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Cal South E-News | March 2010 REFEREE EDUCATION

March 18, 2010

Rules 101 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: The defending team has been awarded a free kick outside the penalty area. The kicker passes the ball back to his goalkeeper. The keeper touches the ball with his hands but the ball enters the goal.

How should the referee restart play?

  1. Awarding an IFK against the goalkeeper because he used his hands after the ball was passed to him by a teammate?
  2. Allowing the goal because the goalie touched the ball before it entered the goal?
  3. Awarding a corner kick because a team can not kick a free kick into its own goal?

Answer (February 12, 2010): For direct free kicks taken outside the penalty area, the Law requires only that a ball is kicked and moved to be in play and thus be eligible to enter the goal for a score (or a corner kick, if taken by the defending team). That happened. The ball was kicked by a player directly to his own goalkeeper. If the goalkeeper had let the ball go, it would have been a corner kick for the opponents. If the goalkeeper had stopped the ball with his hands, it would have been an indirect free kick for the opponents. Unfortunately for his side, the goalkeeper touched the ball but allowed it to continue on its way to goal. The referee should invoke the advantage clause and record the goal. Restart with a kick-off for the defending team.


Question: At a game in which I was the AR, there was a situation in which I felt multiple players should have been issued two yellow cards. However, the referee chose only to give each player one caution.

With a few minutes remaining, players A, B, and C were unhappy with the referee. The outcome of the game was already decided (it was a 3-0 game), so during a stoppage of play, the players took off their shirts and stormed off the field without the referee's permission.

The referee gave players A, B, and C only one caution for deliberately leaving the field without permission. I felt that the players should have been given two cautions: 1) dissent and 2) deliberately leaving the field without permission. This would therefore mean each of the players got a red card.

What would be the proper way to administer the cautions in this situation?

Answer (February 8, 2010): We cannot comment on a decision to send off both players without full details (and they are not necessary to answer your question). However, If you were to choose to caution both players twice and then show them the red card, a decision that is entirely up to you, then this is what you would do:

Show each player the yellow card twice in a row (each time explaining what it was for) and then, separately, the red card. Explain to them what you are doing, make full notes, and submit a complete report to the competition authority and to any other persons required by your association.


Question: In the first half of a competitive match, a corner kick was being taken from the leading Assistant Referee's side. Properly, the Assistant Referee applied the distance of encroachment and the team taking the corner kick tricked the defense. The kicker walked away and another player acted as if he was going to take the kick, and then started dribbling the ball towards the goal when he got to the corner kick spot. I made eye contact with the leading AR who did nothing and I let the play go.

In the same half, a corner kick was awarded to the same offense, but this time in my quadrant. The ball was set, and the kicker stood over the ball with his foot on the ball but made no movement because the defense this time were encroaching. When I realized the the attacker wouldn't play the ball, I instructed the defense to respect the distance, of which they obliged. While we were waiting for the corner kick to be taken, a player on the attacking team loudly yelled to his teammate on the ball, "Leave it, let me take it." He then ran past me and the defenders while his teammate walked away from the ball. When he got to the ball, he took position as if he was going to put the ball back in play, then he started dribbling the ball towards the goal. All of this happened while I was still holding back the defense from encroaching. When I realized he was in active play, I blew the whistle walked to him and cautioned him for unsporting behavior. I then restarted the play with an indirect kick to the defense for double-touching a direct kick restart.

As usual, the cautioned player pleaded his case and claimed that was their trick and my response was that you were deceptive. I told him it's legal to apply a trick fairly, but by audibly being deceptive, you gained unfair advantage.

Answer (February 6, 2010): The kicking team is allowed to use a certain amount of trickery at any kick restart, including corner kicks. If the kicker actually kicks at the ball, then it is now in play. Observe these two video clips of corner kicks, one of which was not allowed by the referee. However, both were totally legal, as the ball was played in a kicking motion by the original player on the ball:

First clip

We responded to a question on this clip back on January 30, 2009. It is perfectly legal to do this. How could anyone object to this tactic? The player has put the ball in play in accordance with the Laws of the Game. The kicking team is allowed to use such deceptive tactics and SHOULD NOT be punished for them. However, if the kicking player had merely stepped on top of the ball and then left it for the next player, who dribbles it away, that would not have been a legal restart. But even that is not punished with a caution, as it is not misconduct. In that case, the referee would call the second player for a double-touch and award an indirect free kick to the opposing team.

Second clip

The assistant referee's flag was incorrect and the referee should have waved it down. The resulting goal should have been allowed.

So, what is NOT allowed?

The ball must move a perceptible distance from "here" to "there" to be considered in play through a kick. If the kicker only steps on top of the ball and does not kick it, and therefore the ball has NOT moved from "here" to "there," the kick was not properly taken and must be repeated. It is not a cautionable offense.

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