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Question Number: 27736

Law 9 - The Ball in and out of Play 9/7/2013

RE: Recreational Under 12

Brian H of Seattle, Washington USA asks...

It has become a common occurrence in our league that coaches, substitute players, and/or spectators stop balls going over the touchline in order to prevent the ball from hitting spectators or going too far from the FOP. However, many times well-intentioned people stop the ball before it completely crosses the line. The fields do not have technical areas, but the league specifies an unmarked 2-yard 'keep out' area along each touch line, which applies to all personnel including coaches and substitutes (I am usually lax on enforcing this for coaches). Basic geometry tells me that it would be extremely difficult if not impossible for a person, especially an 11-year-old child, to touch the ball before it completely leaves the FOP while still observing the 'keep out' area.

The de facto method of handling balls being touched by coaches or substitutes has been that since it was going out of play anyways, play should be restarted with a throw-in. Most of the time when this has happened in games where I have been CR, there were no other players with a reasonable chance of playing the ball before it left play, so I handled it as above. However, there are rare occasions where a coach or substitute player touches a ball that has not gone completely out of play and at least one player has a reasonable chance of stopping it from leaving play. What is the proper way of handling this? Do I handle it as above with a throw-in? Has the offending coach or substitute committed a foul or misconduct punishable by a yellow card and a free kick to the opposing team? Or is this handled as an outside agent and restarted with a dropped ball?

Answer provided by Referee Gary Voshol

A substitute would be cautioned for unsporting behavior. Play is restarted with an indirect free kick.

The coach's behavior would be reported (equivalent to a player's caution), or the coach could be dismissed (equivalent to a player being sent off). But no cards are shown to coaches. Play is restarted with a dropped ball.

A spectator is an outside agent. The game should be stopped until the powers that be ensure the spectator leaves the area - that's the coach in most cases, but some sites have field marshalls, and pros have security. The restart for interference by an outside agent is a dropped ball.

Now all of that seems very draconian for a youth game, and would not be advisable. You can't say the ball was going out, let's just do a throw-in. Instead, you should remind the person that the ball has to go out without interference. Make the reminders more forceful if repeated. Then because you, the referee, have stopped play for a reason not in the Laws of the Game - to scold someone - the restart is a dropped ball. You can probably manage that so the team who would have gotten the throw-in gets the ball. Only if the behavior continues would you resort to the caution/dismissal/get-rid-of-the-fan scenario.

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Answer provided by Referee Keith Contarino

Ref Voshol correctly gives what the LOTG require. However, at such a young age, if everyone is ok with restarting with a throw-in, then by all means stick with that. It would be wise to use those times as teaching moments and explain that per the Laws restarts should be dropped ball or indirect free kick if the ball is not allowed to go out of play.

I would also emphasize that this would not be tolerated at age groups even a year or two older than your kids. We tend to allow lots of things when dealing with 6-11 year old kids and their parents/coaches that we would never allow at 12 and up. Ref McHugh rightly points out that match control could become a problem but usually not with very young players, at least that has been my experience over the years.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Brian
In my opinion this is not a good policy and one that should not be allowed for the reason that the situation can cause match control issues where a coach, substitute etc does this to disadvantage the opposing team. It is as easy to stop the ball when it crosses the line rather than stopping it on the field of play.
The technical answer is when it happens is a dropped ball from where the ball was touched on the field of play by a coach, spectator etc and the referee has to decide what further sanction to take. It could be a warning or a removal based on the circumstances.
If it is done by a substitute it is a cautionable offence and the restart is an IDFK.

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