Soccer Referee Resources
Ask a Question
Recent Questions

Previous You-Call-It's

VAR (Video Assistant Referee)

Q&A Quick Search
The Field of Play
The Ball
The Players
The Players Equipment
The Referee
The Other Match Officials
The Duration of the Match
The Start and Restart of Play
The Ball In and Out of Play
Determining the Outcome of a Match
Fouls and Misconduct
Free Kicks
Penalty kick
Throw In
Goal Kick
Corner Kick

Common Sense
Kicks - Penalty Mark
The Technical Area
The Fourth Official
Attitude and Control
League Specific
High School

Common Acronyms
Meet The Ref
Contact AskTheRef
Help Wanted
About AskTheRef

Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

Panel Login

Question Number: 34500

Law 3 - The Players 2/7/2022

RE: Adult

Christopher Rhodes of Camberley, Surrey United Kingdom asks...

was watching a relegation match where team A needed a draw to avoid relegation.
In 85th Minute at 0-0 team A were attacking and the referee was running a diagonal line across the pitch. The attack breaks down and the referee stops running and starts to run backwards and turning at the same time. As he does so he crashes into team A's centre forward knocking him to the ground. The referee in trying to retain his balance accidentally stamps on the centre forward breaking the players foot. After he is stretchered off Team A's Captain asks the referee if they can bring on a replacement for the player that he had injured. The referee refuses stating that Team A had already used up its allocation of substitutes. An argument ensues with the Captain furious that the referee had caused the injury and should therefor allow them to bring on a replacement. The referee eventually yellow cards the Captain for constant arguing which was his second yellow of the game and sends the Captain off. The referee restarts the game with team A reduced to 9 men. Team B then score the only goal of the game in the 89th minute thus sending Team A into relegation.
Was the referee correct in his actions in refusing the substitute when he has clearly caused the injury to the centre forward.

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Chris,
WOW Please tell me this was a fabricated story not a reality based match??  
It is certainly  plausible  a referee/ player collision could cause an injury.

So if it did occur after medical treatment was applied and the injured party carted off the question of the restart will likely be a DB of some sort. Carding the dissenter already on a card to force them to play 9 may seem harsh given an explanation of the options might calm the situation as the time waiting to deal with the injury  should cool things not escalate. Yet while a referee could be contrite and apologetic for the incident, being screamed at by an irritated individual is not going to change the outcome! I can assure you, while it would take a lot for me personaly to feel obligated to show that 2nd card I have no doubt a a LOT was unloaded for a referee to decide it absolutely neccessary. I can certainly attest that it is not an option the referee wanted!   A referee used to be considered as part of the playing field. It was only recently the restart for referee interference was stopped for a DB as it used to be play on!  

One thing to consider is while the teams can CHOOSE their conduct in the face of adversity or considering fair play, a neutral referee is bound by the LOTG to follow procedures.  The incident would certainly be reported in the Match report  and it is plausible the match could be replayed given the extenuating circumstances. If indeed the referee HAD allowed an extra substitution the match could also be protested & ordered replayed  
There is hope for the furure! The idea that a team receives  extra substitute options if a player has to leave the field of play because of their own safety or injury is under consideration. In fact, I reprinted some information that FIFA is considering implementing!  This was about concussions but I suspect any significant injury might be applicable?

The IFAB strongly believes that, where there is any doubt about a player having been concussed, the player should be protected by being permanently removed from the match and, to facilitate this, the player’s team should not suffer a numerical disadvantage as a result of prioritising the player’s welfare.
Such an approach:
prevents a player sustaining another concussion in the match – multiple concussions during the same game could have serious consequencessends a strong message – “if in doubt, sit them out” – that maximises player welfareallows the player to be replaced, so there is no numerical/tactical disadvantage when prioritising player welfare-reduces pressure on medical personnel to make a quick decision-is simple to operate and applicable at all levels of the game, including lower down the football pyramid, where there are usually no doctors or medically qualified staff andis consistent with recommendations given by expert panels (e.g. the Concussion in Sport Group).Use of a “concussion substitute” operates in conjunction with other protocols and procedures – for example, where competitions allow the restart of play to be delayed for an on-field assessment by the team’s medical personnel (if present/available) of up to three minutes (or longer for a serious injury). In addition, although beyond the scope of the Laws of the Game, the implementation of return-to-training and return-to-play protocols after the match is strongly encouraged.Temporary amendment to Law 3 – The Players, detailed wording:"Competition organisers have the option of applying either or both of the following:During the match, each team:may use a maximum of five substituteshas a maximum of three substitution opportunities*may additionally make substitutions at half-time Emd Quote
 The thing is in normal matches doing what is best for the game  which could be to allow a replacement is not permitted under the current LOTG format. Imagine the new guy fresh legs McKurk scores a goal just as it seemed unfair being short a player or two that resulted in a goal against? I mentioned that the opposing team could reduce their roster to go 10 versus ten voluntarily.   I actually witnessed  this when a player was carried off in a men's match after the substitutions options were all used up . The opposition up 4 to 2 decided to match them 10 to ten given the challenge where the player's fall into the goal post, resulting in a rather significant head injury.  A classy move although they still won 4 to 2 . Would a closer match  or them losing cause them to rethink such a move? Possibly?

