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2011 Referee Week in Review

The ussoccer.com Referee Week in Review is designed to address the issues facing referees at all levels by using video highlights from professional games as well as the U.S. National Teams. The Referee Week in Review will highlight specific areas of focus and current U.S. Soccer initiatives designed to improve performance and aid in the development of officials across the country.

Referee Week in Review – Week 30

The Situation: New York is leading Los Angeles 1-0 in the 43rd minute of play.

The Play: The Los Angeles player attempts to serve a free kick towards the penalty area but the New York defender makes contact with the ball using his hand.

The Decision: The referee stops play for the offense and shows the defender a yellow card.

My Take: This is a classic example of a handling offense during a free kick restart. It is common to see a defender jump at the taking of a free kick but notice here the position of his arm. The arm is extended up in the air and we see the defender reach towards the ball to interfere with play. The offense is blatant and clearly prevents the attack from developing. The referee correctly issues the caution as required by the Laws of the Game.

The Situation: Vancouver is leading Real Salt Lake 1-0 in the 52nd minute.

The Play: The Vancouver attacker is in possession of the ball outside the penalty area and multiple defenders move to close him down. The ball is deflected and makes contact with the arm of the Real Salt Lake defender standing in the penalty area.

The Laws of the Game: See below.

The Decision: The referee stops plays and awards a penalty kick.

My Take: Here we see the defender’s arm is close to his side and he does not move it towards the ball to make contact. The ball travels a short distance with force before striking him and there is little time for him to react. The Laws of the Game require the referee to consider the movement of the hand and the distance from the ball when determining if a player deliberately made contact with the ball. Given these factors, this contact should not be judged as deliberate and therefore, no handling offense has occurred.

The Laws of the Game: In support of both clips this week, Law 12 defines handling as the deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with the hand or arm. When determining a potential handling offense, the referee must take the following into consideration:

  • The movement of the hand towards the ball (not the ball towards the hand)
  • The distance between the opponent and the ball (unexpected ball)
  • The position of the hand does not necessarily mean that there is an infringement
  • Touching the ball with an object held in the hand (clothing, shin guard, etc.) counts as an infringement
  • Hitting the ball with a thrown object (boot, shin guard, etc.) counts as an infringement

Michael Kennedy is a current MLS referee and has officiated in the league since its founding in 1996. In addition to serving as a professional referee, he has also represented U.S. Soccer as both a FIFA referee and assistant referee.

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