At the Reading v Huddersfield game last week there was a mystery stoppage that bewildered players and spectators alike. Late in the second half, Reading were in possession just outside the Huddersfield penalty area when the referee blew his whistle and stopped the game. He then walked over to the touchline where there was a Huddersfield player with a member of their staff. The referee had earlier sent this player off quite correctly for treatment, as he was bleeding profusely. The Law says ‘the referee ensures that any player bleeding from a wound leaves the field of play.
The player presumably wished to return but before he could do so, the Law says he must receive a signal from the referee, who ‘must be satisfied that the bleeding has stopped’, It also says a player must not be allowed to wear clothing with blood on it.
In local football there would be no alternative to the referee himself inspecting the returning player, but the law says ‘the referee may give permission for the player to return if an assistant referee or the fourth official verifies the player is ready’.
An ex-referee phoned the local radio station to say that the player could only have come back at the halfway line, but that only applies to substitutions. Any player returning whilst the ball is in play can come on from anywhere on the touch line, But of course he need’s the referees’ signal.
There was a suggestion that he came back on without that signal. If so, he should have been shown the yellow card – which he wasn’t. The game also should have been restarted with an indirect free kick and not a dropped ball. But of course, the referee doesn’t have to stop the game immediately if an advantage could be applied or if the player was not interfering with play. Which he wasn’t.
As I say, a mystery the answer of which is known only by referee Brendon Malone.