Interfering with Goalkeepers

Stuart, a U13 – U19 referee, asks:

Can an opposing player stand in front of a goalie attempting to punt the ball?

Answer

No.  It is a violation of the Law to interfere in any way with the goalkeeper’s release of the ball from his/her hands.  This obviously doesn’t apply if the goalkeeper’s control is, say, only with the feet.

Note that we didn’t say “release the ball into play” because, technically, the ball is and remains “in play” even while in the hands of the goalkeeper —  it’s just that both the ball and the goalkeeper holding it are protected from challenge by an opponent.  This balances, in part, the four specific offenses that apply only to goalkeepers and are designed to limit the amount of time opponents cannot attempt to challenge for the ball while it is in the hands of the goalkeeper.

That said, we try to train referees to be proactive about this.  It is always a good idea, for example, to keep an eye on such a situation as it develops and to step in before it runs it’s course into a scenario in which there is no option other than to stop play.  This usually can be achieved by clearly giving a verbal warning to any opponent who is too close or not clearly backing away that they need to get out of there.  Sometimes a baleful stare at the potential miscreant will be sufficient to do the job.  If it becomes necessary for you to actually step in if actual interference occurs (e.g., a concrete attempt to challenge for a ball held by the goalkeeper or an attempt to challenge for the ball while the goalkeeper is in the physical process of releasing it, or bumping into the goalkeeper), then play must be stopped.   If this occurs, it is recommended that the opponent also be cautioned (for unsporting conduct).

Why a caution?  For game control and player management purposes.  All players (particularly the goalkeeper), need to appreciate that the referee will not allow this sort of behavior.  Goalkeepers are strange folks (we know based on personal experience) who feel that, once they have the ball in hand, it needs to be their choice as to how and when they release it because they are God’s gift to soccer.  If the referee is forced into stopping play for interfering, we add a caution to sweeten the pot for the goalkeeper who now, instead of his/her brilliant release of the ball causing gasps of amazement from players, coaches, and spectators all, is forced to restart play with a plain, boring IFK.

It also has a deterrent effect and reduces the likelihood of seeing something like that develop again.…

Communications Between Referees and Players

Gabriel, a High School and college player, asks:

Can a referee use inappropriate language towards a player?

Answer

Umm, that’s a short, interesting, and loaded question.  If the language is “inappropriate,” by definition it would be wrong to use it.  It comes down to your (and the Law’s) definition of “inappropriate.”  It can’t be “anything that I don’t like” because that definition leaves no room for debate.

It is probably safe to say that, in general, it would be inappropriate for a referee to say anything to a player that it would be inappropriate for one player  to say to another player … with two important provisos.  First, players know each other (even if between opponents) and thus are in a better position to judge the intent and content of anything one says to another.  Second, while it is common in general for one player to speak to another (even an opponent) because they are engaged in a common endeavor, this is not the case with a referee and players – even if they happen to know each other outside the immediate game.  Referees have an obligation to limit their communications with players – even immediately before and after the game – to the specific performance of the referee’s duties.

As we have noted, a referee has no more (and arguably much less) right, for example, to use “offensive, insulting or abusive language” toward a player than a player has toward another player.  The big difference, of course, is that a player cannot red card a referee.  We can tell you, however, with great assurance, that virtually all referees have stored up many sharp-edged, brilliant, and wholly inappropriate things they would like to say to players, coaches, and spectators.…

Kicking the Goalkeeper

Marc, a high school and college parent, asks:

In a recent game, the goalie had possession of the ball while standing with both hands on the ball.. As the ball was held at about hip level waiting for the defense to move out, a player on the opposite team jogging by the keeper kicked the ball out of the keepers hands by hitting the keepers hands with the studs of his cleats.  This caused both teams to come together almost resulting in a fight. The referee cautioned the player who kicked the ball out and ended up red carding the goalie for dissent . Did the referee make the correct call?   Everybody at the match felt the player should have been sent off for violent conduct.

Answer

In general, kicking, striking, and spitting are considered red-cardable offenses unless there is clear evidence to mitigate the response to the offense down to a caution. This is opposite to the approach to all other direct free kick offenses where the referee starts with “careless” (no card at all) and then needs concrete evidence to justify treating them as “reckless” (a caution) or “excessive force” (a red card) events. It is possible that the referee (incorrectly) showed only a caution because he or she thought that this came under the special circumstances of “denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity” but this doesn’t even come close to applying because (a) the perpetrator was an attacker rather than a defender, (b) the action of kicking an opponent (as I mentioned) starts as a red card offense and then requires special circumstances to do anything less serious than a red card, and (c) the attacker was not “competing for the ball” because, while in the hands of the goalkeeper, the Law does not allow for an attacker to challenge in any way.

