NCAA Soccer – Clock Management

by John Puglisi, NISOA Past - President, NISOA National clinician and NISOA local assessor.

NCAA Soccer Rule 5.6 describes the referee’s discretionary power during a game. Several sections of Rule 5.6 are very specific regarding when the referee is required to suspend the game and stop the clock. However, Rule 5.6.1 allows the referee the discretionary power to suspend the game for “…other cause, such action is deemed necessary.” There are some instances during the game where the referee should exercise the power to suspend the game and some instances where the referee should refrain from suspending the game. 

Most NCAA soccer games have a visible, electronically controlled scoreboard clock which is the official timepiece for the game (Rule 6.3.1). The majority of referees are used to being the match timekeeper and add additional time for various reasons as prescribed by the FIFA Laws of the Game. However, the NCAA soccer rules do not allow additional time to be added but rather require the referee to stop the clock under certain circumstances. There are also “gray” areas where the referee has the discretion to stop the clock (Rule 5.6.1). Over the years, I have observed that referees are inconsistent with their clock management, specifically clock stoppage in the following circumstances:

  • Player(s) injury. Rule 5.6.7 is very clear and requires the referee to stop the clock to when players are injured. Many referees do not stop the clock immediately when a player is injured but rather wait to see if the player can resume playing in the game. Player safety is a point of emphasis in the intercollegiate game and time should not be lost when a player appears to be injured. This decision is independent of determining whether the player needs attention from the trainer or medical personnel and doesn’t automatically result in the player being removed.  The referee can stop the clock, quickly assess the player and still allow the player to remain in the game if the player does not require medical attention.
  • Warning players. The NCAA Soccer Rules do not require the referee to stop the clock to verbally warn players while the ball is not in play. However, when a lengthy discussion is required or if two or more players are being warned at the same time, the clock should be stopped (Rule 5.6.1) so playing time is not lost for match control reasons.
  • Free kicks near the end of a period. I have observed referees stopping the clock to allow a team to take a free kick for a foul committed in the last seconds of a period. The NCAA Soccer Rules do not mandate the free kick to be taken if time expires after the foul is committed and before the free kick is taken. Unless the referee is required to stop the clock for a caution/ejection (Rule 5.6.2 and 5.6.3) or other instances covered by Rule 5.6 (injury, equipment/jewelry, artificial noisemakers, etc.), the referee should not stop the clock just to allow the free kick to be taken.

Please consider these aspects of clock management for intercollegiate soccer games to enhance consistent application of the NCAA Soccer Rules.

This entry was posted on Thursday, October 16th, 2014 at 10:50 am and is filed under Instruction with keyword(s) . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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