Law 8.2 Clarity – When the Ball Hits the Ref

Question (from Paul Steele):

Law 8.2 says in part:  “In all other cases, the referee drops the ball for one player of the team that last touched the ball at the position where it last touched a player, an outside agent or, as outlined in Law 9.1, a match official”

In the spirit of the law, if a passed ball deflects off a defender (who didn’t play the ball, but only had it deflect off some part of their body) and strikes the referee, shouldn’t the dropped ball be awarded to the offensive side that last had possession and attempted the pass?  Again, in the spirit of the law.

And is there any official commentary on this portion of Law 8.2?


Paul, thank you for your question.

Unfortunately, IFAB made it very clear on this one. IFAB uses the specific word touched.  As referees we have a lot of flexibility in our judgement, many aspects of what we call (or don’t call) are ‘in the opinion of the referee (ITOOTR)’, but not when its this clearly specified in the Laws of the Game (LOTG).

To further add confusion, if the ball hits the referee and goes out of play, the restart (throw in, corner or goal kick) goes to the opponent.  I.e., Blue kicks the ball, it hits the referee and goes over the touchline, the restart is a throw in for Red.

I think many of us were looking for an update from IFAB on this one, but it looks like we’ll need to wait until next year to see if they update it.

Intentional Heading v. Non-Intentional Heading

We know that heading at the 10U is discouraged, and is a indirect free kick (IDK) for the other team. One referee that I know will only give the IDK if he thinks the heading of the ball was intentional. From my understanding, we are to create an atmosphere of avoiding the heading as much as possible, and the referee should call it regardless of intentional or not.

If it’s deliberate, do you always enforce the requirement?

We first must acknowledge that the prohibition on heading the ball in AYSO is at the 11U and below levels (12U and below for programs without single age divisions) in both practices and matches (AYSO Referee Guidelines). The Guidelines also state that the prohibition is on deliberate heading, not unintentional heading.

So, a player whose head is hit by the ball, but did not clearly intend for it to do so, is not guilty of an offense. In addition, should a player get hit in the head with the ball with significant force to cause concern, stop play and restart as you would for an injury.

“If it’s deliberate, do you always enforce the requirement?” The short answer is yes, if the heading is deliberate, it must be called; even advantage cannot be applied (as in the case where a defender deliberately heads the ball and inadvertently scores an own goal).

The restart for deliberate heading is an indirect free kick, at the point of the infraction; unless it happens in the attacking goal area, in which case, as with any other indirect free kick offense, the restart is on the goal line, nearest to where the offense happened, parallel to the goal line.

When is the right time to call Handball?

When to call handball? Did I make the right call?

Blue is attacking, White is defending. We are in open play but Blue has had the ball in the defenders penalty area for about 30 seconds, so the defense is packed deep, including players within a yard of the goal line.

Blue kicks the ball, it glances off of a White defender’s arm and goes in the goal. Blue was awarded the goal. The White team wanted the goal to be reversed and a handball called instead, as it happened first. (The defender’s arms were tucked in alongside his body and were not out in a body expanding position, nor were they above their shoulders.)

Handling the ball is part of Law 12, Fouls and Misconduct. It is clear that the White team coach wanted the handling called, as it would negate the sure goal and provide for a Penalty Kick where there is a chance of a miss.
The offending White team player would receive a “caution” (if match was 12U or higher) for unsporting behavior.

As Law 12 reviews Handling the Ball, it is important to recognize that “not every touch of a players hand or arm with the ball is an offence”.
The criteria for “Handling” includes:
• “Deliberately touches the ball with their hand/arm. For example moving the hand/arm towards the ball”.

• “Touches the ball with their hand/arm when it has made their body unnaturally bigger. A player is considered to have made the body unnaturally bigger when the position of their hand/arm is not a consequence of, or justifiable by, the players body movement for that specific situation. By having their hand/arm in such a position, the player takes a risk of their hand/arm being hit by the ball and being penalized”.

• Scores in the opponents goal

  • Directly from their hand/arm, even if accidental, including by the goalkeeper
  •  Immediately after the ball has touched their hand/arm even if accidental.

Based on the information provided in the scenario experienced, none of the criteria for “Handling the Ball” existed and the, “no call” was correct.

When to Warn and to Issue a Card for Players

Background:  U14 Boys game with CR and 2 ARs. Blue = home & Red = away

1st Quarter:
Blue team has an excellent goalkeeper (very tall girl). During the game, the Blue goalkeeper taunts the red attackers by leaving the ball in play and motioning for red attackers to kick the ball; then picks up the ball at the last minute. The blue keeper also makes gestures to the red attackers (nothing vulgar). Since the blue keeper did not do this every time, I thought maybe it best to let the kids play.  During water break, I recommend/ask the Blue keeper stop messing with the attackers…it can be seen as unsporting behavior.

2nd Quarter:
Blue keeper behavior continues and the red attackers appear to be getting frustrated. I warn the blue keeper. At halftime, I warn the blue keeper again, but I don’t think I every said a card would be coming out.

