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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 35393

Law 4 - The Players Equipment 3/18/2024

RE: Competitive Under 12

Drew of St Charles, Mo USA asks...

At a tournament this past weekend, a player on the other team refused to tie his shoe laces. His laces seemed excessively long. I requested the referee (who appeared to be an older referee with experience) have the player tie his shoes, he said he had already requested the player do so and the player refused. Further stating that the player is essentially playing at his own risk and if injured, it’s on him. My concern was for multiple reasons. The long shoe laces affecting my own players in close tackles, the off chance that his shoe(s) would not “fly off” and hit my player, as well as the possibility of injury if my players were to step on his shoe lace and cause the player to fall/stop abruptly/etc and cause my player to become entangled, fall, and/or become injured in the aftermath. I also did not want my players to be called for a foul/trip, that was a result of the laces. That did not go over well with the referee either. I feel that my request was appropriate and if the player didn’t want to tie his shoes, then he should simply remove his shoe laces (as many players do). The laws do state that a player must not wear equipment that is dangerous, and by the refs own acknowledgement, this could be a dangerous situation. This issue foreshadowed other issues that arose in the match as the referee seemed to placate the other team and coach (a completely seperate topic). Was my request unreasonable? How could I handle these situations better in the future.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Drew
Thanks for the question.

This is indeed an outlier and one that rarely comes to the attention of referees. It is a first for me. Holding up the game to tie laces does happen regularly and an odd one that I see used from time to time for unsporting reasons.

From my perspective to consider untied laces as dangerous within the meaning as set out in the LotG is a matter of personal opinion. The laces themselves would not be dangerous while perhaps any outcome from a lace trip involving a fall could be.
Accidents inevitably occur, but the Laws aim to help make the game as safe as possible, balancing player welfare and sporting fairness.

I wonder at times what goes on in players heads. Was it a fashion statement or hey look at me I’m different or indifference?
The referee in his opinion probably felt he did enough in telling the player about lace tying and that any risk was the players own choice. As it was a tournament it may not have been the first or only time the laces were undone. Sure maybe he was told no other referee had a problem.
He was probably not willing to take on a situation that is not explicitly set out in Law and get into a spat with a 12 year old minor and his coach.

It not unlike the use of mini shin pads. These are Under 8 pads and they do not offer the safety protection of proper sized pads when used by youth and adult players. Most referees just ensure the player have pads and is not going to get involved in a debate about the merits of protection of mini pads one way or another.

In your situation I probably would have said **Okay coach I hear you. Ill pay particular attention to this during the game. We will see how we go**

At Underage I regularly see untied shoe laces with some of the younger age groups unable to tie the laces themselves. I have in the past tied laces for very young players who could not tie them. It was easier for me to tie a lace beside the player rather than hold up the game. Many play for long parts of the game with untied laces.

I suppose the proof of the decision is that nothing untoward happened in your game and while soccer shoes must be worn the Laws do not explicitly state the HOW. Whether a referee would have the powers to insist on lace tying is debateable and unfortunately it developed into a debate. Had the referee gone the insisting on laces being tied route that could also have ended as a spat the other way again with no clear mandate to do so.

As to any of these type of situations my advice is to bring it to the attention of the referee and leave it at that. When it is not something that is expressly covered in the Laws such as jewellery, shin pads etc a referee has to make the *best* call possible in the circumstances. When not covered in the Laws any decision can be seen as fair / unfair depending on a point of view.
Referees do not like / want to be in such situations.

In such situations a referee can be blamed / exonerated or considered right / wrong no matter what he or she does

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Drew ,
The LOTG do give the referee discretion as to what is safe. Long laces are not usually an issue and the old tie the shoe while we hold up the free kick is an outdated but occasionally used ploy! Is it an actual condition of match play or competition rules? I do not think so.

I will go a bit further with safety, in stating, tie the shoe up properly so it poses no danger to yourself or others in tripping is not an unreasonable request, IF, the shoe is continually coming off or those laces are so long they are weaponized in some fashion?

Hair in a pony tail, long trailing tresses or dreads sigh Not a usual problem yet I recall a lovely young lady from one team had beads in her hair on the trailing dreads which I forced her to wear a togue to cover as they would flail about in the header challenges. almost 2 feet long Some things just are what they are

In all my days refereeing youth with long laces I often tied then up myself to assist them in not tripping or having their shoes comes off which certainly was a problem at times so I understand your thinking it should be mandatory! It was NOT just the long straggling trailer laces, often overly wide loops and wraps around the shoes come loose or act almost like a rabbit snare.

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