Referees share new season plans to combat bad behaviour and time-wasting

Expect referees to take a “robust approach” to bad behaviour from players and coaches this season, and to crack down on time wasting.

NZ Football’s Referee Committee have released guidelines ahead of the new domestic season, outlining how they expect referees to interpret the Laws of the Game.

These include taking strong action to improve behaviour on the pitch and in the coaches’ technical area, and being more accurate in calculating stoppage time.

The guidelines also cover decision-making for handball offences, dealing with offsides and include warnings about match-fixing and betting.

Download full guidelines here >>>>

Here’s a summary of the guidelines:


“Coaches, players and match officials have collective responsibility for ensuring that value, respect and protecting the reputation of the game are reflected in our actions and interactions,” the guidelines say.

The referees should expect team captains to take responsibility for the behaviour of teammates,

Yellow cards will be shown if players run towards a match official to confront them, or if they invade an official’s personal space.

Any clearly visible act of disrespect towards an official can also cop a caution.

Red cards will be issued where there is aggressive physical contact with an official, or where there is use of discriminatory behaviour/language, aggression or offensive language/gestures.

The senior coach in the dugout — the only person allowed to stand and coach during the match — will receive any sanction if there are breaches of behaviour in the technical area and the culprit can’t be identified.

The guidelines include a detailed list of yellow and red card offences for participants in the technical area.

The guidelines also have a set of protocols for referees to follow if they hear discriminatory comments.

Stoppage time

Referees will take stronger measures to reduce time-wasting, by applying more accurate calculations of added time in line with guidance from IFAB, the international body that governs the Laws of the Game.

Where referees are the sole match official, they should apply common sense with 1-point control.

However, regional and national competitions with 3-point or 4-point control should expect “greater enforcement”.

The 2024 approach:

  • Goal — add exact time from goal scored to restart.
  • Substitutions and injuries — add exact time from play stopped to restart.
  • Penalty kicks — add exact time from penalty decision to restart.
  • Delaying restart/time-wasting — referee to add extra time based on match events.
  • Red card — add exact time from red card shown to restart.

“Referees are empowered to take a more robust approach to dealing with clear and deliberate actions that are impactful in delaying the restart of play,” the guidelines say.

Examples are interfering with the ball after play has stopped, or taking excessive time to restart play with free kicks or goal kicks.


The guidelines clarify what constitutes the arm/hand when referees make decisions on potential handball offences.

“The upper boundary of the arm is in line with the bottom of the armpit,” the guidelines say.

In considering handball decisions, referees are advised:

  • “Not every touch of a player’s hand/arm with the ball is an offence.”
  • “A player’s hand/arm position should be judged in relation to their body movement in that particular situation.”
  • “Players are not expected to move with their arms by their side.”

It is an offence if a player:

  • Deliberately touches the ball with their hand/arm (e.g moves the hand/arm towards the ball).
  • Touches the ball with their hand/arm when it has made their body ‘unnaturally bigger’.

The referee will take into consideration whether the hand/arm has moved towards the ball or into its path, and whether the “hand/arm makes body unnaturally bigger and is not a consequence of, or justifiable by, the player’s body movement for that specific situation.”

Mitigating factors include proximity, justifiable position/action, whether the arm is supporting the body, a clear change of trajectory (deflection) when played by the same player, or if played by a teammate from close proximity.

It is an offence if a player scores a goal directly from the hand/arm, even if it’s accidental.


The guidelines clarify the definition of ‘deliberate play’ as it refers to Law 11.

Law 11 says: “A player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent who deliberately plays the ball, including
by deliberate handball, is not considered to have gained an advantage, unless it was a deliberate save by any opponent to prevent the ball entering the goal.”

“IFAB have clarified that ‘deliberate play’ is when a player has control of the ball with the possibility of:

  • Passing the ball to a teammate.
  • Gaining possession of the ball.
  • Clearing the ball (e.g. by kicking or heading it).

“If the pass, attempt to gain possession or clearance by the player in control of the ball is inaccurate or unsuccessful, this does not negate the fact that the player ‘deliberately played’ the ball.”

READ MORE: IFAB clarify offside ‘deliberate play’ guidelines >>>>

Match-fixing and betting

The guidelines remind match officials that match-fixing is a crime in New Zealand, and they must report any approach or suspicion of anyone involved in fixing or inappropriate betting on football.

Under NZ Football regulations, match officials are not allowed to be on any form of football, and they must complete an integrity course every three years.

More changes to the Laws of the Game

Football’s rule makers have approved a number of changes to the Laws of the Game to take effect from July 1, 2024.

Though the changes apply from July, competitions starting before then — such as New Zealand’s winter leagues — can delay their implementation till the start of subsequent competitions.

The rule changes relate to permanent concussion substitutes, player equipment, fouls and misconduct, and penalty kicks.

READ MORE: More trials and rule changes as football leaders review Laws of the Game >>>>

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