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: 35062

High School 8/11/2023

RE: Varsity High School

C.J. Holt of Belchertown, Massachusetts United States asks...

two players get tangled up in the penalty area, and while getting up from the ground (no calls made) the defender pushes the attacking player. The ball was still in play close to half field when the referee blew the whistle for the foul (altercation).
The referee awarded a PK.
Is this the correct call?

Answer provided by Referee Joe Manjone

Coach Holt,

This is the correct call.

NFHS Rule 12-4-1 states that a player shall not push or hold an opponent with the hands or arms extended from the body. The penalty is a direct free kick awarded to the opponents from the point of the infraction.

NFHS Rule 14-1-1 states that a penalty kick shall be awarded when a foul which ordinarily results in the awarding of a direct kick occurs within the offending team's penalty area.

Thus, since the push in this case occurred in the offending team's penalty area, a penalty kick was to be awarded.

It is an unusual penalty kick award since the ball was near midfield. However, since there was an altercation, a caution or disqualification could also have been given to the offender.

I hope your team has a successful fall season and makes the Division 3 playoffs.

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe Manjone

View Referee Joe Manjone profile

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

play was ongoing ,
the altercation occurs inside the PA
NOW was it just a push?
Is it regarded merely as a DFK offence as described under law 12?
If it is a DFK and it occurred inside the opposition penalty area it is a penalty kick restart!
The fact the ball was being contested elsewhere does not matter.
The amount of MISCONDUCT attributed will likely be in the opinion of the referee using the neutral observations from the support staff of ARS or 4th
It CAN NOT be SFP (serious foul play) as the ball is not being challenged
Was it USB caution yellow or
or most likely a direct red card send off reduce the team by a player as VC.{violent conduct?}
That might be hard to say with certainty but what is certain, regardless of a card of any colour, it is a PK .

Could it be overlooked as a dual altercation with warnings? Given the way you describe it seems pretty cut and dried one player was at fault. So no a dfk/pk seems 100% . Kids engaged in afters, requires a sharp AR, over the shoulder look by the CR and even a Lets just get up and play boys or girls call out before you chase the ball up field. preventative management of a sort. When fair challenges /crunches occurs especially where players are picking themselves up from the ground you need to notice and be aware of possible retaliation efforts or potentially get even responses in kind!

I can recall two 16 year old's with that ugly mean eyed push grab eyeballing look where I stopped play and suggested to both coaches these two look rather ill, kind of yellowish with red spots starting to appear, maybe you could rest these 2 and see if they are all right? Thus no caution, no red card, no send off just a substitution and DB restart to keeper and the game flowed wonderfully. Not exactly by the book per say but no complaints!


Read other questions answered by Referee Richard Dawson

View Referee Richard Dawson profile

Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi CJ,
Under both NFHS rules and FIFA laws the principle is the same - if a foul is committed by a player inside their own penalty area, so long as the ball is still in play it doesn't matter where on the pitch the ball is located - a penalty is awarded.

So if things unfolded as you describe them and the defender, inside their own penalty area was judged by the referee to have pushed an opponent (which is a foul) while the ball was near the halfway line, then a penalty is indeed the correct decision.

Read other questions answered by Referee Peter Grove

View Referee Peter Grove profile

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Thanks for the question
A push is an offence both under FIFA laws and NFHS rules and the restart is taken from the location of the offence. If the offence happens inside the penalty area then a penalty kick is awarded. The location of the ball is irrelevant.

Now I believe you know this anyway as a clear push against an attacker inside the penalty area by a defender will result in a penalty award.
I suspect that your use of the word “altercation” is really what happened and that the referee saw the defender engage in misconduct that required sanction with probably a card and a penalty kick.
Was it deserved? Only the referee can speak to what was seen and the location of the ball is irrelevant. It is the location of the offence that matters. Clearly there was an altercation when the referee looked around. It might be “unfair” yet the referee can only give what is seen.
Have a look at this video
The White Chelsea defender knees his Barcelona opponent in the back knocking him to the ground. The correct decision was made in that it was a red card for violent conduct and a direct free kick to Barcelona. If the offence happened inside the penalty area the restart would be a penalty kick.
Now if excessive force was not used it would still be an offence punished by a free kick and a caution. Note the ball was no where near the incident.
I observed an incident in a recent game where two players were on tne ground. One player tried to hold down the opponent and when both got up the held back player pushed his opponent to the ground. That is what the referee saw which resulted in a caution for the push and a direct free kick. Unfortunately the hold down was unseen by the referee who was a lone official and that holding down offence was not sanctioned. The correct call was a caution for both players and a free kick for the first offence of the hold down which started the incident. That though was not seen and the referee could only give what he saw.

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe McHugh

View Referee Joe McHugh profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 35062
Read other Q & A regarding High School

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 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.