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July 2003 Archive

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Your question:
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS TO THE LAWS OF THE GAME, June 2003, "Laws of the game" Law 4, The Player's Equipment states:
"If , in the opinion of the referee, the glasses are dangerous to a player himself, or to an opponent, he does not allow the player to take part in the match."

Is there any USSF guidance on the issue of prescription glasses?

Most players wear contacts, soft plastic frames, rubber frames or protective goggles over the prescription glasses in metal frames. However, on occasion a player will have prescription glasses with a metal frame. Some referees opinion is that the frame is safe and other referees opinion is that the metal frame is not safe.

Is it appropriate for a referee assignor to remove a referee from a game if the assignor disagrees with the referee's opinion of the safety of the frames?

USSF answer (July 21, 2003):
The USSF guidance is contained in the March 7, 2003, memorandum on player's equipment, which can be downloaded from this and other USSF-affiliated sites.


To: State Referee Administrators cc: State Presidents
State Youth Referee Administrators Affiliated Members
State Directors of Referee Instruction
State Directors of Referee Assessment
National Assessors
National Instructors
National Referees

From: Julie Ilacqua
Managing Director of Federation Services

Re: Player's Equipment

Date: March 7, 2003


USSF has received a number of inquiries recently about how officials should handle situations where players wish to wear equipment that is not included in the list of basic compulsory equipment in FIFA Laws of the Game. Referees are facing increased requests from players for permission to wear kneepads, elbowpads, headbands, soft casts, goggles, etc.
//remainder of item deleted; you can find the complete document on this site or in other items in the archives//

This, of course, includes eyeglasses of any sort.

No - there is nothing in the Laws of the Game or anything else that allows an assignor to overrule a referee decision with regard to safety; therefore the assignor has no right to interfere in this decision. The assignor is not the aggrieved party if there is a disagreement on the referee's decision -- that would be the player.

The decision of the referee working the game is final on all points of Law -- and this is guaranteed in Law 5 (The Referee): "The decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play are final." Player safety is intimately connected with play.

Your question:
Situation is a match that needs a winner. Near the end of overtime, one team is playing with 7 players. One of these players leaves the field for an injury with the referee's permission and the team continues with 6, hoping that the injured player will return. Overtime ends and it is determined that the injured player is unable to take the kicks.

My "guess" was that you would reduce the other team to seven players and continue the kicks six on seven. The other possible options are to kick six on six, or abandon the match and file a report.

USSF answer (July 21, 2003):
The referee should base the decision on the guidance given in the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game":
Although Law 3 specifies a minimum of seven players in order to start and continue a match, it is not always necessary for all seven to be physically on the field. A match may be continued if a team drops below this minimum number as a result of a player requesting and receiving permission from the referee to leave the field temporarily for treatment of an injury or if instructed by the referee to leave the field to correct bleeding, blood on the uniform, or illegal equipment. In such cases, the referee should be satisfied that the team will be able to field the minimum number within a reasonable period of time. If this is not the case, the referee must abandon the match and describe the circumstances fully in his report.

It all comes down to the quintessentially Washington question -- what did the referee know and when did he know it? You did not specify how long the injured player was off the field, but if the amount of time for treatment exceeds the referee's idea of "reasonable," then the referee should not hesitate to abandon the game at that moment. On the other hand, if the referee deems the amount of time the injured player was absent from the field to be "reasonable," then there is no need to abandon the game. This is strictly a matter of judgment for the referee.

The basic principle: If the player off the field for the injury was "known" to be unable to return to the field before the end of regulation play, then the team is down by one at the end of regulation play and the other team must reduce to equate. If the player off the field for the injury was not known to be unable to return to the field until after the end of regulation play, then the reduction in size did not occur until the kicks phase has begun and thus the reduce to equate rule does not apply.

Now the obvious question is HOW does the referee "know" or learn of this central fact. The referee should not make any inferences regarding the length of time the player was off the field or what the injury "looked like" or any other consideration (for example, what would the referee do if he assumed the player could NOT return and then the player did?). The only sure way is for the referee to be told this either by the player or by a recognized team official (e. g., coach or captain). Until this happens, the referee cannot "know" the answer to this question. So, it comes down to the time when the referee was told that the player could not return. Was it before or after the end of regulation play? On this hinges the issue of whether reduce to equate will be applied.

Your question:
In U12 and 10 what is considered to be dangerous playing (such as playing on the ground)
I had a game where kids where falling left and right because the play was getting pretty hectic. Sometimes the ball got caught on a persons legs while they were down but they were not kicking at it. is this dangerous playing.
Also in the game starts to get rough but no fouls are being committed and the kids are just kicking at the ball and the roughness is even, should i let play continue or stop play and restart with a dropped ball?

