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July 2008 Archive (I of IV)


What does a player have to say to be sent off and shown a straight red card for the "use of offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures"?

I watched the New York at Colorado game on and in the 81st minute Colorado defender (and USA National Team player) Pablo Mastroeni felt AR1 Bill Dittmar missed a clear offside call and began screaming at Dittmar from across the field, and clearly saying (from the replay) "F#@# You!" directed right at Dittmar. Dittmar does nothing. Only after the next minute or so when Mastroeni continued to scream at him for the "missed call" did Dittmar finally get Weyland's attention and indicate to him that Mastroeni needs to be cautioned for dissent. Caution? So what does a player have to say to actually be sent off for the language they use toward officials?

Is USSF reviewing this and punishing Mastroeni further? And how could the CO coach protest and give the 4th official an earful after Mastroeni was cautioned? My question is why wasn't Mastroeni sent off?

Do players cuss on the field? Of course. But directed toward an official!? That shouldn't be. I'm reading a book by former English Premier League Referee David Elleray and I know by the things he's said in his book that Mastroeni would have been sent off right away.

Have things changed that much since the early to mid 90s when Elleray was around?

Answer (July 7, 2008):
One of the things we need to remember when watching professional and international games is that the game is called differently at every level of play, whether it is the pros, top senior amateur, other amateur, top-level youth play, lower-level youth play, etc. The pro players are more experienced and are willing to put up with and dish out more than the referee will allow at the senior amateur level of play (and so on down the line) and a lot more than referees should or will allow for younger, less experienced and conditioned players. In any event, the MLS looks at all instances of this nature and deals with them through its disciplinary process.

The matter of dissent and how the professional-level referee should judge it was covered in the "Referee Week in Review 14," under Dissent, which you can find at this URL:

When deciding whether a player's actions are cautionable for dissent (by word or action) or can be red carded for offensive or insulting or abusive language and/or gestures apply the following criteria:
· Public
Are the player's actions public in nature? From a visual perspective, can others see it and, if so, what message is the player sending? Verbally, who can hear the comments (other players, spectators, television) - consider the volume of the comments? Are the actions or comments meant to "show the referee up?" Consider whether the actions/comments create a negative impression/attitude towards the referee in general.

· Personal
Are the comments directed at the referee or just said as a reasonable emotional reaction to a poor play? Consider the tone of voice and the derogatory content of what was said. Are the actions of the player aimed at the referee or merely personal frustration?

· Provocative
Are the comments or actions intended to incite further misconduct or heighten the tension level? Do the comments elicit anger and potentially provoke further conflict on the field? Consider the ramifications of racial or gender based comments.

Overall, are the comments and actions disrespectful to "any referee" - not just to the referee to whom they were addressed? Officials must be aware of actions/comments that undermine the position of the referee and must take the appropriate action that matches the actions of the player.

As to Mr. Elleray's book, we do not comment on the works of retired referees from other countries.



Under the rules for "Unsporting Behavior", are there any restrictions on what players may/may not say?

For example, is it a foul to say "mine" or "let go" to signal to a team mate that he should leave the ball for me?

I read under "Unsporting Behavior" that one cannot say things to distract an opponent - are these considered fouls then?

Answer (July 7, 2008):
xxxxx No, this would not be a foul, but it might possibly be misconduct. A foul is an unfair or unsafe action committed (1) by a player (2) against an opponent or the opposing team, (3) on the field of play, (4) while the ball is in play. Deliberate handling of the ball is committed against the opposing team, not against a particular opponent. If any of these requirements is not met, the action is not a foul; however, the action can still be misconduct. Unsporting behavior is one form of misconduct.

A defending player is generally allowed to call to his or her teammates that he or she will play the ball. However, if the defending player calls to distract an opponent, rather than to give information to a teammate, that is unsporting behavior. On the other hand, the team with the ball is allowed to use "false" calls to deceive their opponents.



situation: girls age14/16 rec game. tight game 2- 1 going into 4 period (extremely hot that day, halves broken into periods). last 30 sec. of game a corner is awarded to the team down by one. goes of defending team, down team awarded another corner. kick is good this time. there are probably 12 to 15 players in front of the goal. in the melee the ball is almost caught by a member of defending team and immediately dropped out of surprise by the action. parents and spectators witnessed the infraction. I was out of position and had no idea that anything had happened. nothing was called by the referee. the game ends.

upon shaking hands with the ref at centered field, he tells me,"i now your parents are going to complain, but with that many players in the box, you are not going to get that call." I still had no clue what he ws talking about. after talking to parents and other spectators and hearing about what they saw, i put two and two together.

