Play of the Week 30: Re-entering the field of play / injured players

By PRO Training & Development Manager Paul Rejer

Part One: Re-entering the field

There are seven offenses by which the referee can caution a player. The yellow card is used to communicate that a player, substitute or substituted player has been cautioned.

The Law states:

A player is cautioned and shown the yellow card if he commits any of the following seven offenses:

– Unsporting behavior

– Dissent by word or action

– Persistent infringement of the Laws of the Game

– Delaying the restart of play

– Failure to respect the required distance when play is restarted with a corner kick, free kick or throw-in

– Entering or re-entering the field of play without the referee’s permission

– Deliberately leaving the field of play without the referee’s permission

By far the most administered yellow card is for unsporting behavior and the list of above offenses is in order of usage. Therefore, entering or re-entering the field of play without the referee’s permission is rarely seen.

Such an event occurred at the weekend in the MLS game between New York Red Bulls and Philadelphia Union.


Damien Perrinelle puts his arm into the face of the Union’s Fabian Herbers and referee Jose Carlos Rivero cautions Perrinelle. To comply with Law, Rivero ensures that Herbers leaves the field of play to receive treatment.

The Law states:

A player is not allowed to receive treatment on the field of play 

Rivero sees that Herbers leaves the field of play. Even though treatment is not required, Herbers has to leave to comply with Law:

As soon as the referee has authorized the doctors to enter the field of play, the player must leave the field of play, either on a stretcher or on foot. If a player does not comply, he must be cautioned for unsporting behavior.

Herbers then waits for a signal from the referee to re-enter the field as the Law states that:

Irrespective of whether the ball is in play or not, only the referee is authorized to allow an injured player to re-enter the field of play

Rivero does not allow Herbers to re-enter immediately as the Law dictates that:

An injured player may only return to the field of play after the match has restarted

When the match restarts, the referee waits until there is a safe moment for the injured player to return.

When the ball is played into the Red Bulls’ penalty area and over in the direction of Herbers, Rivero cannot take the risk of allowing Herbers on to the field for him to have an immediate impact on the game.

However, when Herbers’ team-mate Keegan Rosenberry passes the ball to him, he re-enters the field of play. Rivero has no choice but to caution him. It is mandatory.

Part Two: Injured players

The above is a good example of how a referee should deal with minor injury situations. Earlier in the game there is an example of how a referee deals with a serious injury.


Three players challenge for the ball – Union goalkeeper Andre Blake, his team-mate Joshua Yaro and Red Bulls’ Aurelien Collin. Yaro and Collin go to ground injured, and the manner in which Yaro goes to ground gives all the indications of a concussion.

Referees have to recognize the signs of a concussion and ensure that the game is stopped immediately, allowing medical staff to perform treatment on the field of play.

This is allowed as the Law makes an exception to receiving treatment on the field of play. Exceptions to this ruling are to be made only when:

A goalkeeper is injured

A goalkeeper and an outfield player have collided and need immediate attention

Players from the same team have collided and need immediate attention

A severe injury has occurred, e.g. swallowed tongue, concussion, broken leg

Referee Rivero is totally aware, stops the game immediately and calls for the medics to treat Yaro. This swift action is of vital importance; it can actually mean the difference between life and death.

When Yaro is taken off the field on a stretcher, his team-mates, his opponents, and fans from both teams are concerned about him and players and fans unite to applaud, to wish him all the best.

I was at Tottenham Hotspur versus Bolton Wanderers in the EPL in 2012 when Bolton player Fabrice Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest and almost died on the field. The game was abandoned. I could see the similarities between the reaction of fans and players in both cases. All rivalries are forgotten and concern for the players’ welfare takes over. Fortunately, Muamba survived and I am delighted that Yaro has recovered from his concussion.

These examples highlight the fact that referees cannot take risks and it is imperative that they are aware of the threat of concussion, and any other serious medical issues, and react accordingly.

Read more: Click here to see other Play of the Week’s from PRO’s Paul Rejer