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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 34087

Law 18 - Common Sense 12/17/2020

RE: All Other

Derek of Cary, IL USA asks...

As an AR, can I require spectators/coaches to stay 6ft away from the touchline? I always see them creep up as close as possible, and with COVID-19 I would like to "socially distance" them from me.

Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Derek,

You absolutely can require people to stay back from the touchline- and ideally there should be some sort of rope or line.

Even if we take covid out of the equation - it's basic safety. Challenges happening on the sideline easily send players a few metres off the field making spectator encroachment an inherent risk.

As an AR, you may have to step back a metre or two if the players are approaching where you are - and I've also been in the situation where spectators encroached right up to the line and I was unable to see if a ball was in or out (and at that point I told the spectator in question that a repeat would see them removed for match interference).

As an AR you shouldn't have to be looking ahead to ensure you're not going to run into somebody at full sprint. The reality is you do at grassroots because of these problems, but we should be doing everything we can to minimise the possibility of running into somebody at top speed. A fellow referee once collided, at speed, with a toddler, knocking the child unconscious and requiring an ambulance (the child was fine, but it was horrifying for the AR).

For coaches, bear in mind that they can approach the touch line to convey tactical instructions, but they need to retreat back to their technical area afterwards.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Derek ,
it would be BEST for all concerned that the league, association or field managers SET this as a standard bylaw for ALL matches on the pitch. At the grassroots level the main concern for the AR would be to avoid injury to an unsuspecting fan or themselves or confrontation with a belligerent spectator when addressing the problem! " PLEASE stay back. I can not properly observe or see the touchlines . I am having to run into the FOP to avoid running into people. You have the power to ask individuals for their co-operation but I do think the CR should be involved if they refuse to listen and match delayed or abandoned until the situation is resolved.

Not a big fan of rope barriers which may be all that is available but seated bleachers and raised fields work exceedingly well. The CR should also be proactive to ensure their ARs are not hassled whilst trying to run their lines, dodging leaning in spectators or jumping over lawn chairs. The coaches/managers can come within a meter of the touchlines if they abide by the outer edges of their technical areas.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Derek
With human nature all it takes is for a few spectators to move forward to get a better view and suddenly all the spectators have done so. So yes an AR can require it yet enforcing it can prove problematic.
In open fields I feel the only option is rope barriers and that has to be agreed among the clubs. When I arranged final games at Underage on open fields I always put in place the rope barriers and in general they worked well.
If an AR is concerned about closeness to spectators due to Covid concerns then it should be brought to the attention of the league authorities. One option is for the referee to insist that spectators can only be in the other half away from the ARs. It would be up to the home club to enforce and it would not be an reasonable request if numbers were low and everyone could be 2 yards apart.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe Manjone

If you are working a high school game, because of safety reasons and NFHS requirements as indicated on the NFHS Rules soccer field diagram, spectators are required to remain at least 10 feet from the field boundary lines and the team areas.
If the spectators are closer than 10 feet, the game should be stopped and the game administrator requested to have the spectators moved back to the 10 feet.

In high school games, spectators are the responsibility of the game administrator. You should meet with the game administrator before each of your high school games, and make a contact plan should his/her assistance be needed.

I hope that you have a very successful 2021 soccer officiating year.

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