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Question Number: 34560

Law 3 - The Players 4/15/2022

RE: Youth to adult, rec and competitive Other

Barry Stewart of Chilliwack, BC Canada asks...

This question is a follow up to question 32750

I was reffing at a high school (not U.S. high school) tournament recently. One team had no subs, whereas the other had many and were winning comfortably.

After the game, both the losing coaches and a parent respectfully asked why I was allowing the other team to sub in on throw-ins that weren't theirs.

I replied that I certainly wouldn't have let them interrupt an opponent's free kick or corner kick that was ready to go — but didn't see any problem on subs at throw-ins or other stoppages.

They felt it was taking away their advantage... strategically slowing down the game. I can see this tactic being a possibility in unlimited-substitution leagues, therefore a referee needs to be aware of it and perhaps deny some requests. (Narrow leads and tight tournament schedules would make substitutional time-wasting more tempting for some coaches.)

I see it has been written earlier (at 32750): "The tournament bylaws stated the substitution could occur at any stoppage in favor of the team with the restart & the other team could substitute only on their own restarts or if the other team did also." That wasn't the bylaw in this tournament.

Any additional thoughts on the situation? Your advice is always appreciated.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Barry
The answer rests in the Rules of Competition. If it is a FIFA game only with no substitute ROC then there is no restriction on when substitutions can take place. The team may have been annoyed by their opponents gaming the substitution process to their advantage and unless there is a rule to prevent it then all the referee can do is add on the lost time and ensure the player/s leave without delay.

As to denying requests a referee needs to have the appropriate ROC in place to do so as if it is not present then a referee would not be entitled to deny a substitution. He could *miss* a request if a restart was taken quickly yet he would have to accede to it at the next stoppage.

As to why the coaches and a parent would be questioning it here can only be answered by their understanding of the ROC. You say there was no bylaw in the tournament yet they believed that there was? One of the challenges facing referees is that they can be officiating in different competitions with differing ROC's. If it was a NFHS game the substitution rule needs to be followed.
MY stock answer to coaches is that I don't make the laws or the ROCs yet simply enforce them. I would respectfully ask the coaches to raise their concerns with the tournament organisers or at the relevant AGM or league meetings highlighting how the substitution process is being abused.

I don't like it when I see a substitution being made in the last minutes of added time. I watched a Youth International game recently and the team in the lead put on two players in the three minutes of added time. It was to me an attempt to eat up time and to stop momentum. The referee added on the time lost and guess what? The losing team equalised in the 4th minute of added time! To me at this level the two young players should have got at least 15 minutes of game time in what was a very big game for them instead as being used as pawns in a gaming tactic in added time. Probably did not even get a kick of the ball. Many times it works which is why it is done and it is why ROCs need to have rules in place for such situations. If none is present then so be it and the LotG is all that is available.

The English Premier League will have 5 substitutes from next season and I'm not looking forward to the way added time will play out on substitutions. Some ROCs only allow three substitution windows which does not include half time. So if a team wish to use all five they have to split up the 5 into three lots if they plan to use all five. Not sure what the PL has in store yet.

Dislike of gaming tactics is not a concern for referees and all the referee can do is add on for lost time and ensure the substitutions take place in a timely fashion and in line with the rules of competition. I always made sure that every second was accounted for and I took a dim view of excessive delays by players. The laws now allow for the referee to remove players close to their location at a boundary line so walking from one side of the field to the other can be dealt with under the Laws.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Barry,
hmm what's that old adage ? You can please some people some of the time but not all people all of the time? lol The ROC bylaws & specific tournament bylaws are something the referee must make themselves aware of. Unlimited substitutions at the grass-root youth level often have few restrictions. That said I do recommend to ANY organization that if they follow some simple guidelines it lessens the anxiety or perceived unfairness by onlookers and the teams themselves!

It still would be better if tournament bylaws stated the substitution could occur at any stoppage in favor of the team with the restart & the other team could substitute only on their own restarts or if the other team did also & at the referees discretion!

The reasoning I think referee discretion should be included here in my opinion, certain situations dictate NO urgency or cause to be alarmed. A defender subs out at a corner but the ball is a mile away still being retrieved! On a free-kick that has become ceremonial in nature? Basically in situations where TIME is NOT being wasted!

The reverse of that is situations of extreme urgency a quickly taken throw-in or free-kick to spring the attack where the players might be there waiting to sub at the midfield but the match needs to continue. One of the downfalls of multiplicity matches and field use on heavy use tournaments is there is a schedule to keep with no or very little extra time to truly add the needed amount. So even added specifications like no subs on free kicks and a very literal no subs on the other team's possession is often made with this in mind!

If the following protocols are not followed then NO substitution occurs!

- The substitutes MUST be at the midfield BEFORE the stoppage!
No subs running up last second in a confusing mass spilling onto the FOP!

With the subs ALREADY at the midfield waiting, this INDICATES that subs are BEING requested without the spine-cringing screaming of SUB all of the time. The near AR or 4th should try to manage these as best they can! The CR should be watchful for the accumulation of the subs readying themselves. One important point is IF they are there and a stoppage opportunity occurs, they must be READY to come in ASAP otherwise they unnecessarily delay the restart! Coaches should be giving them instructions and assigning who to replace at the bench before they get to the midline.

ONLY if there is an injury or at the half or KFTPM do we allow direct bench substitutions!
The players exiting can do anywhere along the nearest touchline or goal line and they should indicate when they are off the FOP. I asked they raise their arms and wave when stepping out to be easily identified

Only then should the referee wave the new subs in as players!

My suggestion is to limit the number of unlimited substitution opportunities to 2 or 3 subs at a time but even 5 can be manageable IF you carefully follow some established guidelines! It is very important though to grasp you have no right to refuse a reasonable substitution request if all protocols are followed!

I recall an very unpleasant incident where in the final seconds a player was noticeably limping and a legal substitute was ready to go but the referee waved it off claiming there was only a minute left. The ball is put into play the defender tries to pursue and cramps up again, can not keep pace, the attacker scores and the match is over. Except for the very physical altercation of the coach of the now losing team by a single goal is now trying to throttle the referee! sigh. It is WHY I suggest that you as a CR inform the coaches when less than 5 minutes left in the half of how much time you WILL be adding, if any!

I hold an opinion that it is a beneficial idea in tournaments with multiple matches that IF it is plausible & you can put aside egos, you use 4 referees per field and rotate them as CR, ARs, and 4th to educate the officials and pay all the same rate to the crew!

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