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Cal South E-News | September 2011 REFEREE EDUCATION

September 22, 2011


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U.S. Soccer


Laws of the Game: Ask the Referee

In response to various questions, the following are responses from the National Referee Program Office:


Question: This past weekend I was working a local youth tournament and I have two questions from two different games.

Scenario #1: While I was on "stand-by" in the referee tent during my 3-hour break, my assignor showed up in a golf cart and took me to a field where we found a young, upset female ref and the tournament director at a U10 game. My assignor told me to finish the last 18 minutes of the game. After talking to both coaches, I found out that an assistant coach of one team (whose club was hosting the tournament) had been sent off after arguing numerous calls. I told the head coach of that team that the previous referee's decision stands and the coach needs to leave. The tournament director then came on to the field and said that he had "overruled" the ref and had asked for a new one, which is what brought the other official to tears. I told him you can't replace a ref in the middle of a match, and more importantly, the referee has sole jurisdiction over the match and cannot be "overruled." After a long discussion, which included us reading out of the Laws of the Game, the ejected coach was allowed to sit away from the players and fans but still allowed to stay on site. My first question is what should a referee do when a tournament director "overrules" you, even in the middle of the match, as this one did? Even though referees know this can't happen, the director seemed to think he had the power to do so.

Scenario #2: In a BU15 game, a "green" player was fouled carelessly about four yards from the top of the penalty area. I awarded the free kick, clearly spotted the foul and cautioned the player who fouled him. With time winding down, the "green" coach began to argue that the card should have been red since the offending player had done it "four or five times." I told him that he was given a yellow for persistent infringement. I turned around, allowed the kicker to take the kick, and he scored. Next, my AR ran up to me and said the player had moved the ball two yards closer to the goal before taking the kick while my back was turned. While my AR should gave told me before the kick, what should I have done with the information? I cautioned the player for unsporting conduct and re-took the kick (the ball was saved on the retake). Did I make the right call? Thanks.

Answer: Scenario #1: First, a rule of thumb known only to tournament directors and those of us who have been around for a very long time: If the tournament director says something is so, then he or she is surely right, even when he or she is blatantly and incredibly wrong. Second, always read and be aware of the competition's rules when you accept an assignment; the director might actually have that power and, if you accepted the assignment, you acknowledge that you accept the rules of the competition. Third, yes, you were absolutely correct. Fourth, mark the tournament in your mind and alert your colleagues and local referee association that this particular event allows such travesties to occur and you cannot in good conscience recommend taking assignments to its games.

Scenario #2: More rules to remember...

(a) Make a decision and stick to it, unless you recognize you truly were in error.
(b) Do not allow yourself to be distracted by outside influences with no authority over any aspect of your game -- also known as coaches -- at a free kick or at any other time.
(c) Always know where the ball is.
(d) When you have been distracted by an outside influence, check with your assistant referees to be sure nothing has happened during the distraction.
(e) Remember rules (a) and (b).

Yes, you made the correct call.


Question: Do all penalties within the 18-yard box automatically result in a penalty kick? If I recall during my ref days (now retired), penalty kicks occur only if the ref determines the offensive player who was fouled had a clear ability to score a goal. That is, if an incidental hand ball (hand hits ball, not ball hits hand) occurs within the 18-yard box and the ref determines there was no scoring opportunity, a free kick at the point of contact (even within the 18-yard box) is awarded the offensive team. Defensive line must be 10 yards away or as far as possible (even if they must stand on the goal line).

Just want to make sure. I haven't reffed for many years and wonder if the laws have changed. Now just a spectator.

Answer: What you describe has NEVER been part of the Laws of the Game. We hear of this concept every now and then in various parts of the country and welcome the opportunity to address the matter. Thank you for asking.

All -- let us stress it: ALL -- direct free kick fouls committed by the defending team in its own penalty area must be punished with a penalty kick, whether or not the player who was fouled had a clear chance to score a goal. Other punishment may also be meted out, but that is outside the parameters of your question.

Accidental (or "incidental") handling of the ball such as you describe is not a foul of any sort, so should never be punished in any way -- although we are aware that some referees do it.

If an indirect free kick offense (foul or misconduct) were to be committed within its penalty area by the defending team, the restart would be an indirect free kick and the defending team would have to remain at least ten yards from the spot of the kick, unless it was within the goal area.