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Question Number: 28795

Mechanics 9/27/2014

RE: Intermediate Under 13

Phil of Tarzana, CA United States asks...

In a U12 game, red attacker was dribbling toward the penalty area. Right at the penalty area, the GK grabbed the attacker's shirt. It happened so fast, I couldn't tell whether it was inside the penalty area.

However, the red attacker kept control & entered the penalty area past the GK, with no one in front of him. As he moved forward, he reached out & pushed the GK away, as the GK was trying to play the ball. At that point, I called a foul on the red attacker.

All the parents on the red team side got upset, although my AR explained to them that I had played advantage.

Here are my questions:
1. I seem to remember advice on this site that it wasn't wise to actually call advantage in the penalty area. i.e. you could play advantage but shouldn't say it out loud or make a sweeping motion with your arms. However, it seems to me that it would have been wiser to do so, not necessarily because of what the parents tnink, but the red player said: 'But he pulled my shirt.' That is, he felt I hadn't called the foul on the GK. So my first question is, don't you think I should have verbally called ' on'?

2. Was I correct in calling the foul against the red player? This all happened very fast. I just felt that had he not pushed the GK (a clear foul), he would have either scored or I would have allowed a free kick from the edge of the penalty area.

3. Although the ball was not inside the PA at the time of the first foul, I want to make sure I understand the area. If the edge of the ball furthest from the goal passes the edge of the PA line furthest from the goal, then it's inside the that correct?

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Phil,
ok lets try to get through this logically.

We suggest not to call out advantage in the penalty area because the DFK FOUL is a PK opportunity. A PK is a great advantage, would you not agree? We DELAY the whistle to see if a shot goes into goal. We do not want to stop that opportunity to score but that opportunity must be equal to the PK at the very least.

If you say you applied advantage or were you waiting to see if an advantage was there on a foul and you are unsure if it was inside or outside the PA you NEED to know the POINT of the foul is where it OCCURS not the ball location unless of course the foul is deliberately handles the ball.

By the way consider the PA boundary lines in the same manner as the touchlines imagine the are a 5 inch wall of water extending straight up into the sky! IF ANY part of the ball is WET it is inside the PA even if the rest of the ball is dry. The lines are PART of the area they define! The touch lines work the same way, any part of the ball is wet, the ball is in play

Also advantage is not just a continued possession or keep play moving but a much better opportunity to attack or score than the free kick itself. IF the keeper was there it sounds as if the advantage is dicey at best and you STILL can go back to the original foul check with the AR as to the location and award a DFK just outside or a PK if the AR confirms the foul was inside. A holding foul is a CONTINIOUS FOUL that if started outside but continues inside it is automatically a PK.

You ask if you were correct? You made a choice based on your current understanding of the LOTG and what you actually saw. As law 5 states about facts of play you were indeed correct.

Now COULD you have done it different?
You obviously made a match decision the foul was NOT in the PA correct?
So yes you could have stated play on! and shown the advantage signal because you have determined the foul is OUTSIDE the PA NOT INSIDE and he was home free in on goal. But it does not sound as if there was one. You were waiting or swallowing the whistle to SEE what was happening!
We did not see the situation you did! My gut is screaming the better option was to award the initial foul as there was no real advantage especially given your fast timeline but then...

You must have determined the shirt pull was not cautionable or a DOGSO which is a send off show the red card , yet your description begs me to consider these options! The shirt pull which you acknowledge as a definite foul not a trifling or doubtful event, did not stop the great scoring opportunity, the keeper did not close down the striker because of the delay in him pulling free, a great angle to score was always there not lessened by the pursuing keeper who somehow was still challenging him for the ball? You awarded the free kick against the player because you decided there was a great advantage and he had the opportunity and skill set to take FULL advantage but the terrible decision to push the keeper could not be ignored and it was the player's own actions that took away the opportunity rather than shoot earlier?
It was your match, your decision, your reputation.

In hindsight do you think the advantage was FULLY realized? DO you think that perhaps awarding the free kick or pk and perhaps even cautioned or sent off the keeper is more in line with the situation or are you happy with fairness of the decisions you chose? look at question 28785 for a bit more clarity


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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Phil
As you have found out playing advantage can be one of the hardest decisions a referee will make in a goal scoring opportunity. It is a skill that needs to be developed and mastered to be used effectively. When it happens at half way it is a much easier call. If the referee brings play back to the foul then there might be a moan but nothing more. In the penalty area or close to it situation it becomes much more difficult. I watched this very situation unfold in a senior National Cup game I attended recently and the referee awarded the penalty and dismissed the goalkeeper. There was a view that the foul by the GK was at best trifling (I could not see it but it could have been a tug) and some believed that the attacker had pushed the goalkeeper in the scramble for the ball. That though happened after the first foul by the GK
Now in your situation there are a number of points to be made.
1. If the attacking player had to push the goalkeeper to continue with play then it was highly unlikely that advantage could have been realised. As you say it happened so fast it was unlikely that there was time so it could have been brought back to the original foul. As you determined that it was outside the penalty area then you could go with the advantage signal and call. As it was a tight call you can as they say swallow the whistle for a second or two without the advantage signal and then make the call. I also suspect that had you called out and signalled advantage there would have been a question mark over whether there was an advantage with shouts of Where is the advantage there ref. I also suspect that the heavy push by the attacker may have seemed to trump the more minor shirt tug particularly when the attacker continued with perhaps no apparent affect from the foul.
2. As you know once an advantage has been realised then a subsequent foul needs to be called. I doubt that the push should have been called but rather the shirt pull as there was no advantage here
3. The inbound DFK or penalty kick then requires the referee to make a call on the disciplinary sanction. It is certainly a caution and if the conditions for denying an obvious opportunity to score are present then the denial results in a red card.
Also on a foul the position of the ball is not relevant. It is the position of the player. So for a penalty to be awarded here the attacking player has to have broken the plane of the penalty area line when the jersey was pulled. For me if it is a tight call and if I'm unsure, as is my AR, then it is outside the penalty area.
For information the line is part of the penalty area so the plane begins at the edge of the line with all the line included.

