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'The right call', by Ref. Vangelis November 2006

Nov 1

Dear Coach Gianni and Readers,

For those of you who have questions to submit, I have created a new email address for just this purpose. You can continue sending your questions directly to Coach Gianni at or you can now write directly to me at For the month of November I plan on answering questions that I have promised which to not have anything to do with the application of the laws of the game.

Here is the first one:

In all fields of modern society, everything advances very fast. Sports are not an exception. Why don't we do in soccer what is done everyday in football or basketball when an action is not clear and the referees aren't able to give a sure call? This is a mystery to me and I'm sure it's a mystery for millions of soccer supporters. Ref. Vangelis, can you help us understand? Why doesn't FIFA introduce electronics to help the referee?

Coach Gianni

Answer: Let’s face it; other sports employ certain features of technology today. In my opinion the International Football Association Board recognizes and appreciates the technological advantages and constantly look for ways to improve the laws of the game where it makes good sense to do so. Please take a look below at the quotation of an article published on FIFA’s web site over a year ago, pertaining to this subject.

As you read these excerpts of the article I want you to focus on the following four things:

1. The approval of such technology.
2. The acknowledgment of J. S. Blatter, President of FIFA, regarding technology.
3. The two fundamental and important criteria determining any changes of the law of the game in his statement, and
4. The reason why the suggestion by the French football association was rejected.

Here are parts of this article:

“International F.A. Board approves goal-line technology. Zurich, 26 February 2005 - FIFA will be supervising the first official tests of technical systems that could determine whether the ball has fully crossed the goal-line at the 2005 FIFA U-17 World Championship to be held in Peru from 16 September to 2 October. This decision was reached by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) at its 119th Annual General Meeting near Cardiff, Wales, on 26 February…”

“FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter welcomed the Board's decision. “"Not a day goes by without technology making progress. We therefore have a duty to at least examine whether new technology could be used in football. The Board had already agreed to test goal-line technology, provided that the systems were available. The critical issue, however, will be to ensure that such technology would not affect the Laws' universal nature or the authority of match officials."”

“Meeting at the Palace Hotel in Lucerne (Switzerland), football's lawmakers also gave the go-ahead for further tests with goal-line technology while clearly stating that technological assistance would be allowed only for determining whether or not a goal has been scored and provided that it gives an immediate indication. In accordance with its principles, the Board therefore gave the green light for the continuation of the experiment launched by Adidas and Cairos using chip-in-the-ball technology. The Board also approved an experiment presented by the Italian football association using a digital-camera system and UEFA's proposed trial of a referee communication system. Conversely, a request submitted by the French football association for tests with a video assistance system for referees was rejected because the proposed system and its scope went beyond the remit established by the Board and it would lead to delays in the decisions of the referee”.

These excerpts from the article above help us see that FIFA law makers are constantly looking for ways to improve the game. They do so when it makes sense to do it without compromising the integrity of the game. A good example of this was during the World Cup with the communication system the officiating team employed during the matches. Did you notice in the article quoted above that this was one of the technologies that were tested during the previous year in certain parts of the world?

Apparently the “chip-in-the-ball” technology did not test very well and thus was not utilized during the World Cup. Perhaps in the near future, who knows how soon, this will also be part of the game.

Ref. Vangelis


Nov 8

For the month of November I plan on answering questions that I have promised which do not have anything to do with the application of the laws of the game. Here is the second one:

Dear Ref. Vangelis,

I believe that FIFA is guided by persons that don't have an important soccer past and don't really understand how to make the game more in line with the times we live in. I just hope that really soon a new ruling body will take charge and bring a little logic and good sense to soccer too. Don’t you think a new ruling body is needed?

Coach Gianni

Answer:It is true that sometimes you can find someone without hands on experience or “an important soccer past” at a high position in FIFA or other National organizations. However, certainly that would be the exception and not the rule.

In my personal experience with individuals who have been in the position of making decisions about the laws of the game or influence such decisions, is that the majority of them have had many years of experience under their belt at the highest level of competition.

It is not unusual for National associations to employee referees, coaches, or players for various key positions in their organization. This is certainly and especially true with key positions of instruction and training for the referee program in the U.S. This has been so for at least as long as I have been involved with the Soccer Federation.