USSF answer (July 20, 2003):
Playing the ball while on the ground is NOT NECESSARILY considered to be playing dangerously. It all depends on what the player is actually doing.

Here is what we teach referees about playing in a dangerous manner, taken from the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game," which can be downloaded from this and other USSF-affiliated sites:
Playing "in a dangerous manner" can be called only if the act, in the opinion of the referee, meets three criteria: the action must be dangerous to someone (including the player himself), it was committed with an opponent close by, and the dangerous nature of the action caused this opponent to cease his active play for the ball or to be otherwise disadvantaged by his attempt not to participate in the dangerous play. Merely committing a dangerous act is not, by itself, an offense (e.g., kicking high enough that the cleats show or attempting to play the ball while on the ground). Committing a dangerous act while an opponent is near by is not, by itself, an offense. The act becomes an offense only when an opponent is adversely and unfairly affected, usually by the opponent ceasing to challenge for the ball in order to avoid receiving or causing injury as a direct result of the player's act. Playing in a manner considered to be dangerous when only a teammate is nearby is not a foul. Remember that fouls may be committed only against opponents or the opposing team.

In judging a dangerous play offense, the referee must take into account the experience and skill level of the players. Opponents who are experienced and skilled may be more likely to accept the danger and play through. Younger players have neither the experience nor skill to judge the danger adequately and, in such cases, the referee should intervene on behalf of their safety. For example, playing with cleats up in a threatening or intimidating manner is more likely to be judged a dangerous play offense in youth matches, without regard to the reaction of opponents.

One final note: Referees must keep in mind that it is NOT a good idea to stop play because "the roughness is even" and then restarting with a dropped ball. Referees must make a decision that one person or the other started the roughness and deal with that person. The dropped ball is too often the coward's way out of facing reality and making a decision.

Your question:
I am curious about the advise for referees when it comes to the use of cards for misconduct in U 12 or younger matches. Does the USSF have any particular advise or customs when it come to this matter.

USSF answer (July 20, 2003):
No player is immune from punishment for misconduct, whether it be minor or more serious. This applies to all age levels, all skill levels, and all levels of competition.

The specific approach you use in handling the mechanics of the card situation, including how the card is displayed and what you say to the player, will depend on the age, skill, and competitive level of the match, along with a host of other factors. Regardless of these factors, however, the referee must be particularly vigilant in dealing promptly, firmly, and correctly with any misconduct that affects the safety of the other players. No player is too young to learn that violence will not be tolerated.

Your question:
I noticed in the USA v. Brazil friendly this Saturday that one fo the Brazilians (Daniela) was wearing what seemed to be padded headgear. Is such padding legal?

USSF answer (July 16, 2003):
The United States Soccer Federation does not take a position one way or another on padded headgear. Such headgear is not part of the player's required uniform and equipment. The referee is the sole judge of the permissibility of these items, which must meet the requirement in Law 3 that it not be dangerous to any player.

You can find most recent the position paper regarding the issue of equipment on this and other USSF-affiliated wegbsites. You may also have noticed the face masks -- not helmets -- worn by one or two Korean and Japanese players during World Cup 2002. The use of those face masks was not questioned at any time by the referees or the administration.

Your question:
It has been my personal policy to allow quick free kicks at all times, including near goal, unless a member of the attacking team asks me to administer a ceremonial kick (or if there is misconduct). The problem is, many teams are not used to this approach, and will take their time on the restart allowing the defending team to retreat the distance and set up a wall. While I believe the intent of the quick free kick was for an immediate restart, I can see nothing wrong with the attacking team taking a reasonable (15-20 sec.) delay, nor can I see anything wrong with the formation of the defensive wall (the Board apparently doesn't want play held up for it, but it's allowed). Of course, it was always necessary to direct the placement of the wall, as defensive players left to their own devices will set up slightly short of 10 yds...Thus, many of my quick free kicks transpired exactly like ceremonial free kicks, minus the whistle. I found this course to be preferable to doing ceremonial kicks, as it allows the attackers the chance to strike before I have fully moved the defense back, should an opportunity present itself, or if the full retreat is not needed.

Recently I have heard a number of dissenting opinions on this issue. The first expressed that a quick free must be taken quickly (before the defense fully retires) or else the kick is automatically made ceremonial.

The second suggestion was that, though an attacking team may delay as long as it likes (within reason), never, at any point during a quick free kick, should a referee attempt to move defensive players back the full distance (except for Severe encroachment). This sounded extreme, but he pointed out section 13.3 of the Advice which prohibits referee interference and wall management during a quick free kick. There is also a clear implication in 13.5 that the distance is only enforced in the case of a ceremonial restart. He also made the logical argument that, if my system was the correct way of doing things, why would anyone ever ask for a ceremonial restart? (I guess I had always assumed that ceremonial FKs were being phased out by the lawmaking bodies of soccer.)

