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Question Number: 22805

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 2/8/2010

RE: Competive Adult

Harry Sommerfeld of Nanaimo, British Columbia Canada asks...

This scenario actually occurred in an adult level game.
A blue player attempting to play the high ball kicked a red player under the chin. This went undetected by the referee.
The assistant referee signaled foul and was mirrored by the second assistant.
Play continued on for approximately 9 minutes, and both assistants continued to signal without the referee noticing it.
Finally the blue team scored a goal and as the referee was walking back to restart he noticed the flags and approached the assistant who called the foul.
When he learned of the high kick - the referee disallowed the goal and awarded a direct free kick to the red team.
It should also be noted that a teammate of the injured player stayed behind, to tend to his injured teammate.
The question is: Did the referee make the right call in disallowing the goal?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Referee Sommerfeld
This is really beyond comprehension. First off there is no way that play continued for 9 minutes without a restart or this matter not being attended to? Secondly during this period I can't understand how, if both assistants were continuing to flag for this length of period plus a player down on the ground, that the referee did not see anything and allow play to continue? Surely the injured team wanted treatment for their team mate which usually results in shouting to stop play? That was the most important part of all this as what could be a serious injury was not dealt with immediately.
Technically if play had not restarted then the referee is entitled to make the disallowed goal call as the red team had been fouled and they were entitled to a DFK. If play had restarted from a TI, CK, FK etc and play had continued for 9 minutes then the goal should have stood.
Also there is advice given to referees and assistants referees where if play has continued for a reasonable length of period without a flag being noticed on a ball out of play and unless it is violent conduct then play should be allowed to continue. The same principle could apply here and certainly 9 minutes would be well outside that time period. To quote the ATR
"If the assistant referee signals a ball out of play but the referee does not see the signal for an extended period, during which play is stopped and restarted several times, the assistant referee should lower the flag. The FIFA Referee Committee has declared that it is impossible for the referee to act on the assistant referee's signal after so much play".
A right sorry mess with the referee crew here being culpable of poor team work and match management. This as described should just not happen and it is beyond me how it happened.

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Answer provided by Referee Gary Voshol

If this actually happened, I hope this referee was reported to the proper authorities for review. There is no way that two assistants' flags should be ignored for 9 minutes, no matter what the situation. Let alone that in this case the flags were for a potential dangerous injury to the head! Did no one have a voice to call out to the referee? There must be more to this story, at least we can all hope so.

However, if there was no intervening stoppage and restart, a referee is allowed to change his decision. So going back to the foul when (finally!) accepting the information of the AR is correct.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

I concur with my colleagues - whenever an assistant has a flag raised for any length of time, players and spectators will normally start shouting at the referee to look at his assistant.

Also, it would be extremely unusual for, in a 9 minute period, play not to move around the field enough that the injured player would fall into the referee's field of view.

Also, as Ref McHugh pointed out, it would seem peculiar that the red team weren't calling to kick the ball out.

Also, it would be very strange for the referee to not have to check the AR at least once in that period, even to check for an offside flag.

But, truth can be stranger than fiction.

First off, the referee is technically correct in disallowing a goal as the blue team has committed a foul prior to scoring. There is no time limit on how long the referee has to act on a foul that his assistant has signaled. Whether this is a common sense application of the law, though, is debatable.

However, if play has restarted (say, from a throw in) in that period, he then cannot go back to the foul.

If the referee saw the incident at all (a player going to ground clutching his face is a pretty good clue that something's happened), even if he believes play was fair or is unsure of what happened, he should keep a close eye on the injured player. For head injuries the referee should err on the side of caution and stop play very quickly.

As for the assistants, they should have shouted to get the referee's attention. Personally, my arm would be exhausted holding a flag in the air for nine minutes! Some officials believe that shouting to catch the referee's attention looks unprofessional; I believe it looks far, far more unprofessional to allow play to continue while the referee has missed the assistant's flag - not to mention that the well-being of the players should take precedence over some notion of 'professional appearance'.

At least the flag was mirrored though. Bizarre!

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Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

Had the ball gone out of play and restarted several times, a very old FIFA interpretation holds that so much time has expired that the referee can no longer address a missed flag (but must report what happened.) In the odd case you describe, however, it is easier for the referees team to go back to the foul than to explain why they failed to act sooner.

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Answer provided by Referee Michelle Maloney

I do hope you meant 9 seconds and not 9 minutes, as that sounds totally implausible. Even 9 seconds is a long time to go without glancing at either AR, especially if one team is closing on the goal. However, assuming it was 9 minutes, this needs to be reported to the assignor and any senior mentor referee types. It should not be ignored, swept under the rug or otherwise allowed to drop.

The ARs displayed proper mechanics - flag up, and mirrored - but more was required, unless the pregame had been 'Don't bother me while the ball is in play.' Now, that behavior I would report to my assignor, and would request not be assigned with the ego maniac again anytime.

And, yes, the referee (finally) made the right call in disallowing the goal in the circumstances as stated.

The 'more was required' is something all ARs should ask about in pregame - especially if the referee doesn't bring it up. 'Nigel, how do you want me to proceed if something dreadful happens behind your back and play must be stopped?' The only unacceptable answer is blow a whistle. Shout at me, run onto the field to deal with any misconduct if need be, if you are the other AR, mirror and if I'm brain dead enough not to see it, shout at me also! DO WHATEVER YOU HAVE TO DO TO GET MY ATTENTION! (short of blowing the whistle)

There is an excellent essay on pregame discussions on the main page. I highly recommend it.

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Answer provided by Referee Debbie Hoelscher

Holy Moses!! Nine minutes is a wicked long time. I can't really add anything more than what my esteemed colleagues have already written. But simply to say that if nine minutes truly did go by, then it would seem that the coaches and spectators were all remarkably well behaved, given their propensity to obnoxiously bellow out to the referee under the guise of 'helping the referee' to 'look at their assistant!'

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