Question: Did the ref see something and not call it because of the situation? Wouldn't a valid hand ball be a valid hand ball regardless of the situation?

Answer (July 7, 2008):
Girls 14-16 rec game? Hot day? The referee probably saw the possible infringement as an accident.

However, let's look at the possibilities. If it was seen and:
- if a defender "caught" the ball and then, in surprise/shock/embarrassment, dropped the ball, it should have been a penalty kick (and a red card if, but for the handling, the ball would have gone in the net). - if the ball was kicked into the crowd of assorted attackers/defenders and struck the hand of a defender who pulled her hand back in surprise/shock/embarrassment, there was no foul or misconduct and the match ended properly.



I was officiating at a park which has trees which over hang the pitch, my question is, if the ball hits an over hanging branch and falls into the field of play (the ball was has not crossed the line), is it out or play on?

At my association (Sydney, Australia) the rule is play on as this is a fixed natural feature of the field.

In this instance everyone stopped and I called "play on", at half time I had to explain my ruling and the general consensus was... "are you kidding, ref???".

Can't find anything relating to this in the LOTG.

Answer (July 2, 2008):
The answer is the same here as in Sydney -- play continues. Consider this excerpt from the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game" 2008 edition:
(c) Pre-existing conditions
These are things on or above the field which are not described in Law 1 but are deemed safe and not generally subject to movement. These include trees overhanging the field, wires running above the field, and covers on sprinkling or draining systems. They do not affect one team more adversely than the other and are considered to be a part of the field. If the ball leaves the field after contact with any item considered under the local ground rules of the field to be a pre-existing condition, the restart is in accordance with the Law, based on which team last played the ball. (Check with the competition for any local ground rules.)



During an actual international friendly match at an overseas location, Team A is down by one goal. Player A1 on his own half of the field, takes a long kick which travels long towards the goalkeeper of team D. At the time of the kick, forward player A2 is on off-side position 5 yards passed midfield. Player A2 makes an attempt to run for the ball, but abandons his attempt after taking 2 or 3 steps towards the ball realizing he has no chance of reaching it. Assistant Referee One (AR1) decides not to raise his flag since the ball quickly traveled all the way down the field inside the Penalty area of goalkeeper D. AR1 quickly sprints towards the goalkeeper's position following the ball. The goalkeeper controls the ball with his feet and starts dribbling it around the Penalty area, but never picks up or touches the ball with his hands. Approximately, 10 seconds later, forward player A2 realizing the goalkeeper D is attempting to consume time, starts running towards goalkeeper D. Player A2 reaches the Penalty area and is able to steal the ball from goalkeeper D. Player A2 scores a goal.

The Center referee (REF) and AR1 signal for a goal. Team D complains and calls for an Off-side. Game is resumed with a kick off and ends 15 minutes later.

Was AR1 wrong by not raising his flag for the off-side when it initially took place? When is an off-side considered over and a new play started, if the game is never stopped for any reason by the referee?

Was AR1 supposed to raise his flag as soon as he realized player A2 is running towards goalkeeper D, 10 seconds later?.

Were the REF and AR1 correct by allowing the goal?

Does the Spirit of the Game, and Spirit of the Law have any weight in this scenario?.

This scenario has created a lot of controversy at the overseas location where I officiate.

Answer (July 1, 2008):
This following answer applies to games played in the United States. We cannot be responsible for what might be permitted in "the overseas location" where you officiate.

A player's offside position must be reevaluated whenever (1) the ball is again touched or played by a teammate; (2) the ball is played (possessed and controlled, not simply deflected) by an opponent, including the opposing goalkeeper, or (3) the ball goes out of play -- which is not applicable in this scenario.

The result of this reevaluation, of course, may be that the player remains in an offside position based on still being beyond the second-to-last defender, the ball, and the midfield line. Referees must remember that a player cannot simply run to an onside position and become involved in play. The player's position with relation to the ball and the opponents must change in accordance with the Law.

If the goalkeeper has clearly established possession and control of the ball, as suggested in your scenario, then player A2 is now relieved of his offside position and may play the ball.

