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January 2007 Archive (I of II)


matches. In a lot of adult matches in my area, when the whistle is blown for a foul, the defensive player takes his time getting up off the ground and then stands precisely in front of where the ball will be positioned. As often as not, he will be joined by a teammate. They may talk with each other, opponents, or the referee in what appears to me to be an effort to delay their leaving and simultaneously distract the referee from his/her mission at that point: To encourage a quick free kick, unencumbered by defenders within 10 yards of the ball. I've seen frequent instances where the referee tells them either by words or gestures to leave the vicinity repeatedly while the ball is being retrieved, and continue to do this with slow, partial compliance after the ball is positioned. Often the attackers do not ask for the 10 yards but the referee continues trying to move the defenders out, sometimes from a distance, sometime wading into the group and "pushing" them back (not physically touching them though). In these instances, the attackers will put the ball into play when they see that they've obtained a slight advantage due to a defender turning his head to see if he's lined up properly with the goal, or turning his head to look at the referee and acknowledge the referee's request to back out. Everybody seems to know what the games are at this point: The attackers' game is to use the referee to distract the defenders and to put the ball into play when they see a good opportunity without waiting for the 10 yards. The defenders' game is to get a good wall set up behind the player who is stalling the taking of the free kick. Surprisingly the defenders don't complain that the referee was distracting them when the attackers get off the free kick, but then it seldom scores either. My lead question for you is "Just how long should the referee persist in trying to back out the defenders unbidden by the attackers?" I heard there was a memo some years back recommending that the referee should do this only until the ball was positioned, then to become an observer unless the attackers asked for the 10 yards. The advice to referees says (section 13.3) "The referee should move quickly out of the way after indicating the approximate area of the restart and should do nothing to interfere with the kicking team's right to an immediate free kick. At competitive levels of play, referees should not automatically "manage the wall," but should allow the ball to be put back into play as quickly as possible, unless the kicking team requests help in dealing with opponents infringing on the minimum distance." So, should we not ask or demand that the defenders leave? Or should we desist at some set point unless the attackers ask for the 10 yards? That is not interfering with the attackers' rights but it could be construed as interfering with the defenders' rights (to not be distracted by officials). I know I took a lot of words to get to the point but this has been bugging me why so few fouls result in quick free kicks.

My second question is in regard to the behavior of players in the properly set defensive wall. I don't see this often and when I do, it typically is with girls and I chuckle but one of my colleagues has a sterner attitude. After the wall is set at the proper distance, the girls will have their arms on one another's shoulders and they begin singing or dancing in unison, maybe kicking one foot high a la Can-Can. I watch the attackers and try to judge whether the defenders' actions unfairly distracted the kicker. If I don't see them visibly distracted, I let it go as a trifling infringement and let the girls have their fun. The coaches of the attackers usually want the defenders to be cautioned. My stern colleague doesn't see much humor in the situation and usually tells the defenders to "knock it off!" Is there a standard response to this situation, or should one try to judge whether the defenders' actions unfairly distract the kicker and act accordingly? If there is a standard response, what should it be?

Thank you for your insight into these situations. I'm a great fan of the advice you give.

Answer (January 3, 2007):
1. Defending team fails to retreat at restart:
Normally, we do instruct referees to allow the kicking team to take the kick quickly, if they wish, without interfering with it. However, if, in the opinion of the referee, the defenders are too close to the kick, he or she should avoid playing into the defenders' hands and becoming an unwitting player on their team--the referee has done the work of the defense by delaying the restart of play and has not made the defenders pay any price for this benefit. Once the referee has decided to step in on your own initiative to deal with opponents who are "too close to the kick," the threshold limit for a card has been met.

2. The wall as chorus line:
The referee must recognize that while members of the wall are allowed to jump about when opponents are taking a kick, choreographed actions that are unnatural and designed to both intimidate and to shock and distract their opponents constitute bringing the game into disrepute. As this occurred before the ball was in play, the correct call could be unsporting behavior on the part of the particular player whom the referee chooses from the chorus line. Caution and show the yellow card; restart with the free kick.



In looking at two different publications, each speaks of a slightly different restart, possibly, when a player attempts to play a ball that is in the possession of the keeper.

The first comes from Advice to Referees...... section 12.16 and says.........while the ball is in the possession of the keeper, it cannot lawfully be played by an opponent, and any attempt to do so may be punished by a direct free kick.

The second comes from Instructions for Referees and Resolutions.......... section 5 - Offenses against Goalkeepers and says...... in (d) - makes any play for the ball while the goalkeeper is still controlling it with the hands. Kicking or attempting to kick the ball held by the goalkeeper is considered to be dangerous play. Of the four subsections (a through d), there seems to be both direct and indirect restarts. Based on the 'dangerous play' text of (d), that sounds like an indirect restart.

