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Law XII - Additional Information

Law V details the duties and powers soccer referees have during matches. The powers are enormous. Complete control rests in the hands of the certified referee, no matter how young. Used unwisely, a 12-year old referee can dismiss an entire bus load of adults from around the game site - and they have to leave. But there are many intermediate steps to deal with misconduct.


The stop sign has two uses. Stopping substitutes from entering the game too quickly and letting a coach or player know you've taken enough heat. For handling a confrontation, use the stop sign sparingly. It is simply a signal that demonstrates, "Coach, I've listened to enough." If you use it sparingly, the offender and others will know the offender has been warned. Then if the offender acts up again and is whistled for misconduct you have visual proof that the offender was warned.

There are two methods to display the stop sign. The first is to angle your body so one shoulder faces the offender, leave you arm down lower, just above waist level and angle your hand so the offender sees the heel of your hand.

The second is more confrontational and more powerful. You stand facing the offender, arm raised to shoulder height and face your complete palm toward the offender. Use whichever is appropriate to manage the situation. Don't pull the big gun until it's needed.

There is much folklore about issuing cautions. Some of it is good ("Get something for every caution" or "Treat your yellow cards like money - spend them wisely"). Some of it is bad ("Don't give a caution in the first few minutes because you'll wind up giving too many later in the game").

Use your personality. Before reaching into your pocket to get the card, run a series of thoughts through your mind. What effect will the card have on the game? What effect will it have on the player's behavior? Do I have other tools at my disposal that will yield the same result?

The potential payback for fooling the referee in the penalty area even once is tremendous - a penalty kick, leading to a goal 82 percent of the time. Is the striker willing to take the risk? Here's a typical scenario: He's tried eight times to beat the skillful man-marker and been unsuccessful each time. He sprints ahead, knocks the ball a little too far forward to get it before the keeper gets there. One last quick glance over the shoulder to confirm the referee is far enough away from play and the stage is set - he's been working on that move all week in practice.

The player's mindset: Start with the scream to get everyone's attention. Then kick one heel into other heel so teammates get to shout, "But ref, didn't you hear the defender kick him?" Make sure my knees are the next body part to hit the ground - otherwise it hurts too much. As my hips sink into the ground, fling my arms wide for effect but quickly bring them in under my chest so my chest and face don't hit the ground too hard. Wait a tenth of a second before starting to roll around and begin the screaming for the second time.

Recognition. Good referees referee the defense. If the defender did nothing to cause the attacker to fall, did not recklessly kick or trip the attacker, then there is no reason to whistle a foul.
A common gesture has crept in refereeing, and some suggest the improper gesture is irritating or dismissive to the fallen player. Rather than raising an upturned palm for all to see (Many referees do it five or six times in a row), maybe use eye contact and a look that lets the player know you understand what's going on - and you wish they would stop. Similarly, do not attempt to inject humor by holding up nine fingers as if judging a diving competition or holding your nose as if to say the dive stinks.


The throw-in originated as a simple means to get the ball back in play once it crossed over a touch line. 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 are close enough to do some preventive officiating before the distraction takes place, do it. If Number 23 above is already waving his arms, yelling or gesticulating, caution Number 23 for unsporting behavior and show the yellow card.

Be very wary of a defender who yells just as a thrower releases the ball, even if he is yelling directions to a teammate. That may happen once as a legitimate need to reposition a teammate but the second time it happens you should consider it a tactical move to distract. Caution the offending player.

Tackle from behind, which endangers the safety of an opponent.


Number 20 is about to suffer the worst of all possible fouls. He is about to feel Number 5's cleats in the unprotected flesh of his upper calf, with no awareness that the contact is about to occur. That is potentially a career-ending injury. At a minimum, there will be pain from the resulting contact. Nevertheless, with Number 20's forward momentum, and the momentum added by Number 5, he will fall heavily on his sternum and face. If he twists to avoid such a hard landing, he subjects himself to broken arms and collarbones. None of these is a pleasant prospect.

