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Sep, 2016

Under-age Heading of the Ball - Advice for Section 2 Referees

Section 2 Referees: under-age heading Q&A

AYSO has new Rules and Regulations about heading the ball, last updated May 27, 2016. These new regulations create new questions. We have in mind an AYSO referee who is at the field for a match that kicks off in just a few minutes. The material below is hopefully helpful advice from some of your fellow AYSO Section 2 referees. We expect updates and changes to our understanding, this material, and the regulations. This material is not official guidance, nor regulation. Please share your suggestions, thoughts, and concerns with us.

Ted Marsh SRA2, Martin Bittner SDI2, Steve Jacobs SDA2

Terms: DHI – Deliberate Heading Infraction

1. Should I enforce the deliberate heading infraction in this match?
The competition or league authorities should clearly and explicitly indicate, to all parties, well in advance of the match, if DHI will be enforced. If there is no such indication, DHI should not be enforced.

If there is an on-the-field mismatch of expectations, the referee shall make the decision.

If the referee is called upon to make the decision about DHI applying to the match because of a lack of adequate planning and communication by the competition authorities, the competition authorities shall give full support of the decision, and to the referee, during and after the match.

The decision to enforce DHI applies to the whole match.

Prior to the match, the referee should communicate with the coaches and the players as to whether or not DHI is being enforced.

2. Should the deliberate heading infraction be enforced for all players in a match?
The DHI shall be enforced for all players in a match, regardless of their individual ages. Referees shall not selectively enforce the infraction, per player, within a match. DHI is enforced for all players in a particular match, or not enforced at all in that match.

3. How do I recognize a deliberate heading infraction?
The language currently reads “deliberately touches the ball with his/her head.” Play can be analyzed very similarly as is done for the Law 12 DFK offense of “handles the ball deliberately.”

Did the head play the ball, or did the ball play the head?
Did the player have an opportunity to avoid the ball-head contact?

Q: What is the ‘head’ for the purposes of DHI?
A: Everything that comes out of the top center hole of the player’s jersey.

4. What is the procedure for awarding an indirect free kick for a deliberate heading infraction?
For a DHI, referee signalling and communication between members of the referee team are as specified in the Laws of the Game and other authoritative publications (e.g., USSF Guide to Procedures) for an indirect free kick foul. Note that this infraction is NOT a foul.

Law 13 specifies the placement of the ball for an IFK.

5. What about misconduct? Cautions and send-offs?
Deliberately heading the ball is an infraction and not a foul or misconduct, and cannot result in a caution or a send-off.

For example, if a player is guilty of a DHI that also prevents a goal, there cannot be a sending-off for denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity.
For example, if a player commits multiple DHIs, there cannot be a caution for persistent infringement.
For example, if a player attempts to score a goal by heading the ball, there cannot be a caution for unsporting behavior.

6. What about advantage? Shall I apply advantage?
Advantage can be applied, but it should be applied sparingly and only in critical situations. Advantage is generally not well-understood by the participants at younger-age games.

In some situations, advantage can be appropriately applied.

For example, consider a situation where a defender commits a DHI yet the ball goes directly from the defender’s head into the defender’s goal. Advantage is applied, as the goal for the attackers is far more advantageous than an IFK.  If the match allows, the referee can provide the player with a simple low key instruction to not head the ball.

7. What about ‘trifling and doubtful’?
DHI is a technical infraction, not a foul. Thus, for the most part, the referee’s judgment to enforce or not should depend on whether or not the infraction was observed, not the infraction’s effect on play.

8. What about Law 11 Offside?
There is no modification to Law 11 and the head should be included in judging offside position. Are you able to judge offside position to within the span of a youth player’s head? Congratulations!

Law 11 (2016 IFAB LOTG, page 77) specifies that one of the required conditions for a player to be in an offside position is if:

“any part of the head, body or feet is in the opponents’ half (excluding the halfway line)”


9. What if the player attempted to head the ball?
There is no infraction for attempting to head the ball. A simple low key word to the player at an appropriate time might be in order.

10. What about U8?
The prohibition against heading applies to players in U8. However in U8 all free kick restarts are simplified to a direct free kick.

Per the AYSO Guidance for Referees, Coaches, Other Volunteers and Parents (2015 ed. page 38)

Free Kicks:
All free kicks in U-8 games are direct free kicks. Opponents must be at least 6 yards from the ball or on the goal line between the goal posts during free kicks. Free kicks awarded the attacking team inside the defending team’s goal area are to be taken from the nearest point on the goal area line parallel to the goal line.

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