Any league official knows that contested calls and matches come with the territory. So I’ve added a new section where I’ll post up any interesting scenarios we encounter in our league or that I hear/read about. We all know the official’s decision is final – but its still fun to pontificate about it afterward. These situations are often based on actual events, but I may clarify some statements to keep things from being too fuzzy. I may also make up some scenarios as well. You never know when one might become reality! All of these posts will be in the ‘Tough Call’ category.

The Scenario

  • Division: U10 Co-ed Rec
  • Score: 1-1 with < 10 seconds remaining
  • Regulation was down to the last few seconds of the match. The white team is attacking. The ref blows the whistle indicating offside has occurred and most players let up. A white player kicks the ball into the blue team’s goal while most other players are stopping and trying to figure out what is going on. The ref decides offside had not actually occurred and the whistle should not have been blown and indicates that a goal was scored by the white team.
  • Contention: Should the final goal count (White wins 2-1)? The coach of the blue team pointed out that the whistle had blown and regardless of the reason, when that happens, play stops. Once play stops, even for a blown call, he felt a dropped ball or free kick should have been awarded to restart play. The coach of white points out that his team was on the attack and clearly could have scored. Why should they be penalized for a mistake by the referee?

So what was the right thing to do? Should the ref have restarted play using a free kick or dropped ball? Was the act of blowing the whistle the turning point? (i.e. regardless of why or if it was a mistake, once the whistle blew, play stopped and any player still playing gained an unfair advantage) With time just about to expire, there was little recourse unless the ref added time (which at that point they had no reason to like injury time, etc.)


Obviously in a situation like this, Law 5 is pretty clear.

  • The decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play are final.
  • The referee may only change a decision on realizing that it is incorrect or, at his discretion, on the advice of an assistant referee, provided that he has not restarted play or terminated the match.

Since our league doesn’t have any procedure for appealing match results (it is Recreational after all), the Board felt the result should stand. White won 2-1. But that didn’t keep us from debating it at length.

Clearly the official blew the call. But even worse, the official knew the call had been blown, but allowed play to resume instead of correcting the mistake. It was a young official and as a rec league we are working to train officials too. The Board felt the right thing would have been for the official to acknowledge the bad call but since the whistle had blown, for whatever reason, play had been stopped and a free kick should have been awarded to Blue (or perhaps even White since they hadn’t actually been offside) with the goal disallowed. Hypothetical, of course.