State Referee Administrators
State Directors of Instruction
State Directors of Assessment
State Directors of Coaching
Manager of Referee Development and Education
| October 12, 2007
incident at the first U.S. Soccer Development Academy Fall Showcase tournament
led to extensive discussions regarding the correct referee actions to
be taken when a goalkeeper and opponent are injured. The lack of
a single clear answer among the many experienced observers gathered there
is the reason for this position paper.
Injuries pose numerous difficult decisions for the referee. On
the one hand, soccer is a game of continuous action in which stoppages
are and should be infrequent. On the other hand, player safety
is an obvious matter of concern. Since stopping play may be beneficial
for one team, an added issue is the possibility of a player simulating
an injury or its degree of severity in an effort to gain that benefit.
Law 5 establishes several basic principles regarding player injuries:
- If, in the opinion of the referee, the injury is serious, play must
- If, in the opinion of the referee, the injury is not serious, treatment
of the injury is delayed until play is stopped for some other reason.
- If the referee stops play for an injury, the injured player must
leave the field and cannot return until play is restarted and the referee
The International Football Association Board (IFAB), in its Additional
Instructions and Guidelines (AIG) which accompany the Laws of the Game,
has clarified certain issues:
- An injured player may not receive treatment on the
field unless the injury is "severe" (immediate medical
attention is needed).
- An injured goalkeeper is not required to leave the field and may
receive treatment while on the field.
- The refusal of an injured player to leave the field despite being
required to do so is a cautionable offense (unsporting behavior).
- The removal of an injured player must be swift but safe.
- The referee may signal permission for medical personnel
(including stretcher-bearers) to enter the field to assist in the
removal from the field (or to provide emergency first aid).
Referees should keep in mind the following additional guidelines regarding
the handling of player injuries:
- A player may seek assistance and treatment off the field during play
if given permission by the referee to do so (permission is also needed
to return to the field, which may occur during play).
- A player who is injured may leave the field for treatment
and return to the field before play resumes if the stoppage was not
solely for that player’s injury and if medical personnel were not called
onto the field by the referee to aid the player’s removal.
- “Medical personnel” for purposes of these
guidelines includes any team official who has responsibility for
the player in the absence of available trained medical staff.
- If a goalkeeper is seriously injured as a result of a collision
with a teammate or opponent and the teammate or opponent is also
injured, all players injured in the collision may be treated on the
field and are not required to leave the field.
- A player for whom the referee has requested medical
personnel to enter the field at a stoppage is required to leave the
field and may return with the referee’s permission only after
play has resumed even if the stoppage was not expressly for the injury.
Evaluating and balancing these factors must be done quickly
and fairly, with appropriate regard for the age and skill of the players. In
all cases of doubt, the safety of the player must be the referee’s