In the instance where a player may have handled the ball and the REFEREE waves play on after protest from the opposing team, the linesman DID NOT raise his flag, so the play continued where the team of which the player who may have handled the ball scored. The REFEREE allowed the goal, after the goal was scored and celebrated the opposing team protested and prevented play from being restarted (by removing the ball from the centre circle) and argued with the referee until he consulted with the same linesman WHO DID NOT RAISE HIS FLAG, apparently the linesman said it was a handball.....so the referee called back play and disallowed the goal...now can someone please enlighten me if this is possible when consulting FIFA's rule book (LAW 5)..thank you.

3 Answers 3


The very end of Law 5, "Decisions of the Referee", covers this.

The referee may only change a decision on realising that it is incorrect or, at his discretion, on the advice of an assistant referee or the fourth official, provided that he has not restarted play or terminated the match.

The match was obviously not terminated, and the kickoff had not yet occurred, so the referee may change his decision according to the Laws.

A personal theory: If the referee waved on play, it would be understandable if the assistant referee didn't wave for a foul (as his flag would most likely just be waved down). The most likely scenario that I can think of is that the assistant referee had a better angle on the incident than the referee did, and decided that (instead of loudly yelling at the referee to stop play, because the flag would not be sufficient) he would just clear it up at the next stoppage.

  • 2
    Assistant referee in case he saw a foul (of any type), should rise his flag and stand up on that position even if the referee didn't saw the action.
    – gbianchi
    Commented Oct 7, 2012 at 16:11
  • @gbianchi The clincher in this particular case is that the referee ''did'' see the foul, but waved play on anyway. Since the foul has been seen and dealt with, it wouldn't be appropriate to keep waving for that same foul.
    – Ashen
    Commented Oct 7, 2012 at 22:42
  • Not exactly a foul or a handball, but an example of Referee changing decision. youtu.be/tWoUzs5wJVA (Move to 2:30 on the video - Man Utd v Newcastle Utd 26th December 2012) Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 5:14

As the referee has not restarted play after the goal, he is able to change his decision based on Law 5 of the FIFA Laws of the Game.

The referee may only change a decision on realising that it is incorrect or, at his discretion, on the advice of an assistant referee or the fourth official, provided that he has not restarted play or terminated the match.

Specifically to your scenario, I provide the following opinion based on 11 years of refereeing:

1) The referee either did not get a good look at the handball or didn't see it at all and called "play on" to indicate to the opponents that no foul occured.

2) The assistant referee saw the handball, but upon hearing the "play on" call from the referee, presumed that the referee had also seen the handball but deemed it not deliberate and thus no foul, which is why he kept his flag down.

3) Personally, I would be cautioning any player who causes such a scene such as grabbing the ball and preventing a restart. It sounds like the referee caved into the pressure from the players and eventually consulted his assistant, who may or may not have also caved in to said pressure.

In the end, what the referee did was correct under the Laws of the Game, but without obviously witnessing any of it, it's hard to say whether overall it was the correct decision.


In my opinion if the linesman saw the handball he should have raised his flag and held his position. But he did not and continued with the play and so did the referee. Is it even remotely possible for the referee to allow the goal by blowing his whistle and pointing to the centre circle, position the ball in the centre and just because the opposing team protested and refused to restart the game even though they too continued with the play, the referee was coerced into consulting with the linesman who didn't even raise his flag, who now comes to say it was a handball and the referee now decides to overturn a decision from a play which occurred approx 3 mins earlier.........

  • Welcome to Sports SE! Did you have any rule citations to back up what happened or what should have happened?
    – SocioMatt
    Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 11:54

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