In the Euro 2012 match between Spain and Ireland, the referee actually ended up tackling down a player who was receiving the ball from his defense and moving off to dribble through the incoming players, resulting in a situation where Spain had a great chance of scoring based on this mistake by the referee. Involuntary it may be, but he had a direct effect on the game, unlike the ball hitting him on its course, or a player running in to him.

Here's a video link of the incident: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAK40RFA-Jc

So my question is whether or not the referee should/could/must do something to compensate the team for his mistake?

  • What if the ref stops the ball with his feet
    – user1643
    Aug 12, 2013 at 20:34
  • @srmoore Put that on another question, but it's the same, the ref is just like a post in the middle of the field.
    – gbianchi
    Aug 13, 2013 at 13:57

1 Answer 1


In the situation you describe, that being the referee impeding a player, the referee has no obligation to stop play or provide compensation to either the attacking or defending team.

Law 9 of the FIFA Laws of the Game state:

Ball Out of Play

The ball is out of play when:

  • it has wholly crossed the goal line or touch line whether on the ground or in the air

  • play has been stopped by the referee

Ball In Play

The ball is in play at all other times, including when:

  • it rebounds off a goalpost, crossbar or corner flagpost and remains in the field of play

  • it rebounds off either the referee

So, there is nothing that states explicitly that the ball is out of play in the event of a collision.

Now, if we look at the interpretation of the rule, we have the bullet above which states "play has been stopped by the referee". So we ask, should the referee stop play?

The answer is "No". The referee is deemed as part of the field of play. A player colliding with the referee is, for all intents and purposes, the same as a player colliding with the post, tripping over on the grass or catching his foot on the corner flag.

One exception to this would be if the player was substantially injured (such as a head injury). The referee would then use his discretion to stop the play if desired.

In summary, the referee will do his best to keep out of the way of the ball and players but, if he does collide with the ball or a player, play shall continue.

  • 2
    +1. This sort of incident can be likened to a bad bounce, or the ball hitting something else on the field.
    – Matt
    Jun 17, 2012 at 14:43
  • @Matt - Yes, I was at that game. There's still debate about that one however. Yes, the ball is an inanimate object so it should stand but the argument against is that play should have stopped due to "outside interference". I'm a Sunderland fan anyway so I wholeheartedly agree that the goal should stand!
    – Ste
    Jun 17, 2012 at 14:48
  • Note that even if the referee would stay on the ground, incapacitated, the official Laws of the Game interpretation states the “play may continue under the supervision of the assistant referees until the ball next goes out of play”.
    – Mormegil
    Jun 18, 2012 at 8:24
  • So if the ref is part of the field of play, there should be no problem stepping on/over him, correct? :) I don't play futbol/soccer, but I do play hockey, where the refs are also considered "part of the rink", but are also protected by rules prescribing a match penalty (immediate ejection from the game, and either a hearing and fine or barring from amateur leagues) for intentionally causing harm to an official. In American football, a ref not paying attention can get mowed over without penalty; Google Shonn Grene running over a ref in the secondary.
    – KeithS
    Jun 26, 2012 at 20:54
  • @KeithS Correct - a player will not be penalised if he bumps into the ref, knocks him over, stands on his foot, etc. There are sanctions in place in football, as you mention, which penalise players would intentionally cause harm to an official. Paolo di Canio received an 11 match ban and fine after pushing over a referee. Video and Story
    – Ste
    Jul 2, 2012 at 18:52

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