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Question Number: 16069

Law 3 - Number of Players 7/19/2007

RE: Select Under 15

Bob Roach of Charlottesville, Va USA asks...

This question is a follow up to question 16049

As a follow up to 16049, I was at a tournament recently and we were playing in a very evenly matched division where every team had a shot to win.

In one of our games the opponent had only two subs. Hot day but at 8am not too bad yet. The opposing coach switched a field player for his keeper four or five times each half, telling them to take their time (he told me this after the game). He did this for two reasons - to rest his players and to keep his best players on the pitch without wearing them out. Needless to say this wasted a LOT of time and was VERY frustrating. Especially considering we had many fresh legs and what I felt was a slight edge in talent.

At the end of the game, just as the CR was about to blow the whistle, the opponent was awarded a corner kick. They took their time setting it up, assuming the ref would not blow the whistle until after the kick was taken. I was watching the ref and started chuckling because I could see she was fed up with the time wasting. Before the player could take the kick she blew her whistle for the end of the game.

Of course the opposing coach was upset. I felt he got what he deserved. But he also got what he wanted. A 0-0 draw that kept them in the championship hunt.

Was there anything this ref could have done to prevent the wasting of time? Or were her hands tied because the coach was allowed to switch a field player for goalie. When I had her sign the match card after the game she said he had a right to make the switch and therefore she couldn't stop what he was doing. I thought she did a superb job as CR in general but was very frustrated by the delaying tactics of the opposing coach. Of course, because it was a tournament there was no leeway for adding time in order to keep games on schedule.

Answer provided by Referee Gary Voshol

Tournament schedules often have no leeway for time, and to keep to the schedule they make a rule prohibiting adding time. Since the almighty schedule is more important to them than fairness, you're stuck. If a team uses time within the rules of the game, such as making substitutions, the ref has to allow it. When the ref recognizes the intent to use up the time, she should be very vigilent about observing time-wasting which is against the Laws of the Game, and be ready to caution each incident. For example, if the player being subbed out takes too much time getting off, and doesn't hustle when told to, the player should be cautioned.

The tourney could enroll a few less teams so that the schedule was more open, but then they would have less income, wouldn't they?

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Answer provided by Referee Gil Weber

Referee Voshol noted in regard to tournaments that schedule games much too tightly, "Since the almighty schedule is more important to them than fairness, you're stuck."

I would agree that too often tournaments do accept too many teams, and then try to pass off the mess they've created by telling the referees, "You MUST keep the games on schedule, so don't add ANY time." I would respectfully disagree with my colleague that the referee is stuck.

Why is the referee there? In addition to enforcing the LOTG and protecting the players, it's to assure a fair and balanced game to both sides. And in fulfillment of this fundamental responsibility the thinking referee is NEVER stuck.

Now if one team clearly is consuming time and doing so as a means to UNFAIRLY disadvantage the opponent, the referee needs to figure out how to put things back on an even keel. Under "normal" rules he or she could simply add time, make it known to the time-wasters that he/she was wise to the ploy, and caution if necessary to get the perps to pay attention. As long as everyone knows the time is going to be added it's pointless for the perps to continue the ploy.

But in the scenario of a game where the referee is told not to add ANY time, even using the caution as a means to get the perps' attention makes the situation worse. How do you think the losing team's coach feels about a caution in this case? "Hey, ref. Come on, you're just killing the clock on us by doing that!"

And the coach is right. The referee is then party to the fraud. In such a case the referee is doing the perps' work for them by running down the clock while showing the caution.

So what to do?

Simple question: Who is wearing the only watch that matters?

The coach of the perp team? I don't think so.

The obnoxious father of the perp team's goalkeeper who shouts to his kid, "Take your time!" as the kid walks to get every ball kicked over his goal line and then moves the ball twice before putting the goal kick into play? Does his watch count? I don't think so.

Oh, yes. It's the referee who decides. Hmmm..... Gee, maybe my watch seems to run particularly slow in the last five or six minutes of the second half when the perp team is subbing one player on every opportunity, or using any other obvious ploy that they probably would not bother with under normal circumstances. I wonder if I my watch needs a new battery? Hmmm.... :o)


If the tournament rules say don't add ANY time and you allow a team to literally cheat the opponents out of a fair chance then you as the referee are part of the problem. Why not be part of the solution instead?

You control the time. When everyone else's watch has run past the supposed stop time just ignore their shouts. And allow a few extra minutes. I am not saying add another 10 minutes, but maybe 1 or 2, as you deem reasonable and FAIR.

"Heresy," you say. "You can't break the tournament rules," you say.

"Rubbish," I say. Do what is fair.