To answer your questions as they occur: AR1 was correct. We have shown how A2 is no longer offside if he stopped his initial play for the ball and then waited the ten seconds to begin running after the ball now clearly in the goalkeeper's possession and control. No, the AR was not supposed to raise the flag in this case. Yes, the referee was correct in allowing the goal -- the AR has no say there. The Spirit of the Laws and of the Game were not injured here.



1) In a recent game, a player was quite disrespectful towards me, and even twice, in the same conversation, used foul language ("F" word), as well as asked "have you ever refereed before?" I was extremely nice, as I only cautioned him, given that it was his first time playing in the league. I simply asked that he act maturely like all other players in the league (who for the most part respect my calls, given that most think I'm a good ref who properly knows/enforces the Laws of the Game). When I asked his name (we're required to obtain the name in this league--unfortunately, no ID cards are issued), he refused to give it to me (simply laughed and again mocked me). I strongly suggested he provide it unless he wanted to see a red card. After the game, and over the course of the next few days, I've become upset with myself for not issuing a red card during the match for his various acts of dissent, as well as for a lack of any signs of contrition (no apology by him, only by his captain). My question to you (I'm sure the answer is 'no'): I know that one can 'downgrade' a card from red to yellow, but is there precedent for one to 'upgrade' a card from yellow to red? If so, please point me directly to the source (couldn't find it on your or FIFA's website), so that I can show the commissioner, as well as his captain. This guy needs to learn a lesson.

2) If a player like this shouts dissentful remarks while the ball is in play, I just want to make sure of where the restart is (near him or where the ball was when the whistle was blown) supposed to take place. Alternatively, shall I wait next time until play stops (out of bounds) until issuing a card? His words were so egregious that I stopped play immediately.

3) In a recent game, a goal kick was started with the FB passing wide to the GK. The GK became nervous with pressure by the opposing FW, and simply dribbled back to his box, where, once inside, he fell on the ball and used his hands. This incident isn't your normal passback situation where it leads to an indirect free kick. My question: is such a play permissible, or should it also lead to an indirect free kick for the other team? Thank you.

Answer (July 1, 2008):
1) When a player clearly "uses offensive or insulting or abusive language and/or gestures" toward the referee or any other participant in the game, that player is sent off. No cautions, and no ifs, ands, or buts. If the player will not give the referee his/her name, then the referee should get it from the captain. And no, once given, a send-off cannot be downgraded to a caution if the game has been restarted. Nor may a caution normally be changed to a send-off once the game has restarted. The referee must simply include all pertinent details in the match report.

2) If the referee stops play for misconduct while the ball is in play, the restart is an indirect free kick from the place where the offense occurred. In this case, where the player uses offensive or insulting or abusive language and/or gestures.

3) This situation is indeed the classic offense of the goalkeeper playing the ball with his hands after it was kicked deliberately to him by a teammate. The restart is an indirect free kick for the opposing team from the place where the goalkeeper played the ball with his hands (bearing in mind the requirements listed in Law 13 regarding indirect free kicks inside the goal area.



When a goal is scored, do you blow your whistle and point up field running backwards to the center? Or just point up field and run backwards to the center line - no whistle.

This topic comes up by our junior refs as they maintain that the Pro refs on TV never blow the whistle when a goal is scored.

Answer (July 1, 2008):
Referees on the professional game do this because they are following the instructions in the Laws of the Game (Additional Instructions and Guidelines for Referees in 2007/2008; Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees in 2008/2009).

Use of whistle
The whistle is needed to:
* start play (1st, 2nd half), after a goal
* stop play
- for a free kick or penalty kick
- if match is suspended or terminated [Note: For 2008/2009 "terminated" has been changed to "abandoned"]
- when a period of play has ended due to the expiration of tim
* restart play at
- free kicks when the wall is ordered back the appropriate distanc
- penalty kicks
* restart play after it has been stopped due to
- the issue of a yellow or red card for misconduct
- injury
- substitution
The whistle is NOT needed
* to stop play for:
- a goal kick, corner kick or throw-in
- a goal
* to restart play from
- a free kick, goal kick, corner kick, throw-in
A whistle which is used too frequently unnecessarily will have less impact when it is needed. When a discretionary whistle is needed to start play, the referee should clearly announce to the players that the restart may not occur until after that signal.


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. Direction is provided by Alfred Kleinaitis, Manager of Referee Development and Education, with further assistance from Julie Ilacqua, Managing Director of Referee Programs (administrative matters); David McKee, National Director of Assessment (assessment matters); and Ulrich Strom, National Instructor and National Assessor (matters in general).

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