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Law XV - Helpful Mechanics


A player attacking the goal on that end of the field takes a throw-in from the area near the middle of the field.

Throw-ins performed along the touch line on the opposite side of the filed from your position do not mean that you have nothing to do. If you are on the side with coaches and substitutes, make sure that there are no substitute awaiting to enter the game. Make sure to position yourself even with the second-to-last defender and come into the field as far as you are comfortable to make the field smaller. The lead referee can also look into the back of the play to detect any misconduct that could be missed by your fellow referee. Importantly, remember that a player that receives the ball directly from a throw-in, even though in an offside position, cannot be offside.

The trail referee needs to be position near the touch line to judge whether the throw-in is taken from the proper position and in the correct manner. When the throw-in is further up the field and the defenders in your half of the field are further back, you have to decide whether to stick with the second-to-last defender in the event of a quick change of direction or to sneak further up the touch line to view any potential fouls or misconduct.

Throw-in Mid-Field

A team uses a throw-in as an attacking weapon. A skilled player with a long throw-in can be as effective as a corner kick. Look for two types of long throw-ins: a high looping throw that a tall attacker tries to drive directly into the goal; and a line drive that an attacker at the near post tries to flick on to a teammate on the far post.

You might read that a long throw-in is about to take place when a particular player moves out of normal position to take the restart. Listen for a coach to call a certain player to throw. Look for the cluster of offensive players (or the target person on a line drive throw) and position yourself so you have a good angle on the next significant action.

Remember that with older players, the throw-in may be towards an aerial (jumping) target. If this occurs and the defender also goes up, keep a sharp eye for fouls and misconduct by both players. Importantly, do not forget that although offside in negated for the player who receives the ball directly from the throw-in, a flick by the offensive player is the end of that situation and the exemption is over.

With the play way down in your partner's end, you need to get down the touch line and help with any action that occurs near the throw-in, especially if the thrower decides to make a short throw. Long throwers will often employ the "flip throw" technique and you need to be near enough to see that both feet are on the ground and either on or behind the touch line when the ball is released. It may also be valuable to step off the field about a yard to look around other players that may be crowding the touch line.

Throw-in Near Goal


Most spectators attend a soccer match to see exciting play. In a 1092 collegiate match between the University of Virginia and the University of San Francisco, about 500 spectators were 20 yards onto the far end of the field as a UVA player took a flip throw-in near the corner flag post. It was exciting - they wanted to see that play.

Some referees contend they will not allow a flip throw-in because of the possible dangers to the thrower: the throw may slip off the ball and land awkwardly, the thrower may wrench her back or the thrower's feet may slip. Nonsense. You have no authority to rule a throw-in as dangerous.


Flip Throw

The throw-in originated as a simple means to get the ball back into play once it crossed over the touchline. The rule makers wanted to make it an awkward motion so the throwing team did not gain a huge advantage but simple enough so that almost everyone could do it properly after minimal training.

The beauty of soccer is when the ball is at the feet of the 20 field players. That's the most exciting portion of the game. Your job is to keep the ball in play for a majority of the time. Do not allow an opponent to delay a throw-in by unfairly distracting or impeding the thrower. If you can stand close enough to do some preventive officiating before the distraction takes place, do it. If Number 23 is already waving his arms, yelling or gesticulating, caution Number 23 for unsporting behavior and show the yellow card.

The thrower is also provided a 2 yard distance to perform the throw-in. This 2 yard distance is from the point where the ball left the field, not necessarily where the throw-in is actually taken. Many throwers will take a few steps as the approach the touch line to get more power behind the throw. If they pass the exact point for the throw-in to occur and use the one yard cushion provided, then do not punish a defender who was 2 yards from the exact point but now only 1 yard from the actual point of the throw-in.


Unfair Distraction

Some referees tend to call too many fouls throw-in. Think of the criteria called for in law 15. If the thrower violates none of those criteria, the throw-in is legal.

That picture tests three of the criteria. Is Number 6 facing the field of play? Yes, clearly the feet positions show Number 6 is facing the field. He is not facing toward the stands or the corner flag post or some other odd angle, so he is facing the field of play.

Will Number 6 use both hands? Yes, the hand placement while holding the ball and the elbows indicate use of both hands.

Will Number 6 deliver the ball from behind and over his head? Yes, the ball is in that position now, so any continuous forward motion with his arms leads to a proper throw-in.

