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Question Number: 22710

Law 3 - Number of Players 1/9/2010

RE: any level Other

Joe Iano of Seattle, WA USA asks...

When a player is sent off for misconduct, when can the team replace that player with a substitute and when can then not?

For example, the referee has blown the whistle to end the first half. As the players are walking toward their team benches, one player commits violent conduct by punching an opponent. The referee sends off the offending player. Does that player's team play down a man for the remainder of the match?

What if the punch took place after the players were off the playing field but still within the arena?

Or what about violent conduct just a few seconds before the referee starts a match?

Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

Someone listed as a player who is sent off before the match begins may be replaced and the team does not play short. (Although the league/tournament rules may provide for no substitution of players scheduled as starters who cannot play - I've haven't encountered such a rule.)

After the match begins, a player sent off for any reason may not be substituted. This is true even if it happens during halftime (regardless of whether the player is on the field or in the locker room). Note: a different result applies under high school rules.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Referee Iano
If a player is sent off for violent conduct after the game has commenced he cannot be replaced and the team must play short. That includes the half time interval.

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Answer provided by Referee Michelle Maloney

My colleagues cite the general procedure, which is a player (not a sub or a subbed player) who is sent off during a game cannot be replaced under any circumstances. A named starter who is sent off before the game begins may be replaced with a named substitute. A player sent off at half time may not be replaced - the team plays short. A player sent off after the game goes into the report.

I suspect your question is aimed at most of the unlimited substitution games played in youth and adult recreational leagues where who is a player when is hard to keep straight, especially during half-time. If the referee isn't sure whether a player was on the field at the end of the half or not, he will have to gather all the info he can from the ARs and make the best decision he can. If the referee cannot determine whether the player was an actual player at the time or is instead a substitute, then the only reasonable choice is to make sure the sent off player does not return, but the team will not play short.

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Answer provided by Referee Tom Stagliano

Referee Iano

Under high school (NFHS) the answers might be different.

If, after the whistle is blown to end the first half, two opponents begin to fight, those two players will be dismissed from the game, but both teams will start the second half with eleven players in a high school game.

College (NCAA) rules are similar to FIFA LOTG for this scenario, and if two opponents, who were playing when the first half ended, get into a fight during the half-time interval, they are dismissed from the game, and the teams will play short-handed, unless those players had been formally substituted (notification given to the official score-keeper in the NCAA game), and then the team may start the second half with eleven.

Personally, for all recreation games (youth or adult) which have unlimited substitutions (similar to high school games), I (as their referee) will dismiss the two opponents, but if the issue arose during the half-time interval I would allow both teams to start the second half with 11 players. It is recreational soccer, and everyone is trying to get as much playing time and enjoyment as possible. There may very well be 6 or 7 substitutes waiting to get into the game.

Under all soccer laws and rules (FIFA, NFHS, and NCAA) if a player is dismissed prior to the start of the game, the team is allowed to start with eleven players. However, under strict FIFA LOTG, the replacement will come from the named list of substitutes, and the team may not add a name to the list of substitutes. e.g. there are five named substitutes. The team will start with eleven players, but will only have four people that could be used for the three subtsitution opportunities during the game. However, very few recreational games use strict FIFA substitution laws.

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Answer provided by Referee Steve Montanino

I agree with the statements above.

Let me add the following:

1. All player send-off's are the result of misconduct. A foul in and of itself is not sufficient to result in a send-off, but some fouls can be misconduct.

2. Last year a player was sent-off for receiving a second caution at half-time. This was during one of the local league games in my area. The referee and both teams knew this player was in the game when the half-time whistle was sounded.

However, the referee permitted the team to retain 11 players for the second half. The opposing team lost and protested.

The league was forced to order the match be replayed in full. So, even in games with unlimited subsitutions (as this one was) you must still apply the laws correctly or the consequences can be stiff.

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Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 22710
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: 22719

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