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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 34712

High School 9/27/2022

RE: Small School High School

William Stoneman of Fairfield, ca usa asks...

In the old USSF "Advice for Referees" publication. A ball hanging a tree hanging over the field was still in play. If it stayed inbounds after hitting the tree. At a field with a tree over hanging tree. A team member was insisting that it was out of play. In checking the LOTG the is no reference to the situation. It also is not covered in the NFHS rule book. What is the correct call now. PS. Have worked at this field for 10 years. And this is the first time the policy has ben challenged

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Will,
while high school soccer has its own ground rules unless there was a specific bylaw written to deal with this field oddity, I say play on! It might be a needless distinction between “non-regulation appurtenances” like soccer goals aligned with pointy ball football often have additional structural post & crossbar members that are in fact out of bounds as if the ball left the FOP into touch with the restart the same as a goal kick or corner kick depending on which team last touched the ball before the contact.

In considering a tree looming over a FOP as a “pre-existing conditions, opposed to "outside interference" where a drop ball in favor of the team potentially disadvantaged might serve as a restart option. I would simply say, play on assuming there was no HUGE disparity of fairness (like a deflection into a goal) ! The ball strikes the branch, and it goes into touch for the throw- in (I am assuming) I guess a corner or goal kick could be plausible depending on the tree location or the ball deflects and stays in just deal with it as part of natural playing conditions! As long as the tree itself poses no immediate danger, an overhanging branch at 4 feet of height a bit more hazardous than twenty feet in the air. Our resident high school expert on the rules Ref Majone has provided an answer? Given it is an oddity it will be wise to mention to the visiting teams just what rule you follow!

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi William,

I'll provide my answer from a LOTG perspective, lacking experience in NFHS myself - although the LOTG is a little lacking here, as you found!

I've played on a couple of fields like this - and I always took the approach of a drop ball due to the outside interference I don't think this really counts as part of the field! I know some referees would take the approach that if the ball is definitely going out, they'd just call it out - I never had that come up myself. While that might feel a little wrong, bear in mind we do the same with those combined soccer/rugby goalposts - when the ball strikes the rugby section we just call it out.

When there's nothing clear in the LOTG, we turn towards the spirit of the game/laws and our own understanding of fair play and what seems right.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi William
Thanks for the question
For me I consider it outside interference and as such it is covered in the Laws under
" stops, suspends or abandons the match for any offences or because of outside interference....""

In the past I refereed games in a ground that had electricity cables running high across the FOP. I always made a point of saying to the captains that if the ball hits the wires I am stopping play and restarting with a dropped ball.

Now rarely did it ever happen yet in one game a punt by the goalkeeper hit a wire and fell down to an attacker who was alone in an attacking position. I immediately stopped play and while I had a negative reaction from the forward who was alone in an attacking position having collected the errant ball, most agreed that it was "unfair" to have allowed play to continue. It was outside interference not connected with play and my decision was to stop the game and restart with a DB. I believe the ball was kicked back to the goalkeeper to punt again

I recall in the 2006 WC game in Germany between England and Paraguay when the England goalkeeper Robinson hit a big screen with a punt high up over the arena. The referee promptly stopped play and restarted with a dropped ball

Some in the game advocate play on in all circumstances unless there is a local rule and to me that can be fraught with difficulties and perhaps present real problems for the game. If a ball is heading out of play, hits an overhanging branch and still goes out of play it can be ignored. No-one is going to complain about that one. Yet if it stays in and a team benefits from it then it most certainly will cause problems.

From time to time referees may be presented with unusual situsations and if it is not covered by a law the Law Book states and I quote
** The Laws cannot deal with every possible situation, so where there is no direct provision in the Laws, The IFAB expects the referee to make a decision within the ‘spirit’ of the game and the Laws – this often involves asking the question,
“what would football want/expect?” **

In my example no one would expect a team to benefit from a goal that hits an outside object not connected with play which benefits one team in an unusual way so the easy decision for me was a DB using outside interference.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe Manjone

Although I have not encountered trees over the field lately, I have worked many high school games in the past where trees encroached over the boundaries of the field. When trees are over a field, a ground rule is to be established by the home team as to the call should the ball hit the tree. As indicated in NFHS Rule 5-2-2a, the head referee is to inquire about ground rules prior to the game and determine if a fair game can be started. In the inspection of the field, you, the referee, should have asked the home team coach for the rule concerning a ball that hits the tree and returns in play.The ground rule should then be provided to the visiting team coach in the pregame conference. A game with a tree over the field should not be started until a ground rule has been established and both coaches have been informed. With this information, no discussion on a call should be necessary. In your case, a ground rule was assumed but never communicated so a question arose. Fortunately, under NFHS Rule 5-3-2g, you, the referee, have the power to make a decision on any point not specifically covered in the rules, so the ground rule that you had been following for the past 10 years, although not communicated, which you did follow, was appropriate. I hope this helps and you have a very successful fall season.

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