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Cal South E-News | January 2012 REFEREE EDUCATION

January 19, 2012


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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: Let's say the ref calls a corner kick, the kick is taken, the ball is in play, and then a goal is scored. After the goal is scored, can the referee then say, "Oops, it was supposed to be a throw-in, not a corner kick." The ref claims he can change the call before the ball is put in play. Was the fact that the corner was taken and goal scored considered "in play?"

Answer: Just as the referee cannot rescind a caution (yellow card) or a send-off (red card) after play has been restarted, neither can the referee change the restart itself if it has been taken.

If the referee discovers after play has restarted that the wrong restart was taken, the referee must provide in the match report all details relevant to the mistake.

The failure of the referee to include in the match report accurately and fully any such errors is a serious breach of the referee's responsibilities.


Question: We are having a debate here about the definition of "delay of game."

On a kick-off from the halfline, after a goal, or starting a game, if a team does an improper kick-off (i.e. ball does not move forward and cross over the halfline) several times, is this considered delay of game? I have seen teams do this in the past. I would allow this twice, then give an indirect free kick to the opposite team. I was recently told by a senior official that this is not a delay of game, and therefore, not an indirect free kick. Well, if so, what do you do about it?

Answer: The tactic you describe could be considered to be delaying the restart of play. A number of examples are given in the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game":

The following are specific examples of this form of misconduct (some of which may also be committed by substitutes):

Fails to restart play after being so instructed by the referee
Excessively celebrates a goal
Fails to return to the field from a midgame break, fails to perform a kick-off when signaled by the referee, or fails to be in a correct position for a kick-off
Performing a throw-in improperly with the apparent intention of being required to perform the throw-in again, thus wasting time
Unnecessarily moving a ball which has already been properly placed on the ground for a goal kick
Provokes a confrontation by deliberately touching the ball after the referee has stopped play

Because the ball was out of play at the delay, the restart after any caution in this case would still be the kick-off.


Question: During a recent U19 Boys competitive match, I was the trail Assistant Referee, and during the second play, I was about 50 yards up field, just outside the 18. I observed the defending team re-take possession of the ball, and due to attacking pressure, the ball was passed to a central defender who was at the top of the 18 facing up field.

As the defender received the ball he turned and faced his own goalie. The defender popped the ball up in the air with his foot, and then headed the ball to his keeper, who caught it in his hands. The Referee and the lead AR were both in a good position to observe his play, and did not whistle nor did the AR raise his flag. Being on the team sideline, the coach and several of the players were quick to speak up that the defender's actions were clearly illegal. The coach and his assistant both approached me, respectfully, and asked if I had observed the play and what was I was going to do. I simply stated the Referee and AR were both in an excellent position to observe the play, and no call had been made.

During the post game discussion I mentioned the incident, and both the center and the AR stated that they did not know that his actions were considered trickery, and an indirect kick should have been awarded.

I continue to have doubts regarding my decision to not signal. This was a close game that ended 2-1, with the losing team missing a possible goal scoring opportunity by the referee team error.

So I ask: When is it appropriate for the trail AR to signal, if ever, an observed violation of the laws of the game at distance, which can have an effect on the final score?

Answer: From your description, the defender's action was clearly a case of trickery for which play should have been stopped, an indirect free kick given where the defender was who committed the trickery (trickery does not depend on the goalkeeper handling the ball), and a caution should be given for unsporting behavior. However, also from your scenario, it appears that you clearly understood this.

So, as you also note, the real question is what you should do about it.

Unfortunately, this is where things get a bit murkier. Your responsibility as an AR is to (a) be very sure that what you saw either could not be seen at all or, if seen, was not recognized as an offense; and (b) to decide that your intervention is needed for the good of the game and to avoid the commission of an egregious error. Because you were the trail AR, this burden is particularly heavy because you must include both the referee and the lead AR in your evaluation. You noted that the event was clearly in the view of the referee so that leaves ignorance of the nature of the event - intervention in such cases must rest on a quick evaluation of the likelihood of such an error because, on the surface, it could be either an error or a concrete decision that the event did not meet the requirements of the offense (in other words, the referee saw it, recognized the possibility, and then made a conscious decision that the facts didn't fit the conclusion). This is why, in such cases, the AR needs to be 100% sure.

If you ARE sure, then the action you must take is well described in the Guide to Procedures - stop, square to the field, raise the flag straight up, hope the lead AR cross flags (mirrors you) and is seen doing so by the referee who is then directed across the field to your signal, you waggle the flag briefly when eye contact is established, and then see if the referee whistles play dead (as should happen if the referee trusts your judgment).

What follows depends on the referee: if it is a case of not recognizing the offense, the referee will likely want to find out from you the reason for the flag and you need to be prepared to succinctly describe the offense, identify the guilty defender by name and/or number, and state the correct restart (plus whether you believe a card should be given). After that, it is up to the referee.