In ending, my question can be segmented into three parts: 1.) Can the kicking team delay the taking of their quick free kick. 2.) In all QFK cases, should the referee attempt to move back opponents, cautioning encroachers *just as he would for a CFK, (with the Sole exception being defenders who are actively retiring away from the ball passively receiving the ball)*? 3.) If the answer to the above two questions is yes, as I believe it is, what exactly would be the benefit of asking for a ceremonial free kick(from the perspective of the attacking team)?

Any other practical advice you can give me, a relatively inexperienced referee, regarding the handling of free kicks would be extremely helpful.

USSF answer (July 15, 2003):
Before answering your question, there is a point that needs to be made: There is a vast difference between actively encouraging quick free kicks and making them one's policy at every opportunity. All referees should allow quick free kicks, as provided in ATR 13.3, but the referee cannot cite 13.3 as a reason to avoid taking action against those who fail to respect the required distance. ATR 13.3 should not be cited as a reason to avoid taking action if the failure to respect the required distance resulted in an unfair advantage to the opponents. In other words, back away, watch what happens, and intervene in quick free kick situations where an opponent closer than the minimum required distance actively makes a play for the ball (as opposed to, luckily, having the ball misplayed directly to him).

ATR 13.3 tells us that "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."

Your interlocutor has misinterpreted 13.3, failing to recognize "automatically" as being the operable word in the sentence. The defending team has only two rights at a free kick: (1) the right to remain a minimum of ten yards away until the ball is in play -- i. e., is kicked and moves -- and (2) the right not to be diverted by the referee interfering with the action in other than a ceremonial free kick situation. This is what the referee is doing when he starts talking with the opponents -- even if saying nothing more than to back away -- or, worse, when he is actively engaged in being "the first brick in the wall" while still allowing the kicking team to kick whenever it wishes. The ATR lays out a fairly simple set of rules -- keep your mouth shut, unless you have to or are asked to step in -- in which case the free kick automatically becomes a ceremonial restart and the first thing out of the referee's mouth had better be an admonition to everyone that the free kick cannot now be taken without a signal by the referee. The kicking team has rights too: the right to a "free" kick, free of interference from the opponents and, if they wish to take the kick quickly, free from the interference of the referee. That is what ATR 13.3 is about. The referee cannot abdicate the responsibility to ensure that the free kick is indeed "free."

To your questions:
1) "Can the kicking team delay the taking of their quick free kick?"
Only to a point. The kicking team, too, is expected to abide by the requirement to get the ball back in play. The referee should give the kicking team every opportunity to take its free kick, but a player may be cautioned for delaying the restart when they have been instructed by the referee to move ahead with the kick.
2) "In all QFK cases, should the referee attempt to move back opponents, cautioning encroachers -- just as he would for a CFK, (with the Sole exception being defenders who are actively retiring away from the ball passively receiving the ball)?"
No. The referee must have a feel for the game, how it has been going, how it is going now. That "feel" must be applied to each and every situation individually. There is no black-and-white formula to follow.
3) "If the answer to the above two questions is yes, as I believe it is, what exactly would be the benefit of asking for a ceremonial free kick(from the perspective of the attacking team)?"
See above.

Your question:
Had an interesting situation in a match last week. Attacker takes a shot, which is stopped by the keeper. The ball was stopped and in the possession of the keeper, as he was prone with his left hand on the ball. The attacker followed through and kicked the ball out from under the keeper's hand, apparently scoring a goal. The keeper could not have positioned his body more perfectly to completely screen both coaches from seeing the play, who were both shocked when I blew the whistle, shook my head (I realize not listed as proper mechanics) and clearly signaled with my hands that there was no goal (again, no mechanics in the book, but everyone, especially the attacker's coach, knew what I was saying). So far, so good. I then glanced at my AR, and he was running up the touchline as though signalling a goal. Oops, thought I, I screwed up. So I went to talk to him and make sure that he saw the same thing I did. Turns out his run up the touchline was to get the emotional coach who had a goal called back to step back off the field - he had wandered onto the field a foot or two.

Now, if I had simply run to the spot, raised my hand for the indirect, and gotten play going again quickly, things would have calmed down pretty quick. I could almost feel the tension and emotion rise as I spoke with the AR, before I got the restart going. My question is this: What does the Center do if the AR apparently is signalling a goal in a situation like this? I may have simply been overcautious, having only a week before had a center signal a goal when it was not, as I was on the goal line and the ball did not go into the goal - in this case my mechanics were correct, center just didn't look. But I don't want to go through this experience again - I still had three days to go in camp with these folks!

