This Video from the... Ken Aston Referee Society -
Animation of what is...
+- THE SOCCER FIELD -+
A flag post must not be less than 1.5 m (5 ft) high, with a
top. A flag post (with a flag) must be placed at each corner of the
field of play.
Flag posts may also be placed at each end of the halfway line, not less
than 1m (1 yd) outside the touchline.
Halfway line flag posts are not
mandatory - but desirable.
The Corner Arc
A quarter circle with a radius of 1 meter (1 yard) from each corner flag
post is drawn inside the field of play.
This area is sometimes referred to as the corner quadrant.
Look for the following general points: The length of the field of play
must exceed the width: check for minimum dimensions: Check that the
lines are sufficiently distinctive, and are the correct width and are
not rutted. Lines are usually white: Goal lines should be the same width
as the goalposts.
The minimum markings are the goal lines, half way line, penalty area
lines and touchlines. All lines must not be more than 12 cm (5 ins)
wide. Nothing on the pitch surface or appurtenances must be dangerous to
players - such as Dog’s muck or glass: Surface conditions such as pools
of water, icy patches, large holes, can be dangerous to players: Look
for short or pointed Corner Flags: Unstable goal posts etc....
The Referee has a duty to inspect the field of play properly before each
- But common sense is also a part of the pre-match field of play
inspection equation.... many football pitches are managed by the local
District Councils. The Councils have a responsibility to ensure that the
fields of play are marked out properly, and are fit and safe for play,
but the Referee makes the final decision whether a field of play is safe
or not. Most Councils accept that the Referee will inevitably decide the
safety aspect - whilst caretakers are more concerned with damage to
Law 1 covers the Field of Play - the Referee must use his common sense
if allowing a game to proceed on a pitch that is not 100 per cent as
defined in Law 1. For example, in the local Sunday morning leagues, a
large number of the grounds are in countryside villages, or just
somewhere out in the 'wilds'. Invariably, some of the line markings
might not be as clear as they should be. Or someone has forgotten to
mark out the center circle or the penalty area semicircle, and there is
no white line machine available. Referees can use their common sense!
Let's be honest, if you (the Referee) have traveled some 30 miles on a
cold Sunday morning, and all the players are changed and waiting for you
on the field of play, would you cancel the game because someone forgot
to mark out the penalty spots. I wouldn't, but I know some Referees who
would - some Referees have more common sense than others. The main
criteria, is to be 100% sure that the field of play does not pose a
danger to the players (or to the Referees). As a rule of thumb, a game
can be played if all the straight lines are in place. Notwithstanding
this, the Referee should do all he can to ensure that the field of play
is properly prepared.
Try and be practicable, play a game if at all possible, but obtain both
of the teams’ agreement to play with any minor defects - this will of
course vary depending on which standard or level of football is being
played. For example, if the game was in the English Premier League, then
the field of play needs to be 100% correct, but if it is a Park level
game, the Referee can apply some common sense when making his decision
to play the game or not.
Referees should report unsolved problems, even if the game is played -
else the Referee next week will have the same problem if it is not
rectified. Further Areas for consideration: Bad Light: Frost: Snow: Fog:
Mist (the Referee must be able to see the entire length of the field of
play): Rain: Thunder: Nearby Fairground Noise!!!! You may need to
abandon a game if conditions worsen during a game.
New Referees undergoing training will need to remember the measurements
of the Field of Play to enable them to pass the Referees' exam.
Dimensions of the Field Of Play are in both Imperial and Metric:
i.e. the dimensions are both In Yards & Meters in the LOAF (Laws Of
Associated Football) booklet.
For your Referees' exam, concentrate on either Yards or Meters - not both!
The Field of play:
- Length (Touch Lines) is greater than the width (Goal Lines):
- Lines no more than 5 inches wide: Pitch is divided in half by the halfway line.
Length: Min.100 yards, Max. 130 yards: Width: Min. 50 yards, Max. 100 yards.
All the lines are part of the field of play, i.e.. The penalty area
includes the width of its boundary lines. The field of play is marked
with lines. These lines belong to the areas of which they are
boundaries. So if a defender commits a direct free kick offence
immediately on top of his penalty area line, then a penalty is awarded
to the attacking team. All the lines on the field of play, form part of
the area boundary that they encompass. The ball only leaves any area of
the field of play, when it has passed wholly over one of the boundary
lines that encompass that particular area.
The football season is played mostly in wintry conditions when people
normally wear more clothing in order to maintain body heat. Sports
people, however, wear the same outfit in winter as they do in summer,
and it is a wonder that more do not suffer from cold-induced illnesses,
like hypothermia, pneumonia, and the very final – rigor mortis. Of
course there are other ways of keeping warm; running exercises the
muscles, this circulates the blood faster and induces warmth and so
sweat. Be warned, however, sweat brought on under those conditions is
brought on by loss of body heat, not from warmth gained, and continuous
loss of heat will make the body colder and eventually bring on
hypothermia, cause coma and ultimately death.
So be aware. It is most important that loss of body heat, and loss of
body fluids, do not go below a certain level. Furthermore, the
combination of low temperature and strong winds means people lose more
body heat than they would at the same temperature in calm conditions.
This effect is called the wind-chill factor and the table, below, amply
shows the relevant skin temperature.
When Referees inspect the field of play, they should not just
concentrate on the markings and the state of the field, they should also
consider the effect temperature and wind speed will have on players. I
would not recommend sanctioning play if the temperature is below
in the case of mature men; neither would I allow play to commence in the
case of children or women players if the temperature is below
0˚F – and
that is not being chauvinistic. That is being careful.
And then there is rain! We know about rain in England, don’t we? The
past couple of months Oct/Nov 2000 have brought in so much that it’s a
wonder that the British Isles haven’t floated off with the currents and
become an annex to the Caribbean islands! Rain affects the health of
humans. Clothes protect the human body from the elements, hot or cold.