Stop the thuggery. Be absolutely certain it does not happen a second time in a game you are refereeing. It's bad enough that a player may contemplate doing it once, but if you show everyone that the consequences are severe, and that you are upholding the law as written, you will red card the first offender.

As a result, players respect you more. Even Number 5's teammates may have a kind word for you after sending him off for a foul of that nature. Your games will be more flowing. You will have more creative runs by skilled players. You find the average goals per games increases. Games are more fun if you take care of business and send off players who commit fouls of the sort pictured above.


It does not matter if it is a ball, shoe, rock, corner flag post or equipment bag, if a player throws something at an opponent during play, it is a foul. Remember, attempting to strike is punished the same as striking, so even if the item misses its intended target, award a direct free kick to the opposing team. Then you must decide the seriousness of the incident to rule on misconduct. In most cases, you would decide the foul was at least reckless, so give a card.

You must read play to determine that the emotional temperature has reached a point where such action is about to take place. Actions of this sort do not take place in a vacuum. It's probable that opponents had words, someone made threats or heavy contact occurred before the goalkeeper heaves the ball at an opponent's head. Read those signs and use preventive refereeing to keep the keeper's temper under control.

Sometimes you cannot read the signs within your game because the emotions are a carry over from a previous meeting between the teams or players.


There are two main types of dissent - emotional and calculated. Number 2 reacts angrily to the referee calling a direct free kick against his team, jumps up, runs to the referee and for a few seconds shouts comments directly into the referee's ear. That is crossing the line and should be carded. Some dissent is spontaneous, emotional dissent which lasts from two to 10 seconds, the player realizes the futility of the argument and settles back in the game.

You can shorten the duration of some emotional dissent by getting the ball into play quickly - the player faces the choice of standing there to argue with you or scurrying off to play defense. You can further cut down on emotional dissent by whistling, signaling the direction for the restart and quickly moving to your next position. The player will be arguing with a person who is now 25 yards away.

Soccer is an emotional sport. Allow some level of emotional dissent. Use your personality to diffuse some of the dissent. If humor is part of your management style, use a line or two to calm the player. Support the spirit of the game but maintain the authority of the officiating team.

Calculated dissent takes on a harsher tone. It may be continuous. It may be both verbal and via hand gestures. Like a cancer, there is a danger of calculated dissent becoming more widespread. Sage referees have offered the advice to deal with calculated dissent in the same manner as it is presented. If Number 7 wanders by and quietly says, "Referee, that last call was horrible. You're an idiot." you might also quietly respond, "Thank you, Number 7. That's enough." Of more people heard the dissenting comment, you might want to take the opportunity to have a public word with Number 7 as the players ready the ball for play. In that way, others are aware you are dealing with the dissent.

If the player directs dissent towards an official in a very loud voice, or with accompanying gestures seen by in attendance, you must use stiffer actions. An example is a goalkeeper who runs 40 yards out of his penalty area, screaming the whole way, and confronts a referee after a goal. If you do not deal with such actions sternly, it diminishes the authority of the officiating team and that affects game control. Such an action deserves a caution.

Also consider players who "talk over the referee's head." That is calculated dissent. "Hey Mike, don't you think this referee is terrible? Isn't he worse than the guy we had last weekend, the one the coach scratched? Referee cards must be coming in Cracker Jack boxes now." When you approach the players making those comments, they inevitably say, "But I wasn't talking to you, ref. I was talking to my teammate." If you think you can stop the comments with a word or two, or with other tools at your disposal, do so. If the team persists in making those comments, caution an offender. In an effort to put a stop to such misconduct, if the referees of that team's next two games call you to find out about the team, let them know of the team's tendencies.


Some physical contact fouls, such as jumping at, spitting at, kicking or striking quickly escalate the temperature of the game. A player's psychological temperature is an important gauge as to how well you are performing as a referee, Some incidents need a douse of cold water to lower the temperature quickly.

