Mike, a youth player coach, asks:
This happened in a game recently. The Blue team had the vast majority of possession in the game with the ball rarely coming out of the Red team’s half. The Blue goalkeeper sat down in the Blue goal whilst play was in and around the Red goal for a long spell.
Firstly is the Blue keeper committing any offence? They did not interfere with any other player, or in any way impede play. Secondly, the Red coach complained to the Blue coach about these actions being disrespectful! Is this deemed unsporting behaviour by the Blue goalkeeper?
Probably not. It was rude and disrespectful, certainly, but did it rise to the level of unsporting conduct? Goalkeepers are strange ducks to begin with (I was one when I played so I speak from some experience here) and rather egotistical to boot. The trouble here is one of implementation. Would you caution the Blue keeper the moment he first sat down? Almost certainly not. After 2-3 minutes of staying in this position? Ten minutes? Where do you draw the line? Suppose his rudeness was watered down somewhat by his merely leaning up against a goal post (would yawning ratchet up the problem?). Would laying down on the ground be more rude than merely sitting?
We do know, of course, that actions sometimes speak louder than words (and actions are specifically included in evaluating dissent or abusive/insulting/offensive language) so a good case could be made that the goalkeeper’s action was a form of speech. We might note that, at least, the Blue goalkeeper was keeping his options open by sitting down “in the Blue goal” rather than, say, at midfield. And if he was actually “in the Blue goal,” he could certainly be cautioned for leaving the field without permission in a manner which would clearly not be considered “in the course of play.”
The bottom line here is that the Referee could caution for unsporting conduct for behavior which showed a lack of respect for the game (see p. 86, 2016/2017 Laws of the Game). More effective, however, would be to signal for a stoppage of play (preferably at a moment when Blue had control of the ball — which appeared to be often the case), walk down to the Blue keeper and have a public (visibly, not audibly public) word of warning to the goalkeeper to the effect that his behavior was disrespectful and that, if it continued, there would be consequences. Note the careful use of words here — no specific threat, only the promise that, having been warned, the goalkeeper would be foolish to engage in this behavior again at any time during the remainder of this game.
The restart? Clearly, a dropped ball where the ball was when play was stopped. Should it happen again, caution and restart with an IFK for the opposing team where the goalkeeper committed (again) the behavior which is being cautioned.
Whatever the referee wound up doing, the goalkeeper’s behavior should be documented in the game report.…