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November 2005 Archive (I of III)


I was an AR at a recent youth game, partly through the first period, players complained about a player having metal cleats. The cleats were inspected and it was difficult to tell whether they were metal or a plastic composite. The referee asked the opposing coach if he found the cleats acceptable. The coach said they were metal and the boy was ejected.

My understanding is there is no provision on the shape or type of cleats. However, if they appear dangerous, then they need to be removed. The cleats were adidas and I notice they sell many shoes with metal cleats. I am assuming that they are not banned from competition or how would they be sold.

Answer (October 25, 2005):
Let it be sounded from the rooftops: There is no ban on metal cleats!! There is only a ban on dangerous equipment of any sort worn by players. Unless these particular cleats had sharp and dangerous edges, they should have been allowed. Metal cleats are no more dangerous per se than plastic cleats.

However, we should also note that many leagues and associations have special local rule exceptions on the matter of player equipment and flatly forbid the use of metal cleats (or any screw-type cleat) in their matches. When in doubt, read the rules of the competition before you take a game in that league or tournament.

Also let it be sounded from the rooftops, even more loudly: COACHES SHOULD HAVE NO INPUT IN REFEREE DECISIONS!! Referees make their own decisions or they consider turning in their whistle and badge.


At a recent game where I was an assistant referee, I signaled a corner kick. A player came to take the corner, placed the ball in the corner arch with her hands, and then she tapped the ball with her foot, and said to her team mate "take it" and she then proceeded toward the opponent's goal. The team mate came up to the corner arc and started to dribble the ball up field in preparation for a cross.

Since first player had not kicked the ball, only tapped it, and the ball had really not moved, I did not consider it being in play, and therefore I flagged for indirect free kick to the defending side because the team mate had touched the ball twice.

The coach argued that the tap is in fact a kick and the ball is in play at that point. The referee allowed the corner kick to be retaken.

Is the above sequence valid or is there in fact an infringement?

Answer (October 25, 2005):
The tap of the ball is fine, as long as there is some detectable movement.


As the R&D Director for a very large boys league, I get some strange twists and turns of league and USSF rules. Our league has obviously adopted a policy coincident with that of USSF Policy 531-8, Sect 2: Unregistered Referee in Emergency. We encourage teams to agree on the use of a substitute official for matches in which a referee was not assigned or no-shows. We require that they indicate this agreement to appoint the volunteer official on our written match record card.

Recently, an incident was caused when two teams decided, at half time, to substitute the volunteer official with an affiliate of the other team for the second half of the match. Unfortunately, a string of contentious calls resulted in a termination of the match prior to full time.

The teams contend that there is not rule in the league manual, nor in USSF policy specifically prohibiting teams from "splitting" the volunteer referee duties. I contend that the wording of 531-8 requires the use of a single emergency official, unless he is unable to continue - i.e for medical or similar reasons.

Am I missing something - is there another USSF or FIFA directive which deals with this, or is it simply a matter of Law 18?

Answer (October 20, 2005):
An answer for you that cannot be disputed, as it comes straight from the Laws of the Game. The opening sentence of Law 5, The Referee, states: "Each match is controlled by a referee who has full authority to enforce the Laws of the Game in connection with the match to which he has been appointed." Not two referees and not a rotating list of referees. Just _a_ referee for the match. There is your reinforcement for Policy 531-8.

We might also add that changes are allowed for injury, sickness or an unforeseen emergency, such as something of a dire nature happening to a member of a referee's family and the referee had to get to the hospital right away--the kind of thing would be understood by all.


Is it permissible for a referee to upgrade a card from yellow to red after play has been restarted?

Boys Under-16 state-level match. Referee whistles for a foul on the far side of the pitch. All the spectators, including the trail AR, on the near side see the offending player kick (possibly kick at) the fouled player while the latter is still on the ground. Before restarting play after a delay of a minute, Referee shows a yellow. We are astounded that the offending player is not sent off.

A couple minutes later, Referee whistles for a foul closer to the AR on our side. AR confers with Referee, presumably sharing information on the earlier foul. Referee pauses match to confer with each coach, apparently acknowledging his error. Play continues.

Referee determines that offending player commits another cautionable offense. Referee shows second yellow, then red. From spectator's point of view, second yellow card appears to be compensation for earlier error. Match proceeds without incident.

Rather than waiting for the offending player to commit a second cautionable offense, could the Referee have changed the card from yellow to red after hearing more about the original foul from the trail AR? What effort should the trail AR have made to provide information to the Referee on the apparent violent conduct? (Assume that the pregame did not cover this circumstance.)

Answer (October 20, 2005):
A referee can neither rescind nor initially issue a caution/yellow card or send-off/red card once play has restarted. Nor may a referee "upgrade" a disciplinary punishment already given. The referee must submit a full report to the competition authority, whose task it is to sort out the problem.

Of more concern is the suggestion that the referee, in order to make up for his error, "found" a cautionable offense so that the player could be sent off. This is foolish and should be discouraged. Referees should have the courage to say "I made a mistake" and get on with the game, without also appearing to give a "make-up" call. We are already accused of this sort of thing too often. This situation also points out the necessity of a conference within the officiating team (including ARs seeking to advise the referee if they have relevant information) before play is restarted.

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.

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