The same is true with other federations in Mexico, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Egypt and England. These are just a few that I personally have had the privilege to meet with individuals from over the years.
There is even an individual who lives in the Bay Area who served in the past in such a position for many years. This person participated as a referee in two World Cups before he was asked to join the FIFA instruction panel after his retirement as an active referee from the game. It is among such individuals that FIFA chooses from to participate in the law making decisions that are made each year.

So in my opinion the right people are in place for making decisions when it comes to the laws of the game. Of course, only time will show the trueness of the statement about “making the game more in line with the times we live in”.

Ref. Vangelis


Nov 15

Dear Ref. Vangelis,

After one century, with the enormous improvement of speed and the development of the off-side trap, the offside law is not actual anymore. Often it provokes controversy that ruins the regular flow of the game, because the application of the law is connected with the interpretation of its spirit. Don't you think it's time to revise the law?

Coach Gianni

Answer: Over the years we have seen a number of major changes to the offside law as well as numerous attempts to clarify its interpretation. I believe that no matter what revisions are made to any law, players will find new ways to bend them. So the solution must be with the proper interpretation and correct application of the law rather than its constant change, and that is what FIFA is trying to accomplish.

Let’s review some of the changes to the offside law during the last century and a half in order to understand better its intent:

As we all know, soccer initially was played without an offside law up and until the middle of the 19th century when the first rules of soccer were drafted. Obviously this was a problem and the people who drafted the first laws of the game thought that something needed to be done about it and thus introduced the offside law among other necessary laws which are fundamental to soccer.

This first offside law stated that a player could not score a goal unless three defenders were between the attacker and the goal line of the opponent.
In 1925 the offside law was changed from three to two defenders.
In 1990 the law changed allowing the opponent to be even with two opponents by stating that “a player is in an offside position if he is nearer to his opponent goal line that two of his opponents”.

From this point on there were no changes to the law on offside. There have only been attempts to clarify its initial intent, (of not allowing an attacker in an offside position to score a goal or participate in the action for that particular play.) That is all the law was trying to accomplish from the very beginning.

Thus, in 1995 the wording of the offside law changed to the following:
It is not an offence in itself to be in an off-side position.
A player shall only be penalized for being in an off-side position, if, at the moment the ball touches, or is played by one of his team, he is, in the opinion of the referee, involved in active play by:

a) Interfering with play, or
b) Interfering with an opponent, or
c) Gaining an advantage by being in that position.

And finally in 2005 and 2006 we have further changes in the wording of the offside law in an attempt to clarify what (a), (b) and (c) above really mean.

Hopefully this new wording will make a big deference in the interpretation of the offside law especially among the officials at higher levels of games as seen at the World Cup last summer.

Ref. Vangelis


Nov 22

Dear Ref Vangelis,

One aspect that constantly provokes bad feeling is the addition of injury time. It's always about the opinion of the referee. One minute, two, five, and it can become a nightmare when one of the two teams score in this added time. It's tested and proved that every half-time the play is active between 20/25 minutes in 45. Why don't we introduce two halves of EFFECTIVE TIME of 30 minutes like other sports with the clock that stops every time the ball goes out or is not in play?

This simple rule, like in basketball, would avoid a lot of temptation, like:

Making substitutions, with players who slowly walk through the whole field wasting precious minutes for the team that losing.
Standing in front of the ball when the opposing team has a free kick.
Hesitating to put the ball back in play every time it goes out.
Why arouse anger in the players and spectators, when instead we could stop the clock?

Coach Gianni

Answer: I am sure everyone will agree that the nature of the game of soccer makes it different from basketball and other sports. Stopping time in soccer can hurt the game instead of helping it. Through this column in the past we talked about “the magic moment” and it is this magic moment during a soccer match that can make the difference in the outcome of the game.

As we all know, this magic moment can happen during any given time of the game from the start to the end which includes wasted time. I have no doubt in my mind that stopping the clock will eliminate the magic moment and thus change the nature of the game completely.

I have seen this in action. In the early ‘90’s I participated in a league which was authorized by USSF and FIFA to test stopping the clock during the game. I will never forget a particular game played in Reno, Nevada at a very narrow field between two professional teams. What a boring game it was for my fellow officials and I to referee as well as for the spectators and players. The ball was more “out of play” than “in play” and since the clock had stopped there was no one rushing to start the game. After an hour of play, I remember we only had played 24 minutes and we were still in the first half. What a nightmare for all involved.

