took off their shirts and stormed off the field without the referee's permission.

The referee gave players A, B, and C only one caution for deliberately leaving the field without permission. I felt that the players should have been given two cautions: 1) dissent and 2) deliberately leaving the field without permission. This would therefore mean each of the players got a red card.

What would be the proper way to administer the cautions in this situation?

Answer (February 8, 2010):
We cannot comment on a decision to send off both players without full details (and they are not necessary to answer your question). However, If you were to choose to caution both players twice and then show them the red card, a decision that is entirely up to you, then this is what you would do:

Show each player the yellow card twice in a row (each time explaining what it was for) and then, separately, the red card. Ex;plain to them what you are doing, make full notes, and submit a complete report to the competition authority and to any other persons required by your association.


For clarification purpose, I would like for you to honestly assist with normal procedure and correct interpretation of the law and in accordance to; and in US Soccer and FIFA opinion the correct procedure and your recommendation to the following.

In the first half of a competitive match, a corner kick was being taken from the leading AR side. Properly, the Assistant referee applied the distance of encroachment and the team taking the corner kick tricked the defense as the kicker walked away and another player acted as if he was going to take the kick started dribbling the ball towards the goal when he got to the corner kick spot. I made eye contact with the leading AR who did nothing and I let the play go.

In the same half, a corner kick was awarded to the same offense, but now in my quadrant. The ball was set, and the kicker stood over the ball with his foot on the ball but made no movement because the defense this time were encroaching. When I realized the the attacker won't play the ball, I instructed the defense to respect the distance of which they obliged. While we were waiting for the corner kick to be taken, number 7 of the team taking the corner kcik who was behind me in the goal area loudly yelled to his team mate on the the ball. "Leave it, let me take it." He then ran past me and the defenders while his team mate walked away from the ball. When he got to the ball, he took position as if he was going to put the ball back in play, then he started dribbling the ball towards the goal. All these happened while I was still holding back the defense from encroaching. When I realized he was in active play, I blew the whistle walked to him and cautioned him for unsporting behavior. I then restart the play with an indirect kick to the defense for double touching a direct kick restart.

As usual, the cautioned player pleaded his case and claimed that was their trick and my response was that you were deceptive. I told him it's legal to apply trick fairly, and by audibly being deceptive, you gained unfair advantage.

Answer (February 6, 2010):
The kicking team is allowed to use a certain amount of trickery at any kick restart, including corner kicks. If the kicker actually kicks at the ball, then it is now in play. Observe these two video clips of corner kicks, one of which was not allowed by the referee. However, both were totally legal, as the ball was played in a kicking motion by the original player on the ball.

First clip:

We responded to a question on this clip back on January 30, 2009:
It is perfectly legal to do this. How could anyone object to this tactic? The player has put the ball in play in accordance with the Laws of the Game. The kicking team is allowed to use such deceptive tactics and SHOULD NOT be punished for them. However, if the kicking player had merely stepped on top of the ball and then left it for the next player, who dribbles it away, that would not have been a legal restart. But even that is not punished with a caution, as it is not misconduct; in that case, the referee would call the second player for a double touch and award an indirect free kick to the opposing team.

Second clip:

The assistant referee's flag was incorrect and the referee should have waved it down; the resulting goal should have been allowed.

So, what is NOT allowed?
The ball must move a perceptible distance from "here" to "there" to be considered in play through a kick. If the "kicker" only steps on top of the ball and does not kick it, and therefore the ball has NOT moved from "here" to "there," the kick was not properly taken and must be repeated. It is not a cautionable offense.


The attacking team is awarded a corner kick. Player A from the attacking team lines up to take the corner kick. Player B from the attacking team leaves the field of play - about three yards past the touch line. Player A taps the ball from the corner kick and Player B runs from his position off the field of play onto the field of play and kicks the ball towards the goal.

Has Player B infringed on the laws of the game by leaving the field of play without the permission of the center referee and then played the ball. Leaving the field of play has allowed Player B to develop more speed at the point he plays the ball from Player A and perhaps also involves some trickery as the other team might not have accounted for this player to defend.

Answer (February 5, 2010):
Players are permitted to leave the field without the referee's permission (1) during the course of play to avoid an obstacle (opponent, teammate, referee), (2) to retrieve the ball when it has left the field, (3) to put the ball back into play at a throw-in or a kick restart, (4) to signal that they are not involved in play during a possible offside situation.

Players are not allowed to leave the field of play simply to station themselves conveniently for a restart being taken by another player. As we said in an earlier response, with the exceptions noted above, players are expected to be and remain on the field of play. Leaving under the circumstances described would NOT be in the course of play and, if the referee decided that it was being done for unfair tactical reason, the action would be cautionable.


Our Breakfast Club (which meets to watch soccer games) is in an uproar about the famed Five Pound soccer ball of yore. Some say that a Five Pound weight is nonsense, some say it's a fact due to the leather uptake in water.

A one pound ball cannot absorb four pints of water to equal Five Pounds in weight. BUT, say the myth believers, the ball was once much heavier than the current one pound limit.

So, when did the current weight limit get established and what was allowed before that?

Answer (February 5, 2010):
Since 1889 the weight of the ball has always been specified as its measure "at the start of play." Without waterproofing, leather balls became heavy when wet and sometimes dangerous to head because of protruding lacings. Absorption of moisture is no longer a real problem. The original limits of weight, 12 to 15 ounces ("at the start of play"), were raised in 1937 to 14 to 16 oz and have remained so.


At halftime, one player from each team went to the toilet with the referee's permission. Under the rules of the competition, the halftime break is 15 minutes. The referee started the second half after ten minutes without both the missing players, as both captains agreed it was too cold to hang around. I believe the referee was correct in invoking the part of Law 8 which states that the duration of the interval may be altered with the consent of the referee. Also Law 8 states that the interval must not exceed 15 minutes, not that players are entitled to 15 minutes. In addition competition rules can stipulate the interval duration, which could, of course, be 10 minutes. Was this a correct action by the referee?

Answer (February 5, 2010):
No, the referee's action was not correct. Consider the history of the halftime interval:
* The interval was in the game before 1896 because an FA Cup Rule of that year says, "THE interval at half-time shall not exceed five minutes, except by special permission of the Referee"
* 1906: The FA decided "Players have a right to an interval of 5 minutes at half-time." Reason not given, but believed to allow players a breather.
* 1919: Another FA decision - "Referees must observe the Regulation that the halftime interval must not exceed 5 minutes, except with their consent, which is only to be given in exceptional circumstances." * 1961: An IFAB Decision stated "Players have a right to an interval at half-time."
* 1995: "Halftime interval not to exceed 15 minutes" One reason recognized that dressing rooms were sometimes 'a long way from the field,' but a more practical view is that coaches wanted more time to have injuries treated and to confuse their players with more tactical mumbo-jumbo. Also, top players need more time to fix their makeup for TV!
* 1997 to now. "Players are entitled to an interval at half-time. The halftime interval must not exceed 15 minutes. Competition rules must state the duration of the half-time interval. The duration of the half-time interval may be altered only with the consent of the referee."

Now to the question: You will not find it in any official statement, but traditionally the clause clearly applies to ALL players and if ONE requests the full allotted period he must not be denied. Because he is occupied with a call of nature is no reason to prevent him from taking part in the game - even for a minute or two. We cannot imagine any committee issuing a formal statement allowing a referee to reduce the period for the reason given by the captains in your question. They would be better employed organizing their teams in warming-up exercises for 5 minutes.

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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