3rd Quarter:
Nothing memorable happens.

4th Quarter:
I Yellow Card the blue keeper the next time the behavior happens. The Red attackers hi-five each other and laugh out load.

Was I correct in issuing a Yellow Card to Blue keeper? If so, should I have done it sooner? Should I have issued a warning or Yellow Card to Red Attackers?


In any match, the goalkeeper can wait for pressure from an opponent before picking up the ball with the hands.  This alone is a normal part of the game.  In this match, the goalkeeper on the Blue team is not displaying good sportsmanship. “Motioning for the red attackers to kick the ball” is inviting conflict and “gestures” can have a negative impact on a match even if they are not vulgar.  This is taunting, which is a form of unsporting behavior, one of the caution-able offenses. We as AYSO referees have other tools that can be used first. A quick word to the goalkeeper to remind her of good sportsmanship is usually enough to stop the behavior. An early intervention by the referee will keep the match friendly and prevent the other players from responding in their own way. Letting it go is not an option.

In your instance, a direct warning to the goalkeeper to stop the behavior is appropriate. Remember to be professional, keep it short, and do not threaten to caution the next time.  If the goalkeeper continues to make poor choices, and the tone of the match is negatively affected, then it is time to caution the player and show them the yellow card. Remember that it is not personal, and the caution is for the good of the game. The other players deserve to have good experience.

Managing the players early on with our voice is an effective tool to keep the match safe, fair, and fun most of the time. Formal misconduct, showing cards, is an option when a player does not respond. Remember, if you have already asked the goalkeeper to stop the action and the behavior continues, that is the time to issue the caution. Don’t repeatedly “ask” the player to stop.

Reminder on Referee Roles during a Match


My daughter and I both recently had unusual experiences with assistant referees at our games. Each of us has had ARs come out on the field and disrupt play or instructions to players. In one case, I was forced to blow a whistle during an attack in the box when the AR came out onto the field. In my daughter’s case, the AR came all the way from the other end of the field to incorrectly “correct” my daughter on a PK. It may be worth an article to remind about the AR role and how the AR is supposed to signal the Referee and stay off the field during play unless invited on by the Referee.


That is an unusual situation to say the least, but of luckily the Laws of the Game (LOTG) are very clear on the role of the AR.  Law 5 outlines the authority of the referee and states “Each match is controlled by a referee who has full authority to enforce the Laws of the Game…”. Law 6 reinforces this with its statement that “The match officials [including the assistant referee] operate under the direction of the referee”. A common phrase to remember is the assistant referee is there to assist not insist.

In terms of signaling, the Laws are less prescriptive. The section in the LOTG called Practical guidelines for match officials states that when direct consultation is required, the AR may advance 2-3 meters (yards) onto the field of play, but does not specify how this is indicated.

How the AR should signal the referee should be reviewed by the referee team in their pre-game. Generally the recommendation is that If the AR needs to speak with the referee during a match they should hold their flag up straight above their head and wait to be recognized. Upon play being stopped and the referee recognizing the AR, the AR should use an agreed upon signal to indicate they wish to talk to the referee.

Unless the AR has a prescribed reason to be on the field of play (e.g. moving into position for a PK, supporting the referee during a mass confrontation etc.) under no circumstances should they enter the field of play without the referee’s permission.

10U Build-out Line


I am an AYSO National Referee as well as a USSF referee for PA West here in Western Pennsylvania. During my USSF recertification course in 2020, there was some special emphasis on the 10U build out line and when the ball is in play since 10U uses the build out line (BOL) player development initiatives. We were advised that the ball is not in play until another player on the kicking team receives the ball. Only then could the opposing players cross the BOL.

When I review the AYSO 10U BOL guidance, it appears that it has not been updated to reflect the changes I was provided during my recertification class with USSF. Not all Regions are using this consistently and it causes some issues when there is interplay between Regions. Can you please review these and update them as needed?


Thank you for your e-mail. Yes, in 2019 there was a change to Law 16 stating that goal/free kicks are now in play as soon as the ball is kicked and clearly moves. For 10U and the build out line, there was very little impact. We clarified with US Soccer and they shared the US Soccer BOL clarification memo of August 2019 that indicates:

Build-Out Line under New Goal Kick Law

  • Before the ball is kicked, players on the kicking team may stand anywhere on the field, including inside the penalty area.
  • Players on the defending team must move beyond the BOL and may not cross the BOL until the ball is in play.
  • The ball is in play when it is kicked and clearly moves. In other words, as soon as a member of the kicking team kicks, or tries to kick, the ball, and the ball visibly moves or begins to roll, the ball is in play.
    • As soon as the ball is in play, other members of the kicking team may play it (inside the penalty area) and defenders may cross the BOL.

The indicates that the ball is “in play” when it is kicked and clearly moves. This is when opposing players may cross the BOL to engage in play which aligns with the currently published AYSO guidance. It appears that your local USSF association (PA West) has created and adopted a modified version that requires another member of the kicking team to receive the ball before the opposing players may cross the BOL however, this is not in alignment with the current US Soccer directives. While US Soccer acknowledges that a few of their associations have adopted same model as PA West, it is not the current US Soccer policy.