In cold temperatures and wind, however, clothing that is wet, whether
from within (i.e. sweat) or without (i.e. rain), loses its insulation
from the weather. Therefore when inspecting the field of play, I do urge
everybody to consider the effect rain will have on players and
These considerations are common sense. Machismo should never come into
the equation; neither is the "Stiff upper lip" or being "British", or
any other element, which endangers people. Fresh air is good for
everybody, but when the wind is strong cradles should not be hung from
Goals must be placed on the
center of each goal line.
They consist of two upright posts equidistant from the corner flag posts
and joined at the top by a horizontal crossbar.
The distance between the posts is 7.32 m (8 yds) and the distance from
the lower edge of the crossbar to the ground is 2.44 m (8ft).
Both goalposts and the crossbar have the same width and depth, which do
not exceed 12 cm (5 ins). The goal lines are the same width as that of
the goalposts and the crossbar. Nets may be attached to the goals and
the ground behind the goal, provided that they are properly supported
and do not interfere with the goalkeeper.
The goalposts and crossbars must be
Goals must be anchored securely to the ground.
Portable goals may only be used if they satisfy this requirement
What to inspect before a game.
What to inspect: Referees should aim to arrive at the ground in plenty
of time. At the very least, 45 minutes before K.O. (Kick-Off) to allow
time to change into their uniform and to inspect the field of play
properly, thus giving the Referee time for any problems to be rectified.
If the Referee, or the grounds man need to cancel the game due to
unforeseen circumstances before the K.O. time, Referees can sometimes
prevent the away team from traveling to the ground.
Hence the need for Referees to
arrive early, and in plenty of time before the kick-off.
What to look for? Each Referee has their own method of inspecting the
field of play. Look closely at both goals and their nets, and then walk
diagonally between both sets of corner flags. This allows you to inspect
most of the playing surface - some Referees just walk up and down
through the center and pull the nets once or twice, but this ‘tickling
inspection’ is not really good enough. Give the field of play a thorough
Field of play
inspection routine (1 to 7) below:
Below is a routine that allows inspection of all the Field of Play areas
before Kick-off - including the lines, corner flags and goal structures.
Start at the left bottom hand corner, check the corner flag post and
flag. Look up along the touchline and across the goal line to check that
the lines are straight, clear and consistent, then make your way towards
the bottom goal, inspecting the ground area as you walk along.
- 2. When you reach the bottom goal, check the nets, goalposts, crossbar,
penalty spot markings, goal line, penalty area and goal area lines and
ground areas. Look up field to see if the center circle and far goal are
lined up correctly and not askew. Walk to bottom right hand corner,
checking the ground area and lines as you walk along.
- 3. When you reach the bottom right hand corner, check the corner flag
post and flag. Look up along the touchline and across the goal line to
check that the lines are straight, clear and consistent, then make your
way towards the top left hand corner, inspecting the ground area as you
walk across the field of play.
- 4. When you get to the top left hand corner, look down along the
touchline and across the goal line to check that the lines are straight,
clear and consistent. Check the corner flag post and flag, and then make
your way towards the top goal, inspecting the ground area as you walk
- 5. When you reach the top goal, check the nets, goalposts, crossbar,
penalty spot markings, goal line, penalty area and goal area lines and
ground areas. Look down field to see if the center circle and far goal
are lined up correctly and not askew. Walk to the top right corner,
checking the ground area and lines as you walk along.
- 6. When you get to the top right hand corner, check the corner flag post
and flag. Look down along the touchline and across the goal line to
check that the lines are straight, clear and consistent, and then make
your way back to the starting bottom left hand corner, inspecting the
field of play area as you walk along.
- 7. Look for illegal markings, divots, ruts, glass, nails, stones, dog
mess, length of grass, puddles and surface water, sharp plastic, cans
and anything else that constitutes a danger to players and yourself.
Pace out any area distances that look wrong.
Is there a worn footpath running across the field? and is the bull in
the adjacent field properly secured? Look particularly at the area where
your Assistant Referees will be running - if the right wing touchlines
are muddy - consider asking your Assistant Referees to run the left wing
If there is another nearby game being played at the same time as your
game, check with the other Referee to ensure that you both use different
toned whistles - else there could be some confusion when one of you
stops play by blowing the whistle very near the other's field of play.
Application for matches
for players of less than 16 years of age,
Subject to the agreement of the Nationals Football Associations
concerned and provided the principles of these Laws are maintained, the
Laws may be modified in their application for matches for players of
under 16 years of age, for women footballers, for veteran footballers
(over 35 years) and for players with disabilities. (This recognizes the
large number of players with disabilities who play football and permits
appropriate modifications to the Laws to enable them to take part in
officially organized competitions.)
for women footballers, for
veteran footballers (over 35 years) and for players with disabilities.
You will need to look at the local Rules of specific competitions to
ascertain the exact measurements of field of play covering under 16
years of age, for women footballers, for veteran footballers and for
players with disabilities. The distance between the goal posts and
height of the crossbar from the ground and dimensions of the field of
play may be modified for these matches. It is important to emphasize
that the goal structures themselves must always be securely fixed to the
ground to prevent accidents happening - particularly where young players
are concerned. If particular competition does not have any particular
Rules governing these groups of players, then they should consider
agreeing a uniform specification. This can be anything that is sensible
for the age group concerned. There is no known standard for specific
groups - but safety is always the paramount consideration.
Any or all of the following modifications are permissible:
- Size of the field of play
- Size, weight and material of the ball
- Width between the goalposts and height of the crossbar from the ground
- Duration of the periods of play
- * Substitutions.
Reasons: * The new wording allows the right to flying substitutions only
for the above categories. (i.e. under 16 years of age, for women
footballers, for veterans and for players with disabilities) and then
only with the agreement of the national association.
DECISIONS OF THE INTERNATIONAL F.A. BOARD
- 1. If the crossbar becomes displaced or broken, play is stopped until it
has been repaired or replaced in position. If a repair is not possible,
the match is abandoned. The use of a rope to replace the crossbar is not
permitted. If the crossbar can be repaired, the match is restarted with
a dropped ball at the place where the ball was located when play was
- 2. Goalposts and crossbars must be made of wood, metal or other approved
material. Their shape may be square, rectangular, round or elliptical
and they must not be dangerous to players.
