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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 34032

Law 18 - Common Sense 10/21/2020

RE: Rec

Tasha L Lanier of Lexington, NC United States asks...

So, if a player has asthma and is having an asthma attack and is in need of their inhaler are they permitted to run off the field in order to take an inhalation of the inhaler? What if the coach comes onto the field to drag that player off the field-what is the call then?

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Tasha,
The referee's MOST important job is not actually enforcing the LOTG, it is ensuring those participating are safe! If a recreational player is participating with a medial condition it would be wise to notify the referee ahead of time. I would have NO issue if the inhaler was present on the touchline but I would likely prefer a substitution occurs to facilitate such an action rather than running on and off the FOP .
One might consider the desirability to quickly hit the touchline and take a squeeze of an inhaler on an as needed basis? It is ONLY problematic if the player is jumping back & forth into play unnoticed for attack or offside should the officials or his opponents not be aware of what he was up to! As for the need for a coach to enter the FOP DURING play, to drag him off seems rather odd, technically against the LOTG and rather heavy handed. I would think if a player was in true respiratory distress that play be stopped if it was a medical emergency. I have stopped play to take care of such things as allergic reactions, diabetes blood sugar levels and obvious distress or pain. No one is going to object to a medical emergency intervention by a coach or medical staff rendering aid in behind play we certainly could cut him some slack to get him to an inhaler but this should be a all together solution. For me a bit of common sense and a heads up set up here, we are into an easy solution, lets play and be safe! In direct answer to HOW the game MIGHT be restarted if it got to that point. The LOTG says play on to the next stoppage if there is no interference. Otherwise stop play and dfk.
In the case of leaving FOP, if there is no interference and therefore play to next stoppage unless there is reentry which is a dfk

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Tasha,
The safety of the players is of paramount concern to referees. If a player has an asthma attack and needs to use an inhaler they should always, always be allowed to do so. If that asthma attack was severe enough to require immediate intervention, I think any referee, on being aware of that, would not have any problem with a responsible person bringing the player their inhaler, especially if the player were having difficulty breathing. I don't see why they would need to "drag" the player anywhere.

Similarly, if the attack were serious but the player was capable of leaving the field and did so in order to avoid becoming more severely ill, I don't think that any reasonable referee would have a particular problem with that.

As ref Dawson says, it would probably be better if the referee knew about any such potential problem ahead of time, to avoid any misunderstanding and the need to give a possibly somewhat complicated explanation "after the fact."

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Tasha
There is a statement in the Laws of the Game that states that
"" The Laws cannot deal with every possible situation, so where there is no direct provision in the Laws, The IFAB expects the referee to make a decision within the ‘spirit’ of the game – this often involves asking the question, “what would football want/expect?""
Now the Laws state that a player cannot leave the field of play without permission except in the normal playing of the game such as ball retrieval, a restart such as a corner kick, throw in or goal kick. In addition it does not allow any member of the technical staff to enter the field of play without permission. Both situation can result in a sanction of a yellow card.
Now having said that player safety if the key priority for a referee and a player that needs treatment such as access to an inhaler is generally not going to incur sanction by a referee provided he knows that is what happened. A coach running on into the middle of an attack citing a player needs for an inhaler might not go down too well whereas dealing with a player in distress away from play would be seen as "acceptable". A young player going to the touchline and is seen using an inhaler is not going to incur a sanction except where he suddenly decides to return after a period unexpectedly to get involved in active play. Also an AR can factor him into offside if he is not legally entitled to be off the FOP.
As a referee I would like a coach to tell me that player X has asthma and that he might need to use his inhaler. The player should also know when he is starting to experience problems so that it can be treated as a normal "injury" situation at a stoppage so that the inhaler can be brought to the player or that he goes to the technical area for "treatment".
It should not get to an emergency situation requiring hasty intervention. I know from experience by careful observation of watching play and players where a young player is experiencing problems. They can be stubborn in their refusal to seek aid and unwilling to be substituted such is their passion to play. .

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