Read other questions answered by Referee Richard Dawson

View Referee Richard Dawson profile

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Christopher
Unfortunately the referee had no choice here. Once a team uses all its substitutions a referee cannot allow an extra substitution in any circumstance even if he was the cause of the injury. A player can be injured through a variety of ways or through exceptional circumstances. This would be highly unusual yet the Law takes not account of unusual situations. The opponents could claim a misapplication of the Law if the referee arbitrarily allowed an extra substitution and it would be grounds for an appeal.

So the referee had no choice but to deny the request even if he was the cause of the injury. As to the sanction taken against the captain I suspect that the dissent went well beyond the threshold for a caution. The captain should have left it once the referee explained his position. I also suspect he may have been well warned about getting a second caution and ignored the warning.

As to any possible solution to the quandary the only thing I can think of is Fair Play where the opposing team is spoken to and asked for a solution which could be that they reduce by one or if the team was honourable enough to agree to say the return of the last player to leave the field of play.
I was once asked by a manager in a youth game whose team was getting badly beaten if he could use all his substitutes, I told him that he had used all his allocation. The opposing manager had no complaint with the extra substitutions and I told the manager that he was going to have to accept the loss of the game whatever happened. Goal difference was not a factor in deciding anything in the League. Perhaps leading goalscorer was a consideration but that did not enter my thinking at the time.
I was also once asked by both teams in a cup game to go straight to penalties on a very inclement night. The ROCs required extra time yet both teams did not want to play extra time in atrocious conditions. I was confident enough when I spoke to both managers that they would accept the outcome of the KFTPM and that would be the end of it, which it was. I sought the explicit agreement of BOTH teams which I got as it was grounds for an appeal by either team.
I reported the way the game was finished and the League was content with the outcome. They simply wanted a result on the night

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe McHugh

View Referee Joe McHugh profile

Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Chris,

Well, certainly an unfortunate situation. This is one reason why I was discouraged from running backwards as a referee - though I remember copping a hard head knock once as a ref as I took a single step player and cleaned up a player running right past me. I still feel like that ones' on him for being so close....

Having said that, sounds like you're not talking about really running backwards - just taking a couple of steps backwards to turn and go. Sometimes as a ref you need to take a quick step or two backwards, especially if your view is blocked.

Anyway, the situation situation doesn't change here - if there are no subs left, there are no subs left.

Causing a serious injury to the foot like this is really am incredibly unlikely scenario. I'm not doubting you - but it's one of those 1-in-a-million things. Especially as players get stepped on reasonably often during the game (and I've never seen it cause any actual injury).

Unfortunately, there's no grey area with the substitution numbers, no 'exceptional circumstance' - if the referee was to break that, then it would put the entire result of the match up for dispute breaking rules like that are the sorts of things that can very well see a match get replayed.

So, trust me - allowing the substitution would not actually have been helping your team.
As for losing the captain....well, that's on him. Sounds like the referee did everything he could to not give that card. While we may be more lenient in some situations (especially when we've created a problem), that is not without limits - the situation still doesn't give the captain free reign to engage in a sustained bout of dissent - so the captain is wholly responsible for that outcome.

I also dispute your accusation that the referee caused the injury - the player also had to crash into the referee for this to occur. And he was at least the one who had vision of the other party.

Read other questions answered by Referee Jason Wright

View Referee Jason Wright profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 34500
Read other Q & A regarding Law 3 - The Players

Soccer Referee Extras

Did you Ask the Ref? Find your answer here.

Enter Question Number

If you received a response regarding a submitted question enter your question number above to find the answer

Offside Question?

Offside Explained by Chuck Fleischer & Richard Dawson, Former & Current Editor of AskTheRef

This web site and the answers to these questions are not sanctioned by or affiliated with any governing body of soccer. The opinions expressed on this site should not be considered official interpretations of the Laws of the Game and are merely opinions of AskTheRef and our panel members. If you need an official ruling you should contact your state or local representative through your club or league. On AskTheRef your questions are answered by a panel of licensed referees. See Meet The Ref for details about our panel members.