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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 33280

Law 5 - The Referee 4/28/2019

RE: Club Adult

Mark of Sydney, NSW Australia asks...

I have a question regarding playing advantage and when its deemed to be over.

Yesterday I was watching a men's all age game when an attacker was fouled in the attacking half, just past the center circle, as they were passing the ball to a team mate. The referee signaled advantage and the second attacker weaved through a couple of defenders but sprayed their shot on goal over the crossbar. The referee then called play back to where the original attacker was fouled saying there was no advantage.

The second attacker had run from just past the centre circle to the 18 yard box before having a shot.

My view is that advantage was squandered by the attack and the correct restart should have been a goal kick.

Are there guidelines for how long advantage should be played?


Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Mark
The Laws of the Game says *within a few seconds*. It is left to the referees discretion to decide what is meant by a few seconds and a lot can happen in that period.
Now from your description of the situation I would agree that advantage was realised and just squandered. The fact that the ball went to an another attacker who weaved past a couple of defenders and who came from half way to the penalty area to then took a shot then that reads that advantage was realised.
In my game yesterday a defender pulled an attackers shirt which he broke free from and then crossed immediately. I delayed the call for a seconds or so and the cross was played away by a defender. I immediately blew for the offence with little complaint. Now had the ball gone to an attacker who played the ball I would not have brought it back to the original offence.
Also bringing the ball that far back for a free kick is not helpful in a game context. Play has moved on in terms of time and distance. I suspect that advantage thinking of some referees can get influenced by other codes such as rugby where unless the fouled against team gains a clear benefit the play is brought back to the offence which could be after a lengthy period of time and significant amount of play. Soccer advantage is not like that. I hear from time to time after advantage has been *squandared* teams complaining about *No advantage Ref* to which I say that you had the ball, play continued and ye did not use it properly.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Mark,
The interesting thing about advantage is that it's also applied differently in different areas.
In Australia, we're taught (and I'm presuming you're not being taught something different in your area) that you should wait and see BEFORE applying advantage.

So, when you have the case where the ball falls to an attacker who is in a tricky spot but might be able to get a tough pass away, you'll wait a second or two. If they get it away, then you call and signal advantage. If they don't, and it was intercepted because they never had much opportunity to start with, then you go back to the foul.

Some other countries are taught to signal advantage immediately to show you're consider it, and then to go back.

In Australia, we don't go back after calling advantage, which is why we 'wait and see' first.


A shot does not necessarily mean advantage has been realised. That's a very important and highly misunderstood point.

As an example, I once had an attacker who was fouled about 25 yards from the goal, out past the PA corner. They had, maybe, a keeper and another defender to beat. Another defender sprinting across but still not able to intercept (basically you have to think about who can intercept at the next opportunity to shoot - which in this case, given the close range and that they had control, was immediate). So he was still too far away.

Attacker was fouled, stumbled, regained their feet, took a controlling touch - completely balanced, no immediate pressure - took the shot. The shot was blocked by the defender who was sprinting across.

The OPPORTUNITY went from having a keeper and a poorly placed defender in front, to a keeper, a poorly placed defender, and a well placed defender they didn't know anything about. After the foul, the opportunity was still poor. I'd say, they never had much chance to make something of it - but there was a slim chance. Enough to justify 'wait and see', not slim enough that you know the only reason the shot was blocked is because the foul bought the defence enough time to completely shut down that attack. It was very, very clear on the day this was the case. So, I went back to the foul.

If that other defender hadn't run in and the attacker simply sent it to the keeper instead? Well, can't blame the foul on that one, so that would be tough luck. Of course there are a myriad of other scenarios - and there's a huge grey area as well, making it very difficult in times like this.

And often we reach a point where we're not convinced there's been a huge advantage, but it's just not clear either way and sometimes we need to make a decision.

In your scenario, it sounds like the referee has given them 2 bites at the cherry - allowed them a perfectly good chance in open play, and gone back to the foul anyway.

Usually you only 'wait and see' for about 2-3 seconds. It sounds like this was much longer. Typically the more time the attack is actually spending with the ball, the more likely they are to have assumed the advantage. In your case, the first thing the ref needs to think about is the opportunity. Attacker is fouled, ball goes to a teammate, but what's the opportunity? If we've gone from an unmarked 2 v 2 opportunity to a pressured 1 v 2 opportunity, then this is a poor opportunity and you need to either wait and see, or bring it back.

Given the player took enough touches - and made enough decisions - to control the ball, run with it, get through a few defenders, THEN take a decent shot, it sounds like the advantage is well and truly realised. Would you say the opportunity at the end was better than the opportunity at the start?

Of course, I wasn't there. Maybe the 2nd attacker was pressured straight away, didn't have time to make any decisions, somehow got through some defenders and took a desperate shot from a poor angle or while being tackled/pressured. If so, that would be a bit tricker (although you probably don't want to be too clever; despite my earlier comment, a shot usually does indicate advantage is realised - and it's clear when the shot is taken but there isn't any real advantage).

So, by your description it sounds like the referee should not have gone back to the foul, but I could picture some ways this plays out that's less clearcut.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Mark,

I have two thoughts on advantage

In the PA or just in and around the area I use a silent wait & see advantage & quickly point to the PK spot or free kick location if I determined it was NOT so.

When allowing continued play in the open field one could signal & yell advantage indicating publicly, Yup saw the foul, relax guys I am on it! Then determine if the ongoing play has sufficient merit to NOT utilize the free kick opportunity. When convinced yell out PLAY ON! & drop the arm signal ONLY because the potential for a better opportunity than the free kick HAS occurred so NO whistle. Usually 2 or 3 seconds but as long as 5 or 6 could be possible. One might even comment verbally to the player, specially if there is a card involved to be shown at the next stoppage but also to indicate to my ARS who is responsible in case the referee has a mind fog & forgets.
'15 yellow you are in the book'
It also might help head off retaliation as it will be known something IS being done!

It is difficult for me to change my mechanics after 40 plus years. I signal, usually two arms although using one is acceptable and yell ADVANTAGE! when I see the foul that creates the opportunity for the free kick. I wait to see if the possibility exists that the ball may wind up in a better position than the free kick to be awarded. The consideration, is it MORE advantageous to allow the team deserving of the free kick, not to have it?

It takes a few moments to interpret the POTENTIAL OF OUTCOME versus the certainty of the free kick. PLUS we are loath to publicly call it when it centers in around the goal or PA as a DFK is a PK and that opportunity best be on par with the PK as almost certain goal.

It not just continuing an attack or just directing a shot at goal! What is regarded as the DEFINING characteristic? Is there a NEW opportunity WORTHY of outweighing the free kick opportunity? Has the stumble recovery of the fouled player or the resulting ball squirting over to another attacker or area allowed new dark forces to interfere or did the attack suddenly develop into a better one with more options because the defenders were ill prepared, thinking they had stopped the threat, whereas the aggrieved team continued on? If I drop the arms and yell, "PLAY ON!" , we ain't going back, its a done deal! Remember the reason teams foul is to STOP the attack, to regroup & delay, the proper use of advantage does not allow them to get away with it!

In my world, the word ADVANTAGE is NOT preventing a return to the spot of the foul, only the use of phrase PLAY ON does! I can make that distinction almost immediately at times because it is obvious just as at times we must wait and see what occurs as it is not immediately obvious. Cheers

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