Myth Busters

This page is dedicated to putting to rest the many myths that have crept into refereeing practice over the past few decades. Some of these myths have become so widespread, that players all over assume that they are in fact included in the Laws of the Game. Hopefully, this will clarify these issues for our coaches, players and in some cases - our REFEREES.

Myths will be "busted" on an ongoing basis on this page on our KSRA site. Each will also be emailed out to the various leagues in town, so please ensure that you know the correct answers to these myths to avoid embarrassment from players and coaches who are correctly informed.

MYTH # 1: "I may use my 'common sense' , my 'discretion' or my own judgment when making decisions regardless of whether or not my approach is congruent with the Laws of the Game".

This statement is ABSOLUTELY FALSE and is 100% myth. Referees may use common sense and employ good judgment while applying the Laws of the Game; however, they must not violate or contradict FIFA's Laws in doing so. Often, the easier path (the one that will be more easily accepted by all of the players) is in fact contrary to the Laws. Referees must be strong and apply the Laws of the Game consistently and correctly for the Good of the Game.

MYTH # 2: "Hey Ref! You can't twist when you take a throw in!!"

It is not an offense in and of itself to twist the upper body during a throw-in. This may come as a surprise as we have all heard referees say this is not allowed. Law 15 of the FIFA Laws of the Game requires 5 things to be present for a throw to be legal. At the moment of delivering the ball the thrower:

  • faces the field of play
  • has part of each foot either on the touchline or on the ground outside the touchline
  • holds the ball with both hands
  • delivers the ball from behind and over his head
  • delivers the ball from the point where it left the field of play

Provided each of these are met, the throw is legal - no matter what else happens. It is likely that it is from a misinterpretation of the first of these points that the "No twist" myth was born; however, clearly it is possible for the thrower to face the field throughout the throw while twisting the body.

MYTH # 3: "Hey Ref! His toes are over the line (see picture) that's a foul throw!".

The Laws of the Game clearly state that when throwing the ball in, part of each of the thrower's feet must remain on the touchline or on the ground outside the touchline. Basically as long as PART of each foot touches the line the throw is O.K. (provided of course that all other criteria are met - see Myth 2). In order for a player to be penalized for stepping over the line at least one of his feet must be ENTIRELY inside the field of play and not touching any of the line. 

MYTH # 4: "Hey Ref! She can't say 'My Ball' she has to call for it using her name!".

This is one I am sure we have all heard. The Laws of the Game make it perfectly permissible to call for the ball using terms such as 'mine', 'I got it', 'dummy', 'leave it', etc. The only instance that this would be punished, is if in the opinion of the referee, the shout was DELIBERATELY INTENDED TO DECEIVE AN OPPONENT. If there is even the slightest possibility that the player was talking to a teammate, then no offense has been committed - regardless of whether or not the opponent is distracted.


MYTH # 5: "Ref, I know the handball was unintentional, but he got an advantage. You HAVE to call it!".

This is an easy one to explain (though it may be hard for some of us to believe). If the ball hits the hand, the handling is not deliberate provided that in the opinion of the referee, the arms were in a natural position, no offense has been committed - PERIOD! This is true even if the ball accidentally hit the hand (or arm) and bounced right to the same player's feet. For those of us who recall the incident in the picture - this handling was deliberate, and the goal should have been disallowed.

MYTH # 6: "Ref, It's our ball, they can't sub!!!".

Again, the FIFA Laws of the Game do not support this. Technically, teams may make a substitution on any stoppage. Referees only need to be careful that the team who is entitled to put the ball back into play are not right ready to do so. This could cause a loss of a potential advantage by allowing the opponents to make a change.

MYTH # 7: "Ref, He can't play the ball on the ground".

This is another myth that has caused great confusion. Players may battle for the ball while lying or sitting on the ground, provided that in the opinion of the referee, doing so is dangerous to neither himself nor to any other player. It is not an offense by itself to challenge for the ball while on the ground.

MYTH # 8: "Hey Ref, that's a high foot. Call it!!!".

Again, players may have their boots as high as they like provided doing so is not dangerous to an opponent. There are several opportunities to safely put the boots high to control the ball with no opponents around. Just like the previous myth, the offense would be "playing in a dangerous manner". If there is no danger to an opponent, then no offense has been committed.

MYTH # 9: "Ref, They never asked for 10 yards, I don't have to back up unless they ask!!!".

Let's think about this one. Your team has fouled the other. It is presumable that you have taken away some sort of initiative, opportunity or advantage from them. In other words, you "owe" them. In order to try to "settle the score" the referee awards a free kick to the other team. This team has the right to put the ball into play immediately, to try to regain the initiative that they had prior to the foul (or close to it). Clearly it makes no sense for the referee to allow the guilty team to deny their opponents the right to start play immediately. Doing so would mean that the referee would allow your team to commit two wrong-doings in succession. GET BACK THE 10 YARDS IMMEDIATELY (or a reasonable estimate). To read more on how referees should approach this have a look at the position paper titled Taking the Free Kick which can be found on the KSRA education page.

MYTH # 10: "C'mon Ref, he's not playing the ball!! That's obstruction!!!".

First, let's discuss language. The term 'obstruction' has not existed in the Laws for years. The correct term is impeding. (Believe me: Players who use correct language, will seem more credible to referees.) Basically, if a defender is shielding the ball (perhaps hoping it will roll out of play for a goal kick to his team) he does not have to touch the ball. He merely needs to keep the ball WITHIN PLAYING DISTANCE - meaning he could reach it. Provided this is the case and he is not backing into his opponent and pushing, this shielding is a perfectly legitimate tactic.

MYTH # 11: "C'mon Ref, that's an intentional handball, that's a red card".

This one usually comes up 5-10 times in a season, and the logic (or lack there of) always makes me chuckle. In one game a couple of years ago a player jumped up (while on the field of play) and caught a well hit ball next to the touchline to prevent it from going into the lot across the street. One of his opponents was passionately arguing that this was a red card offense for a deliberate 'handball'. Consider how ridiculous this claim was. Would the punishment suit the crime? What did this player deny his opponents? A long walk to get the ball before throwing it in? This was a deliberate handling offense punishable by a free kick only. By definition, handling the ball is not even a foul if the act is not deliberate. As a result, deliberately handling the ball in itself is only a foul. In order for a deliberate handling offense to result in a red card it must deny the opponents an obvious goal scoring opportunity or deny them a goal. If the deliberate handling breaks up a promising attack, the guilty player should be cautioned and shown the yellow card.

MYTH # 12: "How can you call that ref??? It was shoulder to shoulder!!!"

This claim comes out at least once per game. Players all over assume that shoulder to shoulder challenges are fine no matter what. The first thing that I would like to say to players, is that often these 'shoulder to shoulder' challenges are in fact one player's shoulder in the other's back. Let's, for sake of argument, assume that both players do challenge for the ball 'shoulder to shoulder'. There are several criteria that each player must meet for such a challenge to be legal:

  • The ball must be within playing distance
  • Excessive force is not used by either player. (This usually means that the players are leaning together - not one player "bodychecking" the other with one hit to the ground. Whether excessive force was used is based on the opinion of the referee.)
  • Each player keeps at least one foot on the ground during the charge

If, AND ONLY IF, all of these criteria are met, the challenge is legal.