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Question Number: 22795

Law 18 - Common Sense 2/4/2010

RE: Championship game High School

Joy of Hilo, HI USA asks...

What should happen if a referee knocks a defensive player down while he was trying to get to the ball to clear it out. Then the ball goes directly to an attacker who shoots it and scores. I have heard people say the referees are a part of the field but I don't think the field knocks players down. I believe that it should be considered interference and a drop ball should occur where the player was knocked down.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Referee Joy
Both NFHS and FIFA/USSF treat this alike but under either code it is a poor mistake by the referee.
In the LotG the referee is as you say 'part of the field of play' and play continues. If a player ran into a goalpost and fell down play would continue unless of course there was a serious injury to the player. The same can happen on a clearance of the ball where say a defender clears the ball from inside the PA, hits the referee, rebounds to an unmarked attacker who scores or even goes directly into the goal off the referee. Those unfortunately are goals and very red faced referees.
Referees should examine very closely the positions they take up along with their running paths. Clearly referees should not take up space that players want to use nor should they get in the way of the ball and play. Assessors/instructors look closely at situations where the ball has struck the referee or he/she has got caught up in play and they give advice how to prevent this.
If the referee fell over in a contact situation he could stop play and restart with a dropped ball from where the ball was when play was stopped if he/she was not in a position to see what subsequently transpired. It is likely though with assistants that either will have seen subsequent play and therefore play should be allowed to continue.
He/she could also stop play if the player on the ground was injured in the contact. Again play is restarted with a dropped ball from where play was stopped. If the player has only a minor injury then play should be allowed to continue. Note all the ifs in these.
I know some sports have a compulsory stoppage in these situations such as rugby. Unfortunately soccer is not one of them and the referee has to abide by the Laws on these matters even if it appears patently unfair.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

If the referee is considered part of the field of play if hit by a ball, it would seem inconsistent to change that approach if it's a player.

The correct approach is allow play to continue, cross your fingers in hope that the attacker misses his shot, and apologise!

I would prefer the referee to have discretion over allowing play to stop and restart with a drop ball, but unfortunately the Questions and Answers on the Laws of the Game have prevented that.

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Answer provided by Referee Keith Contarino

The referee IS a part of the field. Unfortunately we sometimes get positioned poorly and interfere with play but if the ball hits us or a player gets tripped or runs into us, we still have to let play continue. The few times this has happened to me, I yellow carded myself at the next opportunity to add a little levity. Of course, these were rec games

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Answer provided by Referee Tom Stagliano

Referee Joy

This might very well happen in a high school game refereed using the Dual Referee system. The lead referee will be near the goal line and six yards away from the near goal post during a sustained attack. That lead referee should try his or her hardest to stay away from the players and out of the immediate area of play.

Similarly, using the DSC, the CR may go to the goal line during a corner kick. Again, the referee should remain out of the immediate area of play.

However, things happen and it is possible for the referee to unintentionally interfere. Unfortunately in that event, the play continues as the referee is part of the field. It is no different running into the referee as running into one of your team mates, and that happens far more often.

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