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LAW 1 – THE FIELD OF PLAY

LAW 2 – THE BALL

LAW 3 – THE NUMBER OF PLAYERS

LAW 4 – THE PLAYER’S EQUIPMENT

LAW 5 – THE REFEREE

LAW 6 – THE ASSISTANT REFEREES

LAW 7 – THE DURATION OF THE MATCH

LAW 8 – THE START & RESTART OF PLAY

LAW 9 – THE BALL IN & OUT OF PLAY

LAW 10 – THE METHOD OF SCORING

LAW 11 - OFFSIDE

LAW 12 – FOULS AND MISCONDUCT

LAW 13 – FREE KICKS

LAW 14 – THE PENALTY KICK

LAW 15 – THE THROW-IN

LAW 16 – THE GOAL KICK

LAW 17 – THE CORNER KICK
Official Publications Related to Law 17

ADMINISTRATIVE GUIDANCE

PROCEDURES TO DETERMINE THE WINNER OF A MATCH

THE FOURTH OFFICIAL

THE TECHNICAL AREA

Administrative Guidance

Official Publications Related to Administrative Issues

Game Reports

Report writing, and the content of reports, are critical in the decision making process relative to suspensions and fines at all levels of the game.  Reports can be submitted for, amongst other items:

Unclear, incomplete, or misleading reports do not lend themselves to effective reviews of player and coach behavior.  Reports must indicate: 

Reports should include specifics about what was said, how it was said, any preventative action taken by the referee team, a description of distances traveled, how long the action took, was it visual as well as verbal, and a specific reference to the reason as stated in the Laws of the Game. 

Dismissal of a Non-Player

If you dismiss a non-player you MUST use the term DISMISSED in your report.  Merely writing the circumstances is not sufficient.  There have been incidents in the MLS in which a report was written about a coach who entered the field after the game to complain; however, the referee crew failed to use the term “dismissed” in the disciplinary report.  A poorly written description of the coach’s actions was provided but this is not sufficient for the Disciplinary Committee to take action.  The REFEREE TEAM must take official action first.  For further detailed information on disciplinary report writing, refer to the April 4, 2008, U.S. Soccer position paper entitled, “Match Reports Involving Discipline.”

Post-Game Misconduct

Referees may issue and display yellow or red cards to players and substitutes after the game.  In terms of non-player personnel, the referee should inform the coach on the field and/or via a supplemental report that he has been dismissed after the game.  Referees must ensure the report is delivered to the team coach by the referee liaison.  These reports must be as descriptive as reports made for misconduct during the game.

Substitutes Warming Up

In games where there is a limit on the number of substitutes, players who are warming up must return to their bench once the last substitute is utilized by their team.  Since no more changes to the composition of the players on the field are permitted, there is no need for these players to continue warming up.  Officials (especially the fourth official) should ensure that once the last substitution is completed, the remaining subs return to the technical area.

Remember, substitutes who are warming up or who are on the team bench must wear a different colored shirt or bib to distinguish them from the players on the field of play.  This preventative effort ensures that an AR or the referee does not mistake them for a player on the field.  Additionally, subs may not use balls to warm up because these balls could enter the field of play and/or be confused by the officials as a ball on the field.  A player who has been substituted out of the game may “cool down” in the area designated for players to warm up.

Subs are not permitted to approach the field or the AR to express their opinions, dissent, or become involved in any interaction with any active player.  Substitute players are held to the same standard as players regarding conduct despite being off the field.  Refer to “Misconduct by Subs and Substituted Players” for more information.

Acceptance of Gratitude by Game Officials

Match officials may not ask for or accept any forms of “appreciation” from teams and/or players competing in a formal competition (for example, leagues or an official tournament). Forms of “appreciation” include, but are not limited to, items such as player jerseys, signatures, or other memorabilia. Officials must always be cognizant of the message being sent and the perception being created when they accept any item from teams and/or players. This includes situations in which you are not working the game in an official capacity but are an official in the formal competition.

Shortly, U.S. Soccer will release a policy paper on the acceptance forms of “appreciation” by match officials. This will be made available for all match officials.

Player Hydration During Games (Water Breaks)

It is important to remember that different levels (age, skill, competitive nature) of the game have different needs. Often, these needs are a result of preparation, fitness levels, tactical awareness and other factors that influence players’ need for hydration (liquids) during the game. Players, at the professional level, are expected to prepare (mentally, physically and tactically) for all climates including extreme heat and humidity.

Alternatively, certain youth and amateur competitions may recommend controlled stoppages to allow players to hydrate in summer months. This is due to safety factors that may exist as a result of differences in factors like preparation. In such cases, the rules of competition should specify the parameters for such hydration stoppages.

It is noteworthy that the Laws of the Game do not specifically address stoppages for “water breaks.” However, FIFA does provide the following instruction to match officials regarding the drinking of water during games:

“Players are entitled to take liquid refreshments during a stoppage in the match but only at the touchlines. It is not permitted to throw plastic water bottles, bags or any other water containers onto the field.”

FIFA's instructions mean that players may hydrate during a natural stoppage in the game. This hydration must occur along the touchlines meaning that off-the-field personnel may not enter the field to provide liquids to the players. Players must go to the touchline to prevent water bottles, bags or other containers from being tossed/thrown on the field which could hit or injure a field player or litter the field. When players go to the touchline, the game must continue, so players go “at their own risk”.

U.S. Soccer uses FIFA's instructions to provide further guidance to match officials in its “Advise to Referees on the Laws of the Game” (2008 version) in section 19.4:

“Field players who wish to drink water while play continues may do so only from the touchline and without leaving the field. Players may also drink water during stoppages at any of the boundary lines. If water containers are left along boundary lines outside the field of play, they must not interfere with the movement of the assistant referee or block his or her view of the length of the touchline. Under no circumstances may water containers of any sort be thrown onto the field, either during play or at stoppages (including the halftime break), nor may they be thrown from the field after a player has finished drinking.”

The game has sufficient normal stoppages to provide players with the opportunity to hydrate. The fact that water containers may be placed around the field (without impacting assistant referee performance) provides ample opportunity for professional players to drink water as required.

Under no circumstances may referees working professional matches authorize or implement water breaks.

Remember, any such breaks are not intended to be “coaching moments” but merely an opportunity for players to hydrate.

2010 (Click to view/hide)
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2009 (Click to view/hide)
  • Video Clip: Real Salt Lake at Houston (24:36)
    This clip shows an unauthorized water break during an MLS game. The referee incorrectly takes it upon himself to make a personal decision to stop the game to give the players the chance to get water. This is not permitted by the rules of competition and should not have taken place. The decision, which stops the game for approximately 1:24, takes away the rhythm and focus of the teams and creates visible frustration for players and coaches. Players and teams do not appreciate surprises and because the break is not permitted by the Laws of the Game nor the rules of competition, the teams are surprised and frustrated which could lead to dissent or other forms of misconduct.

    On the goal kick, instead of having an unauthorized water break, the players could have used the time it took for the goalkeeper to put the ball into play to address hydration issues. In this manner, the flow of the game is not interrupted.

    Note: The coach should not be permitted to enter the field of play to express his frustration but common sense must prevail. The fourth official should do everything possible to keep all the off-the-field personnel from entering the field but this is not an easy task as the fourth official must also work, with the near-side assistant referee (AR), to manage the players drinking water and the throwing of bottles onto the field.
2008 (Click to view/hide)
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