- 3. No kind of commercial advertising, whether real or virtual, is
permitted on the field of play and field equipment (including the goal
nets and the areas they enclose) from the time the teams enter the field
of play until they have left it at half-time and from the time the teams
re-enter the field of play until the end of the match. In particular, no
advertising material of any kind may be displayed on goals, nets, flag
posts or their flags. No extraneous equipment (cameras, microphones,
etc.) may be attached to these items.
- 4. The reproduction, whether real or virtual, of representative logos or
emblems of FIFA, confederations, national associations, leagues, clubs
or other bodies, is forbidden on the field of play and field equipment
(including the goal nets and the areas they enclose) during playing
time, as described in Decision 3.
- 5. A mark may be made off the field of play, 9.15 meters (10 yds) from
the corner arc and at right angles to the goal line to ensure that this
distance is observed when a corner kick is being taken.
+-+ BACK TO TOP +-+
+-+ FIFA-ADDITIONAL +-+
+-+ ADVICE from 'THE PITCH' +-+
Questions and Answers:
This web site and the advice and answers to any questions are not
sanctioned by or affiliated with any governing body of soccer. The
opinions expressed on this site should not be considered official
interpretations of the Laws of the Game. Although the content of the
latest Laws are included on this site, the majority of the content is
the opinion of the Webmaster and other Referees worldwide. If you need
an official ruling you should contact your local
representative/association or visit the FIFA, or the English FA web
sites for the Laws themselves.
Questions and Answers:
Question 1:What should the
Referee do if the goal nets are full of holes? Should he still play the
game even though there are no materials to repair the net?
Answer 1: The Laws are vague about the necessity of having nets attached
to the goals. Law 1 actually states that "Nets may be attached to the
goals..........." so there is no requirement that netting must be
present. Most competition rules will stipulate that goal nets are
required, but if this is not mentioned, then there is nothing to stop a
game being played without the nets. But I would not recommend it! Do
your best to make sure that goal nets are present and properly
installed. If the game is a 'friendly', then you could consider playing
without nets (but how many games are REALLY friendly - not many!) I
would certainly not advise playing a senior level game without the use
of nets. Even with nets, it can sometimes be difficult to see if a goal
has been scored or not - you would need telescopic vision and TV action
replay to see whether a goal has been scored when the ball whizzes in
near the goalpost, and you (the Referee) are still catching up with play
on the half way line! If the nets are not properly attached, a shot can
hit the outside netting and still end up in the goal! If they are not
attached securely at the bottom, a well-struck shot can enter the goal
and pass right through a broken net - or under the net - making it
appear never to have entered the goal.
If nets are available, and they require mending - then it is the Home
team's responsibility to repair them before the game can commence. But
there is nothing to stop you playing with a net full of holes. There are
no regulations stating that the net must be made of certain materials,
or must not have any holes!, or how wide each net hole should be. My
advice is to carry lengths of string with you in your kit bag. Home
teams never seem to have suitable ties available to repair or re-fix
damaged nets. I'm not proud - I'll tie the nets up myself, and repair
any small holes, if it helps me feel more confident about whether a ball
has entered the net or not during a game. Ensure that nets are securely
fastened to the posts, crossbar and ground. The Referee and Assistant
Referees should check or recheck the nets just before the game starts.
The Referee should always try and play a game if he can, and do his best
to get the field of play ready and safe - play the game as best you can.
If this means playing without all of the lines, nets, flags, penalty
mark, center circle lines, whatever, then if it can be sensibly played -
play it. After all, football is not about showing off a perfect field
but about playing. The Referee should report any field of play
deficiencies to the proper authorities. This will allow the authorities
to investigate, and hopefully prevent any reoccurrence of the problem.
Question 2: Is a manager, coach or substitutes allowed to march up and
down the touchline yelling at the players and giving instructions. Can
the Referee take any legal action?
Answer 2:This is a particular problem at grounds where there are no
specific designated technical areas (in other words, this is a problem
at the majority of grounds). Most senior competition rules should state
the requirements of the technical area. For example, how many, and
exactly who are allowed to be in this area. Most local league
associations do not provide technical areas alongside their fields of
play, so it is impossible to enforce the 'Technical Area' Laws. In such
cases (unless stipulated), it is generally accepted that the local
league associations have no option but to be flexible in allowing
managers, coaches and substitutes to move almost where they wish around
the field of play. This is where Law 18 Common sense must be used.
Managers and coaches are permitted to give tactical instructions,
support and encouragement to players; however, they are expected to stay
in any defined "technical area". A team official may convey tactical
instructions to the players during the match and must return to his
position after doing so. All team officials must remain within the
confines of the technical area, where such an area is provided and they
must behave in a responsible manner. Different team officials during the
match provided the person returns to his or her position after giving
these instructions and behaves in a responsible manner may give tactical
In instances where a technical are is not provided, as a rule of thumb,
the manager or coach should stay within an area of about 5 yards from
his own bench (or the 'camp' area where all the team bags are if there
are no actual benches). The Referee will need to be very careful about
approaching people roaming around the field of play giving instructions.
My advice is to approach, and quietly ask them to remain near the team
'camp'. But be aware, on several occasions when I have taken this
approach, the perpetrator has replied that he is not an official of the
team, but just a supporter. It can be very difficult for the Referee to
discern who is a supporter, and who is a team official - so make sure
you identify that person's role before you approach them - if in doubt,
you can ask the team captain. Coaches roaming around the field of play
giving instructions, can give one team an unfair advantage over the
other team, especially if the other team's responsible coach remains
positioned correctly near the team 'camp'. The managers, substitutes and
coaches should also keep well away from the touchline, so that the
Assistant Referee or Club Linesman can easily see, and move up and down
the touchline without interference. One of my 'Pet' hates, is the youth
team coach who insists on yelling at players and walking up and down,
two yards inside the field of play. I quickly put them in their place,
off the field! (See my Articles 1 page story 'Why can't we have a
qualified Referee for all of our Youth games?').