Dangerous play is not one of the ten fouls that is restarted with a direct free kick, but rather indirect. Is the restart for this offense against the keeper a direct or indirect free kick. I would assume the kicking or attempting to kick a ball in the possession of the keeper is more consistent with a direct free kick restart.

Answer (January 3, 2007):
This dichotomy goes back to 1996 and was covered by Memorandum 1996, which said, in effect: The 1995 Law changes included the removal of the phrase "attempting to kick the ball while held by the goalkeeper" as an example of "dangerous play" and the Board explained its reason thusly: the example was deleted because "it is no longer an appropriate example since the introduction of the terms 'careless' and 'reckless' into the Law in 1995."

To which the Federation added the following explanation:
ADVICE TO USSF REFEREES: The action of "attempting to kick the ball while held by the goalkeeper" previously described as an example of "playing in a manner considered by the referee to be dangerous" should now be deemed a major foul as it should be seen as a "careless" or "reckless" act punishable by a direct free kick under the 1995 changes in Law XII.

Regardless of what language is employed in the Instructions, this remain USSF's position on the matter. Without wishing to seem naive, we would argue that in this instance the Instructions' and IFAB's phrase "dangerous play" is not intended to refer to "dangerous play" as that concept is used in Law 12's reference to the various offenses punishable by an indirect free kick, but to the act of placing the opponent in grave danger through one's actions. However that may be, it still comes down to the fact that the Federation has opted to declare that any attempt to kick a ball in the possession of the goalkeeper HAS to be considered the equivalent of kicking the goalkeeper since it is illegal to play a ball in the goalkeeper's possession and thus the action must be directed toward the player--hence the seriousness of the offense. The Federation's Instructions document for 2007 will include this meaning.



I would benefit from some further clarification as to when making contact with the opponent before touching the ball is acceptable and when it is not. The situation concerns U 13 players at the premiere level, so there is intent in this move. The move does not concern an individual player but is a reflection of the style of coaching as it is consistent for the team.

Let me describe a typical situation. The ball is 5 yards in front of 2 opposing player that both run as fast as they can to the ball. The 2 players start out say 2 yards apart and converge as they approach the ball. They have an equal change of reaching the ball. Just before they get to the ball, player 1 steps in front of the ball in such a way as to shield it from player 2. This requires an aggressive burst of energy but does not harm player 2 other than that player 2 ends up running into the back to player 1. Then player 1 touches and plays the ball. When player 1 steps in front of player 2 her distance to the ball is such that she could barely touch the ball but certainly not control it yet. It is my perception that the first objective of player 1 is to prevent player 2 from reaching the ball and shielding it before playing the ball.

My question now is, since the 2 players collide and tackle each other and player 1 consistently makes contact with player 2 before playing the ball, is that a foul under law 12? What criteria for consideration could you point out to me so that the judgement of foul or fair play becomes easier?

Answer (January 3, 2007):
You would appear to be confusing two separate infringements of the Law. Let's see if we can explain it a bit--but you will need to remember that only you, the referee, can make the correct decision in any given event.

Making contact with the opponent before touching the ball applies ONLY to tackling for the ball, not to a charging offense. "Tackling" means going for the ball on the ground, not shielding the ball or (illegally) impeding the opponent's access to it. There is no other prohibition on fair and reasonable contact with an opponent in competing for the ball.

Here are two citations from the 2006 edition of the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the laws of the Game" that may be helpful:

Making contact with the opponent before the ball when making a tackle is unfair and should be penalized. However, the fact that contact with the ball was made first does not automatically mean that the tackle is fair. The declaration by a player that he or she has played the ball is irrelevant if, while tackling for the ball, the player carelessly, recklessly, or with excessive force commits any of the prohibited actions.

A foul committed while tackling an opponent with little or no concern for the safety of the opponent shall be cause for the player to be sent from the field and shown the red card for serious foul play.


"Impeding the progress of an opponent" means moving on the field so as to obstruct, interfere with, or block the path of an opponent. Impeding can include crossing directly in front of the opponent or running between the opponent and the ball so as to form an obstacle with the aim of delaying progress. There will be many occasions during a game when a player will come between an opponent and the ball, but in the majority of such instances, this is quite natural and fair. It is often possible for a player not playing the ball to be in the path of an opponent and still not be guilty of impeding.

The offense of impeding an opponent requires that the ball not be within playing distance and that physical contact between the player and the opponent is normally absent. If physical contact occurs, the referee should, depending on the circumstances, consider instead the possibility that a charging infringement has been committed (direct free kick) or that the opponent has been fairly charged off the ball (indirect free kick, see Advice 12.22). However, nonviolent physical contact may occur while impeding the progress of an opponent if, in the opinion of the referee, this contact was an unavoidable consequence of the impeding (due, for example, to momentum).



