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Question Number: 27753

Law 1- The Field 9/12/2013

RE: Competitive Under 19

PC Dalton of Victoria, BC Canada asks...

Many of our games are played on multi-sport turf fields, with soccer, rugby, football and even baseball lines. During the course of play in a U-14 game, we had a keeper handle the ball on what he thought was the 18-yard box line, but was in fact the 20 yard football line. The centre ref red-carded the keeper, as his handling of the ball took away a clear scoring opportunity. Given that players being red-carded must sit out the following game in our leagues, this seems an unfortunately high penalty for what was a confusing situation. Just wondering how other refs cope with the issue of multiple lines affecting the application of rules.

Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi PC Dalton,

I appreciate your concern here, and it places referees in a difficult position. I referee in Australia on some fields with a similar concern. The approach, basically, is that it's the player's responsibility to keep track of which line is correct. Referees will apply discretion as much as possible (warning a player before taking a throw at the wrong line, or perhaps allow a small leeway if carrying the ball outside the penalty area - the laws do allow for trifling infringements, after all), but when the law is completely broken, we're still left with no choice but to apply the laws. For instance, if the player does take the throw at the wrong line, then he loses the throw.

The issue it raises is consistency - if the referee allows this breach of the law by not sending the player off, then he's forced himself into a position where he has to do the same thing for the rest of the match. Which is inviting the opposition to take advantage of it - intentionally leave the PA to handle the ball, for instance.

Many referees have learned from hard experience the perils of 'making a rod for one's own back' - and it's when referees start operating outside the law to try to do the right thing for the match that problems often occur, despite the best of intentions - not to mention, it may lead to a potential case for the match result to be disputed.

These are things that do happen - even in this age group. At least if the referee hasn't completely broken the laws then he knows he hasn't created the problem - though all referees know that sometimes the laws may not be completely fair.

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Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

The referee team should discuss the impact of poorly lined fields on whether an infringement is doubtful or trifling. It is part of my pregame when we play on multi-use fields.

On a punt by the keeper on such lines, my instructions are we warn - even if the kick is at the 20 yard line.

But, when the ball is coming toward the goal keeper on an obvious goal scoring opportunity, my view is that there is little room for doubtful or trifling. In a U8 match, the referee might stop play before the keeper touches the ball - explain the two lines - - and restart with a dropped ball. But, IMO, by U14, the keeper's mistake cannot be grounds to deny the opponent a goal.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

It is not an issue in Europe as most times games are played on fileds that are marked for soccer only.
When there is potential confusion about lines players have to take special care in game changing situations such as the one you describe. The referee is placed in an unenviable position as no matter what decision he makes will be seen as 'unfair' by either side. We can only surmise as to whether it was a genuine error of judgement or done deliberately to deny a goal scoring opportunity. As the offence happened then the correct decision is a direct free kick and as the foul denied an obvious goal scoring opportunity then the player is sent off, which is what happened.
In Europe any straight red card dismissal can be appealed and if a 'genuine' case is put forward the card can be rescinded. At underage though it is unlikely that appeal committees sit regularly and perhaps not soon enough before the next competive game so that the case can be heard.
FIFA is currently looking at the 'triple sanction' of these situations of a penalty kick, a sending off and a suspension. It will be 2014 I expect before a final decision is made. The mood is that the suspension may be done away with for DOGSO situations

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Answer provided by Referee Keith Contarino

Mulitple sport fields can be a nightmare. I can tell you what I have done in the past when faced with these confusingly lined fields.
Before the game I would talk to both coaches and players and tell them our goal was to be fair and consistent and we would not punish obvious mistakes due to the confusion caused by the multiple lines. We would give the keepers a verbal warning the first time then expect them to adjust but if there were so many lines that it was going to be an obvious problem the entire game, we would ignore most infractions.

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