Entries related to Law 12 – Fouls & Misconduct

An interesting question came up the other day about a recent game in Asia and what the referee should do when a substitute, warming up behind his team’s goal, sees that his goalkeeper is down and there are no defenders nearby to stop the ball, which is rolling quickly toward the goal. The substitute enters the field of play without the referee’s permission and prevents a goal from being scored by kicking the ball away.

Any debate as to what the referee should do must center around four issues:

1. What infringements of the Law have occurred?
• The substitute has entered the field without the permission of the referee and then interfered with play by kicking away the ball heading for the goal.

2. Where the infringement involves misconduct, what kind and what card?
• Substitutes entering the field of play without permission have committed unsporting behavior, a cautionable offense. In addition, a substitute can be sent off for denying the opposing team a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity, a sending-off offense.

3. What did the referee actually do?
• He whistled play dead, sent off the substitute, and restarted with an indirect free kick from the place where the substitute kicked the ball. While effective in dealing with the greater offense, the referee’s action was not entirely correct. Nor did the referee caution the substitute for unsporting behavior (entering the field of play without his permission).

4. With play stopped, what actions should the referee have taken, and what should have been the restart and from where?
• According to Law 12, “A player [and this includes substitutes and substituted players] who commits a cautionable or sending-off offense, either on or off the field of play, whether directed towards an opponent, a team-mate, the referee, an assistant referee or any other person, is disciplined according to the nature of the offense committed.”
• In this situation, the referee must first caution the substitute for unsporting behavior for entering the field of play without permission; that is the infringement that governs the restart. Second, the referee must send off the substitute for denying the opposing team a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity through an act punishable by a free kick; this infringement does not figure in the restart — although it did during the game in question.
• The restart must be an indirect free kick for the initial misconduct, entering the field of play without the referee’s permission. The correct place would have been the position of the ball at the time of the stoppage (see Law 13 – Position of free kick). It would seem that an otherwise well-intentioned referee simply didn’t understand what the Law requires of him.

The place where the ball was when play was stopped would be its location at the moment the referee makes the decision to stop play, not where the ball might have ended up after the whistle was blown.


October 13, 2014

Hello, I am a U10 coach in CA. And recently had a game where our goalie was kicked four seperate times while picking up the ball,twice in the hand, leg and chest. I got a little verble by saying how many time are they going to kick our goalie before the Ref does something. The Fef came over to me and said our goalie did not have “possession” of the ball. I replied what does that have to do with kicking the goalie.

I was under the impression and have been teaching our team that if a goalie had even a finger on the ball not to kick the ball because that is putting the goalie in danger and would draw a red card.

So my questions are,
1- in u10 what is the rule on kicking the ball if a goalie is touching the ball .
2- if while attempting to kick a ball that the goalie is touching but kicks the goalie instead, Is there a foul or at least a warning to that player or coach?
3- if there are multiple players directly in front of the goal from both teams all scambling and kicking the ball, during the chaos can the goalie pick the ball up if the last foot on the ball was one from his own team, Not an attentional pass.

Could you give me a clear answer and give me a link in the rule book were I can reference.

Answer (October 13, 2014):
Coach, Answers here depend on what rules your team is playing, i.e., USYSA U10 small-sided rules, normal Laws of the Game (the rules the world plays by), or something else. For US Youth Soccer Rules (and links to the Laws of the Game and other interesting items, see http://www.usyouthsoccer.org/coaches/PolicyonPlayersandPlayingRules/ .

Yes, the Laws of the Game (again, I cannot speak for any local rules) suggest that a player be sent off for kicking or attempting to kick any other player, if the act is seen as either serious foul play or violent conduct:

Sending-off offences
A player, substitute or substituted player is sent off if he commits any of the following seven offences:
• serious foul play
• violent conduct

Clearly your referee needs to see his or her optometrist very soon. Why? Because the goalkeeper is considered to be in possession of the ball if he has as few as one finger on the ball and is pinning it to any surface (ground, body, whatever). And, as you state, it makes no difference if the goalie actually has possession of the ball when he is kicked; it’s still a foul (and possible misconduct).

On to your questions:
1. As above, either a direct free kick and no disciplinary action or a direct free kick and either a caution (yellow card) or send-off (red card). This is no different in U10 rules than in the Laws of the Game.
2. Usually immediate dismissal for serious foul play, followed by the direct free kick. Coaches do not receive any warnings; they either behave responsibly or are expelled for irresponsible behavior.
3. Yes. It would be a very poor referee who called this an infringement of the Laws.

