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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 34924

High School 3/17/2023

RE: High school High School

DAVID LAZOr of LEESBURG, VA United States asks...

In a high school soccer game my player scored a goal and in his celebration steps off the field, 1 or 3 yards off. The referee gives him a yellow card for not getting permission to leave the field. I have never heard of this rule.

Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi David,
There is a section of the NFHS rulebook that says a player "shall be cautioned" for "entering or leaving the field of play (except through the normal course of play) without the permission of an official." There is also a section that says a player is to be cautioned for "celebrating excessively" after a goal is scored so technically the referee can issue a caution here but I would agree with you that it's unusual to caution a player simply for going a few steps off the field after scoring.

At least, that is certainly true in games played under the IFAB laws. I'm not so familiar with the NFHS world though, so I couldn't say for sure that it is seen the same way in that environment. However I suspect that even in an NFHS game, this would be seen as a little harsh and over-officious.

In the non-NFHS world, this might even be referred to as "gotcha" refereeing, which is penalising a player simply because you can, without regard for the spirit of the law or "what football expects."

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi David
In a game played under IFAB laws this would not be a caution for leaving the field of play. There are specific actions in a goal celebration that will attract a caution which are
# climbing onto a perimeter fence and/or approaching the spectators in a manner which causes safety and/or security issues
# acting in a provocative, derisory or inflammatory way
# covering the head or face with a mask or other similar item
# removing the shirt or covering the head with the shirt.

As mentioned leaving the field of play would not normally be a caution except for those reasons listed above and where a player excessively wastes time or gets involving in an unsporting manner with players, technical staff or spectators.

Like Referee Grove I have no direct experience of High School soccer other than looking at the NFHS Rule Book and reading answers given by our esteemed colleague Referee Manjone.
I believe that there is sufficient scope for a referee within the rules to caution a player for celebrating excessively, taunting etc. My experience is that there is usually more to these caution situations rather than in this example of just the movement off the field of play by a few yards. That can include location of the movement along with over exuberance in the celebration which can attract the referee’s attention.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe Manjone

Under misconduct, on page 58 of the NFHS Rules book, Rule 12-8-1 a states: A player shall be cautioned for leaving the field of play (except through the normal course of play) without the permission of an official.

Under this rule, the caution was correct. However, I had never seen a caution given for going off the field in the manner you described. A verbal warning in my opinion would have been more appropriate.

I expect there was some reason the caution was given. Perhaps in an officials meeting or in an exam the referee completed, this rule was pointed out and officials were to be on the alert for players leaving the field. If that is the case, the referee should have covered this in the pre-game conference.

I see the VHSL Soccer Championships will be held on June 9 and 10. Hopefully you will be selected to officiate in a championship game.

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