The ball is in play. A substitute, off the field of play in their technical area, either engages in dissent, or uses offensive, insulting and/or abusive language against the referee. The referee stops play, and either cautions or sends off the substitute (depending on which of the above offences was committed).

How is play restarted and where does the restart take place?

  • The reason I'm asking this question, is because while many scenarios are covered in the current Laws (i.e. sub commits offence against player, player commits offence against sub), none of them cover this specific case. Commented Jun 25, 2017 at 23:44
  • 2
    This would be a drop ball, surely, for not having given a kick or throw, but stopping play to handle "any other situation"?
    – Nij
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 0:37
  • @Nij - you would think so. That's what I would have done had it happened in a game I was refereeing. However, after seeing this answer asktheref.com/Soccer%20Rules/Question/31617 on what is a fairly reputable Q + A site, that details it is an indirect free kick restart if a substitute commits misconduct off the field of play, I'm suddenly not so sure. I'll have a go at self-answering if I don't get an answer that details why it is a dropped ball within the next day or so. Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 4:05
  • Seems they are saying a drop ball if the substitute is off the field, IFK if they are on it (for the separate offence entry without permission) and appropriate caution/dismissal.
    – Nij
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 4:22
  • No, in point c) (which is a substitute committing an offence off the field of play), both answers state indirect free kick. Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 4:26

2 Answers 2


Correction (the previous answer was incorrect, stating dropped ball was the correct restart):

This question was posed to IFAB in an email dated Thursday, 27th July 2017. As I did not ask permission to post the email thread in full, only an excerpt containing the pertinent information is provided:

In the scenario you mention the correct restart is an IDFK (indirect free kick - editor's note) on the boundary line nearest to where the verbal offence occurred - see LotG 2017/18, page 105

IFAB has indicated that it will publish Law queries on their website in the near future. If this question and answer appears on their website, I will update this answer to refer there instead so it can be validated by other users.

  • The answer is correct, since this rule has changed during the last couple of years, before the change the rules stated a restart by a dropped ball.
    – Ola Ström
    Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 16:15

I cannot comment. So a different and possibly correct answer although my first instinct was a dropped ball.

But reading the third main bullet in Law 12 of @studro 's self answer this appears to be a direct free kick. Ball is in play, the offence is made by one of the persons listed, outside the field of play. Law 12 states a direct free kick. The language is definitely not precise but whether the official is inside the lines or outside should not really matter in this case. In my opinion the rule refers to the position of the offending player / team official and thus implies a direct free kick. If it had happened yesterday I would have resumed with a dropped ball. Now I'm not sure.

  • My reading is that "outside the field of play" applies to "opposing player or match official", not to the substitute committing the offence. Either way, I don't see how this can be a direct free kick offence, as "dissent ... offensive, insulting or abusive language ... or other verbal offences" is prescribed as an indirect free kick offence in 12.2. Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 2:01
  • If they meant the target of the offence being inside the field of play, then that phrase would come after the clause dealing with the target. Instead the phrase comes after the offender, but before the clause and preposition dealing with the target and relationship to the offender. We see this difference occur with Law 12, section 4. The phrase then applies to the offender, which does not match this situation. Not a DFK. -1.
    – Nij
    Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 6:04
  • It remains vague and my instinct remains a dropped ball. But the wording still appears to imply that the player / substitute is outside the field of play. How can a referee be outside the field of play? Why downvote an honest opinion? Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 21:03
  • I personally wouldn't upvote this answer, as it's not backed by a reference, but I wouldn't downvote it either, as it's an answer based on the spirit of the game, which is an important concept as outlined in Law 5, Section 2, Paragraph 1. Unfortunately, I don't think the Laws are flexible enough here to allow you to award a free kick for something that's not listed as a free kick offence. Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 2:00
  • BTW, I'm still looking for a definitive reference for this. If I can't find one, I'll probably end up sending a law enquiry to IFAB. Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 2:01

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