When local entities deviate from the US Soccer policy, it can make is very challenging to provide consistency. To avoid and reduce confusion in your local area, teams should be advised to follow the requirements of the gaming circuit in which they are participating. Thank you again for your question!

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The Pass Back – Law 12

Question: Other than handling, the one law that coaches and parents seem to be most adamant about wanting the referee to call is the pass back to the goalkeeper. I saw that FIFA put out a good clarifying statement and situations about this on their social channels (Facebook) this month, which is probably worth sharing and commenting upon. But in general, especially considering 10U games where the goalkeepers are not trained, how would AYSO like to see these calls being made? Sometimes in a 10U game, I feel like I have to call them when there is literally only a keeper and a defender back there, even though neither likely knows or understands the rule. Thanks, Sympathetic in Southern Cali.

~ Warmest, Ron


Answer: The deliberate pass back to the goalkeeper from a teammate is indeed a tough one for younger players. The coach is likely rotating goalkeepers a lot and most players won’t know that a deliberate pass back is even not allowed.

This offense is one of four restrictions on the actions of the goalkeeper that are very rarely enforced at the 10U level. Law 12 states:

An indirect free kick is awarded if a goalkeeper, inside their penalty area, commits any of the following offenses:

  • Controls the ball with the hand/arm for more than six seconds before releasing it
  • Touches the ball with the hand/arm after releasing it and before it has touched another player
  • Touches the ball with the hand/arm, unless the goalkeeper has clearly kicked or attempted to kick the ball to release it into play, after:

o   It has been deliberately kicked to the goalkeeper by a team-mate

o   Receiving it directly from a throw-in taken by a team-mate. 


As we consider our role as stewards of the game and our charge to keep the game safe, fair and fun, we must consider whether enforcing these offences at the 10U level is appropriate. In addition to the fact that most 10U goalkeepers (and possibly their coaches) don’t know about this part of Law 12, a restart of an indirect free kick in the penalty area is potentially dangerous to young players who don’t have much control on the ball and may result in a ball striking the head of a defender.

A better approach is to educate these young players and coaches about this part of the Laws of Game, and only call for an indirect free kick if the law is violated repeatedly. Here are a couple of ways to do this:

  • At the first break after the offense happens (substitution/halftime or end of the match) let the coach and keeper know that a deliberate pass back to the keeper is not allowed and what they should do differently in the future.
  • If you are comfortable with a more active intervention, blow the whistle, stop the game and say ‘Teaching Moment’ and instruct the keeper and coach on the spot. Restart with a dropped ball to the keeper with an instruction that they may pick the ball up.


Offside – Law 11

Question: I was watching a U-15 game.  A defender, let’s call them the blue team, played a ball forward to his attacker teammate that is in an off-side position on the attacking side of the midfield line.  However, the ball is headed with a grazing touch by the red team and then lands to the blue player that is in an off-side position.  The AR called it off-sides.  Is this considered to be offside?

As I watched the Spain and France Nations League final, the Spanish player attempted to play a ball and never made contact with the ball, the French player in an off-side position got to the ball and scored the winning goal.  Is this not the same thing?

~ Armando

Answer: Armando, thanks for the question.  Offside seems to give us an endless source of discussion.  We have all spent time with other referees explaining scenarios and then debating if a player is guilty of an offside offense or not. Law 11 tells us:

A player in an offside position at the moment the ball is played or touched by a team-mate is only penalized on becoming involved in active play by:

  • interfering with play by playing or touching a ball passed or touched by
    a team-mate or
    • interfering with an opponent by:
    • preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by
    clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or
  • challenging an opponent for the ball or
  • clearly attempting to play a ball which is close when this action impacts
    on an opponent or
    • making an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an
    opponent to play the ball or
    • gaining an advantage by playing the ball or interfering with an opponent
    when it has:
    • rebounded or been deflected off the goalpost, crossbar, match official or
    an opponent
    • been deliberately saved by any opponent


In the 15U match the Blue attacking player is in an offside position at the time that the team-mate plays the ball.  This is a potential offside situation but we still need active involvement in play for it to be an offside offense.  The ball is headed by a player on the Red team before it reaches the Blue attacker.  The defender’s action of heading the ball counts as a deliberate play so the Blue attacker receives the ball from an opponent and not a team-mate.  Law 11 also states:

A player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent who
deliberately plays the ball, including by deliberate handball, is not considered

to have gained an advantage, unless it was a deliberate save by any opponent.


The assistant referee may have not have seen the “grazing touch” or may have thought that played poorly does not count and raised the flag incorrectly.  The Blue player is not guilty of offside in this scenario.

In the Nations League final, VAR ruled that Spanish defender Eric Garcia did make contact with the ball which made it a deliberate play. Mbappe received the ball from an opponent and not a team-mate and thus not offside.