In Saturday’s Sunderland-Liverpool game a spectator hurled a large, weighty red ball onto the field during play (I suspect that you are getting a lot of questions about this incident). You’ve recently said that a number of balloons in front of a goal did not necessarily constitute an outside agent to cause a defender to kick a balloon and not the ball going into the net. In the Saturday game the big, red, heavy ball deflected the soccer ball away from the goalkeeper and into the goal, which was accepted as a goal by the referee.

I understand that an annoying bee,a camera’s flash, an explosive sound, a swirl of snow, some balloons, long paper streamers and the like must be accepted as part of the game but in these cases it affects many of the players on both teams. A big red ball with enough mass to deflect a shot on goal from close range seems to be an outside agent affecting just the striker and goalie, so the question is this: How is an outside agent defined that would make it different from a dog running on the field and deflecting the ball into the net?

USSF answer (October 19, 2009):
Your reference to the balloons was dated November 2008, almost a year ago. A big red beach ball rolling directly in front of the goalkeeper is considerably different from some small balloons. The moment the beach ball interfered with and changed the path of the game ball was the moment the beach ball became an outside agent, directly affecting play and the referee decision must be outside interference.

Clearly the referee erred in not stopping play for the interference by the big red beach ball. The correct restart should have been a dropped ball at the place where the two balls collided. If that was within the goal area, then the referee must drop the ball on the goal area line parallel to the goal line at the point nearest to where the ball was when play was stopped.

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