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Soccer Conduct

The Referee is responsible for maintaining order on the field. The Referee may request anyone on or near the field, within the scope of the Palo Alto AYSO field permit, to comply with the rules, and can expel individuals who do not comply. This includes other AYSO officials, such as observing personnel or the coaches.

Coaches are responsible to maintain order with their teams and amongst their spectators. The coach may ask the assistance of the Referee in charge of the game to manage players, parents or observers.

Parents, spectators, coaches, and referees have responsibilities and obligations to keep our all-volunteer soccer program a fun experience for all.  Please observe the following:
  1. The Referee's first responsibility is the safety of the players on the field. The Referee will control irresponsible or dangerous play. Soccer is only a contact sport under specialized circumstances, and we all want to see soccer skills on the field, not brute force.  (RC note:  I prefer to see referees call games tightly and err on the side of caution, than see aggressive play that is directed at a player).
  2. Cheer positively for the things you like and encourage your team, but not only your team. Good soccer plays, or goals, by either team are a cheering opportunity.
  3. Never put down the other team or any of the players of either team.  When cheering for your team's goal be sensitive to the opposing players on the field.
  4. Let the players play the game! Leave sideline coaching to the coaches.  Spectators frequently yell instructions to the players, such as Pass or Shoot. These instructions may contradict those of the coach and only serve to confuse the players and detract from their enjoyment of their game. Playing soccer is about players making decisions.
  5. Our referees, like all AYSO officials, are volunteers. While their decisions may not always be agreeable to all participants and spectators, their decisions are final. No useful purpose is served by shouting disagreement or derogatory remarks at the referees. And sour attitude toward the referee can be read by all, especially the players.  Referees can caution players (showing a yellow card) and dismiss players from the game (showing a red card) for misconduct. Referees can also caution and dismiss coaches, and can even terminate the game. Deliberate fouls or abusive words and disrespect on the part of players, coaches, or spectators can lead to these actions.
  6. Every year, we have many new referees and coaches. Each is volunteering to do a difficult job and mistakes inevitably occur.  Heckling or making disrespectful comments about the referees or a coach is totally unwarranted. These people are donating their time to your family. If there is a serious problem involving coaches or referees, it should be brought to the attention of the Regional Commissioner, or reported in Kids Zone after the game.
  7. For the safety of all, coaches and spectators must remain at least 1 yard from the touchline, and it shows courtesy by spectators to remain 2 yards from the touchline. No one is allowed behind the goal or within 18 yards of the goal line on either end of the field. Coaches and referees are asked to enforce this policy.
  8. No smoking or alcoholic beverages are allowed at games or practices.
  9. Water and some form of watery fruit, preferably sliced oranges, is the only recommended half-time refreshment. Energy drinks are not permitted at Palo Alto AYSO functions.  Please review the Snack Page.
  10. All players present and in proper uniform at the start of the game must play at least half of the game. If a player cannot play for a health reason, or is under suspension, the player should not wear a uniform to the field. All players should play 3/4 of the game before any player plays the whole game.
  11. Thanks to the Palo Alto Unified School District and the Palo Alto Recreation Department, we have the use of fine facilities.It is our responsibility to encourage everyone to use these facilities properly and to keep the fields clean and free from litter.  Do not use the trash cans at schools for team or personal trash. They are for the use of the schools only. Do not use the park trash cans for team trash. The number of AYSO teams using a field per day can readily overwhelm trash facilities and make a mess. Help us by picking up any litter you see. If you see anyone misusing the facilities (e.g., climbing fences, playing ball near windows, throwing litter onto the field, etc.), please bring the matter to the attention of a coach, referee, or other AYSO official.
Ejecting a Coach
Following United States Soccer Federation guidelines, referees will first ask a coach for compliance to some instruction. Then, if a second instruction is needed, the referee will tell the coach to comply with the instruction. On the third need to instruct the coach, the coach will be sent off for irresponsible behavior. What does it mean to be sent off? The coach must immediately, without any further interaction with parent, spectators or assistant coach, leave the field and the environs. Sitting nearby is not acceptable. The send-off will be reported by the Referee as part of the game data entry. If needed, Regional officials will follow up with a conversation with the coach.

AYSO:  What's the Answer?
Click the links for a video clip.

Dissent is very negative and destructive to the game of soccer, and, therefore, there should be zero tolerance of it. That is, referees should deal with dissent right away, as it is easier to manage it when it first shows up.


In the clip, Blue player #4 catches up to Red player #9 and attempts to stop him by quickly grabbing and releasing his arm as he jumps away from him to give the impression that he is avoiding contact. The Blue player's intention is to stop the opponent without getting caught committing the foul. The Referee should wait a split-second, applying advantage, to see if the kicked ball by Red player #9 goes in for a score.

If the goal is scored, the Referee should warn or caution Blue player #4 depending on the nature of the foul and restart the game with a kick-off for the Blue team. Since the Red team did not score and the foul occurred outside the penalty area, the Referee should award a direct free kick (DFK) to the Red team.

This video is an example of a "jumps at an opponent" foul. The Referee or Assistant Referee has to have the right angle of vision to classify this foul in the "jumps at" category or it may be judged to be a reckless tackle. Either way, the action needs to be identified as a foul and cautioned for unsporting behavior for committing the foul in a reckless manner.

Pushing fouls can potentially become more frequent and they are more challenging to identify as the players get older because they do the pushing in different ways. The criteria for a foul remains the same regardless of the age level: an offense becomes a foul when it is committed by a player on the field of play, while the ball in play, against an opponent, in a manner considered by the referee to be careless, reckless, or using excessive force.