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Question Number: 35554

Law 5 - The Referee 5/31/2024

RE: Local Competition Under 17

Andrew of Sydney, New South Wales Australia asks...

Our team manager sets a 35 minute countdown timer at the start whistle of every half we play. Today his timer went off, indicating 35 minutes had passed and the referee should call half time at any moment. Several minutes passed and we were wondering when the call would be made. Our manager asked the nearby linesman how long was left. The linesman said there was about 90 seconds to go. This linesman has been our referee in matches over the past few weeks and has also been our linesman for some matches and has always played 35 minute matches. At what we understand was the 39th minute, the other team scored a goal and our coach called out to the ref to query the 35 minute half. The ref then blew the whistle for half time and said that the goal didn't count, which means our opposition is in the lead 1-0 at half time. Our team then left the field for the sheds for half time. The other coach, our manager and the linesman approached the ref and at this point I don't know what was said but someone said the ref changed his decision and said the goal did count, which means our opposition is now in the lead 2-0. It was pouring rain throughout this game and after a field inspection, the ref called of the game before starting 2nd half and said that we would play the 2nd half at a later date with a 40 minute duration. I can't seem to find any information around what rules stand in this situation. What should happen in this case? Should the goal be counted? Should we be expected to accept the 2nd half be modified to 40 minutes instead of our normal 35 minutes just so they keep their goal?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Andrew
Thanks for the question.

Let me deal with the easier parts first. It is not up to a referee to decide what happens in an abandoned game. It is up to the competition organisers who may decide to replay the game in full or just finish the game by playing the second half or in certain situations as per its competition rules may allow the score to stand when the game was ended.

On the 2nd part as the half had not been ended by the referee before the goal with a whistle so we are left with a quandry. I suspect that the correct timing was advised to the referee by the assistant referee and possibly the coach. As the game had not been restarted the referee in law can correct any error including timing. Whether that is fair or not the referee may decide to cancel the goal which technically would be legal in law and then end the half.
It needs to be reported though and the League organisers can deal with it though its competition rules. Had the game got to a conclusion with whatever decision was made on the day it would have a bearing on the decision.

On the timing matter I question whether the referee thought it was 40 minutes a half. It is not unusual for a referee to mistake the match duration in Underage games which can be 60, 70, 80 minutes in duration.
You mention that the referee suggested playing a second half of 40 minutes so perhaps he thought that the game was 80 minutes not 70?

What the Laws tells us that the game should have two equal halves and the referee must not compensate for a timekeeping error during the first half by changing the length of the second half.
So in this situation if the referee played 40 minutes in the first half in error when it should have been 35 the second half duration should be 35 minutes.
A serious timing error cannot be sorted by the referee if play has been restarted and it should be reported to the League to deal with.
In this case if the referee played 40 minutes in error the second half should be the correct length of 35 minutes and the matter reported.

So without the abandonment due to inclement weather and pitch condition the following should have happened
1. As play has not restarted any referee error including timing can be corrected.
2. If the game should have been 70 minutes the second half should be 35 minutes.
3. The referee reports his timing error to the League.
4. It is not up to the referee to decide what happens in an abandoned game.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Andrew ,
well sounds a bit wonky to me? You mentioned the weather so perhaps it played a part but you mentioned the referee stated 40 minutes ? Given you say 35, it does appear as if the official was unaware of the correct duration? Or under the mistaken concept you even out the time?

With the ankle biters often match time is reduced from 45 to 40 to 35 or 30 depending on the ROC or league bylaws. It is not unusual for a referee to get confused as to the time allotted for the various age groups as tournament play can be different than league play.

The LOTG state the match duration should be two equal halves. However if a referee extends the first half too long they cannot extend the 2nd to make it the same, they can only report the discrepancy. If the officials stop the match too early, the match CAN be restarted to finish the allotted half, but if it is not corrected and the start of the 2nd half has occurred it is too late.

Once a referee reports that the match duration was compromised, as my esteemed colleague Ref McHugh alluded to, referees DO NOT set the rules or standards of abandoned or protested matches due to referee error. That is for the league rules committee to determine per their football association bylaws. The difficulty is, some matches can be replayed or continued, others, through time constraints or field scheduling issues, might not be so easy to rectify.

I should point out in cases where a too soon stoppage does occur, the restart must follow the reason play was initially halted. A too early whistle with one team in ball possession or the ball was within a PA then the keeper would benefit from a DB restart. If the ball was put out of play, corner or goal kick, throw in. You get the idea. If only the 2nd half was stopped early, assuming the teams were still present at the field, a referee could possibly fashion a restart to ensure the match duration criteria was met .

Referee decisions to award a goal or take it away can be final. So too the referee has final word on time and time added but a referee can not ALTER the LOTG to do so.
In tournament play with multiple games it can be near impossible for a match to be replayed, although a winner/loser or a forfeit solution might be the scenario applied to achieve a resolution. I recall a match where the referee decided to not award a penalty as it was in the last minute and chose to award an INDFK for a DFK foul! Or where a keeper handling a ball OUTSIDE his PA had a PK awarded against him. In both cases the match results were permitted to stand.

If there is a referee mistake, an actually a violation or incorrect application of the LOTG you can as a team protest the results but it generally costs money to file and generally must be done quickly as there is a time limit involved to raise the complaint . No guarantees mind you.

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