Also, to what extent should the AR 'deal with' a coach? As center, I could hear everything going on from the bench, and had chosen to ignore it - it was an emotional moment, and both coaches were excited ("It's a Goal!" - "The ball was in the keeper's hands!" - "Goal!" - "Keeper's hands!" - "Goal" - "Keeper's hands" - actually quite a chuckle, in retrospect). I would think that if the coach is such a problem that the AR has to run 50 yards to settle him, then he should probably let me know first by signalling with his flag. Again, your advice is appreciated.

I sure have appreciated your responses to my (and OUR) questions. Now if I can just figure out how to keep up with all those kids with young legs...

USSF answer (July 15, 2003):
Although you did fairly well under the circumstances, you might need to do two things: (1) Remember that the restart for kicking an opponent -- which is what happened here; and you could have sent off the attacking player for serious foul play, if necessary -- is a direct free kick, not an indirect free kick, and (2) brush up on your mechanics. Your team seems to have reacted a bit too quickly, without the recommended deliberation and eye contact that has to support all specific mechanics. You and the assistant referee (AR) should always exchange information at any stoppage. You look at the AR, the AR looks at you. If the AR nods (or gives any other signal on which you have agreed), you award the goal or the foul or take the punitive action for misconduct. In this case, you should have arranged a signal to show that a goal had NOT been scored. Then you would have recognized that the AR's apparent "signal" for a goal by running up the touchline was not to indicate a goal, but a message that there was something going on that needed attention -- most likely yours. The AR's job is to cover you when you are otherwise occupied. The AR did that. You had not done your job fully by giving proper instructions or by dealing with the (possibly irresponsible) behavior of the coaches.

Your question:
The coin toss gives the blue team first kickoff. Five minutes later the kickoff actually occurs, but the red team has taken the kickoff! The referee realizes this about a minute into the match. What should the referee do (besides being embarrassed) if no one else notices? What should he do if someone complains?

USSF answer (July 15, 2003):
If no one else notices, the referee should let it go. Never interfere where the only result will be to get people confused or angry. If someone complains, the referee should apologize -- and let it go. (We are assuming here that the team that won the toss lined up correctly to attack the goal they chose to attack. Surely they would have complained about that?)

Your question:
At the beginning of the second half in a recent U-14 match, one team had one of its players stand at the touch line near the halfway line facing away from the field. Two substitutes stood outside the touch line also facing away from the field (they probably were not a full yard off the touch line, but let's assume that they were for this question). Before starting the half, I counted the players on the field twice and only counted 10. So I asked the coach if the player next to the touch line was a player or a substitute (I was standing near the center circle at the time and could not see a poorly-painted touch line clearly). The coach became very annoyed because I had unintentionally ruined his ruse (he apparently wanted to hide the player on the touch line, and send him down field for a pass). Was the team's behavior gamesmanship or a legitimate tactic that I interfered with by not being a bit more aware?

USSF answer (July 15, 2003):
What you describe may be a legitimate tactic, as all players were on the field, but the coach's reaction to an appropriate question from the referee borders on irresponsible behavior. A warning about responsible behavior might be in order here.

Your question:
I was recently reviewing "Advice to the Referee" and under player substitutions it said to the effect that a substitution was complete when the substitute player entered the playing field. Well I thought about it for a moment and I remember all those times I allowed substitutions where the substitute did not enter the field such as in the case where he/she simply ran down the touchline to substitute for a player who was going to take the throw-in. Intuitively, my acknowledgment that the substitute was taking the place of the player who was going to take the throw-in completed the substitution procedure. Are we as referees asking for trouble by not requiring the player to enter the field of play first ? What if the substitute having not entered the field is running down the touchline to make the throw-in punched a player on the field ? Is he at this point a substitute or is he a player ?

USSF answer (July 15, 2003):
The points you bring up are precisely the reason why the referee must control the substitution process so carefully. A substitute does not become a player until he enters the field in accordance with the substitution procedure, and referees ask for trouble if they do not require the substitute to enter the field, just as the Law instructs them. Indeed, the International F. A. Board was so concerned about it that many years ago they included this Q&A in their Questions and Answers to the Laws of the Game under Law 3:
"18. A player being substituted leaves the field of play and the referee signals to the substitute to enter the field. Before entering, however, he delivers a throw-in, ignoring the substitutions procedure stated in Law 3, regarding entering the field of play. Is this procedure permitted?
"No, the substitution procedure stated in Law 3 must first be completed."

Your question:
I refereed a recreational match (U10/12) Saturday and have a question. Cards are not used in this league.

Here is the scenario, and I hope it is understandable: Team A is attacking Team B. I had cautioned Team A about slide tackles that were questionable (several times). Team A forward is pushing toward the goal and the keeper is moving to intercept it. As the keeper is moving to intercept it, he is also moving so that his body is going low enough to become in contact with the ball. During the keeper's movement to obtain the ball, the attacker is doing a slide tackle to attempt to prevent the keeper from gaining possession of the ball.

