Monday, March 10, 2008

The Coin Toss - Which Team Calls The Toss?

The traditional coin toss before the beginning of the game, before the first period of extra time, and before a penalty shootout are well known. Team captains join the referees at the center mark, have introductions, and then have a coin toss to determine what side of the field each team will occupy during the first half (or whether their team will kick first or second in a penalty shootout).

Law 8 - The Start and Restart of Play

"A coin is tossed and the team which wins the toss decides which goal it will attack in the first half of the match."

Alright. But which team calls the toss? I've been told it's the visiting team, a courteous act toward the visitors, but I'm not sure if it's anywhere within the rules.

Again we find in the back of the Laws of the Game under "Procedures To Determine The Winner Of A Match":

"The referee tosses a coin and the team whose captain wins the toss decides whether to take the first or the second kick."

Alright. But once again, which team calls the toss?

And yet again, this time in Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game:
8.1
"The decision made by the team winning the toss is only which end of the field to attack; the other team takes the kick-off. When extra time is played, the coin toss again decides only which end the team winning the toss will attack in the first extra period of play."

Great, so we have a coin toss to start the game, a coin toss before the first period of extra time, and a coin toss before kicks from the penalty mark, but we still have no idea which team is to call the toss. Do we?

Experience would tell me that the visiting team is asked to make the call, but that's only b/c I've never heard any other referee tell me to ask the home team. I've asked USSF Referee experts to answer my question...response coming shortly.

"There is no regulation on this. It's another matter of tradition,
and also depends on the culture in which the game is played. Most
often the referee tosses the coin and the visiting team captain
calls. Other times the referee asks the home team captain to toss
the coin and the visitor still calls."

Jim Allen
USSF National Instructor Staff

How the coin toss is performed:
No regulations. The R can flip the coin and have the visiting team call it in the air, the R can have the visiting team call it before the coin is flipped, the home team can flip the coin, etc. One thing I would advice is that it is clear who will make the call when the coin is flipped if the visiting team has more than one captain. One time I had both captains call out a different answer at the same time. It was pretty funny. We just redid the coin toss...no big deal, but something that can easily be avoided.

Catch the coin or let it fall to the ground?
I've seen both. Although, I would agree that catching the coin is more correct b/c of at least 2 reasons. 1) When you catch the coin you're not having to bow before the players, which some would say is inappropriate or that you lose your position of authority by doing so. While that is highly debatable, the other is a valid point. 2) Allowing the coin to fall to the ground can cause uncertainty of whether or not the coin is showing heads or tails, especially on a field with long grass (where the coin is almost lost within the grass). So, I think it's best just to catch the coin and get on with the ceremony. However, I've seen huge competitions (Champions League Finals) where the referee allowed the coin to fall to the ground.

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