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Jim Law's

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Jim Law is a South Jersey soccer referee with over 21 years of USSF, high school, and indoor experience.

Do you have a soccer question for Jim? Click here to Ask the Ref!

Ref's Tip:

The High School season is about a week from conclusion here in Southern New Jersey. Likewise, the fall season of USSF youth ball is coming to a close. During this period I have received a fair amount of questions about our game and how spectators and players perceive it. Before I begin the questions and answers I'd like to share a story from a game I officiated.

My assignor sent me to a JV girl's game at a local high school. I was to be part of a two-man team for this game. My partner neither showed up nor notified anyone he was not coming to the game. This JV games was not the normal level of quality as seen this season. Both teams were representative of very high skill, knowledge of the game and very competitive. Their varsity counterparts are ranked in the top five here in South Jersey, There was only one incident during the game that stood out. I probably blew a call for off sides that resulted in a goal. The defensive team let me know it right away. Immediately the coach shouted to his team, "this is a one person refereed game and he can make mistakes." He continued to tell his team they quit on the play without hearing a whistle. I thank this coach, Mike Foley, for his support and understanding.


During a substitution, Team A brings on 2 players. 3 players leave the field of play. Per NFHS, does Team A have to wait for THEIR next substitution or can Team A sub when there is a substitution available for B?   (HB from Pittsburgh, PA)


Team A may substitute on his or her own substitution opportunity or on Team B's if Team B has a substitution first and has a player being substituted. Do not forget there are other opportunities for substitution other than a throw-in. An injury stoppage allows substitutions, as do goal kicks, after a team scores and injury stoppages.


Can the linesmen switch sides after the first half?   (Frank from Mississauga)


Frank, I do not know. This is not normal but what would prevent such a thing from happening? Once the Center decides his favored position he aligns his Assistants to their side positions. Once set, the game begins and ends in those assigned positions.


My question is this I went over to ask the ref about a call that he made during the game. I disagreed with the call and told the ref so. The ref gave me a red card but that was after the game was over. Does he have the power to issue the card after the game is over? Thanks for your time.   (Ben from Medford, NJ)


Ben, the referee's authority begins when he enters the field of play and ends when he leaves the field of play. I interoperate that mean I have authority once I arrive physically on the field and begin my field inspection. I leave the authority once I have returned the player passes to the coach at the end of the game. Giving a red card after the game is more likely to incite problems than accomplish anything. As an official I have to write up a game report after each game. I would so note any problems after the game on this report and let the league have its due process. I do assume you are a coach in this matter and you have a valid coaches pass, which would be in the possession of the referee. Spectators cannot be carded, they can be asked to leave the facility.


In the Penn Jersey League, is there a restriction on age or grade of the players on a team?   (Nurse Baker from South Jersey)


I am sorry but am at a loss here. I assume most leagues have some sort of age requirements. I also assume you are writing about adult leagues. They generally have a minimum age restriction. Here in South Jersey we have a Masters league that limits ages to be over 35 years old.


In a soccer match under high school rules, played in Bergen County, a player receives a foul in the box. The other team chooses a player to take the PK. The shot is blocked by the keeper, but just deflected. Can the opposing player who shot the PK score off his rebound? Or does that need to be done by another player?   (Freddie from Wyckoff, NJ)


Freddie, the goal is good. Remember the rule says the kicker cannot touch the ball a second time unless another person touches the ball first. The keeper did touch the ball allowing the kicker to continue play. This is probably not the answer you wanted but it is correct.


My daughter was playing in a high school freshman soccer game last week and I saw something I hadn't seen before. She took a shot and while the ball was heading for the goal the ref blew his whistle. The ball went into the goal. The ref waved off the goal and called halftime. The call didn't affect the outcome of the game. I was just wondering if this was the correct call?   (Nick from Hamilton, NJ)


Nick, the referee did follow the proper procedure. Time was up and he ended all play when he blew the whistle.