In the scene above, Number 22 jumped at the goalkeeper in the pretext of heading the ball. As soon as contact occurred, Number 22 extended his forearm well away from his body, effectively pushing the goalkeeper to the ground. By the time Number 1 regained his feet and Number 2 ran to the area to protect his goalkeeper, the referee sprinted in, displayed the card high for all to see and is admonishing Number 2 to leave the opponent alone. The referee will quickly draw Number 22 away from the incident, in that case possibly off the field behind the goal posts, ask the defense to set up for the free kick, gather and record the required information from Number 22, move into position near the dropping zone and signal for the restart. If done smartly, from the instant of the foul until the ball is in play, it might take as long as 35 seconds.

Do not issue all cards that quickly. The recommended method is to whistle and signal the foul, draw the player off to the side away from the other players, gather and record the information and then display the card, but that can change depending upon circumstances.

That aggressive physical foul, particularly because it was directed toward an airborne, exposed goalkeeper, does not allow you that time. You need to step in and take charge. You need to restore calm quickly. You need the goalkeeper to know justice will be served. As soon as he sees the card, he should have nothing more to say. Teammates will argue for the red card if you only show the yellow, but it will be a half-hearted argument. They saw how quickly you got to the spot of the foul and your firm dealing with the offender. Number 22's teammates may squawk a bit about how it was only a bump and certainly not deserving of a card but again, because the card is already in the air they know their chances of changing your mind are miniscule. Their arguments quickly fade.

Contrast the quick card with a potential scenario. This goalkeeper winds up on his butt and the ball ends up in the net. The referee walks toward the goalkeeper thinking about what to do. By the time Number 1 regains his feet there are already six players in the goal area with more coming from every angle. While trying to remain calm, 19 screaming players surround the referee, the sidelines have erupted and everyone is screaming at the referee. It may take minutes to restore order. There may have been several cards handed out. From that skirmish, players may have picked out opponents and feel they "owe them one," which will make game control very challenging. The second referee did not do well with a moment of truth, a make-or-break incident in a game.

The default mechanic is to issue the card slowly, after recording the the necessary information.


Many referees are former players. Many referees still have strong competitive feelings and become offended when a player makes an overly aggressive physical play against an opponent. That becomes apparent when the referee displays the card.

Here Number 4 recklessly tripped Number 11 and the referee has run 20 yards to give the caution. Due to his emotional state, the referee has gotten far too close to Number 4 and invaded his personal space. That can lead to huge problems, particularly of there is contact.

There is an art to displaying a card properly. Body language and emotional state are very important. Yes, it is acceptable and effective to show some displeasure in your body language, if that's what it takes to sell the card and prevent recurrence.

Another improper action is to call the player to come to you, as if calling an animal. For an adult player, stop about two arm lengths away and rotate your body so you can see beyond the player's shoulder toward the largest number of other players. Record the necessary information: team, number, name, time, and your shorthand code to remember the incident. Make eye contact with the player and display the card directly over your own head.


Most referees don't work in stadiums and have a security staff to handle problems. Here Number 4 was shown the red card and the security staff quickly came to the halfway line on the bench side of the field. Security should watch as the player collects his spare shoes, warm-up suit and water bottle and then escort the player (now an outside agent) out of the playing area.

What should you do on your field? The biggest concern you have is that the sent off player not unduly influence the game or present safety problems to anyone at the game site. If you have those concerns, temporarily suspend the game and solve that problem.

In youth matches, use common sense. You do not want to be responsible for sending a youth player "sight and sound" away from a soccer field only to have a youth commit or be the target of violence. If the youth communicates a threat you believe to be viable, disrupts the match with unseemly comments or other actions that require removal, ensure the coach assigns an adult to supervise the youth for the duration of the match.


If a player persists in misconduct after having already received a yellow card, you must send that player from the field of play.

You must inform the player, coach and spectators of the reason for the sending off - was the misconduct bad enough to deserve a direct red card or was it a second yellow? Although it is not your immediate concern, the league or tournament might levy different punishment based on your decision.

If you decide the offense merits a caution, and it is that player's second caution of the game, use the correct procedure: "The referee is required to show first the yellow card and immediately afterwards the red card (thus making it obvious that the player is being sent off because of a second caution-able offense and not because an offense requiring immediate expulsion)."


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