So against the criteria listed in the Laws of the Game, Number 6 will execute a proper throw-in. The fact that it looks unusual does not make it a violation. The fact that his hips are twisted is not a violation. The fact that he initially was going to throw to his right but saw that teammate covered and instead twisted to his left to find an unmarked teammate is not a violation.

Judge throw-ins against the criteria found in the laws. Do not evaluate throw-ins on hearsay or the cries of parents and coaches. Some referees take pride in being able to spot a foul throw-in from six fields away.


Legally Turned at the Hips

There is a point where a throw-in is illegal. Often, it is at the younger, untrained age groups that are learning the skill for the first time. Perhaps in a player's haste to get the ball back into play to take advantage of a momentary defensive lapse, a player makes an illegal throw-in.

For Passers (U8), the Law calls for the referee to stop play, inform the thrower of what was done improperly and allow the throw-in to be retaken. The second throw-in can be performed by the same player or any other play of the same team.

For all other age groups, if you judge the throw-in to be illegal. Stop play and award a throw-in to the other team to be taken at the same spot.


Ball not delivered from over Head

There is often a tactical advantage to a team taking a short throw-in, that is, a throw that doesn't travel more than six to 15 yards before a teammate controls the throw-in. For example, team A has a striker controlling the ball down the left flank and a teammate comes over with an overlapping run. A defender slide tackles the ball away which just crosses the touch line. With the defender still on the ground, tactically it makes sense for overlapping runner to make a short throw-in to his teammate who stands alone. A cross or a chip would almost certainly lead to an exciting scoring opportunity.

There is nothing in the laws about short throw-ins, so here are some do's and don'ts for referees. The thrower may use the body of a teammate or opponent in hopes of collecting the rebound. Say a lone defender were standing near the touch line, with his head turned, shouting directions to a teammate. The thrower could legally bounce the ball off the defender's back, collect the rebound and continue playing.

Of course, if he tried that some trick by hitting the referee, it would be illegal for the laws clearly state the ball must touch another player before the thrower may play the ball a second time.

Be on the watch for a thrower, angry about the last challenge or frustrated by an opponent with superior skill, trying to get even with the opponent by throwing the ball very rapidly and striking the defending player. that would be violent conduct and grounds for sending off the player.

Clever players will quickly figure out that if the ball is thrown from a lower height, the ball will not travel as far. Some players will choose to squat down, as shown in the picture above. That is legal, if all other aspects of the throw-in are legal.


Short Throw-ins:

The picture above shows a player who is kneeling on the ground. Some will argue that the player's feet are on the ground, but USSF's Fair Play, Fall 1996 issue's question and answer section dealt with that specifically. "Q. Is a player allowed to take a throw-in kneeling or sitting down. A. No. As the throw-ins has not been taken correctly, it shall be retaken by a player of the opposing team."

At the other end of the spectrum is the player trying to achieve maximum distance on the throw-in by doing the flip or somersault throw. That is legal, as long as all other aspects of the throw-in are legal.

Short Throw-ins:

Although players, coaches and spectators loudly proclaim that action to be illegal (usually when the other team is doing it), Number 7's right foot placement is legal. It seems unusual to the coaches and spectators, for during a majority of throw-ins, the player's feet remain completely behind the touch line.

Proper Foot Placement

One requirement for a proper throw-in is that part of each foot remains on the touch line or on the ground outside the touch line or on the ground outside the touch line. Since Number 6's right foot is entirely within the field of play, it is improper. Penalize that infringement by awarding a throw-in to the opposing team.

Improper - Throw-in:
Foot Placement

One requirement for a proper throw-in is that the thrower must use both hands. In the picture above, Number 7 is clearly only throwing the ball with the right arm while the left arm merely guides the ball. Clearly, Number 7 falls short of the criteria for a legal throw-in and the infringement may be penalized by awarding a throw-in to the opposing team.

Improper - Throw-in:
Hand Placement

Not everyone will have same hand placement around the ball. Players with small hands tend to get a wider grip, as show in the picture above. Some players will draw the ball behind the head in one hand, then when both hands come together behind their head will deliver a legal throw-in with both hands. Do not penalize that legal play.

Many players, coaches and spectators will yell because the ball spins coming off the thrower's hands. Some referees firmly believe that indicates a foul throw. Incorrect.

Hand Placement


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