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Question Number: 29699

Law 3 - Number of Players 9/14/2015

RE: Select Under 17

Matt of BRISTOW, VA United States asks...

I have two questions on mechanics.

Last night, I was AR1 (on the teams' touchline) for a match. Early in the second half, the visiting team scored the game's first goal. After play was restarted, the home team's parents notified the other AR that the visiting team had 12 players. He immediately (it was at or just prior to a stoppage in play) started counting and said 'I have 11 plus a goalie.' The center and myself both counted 10 + a goalie which was then confirmed by the other AR. Play resumed and the game concluded without further incident (other than an upset coach/team). During our post-game discussion, it was confirmed that both AR's counted 11 prior to play starting for the second half.

My questions are, #1) What are the proper mechanics for counting players at the start of the half or game? Should each AR count one side and the center count both sides, providing redundancy?

#2) Should I as the AR on the bench side of the field count players or keep an eye on the sideline to check for folks sneaking on/off the field if a 12th player is suspected?

If there was a 12th player, that was one obvious mistake we made. However, the most grievous error we made in my opinion was a failure to communicate once the issue was brought to our attention. My biggest lesson learned is when there is a stoppage of play for an issue like this, the center or the AR to whom it was reported should alert the other crewmembers so that they know what is going on and can take appropriate action. As is, it was left to the center and myself to react to the 2nd AR saying he counted 11 + a goalie.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Matt
Ultimately it is the responsibility of the referee to check player numbers at the start and also after half time. If good control is exerted over the technical area by the AR on that side there should be no opportunities to add an extra player. That means being alert at substitution and also at goals if there is players leaving the technical area to get involved. At higher levels substitutes must wear bibs which is a help in identifying numbers.
Now if an AR wants to check the numbers for redundancy then that is fine.
As regards as to what should happen once alerted the AR can make a quick check to confirm numbers. If that highlights a problem then the AR must inform the CR immediately with a raised flag. If someone such as a parent is shouting about an extra player that can be checked instantly. It should rarely if ever arise if the controls are put in place and enforced correctly.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Matt,
prior to ...ANY... restart the CR should get eye contact with both ARs to be sure something had not occurred out of his sight that makes the restart invalid or as a fact of play uncontestable.
There will be quickly taken free kicks or a fast throw in that might make this mechanic difficult but for kick offs at the start of half or after goals this must always occur. In starting the match or restarting the match I offer a thumbs up to each AR who in turn nod or offer same. This is a standard ,' Good to go signal! The game inside the touchlines and the goal lines is where focus is required. ARs can easily get into following the ball out of play even try to stop it or get caught up in the conversations going on behind. When a goal is scored the near AR and CR are quick to confirm, yup everything is a go. Depending on the pregame instructions the far AR should be looking to the field for anything that could compromise a restart. Goal celebrations can be very emotional and it is not unusual for the substitutes to rush out if it is near touchlines to join in so a mixing of players who should be or should not be there can be a concern. So some attention and a count of those on the pitch is not the worst of ideas so when that AR gets the thumbs up from the referee saying his count says we are good to go you are also satisfied there are the right number of players on the pitch as well! The flag raised which the other AR mirrors and points and or a simple call out to the CR we need to talk! At the recreational levels we do not have buzzer flags and radios so we adapt a more hands on communication protocall. The unfurled flag my colleague suggest is one of those secret signals of non verbal communication

If a team DOES manage to sneak or by accident to have an extra player and they overhear touchline chatter or talk or see the AR counting, not to say the coach grabs the nearest player and yanks him off quickly. The ARs are responsible for noting such stuff in behind the play. The key to proper substitutions is procedure, if you follow it, even with unlimited substitutions, it decreases the chances of an accidental extra player gumming up the works by 99.9%!

The .1% does still happen. I am quite a stickler for sub protocol even when working as a single official with no ARS . I get those stepping off to raise their hands to signal they are off the field BEFORE I wave the 1, 2, 3, or 5 subs in at whatever level of skill we are at.
I did this at a youth tournament where I waved in three blue players after three blue players, waved they were off . A short time later I noted the blue team dominating the right corner with 3 attacker's surrounding 1 defender yet all other defenders appeared to be marked as even the opposing keeper was pushed up. I realize they are too many blue players and stop play. Thinking What in blue blazes just happened? Earlier one blue player had walked out the technical area to use the washroom by the stands . He just happened to be waving to his relatives in the stand and was only a few yards away from the touchline where another teammate had left as a substitute. So I saw them as two off in behind me and I noted that one had run off at the mid so I saw 3 off waved 3 on! Oops only two off! Best laid plans always a monkey in there somewhere lol!

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Answer provided by Referee Gary Voshol

I agree that it is the responsibility of the referee to determine the proper number of players.

The AR can give a 'silent secret' signal that she has counted the players as well. If her flag is unfurled, that means she considers everything ready to go. If the flag is still wrapped up, the referee should be questioning what is wrong.

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