Soccer Referee Resources
Ask a Question
Recent Questions

Previous You-Call-It's

VAR (Video Assistant Referee)

Q&A Quick Search
The Field of Play
The Ball
The Players
The Players Equipment
The Referee
The Other Match Officials
The Duration of the Match
The Start and Restart of Play
The Ball In and Out of Play
Determining the Outcome of a Match
Fouls and Misconduct
Free Kicks
Penalty kick
Throw In
Goal Kick
Corner Kick

Common Sense
Kicks - Penalty Mark
The Technical Area
The Fourth Official
Attitude and Control
League Specific
High School

Common Acronyms
Meet The Ref
Contact AskTheRef
Help Wanted
About AskTheRef

Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

Panel Login

Question Number: 26972

Law 3 - Number of Players 11/4/2012

RE: Comp Adult

Karsten Fillmer of Vero Beach, Florida United States asks...

In the 4th minute of the game red #5 is cautioned and shown the yellow card for USB. In the 10th minute the red team is substituting and three players are beckoned onto the field while (as we will find out later) only two red players left the field of play. Play is restarted and in the 15th minute player red #5 is recklessly pushed by a defender within the defenders penalty area. The referee blows the whistle, cautions the defender and shows him the yellow card, and points to the penalty spot. As the referee sets up for the taking of the PK it is brought to his attention that the red team had 12 men on the field. It turns out that the 12th man is red #5 who was supposed to leave the field a the red team substituted. As red #5 leaves the field the referee cautions him and after showing first the yellow card he then sends the player off for receiving the second caution in the match.

1. The red team continues to play with 11 men? (my take: yes)
2. The restart is an indirect free kick for the red (or white) team (instead of the PK)? (my take: I dont know...)

My reasoning for 1.: After it has been discovered that red was playing with 12 "players", the one that is leaving the field must have been the substituted player and red #5 is shown the yellow card for USB (according to 12.28.1 advice to referees). As red #5 was determined not be a player, showing the red card would not reduce 11 red players (none of them did something wrong).

Possible reasoning for 2. IFK for red: Applying the logic of answer 1. Is was determined that red #5 was not a player. Play was stopped because a defender pushes a substituted player and the referee stops play. Reason for stopping play was a "crime" committed by the defender but as this "crime" was committed against a substituted player the restart would be an IFK for the red team where the ball was when play was stopped. (3.18.(c))

Possible reasoning for 2. IFK for white: Applying the logic of answer 1. Is was determined that red #5 was not a player. Game was stopped and at some point, red #5 must have entered the field and since that offence occurred first, that should be the reasoning for the restart.

Possible reasoning for 2. PK: Advice to referees states that if a goal is scored with the scoring team having 12 men of the field the goal is disallowed and the restart is a goal kick (if recognized prior to the kick off). This goal kick restart does not take into account who touched the ball last before it entered the goal. It also does not make a difference who actually scored the goal and if that person was actually involved in play. So while 12 men are on the field they are all treated the same and that includes the actions of the defending team as they (at the time of the "crime") did not know who the extra player was. It cant be that if player red #9 steps up and announces "No, I was the extra player. She me the yellow card and Ill leave." would actually alter the restart.

Having 12 players is never good....

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Karsten
The mistake that the referee crew made here was not ensuring that the substitutions were completed correctly. As Red # 5 did not leave the field of play he was still a player as the substitution process was not completed properly. Red #5 remains a player until he crosses a boundary line. The substitute that entered the field of play for Red #5 was the extra person and he should have been asked to leave the field of play for the substitution process to be undertaken correctly. Whether he should be cautioned that is a matter for the referee based on the circumstances and how it happened. If he was allowed on to the field of play by the referee crew then I don't believe it is his fault.
As the Red team had 12 players on the field of play at the time of the offence the penalty cannot be awarded. Play should restart with an IDFK to White from where play was stopped in this case the position of the infringement. The White player's caution for unsporting behaviour should also stand
The only way that Red#5 can be cautioned is if he left the field of play at the substitution and entered again as a substituted player. He is cautioned for unsporting behaviour and the restart is an IDFK from where the ball was when play was stopped.
If a goal was scored by a team with the extra player the advice in the US is to restart with a goal kick if the offence is dealt with before the kick off. In Europe the advice is to restart with an IDFK in the goal area.

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe McHugh

View Referee Joe McHugh profile

Answer provided by Referee Michelle Maloney

If red #5 was a player before the substitution and never left the field, then he is still a player. Allowing substitutes onto the field before making sure that any players being substituted have left is a MAJOR error by the referee crew. The extra player is a substitute who was allowed to enter the field presumedly by the referee, and thus, the substitute intended to replace #5 is the one who must leave. If this was referee error, it would be unfair for the referee to issue a caution.

Because the team had 12 players when the PK was given for the offense against red #5, the PK cannot go forward. After the extra player leaves the field, with or without a caution, the restart is an IDFK for red's opponent at the point where the ball was when play was stopped for the PK. This is because the punishment under Law 3 for too many players is an IDFK, and usually a caution for the sub who entered without permission, but as we noted here, that may have been referee error. Thus playing with too many players means your team loses the ball when it is discovered.

The red team does not lose a player, because no one was sent off. If they had 11 when the substitution error occurred, then they have 11 when the IDFK is taken by their opponent.

Read other questions answered by Referee Michelle Maloney

View Referee Michelle Maloney profile

Answer provided by Referee Keith Contarino

I suspect this was a match with unlimited substitutions and the referee did not follow the procedure for substitutions outlined in Law 3. red #5 is not the illegal person on the field. The illegal person is the substitute that came on for red #5 and he should leave.

There can be no PL due to the extra person on the field. Restart with IDFK where ball was when play was stopped

Read other questions answered by Referee Keith Contarino

View Referee Keith Contarino profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 26972
Read other Q & A regarding Law 3 - Number of Players

Soccer Referee Extras

Did you Ask the Ref? Find your answer here.

Enter Question Number

If you received a response regarding a submitted question enter your question number above to find the answer

Offside Question?

Offside Explained by Chuck Fleischer & Richard Dawson, Former & Current Editor of AskTheRef

This web site and the answers to these questions are not sanctioned by or affiliated with any governing body of soccer. The free opinions expressed on this site should not be considered official interpretations of the Laws of the Game and are merely opinions of AskTheRef and our panel members. If you need an official ruling you should contact your state or local representative through your club or league. On AskTheRef your questions are answered by a panel of licensed referees. See Meet The Ref for details about our panel members. While there is no charge for asking the questions, donation to maintain the site are welcomed! <>