With respect to any 'yelling'. If the manager, coach or substitute is
yelling to the players or shouting instructions, there is not really
much that the Referee can do. If this becomes a general problem, it is
up to the local league associations to define what conduct they will or
will not allow. However, if the content of the yelling breaches the
criteria for unsporting behavior or is abusive, offensive etc... the
Referee should ask the perpetrator to tone it down - or take the
necessary disciplinary action. The conduct and control of the game is
ultimately the Referee's responsibility, and you can red and yellow card
substitutes who behave irresponsibly of the field of play. You can also
ask managers and coaches to leave the vicinity of the field of play, if
they too become irresponsible - and don't forget to report them to the
authorities (or end the game if they do not behave or adhere to your
instructions to leave.)
Don't be naive and believe that just because they are managers or
coaches, they are allowed to behave in an unsporting or irresponsible
Question 3: Should a Referee allow a game to start if it is snowing or
Answer 3: Snow and rain are not necessarily safety hazards in
themselves, but a frozen pitch should certainly not be used. Fields that
have become very wet or covered in deep puddles of water can also be
dangerous. Football relies on finite timing, and wet fields can lead to
the ball being 'held up' and players mistiming tackles, which in turn
can lead to serious injury. Playing in the snow and rain is not
pleasant, so those concerned may prefer to reschedule the match if
possible, or wait until any downpour has subsided. Thunder and lightning
are a very serious matter, and a number of players have been killed. The
Referee should be prepared to abandon a game at short notice and get the
players under cover during thunderstorms. Players are usually receptive
to seeking cover under such circumstance. The Referee can also consider
taking a break to allow the storm to pass over before restarting play -
but this must be discussed with the captains under cover of the changing
rooms, and not on the field of play whilst the storm is brewing
The first priority of every Referee, manager, coach and grounds man
should be to ensure that the field of play is safe for the players.
Referees should take a quick walk within the field before each match to
ensure that there are no hazards. The Referee is also prone to injuries,
so it is in his best interest to thoroughly inspect the field before
If snow has obscured the lines after the game has started, the Referee
in consultation with his Assistant Referees and the team
mangers/captains should determine what is (or can) to be done. The
easiest solution is to clear the snow away from the touchline markings
by running a shovel quickly along the lines. The Referee should allow
sufficient stoppage time for the lines to be cleared. If the snow
becomes too much of a problem, the game should be abandoned. The Referee
should also be aware that players waiting around in cold conditions
become prone to muscle damage when they restart after a long delay.
Young players must also be protected - they can not run around to warm
up quickly like senior players, so it may be best to abandon matches
involving young players. The prime responsibility of a Referee is to
ensure the safety of the players - so he must decide if any weather
conditions are dangerous to the players or not. It is usually obvious
when this happens.
Question 4: I saw a Referee remove the corner flags from a field of play
recently during his field inspection. And then played the game without
corner flags, is this allowed?
Answer 4: Law 1 states that "A flag post not less than 1.5m (5ft) high,
with a non-pointed top and a flag, is placed at each corner. Flag posts
may also be placed at each end of the halfway line, not less than 1m
(1yd) outside the touchline."
The Referee is within his rights not to play the game, if corner flags
are not available. Any such instances should be reported to the
Corner flags are certainly desirable, especially if the line markings
are faint. The Referee should try and arrange for suitable replacement
corner flags to be obtained. The Home team is normally responsible for
supplying or ensuring that the corner flags are in place and suitable.
Safety is always the paramount consideration. Flags must be at least
1.5m (5 feet) in height to minimize the likelihood that a player will be
impaled on one. If one or more of the corner flags are unsafe, the
Referee may well decide to remove all of them. This Referee was probably
removing the flags because they were too short or because they were
damaged and unsafe and could not be replaced. The Referee should decide
whether or not to play the game without the corner flags. If the Referee
decides to play without corner flags, players will need to be told that
any open dispute as to whether a ball is a throw-in, corner or goal kick
will not be tolerated, and should this happen, they will be instantly
disciplined for dissent. I have officiated in a number of games where
suitable corner flags have not been available, and even after I have
asked players to accept difficult decisions near the corner, I have
still had problems with dissent - so be prepared to discipline players
who overstep the mark!
I see this almost as a double-indiscipline, one moaning about my
decision, and two - unsporting failing to accept that it is nearly
impossible for the Referee to discern whether a ball is a corner kick or
goal kick when it quickly goes of the field of play near the corner.
Halfway flags are optional.
Question 5:What action should the Referee take if the cross bar becomes
displaced or damaged?
Answer 5: FIFA specifically mentions this in the Laws:
"If the cross bar becomes displaced or broken, play is stopped until it
has been repaired or replaced in position. If a repair is not possible,
the match is abandoned. The use of a rope to replace the crossbar is not
permitted. If the crossbar is repaired, the match is restarted with a
dropped ball at the place where the ball was located when the play was
The Referee should make every attempt to arrange repair of the crossbar
(or for a replacement to be provided). A number of players have been
killed, due to crossbars falling on their heads - the Referee should
therefore not compromise players' safety in making the repairs, or
sanctioning anything that is not 100 percent safe. If in any doubt as to
the suitability and safety of a repaired or replacement crossbar, the
Referee is advised to abandon the game. Tape, rope and wire are
wonderful things, but may not be able to hold the weight of the
crossbar, or sustain a fiercely driven shot.
You must have a crossbar in place before a game can commence. Rope is
definitely not suitable!
See Goalpost Safety in Question 10 below.
Question 6: Exactly what is the 6 yard goal area (six yard box) used
for? Back in the 'old days', the goalkeeper was 'protected' within this
area, but was deemed fair game for a fair charge anywhere outside of it.
