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Question Number: 34483

High School 1/22/2022

RE: Jv varsity High School

Truitt of Phelan, Californua Usa asks...

Our league only uses one referee no line judges. Normally fine but in yesterdays game the ball was clearly out of bounds by more than 6 feet. Everyone was yelling it’s out of bounds way out. The kids basically stopped but the referee never called it out of bounds so the ball handler crosses it and they score. There’s no doubt the referee saw that it was way out of bounds. Kinda fishy. But my real question is if the referee is not going to call balls that are clearly out of bounds can our players just grab the ball or the other player to stop that from happening again? And shouldn’t at all high school levels line refs be used ?

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Truitt,
your query is similar to that age old adage, should we not all be able to get along & just do what is Right? ? USA highschool uses a 2 man referee system but perhaps it is a LACK of officials that cause the 3 man or 2 man system to not be practical?

Your comment of fishy is implying the referee was biased and chose to ignore a throw in situation tp allow an illegal goal? To question the character of an individual and suspect their integrity not knowing anythng about them is not something I care to do. I prefer to imagine a poor angle of view or a simple mistake.

When I referee as a single official which I have done thousands of times. My BASIC instructions to the two teams in the pre game is PLAY to the whistle! If there is NO whistle then play is active no matter if the ball was outside the FOP into touch, no matter if the goal scorer was miles offfside, no matter the foul went unnoticed, unseen or ignored.

I have as a single official often been caught out in a bad position to see 100% that a ball was in or out or judge offside or even unable to determine if a foul occured. I tend to NOT call what I am UNSURE about. Hence the PLAY TO THE WHISTLE is crucial .

Now I am receptive to the team with the ball admitting the ball was out and tossing it to the other. Given both agree why would there be a need to intervene? Having awarded a restart to the red team then red claimed it was blue teams ball, the red team always have the sporting option to return ball possession if they are 100% sure I was wrong.

However if a referee is unsure and the team with the ball CHOOSES not to recognize that play must be stopped & only the opposing team is screaming about the percieved injustice a referee with integrity, sees what they see from where they are, when it occurs and makes a neutral decision, albeit could be wrong, to stop or continue. If the opposing team WAS to intervene and pick up a ball that a referee considered to be in play, chances are a DFK offence could occur.

Now if I personaly see evidence I was mistaken. Perhaps blinded by sunlight reflection, poor line visability or looking at a wrong boundary line . Seen several soccer fields with football, lacross, field hockey, rugby or older faded lines that could be confusing. I would certainly correct an unfair call, but ONLY if I was certain that was so. I often request that bystanders stay a least 5 yards away from the touchlines to avoid conflict either with ARs in the performance of their duty or their and player momentume creating a safety issue as in the danger of a too close seated chair. This allows good visibility to the CR as well.

In closing one can only hope that a youth soccer referee has the best interest if the kids at heart and even if paid for their services, is a fair competent neutral ndividual . Just look at the political foolishness that divides this world and how a simple fun game can be twisted into somethig unpleasent if we think the worst of those involved! No referee should ignore something so obvious assuming he or she DOES indeed acknowledge it was so!


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Answer provided by Referee Joe Manjone


This is the first time that I have heard JV high school leagues using only one referee. The National Federation of State High School Associations requires at least two officials. Your league is not meeting the NFHS requirement.

In Alabama where I now officiate, two Referees are used for Middle School Games while Junior Varsity and Varsity contests have a Referee and Two Assistant Referees, and some games also have a fourth official. Many states do have to use two referees because of a shortage of officials.

What is the reason for one referee in your league? is there a shortage of officials or is expense the reason? I have refereed and observed numerous High School Junior Varsity contests, and the skill level for most Junior Varsity contests is beyond that which can be effectively and safely officiated by one referee.

I have worked as a single referee many times, but that that was forty or fifty years ago. Even now, I can remember not feeling that I was able to officiate a safe and effective game.

If there is a shortage of referees,, then you as a parent and others in your community must find a way to recruit more officials. If expense is the problem, then fund raising events should be held to raise money needed to hire a second official.

To answer your question, NFHS rule 9.1.1 states that a ball is out of play when it has completely crossed a goal line or touchline, whether on the ground or in the air.
NFHS Rule 9.1.3 further states that referee shall sound the whistle when needed to indicate the ball is out of play
It is common in high school games for the ball to go out of bounds and the team to be awarded the ball collect the ball and throw the ball in from the out of bounds spot without a whistle being sounded. In most instances the referee does not blow the whistle but signals the direction of the throw in.