This question came up at our sons HS soccer game today. A player became injured on the field. The ref stop game. The home had the ball. After the injured player was removed from the field, the ref gave the home team an indirect kick. Shouldn't the correct call be a drop ball were the ball was last played?   (Steve from Dover, NJ)


Here we go again with confusion between USSF and High School rules. In USSF the restart is a drop ball. In High School the restart is an indirect kick to the team in clear possession. Some day the game will get a common set of rules/Laws of the game.


The biggest issue when officiating as the Center Referee in USSF sanctioned Leagues or high school is how much latitude does one give the coach from the side lines in regaring to making comments about the calls? May you kindly just summarize your standard? We referees are criticized for our calls many times. Would it not be fair if we, the referees, criticized the coaches for their teams play?   (John from Norwood, NJ)


As a referee we are expected to be professional in our handling of games no matter the level. I would never begin to have a conversation with a coach about his team's lack of skills, attitude or demeanor during or after a game. It is not our business. My standard of tolerance is simple: If Mom can hear it in the stands it is a red card, if it is a personal attack on me or my partner it is either red or yellow card, if it is insulting to either teams player it is a red or yellow. Before going to the pocket for a card I would stop the game and have a conversation with the coach. I'd invite him on the field, tell him this is a one sided discussion from me to him and then ask he leave my field of play. The discussion would be simple and straight to the point-this behavior will not be tolerated any longer. I do not feel the game is about giving cards.


Is there any one or group to whom you can request an investigation into fairness of a game that was refereed by home town refs? The two who refereed my sons Group 3 final today in Ocean City not only didn't call a fair game but our goaltender had to be taken out in an ambulance. The player who took him out did not receive a card and had 3 strides to get out the way when the goalie had full possession of a ball.

I also ask, when he finally did get a card for elbowing later in the game, is it a common practice to walk a player off the field arm in arm?   (Jake from Lacey, NJ)


Yes there is if you are a coach in USSF or High School. Each organization has an assignor that schedules referee and has a record of such. The coach can follow the process by having his association initiate such. The referee in question belongs to a referee association that has an ethics committee for these type complaints. The request must be factual, not emotional. Before going to this length be sure the referee is certified and qualified. I have had this type complaint before only to find out it was a volunteer parent doing the game in referee clothes. If this is the case your local league needs to police this.


I was recently at my daughter's youth soccer game and, after one particular play, a few parents from the other team yelled "quot;Bad Call Ref"quot; and yelled to the ref "quot;May I have an explanation of that call, Sir"quot; a few times. Should they have been ejected from the game for that? Would the ref be justified in "quot;abandoning the game"quot; of 9 year olds for those comments? Mind you, no other statements were made in his direction (so this wasn't a case of things "quot;building up"quot; as the game went on).

I guess my broader question is, as a spectator, how do you draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable comments? Certainly, fans can disagree with a call and say "quot;bad call"quot;, right? And it would seem that a polite request for an explanation would be ok too, right? I could've seen myself on the other side of this and that's why I am asking.   (Joe from Medford, NJ)


Joe, this is a tough one. Yes I expect to hear comments during games and it is predictable which team's parent would say it depending on the situation. First let's remember these are 9 year olds. 9 year olds are there to have fun, not be the Mia Hamms of the world. When I do games at this level I make myself available before, during and after the game to explain things to parents. I have found out most parents with this young group are clueless about our great game. Explanations during the game are not feasible unless I were running down the sideline and was able to get off a quick comment about the call. Remember the clock is running so time to stop and explain something is not productive. I remember one particular game a few years ago that was similar to your situation. For the first 25 minutes this guy harped on me about off sides. He was sitting on a blanket with his wife enjoying a glass of wine. I stopped the game, went over to them and sat on the blanket. I politely asked the man to explain the rule since I did not know it and he was such an expert. He told me he did not know it. My response was less than professional but the man and his wife folded their blanket and let the field without a word. Another time I tried to get a gentleman to give me his name so I could refer him to our association since he was so gifted with his knowledge of the game. He refused.

I have found the parents do not know the game as well as their kids. Hey, find a referee who will visit with the parents and explain the game and how it really works. It is a great game. Bottom line, they are 9 year olds. Let them be kids.

Ref's Tip:


Lacrosse. What a great sport. Fun, fast, and action packed. Are you wearing the right equipment? If not, do so.