The keeper did get possession of the ball. The attacker almost caught the keeper with a foot to the head ( Fortunately the keeper was quick.). I told the attacker not to slide tackle when the keeper is reaching for the ball as he could have connected with the keeper's head and caused serious injury. The attacker's coach yelled from off the field that it was okay, he was playing the ball.

My thoughts were that this could be dangerous play? Under regular rules, possibly a card?

USSF answer (July 15, 2003):
The situation you describe has two players (goalkeeper and opponent) going for the ball on the ground, with the opponent sliding feet first to tackle the ball away from a goalkeeper sliding headfirst toward the ball.

Referees need to remember that the position of goalkeeper is inherently dangerous and the goalkeeper is allowed a bit more leeway than other players in placing himself in danger and thus affecting how his opponents can act. Why? Because it is the 'keeper's job to stop the ball from going into the goal, no matter at what height above the ground it may travel. So, would we allow this for the opposing attackers? Not if it places the goalkeeper in danger that he cannot avoid. Is this inconsistent? Yes, but it is the way the game has always been played.

Referees are not empowered to give orders to players about how they can play. Referees may spell out options, but they may not prescribe a course of action -- only the consequences of doing something that is counter to the Laws of the Game. The players make their own decisions, based on all levels of input -- conscious and unconscious, over and covert -- from the referee.

There is nothing illegal, by itself, about sliding tackles or playing the ball while on the ground. These acts become the indirect free kick foul known as playing dangerously ("dangerous play") only if the action unfairly takes away an opponent's otherwise legal play of the ball (for players at the youth level, this definition is simplified even more as "playing in a manner considered to be dangerous to an opponent"). At minimum, this means that an opponent must be within the area of danger which the player has created. These same acts can become the direct free kick fouls known as kicking or attempting to kick an opponent or tripping or attempting to trip or tackling an opponent to gain possession of the ball only if there was contact with the opponent or, in the opinion of the referee, the opponent was forced to react to avoid the kick or the trip. The referee may warn players about questionable acts of play on the ground, but would rarely caution a player unless the act was reckless.

To make the proper judgment on such plays, the referee must establish early on a feel for the game being played on this day at this moment and must be alert to sudden changes in the "temperature" of this game. What might be a caution (yellow card) in this game might be trifling in another game. Much depends on the level of play, whether recreational or competitive, skilled or less developed, very young or adult.

Your question:
On a Free Kick, defenders set up a wall. When the kick is taken, it goes directly at one of the defenders. The defender "reacts" by protecting himself with his arm and the ball strikes his arm.

How much consideration should the referee place on the fact that the defender "deliberately" placed himself in a position that could "reasonably" expect to have the ball kicked at himself?

USSF answer (July 15, 2003):
Your question is not valid, as it excludes legitimate actions by the players. As long as the defenders respect the required distance at a free kick, they are allowed to place themselves wherever they like -- as long as they respect the rest of the Laws of the Game. They may also place their hands/arms where they like, as long as it is in a natural, rather than a contrived position. They may also "protect" themselves from the possible aftermath of a kick that comes their way, as long as they do not use this "protection" as a means to control the ball.

Section 12.9 of the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game," which will remain unchanged in the upcoming revised edition, tells us
The offense known as "handling the ball" involves deliberate contact with the ball by a player's hand or arm (including fingertips, upper arm, or outer shoulder). "Deliberate contact" means that the player could have avoided the touch but chose not to, that the player's arms were not in a normal playing position at the time, or that the player deliberately continued an initially accidental contact for the purpose of gaining an unfair advantage. Moving hands or arms instinctively to protect the body when suddenly faced with a fast approaching ball does not constitute deliberate contact unless there is subsequent action to direct the ball once contact is made. Likewise, placing hands or arms to protect the body at a free kick or similar restart is not likely to produce an infringement unless there is subsequent action to direct or control the ball. The fact that a player may benefit from the ball contacting the hand does not transform the otherwise accidental event into an infringement. A player infringes the Law regarding handling the ball even if direct contact is avoided by holding something in the hand (clothing, shinguard, etc.).

Your question:
Two of our boys received red cards after a U-14 travel league game for "sarcastic remarks" to the referee after the game. Each of these players, the best we can tell, made one comment to the ref during the game (despite our coaching of "don't say anything to the ref"). The first boy asked "what was the call" on one penalty. The second, when called on an illegal throw in for lifting his back foot stated, "I kept my toe down". Neither player protested or "dissented" any further, neither of these comments were made disrespectfully, and neither was either informally warned, nor shown a yellow card for "dissent".

