CLARIFYING "TRICKERY"

December 7, 2012

Question:
I’ve seen a disturbing occurrence on the fields of [my state's] soccer more than once lately and I’m about to scribe a blog entry about it. I just want to triple-check with you before doing so to make absolutely certain I am on the right side of the LOTG.

This has to do with the old “fake corner kick” trick. This is starting to show up more and more at lower levels of youth play. I saw it in a U12 girls game last weekend. Fortunately, that referee got it right – by allowing play to continue unabated.

But as I sat in the referee tent, a parent came over and challenged me on whether that was considered “trickery”. His source of information, unfortunately, was a referee in a previous match who cautioned the taker of the corner for unsporting behavior. I assured the parent that this in no way contravened the LOTG, and that, if said parent was relaying the story accurately, the referee got it wrong.

I am certain that the “fake corner” is allowed, but I want to make sure my blog entry is well-rooted in the Laws and that’s why I am contacting you.

My position is that the notion of “trickery” has a very specific meaning and application within the LOTG: and that is, specifically a player trying to trick the referee by circumventing the spirit of the laws. “Trickery” has no relevance in the context of player-to-player communication or play, whether it involves teammates or opponents. In fact, players try to “trick” each other for 90 minutes during every match through the use of skill and deception.

Just wanted to make sure I am on firm theological ground before preaching to the masses.

Answer (December 7, 2012):
NOTE: Answer modified 13 December 2012 to bring it up to date.

Trickery, at least under the Laws of the Game, is reserved for only one offense: Engaging in trickery to circumvent the goalkeeper’s limitation on handling the ball played from a teammate’s foot (the defender who initiates the “trickery” is cautioned, the decision does not require that the goalkeeper actually handles the ball, and the misconduct can occur during dynamic play or at a restart). This also applies at throw-ins: At a throw-in, referees should take care not to consider as trickery any sequence of play that offers a fair chance for opponents to challenge for the ball before it is handled by the goalkeeper from a throw-in. Trickery cannot occur at a corner kick under any but the most unusual circumstances.

The International Football Association Board (IFAB) changed Law 12 in 1992 in an effort to deal with trickery aimed at circumventing the requirement limiting the opportunities for the goalkeeper to handle the ball when it was deliberately kicked to him by a teammate. (Previously it had been legal for the goalkeeper to pick up the ball with his hands if the teammate had been outside the penalty area when he kicked the ball to the goalkeeper.) Players looked for and found crafty ways to get around the requirement and thus the IFAB adopted a new Decision 18 to Law 12 in 1993 (since incorporated into Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees Law 12). This Decision 18 specifically defined trickery as including (but not limited to) the teammate “using his head or chest or knee, etc.” That is now found in the Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees under Cautions for unsporting behavior: “uses a deliberate trick while the ball is in play to pass the ball to his own goalkeeper with his head, chest, knee, etc. in order to circumvent the Law, irrespective of whether the goalkeeper touches the ball with his hands or not. The offense is committed by the player in attempting to circumvent both the letter and the spirit of law 12 and play is restarted with an indirect free kick”

One clue to the correctness of the player’s action is whether it a natural part of play or is clearly artificial and intended only to circumvent the Law. In such cases, the action is considered misconduct whether it ultimately is touched by the goalkeeper or not. Indeed, the misconduct should be whistled before the goalkeeper even has a chance to touch it.

The player who initiates the “trickery” is cautioned and shown the yellow card for unsporting behavior; the decision does not require that the goalkeeper actually handle the ball, and the misconduct can occur during dynamic play or at a restart. The referee must be sure that the sequence of play was indeed intended to circumvent the Law and to prevent opponents from having a fair chance to compete for the ball rather than have it unfairly handled by the goalkeeper. If, in the referee’s opinion, there was trickery, then it is the teammate who played the ball immediately prior to it going to the goalkeeper who would be cautioned.

The key to deciding whether or not a player is trying to thwart the Law by passing the ball to the goalkeeper without actually kicking it is whether the action is a natural one, a normal playing tactic, which is perfectly legitimate, or a contrived act, a “trick,” which must be punished with a caution for unsporting behavior.

Here is a quote from an article by an esteemed author, originally published in the USSF publication “Fair Play” (now sadly out of publication):

Trickery
FIFA has demanded that referees deal quickly and firmly with timewasting tactics. One of the least understood forms of time wasting is trickery in passing the ball to the goalkeeper. This article describes trickery and how the referee can combat it.

Law 12 was rewritten in 1997 to reduce the number of options available to players for wasting time. Playing the ball to one’s goalkeeper was traditionally used as a way of “consuming” time. By the time the Law was rewritten, the practice had become synonymous with time wasting.

Normal interplay of the ball among teammates is not a matter of concern to any referee; however, the referee must be concerned with obvious deliberate attempts to circumvent the requirements of the Law. Players may pass the ball to their goalkeeper in any legal way and not infringe on the requirements of Law 12. It is when a player uses trickery that the referee must act. Trickery is any contrived scheme or unnatural way of playing the ball in an attempt to circumvent the requirements of Law 12 when passing the ball to the goalkeeper. Examples of trickery include a player who deliberately flicks the ball with the foot up to the head, so as to head the ball to the goalkeeper, or a player who kneels down and deliberately pushes the ball to the goalkeeper with the knee or head. [NOTE: If the ball is already in play, the latter infringement is punished at the discretion of the referee; this does not apply when it occurs at a free kick.]

If the ball was already in play, an indirect free kick from the spot where the initiator touched–not merely “kicked”–the ball is appropriate. If the ball was out of play, the restart for a violation depends upon how the circumvention began. If the action began from a free kick or goal kick that was properly taken, the restart will again be an indirect free kick from the spot where the initiator of the trickery played it, no matter where the kick was taken or when it occurred in the sequence of play. If the goal kick or free kick was not properly taken, then the restart must be that goal kick or free kick. This could lead to a situation where the offending team has a player cautioned (or sent off for a second cautionable offense), but still retains the ball on the restart.

If more than one player was involved in the trickery, the question as to which defender to punish can be answered only by the referee. The referee must be sure that the sequence of play was meant to circumvent the Law and to prevent opponents from having a fair chance to compete for the ball rather than have it unfairly handled by the goalkeeper. If, in the referee’s opinion, there was trickery, then it is the teammate who played the ball immediately prior to it going to the goalkeeper who would be cautioned.

The punishment for trickery is a caution for unsporting behavior, with the restart to be taken at the place where the trickery was initiated, not where the goalkeeper handled the ball. The referee does not have to wait until the ‘keeper handles the ball to make the call. The referee must only be convinced that trickery was the player’s motive for the act.

Categories: Trickery