With the school craze of wearing wrist bracelets I thought it was just a silly thing to do. First I wore my yellow one for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Now, this was not a silly gesture, my mom died of cancer so thought this would be a tribute to her. I really felt good about that.

I now wear a blue one. This is a very special one to my family and me. Again, it is a tribute to someone. This someone happens to be my cousin, Louis Acompora. He was a 15 year old from Long Island. Louis was a goalie on the Northport High School freshman team. On opening day, March 25, 2000, Louis suited up just as he was supposed to. The ball came at him, hit him in the chest and he dropped to the ground. Louis died. The ball hit him between heartbeats. They were unable to bring him back to life.

There is a term for this condition, Commotio Cordis. Could Louis have been saved? No one will know. But they do know a defibrillator at the field might have saved him.

Louis' Mom, Dad and sister have led a relentless campaign in New York State to make defibrillators mandatory in public buildings. They have been successful. Louis has not died in vain. There are survivors of this condition due to the newly enforced defibrillator laws in New York.

The family has been on television with Oprah, Jon Edwards and local Long Island shows. They have formed a foundation for research in this condition. The web site is most informative. If you get a chance, visit it.

So you see, my blue bracelet is most important to me. All in my family have one. The funds raised from these go directly into the foundation. Make your children safe and enjoy them every day.

Ref's Tip:

Stamp Out SpamIt has been quite awhile since my last actions on this site. There were many reasons but the most significant one was the amount of SPAM I was receiving. On a daily basis I received twenty to thirty SPAMs. Our systems have not nor were they able to handle this. I shut down the column as the only answer. We are back in business with this column now that we have a new system.

Some of the questions received are a bit over the top. In my last batch someone asked why soccer players had sleeves on their shirts. Who cares? Another wanted to know where the first soccer field in New Jersey was. Again, who cares? Two others were from an African Nation asking me to sponsor or get a sponsor for a player to come to America to play youth soccer. This is not my field of interest.

There are a significant number of people asking how to get referee certified. If you are interested in High School or College try the (South Jersey Soccer Officials Association) site for classes. Do it quickly, the season begins at the end of the month. This organization represents Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem Counties in New Jersey. Your interest in certification for youth games can be found on a link with (South Jersey Soccer League).

Here are some questions with long overdue replies:

Krista (Auckland, New Zealand) is asking if there is a Law that requires shin pads to be worn in a soccer game.
Sure is! Law 4-Players Equipment covers this area. Part of the Law states player's jerseys must be tucked inside their shorts, socks must remain pulled up and each player must wear shin guards under their socks. As a side note, the shin guards must be sized as age appropriate. It seems many high school and older players thought it stylish to wear youth shin guards.

Elaine (Tuckerton) has a 17 year old looking for soccer leagues in Atlantic or Ocean County.
While I am not familiar with leagues there you might start a search on Another idea might be to contact your child's high school coach and ask him/her.

Darryl (Somerdale), Jill (Palmyra) and Janixa (Camden) want to know about possible youth soccer programs in the Palmyra area.
A possible avenue would be going to the South Jersey Soccer League site,, for team locations and contacts. Good luck. For the girls the site would be

Jarrett (Cherry Hill) is returning home from attending an out of state college and is looking for a team.
Best bet is to contact the South Jersey Adult Soccer League,, for club listings and contacts. For those over 35 the South Jersey Masters League is available at

Dave (Hammonton) has an interest in indoor soccer.
The site is your best bet. It lists tournaments and things like that. It will also give you a contact list of people that might be helpful. The former indoor site in West Berlin has moved to Cherry Hill while I believe the Harmony site has shut it doors to soccer.

Eric's (Flemington) daughter is a goalie. His three questions lead off with: How is goalie possession of the ball defined?
Control of the ball defines possession. In the youth programs this might be one finger control while advanced ages might use control of the ball with the hand. What is most important here is the protection of the goalkeeper.
Number two question has to do with player interference of the goalie, while in control of the ball, by the opposing team.
Any actions to interfere with the goalies ability to release the ball back into play can be considered a cautionable offense as UNSPORTING BEHAVIOR. Normally a verbal warning to the offending player is enough to prevent any game stoppage. A caution would be needed for repeated actions by the offending team.
And finally, what are the requirements of the goalie position during a penalty kick?
Once the referee signals for a the penalty kick the goalkeeper may move side to side on the goal line, but may not move off the goal line until the ball has been kicked. The requirement to be "on the goal line" is met even if one or both of the goalkeeper's feet are not physically toughing the ground, so long as the goalkeeper has not moved forward or backward from the plane of the goal line.

