Let’s look at some test questions that are on the 2022 Grassroots Referee Recertification test to check our application of the Laws of the Game. These questions require that we understand the basics of the Law and they do present unique and challenging situations.
A player who is off the field of play to receive medical treatment trips a player who is on the field of play. What decision does the Referee make?
•The Referee shows a red card and sends off the player. Play is restarted with an indirect free kick.
•The Referee shows a yellow card and cautions the player. Play is restarted with an indirect free kick.
•The Referee either cautions or sends off the player as appropriate. Play is restarted with either a Penalty Kick or a direct free kick.
The Referee cautions the player and restarts with a dropped ball.
The steps in analyzing what decision the Referee should do include the designation of the participants in a soccer match, what does it take to commit a foul that is punishable with a direct free kick, and which fouls are punished with what kind of restart.
Participants in a soccer match: There are multiple participants in each soccer match.
•Players: Assuming 11 players on a side, the players are the participants who are allowed to be on the field.
•Substitutes: These are players in waiting. They can only participate in the match with the permission of the Referee. For a substitute to become a player, another player needs to leave the field.
•Team Officials: Coaches, Assistant Coaches, and administrators with credentials. They cannot become players. However, they can be sanctioned (yellow and red cards) for their actions.
•Fans: An important part of the game, but they cannot participate in the playing of the game on the field.
The test question defines the person off the field receiving medical treatment as a player.
Requirements for a Direct Free Kick foul: The Laws of the Game say that for a foul to result in a Direct Free Kick restart, it must:
- Be committed by a player
- Against an opponent
- While the ball is in play
- On the field of play
In our test question, we can confirm that a player committed the action. The question also says that this player trips another player (an opponent) on the field of play. The assumption that the ball is in play is correct. You have a player doing something to an opponent while the ball is in play. The trip occurred on the field of play. Do we have the requirements for a direct free kick restart? It depends on the foul.
Direct Free Kick fouls: The Laws of the Game list 13 offenses that will result in a direct free kick restart if the requirements for a direct free kick foul (above) are met. These offenses include:
With the mouth:
With the body:
Impeding with contact
With the Legs:
With the Arms
Throwing an object
The specific foul in the test question was tripping, which results in a direct free kick restart.
Putting it all together:
•We have a foul that was committed by a player (even though the player was off the field receiving medical attention, he/she was still designated as a player) against a player on the other team (i.e., an opponent). The foul occurred on the field of play and while the ball was in play.
•The foul was tripping. Tripping is one of the 13 named fouls that result in direct free kick restarts.
•This set of facts means that answers a and b are not correct (tripping is a direct free kick restart). Dropped balls are the restart when there is a stoppage that is not an infraction of the Laws of the Game. We had a trip so this answer cannot be correct.
•The only correct answer when you include all the necessary factors from the Laws of the Game is one that includes tripping and a direct free kick restart.
This was a tricky question. But the location and timing of the foul (on the field of play while the ball was in play) and the participants (a player and an opponent) highlight that the primary considerations apply as well as the location where the action took place. It was on the field of play so the restart would be where the foul occurred.
Let’s consider one more question to make sure we understand how these considerations combine to shape a decision.
While the ball is in play, a defender positioned inside her own penalty area, strikes an opponent who is outside the penalty area with excessive force. What decision does the Referee make?
•The Referee sends off the defender, shows the red card and awards a penalty kick
•The Referee sends off the defender, shows the red card and awards a direct free kick where the opponent was located
•The Referee sends off the defender, shows the red card and awards a dropped ball where the opponent was located
•The Referee sends off the defender, shows a red card and awards a dropped ball where the defender was located.
Let’s apply what we learned from the previous question. Do we have a player and an opponent involved in this situation? Yes, we do. Is the ball in play? Yes. Did the foul occur on the field of play? Yes. Was it one of the 13 named direct free kick restarts? Yes.
The added information in this question is that the strike was done with excessive force. Fouls can be made in the following ways:
•Careless – we will call this a normal foul. Soccer is a contact sport, and some contact is illegal (the 13 named fouls). Most fouls are considered careless
•Reckless – this is a more serious foul. When the Referee determines that a foul was committed in a reckless manner, they are required to issue the yellow card
•Endangering the safety of an opponent or using excessive force – in this instance the amount of force far exceeds what is considered legal. Whenever a Referee sees the words excessive force on a test, the answer is always a red card.
To correctly answer this question, we confirm that we have met the conditions for a direct free kick foul. In addition, we are told that the foul was done with “excessive force.” This means we will have to look for a choice that includes a red card. All the answers include red card, so which one is the correct decision?
Let’s go back to the previous question. We determined that the position of the player is not the determinant of where the restart will be. The primary determinant is where the foul occurred. The defender who is in the penalty area, strikes an attacker who is outside the penalty area. The foul happened outside the penalty area. For a penalty kick, the foul needs to be committed by the defender inside his/her penalty area. This didn’t happen so we would have a direct free kick restart where the foul occurred.
As you can see, understanding the basics is critical to making correct decisions. Now you know what is required for a direct free kick restart. You also know that the location of the foul is where the restart takes place unless the foul is done by a defender in their penalty area. This would result in a penalty kick.
Looking forward to sharing more about the application of the Laws of the Game as the season progresses. We invite you to become a certified Referee so you can make the call on the field.