Soccer Referee Resources
Ask a Question
Recent Questions

RSS FEED Subscribe Now!

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
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
Panel Login

Question Number: 21006

Law 5 - The Referee 3/20/2009

RE: Select Under 19

Todd of Houston, TX USA asks...

I'm not sure I completely understand how to apply advantage. Let's say that after waiting the appropriate amount of time based on the exact situation, I signal advantage. Once I do that, is there any period of time during which I can go back and restart based on whatever foul or misconduct originally occurred?

I think I understand this in the penalty area -- i.e., foul occurs, I wait to see if there is an immediately goal scored, and if not blow the whistle and restart with the penalty kick. But elsewhere on the field, where I would actually signal advantage while the ball is in play, I'm not so sure. Can I signal advantage, and then if the attacking team doesn't do much with it, call the original offense after 5, 10 seconds?

Answer provided by Referee Chuck Fleischer

In Law 5 we find:

'allows play to continue when the team against which an offence has been committed will benefit from such an advantage and penalises the original offence if the anticipated advantage does not ensue at that time'

as one of the powers and duties given the referee.

Further on Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees [I&G] FIFA say this:

The referee may play advantage whenever an infringement or offence occurs.

The referee should consider the following circumstances in deciding
whether to apply the advantage or stop play:

the severity of the offence: if the infringement warrants an expulsion, the referee must stop play and send off the player unless there is a subsequent opportunity to score a goal

the position where the offence was committed: the closer to the
opponent?s goal, the more effective it can be

the chances of an immediate, dangerous attack on the opponents?

the atmosphere of the match

The decision to penalise the original offence must be taken within a
few seconds.

If the offence warrants a caution, it must be issued at the next stoppage. However, unless there is a clear advantage, it is recommended that the referee stops play and cautions the player immediately. If the caution is NOT issued at the next stoppage, it cannot be shown later.

All well and good but there are things left to the referee in these statements. American referees may utilize Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game [ATR] paragraph 5.6 to clear the waters a bit. The short while mentioned in I&G is defined as 2-3 seconds in ATR. Also mentioned is the need to have a offence under Law 12 committed before advantage may be invoked. [This applies to US Soccer referees only] Locations of fouls and the time of commission are considerations and mentioned in ATR 5.6. I am deliberately not quoting 5.6 because, as a US Soccer referee you are expected to have your own copy.

Anyway for a referee to successfully play an advantage he must have excellent foul recognition and situational awareness [SA]. These things tend to become part of the referee's skill set after hundreds of matches. An example of SA would be seeing a huge foul where an attacker is taken to the floor and excessively so and the ball is rolling slowly off in some direction. You, the referee, had the forethought to look around just before the foul was committed and you noticed an onside unmarked attacker with an open goal in front of him. That's where the ball is rolling! Without looking you signal advantage and make sure there are no afters coming! Then you hold and point the advantage signal to where the ball is going hoping to find the onside unmarked attacker still there. He is! You hold the advantage until his shot goes in or misses. Then you reach for your notebook and red card to deal with the misconduct. You look good.

Not, if you didn't look around, don't have decent foul recognition, didn't have good position to see everything you aren't going to look all that good. Also when you wait 5-10 seconds to call an advantage back you'll look indecisive as the dickens, especially when one reads US Soccer says 2-3 seconds. Remember location on the field has nothing to do with the time advantage may run but location of the foul play has a great deal to do with you playing for advantage.

Playing advantage is sort of like letting the match figure out what the worst thing that may be done to the side offering the foul play. Sometimes it is a free kick and sometimes it is letting play continue.


Read other questions answered by Referee Chuck Fleischer

View Referee Chuck Fleischer profile

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Whether those who like to think so or not, soccer is a CONTACT SPORT with a PHYSICAL side to competitive Match Play. Certain amounts of the contact are looked at in a fair play tolerance of acceptable behavior to those playing or trifling in the eyes of the referee as the contact does not truly change the outcome of play and the players PREFER to keep on trucking.

A foul or misconduct event where the referee MUST stop play often creates disadvantages as well as advantages for the aggrieved team. Advantage is the equalizer of that disadvantage whereby the team that cheats tries to delay, reset their defense or otherwise prevent the opposing team from realizing a scoring or attacking opportunity are in FACT DENIED that opportunity to halt play!

An application of Advantage is in reality a COMMUNICATION from the referee to the FOULED player or TEAM that says, 'Guess what, the opposing butt head FAILED to stop you. Let's not stop or give them time to regroup and defend! Let's see where this attack or opportunity will lead too AND if we do not like the result? THEN we could return to the scene of the crime and restart accordingly'

Of course that is too much of a mouthful so a referee uses a SINGLE word, ***ADVANTAGE!!! *** with a special signal of the arm sweep palms up, to indicate to those who cannot hear us! ' I saw that foul! DO NOT RETALIATE! I could still caution that rat bastard later. Keep on trucking!'

In the few seconds where we determine IF the advantage is realized a referee then adds PLAY ON! as he drops the arm sweep, indicating in HIS opinion, there was an advantage realized and it was good for the game to NOT stop play! That does not mean the player who committed the offence is necessarily off Scott free, as MISCONDUCT can be dealt with at the NEXT stoppage!

Remember to, as a good communicator a referee needs to chew out the player who commits the foul whether he is or is not to be carded and touch base with the player who was fouled that he was ok to play through that last bit of hack and grab.

Now there is a learning curve here that suggests simple ball possession is in of itself not a true advantage! Certain areas of the field have reasons why advantage does not flourish well in the defending third. In situations where we EAT the whistle a second or two to await an outcome in the penalty area that was in truth advantage, just not the free flow advantage we might see in the mid third or attacking third outside the penalty area.

It is important to understand that it is an OPINION by you the referee whether advantage WAS achieved. Sure we might delay the whistle as even a weak shot could evade or deflect by the keeper however, just because a shot at goal occurs as one is falling or off balance or was closed down by an opponent because that niggling foul delayed the shot just enough to get there is NOT an advantage. An opportunity must be unaffected by the foul!


Read other questions answered by Referee Richard Dawson

View Referee Richard Dawson profile

Answer provided by Referee Gary Voshol

First remember that advantage means that, in your mind, the team is better off if you do not stop play than if they had a free kick. Advantage doesn't just mean they retained possession; advantage means they have a very good chance to do something positive with that possession.

There are two ways of evaluating advantage. Sometimes you can see it immediately, and then you signal and call out accordingly. If something happens within the 2-3 seconds after that, as a result of the foul, that takes away the advantage, you can call it back. Remember, it has to be a result of the foul. If A1 is fouled just as A2 has a shot on an open net, that's a good immediate advantage that can be called right away. If A2 totally muffs his shot, sending it yards high and wide, you don't call it back. Team A had their advantage; A2 just wasn't skilled enough to 'take advantage' of that advantage.

Other times you may need to wait the 2-3 seconds before you decide advantage applies. If that is the case, you have used up your time. You had better be pretty sure what you are calling, because this is your one chance to get it right. You've already given them the time to prove the advantage; you don't give that time again.

One more thing to consider is the location on the field when you are thinking about advantage. Teams seldom have a real advantage deep in their own half. Often times it is better to call the foul and set up the free kick. This demonstrates to everyone that you have seen the foul and are taking action. Playing the advantage, people can miss your signal and think, 'There's another one the ref missed.'

Read other questions answered by Referee Gary Voshol

View Referee Gary Voshol profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 21006
Read other Q & A regarding Law 5 - The Referee

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

See Question: 21020

See Question: 21025

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.