My 15 yr. old son was involved in a physical altercation during a soccer game with 5 seconds left in the game.

The altercation involved 2 of our players and 3 players from the opposing team. One of our players and one of the opposing players were each given a red card and ejected from the game. The Referee gave my son a yellow card and he was allowed to play out the remaining 5 seconds of the game.

After the game had ended, the referee and 2 linesmen gathered at centre field. About 5 minutes after the game had ended, the referee walked over to my son (where he was sitting on the team bench getting changed) and proceeded to give him a red card without explanation. There was no further incident nor foul language or anything that prompted the yellow card being increased to a red card. I believe perhaps one of the linesmen convinced the ref after the game had ended that my son was deserving of a red card for his participation in the initial altercation that resulted in 1 player from both teams being red carded and ejected from the game.

Can a referee change a yellow card to a red card after the player has been allowed to continue playing in a game and/or after the game is over and the player has left the field for the day and without further incident?

Answer (July 24, 2014):
Major referee error, Dad. Once the game has been ended, the referee may not change any decisions made prior to the final stoppage. This wording from Law 5 (The Referee) confirms that:

Decisions of the referee
The decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play, including whether or not a goal is scored and the result of the match, are final.

The referee may only change a decision on realising that it is incorrect or, at his discretion, on the advice of an assistant referee or the fourth official, provided that he has not restarted play or terminated the match.

Your son has the right of appeal against this decision and the referee should be sent back for further training—along with whichever assistant referee recommended changing the original decision.


July 24, 2014

While team A is attacking, the ref blows his whistle and shows a yellow card to a player on team B. The infraction is loud dissent over a call made 5 minutes prior. When the ref whistled for play to stop, the cautioned player was 40 yards from the ball, and farther from the goal that team A was attacking.

The ref restarted play by awarding Team A an indirect kick from the spot where the cautioned player was standing when the whistle was blown.

Was the restart handled correctly? Correct spot and correct method of resuming play?

Answer (July 24, 2014):
Your answer is found in Law 12:

• An indirect free kick is also awarded to the opposing team if, in the opinion of the referee, a player:
• plays in a dangerous manner
• impedes the progress of an opponent
• prevents the goalkeeper from releasing the ball from his hands
• commits any other offense, not previously mentioned in Law 12, for which play is stopped to caution or send off a player

The indirect free kick is taken from the place where the offence occurred (see Law 13 – Position of free kick).

This is analogous to what happens if, during an attack on the opposing goal, the attacking team’s goalkeeper fouls one of the opposing team’s players back in the attacking team’s penalty area, no matter that it might be 80 yards down the field from where the current attack is occurring: the restart there is a penalty kick.

I explain to my new/young referees that catching and parrying are deliberate actions by the keeper using his hands to control the ball and both imply control of the ball by the keeper.

The flip-side is punching, slapping or pushing the ball to keep it out of the goal which is not controlling the ball. Is there a single descriptive word for that non-controlled effort to keep the ball out of the goal? So I guess I’m asking, what’s the word to use that’s opposite of parry that would imply no control or do I need to keep saying, “If the keeper punches, slaps or pushes the ball…”?

Answer (July 7, 2014):
The acts of punching, slapping, or pushing the ball are deliberate and must be considered variations in parrying the ball. I.e., they constitute possession. However, if there is some movement by the ‘keeper that appears to be accidental or forced by another player, whether on the ‘keeper’s team or an opponent, then the act might be considered not to involve possession.

Unusual incident occurred in my game yesterday.
My team were awarded a penalty kick when my player was tripped inside
the box.
The ball was on the spot and all the players were ready when the
linesman flagged to get the referee’s attention.
The ref goes over to talk and the linesman explains that my player was
offside before being fouled.

The ref accepts this and reverses his decision and awards our
opponents a free kick.

However, the ref still gives the defender a red card for tripping my

everyone was confused and everyone started to laugh…
what on earth is the rule on this?

Answer (April 28, 2014):
If the trip was done with excessive force—the only reason I can think of—then the referee was correct to send off the defender, no matter that your player had already violated Law 11. Old referee aphorism: The Laws of the Game were not meant to compensate for the mistakes of the players.