After the game, immediately after the customary "good game" handshake with the opposing team, the first boy said to the ref "thanks for ref-ing the game" and the second boy said to the ref, "good ref-ing". The referee was clearly upset and kept each players pass (never actually showed either red cards) and stated, after considerable protest by the coaching staff, that the players had been "sarcastic". Both boys, other teammates who overheard the comments, and the opposing assistant coach (who argued vehemently with the ref defending our players) claimed the comments were made sincerely.

While I understand the necessity of the referee being the final say on "judgement" calls, a red card offfense for language, according to FIFA Law 12, involves "offensive or insulting or abusive language and/or gestures". Even if our players were sarcastic (again, they were not!), can tone of voice be interpreted as "offensive, insulting, or abusive" enough for a red card to be issued with prior NO warning??

USSF answer (July 15, 2003):
Under normal circumstances, if there was to be any punishment at all, "sarcastic remarks" would merit only a caution (yellow card). Perhaps the players pushed the referee a little harder than you have been led to believe? Not to excuse the referee, who indeed appears to have had a bad day, but this might be a lesson for all of your players: Don't provoke the referee.

Your question:
I am a certified referee and I have observed this situation several times, though it has not occurred in any of my games. Here is the question?

The attacking team takes a shot at the goal. The GK calls the ball ("Keeper" to protect himself/herself) and proceeds to place himself/herself in position to stop the goal. The GK's teammate (sweeper) runs over and/or slide tackles the Keeper in an effort to prevent the goal thus taking the GK down from behind. Is there a referee call associated with this type of play? A warning the first time it occurs (since it might have been an accident/miscommunication)? What happens if it continues? Does the referee card the sweeper with a possible send off?

USSF answer (July 10, 2003):
Unless the goalkeeper's teammate uses violence in tackling the ball away from his own goalkeeper, there is no infringement of the Laws here. Best decision? No foul, get on with play.

What kind of competition are you watching where this has happened "several times"? [NOTE: There was no response to this question.]

Your question:
I understand that certain conventions are accepted by all players in international matches even though the LOTG would seem violated. In many internationals I have seen, and in particular the Paraguay v USA friendly, the defensive teams consistently stand over the ball--ostensibly to argue the merits of the foul call--without any complaints from the attacking team.

Since the referee will not reverse his call, it is clear to me that the actual intent is to prevent the quick taking of the free kick. Here's my question: should a referee enforce the LOTG even where neither team seems to care?

USSF answer (July 10, 2003):
This tactic of standing over the ball to delay restarts is used for intertwined reasons: the players are coached to do it because many referees are reluctant to do anything about it because they know the players are coached to do it -- and it is just "too much trouble" to enforce the Law. The U. S. Soccer Federation's National Program for Referee Development firmly believes that all attempts to take a quick free kick should be supported by the referee at all levels of the game. If the opponents actively work to prevent the quick free kick or to delay the taking of the free kick until their defense has been set, then the referee must step in and caution/yellow card the offenders for failing to respect the required distance when play is restarted with a corner kick or free kick.

Your question:
Recently in a U-9 game that I was coaching my player took a shot and as the ball was flying through the air the sideline AR's watch beeped, indicating that the quarter had ended. The ball went over the keepers head and into the net, however the center referee did not count it as a goal since the time had run out. Usually in these games, there is stoppage time added on and the referee has in the past always let the play continue until. I could not find anywhere in the Laws of the Game re: this issue. Should it have been a goal? The player took the shot prior to the time running out and normally there should have been stoppage time.

USSF answer (July 10, 2003):
Law 5 empowers the referee to act as timekeeper and to keep a record of the match. Law 7 instructs the referee to add time (at his discretion) for time lost in either half of a game or in any overtime period for the reasons listed in Law 7 (Allowance for Time Lost). Referees are supposed to allow additional time in all periods for all time lost through substitution(s), assessment of injury to players, removal of injured players from the field of play for treatment,wasting time, as well as "other causes" that consume time, such as kick-offs, throw-ins, dropped balls, free kicks, and replacement of lost or defective balls. Many of the reasons for stoppages in play and thus "lost time" are entirely normal elements of the game. The referee takes this into account in applying discretion regarding the time to be added. The main objective should be to restore playing time to the match which is lost due to excessively prolonged or unusual stoppages. While most referees will wait until the ball has gone out of play or until there is no threat on either goal before stopping the game, some referees do not. Law 5 tells us that the referee's decisions regarding facts connected with play are final.

More to the point, however, the watch of the assistant referee is not the official time and should never have been allowed to become audible. Further, the assistant referee's watch having sounded anyway, the referee should not have automatically signaled for the end of the period: this was an abdication of the referee's ultimate responsibility to keep the time himself.

In short, your referee decided that the game was over at that moment and blew the whistle. It will be of small comfort to you and your team, but a very famous FIFA Referee once made that same decision (1978 World Cup) and never received any further international appointments.