Referees now seem to fully protected goalkeepers within the entire
penalty area INCLUDING the goal area. Is the goal area only there as a
spot to place the ball for a goal kick or does it have any other
Answer 6: Before 1998, Law 12 stipulated that an indirect free kick
should be awarded if an opponent (fairly) charged the goalkeeper in his
own goal area - when the goalkeeper had possession of the ball. Charging
the goalkeeper outside of his goal area was permitted.
In those days, an indirect free kick was awarded for charging the
goalkeeper, except when he:
(a) Was holding the ball;
(b) Was obstructing an opponent;
(c) Had passed outside his goal area.
The wording above was left out of the 1997/998 rewrites of the new Laws
of the Game. A fair charge has also disappeared (a charge is either a
foul or it is not a foul). Referees now err on the side of caution when
protecting goalkeepers, and I believe this is a very good improvement on
the lot of goalkeepers. They certainly seem to have more teeth these
Therefore, the goal area is now only really used to mark out the area in
which goal-kicks and free-kicks for the defense can be taken. In
addition, if a drop ball needs to be taken or an indirect
free-kick(awarded to the attacking team) occurs inside the goal area,
the restart is taken on a place on the goal line, parallel to the goal
line at the nearest point to where the ball was located when play was
Question 7: What is the exact point at which the goalkeeper is
considered to be out of the penalty area? Is it when his feet cross the
penalty area line, is it when any part of his body crosses the penalty
area line, or is it only when his hands are outside of the penalty area
Answer 7: It is only the position of the ball that matters or determines
whether a foul has been committed or not.
Unless the entire ball is completely outside of the penalty area line at
the moment it is handled, the goalkeeper has not committed any foul. For
example, when a goalkeeper is preparing to kick the ball out from his
hands, or throw it into the air whilst he is still inside the penalty
area, his momentum will very often take him outside of his penalty area.
So long as he releases the ball whilst he is still in his penalty area,
no infringement has occurred. It can be very difficult for the Referee
(and particularly the Assistant Referee) to judge the exact moment when
the goalkeeper releases the ball before he 'punts' or throws it out of
his penalty area. Do not be too finicky about penalizing goalkeepers
unless it is VERY obvious that he still has the ball in his hands, and
the ball is DEFINITELY outside of the penalty area. Assistant Referees
are advised that gaining a new position to look for off sides is more
important than trying to see if the goalkeeper handles the ball just
outside or just inside the penalty area, when he is rushing out to
'punt' the ball up field.
If the goalkeeper is outside of the penalty area but the ball and his
hands remain either inside or on the penalty area line then no offence
has been committed - the line itself is part of the penalty area The
position of the ball is the only thing that determines whether the
goalkeeper has handled outside his area or not. If the goalkeeper is
standing inside his penalty area, stretches his arms outside of the
penalty area, and catches the ball (which remains outside of the area),
then this is handball, and a direct free kick should be awarded. And a
sending-off for the goalkeeper if it prevented a goal scoring
opportunity. Sometimes, when making a save near his goal line, the
goalkeeper will save the shot, but in doing so backs his body into his
own goal, but has been very careful to ensure that his hands and the
ball remain on the field of play and not over the goal line for a goal.
A goal should not be awarded in this instance, as the ball has not fully
crossed over the goal line.
The same principle applies when a player who is trying to keep the ball
in play runs outside the field of play and manages to keep the ball in
play by kicking it before it rolls over the touch line out of play. Is
the ball out because the player was outside the touchline - absolutely
not. I have seen players keep the ball in play just inside the
touchline, and because of their momentum, run around the Assistant
Referee (to prevent an unpleasant collision) and regain possession some
yards further down and on the field of play. There is nothing illegal
about this action. You cannot caution the player for leaving the field
of play without your permission, because common sense (Law 18) deems
that this was a natural playing action that could not be prevented - and
the player was not trying to cheat the Laws in any way.
Question 8: If there is a huge puddle right where the penalty spot is,
where should the ball be placed if a penalty kick is awarded?
Answer 8:The Laws make no explicit provision or guidance to allow the
Referee or the kicker to move the ball elsewhere than the prescribed
penalty mark puddle (12yds/11m from the midpoint between the goal posts
and equidistant to them). Even though the penalty spot is underwater,
the player or the Referee is not officially allowed to place the ball
elsewhere. One or two officious Referees may require the kicker to take
the shot from the puddle, but generally, Referees will use common sense
as to the exact positioning of the ball. There are no stipulations as to
the size of the mark. Law 1 states, "Within each penalty area a penalty
mark is made....". This could be a cross, a circle, a spot, a square, a
triangle, somebody's telephone number!!!!!. Some fields of play
invariably do not have a mark at all, some have a dollop of mud to mark
the spot, and a slight hollow can identify most. Some slight movement of
the ball during placement should be allowed, but the Referee's word is
Question 9: Does the Referee have any say in where - or where not - the
spectators are allowed to stand (or sit) during the game?
Answer 9: The Referee is in charge of the game. He does not normally
have any say in where spectators can or cannot stand.
There have been instances at local park level football, where the
supporters of one team may decide to stand behind, or near the
opposition goal, with the sole aim of distracting the goalkeeper during
the game - in the hope that he will make a mistake and let in a goal. So
long as the spectators do not enter the field of play, and are not
openly abusive, there is not much the Referee can do about it. At local
park level football it may be possible to persuade parents and
spectators to keep away from the goal posts, and touchlines but this
relies on their good will.
The official Laws of Associated Football (LOAF) do not specify where
spectators/fans can sit. In large football stadiums the most rowdy fans
are often found immediately behind each goal. At local park level during
the taking of kicks from the penalty mark to decide the outcome of a
match. If the spectators are already standing behind one goal, and then
purposefully move to stand immediately behind the goal being used for
the penalty kicks - with the sole purpose of distracting the kickers,
there is not really much you can do as a Referee. It's all part of the
game. It is a spectator sport after all!
Question 10:During a lofted shot on goal, the goalkeeper who was off
his line, ran back and purposefully hangs on the crossbar, bending the
crossbar down with his weight - and the ball which would (or could) have
gone in the goal, landed on the top of the goal net. What action should
the Referee take, and how should he restart the game.
