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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 34980

Law 2 - The Ball 5/11/2023

RE: Competitive Under 15

Gary Robinson of Draper, UT USA asks...

During a recent match, I had a coach constantly question whether the match ball was properly inflated or not. I had checked all three balls prior to the match and they felt fine (I didn't use a gauge pre-match). When he first questioned me, I waited until the next stoppage, felt the ball currently in play, and decided it still felt ok. He continued to question, so, at the half, I gathered all the balls and took them with me to my bag. Using a pressure gauge, one was at 8.7 PSI, one at 9.0 PSI, and a third at 7.5 PSI. I filled the "underinflated" ball up to 8.5. Before the second half began, I informed the coach what I'd found and the action I took. He was persistent that "these are 12-pound balls and need to be at a minimum of 12 PSI." I informed him that they were all now within the FIFA range prescribed under Law 2 and that's how we'd be playing. He was the away coach, so did not provide or inflate the balls originally.

Was I off base? I've always thought that if the ball is within the range prescribed in Law 2 (8.5 PSI to 15.6 PSI), it's not my job as a referee to influence the game, and to some degree home-field advantage, by changing the pressure. If the ball's below the minimum, I'll bring it up to 8.5 PSI and if it's above, I'll bring it down to 15.6 PSI. Does the manufacturer's recommendation (Adidas, Select, Nike, etc.) stamped on the ball have any bearing on the appropriate air pressure for a game ball? The ball had the NFHS stamp on it, so although not a high school match, should have been more than sufficient for this level match. In Utah, other than a few tournaments (state cup, ECNL, etc.), the home team provides the game balls.

Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Gary,
Well, you were not off base in saying that the balls did not have to be at 12 psi, although I think it would have been preferable to have checked them all before kick off, rather than at half time.

Once you did check them (and fixed the under-inflated one) however, you were perfectly entitled to stick to your guns and ignore the coach wanting to have them inflated further.

For what it's worth (probably not a lot, really) as a player and a coach I would always prefer a ball in the lower half of the range. For me, a ball that is at, or close to 15.6 psi is too hard, can be difficult to control and can actually hurt to head, or if you get struck by it.

I remember when one of my teams was playing in the Norway Cup one year. It had been a hot, dry summer in Oslo and the pitches were bone dry. In one of our games I can only surmise that the referee had inflated the ball to at or close to the upper limit because it felt rock hard and was bouncing around like crazy, was bobbling all over the place and it was almost impossible to play good football with a ball that hard on such a dry pitch.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Gary
Thanks for the question.
Yes the ball must be inflated within the range printed on the ball and once that is done the ball meets the legal requirement. It is wrong to say a ball is a 12psi ball. The referee is the sole judge of a ball meeting the requirements.

Now many referees do not carry a gauge and they use the “thumb / squeeze test”. I only used the gauge for higher level games and my thumb test measurement was always close to the correct pressure at lower levels when I tested it.

Now I never inflated a ball much above the minimum as marked on the ball as it was just too hard at higher pressure . It is certainly hard at 12psi for Underage soccer. Even adults did not like higher inflated balls. So unless it’s a PL or MLS game which have a spec of 13psi ,in around 9psi is good.

As to your situation here I would also have also taken the balls and checked their pressure as you did. Before kick uff would have been better even with the thumb test. I would have inflated them all to the same probably around 9 psi and that would be the end of the matter. If asked I would simply say all the balls are inflated correctly. I would not be engaging with a coach on ball pressure.
I have a suspicion that this coach is training and using 12psi inflated balls which then may be a game ploy as many players do not like a hard ball particularly when they are not used to it.

At a recent referee course I was asked about a complaint that a referee had about a “hard” ball in a game. I suspect that if this game was played at the away teams ground in your game the opponents might be complaining about the balls being too hard. In some ways it is home team advantage and as long as the ball is within the spec range it is good.
I told the referee that once the ball was inflated within the range as specified on the ball it is legal.

I recall many years ago in a national schools final that I played in the opponents complained that the ball was too light. I took most of the dead ball restarts and it was light yet my teammates and I just got on with it. It was part of the exam on the day and the referee was having none of it. To this day I remember the referee swiftly and summarily dismissing complaints about the ball. He was having none of it.

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