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Cal South E-News | March 2011 REFEREE EDUCATION

March 21, 2011

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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:


Could you help me settle an on-going discussion within our referee board?

Although the rules of the game and most local leagues are clear on adornments worn by players, there appears to be little ever said about adornments worn by referees. Specifically, earrings. Does US Soccer or FIFA have any directives on this subject? I seem to remember seeing what I thought was an earring on an English Premier League game referee, or was I mistaken?

With the exception of the referee's watch (and the possible exception of a wedding band), no referee should wear any adornment that is not permitted for players. In other words, NO JEWELRY.


I am looking for advice on whether a commonly used knee brace may be in violation of Law 4. I'm seeing more and more female players recovering from ACL injuries using braces. In a game I did yesterday I noticed a brace during check-in. I asked the player and coach if a referee had ever disallowed her from playing because of the brace and the answer was no. At the start of the second half, the opposing coach approached me to inquire about the brace. He told me that his players were complaining that they were getting 'bumped' by the brace during close play. No player approached me with that complaint.

Is such a knee brace considered to be dangerous to players?

Braces may be worn if they meet the same requirement that must be met for any equipment, that it ensures complete safety for all participants. The final decision rests with the referee for this particular game; not the last game, not the next game, but this game.

In addition, a player wearing an item of clothing or equipment which is not standard but which has been inspected by the referee and found not to be dangerous may still not use the item dangerously during play. If the player in question is using the brace to unfairly augment her abilities or as a weapon, then it may not be worn.


I am of the opinion, having done some research, that an assignor cannot and should not, for example, replace a less-than-adequate assistant referee during the course of a match. To me, this at a minimum interferes with the referee's authority over his/her crew during the match, and also opens the door to a perception that the officials can be replaced until the hosting organization gets the result that they want.

The context for this is that the assistant referees and even the referees are very inexperienced, perhaps working their first few games, and so a reasonable observer could agree that the performance of an AR (or referee) was, in fact, inadequate. It seems to me that the assignor (and through him/her, the sponsoring organization) can: change future assignments ... including the next game, provide instruction or mentoring, etc. But once a game has begun the crew cannot be altered except by the referee who may dismiss an assistant for the reasons cited in the Laws. And perhaps the assignor should take additional care in the selection of crews.

I am hoping you could confirm or correct my interpretation. I have administrative responsibilities related to assignors in my state.

Once the match begins, only the referee has the power to relieve an assistant referee or fourth official of his or her duties. No assignor, no referee administrator of any sort or level, no instructor, no assessor or any other person has this right. And if the referee does decide to do without the person being removed, the game must be officiated in line with the guidelines given in the Referee Administrative Handbook -- available for download from www.ussoccer.com.

For more, please visit USSoccer.com