Answer 10: The act of hanging on crossbars used to be a favorite ploy by
goalkeepers in the 1970's. Apart from being very dangerous, it is deemed
to be unsporting behavior. The goalkeeper should be cautioned. Not only
is it dangerous to the goalkeeper, but it can also be dangerous to other
Many players have been killed by the instability of goal structures -
particularly displaced crossbars.
In this question, the goalkeeper's action may have interfered with the
result of the game, because the ball hit the top of the goal net instead
of possibly going into the goal. The Referee cannot award a goal, as the
ball did not fulfill Law 10 (The Method of Scoring) - "the whole of the
ball did not pass over the goal line, between the goalposts and under
Law 12 mentions specific sending
off offences for denying goal scoring opportunities:
(a) handling the ball, and
(b) denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to an opponent moving
towards the players goal by an offence punishable by a free kick or a
These are clearly "denying goal scoring opportunities" - but there is no
mention of infringements such as the goalkeeper hanging on the crossbar.
Law 12 does not cover bending of a crossbar. As this offence is neither
'(a) handling the ball' or ' (b) 'an offence against an opponent' it
cannot (in Law) be deemed 'denying a goal scoring opportunity' even
though the action committed by the goalkeeper may have prevented the
ball form entering the goal.
The Referee would be in a very difficult position because of the action
of the goalkeeper. It would be very difficult for a Referee to decide
whether the ball would have entered the goal, or just landed on the top
of the crossbar. It would be almost impossible to call. The Referee
should caution the goalkeeper for unsporting behavior, and award the
attacking team an indirect free kick on the goal area line parallel to
the goal line at the point nearest where the offence occurred (i.e.
where the goalkeeper hung on
Law 12 allows the Referee to award an indirect free kick in this
instance "An indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a
player, in the opinion of the Referee commits any other offence, not
previously mentioned in Law 12, for which play is stopped to caution or
dismiss a player."
Another option would be to caution the goalkeeper, and restart the game
with a goal kick (or a corner kick if the ball touched the goalkeeper's
hand) but this gives the advantage to the goalkeeper's team - and this
is clearly unfair.
There may be the very rare occasion when the goalkeeper to prevent
injuring himself does the action of hanging on the crossbar. For
example, whilst attempting to make a save, the goalkeeper leaps into the
air and 'clatters' into the top of a goalpost. This action stuns and
unbalances the goalkeeper who instinctively makes a grab for the
crossbar to steady him. If the Referee thinks that this action was
inadvertent (not done deliberately) on the goalkeeper's part (and not
purposefully done to prevent the ball entering the goal) - then this
should be deemed to be accidental, and no punishment is required.
Particularly where children are concerned, Referees are responsible for
the safety of players, and should prevent accidents by stopping children
from climbing on the nets or hanging from the crossbar.
The English Football Association launched a major campaign in August
2000 aimed at highlighting goalpost safety throughout grassroots
football. The drive comes after the deaths of nine children in accidents
involving goalposts over the last few years. Check It - make sure
goalposts are in good condition and properly constructed. Homemade
goalposts never be used - they do not have built-in safety features and
may be particularly hazardous for younger players.
Secure It - goalposts of any size must be securely anchored to the
ground. Portable goalposts must be pinned or weighted down to prevent
them toppling forward, and should be removed from the pitch when not in
use and stored
Test It - adults should test the goalposts to make sure they are stable
by exerting a downward force on the crossbar, backward force on both
upright posts and forward force on both upright posts.
Respect It - goalposts should only be used for their intended purpose;
in particular, children should not swing on them.
(Adam Crozier England FA). "Everyone involved with playing and
organizing football must play their part to ensure that the tragic
accidents that have so disfigured the game in the past never happen
Question 11: Before the start of the game, one of the players complains
to the Referee that a goal structure is insecure, and is in danger of
falling over. What action should the Referee take?
Answer 11: Insecure goals present a very serious safety hazard when they
are not properly secured firmly in the ground. Young players are killed
every year by unstable crossbars falling on them. Most goals are
permanent, but many types are portable. Permanent goals are usually dug
into the ground, and wedged in safely. Portable temporary goals are
usually made of lighter-weight transportable materials, and are not as
strong and stable as their permanent counterparts. Portable goals (and
permanent goals) should be tested to see if they can withstand the
forces of football, such as a fierce shot, or a player accidentally
tumbling into them. Giving the goals a good shaking can do this.
Portable goals are normally best secured with long metal "U" type
brackets or stakes that are driven well into the ground holding the rear
and sides of the goal. Weights such as heavy sand bags are also
sometimes used to improve stability. The Referee should not start the
game until he is convinced of the safety of both goal structures. In
this instance, the Referee should call for the goal to be safely
rectified. If this cannot be done, and no replacement is readily
available, then he should cancel the game.
Question 12: Why do you have to have a halfway line?
Answer 12: The halfway line serves the following purposes:
(a) It allows the officials to ensure that all players are in their own
half of the field when a kick-off is taken.
(b) It is also important in judging whether a player is in an offside
position or not.
(c) It divides the field of play into two identical halves.
(d) It is useful for tactical moves and discussions.
(e) It indicates the position where substitutes can enter and leave the
field of play.
(f) and it looks nice!
I'm sure that there are more reasons; let me know if you can think of
any more. e-mail me.
Question 13: In cases of offside and place kicks, is a player standing
directly on top of the half way line deemed to be standing inside his
half of the field of play?
Answer 13:Use common sense, as there is no offence.
Question 14: During a game, it was noticed that one of the corner flag
posts had broken. The Referee used one of the halfway line flag posts to
replace the broken one. Is this allowed, and can the game proceed
without halfway flag posts in place?
Answer 14: Law 1 states that flag posts may also be placed at the end of
each halfway line, not less than 1m (1yd) outside the touchline. It is
nice to have halfway flags, but this is not a requirement of the game.
The Referee used his common sense in replacing the broken corner flag
with a halfway flag post.