Needless to say, the following year everything went back to normal because this test proved that stopping time was not benefiting the game even though time was not “wasted”.

Time wasting during the game is by far the biggest concern soccer organizers and people in authority in soccer have to face. This becomes obvious when we examine the various changes of the laws of the game in recent years. The majority of the changes introduced during the last decade were implemented in an attempt to address the issue of time wasting and avert it.

Each one of the bullet points listed above in the question have been addressed in the law and the referees have been instructed to penalize players who waste time in such a manner with severity by issuing a yellow card for unsporting behavior and a red card in case of repetition. In addition to these changes, the referee is empowered and expected to add waste time at the end of each half.

Therefore, the solution to this problem must be in the enforcement of the law instead of changing the way the game is played.

Ref. Vangelis


Nov 29

For the month of November I plan on answering questions that I have promised which do not have anything to do with the application of the laws of the game. Below is a summary of the last 4 articles about change and technology.

Change is part of life and we all are affected by it whether we want it or not. Some changes are good; others we want to forget about and move on with our lives. Soccer is no exception and the truth is that no matter what the change is, players will try to find ways to use such change to their advantage. Therefore, the solution must be in the correct understanding, application and proper implementation of the Law rather that the change itself.

There is no doubt that we will yet see many more changes in the game in the future. However, in the current Laws of the Game booklet published by FIFA for the year 2007, we have the best Laws of the Game ever.

I am sure you will agree that over the years the game has become faster as players equipment and technology have improved. A good example of this is the World Cup in Germany. Just by introducing a new kind of ball, we saw a tremendous increase in speed and goals scored.

Below is a copy of a list with the most significant changes from the FIFA site that took place during the last century. This proves that the soccer lawmakers are trying to keep up with technology and the change of the style in the game in order to make it better for all of us.

Ref. Vangelis

The following is a quotation form the official FIFA site. Enjoy!

1580: A certain Giovanni Bardi published a set of rules of the game of "calcio".
1848: The first Cambridge Rules are drawn up.
1877: The associations in Great Britain formed to gain a uniform code.
1886: 2 June 1886: first official meeting of the International Football Association Board.
1891: Introduction of the penalty-kick.
1913: FIFA becomes a member of the International F.A. Board.
1925: Amendment of off-side rule from three to two players.
1937-38: The present Laws framed in a new system of codification but based on the Laws previously in force.
1997: The Laws revised.

NOTE: This compilation is a summary of amendments and decisions taken by the International F.A. Board. While every care has been taken to include all pertinent information, minor changes or identical changes in several Laws are not expressly mentioned.

Law XIII - Free-Kick
Decision by the IFAB: in order to distinguish between a direct and an indirect free-kick, the referee, shall indicate accordingly by raising an arm above his head...
Law XIII - Free-Kick
Taking a free-kick inside one's own penalty-area - the opposing team's players shall be at least ten yards (9.15m) from the ball and shall remain outside the penalty area until the ball has been kicked out of the area.

Law III - Number of Players
A player who has been replaced shall not take any further part in the game. A substitute shall be subject to the authority and jurisdiction of the referee whether called upon to play or not.
Punishment: If a substitute enters the field of play without the authority of the referee, play shall be stopped. The substitute shall be cautioned and removed from the field or sent off according to the circumstances. The game shall be restarted by the referee dropping the ball at the place where it was when play was stopped.

Law XII - Fouls and Misconduct
Introduction of the four-step rule:
...from the moment the ball comes under his (the goalkeeper's) control, he takes more than four steps without releasing the ball into play and - having released it - he touches the ball again before it has been touched or played by another player...

Law XIV - Penalty-Kick
The player taking the penalty-kick has to be properly identified.

Law XIV - Penalty-Kick
A goal may be scored directly from a penalty-kick. When a penalty-kick is taken in the normal course of play, or when time has been extended at half-time or full-time to allow a penalty-kick to be taken or retaken, a goal shall not be nullified if, before passing between the posts and under the crossbar, the ball touches either or both of the goal-posts, or the crossbar, or the goalkeeper or any combination of these agencies, providing that no other infringement occurred.
(In addition to that several decisions by the Board in case of encroachments)
Law XV - Throw-in
Decision: A throw-in taken from any position other than the point where the ball passed over the touchline shall be considered to have been improperly thrown in.