Richie (Collingswood) asks if his team can substitute on an opponents throw in.
My answer to this is two fold. In USSF ball the answer is no. Only the team in possession may substitute on a throw-in by local league adoption of a modification to Law 15. In National Federation of High School rules the answer is yes only if the controlling team has a substitute also.

Dennis (Clayton) wants to know if leaning in and making contact with the opponent is a foul.
No, as long as you are not interfering with the opponent, have at least one foot on the ground and are not playing in a dangerous manner.

An area of great misunderstanding is why the referee misses those obvious calls. They, the referees, really do not miss the obvious calls. What they do is reinforce the Laws of the Game as they are intended to provide that games should be played with as little interference as possible and, in this view, it is the duty of the referee to penalize only deliberate breaches of the Law. Constant whistling for trifling and doubtful breaches produces bad feeling and loss of temper on the part of the players and spoils the pleasure of spectators. Bottom line is to forget the nickel and dime stuff that has no effect on the game.

With all the soccer that begins in the next few weeks be sure to visit the local "pitch" and see the kids in action. Good luck and good soccer.


Is leaning in and making contact a foul in its self or does an advantage have to be gained before it is a foul?   (Dennis from Clayton, NJ)


I am going to make a couple of assumptions here. If by leaning in you mean only that then there is no foul committed. If you begin to use your shoulder to leverage an opponent unfairly then it could be a foul. Shoulder to shoulder contact in an upright position, within playing distance of the ball, have at least one foot on the ground and all arms are held close to the body is acceptable and not a foul. Another assumption would include no other violations of Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct.

The simple answer to you question is: Leaning in is not a foul, thus advantage has nothing to do with this situation.


Hello. I would like to become a referee in my area. I have tried to find a site for information but cannot find one. Can you help?   (Claire from Ocean County, NJ)


Well, this seemed to be an easy question. I have found a couple contacts for you if you want to referee high school games but that is not what you are asking. Here are four suggestions:

  1. Contact a referee assignor who is part of the Monmouth Ocean Soccer Association. Their site is There are a whole bunch of assignors there. Find the one in your location and get his guidance.

  2. Try contacting New Jersey Youth Soccer. They have a very good site at Work your way through the site to get information about being a referee.

  3. Mr. Barry Towbin ( is an official of New Jersey Youth Soccer and might be able to point you in a proper direction.

  4. As a last resort, visit a local soccer field on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon to find a game being played. Talk to the referee at half time or between games. Ask him about his local referee association and how to become a member.
Claire, I hope this is of some help. Let me know how you make out.

Ref's Tip:


During a recent youth (U11) game, one of my fellow referees taught both teams a lesson in sportsmanship. On two occasions during the game the play was whistled stopped for an injury on the field. Normally when play resumes it is with a drop ball in USSF games. This referee set both teams up for the drop but asked the offensive team to take the kick and pass it back to the defensive team. While setting up the drop the referee explained what was about to happen and more importantly, why it was happening. Both teams understood why and both coaches agreed with the referee. It was really nice to see acts of sportsmanship like this. By the way, this was a very close and intense contest. The final score was a 1-1 tie.


We all know the "official clock" at New Jersey high school games is at the scorer's table and controlled by a student assistant. From time to time this is normally a fairly good system. What happens when the "official clock" does not agree with the on field referee? What can be done? The referee can stop play and have the "official clock" adjusted to agree with his game timing. Why would the referee do this? It is not uncommon for the student to get caught up with the game and forget their responsibilities of starting and stopping the clock, as it should be done.

