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: 34639

Law 5 - The Referee 7/13/2022

RE: Rec Adult

Tom Williams of N/A, Prince Edward Island Canada asks...

Hi there, I have played soccer for years and watch plenty of soccer including the premier league every weekend, and I really want to know because I have never seen it, can you play an advantage in the penalty box? I feel like it’s a no but I would like your answer.

Thanks, Tom.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Tom
Thanks for the question

The simple answer is YES. Advantage can be played anywhere on the field of play and I would say that inside the penalty area is the most important location where advantage can be played
The Laws tell us that a referee should allows play to continue when an offence occurs and the non-offending team will benefit from the advantage, and penalises the offence if the anticipated advantage does not ensue at that time or within a few seconds.
It goes on to tell us that advantage should not be applied in situations involving serious foul play, violent conduct or a second cautionable offence unless there is a clear opportunity to score a goal.

That last statement is a clear indication that the most important moment for advantage is when a clear opportunity to score a goal presents which most times will be inside the penalty area so advantage is encouraged in that location.

Now the real challenge is determining what is a good advantage. The game is about scoring goals so by allowing play to continue in certain situations that is the whole basis behind advantage.
Having said that is an uncontested shot at goal from 12 yards with only the goalkeeper to beat a good advantage. Clearly the answer to that is yes yet it is not absolute. On average roughly 10% of penalties are missed / saved so a choice between awarding a goal and awarding a penalty kick is a no brainer. The goal should always be awarded.

I like to use the infamous situation of the Lehmann red card in The Champions League final between Arsenal and Barcelona

It was a DOGSO red card yet the best decision was to allow the advantage and then issue a caution with the goal allowed. As it turned out the referee Terge Hauge stopped play immediately and by doing so he had to disallow the goal that Barca *scored*. He could not allow the goal after signalling to stop play.

He later said that he regretted not allowing the advantage and his reasoning was that he was solely focussed on the red card and stopping play for that rather than allowing the advantage which was a clear opportunity to score a goal. Two seconds at most was all that was required.

As to how that plays out in a game is matter for the referee to decide. The advice to referees is to adopt a wait and see approach inside the penalty area rather than going with an immediate penalty call or advantage. Inside the penalty area the outcome on a possible advantage will present fairly quickly in which case the referee can allow play to continue by awarding a goal or the referee can halt play when the anticipated advantage does not ensue at that time.

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe McHugh

View Referee Joe McHugh profile

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Tom,
the advantage concept is universal in scope be it ignoring a tenuous offside or a wee nudge when the keeper has the ball in his hands ready to punt it out , allowing good practical attacking play to continue or a brutal wipeout excessive tackle in front of goal. Advantage is more than just a few seconds delay with movement of the arm sweep and verbal mechanics of a referee indicating continued attacking play. Referees are taught to consider the ramifications of advantage, that in situations involving serious foul play, violent conduct or a second cautionable offence unless there is a very clear opportunity to score a goal, to keep the game on an even keel, a whistle stoppage is recommended.

Outside the PA in the mid to attacking third and with rarity in the defending third the mechanics of referee INDICATING advantage was the traditional 2 arm sweep, now relegated to a single arm palm up extended, it was thought the whistle option was somewhat compromised, with the verbal indication of "ADVANTAGE!" which should clearly translate to an aggrieved player, YES, we see a foul (so do not be a horses patootie and look for retaliation thinking we missed it!) but have chosen NOT to stop play because we hope a better result MIGHT occur than stopping to award the free kick like perhaps a goal or a continued attack full of dangerous scoring opportunities?

We are allotted a brief time to decide if this set of follow up circumstances are proven to our satisfaction. The additional yelling of "PLAY ON!" and dropping the arm sweep generally indicates we are NOT going back to the free kick foul although if there was cautionable or cardable action required it can be taken at the next stoppage. I might add we often warn the offending player, he is in the book, although we let play proceed also communicating to our ARs and 4th that we are booking this player for later so as not to forget

That same principle is at work in what I call, Velcro imagined delayed whistles! Think of your whistle being velcroid to your shorts and you need to tear it away before putting it up to your mouth! This wait and see approach, is effective when these advantage events occur INSIDE the PA because of not wanting to interrupt the flow of play where a goal might be in the offering and a too quick whistle steals the opportunity, not the foul itself.

When a referee sees that a player is unfairly compromised or denied a scoring opportunity , we seek justice not JUST punishment for a foul deed or an unsporting action. If we can ignore the foul for a better result, wait and see maybe if the ball breaks nicely for a shot by a team mate or even headed into the goal rather than a free kick be it a PK or DFK. If we are defined by calling it out, following the mechanics and the shot is missed, it is a bit difficult to award the PK given you publicly indicated the advantage WAS realized.

A PK and red card send off, reducing the other team by a player, the only advantage better, in my opinion, would be a goal! When a good opportunity occurs within the PA, and a defender fouls the attacker, in my opinion only, the advantage is either a goal results or we are into the PK with DOGSO possibilities. UNLESS the attacker completely whiffs a 100% chance by acting inappropriately or does some mindboggling miss from 1 foot away and kicks it over the crossbar while in complete control.

Read other questions answered by Referee Richard Dawson

View Referee Richard Dawson profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 34639
Read other Q & A regarding Law 5 - The Referee

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 free 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. While there is no charge for asking the questions, donation to maintain the site are welcomed! <>