Substitutions – Requirements And Mechanics

Published on April 29, 2016


By: John Van de Vaarst, National Clinician

The monthly “NISOA Referee Nuts and Bolts” column is written primarily for the college and high school soccer referee. However, any soccer referee who wishes to improve personal performance may also find that this series is helpful.

All articles address those BASIC techniques, procedures, practice alternatives, and skills that are sometimes forgotten or overlooked while going through the experiences of soccer refereeing. The short discussions and accompanying practical tips stress important advice for competent performance. This month’s article will focus on player substitutions.

Rule 3 of both the NCAA and NFHS Rules Books provide the details on when substitutions are allowed and how substitutions should be managed. Both books are very similar as to when substitutes are allowed. The main difference is that during an interscholastic game substitutions are unlimited and reentries are permitted. This coincides with the philosophy of interscholastic sports of participation. The NCAA Rule Book does not permit reentry in the first half and one reentry in the second half and no reentries during either overtime period. Also, when playing under the NFHS rules, whenever a player is cautioned he/she shall leave the field and may be replaced (substitution). The NCAA Rule Book does not include this provision. Some Junior Colleges who play under the NCAA rules have added an administrative requirement that if a player is cautioned, he/she must leave the field. Officials must review the local administrative rules with both coaches when officiating a junior college game to ensure the proper procedures are utilized.

Interscholastic soccer rules allow for an unlimited number of substitutes by either team if the clock is stopped for an injury and the injured player is removed from the field. Intercollegiate soccer only permits the injured player(s) to be replaced and the opponents may substitute a like number.

Officials should review the appropriate rule book on a regular basis so that the substitution rule is clearly understood. Also, the NISOA Rules Difference Guide is a great reference when reviewing when substitutions are permitted.

The next section of this article will deal with the mechanics of managing substitutions. In both rule books substitutes must be at the score table and ready to enter the game. A player is not permitted to leave the bench and directly go into the game during a substitution opportunity. The only exceptions to this is when a goal is scored or a player injured. Once the player)s) is at the score table and there is a substitute opportunity, the scorer will notify the officials that there is a substitute by sounding the horn. If there is no horn available, the scorer must use some other means, other than an whistle, to gain the officials attention. In an intercollegiate game if the coach elects to cancel the substitution after the horn has sounded, the player(s) will be charged with an entry into the game. Once the referee acknowledges the substitution(s) the player(s) shall enter the field. The substitute(s) do not wait on the touch line for the player on the field to leave. Also, once the substitute is recognized to enter the field, that player is the field player of record. In other words, once the substitute enters the field, he/she becomes the field player and the player leaving becomes a substitute. This is important to know in the event of a misconduct situation by either of the players.

The managing of the substitution procedure in an interscholastic game normally is the total responsibility of one of the field officials. Fourth officials are rarely used during interscholastic games. When the dual system of control is being utilized, the official on the score table side of the field is responsible for managing the substitutes. The official must determine who is entering and leaving the field and make sure the same number of players enter as exit. This is to prevent a situation where there are too many players on the field. When the diagonal system of control is being utilized, the assistant referee on the score table side of the field is responsible. The assistant referee may have to move closer to the score table to ensure that all requirements are satisfied. If this occurs, the referee should delay the restart of the game so that the assistant referee can return to his/her appropriate position for the restart.

Intercollegiate games are officiated using the diagonal system of control The same procedures for substitute management should be used as described above. When there is an alternate official, that individual is responsible for managing the substitutions. This individual should use the NISOA Alternate Official Form to track substitutions along with the scorekeeper. The alternate official must be thoroughly familiar with the substitute rule to ensure there are no problems. For example, during the second overtime period a coach sends a player to the score table who was already substituted for during the second overtime period. This player is not allowed to reenter. The coach may be confused by the rule and debate with the alternate official. The alternate official must be prepared to discuss the matter with the coach and explain the rule.

In summary, officials must know what game rules are being used to officiate the game. Improper substitutions can result in problems for the officiating team and possible protests during an intercollegiate game.

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