A local and well-respected coach did not agree with this. In a tight 1-0 game this coach became very vocal when the time was adjusted by one minute not in his favor. Both on field officials agreed the "official clock" was wrong. This coach went to great lengths to call the official a few unfavorable names but not anything off color. He ranted on about his experience for 29 years and this was the first time this had ever happened to him. For all the ranting and raving this coach was given a well-deserved yellow card for unsporting behavior. At the conclusion of the game this coach made sure he shook the hand of only one of the officials and ignoring the official that carded him. Personally, I thought this to be less that sporting.


I am sure most of you in South Jersey have read about a local high school player, 16 years old, alleged punching a referee in the face twice. This act cannot and should not happen at any level of sports. This young man needs to learn a very valuable lesson in life. The referee had the police arrest this player for assault. To date there has been no final resolution in this matter. It will be interesting what happens in court, in school and in the future of sports under the guise of the NJSIAA.

I met with a similar incident a couple of years ago. A player threatened me during a game. He was ejected from the game and all the proper processes were followed. Twice during the remainder of the game this player tried to enter the field of play to get to me. Both times staff traveling with the team restrained him. I was unaware of either incident. I was later informed this young man was severely disciplined by his school. He was banned from playing basketball and baseball that year. He was also banned from senior class activities. The school took a zero tolerance stance. It was great to see the school stepping up to this behavior.

And how has your season gone so far?

Ref's Tip:

Fall soccer has started at both the USSF and high school levels here in New Jersey. How can I tell? The shouts of "HAND BALL" are everywhere. For the purest of us the wording "hand ball" cannot be found anywhere in the Laws of the Game or the National Federation of High Schools rulebook. The proper wording would be "HANDLING" the ball.

Going through the NFHS rulebook the term "handling" is addressed in Rule 12, section 2, Article 1. It states, "A player shall be penalized for deliberate handling, carrying, striking or propelling the ball with a arm or hand". Exception: Goalkeeper within his/her own penalty area.

USSF writes it in even simpler terms. LAW 12 lists the offence as, "handles the ball deliberately (except for the goalkeeper within his own penalty area)."

Deliberate is the key word. Did the player deliberately play the ball or did the ball just happen to hit the player? Some of this is judgment and some is not. Would you judge this equally with eight year old and high school players? Common sense prevails in most cases.


2 questions:

  1. Why is the current (usually defensive) practice of "shielding" the ball over the touchline or goal line not penalised as obstruction? The "shielding" player is blatantly not playing the ball, but is actively preventing his opponent from playing the ball?

  2. A team is awarded an indirect free kick in the opponents penalty area, in front of goal, less than 10 yards from the goal line. Where can the defenders and their goalkeeper stand?
Thanks.   (Andy from Melbourne, FL)


  1. Andy, it all goes back to the definition of "shielding and obstruction". "Shielding" is the movement by a player in control of the ball (within playing distance) designed to prevent an opponent from gaining possession or preventing him/her from tackling the ball. The key here is the player must be playing or able to play the ball. "Obstruction" is the deliberate act by a player of running between an opponent and the ball, or using the body as an obstacle when not in possession of the ball or not attempting to play the ball. Very simply "shielding" is the ball must be in a playable position and "obstruction" is off the ball and player interference.

  2. Let's begin by understanding that any indirect kick by the attacking team within in its opponents goal area shall be taken from the part of the goal-line which runs parallel to the goal area at the point nearest to where the offense was committed. All that means is the ball cannot be put into play within the six-yard box or goal area. That being said, where can the defense set up? They must be ten yards from the ball if there is ten yard of field to work with. In this case there is not ten yards. The defense may line up on it goal line ass if it were ten yards.


What are the rules in high school soccer concerning goalie's uniforms? I've seen some pretty outrageous color combinations, and they often don't seem to have any relation to the actual colors of the rest of the team. In fact, sometimes it's hard to tell which goalie belongs to which team until they actually step into the net.   (Gary from West Berlin, NJ)


Gary, the goalie uniform must be a different color from either team playing the game as well as the referee. There are some wild combinations out there. They have no set pattern, design or meaning in the shirts.


For previous Tips and Questions, visit the "Ask The Ref!" Archives



FIFA's 2005 edition of the Laws of the Game

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