Your question:
My son and I have a question that needs your help. We are both refs, but in this game he was a player and I an observer. This was a U16 boys game--his team (team A) was attacking the goal and team B defending. Team B committed a foul resulting in a direct free kick from 30 yards out on the right side of the goal. Team A's play was to have three players in kicking position--player 1 runs "over" the ball (no touch) from the right; player 2 runs "over" the ball (no touch) from the left; and player 3 takes the kick. As soon as player 1 runs "over" the ball, the line which had be set at 10 yards by the ref collapses toward the ball. By the time the actual kick was taken three players were about 3-4 yards away. The kicker "shanked" the ball and it sailed over the goal line way to the left of the goal. The Ref awarded the defending team (B) a goal kick and play resumed. There is always some dynamics going on and this game was no different. Team A was ahead by 4 goals and the center ref was angry with some of the "gamesmanship" of the a few players from team A. It had gone to the point where he had actually run up to a team A player (player 3 who took the kick), got in his face and yelling loud enough that we could hear clearly from the sidelines what he was saying. That player had one yellow and instead of giving him another and a red kept yelling "how many fouls do you have" "you should know" etc. (I was embarressed for the ref because he had clearly lost his temper.) Back to the question: My son felt that the kick should have been retaken and perhaps cautions given to the players that crashed in on the ball--his contention that the ball was "shanked" because those players had an impact on the kicker. The rules are very clear. My contention is that although the rules are very clear, I thought that the kick went exactly the way it would have, nothing was changed and that under the circumstances it was better to just let the game proceed. As far as the rules are concerned, I know I should probably be eating "crow" but for the flow of the game it was better to let it go. What is your take?

Thanks not only for your answer, but for your service. I enjoy reading your answers,

USSF answer (July 8, 2003):
At this distance in both time and space, we will have to give the benefit of the doubt to the referee on the spot -- despite his apparent bad attitude and poor management practices.

Before closing, may I remind you of some very wise words that were once in the Laws of the Game, Law V, International Board Decision 8, familiarly known as the "V8" clause, instructed referees that "The Laws of the Game are intended to provide that games should be played with as little interference as possible, and in this view it is the duty of referees to penalize only deliberate breaches of the Law. Constant whistling for trifling and doubtful breaches produces bad feeling and loss of temper on the part of the players and spoils the pleasure of spectators." These same words are preserved as an embodiment of the Spirit of the Game in the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game," section 5.5. We cannot presume to take away the referee's right to make his or her own judgment of situations.

The core question in this case is whether the obvious violation of Law 13 did in fact make a difference. Was the shanked ball the proximate result of the failure to respect the required distance when play is restarted with a corner kick or free kick? If so, retake after cautioning/yellow card; if not, let play continue and, at most, admonish at the next opportunity.

Your question:
Just before starting the second half, I realized I had stopped the first half 5 minutes short. Neither team brought it to my attention, nor did my assistants. I reviewed the Laws, but didn't find anything to cover this. Should I have added 5 minutes to the second half, or ignored the first half time shortage and kept the second half to its normal time? What is proper procedure?

USSF answer (July 8, 2003):
Law 7 requires two equal halves. When you became aware of your error, you should have restarted and finished the first half of (insert appropriate number) minutes. You should then have taken the normal half-time break and played the second half of (insert appropriate number) minutes.

You set aside a Law of the Game if you do not allow two periods of equal length. This is a matter of fact, not referee judgment. If you did not do this, your only recourse is to terminate the game and file a complete report. There is nothing you can do to correct the situation once you have started the "second half" incorrectly and played any amount of time in that period. You must include all details of the match, including any cautions/yellow cards or send-offs/red cards, in your match report.

Full details of how to deal with such a situation are found in the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game":
If the referee ends play early, then the teams must be called back onto the field and the remaining time must be played as soon as the error is detected. The halftime interval is not considered to have begun until the first period of play is properly ended. If the ball was out of play when the period was ended incorrectly, then play should be resumed with the appropriate restart (throw-in, goal kick, etc.). If the ball was in play, then the correct restart is a dropped ball where the ball was when the referee incorrectly ended play (subject to the special circumstances in Law 8).

If the referee discovers that a period of play was ended prematurely but a subsequent period of play has started, the match must be abandoned and the full details of the error included in the game report.

Your question:
At any age level under the USSF, does the player who is red carded just have to leave the technical area or do they have to leave the entire playing area including the spectator area? I.e. Must go to the parking lot area?