I am having problems with one area of the ATR. It is on page 64 and it refers to the ball being played backwards by the kicker. How do I explain that if the ball is not in play, the referee can change the restart from penalty kick to an indirect free kick? Also, if a player other than the kicker takes the kick, it results in an indirect free kick for the opponents. Again, we are taking a kick restart and changing it during a time when the ball is not legally in play. Was this a position paper and I missed it?

Answer (January 3, 2007):
In its infinite wisdom, the IFAB has chosen to set aside, at least in respect of Law 14, the tradition that an offense that occurs when the ball is not in play cannot affect the restart. For the reason for the change in the 2006 edition of the Advice to Referees, see the Laws of the Game 2006, Law 14:
If the referee gives the signal for a penalty kick to be taken and, before the ball is in play, one of the following situations occurs:

The player taking the penalty kick infringes the Laws of the Game:
- the referee allows the kick to proceed
- if the ball enters the goal, the kick is retaken
- if the ball does not enter the goal, the referee stops play and restarts the match with an indirect free kick to the defending team, from the place where the infringement occurred.
A team-mate of the player taking the kick infringes the Laws of the Game:
- the referee allows the kick to proceed
- if the ball enters the goal, the kick is retaken
- if the ball does not enter the goal, the referee stops play and restarts the match with an indirect free kick to the defending team, from the place where the infringement occurred.
//rest deleted//



This issue came up during recertification when talking about gaining an advantage by being in an offside position.

How is parry defined as it applies to goalkeeper possession?

From Decision 2 in Law 12, it seems apparent that a parried ball by a goalkeeper constitutes possession. So if the ball was parried by a goalkeeper and next touched by a player who had been in an offside position when the shot was taken, it would seem that the player would not be offside.

The discussion then turned to what was a parry. Some thought a parry required that the ball be knocked to the ground while others thought that any deliberate (and controlled) touch of the ball by the keeper was a parry (as in fisting or punching a ball away from the goal).

Laws, ATR and Q&A were checked but no reference seems to exist. Can you provide guidance?

Answer (December 12, 2006):
See the definition of "possession" in Law 12, IFAB Decision 2):
"The goalkeeper is considered to be in control of the ball by touching it with any part of his hand or arms. Possession of the ball includes the goalkeeper deliberately parrying the ball, but does not include the circumstances where, in the opinion of the referee, the ball rebounds accidentally from the goalkeeper, for example after he has made a save."

To "parry" the ball is to handle the ball deliberately, pushing it to a place where the goalkeeper may play it to more advantage. By parrying the ball, the goalkeeper has done two things: (1) established possession and (2) given up possession. The ball is now free for all to play. The six-second rule has no further application in this situation.

So, in answer to your question, no, if the goalkeeper has clearly established possession by parrying the ball, rather than simply deflecting it in a "save," then the opposing player cannot be declared offside.



My question is if 12 players are on the field of play and a goal is scored, what must the ref do either if the game has started for one minute after the kick off and the 12th player is noticed or the game has not restarted from a kick off after the goal is scored.

Answer (December 12, 2006):
In all cases the extra player is removed and cautioned (unless an outside agent) for unsporting behavior.

If the extra player is discovered only after the ball has been kicked off, the goal counts. The game is restarted in accordance with the Law--i. e., if it went out of play, the restart is a throw-in, corner kick, goal kick, or free kick, depending on the reason the ball was out of play. If the referee stopped play, it is an indirect free kick from the place where the ball was when the referee stopped play.

If the extra player is discovered BEFORE the kick-off, the goal is canceled only if the extra player was on the scoring team or if the extra person was an outside agent who, in the opinion of the referee, did not in any way interfere with play or any player. The restart is determined by who the extra "player" was. If it was an outside agent--not a player or a substitute or substituted player--the restart is a dropped ball at the top of the defending team's goal area. If it was a player who had left the game with the referee's permission but re-entered without permission , the restart is an indirect free kick for the defending team, to be taken from within their goal area. If it was a substitute who had entered without the referee's permission, the restart is an indirect free kick to be taken from the defending team's goal area.



now i am grade 9 ref im going to get upgraded but my question is when i ref games and there is a player down cause this happens a lot on minor injuries instead of blowing my whistle all the time i try to get players to play the ball out you know fifa fair play and then get the other team to throw the ball back to them is this bad?

Answer (December 12, 2006):
No, this is not bad, but neither is it sanctioned under the Laws of the Game. The referee has no authority to direct the players to put the ball out of play or to tell them to play it back in to the other team to restart.

It is the job of the referee to stop play for injury, regardless of what players may or may not do, only if a player is, in the referee's opinion, seriously injured--keeping in mind the age of the players. There are considerable practical differences between the referee stopping play for a serious injury and players stopping play for what they believe is an injury. If the players do it on their own, there is little the referee can do to control it, at least as the Laws read now.


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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