Denying a Goal Scenerios

I have a question about judging denying a goal or obvious goal scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball: ATR 12.37 (a) states in part “but simply the occurrence of the offense under circumstances in which, in the opinion of the referee, the ball would likely have gone directly into the goal but for the handling”.

What if the deliberate handling by a defender prevents the ball from reaching an attacker who would be able to simply put the ball into an unprotected goal (no other defenders or the goal keeper to prevent the goal)?  In this situation, the handling prevents an obvious goal scoring opportunity, but this does not seem to meet the criteria as stated in ATR 12.37 (a) “the ball would have likely gone directly into the goal”.

Thank you for your help.

USSF answer (April 2, 2008):
The information in Advice 12.37 applies only to situations in which, but for the handling, the ball would have gone into the net (in the opinion of the referee, of course).  What you are asking about is at least one step removed from that and would require the referee to decide that, but for the handling, the ball would have gone to another attacking player who, maybe/possibly/perhaps, would have made a shot on goal which, maybe/possibly/perhaps, would have gone into the net.

Your scenario, rather than applying under Advice 12.37, is a perfect example of handling as a tactical foul — breaking up attacking play — and thus merits no more than a caution, followed by a direct free kick or penalty kick (if applicable). The referee cannot spend valuable time dithering over whether or not a player might/could/should/would have done something, but must decide what has happened now. We judge an offense on its own, not on action extended into the future.

For information on dealing with the tactical foul caution, see Advice 12.28.1.

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