Refereeing Under-Eight Youth Games

To: Griffin YSA referees
From:  Ian Flitcroft, referee assignor
Re:  Rules and advice for u8 games

Some of you will be reffing under eight games for the first time this season.   I've put together this memo to help you.  

U8 modifications to the Laws of the Game

For u8 games all restarts are indirect , so there are no penalty kicks, and no direct shots on goal from restarts after fouls.  All opposing players must be six yards from the ball for a restart
  There is no offside for u8 games.
Give players two chances at throw ins, and don't punish very minor infractions of the throw in.  The aim is for the kids to play soccer, not practice throw ins.
Play with a size 3 ball.

  We use "free subs".  This does NOT mean coaches can sub players in and out whenever they want!  Players may be substituted on their team's throw in, and for either team's goal kick or kick off after a goal.  Both teams may substitute any number of players if one player is injured.  Don't allow substitutions at other times.
  If a player is injured and the coach comes on the field then that player MUST be substituted at that time.  At this age parents tend to come running on the field when their child is injured.  If the coach is already coming onto the field then there is no reason not to allow the parent on the field.  But discourage parents from running on before you've signaled the coach to enter the field.

Explain every foul you call to the offending player.   At this age the players (and coaches!) are still learning the rules. 
The only fouls you will likely see are:
Handball - be lenient but do whistle DELIBERATE attempts to handle the ball.
Tripping - players at this age are clumsy and will trip each other accidentally.  Whistle for tripping when it results in the tripped player either losing possession of the ball or falling over.  Remember most trips are accidental but they are still fouls  because it's careless play.
Kicking - occasionally some under eight players think it's acceptable to take huge swings at the ball when trying to tackle an opponent who has possession.  This often results in the tackler missing the ball and catching the opponent on the shin or leg (In one instance I saw, in the chest!)  Again, although it's accidental, it is still a foul.  You must think of the safety of the players and call the foul.
Pushing/charging - watch for pushing by players, with no attempt by the pusher to play the ball.  Sometimes young players get into the habit of shoving or charging other players - particularly if the ref is not calling it!
Double possession - For the goalkeeper infraction of picking the ball up from a pass by a teammate, be VERY sure that it was a deliberate pass back to the keeper by a teammate and not just a player kicking the ball.  You should almost never call this at u8 because deliberate passes are very rare. 

Be protective of the goalkeeper - remember that if a keeper has one hand (or even one finger) on top of the ball when it is on the ground, that is possession by the keeper, and any attempt by opponents to kick the ball away is then a foul.   Don't allow kicking at the ball when the keeper is down on the ground with the ball.  This is a safety matter, so blow your whistle quickly and strongly!

Coach/parent behavior

Make sure that the parents are on one side of the field and coaches are on the other side.  Do not allow parents or coaches behind either goal line.  There should be one, or at most two, adults on the coachs side.  If there are any more than two, then identify the head coach and ask him to reduce the number to two adults.
   If you are having trouble with a coach, who e.g. may be objecting to your calls, then you should move towards the coachs sideline and say something like "I understand you didn't like the call, but I saw a trip/push/handball etc.  Please coach your team and let me referee the game."  If a coach continues to argue or misbehave and you feel threatened or uncomfortable then leave the field and come find either myself, Gerry Cunningham, or another adult referee and have us deal with the problem.
You should not deal with parents directly.  If parents are becoming a problem (e.g. yelling at you or the players in an inappropriate manner) then ask the coaches to deal with them.  If the problem is not dealt with by the coaches then you may want to leave the field and seek adult assistance. 
Remember that YOU have the authority as the referee, so in the end the parents/coach must do what you want them to do.  Some adults have trouble accepting this, but YOU are in charge of the match.