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Cal South E-News | November 2010 REFEREE EDUCATION

November 24, 2010

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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:


With time running out at the end of a game, the blue team scores to tie the game. A player from the blue team runs into the goal to retrieve the ball so that they can hurry up to try and get the ball back into play. While doing this, the blue player gets into a tussle with the goalie from the red team who was also trying to get the ball. What should the call be? Should either player be cautioned for unsportsmanlike conduct or for delay of the game??

After the referee has stopped play for a goal, the ball, although "dead" until play is restarted with a kick-off, does belong to the team against which the goal was scored. Traditionally the ball is carried back to the center spot by the team against which the goal was scored (red). A player who provokes confrontation by deliberately touching the ball after the referee has stopped play may be cautioned for delaying the restart of play. (See Law 12, "Delaying the restart of play," in the Interpretations of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees in the back of the Laws of the Game 2009/2010.) This would be the case of the player from the scoring team (blue) who was interfering with the red player carrying the ball to the center of the field.

The team which has possession (red) may "allow" the opposing team to hold/transfer/carry/etc. the ball by acceding to the action (i. e., not disputing it). However, the opposing team does this at its peril. In your game, the blue player, perhaps believing that the red team was moving too slowly to carry the ball back to the center circle for the kick-off, tried to take the ball that "belonged" to the red team. The blue team has no right at any time to request that the ball be given over to it (including such childish behavior as attempting to grab the ball or punch the ball out of the red player's control).

Rather than immediately cautioning either player, the true owner (against whose team the goal was scored) and the "wannabe" owner (whose team will be defending at the kick-off), it would be better if you simply spoke quickly to both players, admonishing the ball's would-be owner to leave the ball alone. You could also tell the player that you will judge whether there is any "delay" in getting the ball back to the center spot and will, if necessary, add time to make up for any time lost.

There is little reason to immediately caution either player if you do what we suggest above. In any event, the possibility of a caution would depend on HOW the Blue player attempts to gain possession (i. e., how aggressively, how prolonged, etc.). We cannot see how the mere fact of attempting to gain possession is itself cautionable.

The critical fact that makes the player's action cautionable is that his attempt to retrieve the ball caused a tussle with the true "owner" of the ball, the goalkeeper.


Attacker A1 has the ball. The defender is about 7-10 yards from A1. Behind the defender are attackers A2 and A3, about 3-4 yards in an offside position (there is no question about their offside position).

A1 attempts to play ball in direction of A2 and A3 but ends up kicking it directly to the defender, who gains control of the ball. The defender, for whatever reason, kicks the ball over the goal line.

We had half the room saying offside because when the ball was played his teammates were in an offside position.

The other half said there was no offside. Based on A2 or A3 not touching/playing the ball or that they did not interfere with the defender, who clearly gained control, there was no offside and play should be restarted with a corner kick.

If it is clear to the referee (and the AR) that A2 and A3 did not interfere with either play or an opponent while in the offside position, and that the defender established possession of the ball (i. e. it was not a deflection), then there is no offside. It is not an offense to be in an offside position so there should be NO QUESTION that a flag could EVER go up simply because there are one or more attackers in an offside position. Restart with a corner kick.


The same question(s) applying to two different codes, soccer and futsal:

A team which was ahead by two goals is scored against with two minutes left to play, leaving them with only a one goal lead. The ball is correctly placed for kick-off (as are all players), and the referee signals for the kick-off to be taken. The team taking the kick-off, after a reasonable amount of time, refuses to take the kick-off.


  1. Should the player closest to the ball be cautioned for delaying the restart of play?
  2. If after being cautioned, the player still refuses to take the kick-off, what action should the referee take?
  3. Is abandoning the match a possibility should the team refuse to take the kick-off in a timely manner (especially in competitions with no additional time)?
  4. Do your answers differ between futsal and football?



  1. If the kicking team excessively delays the taking of the kick-off, the referee certainly has the power to caution a player for that reason.
  2. If, after the caution, the player still refuses to take the kick-off, the player could be cautioned a second time and then sent off for receiving a second caution in the same match. The referee would then suggest to the team that someone else should take the kick-off -- and add that time is being added for the entire time of the delay, so that the team knows their refusal to restart will save them no time at all.
  3. Yes, abandoning the match is a possibility, but the referee should work to get it finished properly (see previous steps).
  4. Yes, they do differ. Here is the difference for futsal: A caution is not mandated in the Futsal Laws of the Game because the referee should simply call the 4-second violation for failing to restart play within the 4 seconds, and then award an indirect free kick to the opposing team. However, if the previous offending team then interferes with the indirect free kick restart, a caution would be in order for the player who interferes with the restart.

It is noteworthy in the scenario you describe that in the Futsal Laws of the Game, the clock is not restarted until the ball is correctly put back into play. Hence, there is no real advantage for the team to delay the restart.

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