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Question Number: 33677

High School 9/26/2019

RE: High School

Ben of Lewisburg, PA United States asks...

I coach high school boys and my players, as they are getting wide, step out of bounds and then back in play and play the ball in play. Many refs have told that this is illegal because the player is leaving the field of play without permission.

I believe my players are allowed to do this.

Any help is much appreciated. Where in the NFHS rule book can I find this?

Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Ben,
For me, the question would be whether the players are leaving the field purely as part of a natural playing movement or are they doing it, while not actually playing the ball, as some kind of tactical move? If they are doing this while playing the ball or in an effort to play it, I would be OK with it but if they are doing it when the ball is not near them, I would be giving them a warning them to stay on the field.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Ben,
As my esteemed colleagues have discussed, players are allowed to step out of bounds as part of normal play. To step around an opponent to run up the field, or to step off the field to challenge an opponent who is shielding the ball from on-field players would all be permissible. For instance, when a defender is shielding the ball against the corner flag - there's nothing stopping the attacker from running off the field and challenging that from in front.
If the player is simply stepping off the field to run up the line and there doesn't appear to be any particular reason to do so then the referee would be within his rights to advise the players to remain on the field - while players can leave as part of play, the expectation is that they should remain on the field where possible. A player stepping a yard or two off the field to run up the line can easily be missed as an on-field player and may provide an unfair tactical advantage.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Ben
Leaving the field of play as part of a playing motion is not illegal.
So a player that steps over a boundary line to go past a player is entitled to do so without sanction when it is done so for playing reasons.
Is is not spelt out specifically in the rules yet it does give a player ruling where a goalkeeper on the field of play holds an opponent who has crossed over the goal line and the decision is a penalty kick. If it was illegal for the attacker to leave the field of play the decision could not be a penalty kick.
Now when a referee says that an action is illegal it makes it unlikely that he will not sanction it as an offence?

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Ben,
technically the ONLY excuse to be OFF the FOP while the ball is in play is with the permission of the referee but the rules/laws permit a reasonable exception through natural momentum when playing the ball.
Not exiting to escape detection!
As long as a part of the body is on or over the touchline that player is in the FOP , so you can kind of straddle it to get bit wider but unless you are FORCED to run around a defender to avoid a collision your players should NOT be outside the FOP. I have seen an attacker put himself near post at a corner kick then exited the FOP ran around the net reentering at the far post just as the ball was being crossed hoping to get onto a header or loose ball , having evaded marking by a defender. Similarly seen players slide out into a crowd of substitutes along the touchlines acting as if not a player only to sprint out further down field onto the FOP. Neither of these are acceptable & most likely cautionable.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe Manjone

Greetings to a co-Pennsylvanian. Although I no longer live in Pa., I grew up near Bloomsburg and lived in State College for many years. I know Lewisburg well as I refereed and umpired at Bucknell in the 1960's and early 70's. Also, I was co-founder of the Central Pennsylvania Soccer Officials Association.

The answer to your question can be found in NFHS Rule 12-8-1a which states: ' A player, coach or bench personnel shall be cautioned for entering or leaving the field of play (except through the normal course of play) without the permission of an official.

What you are describing would be considered as happening through the normal course of play.

I recommend that you talk to your assigning association president if this problem persists.

I do hope that your team makes it to Hershey in November.

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