Question 15: Are 'dotted' lines allowed when marking out the field of
Answer 15: Definitely not. The lines must be continuous and not dotted
Question 16: A goalkeeper was seen to be making marks with his boot
along the center of his penalty area. Is this allowed, and what action
should the Referee take?
Answer 16: Unauthorized markings are not allowed on the field of play.
If the markings were made before the start of play, the Referee could
caution the goalkeeper for unsporting behavior. If the marks are made
during play, then the Referee could caution the goalkeeper when the ball
next goes out of play. It is not permitted to have additional lines on
the field of play for the benefit of the goalkeeper. There was a time in
the 1980's when goalkeepers always marked the field of play by scraping
their boot down along the middle length of the penalty areas, to give
them an idea of the center of the goal when they challenged for the
oncoming ball - but this habit has now thankfully stopped.
Question 17:Is the area under the goal post and under the goal nets
part of the field of play or penalty area?
Answer 17: No. This area is not part of the field of play or the penalty
area. A penal foul occurring in this area by an attacker would not be a
penalty - this area is not part of the penalty area. If the goalkeeper
decides to punch an attacker in this area, then this is also NOT a
penalty (but don't forget to send the goalkeeper off for violent
Beware during corner kicks, of attacking players running into this area
whilst the ball is in play from the corner kick, in an attempt to
distract the goalkeeper. Any such antics should be curtailed. Players
are not allowed to leave the field of play without the Referees
permission. If a goal is scored from a corner, and an attacker has
purposefully run into this area or around the goalkeeper whilst the ball
was in flight, then the goal should not be allowed to stand. This action
is deemed as unfair on the part of the attacking player and can be very
distracting for the goalkeeper.
Law 12 states that "An indirect free kick can be awarded to the opposing
team if a player, in the opinion of the Referee commits any other
offence, not previously mentioned in Law 12, for which play is stopped
to caution or dismiss a player." But because the indirect free kick
needs to be taken where the incident occurred, an indirect free kick
restart cannot be used (because the incident occurred under the goal net
and outside of the field of play and whilst the ball was in play).
Therefore, if the incident occurred outside of the field of play whilst
the ball was in play, the only restart allowed by Law is a dropped ball
to be taken where the ball was when the attacking player stepped under
the goal net. Because the offence actually occurs outside of the field
of play (under the goal net) - the Referee cannot award an indirect free
kick outside of the field of play. The restart for any offences
committed outside of the field of play whilst the ball is still in play
is always dropped ball. The Referee can also caution the attacking
player for either unsporting conduct, or for leaving the field of play
without the Referee's permission.
The correct restart is a dropped ball at the place where the ball was
located when the Referee either stopped play or where the ball was when
the attacking player stepped under the goal net. But it is strongly
advised that the ball be dropped by the Referee straight to the
goalkeeper, and does not involve an attacking player. This way, justice
is seen to have been done, and play can resume fairly.
Question 18:On arrival at a field of play, the grass was found to be
overgrowing. There were also some deep ruts in the muddy ground. The
players and the team managers have already made a pitch inspection, and
have agreed between themselves that they would be happy to play the
match. The Referee carefully inspects the field of play, and decides
that the pitch is not safe or fit for play. The players and the team
managers - all who have traveled some distance - angrily approach the
Referee to remonstrate about the cancelled game. Is the Referee correct
to go against everyone else's view - especially as the Referee gets paid
whether the match is played or not.
Answer 18:If the Referee had allowed the match to be played on an
unsafe field, he would have been accepting responsibility for its
condition, and for any injuries incurred as a result of the field
deficiencies, even though all those concerned said they were prepared to
accept the consequences of any accident. The Referee has a duty to
closely inspect the condition of the pitch before every game The Referee
must always consider the safety of the players. If the Referee has any
doubt as to the safety of the players because of the field deficiencies,
then he should not allow the match to take place. It can be very
difficult for the Referee to go against others' wishes. My common-sense
advice, is for Referees to rely on their intuition, it is usually
blatantly obvious when a field condition is dangerous. Players and
managers are always very friendly when they want something, but they can
turn monstrously dangerous in an instance, if one of their key players
suddenly breaks an ankle because of stepping into a deep rut.
In The League of Wales (UK), a goalkeeper received £20,000 damages
because of an illegal substance used by the Camarthen local council to
mark the penalty spot, scared him for life - so Referees MUST inspect
the field of play properly and thoroughly.
Question 19: A match was being played on a flat level playing field, but
during the half-time interval, a very large heavy fairground lorry
drives across the field leaving dangerous and deep furrows across the
playing surface. It is impossible to repair the surface before the
second half commences.
Another field is available nearby, and both teams agree to the change.
The alternative field slopes down considerably from one goal to the
other, and the wind has now increased and is blowing strongly down the
slope. Which team has the choice of ends?
Answer 19: Law 8 states that the winner of the coin tossing at the start
of the game, decides which goal it will attack in the first half of the
match - the other team takes the kick-off.
The team that did not kick-off in the first half, kicks-off in the
second half. The kick-off for the second half (on the alternative field)
is fairly straightforward and should not cause a problem. It is the
selection of halves on the alternative sloping field that is the
In this instance, the coin tossing ceremony had already taken place
before the commencement of the first half. If the alternative field had
been flat, then it should not really matter which half the teams played
- BUT - it would matter if the alternative flat field was at right
angles to the original field and the sun was glaring down towards one of
the goals. This would give one team an unfair advantage in the second
The Referee can resort to Law 18 Common Sense: There are really only two
(a). If the alternative field is situated in such a position, that both
halves are the same. For example, both halves of the field are flat,
there is no wind blowing from end to end, the sun is not a problem -
then just toss the coin again before commencement of the second half.
The winner chooses ends, and the team who should have kicked off the
second half on the original field, kicks-off on the alternative field.
