Soccer Referee Resources
Ask a Question
Recent Questions

RSS FEED Subscribe Now!

Q&A Quick Search
The Field of Play
The Ball
The Players
The Players Equipment
The Referee
The Other Match Officials
The Duration of the Match
The Start and Restart of Play
The Ball In and Out of Play
Fouls and Misconduct
Free Kicks
Penalty kick
Throw In
Goal Kick
Corner Kick

Common Sense
Kicks - Penalty Mark
The Technical Area
The Fourth Official
Attitude and Control
League Specific
High School

Common Acronyms
Meet The Ref
Contact AskTheRef
Help Wanted
About AskTheRef
Panel Login

Question Number: 30193

Law 3 - Number of Players 3/14/2016

RE: Rec Other

scott of Livermore, CA USA asks...

If a referee allows a player to leave the field (say to correct an equipment issue, or due to injury)and his team temporarily plays down a man, can the referee allow the player to re-enter the game during active play, or must he wait for a stoppage?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Scott
If it is simply a player returning from a regular injury treatment then the player can return during active play. However if the referee has to inspect the player say because of a blood injury to see that the bleeding has been stopped with perhaps no blood on his kit or that the equipment has been corrected as requested such as the removal of jewellery then that can only be done at a stoppage in play.
This law is always misunderstood by players and coaches as they believe it is the same as a regular injury return. When the referee does not allow the return until a stoppage so as to carry out the check on the player the team can get very irate as they cannot understand why the player is just not waved back on as normal. Also on occasion the referee may forget it is a blood injury and just wave the player back on.
This happened to me recently when a player had to leave for a minor nose bleed. A goal was scored and play went up to the other end of the field. A few minutes later I heard a shout from the physio that the player was now ready to return. With my focus on play which was quite intense at the time I forgot that the player had left for a blood injury and that needed to be inspected. Anyway I looked at the player after that wave on to see that his nose was not bleeding and that there was no blood on his kit.
A final point I would make is that the referee should not allow a returning player to re-enter into the middle of active play but rather wait until play has left that vicinity. It is unfair for a player who is not factored into the play by the opponents as he is off the FOP to get beckoned on into the middle of players to begin contesting immediately. It is wise in a regular injury to wait a few seconds until play has left that area or when the ball goes dead to beckon back on the player.

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe McHugh

View Referee Joe McHugh profile

Answer provided by Referee Joe Manjone


In high school play, the player has to wait until the ball is dead (out-of-play) to return. This is covered in rule 3-7 which states: 'A team that elects to play shorthanded for reasons other than misconduct may have the player(s) enter during a dead ball. A ball is dead (out of play) when it completely crosses the goal or touch line or when the referee sounds his/her whistle. I hope you are having a successful season.

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe Manjone

View Referee Joe Manjone profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 30193
Read other Q & A regarding Law 3 - Number of Players

Soccer Referee Extras

Did you Ask the Ref? Find your answer here.

Enter Question Number

If you received a response regarding a submitted question enter your question number above to find the answer

Offside Question?

Offside Explained by Chuck Fleischer & Richard Dawson, Former & Current Editor of AskTheRef

This web site and the answers to these questions are not sanctioned by or affiliated with any governing body of soccer. The opinions expressed on this site should not be considered official interpretations of the Laws of the Game and are merely opinions of AskTheRef and our panel members. If you need an official ruling you should contact your state or local representative through your club or league. On AskTheRef your questions are answered by a panel of licensed referees. See Meet The Ref for details about our panel members.