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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 34217

Law 15 - The Throw In 5/11/2021

RE: Rec Under 14

Trent Futrell of Knoxville, TN United States asks...

In dual reffing a middle school boys tournament, white team kicked the ball out of bounds. Red team gets the ball and moves several yards down the field from the spot to throw it back in. I didn't notice the red player advancing several yards down the field to do the throw in. The ball came in play and we continued with the game. At the next stoppage of play, the white team asked how far can a player go down the sideline from the spot for a throw in? I said I would allow three steps from the spot. White team gets a throw in and proceeds to march down the field before throwing it in. I make them come back and the parents go berserk. I get told how awful I am as a ref and other nice things about my reffing performance that game. Since there was only 90 seconds left in the game, I let it go (and the outcome of the game wasn't in doubt). After the game, a parent for the white team decided to unon me. I simply asked if he anything constructive to talk about. He kept talking about how terrible a job I did. I told him we were done and to have a nice night. Guess I'm not gonna be on his Christmas card list. My questions are this - is there a rule on how far someone can progress from the spot on a throw in and should I have dealt with the parent even though there were only 90 seconds left in the game? Thanks as always for your help in reffing.

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Trent,
Throw-in mechanics are relatively simple

At the moment of delivering the ball, the thrower must follow 3 basic guidelines, which some people contort into very unrealistic mechanics.
The player stands facing the FOP, their feet can be ON the touchline or behind the touchline off the FOP as they throw the ball with both hands from behind and over their head.

The LOTG states the ball should be thrown in from the point where it left the field of play. This lends an aura of a blade of grass restart position which is not in evidence because a throw-in is considered a simple method to get the ball back into play with a minimum of fuss & bother. Often upon retrieval of the ball it can be tossed back from almost anywhere or consider & look where a player goes to get the ball within the angle it takes to match it in the exact spot by the touchline where the ball exited! Remember you as the referee POINT to the spot along the touchline YOU wish it to be thrown from. YOU dictate the allowance. Your match Your decision Your reputation.

The throw-in procedure itself has a wide degree of latitude in how far from the exit point the ball can re-enter the FOP or even how poorly it can be performed mechanically and yet ignored or allowed by the referee or officials as a trifling or doubtful event-based primarily on the position on the FOP as to the attacking, mid or defending 3rd of the FOP and if there is no undeserved benefit from pushing the boundaries. Remember you as the referee POINT To the spot YOU wish it to be thrown from. YOU dictate the allowance. Your match Your decision Your reputation.

There is almost no reason to intervene UNLESS players blatantly chose to ignore your directions, the throw-in is such an abysmal effort and performed so incorrectly or so violently that the other team would be awarded the throw-in instead or a free-kick given. The irony of the throw-in is while the limit can be pushed the exact same conditions can create a counter-culture that wants any weird looking or suspect throw location awarded as an improper throw-in and loss of possession.

The main key, in my opinion, is in the consistency by which you both are showing to the two teams on what you allow to slide by and what you decide to push back on. Perception be it by parents, players, managers, or spectators, their opinions are formulated on what they think they know or see or feel based on your actions or decisions.

WHITE sees RED get no pullback or a pass on the same conditions where you or your partner jumped all over WHITE even if an innocent or reasonable decision they tend not to forgive or forget. Very little attention is paid to the rationale of say letting 15 feet back in the defending 3rd be fine and not allowing 3 feet in the attacking area releasing a scoring threat unfairly. If indeed you were inattentive and REd got away with encroaching along the touchline you just painted a good picture of why it is important not to lose focus as dissent and abuse rarely need much of a kick start! I always start out my pregame intro with, " I am fair, not perfect!" Those watching do not really care what you think about yourself, their needs are not yours. Talking to angry people rarely makes them less angry in the heat of the moment. A time and place to discuss or explain, allowances can be made just not always right at the end of a match!

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Trent
The Laws require that a throw in is taken from where the ball left the field of play. In practise referees can exercise a deal of latitude in that location and as you say it can be around 2/3 yards in either direction. We are not looking for the exact blade of grass yet it has to be in the general area of what would be the expected location. And that is in either direction. I have not allowed throw ins to take place where defenders have moved significantly towards their own goal believing that they have not gained an advantage by going forward but in fact they have through the fact that there is less pressure on the player in possession by moving away from the correct location..

Now as to the mechanics here my advice is that as always a referee should be consistent. You mention that you did not notice the Red thrower advance down the touchline so you need to consider how that happened. In a game where a referee has allowed latitude on a throw in locations then that should be consistent throughout. Obviously to the spectators watching it looks like the throw in location was not being enforced equitably with Red not being challenged whereas Whites were. That is never a good position to be in particularly when both happen close together. You mention that the result was not in doubt so if I was the referee I would not have bothered too much about the White throw in location given what transpired earlier. It is unlikely that Reds would have challenged it as they got a free pass on their throw in.

As to dealing with parents in this situation where there was 90 seconds left in the game I would advise that there was no need to get involved which is what you did. Also referees should not be getting involved directly with spectators / parent and that should be left to the home team officials. If the conduct required that it has to be dealt with then my advice is to hold up the game at a restart and speak with the home team officials and ask them to deal with the behaviour before the game restarts. This should only happen where the conduct is having an impact on the game.

Also in a game where emotions are running high then it is always a good idea to not get involved after the final whistle. I always tried to stay away from spectators / players / technical staff in such games or at least make it difficult for them to approach me by staying on the FOP for a period and in a location where it requires an effort to come to me or by moving swiftly away to my changing room. I witnessed a referee send a player off in the last minute of a game a few months ago and he did not remove the player fully from the FOP sorrounds and then got involved taking verbals from the player as they walked off after the final whistle! That type of situation can turn unpleasant so in my opinion the referee should have stayed on the field of play, asked the irate player to move away and waited for all the players to move away which they will do anyway.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe Manjone


On out of bounds, I point to the throw in spot and if the thrower is not attempting to take the throw-in from that spot or close to it, I will whistle and make the thrower move to the correct spot.

The question is how close to the spot is okay. The rules state that the throw-in should be from the spot where the ball left the field. Obviously as you pointed out, moving from the spot can provide an advantage for the throw-in team.

Since I point to the spot, I expect the thrower to take the throw-in from where I am pointing which, depending from my distance and angle to the throw-in will result in a throw-in within 2-3 feet of the spot where the ball went out.

I would not recommend allowing throw-ins more than three feet from the spot where the ball departed the field. I believe that being strict on the throw-in spot for youth games, where teaching the rules is part of an official's function, is especially important.

As referee McHugh indicates, stay away from players and spectators after the game. Vacate the field and its vicinity as soon as the game ends - do this even if you are working another game on the same field. Work out the exit plan with the officiating team in the pre-game conference.

Have a successful remainder of the spring season.

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