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Question Number: 30414

Law 3 - Number of Players 5/15/2016

RE: rec Under 9

Chris of winchester, ky usa asks...

The team kicks the ball off and goes down the field and scores. The opposing team doesn't have all players on the field, because they do not realize the quarter is starting. The ref calls the play back and says 'no goal'. Does the ref have the responsibility to count the number of players/ask if the goalie is ready before the kick off?

Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Chris,
The laws of the game require a minimum number of players on the field at a kickoff - for 11-a-side, it's 7 player.s Having said that, the intent is for the referee to ensure all 11 players are on the field (unless, for instance, some players aren't ready but kickoff is due). If the referee mistakenly begins the match with fewer than 7 and more than 11 players and a goal is scored straight away, the match was never legally started so must begin again.

If the match was started with a 'legal' number of players but the referee simply didn't manage the kickoff then that creates a difficult situation. Having said that, the focus at this age group is on a safe and fair match rather than winning or strict application of the LOTG. As such the referee can use his judgement on fairness. So I don't think the referee has done the wrong thing in restarting the quarter here - although the situation should have been prevented.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Chris
The Laws of the Game require a minimum of 7 player out of 11 for a game to commence or to continue. One player must be a goalkeeper. When those requirements are not met the game cannot proceed. In Small Sided games it is not specified except in the rules of competition yet with 9 a side perhaps 6 / 7 would also be required.
Now good practise by the referee suggests that a check should be made before the referee signals for the game to begin. Most do this along with a courtesy check of the GKs although not required in Law. It just prevents difficulties arising and questions being asked.
I once had an unusual situation in an adult game. At half time both teams returned to the field of play. It was Blue to kick off. I counted both teams and I got 11 on Green and 10 outfield player on Blue. I saw that the Green GK was ready and as play was attacking that end to allow the start. I just assumed that as Blue was ready to go the Blue GK was present. No inclination from either team that they were not ready nor from Blue off the FOP in the technical area that the team was short its GK and it was not ready to start. Ball gets played back and guess what no GK. I immediately stopped the game and once the GK returned I restarted with a kick off as the law required that a GK must be present on both teams. Now had a goal been scored on either side it would have to be disallowed. No issue from either team other then a ribbing of the GK for his late return and it taught me a valuable lesson about assumptions.
Now in your situation perhaps the GK was not present. Perhaps the referee felt that one team was being tardy on returning for restarts with lengthy coaching and he wanted to show what could happen if he decided to restart. Perhaps he felt that it was unfair once he realised that one team was short.
In the spirit though of Fair Play I believe it is always appropriate to have 11 v 11 or whatever on the FOP to start the game.

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