By: John Van de Vaarst, National Clinician
The NFHS Rule Book provides a great amount of information on suspension of play, termination of a game and forfeits. It is important that every interscholastic official knows the difference and uses the correct terminology when preparing a game report and/or notifying the official scorer and opposing coaches. Should an official use an improper term there can be problems with the conference officials and possibly even the state association. The following brief summary of how each term is applied is not meant to be all inclusive but to provide officials with some thoughts. It is most important to review the NFHS Rule Book on a regular basis to ensure through knowledge of all the rules.
A suspension of play is a temporary action. There are multiple reasons when this will occur. The first is described in Rule 2 and provides guidance on how to deal with the ball becoming defective, deflated or unplayable. If this should occur when the ball is in play the restart is a drop ball between two opposing players at the spot where it was last played. If this occurs in the goal area, the drop ball between two opposing players at the of the goal-area which runs parallel to the goal line nearest the location of where the play was stopped.
When an injury occurs the game is temporarily suspended. All officials must remember that safety of players is critical and should suspend the game whenever a serious injury is suspected. This is especially so if the player exhibits any of the following signs: headache, fogginess, difficulty concentrating, easily confused, slowed thought process, nausea, lack of energy, dizziness, blurred vision, loses consciousness, unsure of game, score or opponent, sensitive to light and sounds, and more. If a player suffers a head injury from an incidental head butt, falling to the ground, being inadvertently struck in the head by an opponent, etc. the official should temporarily suspend the game and make sure a trainer or health care professional exam the player.
The next temporary suspension deals with weather conditions. If there is lightning in the area the game must be suspended. No game is so important that players’, spectators’ coaches’ and officials’ safety should be jeopardized. When thunder is heard, or cloud-to-ground lighting bolt is seen the storm is close enough to strike at the field of play. The play must be suspended and everyone take shelter. Once play has been suspended, the officials must wait at least 30 minutes after the last thunder is heard or flash of lightning is witnessed prior to resuming play. These guidelines are part of the NFHS Rule Book and must be followed.
Temporary suspensions could also result from fan interference, or an outside agent entering the field of play. When any of the above situations occur and the game was in play, the restart is a drop ball from the point of where the ball was at the time of the suspension. If one player was in control of the ball at the time of the temporary suspension the game is restarted with an indirect free kick for the team in clear possession of the ball at the location the ball was at the time of the temporary suspension. The only exception is if the incident occurred within the goal area and then the ball is moved according the rule.
A game may be terminated for several reasons. Two common reasons deal with weather. If light fails and it is no longer safe to continue the game, it is terminated. Also if field conditions become unsafe the game is terminated. This could be standing water from rain, snow on the field, etc. If this occurs during the first half of play the game is replayed. If it happens after the first half is complete the score stands and the game is official.
Spectators become unruly or interfering with the game is another reason to terminate the game. In this instance the official must advise the scorer and opposing coaches are notified of the reason and a complete and accurate written report is submitted to the appropriate officials.
If there is a fight on the field and the players act in such a way that the officials do not feel it is safe to continue the game, the officials must terminate it. Again the score keeper and coaches must be advised and a report submitted in a timely and accurate manner.
When a coach is ejected he/she must leave the area. If the coach refuses to do this in a timely manner, the game must be terminated. Again the written report must be submitted in a timely manner outlining the facts. The game is also terminated if a team refuses to play after being instructed by the officials to start or resume play.
A game shall be forfeited by the officials if a team does not have seven players to start the game. After the game is started, it may not be continued with fewer than seven players on either team. if this occurs the game is forfeited. Again a written report must be submitted by the officials to the appropriate parties. The score of a forfeited game shall be 1-0 if the game is not started, the score is tied or the offending team is ahead at that time. If the offending team is losing at the time of the forfeit the score shall stand.
The above is a summary of temporary suspensions, terminations and forfeits. It is not meant to be all inclusive but mearly guidelines for officials who are involved in interscholastic games.