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Answer provided by Referee Gene Nagy


The proper application of the advantage clause is an art and the sign of a great referee is when he mastered this art. Just like piano playing, it can only be learned with practice.

In your first question, there seems to be a contradiction. You either play the advantage or you don't. What you actually did was WAITED to see if an advantage would develop. The only way to play an advantage is to signal it and vocally calling it. There is no such thing as playing it and not calling it. This move of 'waiting' was correct. You have a second or two (three?) to decide to call it or not. Since you were 'waiting', you still had a chance to do so but clearly with grave repercussions like a send off for DOGSO and a possible PK. But while you were dithering the attacker fouled the goalie, and your goose was cooked. You waited too long, even if it was just two seconds...

Vitor Melo Pareira, the great Portuguese referee, gave us the advice that by far most of the time there is no advantage to be gained in both the defending or attacking third of the field. MOST of the time!

Your incident may well have been one of those exceptions but the result suggests otherwise. So in future, just call the foul instead of letting the game flow.

So the answer is no, you should not have called advantage at all.

Question 2. Sadly you have already dug yourself a grave. If there was no advantage called and we are now irrevocably in the next phase of play since the opportunity for the advantage is in the distant past, you clearly did your job calling a foul. That's what refs do: stop play for fouls. But I fully understand why the red parents were getting red in the face!

Question 3. Balls don't foul players. Players do. The ref decides where that happened and it is clearly the players, not the ball. The only time the location of the ball comes into play if it's a hand ball or in and out of play.

Think of it this way. I was reffing a U16 game and the goalie punted the ball way up field. But I noticed that the goalie was not too pleased with the actions of the attacker, who by the way was still picking himself off the ground and I kept an eye on them, even after the ball landed and was being dribbled forward towards the other goal. When the ball was approaching the other PA and of course by now most of the layers were well away from the goalie in question, he punched the attacker the goalie probably thinking nobody was looking that way.

Well, I was looking. Guess what? The ball is a good 60 yards away and I call a PK for something that happens far away from the location of the ball! Yes, I sent the goalie off as well...

I think this a great lesson for you. Next time, no grave digging! Just call the foul and don't give advantage BUT remember, you still have a bit of time to make up your mind for those rare exceptions.

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Answer provided by Referee Gary Voshol

USSF has instructed us not to verbalize or signal advantage inside the penalty area. Either advantage is realized because the ball goes in the net, or it is not realized because there was no goal and you call it back for the penalty kick. If the goal is scored, you don't have to signal advantage any more because everyone has seen it happen.

The only difference is when advantage is realized, and then the player screws it up - as our friend Jim Allen liked to say, 'He had his advantage and then he squandered it.' Usually that is a situation where the player continues despite the foul and is perfectly situated in front of an open net where he can't possibly miss, and yet he whiffs the ball wide or high and misses. Your attacker with the retaliatory push is another instance of squandering the advantage. If he'd just gone on playing instead of striking back, would he have scored? Then advantage was realized and the player simply messed up. It was your game, so you had to make that decision. Was the (silent) advantage realized or not? If not, you can go back to the free kick / penalty kick - but with a good word to the attacker about letting you call the game, that you were waiting to see, and he shouldn't take it upon himself to 'punish' his opponent.

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Answer provided by Referee MrRef

Hi Phil,
As you can likely gauge by the answers' of panel members I believe what we all are hinting at is advantage is not an easy concept to master. This concept you are wrestling with is more of a notion of applying advantage by delaying or suppressing the call and your attempt to verify this, if you recognize at the time of the foul that stopping play would actually be less beneficial than truly helping the team fouled against. This two or 3 second window of EVALUATION is one that caught you out because of the actions of the attacker who was initially fouled but then needed to ward off this same keeper who was still challenging for the ball

IF you recognized that advantage had developed and was FULLY realized, only then are you supposed to say/signal' advantage, play on' This lets players know you saw the foul but were clever enough not to stop play. You don't want to signal advantage and subsequently call the foul! If you apply advantage for a foul that warrants a caution or send off, as one of those dicey situations, you can dig yourself a big hole if your situational awareness is misdirected. Or as Ricky used to say LUCY you got some hisplaining to do! lol
If you are CERTAIN the player had a CLEAR advantage BETTER than any free kick but then the player decided on his own to wreck it or toss it under the bus it is his tough luck and likely a bit of yours as well.

Advantage can be applied to ANY situation ANY where on the field but it is NOT without risks. If it comes off you can look hero or if it flubs like goat!
this was a hero moment

It is often mentioned it is unwise in certain situations and in certain areas of the field but we are talking the MECHANICS not being on display here not the theory of advantage and justice! Every situation has the what if, element that can make swallowing the whistle to wait just a bit, which may not signal advantage in context of the yelling and arm thrusts but it is as equally beneficial if it permits the fouled team to get justice. You could indicate you saw something by communicating directly to the players if one is hassling/fouling the other, I am RIGHT here! ' bad idea' 'let him go' 'that's not your shirt'

You are doing what all referees do who are serious about improving which is to revaluate and go over match decisions in the post game. So keep up the good work
From our pitch to your pitch in the spirit of fairplay

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