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Question Number: 31868

Law 5 - The Referee 10/5/2017

RE: Varsity High School

Heather of Bradford, PA USA asks...

Hi there!

I was at a game last night where Red was inside Black's box. One red player was attempting to shoot and one Black defender was defending and the Black goalie was able to come out and grab the ball. The black goalie then cleared the ball and play continued. 30 seconds later one ref waved his hands in the air (no whistle) and walked over to the other ref. They then called a foul in the box and set up for a penalty kick. Black's coach asked what the foul was and on which player but the refs said they did not know and would not announce what the foul was or on whom.

The penalty kick resulted in a goal.

I have two questions regarding this ... 1. Is there a time limit on how soon calls need to be made. 2. Do the refs have to announce the foul and the player it was called on if asked by the coach?

Thank you for your help.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Heather
Reads rather strange to me. Tradition and common usage are very strong in soccer. Thirty seconds is a very long time in a soccer game between something happening and a decision being made. When I read this it reminds me of the advice that was given many years ago on an unseen assistant referee signal. The advice was that if the assistant referee signals a ball out of play but the referee does not see the signal for an extended period, during which play is stopped and restarted, the assistant referee should lower the flag. The FIFA Referee Committee at the time had declared that it is impossible for the referee to act on an assistant referees signal after so much play.
So while not an AR this reads to me like a dual system of refereeing was being used yet both referees should have a whistle to make calls. I am not familiar with that system yet the overarching principle is that a call is made in a timely manner when seen by a match official.
Research of the system tells me that in 1973, Joseph Bonchonsky introduced an idea for soccer officiating that called for shared authority and the reduction of *off-the-ball* fouls by allowing three referees on the field with whistles. This system of officiating was created to give the officials more of a presence on the field.
interestingly the advantages cited for the system when used properly are
1.   Greater Officiating Resources—More officials are involved in the enforcement of rules;
2.   Increased Surveillance—The system gains strength from increased observance and control of play and players by three referees, rather than a single referee;
3.   Close Proximity to Play—Brings decision-making referees physically closer to play, players and occurrences that need to be observed and controlled in view of the flexibility of movement within the system;
4.   Spontaneous Decisions—Shortens reaction time to violations by eliminating the need for one official to signal a decision-making official for action;
5.   Behind Play Fouls Better Controlled—Helps reduce unpenalized violations behind an officials back by having decision-making referees at each end of play as well as in the middle;
6.   Distributes Game Demands—Burden of making critical decisions becomes a responsibility of all three referees instead of one. Thus the psychological and emotional stresses generated by coaches, players and spectators are diffused.
In particular point 4 is relevant in that the decisions need to be instantaneous so I do not know why the referee did not whistle instantly the foul was committed?
It also helps the game if the decision is conveyed to the players such as Player Black X kicked Player Red Y. Any decision also has to be made in way that make handling such incidents credible. A long lengthy delay does not help sell the decision even if it is correct with the one exception of violent conduct where a player has to be sent off for striking an opponent. That will be obvious to all as to why the action is being taken.
In respect of your question
1. There is no set time for a call to be made yet the principle is that it should be made in a timely manner. When too much time passes it lacks credibility to go back to the original call and hence it raises questions like yours
2. Communication is part of refereeing. While it is not required to announce a call good mechanics would suggest that a call should be explained. It helps to maintain match control and also to educate players, coaches etc. I see no reason why a referee would not say why the call was made to the players whatever about to a coach on the sideline who us a distance away from the action.


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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Heather,
The dual referee system generally has one referee at each end doing most of the calls in the PA at their end. Yet once in a while the far CR will see something from a specific angle and want to make the other referee aware of it first rather than make a straight out call. Just to confirm if they were ok letting it slide as trifling or doubtful if they had in fact ACTUALLY seen it.

One can play advantage which can remove a restart if advantage is applied but to delay a call such as a PK invites scrutiny and credibility issues if not done as my colleagues' espouses, in a timely manner.

To not say what the PK is awarded for reeks of pettiness and indecision. It sets up needless controversy & speculation about fairness etc...

I had a referee award a PK for the keeper deliberately handling the ball OUTSIDE his PA. This was against the LOTG & protestable as it could ONLY be a DFK outside the PA where the ball was actually contacted illegally. So if he kept the reason for the PK a secret imagine the uproar if scored?

Referees who dig holes to fall into or find swords to fall upon just make their duties far harder.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe Manjone


I know that Pennsylvania uses the three whistle (Three referees on the field) system for high school. From your description, it sounds as this was the case.

if either referee saw a foul that was to result in a penalty kick, a whistle should have been sounded and the clock stopped. You indicate that there was not whistle. Hopefully, the clock was stopped for the penalty kick.

Also, because education is a main priority in high school soccer, the referee who made the call should have told either or both the captain and coaches what occurred? Informing the teams about a call creates a learning situation for all involved.

Calls can be made as long as a game is not stopped and restarted. In this case, the game was not stopped so the penalty kick could be called. If the game has been stopped with a whistle and then restarted, the penalty kick could not be called.

I hope that your team has a successful season.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Heather,
Whatever else this was, it would seem to be very poor mechanics by the refereeing crew. As ref Manjone mentions, so long as play has not subsequently stopped and restarted it is legal to go back for a 'missed call'. However, waiting a full 30 seconds, not sounding a whistle and then not clarifying what the call was for has created a very messy and undesirable situation.

I find it very difficult to conceive of a referee (or referees) giving a penalty but then claiming they didn't know what they were awarding it for. So honestly I'm at a bit of a loss as to know what exactly was going on here.

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