1) The ball is played back deliberately by a teammate to the keeper in the PA, must (as the law states) the keeper touch the ball with the HANDS or would a touch with the wrist, arm or outside shoulder similarly qualify as an infraction?

(2) In playing the ball back deliberately to the keeper, a teammate plays with ball with the shin (leg below the knee and above the foot). Should this lead to an infraction if the keeper touches the ball with the hands in the PA?

(3) A defender grabs the shirt of an attacker 10 yards outside the PA and continues the hold until the attacker and defender enter the PA. At this point the hold is released. The referee uses advantage, but stops play for the foul when the attacker staggers and falls. What is the proper restart?

Answer (March 18, 2014):
(1) The referee must first judge the position of the hand/arm. The hand is defined as extending from the tip of the finger to the outside of the shoulder. If the position is abnormal, then the foul must be punished; however, if the ball has taken a truly bad bounce, the referee will certainly exercise common sense and could let it go.

(2) No, this is not an infraction. The ‘keeper is not allowed to use his or her hands to play the ball deliberately kicked to him or her. A kicked ball may be in contact with the shin, but that contact MUST also include the foot to be truly a kick. Kicking does not include balls played solely (no pun intended) with the shin unless part of the foot itself is also involved..

(3) Under Law 12, as stated in the Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees in the back of the Laws, we find:
Holding an opponent
If a defender starts holding an attacker outside the penalty area and continues holding him inside the penalty area, the referee must award a penalty kick.

NOTE: This continuation is an established principle of the Law and applies only to holding, not to any other foul.


March 10, 2014

In a recent match I had, a female player had her head gear off and in her hands while playing the ball and challenged by an opponent. I stopped the game and gave an indirect free kick to the opposing team for stopping the game, but did not give a caution.

Was I correct in the decision or did I misapply the laws? I could not find an answer in the law book or in advice to referees.

My question is, is it permissible for players to play with items in their hands such as head gear, water bottles, shin guards, cleats / boots, or an miscellaneous items while in possession of the ball and being challenged by an opponent? If not, what is the punishment and restart?

Answer March 8, 2014):
If the player did not use her headgear (not yet legal for anyone other than the goalkeeper) to play the ball or to ward off the opponent, then no offense has been committed. However, the referee should ensure that she replaces or legally disposes of the headgear as quickly as possible. If no offense has been committed, play is not stopped. If the player (other than the goalkeeper within her own penalty area) uses the headgear to play the ball, it is deliberate handling. If she uses the headgear to play the opponent, it is either holding or pushing. Deal with such infringements in accordance with the Laws.


March 3, 2013

In futsal, can a goalie stand on the edge (but still inside) the box but then lean to cath the ball outside of the box? I know this is illegal in outdoor soccer but someone told me the rules were different in indoor.

Answer (March 3, 2013):
It’s the same answer as in outdoor soccer. All the referee cares about is where the ball is when the ‘keeper touches it. Where the ‘keeper’s body is doesn’t matter. So, if the whole of the ball is outside (not in contact with any part of the line defining the penalty area), then it is a DFK foul for handling of the ball. The only difference in futsal is that this violation is recorded as an accumulated foul against the goalkeeper’s team.

This question relates to impeding an opponent. This little incident frequently occurs both in 1- a-side and 5-a-side in which i participate, and i can’t help but wonder if it is the attacker at fault rather than the defender in this case.

What happens is, an attacker will make a forward dribble and approaches a defender who hopes to stop him passing. As they reach near-touching distance, and the defender is ready to make the tackle, the attacker will pass either left or right to a team mate and then quickly dash forward in a straight line, to receive a one-two exchange. However, he occasionally plows through the defender as if he did not see him standing there. This can sometimes result in injury for the defender who was not aware of this forward dash, and there are usually pleas for obstruction against him. Has the attacker drawn this foul, knowing that there is a body in the way that is unlikely to react at such short notice? Or must the defender attempt to quickly move and allow him to pass?

Note: This question was asked by a player, not a referee. After a first response to him, he added: “Many times i have been rushed by an attacker in this way. Recently i was knocked over badly, was dazed and came to find that he had been awarded a free kick. I have felt that not bracing myself for the collision could cause me injury, but still when the forward hits into me, he calls obstruction even though i have not moved from the spot. I will make sure to argue my case when the incident re-occurs.” [The answer that follows covers both questions.]

