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Laws of the Game



In efforts to better educate our Soccer population, our head NCUSA referee has created a series of "RULES of the GAME" articles...

Click to open to see details (and to close).

What is a handball? When reading the Laws of the Game, the word or term "Handball" does not appear in any of the 17 Laws that govern the game of soccer.


What does appear in Law 12 (Fouls and Misconduct) is that is a player "handles the ball deliberately" (except for the goalkeeper within his/her penalty area) a Direct Free Kick is awarded to the opposing team.


So with this in mind, a referee must determine if a player deliberately handled the ball. Merely the ball and the hand having contact is not how the decision is made. The rule of thumb is, did the hand play the ball (deliberate act) or did the ball play the hand?


Another factor a referee must take into consideration is Time and Space. Did the player have the time and the space to get out of the way or play the ball in another fashion. If a player is 3 yards away from an opponent and kicks the ball directly at them, the player has little time nor space to do much more than to defend themselves by putting their hands up. If the players were 10 yards apart, then there is time and space to make another decision such as head the ball, trap the ball or simply duck out of the way. The player that uses their hands to strictly defend themselves should not be penalized, but once they defend themselves, their next action may be a foul if they use their hands to control or direct the ball.


The referee may also use their discretion to determine the foul of handling is trifling and does not serve the game to make the call. As well, the referee may also apply the Advantage clause which states that if the foul is called it would benefit the team greater that committed the foul than the non-fouling team.


As you can see, the referee has a lot to think about each time the ball and hand make contact, it is a judgment call that is made quickly. Right or wrong, it is the referee decision and it should be respected.


Feel free to contact me about questions concerning the Laws of the Game at dadams17@triad.rr.com.
Beginning at the Under 11 age groups, players and spectators are introduced to the Offside Violation. Offside is found in the Laws of the Game under Law 11. Below are excerpts from the "Laws of the Game" as well as the reference book, "Advice to Referees". As you will see throughout the text, the correct term is Offside, not the often heard offsides.


Offside has two portions, the first being the position and the second being the offence. As you will see, Law 11 is very short and concise. It is one of the most misunderstood Laws but once you understand the premise, it is quite simple.




From the Laws of the Game:


Offside position - It is not an offence in itself to be in an offside position.
A player is in an offside position if:
  • he is nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent
A player is not in an offside position if:
  • he is in his own half of the field of play or
  • he is level with the second-last opponent or
  • he is level with the last two opponents


Offence - A player in an offside position is only penalized if, at the moment the ball touches or is played by one of his team, he is, in the opinion of the referee, involved in active play by:
  • interfering with play or
  • interfering with an opponent or
  • gaining an advantage by being in that position


No offence - There is no offside offence if a player receives the ball directly from:
  • a goal kick
  • a throw-in
  • a corner kick


Infringements and sanctions - In the event of an offside offence, the referee awards an indirect free kick to the opposing team to be taken from the place where the infringement occurred.


From the "Advice to Referees" booklet
11.1 Even or Nearer
In a fast moving game, the decision as to whether an attacker is in an offside position at the moment the ball is touched or played by a teammate often hinges on a close decision on whether the attacker is ahead of the second to last defender, the ball, and the halfway line. Determining if an attacker has been ahead of an opponent has been subject to various informal interpretations over the years but the only correct definition focuses on those parts of the attacker’s body which can legally play the ball (head, torso, legs/feet). If any of these parts are closer to the opposing team’s goal line than the second to last defender, the ball, and the halfway line, then the attacker is in an offside position. Note that the last defender and the second to last defender might be even with each other, in which case the attacker must be ahead of both defenders to meet the offside position definition.
11.2 Certainty Is Needed
If either the assistant referee or the referee is not certain that an attacker is in an offside position or is not certain that an attacker in an offside position is involved in active play, then the offside offense should not be called.
11.3 Reacting to the Flag
Referees must always be aware of but not react immediately or without thought to an offside flag signal from the assistant referee. A raised flag for offside is an indication that the assistant referee has seen an attacker in an offside position who is believed to be involved in active play from the assistant referee’s perspective. The assistant referee’s position provides a superior standpoint from which to judge offside position but the actual offense must be subject to the decision of the referee whose position often provides a more advantageous view of involvement. The farther away the involvement in active play is from the assistant referee, the more important it is for the referee to build on the assistant referee’s signal by making an independent assessment of involvement. Where events seen from the referee’s position do not support a decision for involvement, the referee must not hesitate to wave down the assistant referee’s signal. It should be rare, but fully within the referee’s authority, for the referee to whistle an offside offense in the absence of a signal from the assistant referee.




Players should not stop play if they see the Assistant Referee’s (AR) flag raised for an apparent offside violation UNTIL they hear the referee’s whistle.


Many times players, coaches and spectators are not observant of where a player is when the ball is last played by their teammate because they are watching the ball. When a ball is served high and over the defense, it may appear that they player receiving the ball is in an offside position. Many times that player is in an onside position and moves once the ball is played giving the appearance of being offside by the time a person’s view changes to that player. The AR has the responsibility of staying even with the Next to Last Defender (or even with the last two defenders) or the ball, whichever is closer to the goal line. By holding that position, the AR can better determine if a violation has occurred.


Teams that employ the "Offside Trap" as a defensive mechanism run the risk of forcing the AR to make a decision. It takes a disciplined team to effectively run an offside trap.


Feel free to send any questions you may have concerning the Laws of the Game to dadams17@triad.rr.com.


Dan Adams
Area Referee Administrator
Inclement Weather
Prior to the match beginning, the home club or organization that controls the use of the playing field may determine the field unplayable and postpone or cancel the match. If the playing field is deemed suitable, the referee after examining the field may deem the field unsafe and not permit the game to be played. If the game does begin and the field conditions worsen, the referee has the authority to suspend that match.


Per a recent decision by NCYSA the following policy has been put into effect and is the responsibility of referees to administer. If thunder is heard or lightning viewed, the referee is to stop the match and not resume for a minimum of 30 minutes after the last sighting of lightning or sound of thunder is heard. At this stoppage, players and spectators should seek cover and not remain on the playing field.


Concussions are a true concern of everyone involved with athletics. Referees have been instructed to deal with concussions or possible concussions in the following manner.


1. If a player has appeared to have a head trauma, stop the match and have a trainer or coach address the player. If the player appears okay to continue, he/she may do so after leaving the field and either being replaced at that time or re-entering once play has resumed with the referees permission. This does not apply to players playing in the goal keeper position, if deemed okay to play, they may resume play without leaving the field.


2. If the player is placed back into the match and is still showing signs of a concussion, the referee may stop the game and have the player replaced. Regardless of what the coach or parents say, the referee has final say.


Signs of concussions are: Amnesia, Confusion, Delayed Verbal or other Responses, Difficulty Concentrating, Difficulty Remembering, Dis-orientation, Feeling Foggy, Feeling Slowed down, Feeling Stunned, Inability to Focus, Loss of Consciousness, Slurred Speech and Vacant Stare.