Other advice

The referee may play advantage whenever an offence occurs but should consider the following in deciding whether to apply the advantage or stop play:

  • the severity of the offence – if the offence warrants a sending-off, the referee must stop play and send off the player unless there is a clear opportunity to score a goal

  • the position where the offence was committed - the closer to the opponent’s goal, the more effective the advantage can be

  • the chances of an immediate, promising attack

  • the atmosphere of the match

Many stoppages in play are entirely natural (e.g. throw-ins, goal kicks). An allowance is made only when delays are excessive.

Referees are reminded to make an early intervention and to deal firmly with holding offences, especially inside the penalty area at corner kicks and free kicks. To deal with these situations:

  • the referee must warn any player holding an opponent before the ball is in play

  • caution the player if the holding continues before the ball is in play

  • award a direct free kick or penalty kick and caution the player if it happens once the ball is in play

An attacker in an offside position (A), not interfering with an opponent, touches the ball. The assistant referee must raise the flag when the player touches the ball.

An attacker in an offside position (A), not interfering with an opponent, does not touch the ball. The player did not touch the ball, so cannot be penalised.

An attacker in an offside position (A) runs towards the ball and a team-mate in an onside position (B) also runs towards the ball and plays it. (A) did not touch the ball, so cannot be penalised.

A player in an offside position (A) may be penalised before playing or touching the ball, if, in the opinion of the referee, no other team-mate in an onside position has the opportunity to play the ball.

An attacker in an offside position (1) runs towards the ball and does not touch the ball. The assistant referee must signal “goal kick”.

An attacker in an offside position (A) is clearly obstructing the goalkeeper’s line of vision. The player must be penalised for preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball.

An attacker in an offside position (A) is not clearly obstructing the goalkeeper’s line of vision or challenging an opponent for the ball.

An attacker in an offside position (A) runs towards the ball but does not prevent the opponent from playing or being able to play the ball. (A) is not challenging an opponent (B) for the ball.

An attacker in an offside position (A) runs towards the ball preventing the opponent (B) from playing or being able to play the ball by challenging the opponent for the ball. (A) is challenging an opponent (B) for the ball.

An attacker in an offside position (B) is penalised for playing or touching the ball that rebounds, is deflected or is played from a deliberate save by the goalkeeper having been in an offside position when the ball was last touched or is played by a team-mate.

An attacker in an offside position (B) is penalised for playing or touching the ball that rebounds or is deflected from a deliberate save by a player from the defending team (C) having been in an offside position when the ball was last touched or is played by a team-mate.

The shot by a team-mate (A) rebounds from the goalkeeper, (B) is in an onside position and plays the ball, (C) in an offside position is not penalised because the player did not gain an advantage from being in that position because the player did not touch the ball.

The shot by a team-mate (A) rebounds off or is deflected by an opponent to attacker (B) who is penalised for playing or touching the ball having previously been in an offside position.

An attacker (C) is in an offside position, not interfering with an opponent, when a team-mate (A) passes the ball to player (B1) in an onside position who runs towards the opponents’ goal and passes the ball (B2) to team-mate (C). Attacker (C) was in an onside position when the ball was passed, so cannot be penalised.

The safety of the players is of paramount importance and the referee should facilitate the work of the medical personnel, especially in the case of a serious injury and/or an assessment of a head injury. This will include respecting and assisting with agreed assessment/treatment protocols.

Previously, an injured player who received medical attention on the field of play had to leave before the restart. This can be unfair if an opponent caused the injury as the offending team has a numerical advantage when play restarts.

However, this requirement was introduced because players often unsportingly used an injury to delay the restart for tactical reasons.

As a balance between these two unfair situations, The IFAB has decided that only for a physical offence where the opponent is cautioned or sent off, an injured player can be quickly assessed/treated and then remain on the field of play.

In principle, the delay should not be any longer than currently occurs when a medical person(s) comes onto the field to assess an injury. The difference is that the point at which the referee used to require the medical person(s) and the player to leave is now the point at which the medical staff leave but the player can remain.

To ensure the injured player does not use/extend the delay unfairly, referees are advised to:

  • be aware of the match situation and any potential tactical reason to delay the restart

  • inform the injured player that if medical treatment is required it must be quick

  • signal for the medical person(s) (not the stretchers) and, if possible, remind them to be quick

When the referee decides play should restart either:

  • the medical person(s) leaves and the player remains or

  • the player leaves for further assessment/treatment (stretcher signal may be necessary)

As a general guide, the restart should not be delayed for more than about 20–25 seconds beyond the point when everyone was ready for play to restart, except in the case of a serious injury and/or an assessment of a head injury.

The referee must make full allowance for the stoppage.