Dead Ball

Published on November 12, 2015


By:  John Van de Vaarst, National Clinician

The monthly “NISOA Referee Nuts and Bolts” column is written primarily for the college and high school soccer referee. However, any soccer referee who wishes to improve personal performance may also find that this series is helpful.

All articles address those BASIC techniques, procedures, practice alternatives, and skills that are sometimes forgotten or overlooked while going through the experiences of soccer refereeing. The short discussions and accompanying practical tips stress important advice for competent performance. This month’s article will focus on what the officiating team should be considering during dead ball situations.

A dead ball is a term used to indicate a time when the ball is out-of-play.  This includes when the ball is out of bounds, the referee indicates a foul, after a goal, or any temporary suspension of play such as injury, etc.  During a dead ball the restart cannot be changed no matter what occurs during the dead ball situation.  For example, the ball is over the goal line for a goal kick or corner kick.  Before the kick is taken, a defensive player strikes an attacker in the penalty area.  The referee should stop the clock and eject the defender for fighting.  The restart is still either a goal kick or corner kick.  The game cannot be restarted with a penalty kick since the ball was dead at the time of the incident.

When the ball is dead the officiating crew must remain alive.  This is not a time for the officials’ minds to wonder or time to take his/her eye of the game.  Many situations could occur during a dead ball.  Players are not focused on the flow of the game when the ball is dead and each player has an opportunity to do something that can create major game control problems for the officiating team.

During a corner kick on the far side from the assistant referee, he/she should take up a position quickly on the goal line and observe what the players are doing as they jockey for position for the corner kick.  A specific focus should be on the goalkeeper and the attackers around him/her.  The players moving in front of the goalkeeper could lead to pushing by the goalkeeper or retaliation/intimidation by the attacking player.  The referee must observe where the ball is placed to make sure it is legal and then quickly focus on the players so that two sets of eyes, the assistant referee and the referee, are clearly focused on all the players participating in the corner kick as it is about to be taken.

On a goal kick the referee should take a position in an area where he/she feels the kick will arrive.  If the team is taking short goal kicks and the opponents are not challenging, then the referee should be as far up field as possible to be ready for the next pass and be in a good position to observe play.  If the team is taking long goal kicks, the referee should be in a position to observe where the ball will more than likely arrive.  The assistant referee should be in a position to make sure the ball clears the penalty area and also be able to accurately observe off side if the play reverses quickly.  Neither the referee or assistant referee needs to watch the ball in flight.  Gravity will bring the ball back to the ground.  The officials should be observing the players where the ball will arrive to observe any possible fouls.  This approach will greatly assist the referee observing pushing, holding, striking, etc.

During a throw in, again, the officials must remain focused on the players.  If a player has gone to retrieve the ball or is waiting for a ball boy to supply a new ball, the officials should focus attention on the players that are on the field of play.  Watching a player waiting for a ball is not a good practice.  If this occurs, the referee will miss a misconduct situation and have no idea what happened.  The officiating team must stay alert and observe all players on the field prior to the throw in to ensure no player is taking an advantage or committing an act that is clearly a misconduct.

When the referee awards a foul and a wall is being established, it is critical that the officiating team focus on different parts of the field.  The assistant referee nearest the situation must watch the players and not what the referee is doing.  An example of this occured during a high level game.  A foul was committed toward the touch line on the same side of the field as the assistant referee.  The referee was admonishing the player that committed the foul and the assistant was observing the referee’s gestures and actions.  The referee concluded his/her comments and turned toward the defensive wall and saw an attacking player on the ground in pain.  The referee looked toward the assistant referee to determine what happened and the assistant referee merely shrugged his/her shoulders because he/she did not know.  The assistant referee was focused on the referee and not the players.  This should never happen in a game.

A referee and assistant referee should make eye contact during a dead ball situation.  This allows each official to know that the other is paying attention and the referee team is clearly functioning as a team.  If possible the referee should consider taking a quick glance back at the other assistant referee for the same reason.  Eye contact is a great tool for officials during a dead ball to exchange necessary information.  Once the eye contact is made the assistant referee can provide a silent signal to the referee or the referee can advise the assistant referee of a specific position to take on the restart.

In summary, it is critical for the officiating team to remain alive on a dead ball situation.  A dead ball is not a time to relax or take the games for granted.  Being active during a dead ball will assist the officiating team with game control.

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