Law I - Decision:
The goalposts must be of white color.
Law III - Number of players:
Substitutes may be used under the rules of any official competition under the jurisdiction of FIFA, Confederations or National Associations, a team shall not be permitted to use more than two substitutes from more than five players...

Law IV - Players' equipment (introduction of shin guards)
The basic compulsory equipment of a player shall consist of a jersey or shirt, shorts, stockings, shin guards and footwear (plus pertinent precisions regarding the shin guards.
Law XI - Off-side (being level)
A player is in an off-side position ..., unless
b) He is not nearer to his opponents goal-line than at least two of his opponents
...3. b) If he receives the ball direct from a goal-kick, a corner-kick or a throw-in.
Decision: A player who is level with the second last opponent or with the last two opponents is not in an off-side position.

Decision regarding when the goalkeeper is in possession of the ball: will be considered to be in control of the ball by touching it with any part of his hands or arms. Possession of the ball would include the goalkeeper intentionally parrying the ball, but would not include the circumstances, where, in the opinion of the referee, the ball rebounds accidentally from the goalkeeper, for example after he has made a save.

Back pass ruling: Law XII - Fouls and Misconduct
On any occasion when a player deliberately kicks the ball to his own goalkeeper, the goalkeeper is not permitted to touch it with his hands. If, however, the goalkeeper does touch the ball with his hands, he shall be penalized by the award of an indirect free-kick to be taken by the opposing team from the place where the infringement occurred...

Law V - Referee
Decision 13: (Technical area) the coach may convey tactical instructions to players during the match.
The coach and other officials, however, must remain within the confines of the technical area where such an area is provided and they must conduct themselves, at all times, in a responsible manner.

Law I - The Field of Play
For safety reasons, the goals, including those which are portable, must be anchored securely to the ground.
Law III - Number of Players (substitute ruling 2 + 1)
...a team may also use a third substitute provided that he is designated as a substitute goalkeeper, who may be used to replace only the goalkeeper.
If, however, the goalkeeper is ordered off, the designated substitute goalkeeper may subsequently replace another player of the same team and play as goalkeeper.

Law VII - Duration of the Game
The half-time interval shall not exceed 15 minutes.
Law XI Off-side
It is not an offence in itself to be in an off-side position.
A player shall only be penalized for being in an off-side position, if, at the moment the ball touches, or is played by one of his team, he is, in the opinion of the referee, involved in active play by:
Interfering with play, or
Interfering with an opponent, or
Gaining an advantage by being in that position.
Law XIV - Penalty-kick
A penalty-kick shall be taken from the penalty-mark and, when it is being taken, all players with the exception of the player taking the kick, properly identified, and the opposing goalkeeper, shall be within the field of play, but outside the penalty-area, at least 10 yards, from the penalty-mark and must stand behind the penalty-mark.

Law V - Referees
Decision 7: (advantage clause) If the referee applies the advantage clause and the advantage which was anticipated does not develop at that time; the referee shall penalize the original offence.

Law V - The Referees
"Any player bleeding from a wound must leave the field for treatment."
Binding instruction
The referee has to consider that the goalkeeper is wasting time and therefore has to award an indirect free-kick against him, if he holds the ball for longer than 5 - 6 seconds.
Law XIV - The Penalty Kick
The new text states "The goalkeeper remains on his own goal line, facing the kicker, between the goalposts until the ball has been kicked". The phrase "without moving his feet" has been deleted.
Players who enter the penalty area before the ball has been kicked need not now be cautioned.
Law XVI - The Goal Kick
"A goal may be scored directly from a goal kick."

Law XII - Fouls and Misconduct
A tackle from behind which endangers the safety of an opponent must be sanctioned as serious foul play.
Acts of serious foul play are punishable by a red card

Law XII - Fouls and Misconduct
New Decision 6: Any simulating action anywhere on the field, which is intended to deceive the referee, must be sanctioned as unsporting behavior.

Posted on 21 Dec 2006 by coachgianni
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