USSF answer (July 8, 2003):
Law 12 tells us: "A player who has been sent off must leave the vicinity of the field of play and the technical area." In many circumstances, particularly involving youth players, it may not be possible to apply this requirement strictly. The primary objective of the requirement is to ensure that a player who has been sent off will no longer in any way interfere with, participate in, or otherwise be involved in subsequent play. The failure of a player who has been sent off to meet this objective cannot result in any further disciplinary action against the player by the referee but all details of any incident must be included in the game report. If this is not practical because of the age or condition of the player, the team authorities are responsible for the behavior of the player or substitute.

Your question:
My U12 daughter plays teams that consistently hip check opposing players. I thought this was a foul but officials rarely if ever make the call. The best example of this is occurs when one red player and one blue player are approaching a ball and just before gathering (touching) the ball, the blue player throws her hips into the red player knocking her out of position to play the ball. The blue player, now unopposed, goes on to gather the ball. Please help me understand why this is allowed.

USSF answer (July 3, 2003):
A foul is a foul is a foul. There is no such thing as a "male" foul or a "female" foul. Hip checks are not a proper way to charge and should not be allowed.

Your question:
I recently took part in a High School varsity soccer match, where the score was tied after regulaton and the two overtime periods. We proceeded into a PK shootout to determine the outcome. Our team shot first, and, after the referee had blown his whistle but before our kicker had touched the ball the goalkeeper came charging off his line, dashing and screaming like a maniac running toward the spot. Our kicker, flustered of course, took the shot with the goalkeeper within 5 ft. of him and missed wide, understandably because he had never seen such a thing before and had the goalkeeper in his face. The referee permitted this, and our team went on to lose in the shootout. How legal were this goalkeepers actions, and what are the exact rules on that sort of situation?

USSF answer (July 3, 2003):
We cannot speak for the rules of high school soccer, but this would certainly not be allowed under the Laws of the Game, which require the goalkeeper to remain on the goal line -- although he or she can move along the line without coming forward or going backward -- during penalty kicks or kicks from the penalty mark. Nor is the goalkeeper allowed to shout and scream and otherwise bring the game into disrepute with such antics as you describe. Those antics would require an immediate caution/yellow card for unsporting behavior.

Your question:
What happens if a substitute who was not on the field when the game ended is allowed to participate in PKFTM? If, after the 6th set of PKFTM have just been completed, you are informed by blue and agree that the first red kicker was not on the field at the end of play - do you now restart the PKFTM from scratch, or write it up in your report as a referee error that could not be corrected once "play" (i.e. the next set of PKFTM) had been restarted? And would you caution the 1st red kicker for illegal entry and caution the red player who left for illegal exit for this post-game activity?

USSF answer (July 3, 2003):
If the referee has been so foolish as to allow a player who was not eligible to participate in kicks from the penalty mark, and did not learn of the mistake until after six sets of kicks had been completed, the only remedy is to abandon the match and report the matter in full to the competition authority. Unless, of course, the illegal participant was the final kicker in the sixth set of kicks, rather than the first kicker of the first set. In that case, the kicks had not been restarted and the referee could nullify the shot, caution/yellow card the illegal kicker for entering the field of play without permission and the player who was replaced for leaving the field of play without permission, and have the kick retaken by another eligible member of the red team. In either event, the referee should then do the honorable thing by committing seppuku.

Your question:
Question, In a highly competitive (for the parents) state cup game of U-12 boys score is tied with several minutes left. The center calls a pk from what looked like a good call to most everyone. The boy who got tripped got up and told the center that he was not touched by the defender he rolled his ankle over trying to move the ball outside and away from pressure. What does the referee do for the restart. An inadvertent whistle assumption and a drop ball? The center said he could not change the call, awarded the pk. Game shortly over 1-0. What's the right thing to do - Spirit of the game?

USSF answer (July 3, 2003):
The referee may not change a decision after the game has been restarted. If the game has not been restarted since the penalty kick was awarded -- in other words, the penalty kick has not been taken -- the referee may correct his decision. The correct restart in this case would be a dropped ball at the place where the ball was when play was stopped, bearing in mind the special circumstances described in Law 8.

Let it be repeated: If the referee has not restarted play, any decision made prior to the restart may be changed, no matter what the infringement.

Your question:
I whent to a clinic and the instructor said that when you dissmis a player during the half time the team has the right to start the second half with 11 players because the dissmisal happen at half time is that correct?. also on onother play he said that a game will continue for a reasonable time with less than 7 players when a player is sligly injured a can not continue is tha correct??????? please answerme back

USSF answer (July 3, 2003):
1. No, if a player (not a substitute) is sent off at half time, a team may not play with the same number of players with which they ended the half. They play with one player fewer. Your instructor may be thinking of high school rules. 2. Yes, if a player is momentarily off the field of play to correct a problem with equipment or have a minor injury treated, the team may play shorthanded for a brief amount of time without penalty. Referees should exercise common sense over the amount of such time.

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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