Now, I am NOT saying to violate the LOTG! But I am saying that you must find a way to assure that the game is fair. You don't tip the scales to give either team an undeserved benefit, but you do make sure that neither team can unfairly tip the scales.

Hey, it's just my opinion. I will not let cheaters defraud the game.

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Answer provided by Referee Chuck Fleischer

Here at AskTheRef we have always said if the referee is unhappy with specific tournament rules, or changes to the Laws of the Game made by "other national organizations" that he should not accept the assignment. Ref Weber has said it nicely. Bottom line is: The Game and not just the match. When the referee gets the funny feeling something just ain't right then, in more cases that not, something stinks. At that point he has the obligation to do something, hopefully not add to the problem through his attempts to remedy it. Just add the time.

Another thing the referee can do is before the match ask the captains if the coach wants a substitute and they see an unmarked player next to the goal who they can reach with a throw-in, do they want the goal or the substitution. Guess what they'll say. When the coach bellows "HEY Ref, Sub" you can say Next time and allow play to restart.

Referees who find themselves on tournaments where start times begin to slip may check players uniforms, collect rosters and conduct the coin toss before the end of the proceeding match and start at as soon as the previous match ends. There is no real need to warm-up on the field, or do anything on the field but compete.

If the tournament staff doesn't like what you do the fall back is always this:

It is usually far easier to seek forgiveness for something done than it is to seek permission to do it in the first place.


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Answer provided by Referee Michelle Maloney

Being a devious sort, I might happen by the coaches and note that it looks like the game might run a bit long due to the need for all the subs. If that didn't fix it, I would indeed add whatever excessive time was consumed during the multiple subbings. Additionally, I am not required to allow a sub unless I am informed ahead of time, so unless the coach has informed my AR and my AR's flag goes up for a sub at an appropriate stoppage, I would be disinclined to allow it to occur until the correct subbing procedure is followed.

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Answer provided by Referee Keith Contarino

Having been faced with this dilemma at many tournaments over the years, I simply do as Ref Weber suggests. I don't "add time" as that's not allowed by tournament regulations but the darn halves just seem to be a few minutes or so longer than it seems. When questioned by coaches (which will happen as they know the tournament regs) I simply say "Coach, my watch says 30 minutes" or whatever the appropriate time interval is. You as the center referee cannot forbid a team to make legal substitutions or keeper changes. You can, however, not hear the request and start play instead.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Bob,
if the time is used for legal substitution, shielding the ball at the corner flag or kicking the ball a long way on defending clear outs. These are tactics not prohibited in law. A referee might not like them but TACTICAL desicions are NOT our responsibility. Be wary of punishing a team for playing to kill time while the ball is in play as a defending tactic as opposed to waste time when the ball is out of play!

What our DISCRESTIONARY powes allow is to ensure FAIR PLAY is respected. So On the substitution it better happen 100% by letter of law and in very quick fashion? We could caution for delaying the restart if the time is in fact precious. Yellow suntans warnings can cause red faces with prolonged exposure ;o)
On the corner shielding tactic the trivial free arm push or backing in foul is no longer doubtful or trivial?
On the extra long clear outs that lose the ball into the bush or across the pond have several balls available to play with to prevent this BS or send the culprit in after it. Then start the game while he is looking with a new ball.

The buzz word here is REASONABLE !! reasonable behaviour and within a reasonable time allow for a reasonable match . It is when the UN reason, not at all refreshing as the UN cola begins to appear that a quick recognize for what it is and how it can be -dealt with.

A tournament rule of disqalification for umethical behaviour might curb the urge to but unfortunately the need to win outweighs the risk

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Answer provided by Referee Steve Montanino

I understand your dilemma. It is unfortunately a common problem in American youth soccer condiments to have provisions within the department rules that state no time can be added to the matches to keep the games on time.

It is understandable that they would want this because no teams really want to wait around for the start of the match, and when the field gets behind it affects every game afterwards and usually has a snowball effect. Every hate it too because it means they don't go home on time.

The real solution should lie with the tournament not scheduling games so closely together however they look at the number of teams as more money in the coffers. When money and finances to concern more than the game itself than things like this become extremely problematic.

In your situation I feel it is important to do as the tournament asks in keeping the games on time, as they are the people paying for your service. That said, it is important to also ensure a fair shake for all the teams involved. I think Ref Weber's solution is excellent however you have to be aware that the end result may be that the field starts to fall behind schedule. If you do this make sure you expedite everything else that you do between the matches to try to account for this lost time.

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Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 16069
Read other Q & A regarding Law 3 - Number of Players

The following questions were asked as a follow up to the above question...

See Question: 16082

See Question: 16134

See Question: 17273

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