Answer (March 1, 2013):
What you describe is not impeding the progress of an opponent or obstruction, it is standing in territory that belongs to the player, in this case the defender. Every player is entitled to the spot of ground he or she is currently occupying. The forward has charged illegally and must be punished with at least a direct free kick. If he has knocked the defender over, then it’s likely also a caution (unsporting behavior) for reckless play. If he knocks him ass over elbows, it’s likely a send-off for using excessive force.

In brief, the defender who stands his ground does not have to move. However, this caveat applies: It is illegal for the defender to MOVE from one spot into another simply to stop the oncoming forward. If the attacking player moves into the defender and the defender has NOT moved, then and only then does the defender have the Law on his or her side — although many referees are too thick to remember it. If the referee is a right (you pick the word; my favorite would be ‘dunderhead’), the defender should be careful about protesting too loudly, as he is very likely to be cautioned.

Before a corner kick or a direct kick or an indirect kick, the team with the ball is placing a player directly in front of the keeper. Also, that person is screening the keeper and is pushing backwards on the keeper and trying to push the keeper into the goal.

The screening player will do everything to prevent the goalkeeper from getting in front of them. I believe this is a violation of “Impeding the Progress of an Opponent”. All this is happening before the kick is made and when the ball is put into play. What is the ruling?

Answer (June 2, 2012):
What you describe is actually pushing or holding, both direct free kick offenses that should be punished by the referee. (Unfortunately, many referees do not recognize this and make no call or fail to bawl out the goalkeeper.)

It is a general principle underlying the Law that players are not permitted to “play” the opponent rather than the ball. Except under certain conditions spelled out in the Laws (such as at a penalty kick or throw-in or goal kick), a player is permitted to stand wherever he or she wishes. After the ball is put in play, a player who — without playing or attempting to play the ball — jumps up and down in front of the goalkeeper to block the ‘keeper’s vision or otherwise interferes with the ‘keeper’s ability to play the ball is committing the foul of impeding an opponent. If there is contact initiated by the player doing this, the foul becomes holding or pushing. When such activity occurs, the referee should immediately stop the restart and warn the players to conduct themselves properly. If, after the warning (and before the restart), they do it anyway, they have committed unsporting behavior and should be cautioned. The restart remains the same.

Before the ball is in play, the referee can simply allow the opponent of the ‘keeper to impede, wait for the restart to occur, blow the whistle, award an indirect free kick coming out, and card if needed. This is the “harsh” approach and it carries the danger, provided the jostling doesn’t sufficiently enrage the goalkeeper (or any other defender), that the tensions or violence will escalate to something more serious. It is also not a good approach when it is an attacker who is doing the jostling.

The referee can see the situation developing and verbally and/or by a closer presence encourage correct behavior on the part of the jostlers in the hope that they will cease their misbehavior. This is the “proactive” (some would call it the “wimpy”) approach and is more likely to prevent escalation, if it works. If it doesn’t work, the referee can always hold up the restart, caution, and then signal the restart or go to the option above.

Such actions against the goalkeeper can also occur during dynamic play and are very often missed by both referee and assistant referee.

My son plays u9 soccer and has been sliding as an offensive move to shoot the ball. They keep saying that he is slide tackling…which I believe is a defensive move..can you help me determine the difference, so the organization can discuss what is permitted. I think there is some confusion between the two.

Answer (May 13, 2012):
Unless there is some well-intentioned but totally unauthorized (and unfounded in Law) prohibition on slide tackling in the rules of the competition in which your son plays, there is absolutely no rule that a player cannot slide tackle for the ball. The concern in the Laws of the Game (the rules the world plays by) is that all play shall be fair and safe. As long as the sliding tackle is carried out safely, with no danger to the opponent, then it is not illegal.

As to sliding to shoot the ball, it is hard to imagine how anyone would consider that to be illegal. In order for a play to be called a foul, it must have been committed carelessly, recklessly, or with excessive force.

The referee must judge whether the tackle of an opponent is fair or whether it is careless, reckless, or involves the use of excessive force. Making contact with the opponent before the ball when making a tackle is unfair and should be penalized.

“Careless” indicates that the player has not exercised due caution in making a play. It does not include any clearly accidental contact.

“Reckless” means that the player has made unnatural movements designed to intimidate an opponent or to gain an unfair advantage.

“Involving excessive force” means that the player has far exceeded the use of force necessary to make a fair play for the ball and has placed the opponent in considerable danger of bodily harm.