E-News Detail

Cal South E-News | December 2011 REFEREE EDUCATION

December 15, 2011


content provided by

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: Parents sitting within a few feet of the corner flags (basically, their positioning impedes the soccer players from having the appropriate space to kick the ball). I have traditionally had problems with rec parents (in particular) who get mad when asked to move at least 2 yards from the lines or from outside the corner goal area. As a matter of fact, this weekend a newly bridged ref (from grade 9 to grade 8 and whose dad was the coach of the team playing) got mad when asked to move (mind you he was sitting, as a spectator, within 2-3 feet of the flag - if he had laid down he would have touched the flag). During stoppage of the game, he came to the pitch to question why I would make a "ref" (while pointing to his new 2012 badge) move. He wanted me to tell him "which rule." I told him I'd be happy to talk to him after the game but not while I was currently reffing. Then he said, "The game has stopped. Tell me why you want me to move" I told him I was in the middle of the game and he needed to leave the field so I could get the game going again. His dad then told him to get off the field so the team could play. Naturally, he did not come to find me at the end of the game.

I plan to talk to the Association today about this behavior; however it seems that there is some "ethical" issue that he may have violated -- particularly since he entered the field and had no reason to be on the field.

Answer: This sort of situation is usually dealt with in the rules of the particular competition under which the game is being played. In other words, the rules of the league or the rec council or tournament, etc. In most cases these rules forbid spectators (particularly partisan spectators) from being behind the goal lines or less than three yards from either of the touchlines,although it will vary depending on where you are.

While the errant official may not have been on the game itself, he clearly violated several of the items under the Referee Code of Ethics:

(1) I will always maintain the utmost respect for the game of soccer.
(2) I will conduct myself honorably at all times and maintain the dignity of my position.
(6) I will be loyal to my fellow officials and never knowingly promote criticism of them.
(9) I will do my utmost to assist my fellow officials to better themselves and their work.
(10) I will not make statements about any games except to clarify an interpretation of the Laws of the Game.
(12) I consider it a privilege to be a part of the U.S. Soccer Federation and my actions will reflect credit upon that organization and its affiliates.


Question: During the first 10 minutes of the game, a goal is scored but right afterward (during the celebration of the goal), to everyone's surprise, the center referee stops play and goes to talk with the assistant referee. No one knew why at the time. Players that were in the area of discussion said that the center ref asked the AR why he had put his flag up and then quickly down before the goal was scored. The AR told the center referee that he did not mean to put up his flag and that it was a goal.

The center ref says "Well, you did put up your flag and so I blew my whistle. Whether you meant to put your flag up or not, you did, and since I blew my whistle, I cannot call it a goal." The AR then said "It was a goal. I made an error and I clearly saw that the goalscorer was behind the defender and it was a goal." But again the center ref said "Well, I can't count it as a goal." So the center ref calls it a "no goal" and does a drop ball.

Now, I must add that no one heard the whistle get blown and play continued while the goal was being scored. No players had stopped playing. What is the rule on this? How can an obvious goal not be counted just because the assistant referee accidentally puts up his flag for a brief moment? The center ref even came over to the head coach during halftime to say that he knew that it was a goal but was sorry that he could not count it; that under the circumstances he could not. By the way, this goal ended up being very important to the outcome of the game. It was the only goal scored and made the difference between a tie and a win! The points were needed, and now it's the difference between first and second place in the bracket! Can anything be done at this point? Can a protest maybe correct this?

Answer: The referee acted correctly only if, in fact, he had blown the whistle upon seeing the AR's flag go up. He apparently reacted (albeit inaudibly) to his assistant referee's flag and stopped play for whatever the flag may have meant -- offside, foul, etc. The fact that the AR then lowered the flag does not make any difference in the outcome; the referee's decision was made and the whistle was blown (even if inaudibly). Play stops when the referee decides it has stopped. Anything that happens after the decision to stop play has been made does not change the fact of the stoppage.

No, the referee has not misapplied the Laws or called something counter to the Laws, so we doubt that any protest would be allowed. If the referee included full details in the match report perhaps the competition authority will have pity.


Question: I was reffing a recreational game the other day when something incredible happened that took me by surprise. The Blue attacker and Red defender were running after the ball and into the penalty box, and they were both legally shoulder charging each other. I was about five feet from the play (too close to miss) and saw the Red defender stumble (he was never fouled) and tumbled ahead of the Blue attacker. When the Blue attacker jumped over the tumbling Red defender to get to the ball, the defender stretched his legs up deliberately and fouled the Blue attacker.

I called the penalty kick (there was no doubt) and proceeded to yellow card the Red defender, and then red carded him (second yellow). Suddenly, the Blue attacker refused to take the PK, stating he had committed the foul against the Red defender instead of the other way around. His teammates backed him up. I had never encountered this situation and proceeded to call back the ejected Red defender. I explained the strange situation and allowed him back in the game and let the Red team take an indirect kick from the place the Red defender had stumbled and fallen.

The Red defender and Blue attacker are friends off the field, which has nothing to do with the game, but I suspect this had something to do with Blue's decision to avoid getting Red ejected. How should I have handled this situation better?

Answer: The referee is certainly allowed to change a decision, even the awarding of a send-off (red card) if he does so before the next restart, but he needs to have an extremely good reason to do so. The referee also needs to stand by a decision to award a penalty kick if the foul occurred in the perpetrator's penalty area and was clearly a direct-free kick foul, no matter that the player who was fouled objects.

If the player who was fouled does not wish to take the penalty kick, life is hard. In that case, another member of his team must take the penalty kick. If no one cares to take the penalty kick, then the game is abandoned and the referee submits full details of the reason in his report to the competition authority.