(b). If the alternative field has a slope, or one half is different to
the other (for example, one of the goals may have a muddy puddle in, and
the other goal area may be dry) or the sun is shining strongly in one
direction. Toss the coin again for the start of the second half. The
winning team chooses which goal it wants to attack, and the losing team
kicks-off. After 22 and a half minutes have transpired, ask the teams to
swap halves, and let the team who won the toss in the second half, take
This would allow both teams to have a fair share of any second half
hazards. Of course, all of this must be done with the agreement of both
teams. If one team is not happy about playing on the alternative field,
then the Referee has no alternative but to abandon the game and report
the circumstances to the appropriate league authority.
Now consider this. What would you do if the fields were swapped around
in this question?
For example, the first half was played on the sloping field, and the
team kicking up the slope and against the strong wind, had a very hard
time of it. If the game now switches to the flat level field, and the
wind disappears in the second half, the team who had played down the
slope in the first half on the original field, will have gained a double
Advantage 1= their opponents had to play up the slope and against the
wind in the first half: Advantage 2 = they do not have to play up the
slope and against the wind in the second half.
But of course, the answer to this is a separate issue -perhaps you can
provide an answer? e-mail me.
The more I thought about this question, the more complex the answer
seemed. I just hope that I never come up against it whilst I am
Excellent answer to above question 17 submitted by Mike Sherwin of
Stoke-on-Trent Staffordshire, ENGLAND. Some very good points I had not
even considered! (Webmaster).
This question was asked at a recent North Staffordshire Referee's
meeting England. The question then went to the Staffordshire Football
Association who gave a clear answer regarding this matter:
Once a match has commenced on a given football pitch it must be
completed on that very same pitch. If for whatever reason the pitch
becomes dangerous or unplayable at any time after the commencement of
the game, then that game must be abandoned.
The transferring of the game to another pitch no matter how near an
alternative pitch may be located must not be allowed.
list, details some of the reasons:
(1) The home team is very likely only to hold insurance for a specified
football pitch where they usually play their home matches. The insurance
will unlikely extend to other pitches, now matter how close by they may
(2) The other pitch is more than likely to be contracted to some other
football team, who may rightly have grounds for a complaint if their
pitch is used and/or damaged by another team who does not have
permission to play on that particular pitch.
(3) In addition to (2) above, you will probably be unaware of any
scheduled fixture dates or times, or training schedules of the other
pitch. Therefore, in theory, another set of teams could turn up at a
later time, possibly whilst the transferred game is still in progress.
(4) It is unfair on those other football teams within the same league
who only have access to one football pitch no matter what has happened
to their usual pitch.
(5) The dimensions of the pitch could be different; therefore, all
things would not be equal for the remainder of the game.
(6) One of the two teams may for no fault of their own, be disadvantaged
by the transfer of football pitches, therefore, the other team is likely
to gain an unfair advantage.
(7) It is definitely something that would not be allowed at the higher
levels of football; therefore, the principals should be the same for the
lower levels of football too.
Simply abandon the game. It is the correct option to take and it would
avoid all of the above possible circumstances that I have listed.
Thanks Mike - from Webmaster
After all that - The question was submitted to the UK Referee's Society
I&P Committee in Jan 2001, and the official answer is:
In view of the circumstances of the alternative pitch it was the
unanimous view of the committee that the game should be abandoned and
the full facts reported to the competition concerned. So there you are!
Question 20:Does the term 'goal area line' only refer to the line
parallel to the goal line, or does it mean all lines forming the goal
area (not counting the goal line, of course)?
Answer 20:The 'goal area line' (singular) refers specifically to the
line parallel to the goal line. The goal area lines(plural) refers to
all the lines surrounding the goal area, except the line between the
goal posts, this is normally referred to as the goal line - but can mean
the whole of the line extending from corner flag to corner flag at one
end of the field of play.
The 'goal area line' (singular) is very often referred to when
describing where to take a free kick awarded to the attacking team
inside the defending team's goal area. An indirect free kick awarded to
the attacking team in its opponents' goal area, is taken from the goal
area line' parallel to the goal line at the point nearest to where the
Thanks to Tamara from Germany for this question.
Question 21: Is it true that a goalkeeper can play anywhere on the field
of play including the opposition's half and is not limited in his
movements (other than when he is in his own penalty area where he can
use his hands)?
Answer 21: Albeit that he goalkeeper has special privileges and has to
adhere to certain Laws when he is inside his own penalty area – as soon
as he steps outside of his own penalty area he becomes another outfield
player and is subject to exactly the same Laws as the other players.
"Goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel's Manchester United career ends with him
going up for a corner, and minutes later, lifting the most famous trophy
in European football (1999)."
The famous ex-Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel very often
came out of his penalty area to involve himself with corner kicks in the
opposition penalty area in the last minute of a game whenever his team
were losing by one goal – other goalkeepers very often do this, and it
is definitely NOT against the Laws.
In fact, during Manchester United’s famous 1999 European Cup Final
against the German side Bayern Munich in Barcelona - in the 91st minute,
United’s goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel came up into the opposition’s
penalty area for a corner, and confused the whole Bayern Munich defense.
As Schmeichel returned upfield, United’s Ryan Giggs crossed the ball to
Teddy Sheringham -- the equalizer. In the 92nd minute David Beckham
takes a United corner, Teddy Sheringham heads down, and Oli Gunnar
Solskjaer volleyed home the second of two goals in the last minute to
win Manchester United the biggest Club cup in football. This broke
German hearts and secured a place in football history by snatching a
miraculous victory with goals in the 91st and 92nd minutes.
European Cup Final 1999:
Manchester Utd 2-1 Bayern Munich
It is the goalkeeper's privilege to handle the ball in his own penalty
area - but he is responsible for putting the ball ‘back in play’ as soon
as possible (within 6 seconds). The ball is deemed ‘back in play’ as
soon as the goalkeeper has released it from his possession (hands) – it
then becomes ‘fair game’ for anyone to challenge him for possession of
the ball. As soon as he releases the ball from his hands, the goalkeeper
becomes another outfield player. (The only difference being that if he
picks the ball back up in his penalty area, an indirect free kick is
awarded, as opposed to a penalty kick.)
Many thanks to Marc Mitges Oakville, Ontario Canada for this question.