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Fundamental Soccer Blog

Don’t Pass on Safety Enforcement

The IFAB Laws of The Game, specifically Law 4, states, “A player may not use equipment or wear anything this is dangerous.”  The referee’s duty is to inspect the players and substitutes before allowing them to participate in a match.

Players wearing unauthorized or dangerous equipment or others are not allowed to play until the item is removed.  All jewelry items are forbidden and MUST be removed (not covered with tape or other material).

Players unwilling or unable to comply are not allowed to participate or continue participating in a match (if the item is discovered after the game has begun).

Officials need to enforce the safety rules.  Identifying and not enforcing a safety rule could make the official liable for a player’s injury.

Officials who should reasonably have been expected to notice a safety violation and do nothing about it put themselves in a potentially harmful legal situation.  If an injury occurs, one may wonder if the official was aware of the potentially dangerous situation and why they didn’t do anything about it.

Overlooking the Laws will put a heavy burden on the official, who will need to explain why they should not be held responsible for the injury.

Leagues, administrators, coaches, players, and parents must be made aware that safety rules must be enforced.  The Laws place the duty on officials to police illegal and unsafe equipment even if a league modifies or removes some Laws that should in no way convince an official to overlook an obvious safety risk.

It is unacceptable, undermines the official’s authority, and strips them of their duties when moms, dads, and coaches do not support the official’s decisions, as listed in Laws 4 and 5.

Some officials, especially at the lower levels of competition, may risk overlooking violations to increase their chances of being assigned more games or minimize the conflicts they will encounter with administrators, coaches, and parents if they enforce the Laws.

Officials are responsible for enforcing the Laws of the Game and ensuring the players are as safe as possible during the activity.

If officials do what the Lawbook says every time, they will significantly reduce their legal exposure.

Pat Ferre

US YOUTH SOCCER (2021 Volunteer of the Year) USSF Referee Grade 15 Emeritus USSF Referee Instructor USSF Referee Assessor USSF Referee Assignor District-7 Youth Referee Administrator (DYRA)