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Question Number: 35337

Law 5 - The Referee 1/21/2024

RE: rec, Comp, High School High School

Peter of Stockton, CA USA asks...

If a referee signals advantage does a team have to accept it, or can they refuse the play the ball and ask for the free kick instead? This thought occurred to me during today's Sheffield / West Ham game. There was a foul just outside the penalty area but since the ball carried on to an attacking player advantage was played. This was the correct call but I am wondering could a team opt to have the set play instead.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Peter
The technical answer is no and in most instances players tend to get on with play after the clear shout and signal and take the advantage opportunity that is offered
It is up to the referee to decide if advantage accrues or not before bringing it back.

Now a player could decide not to play in which case the advantage does not accrue and play has to be brought back to the free kick. Rarely if ever happens and not at the higher levels.

So that is always a tough one for referees. I remember this question being asked on another forum and a referee wrote about a player picking up the ball and said that they will have the free kick. Highly unusual and a referee could call the deliberate handling yet that referee said he sort of got surprised by the player’s reaction and gave the original free kick. It got a very mixed reaction n the forum.

So technically it is the referees call to decide if the free kick is a better decision than advantage not a player decision.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Peter,

When we have a potential advantage situation, there's a difference between an advantage not materialising, and an advantage being squandered.

For instance, a player, still off-balance from the foul trying to make a pass that is intercepted, is an advantage not realised, go back to the free kick. If the player has full control of the ball, they then try to make a pass and it's intercepted or goes out, they've squandered it and we keep playing (though if it's intercepted, we need to think about whether they really did have an opportunity, or if it was an unlikely advantage to start with - such as, opponents in all the passing lanes).

If a player chooses to stop and stare at the ref rather than keep playing, I've always considered that to be a squandered advantage - they have the ball and chose not to do anything with it. I've never been comfortable with the idea of the players telling me if a free kick should be awarded or not.

But, I agree with Ref McHugh - it's a tough one, and the LOTG don't really address this. I had a game once where I did go with the team on this and stop play, and it invited complaints that I'm only awarding the free kick because they're asking for it - I couldn't really say anything about that complaint because they weren't wrong, but it created some problems. Though sometimes not awarding it leads to frustrating as well.

If nothing else, it brings to mind how important it is to loudly verbalise "Play on! Advantage!" as well as signalling it. (One or the other statement is fine, I usually prefer both myself).

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Answer provided by Referee Joe Manjone

Hi Peter,

NFHS Rule 5-3-1d states: The officials shall call out "play on" and with an under swing of one or both arms, indicate a fou which was observed because penalizing the offending team would give an advantage to the offending team. If the referee applies the advantage which was anticipated but does not develop at that time, the referee shall punish the original offense.

In your situation, if a team stops play as soon as the "play on" call and signal is given, the original penalty would have to be enforced as the offending team would gain no advantage. However, if a team continues play and gains an advantage they can then not stop and ask for the original foul.

I hope you have a successful remainder of your high school season and you get to officiate in the playoffs and a first weekend in March championship game.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Peter,
I am old school and set in my ways on the issue of advantage in that, If, I see an opportunity that I BELIEVE the attackers are better off to continue the attack than to stop and award the foul ,I initiate the protocol's in this manner.

I call out "ADVANTAGE!* and signal with arm or arms extended palm(s) up

This serves to indicate, I did not miss seeing the foul and we are now in the lets see what happens here mode. If the result is decidedly pro attack we have determined, yup, good decision, possible goal or goal opportunity is there. I now yell, PLAY ON! and play continues be a goal results or not

I almost never scream out advantage INSIDE the PA as a PK opportunity is a very very good scoring opportunity, plus possible DOGSO could be in play. I often do what we call the (Wait and see if the ball enters the goal first?) Then, if a good goal occurs, we restart kick off with the defender DOGSO criteria waved off. Admittedly, even if the application of advantage does not guarantee a goal, I almost require a certain goal to be scored, for me to, NOT award the PK.

I have some sympathy for a team player just having been fouled to get a bit uptight recklessly pushed down chooses to reach out and grab the ball with the hands even if that ball might well be on its way to a well positioned teammate if only he left it alone or he had every chance to get up and continue! Plus you say close to the PK area depending on location and skill level a DFK from close to the PA might be seen as a very good opportunity.


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