I do not totally understand your statement that the ball handler crosses it and they score. However, if everyone stopped, the referee should have either sounded the whistle and signaled the direction or called out the color of the throw-in team and signaled the direction of the throw-in.

Hopefully, a second referee will be added to your league in the very near future.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Truitt,

Given it's a high school match I wonder if it was a field with mixed lines - if it was, then of course there could easily be confusion over ball in/out.

I have spent most of my refereeing career as a solo ref (without even a club AR), but whether as a ref or on the line, one thing I've learned is that the ball can 'look' out but still be in. Especially if it's on the far side of the field - referees realise this which is why it's not unusual for players to be screaming that the ball's out but the ref and AR (if available) know that it's in. Remember - it has to be the whole ball - that means you can have grass visible between the ball and the line, but the middle of the ball is still above the line.

Even IF the ref had a brain explosion and missed it being well out - it happens. These are high school games - you don't have world cup referees and mistakes will happen. A mistake - even a big one - doesn't suggest any sort of bias. That seems like a massive, and irrational, leap of argument. Even if you're not convinced - the claim that the referee has chosen to demonstrate their (alleged) bias by allowing a ball to be 2 yards out of play without stopping just makes no sense whatsoever. You really think THAT is how somebody would choose to influence the match? No, of course not - so that leaves the remaining explanations being either a brain explosion by the ref, confusion with lines (or perhaps he was in a position where he couldn't see a faded line and was trying to draw the cue off something else), or perhaps the ref was actually correct.

As my esteemed colleagues have pointed out - you highlight a referee shortage here. One of the biggest reasons for referee shortages is the constant abuse officials receive. Regardless of what error is made, IF (not making an accusation, but your quick and unjustified assumption of cheating does raise the question) yourself or your team choose to abuse the referee or continuously and loudly dissent over it, then you've become part of the reason for the very problem you're complaining about. You can't address a referee shortage by participating in the behaviour that drives referees away - and after all, there's nothing stopping you volunteering, is there?

As to your final questions - no, of course the players can't just grab the opponent when they feel like the ball is out, and I doubt I really need to explain why that's likey to result in a card for the player.

As to grabbing the ball - again, I'd say no. I'm 100% for appealing for it - put your hand up and say it's out. But if the referee has already determined that the ball is not out, then handling it will just result in a free kick - and possible card if it denies possession. Now, sure, if the player grabs it and stops still, then MAYBE the referee will run to where it is and realise it's out.

But given the number of times I've seen players grab the ball thinking it's out when it's either on the line - or wholly in the field - the best advice I can provide is one of the fundamental principles of playing we all know:

Play to the whistle.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Truitt
Thanks for the question.

My good colleague Referee Wright finishes his answer with the phrase “Play to the Whistle”. It is an age old adage that is as true today as when it was first coined.

Now for whatever reason the ball out of play was not called and there can be many reasons for that including the referee simply missing it, confusion over lines, poor quality markings or whatever. To say it was seen by the referee makes an assumption based on your perception. I have witnessed many incidents that referees missed and when I as an observer spoke to them after the game they simply owned up that they missed it. In one recent incident which involved a sending off the referee missed the reason for the VC. He had no reason whatsoever not to send off the second player and while I thought he had to have seen it he admitted his mistake of missing the first VC not the retaliation. In fact it was much easier for him had he red carded both players. As he did not see the first VC he correctly only gave what he saw which was the second VC.

In the 2010 World Cup England was denied a goal because it was missed by two officials.
The ball had clearly crossed the goal line yet it was not given. Incidents like that led to the introduction of VAR. One could ask how both the referee and the lead AR, both top officials, could have missed it and the referee said he was *distracted*.

In your game the fact that there was an appeal for the ball being over a touchline was simply that until the referee signaled to stop play. Players should always continue until the whistle sounds. Players under no circumstances should handle the ball to stop play as that can be called as deliberate handling with even the possibility of a penalty kick.

As the sole referee with no assistants I have officiated such games and it is certainly difficult on the tight calls. Even in games where we usually have club linesmen they do not call balls over the goal line, nor offside and those decisions are left to the referee. The lineman just flags whether the ball crossed the touchline or not. On the tight goal line ones it can be very difficult and a referee has to do the best he can in the circumstances.

In this game when only one referee was available then perhaps both coaches along with the referee could have assigned a person on each touchline to indicate the ball out of play only, one from each team much like the club linemen.

The low numbers of people taking up officiating is worldwide and it is of huge concern for the game. When a referee is faced with a decision whether to proceed with the game as a lone official that can be difficult. If he says that the game does not proceed because the 2nd official did not show can cause huge disappointment for the two teams. If the game proceeds then both teams have to accept that calls can be compromised.

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