We can’t speak to the issue of the red card to the goalkeeper for “dissent” because, without more information, this is contrary to the Laws of the Game on its face.  Under Law 12, dissent is cautionable misconduct, and a red card would be correct only if the dissent included language which was abusive, insulting, or offensive OR the referee correctly cautioned the goalkeeper for dissent but this was the goalkeeper’s second caution in the game, in which case the red card would NOT be for dissent but for having received a second caution.

The opponent should have been shown a red card because the kick involved excessive force, the goalkeeper could be shown only a caution if the GK’s actions involved only dissent, and play should be restarted with a direct free kick coming out from where the kick occurred.

The above observations are sufficiently fundamental to the sport of soccer that they would apply regardless of whether the game occurred rules other than the Laws of the Game (e.g., NFHS/highschool or NCAA/college rules).…

Challenging the Goalkeeper

Greg, a senior amateur referee, asks:

When was Law 12.23 introduced?  In other words, when was “charging” a goalkeeper effectively banned ?

Answer

First of all, the reference to “law 12.23” is unfamiliar.  Law 12 only has 4 numbered sections. Perhaps you are referring to 12.23 in Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game (2010-2011 edition).  The relevant material in this section was rewritten and reorganized as 12.B.4 in the 2013-2014 edition of Advice (which was then discontinued after that edition).

Charging a goalkeeper was never banned as such.  It is entirely legal to charge a goalkeeper, provided that goalkeeper does not have hand control of the ball.

As regards this restriction, there has been a gradual evolution of the Law.  In 1984, for example, Law 12 stated the following: “In case of body contact in the goal area between an attacking player and the opposing goalkeeper not in possession of the ball, the Referee, as sole judge of intention, shall stop the game if, in his opinion, the action of the attacking player was intentional, and award an indirect free kick.” This language remained, word-for-word, in the Law until 1995 when the scenario was rewritten to specify that charging the goalkeeper was an indirect free kick offense if it occurred while the goalkeeper was holding the ball, obstructing an opponent, or was outside his goal area.  Further, a player who interferes with the goalkeeper’s effort to put the ball back into play is punished by an indirect free kick.

This stayed in effect for several years but then, in 1997-98, the language was simplified further by declaring that preventing a goalkeeper from releasing the ball into play with his hands was an indirect free kick offense anywhere inside the goalkeeper’s penalty area.

The Law on this subject has not changed materially from then up through the current Lawbook. Simply described, an opponent can charge a goalkeeper (providing the charge itself is legal, i.e., not careless, reckless, or done with excessive force) only if the goalkeeper is not in hand control of the ball.  If the goalkeeper does have hand control of the ball, any attempt at even an otherwise legal charge is taken as an interference of the goalkeeper’s release of the ball into play and results in an indirect free kick restart.  Of course, if this occurs as a result of a charge which is itself illegal, the restart would be a direct free kick because that takes priority as the more serious offense.…

Attackers/Defenders and Goalkeeper Interference

Tim, a U13 – U19 player, asks:

I have two questions:
1. I was called for a foul in game for blocking the goalkeeper from punting the ball. But after searching the rule online, I found that my play was not like any of the given circumstances. As the goalkeeper tossed the ball up to punt it, I started my run up toward the keeper and, after he made contact with the ball, I blocked it. The ref said that I blocked the the keeper, but I don’t think that makes sense. What does blocking the keeper really mean?
2. What counts as an attacking position? In that same game mentioned in the first question, the ref called the game over after a player on my team lost the ball after he was elbowed in the face. The ball rolls out of the box and the ref does not call a foul, but ends the game. His reasoning was that time had been up and we were out of an attacking position. But 8 players of our team, plus the entire other team were in the box, and our players were the closest to the ball at that point. So what is an attacking position exactly?

Answer

Purely as a matter of Law, there is no such offense as “blocking the keeper” – what you described is, using the terminology of the Law, interfering with the goalkeeper’s release of the ball into play.  That “release” is further understood to include the process of physically releasing the ball in preparation for a kick.  In your first scenario, you definitely interfered.  As a matter of mechanics, however, most referees would have stepped in the moment they saw you not only NOT retreating but, worse, moving closer, and shouted for you to get back.  Failing to do so is not only an offense (indirect free kick restart) but also cautionable as unsporting behavior.

The Laws of the Game provide a relatively simple answer to your second question.  By common definition, every player on the team which has control of the ball or which last had control of the ball is an attacker … everyone else is a defender.  This includes circumstances in which the ball is not in play, in which case the team that has the restart are the attackers.  The only time in a game in which there are no attackers or defenders is during the midgame break.…

Making Contact with the Ball First

Leif, a HS/College referee, asks:

At the MLS level and equivalent I often see what I consider a push/trip/charge violation ignored because the offending player touched the ball first. At the high school level I am starting to see more fellow referees follow this. I can find no law that states this is the correct procedure. Recently a long ball was played and the goalkeeper punched the ball but his foreword momentum had him hit the attacking players face with his fist shortly after. In my opinion as the AR I felt he had sufficient time after the punching of the ball to not contact the offensive player but the center claimed as long as he got the ball first there was no violation.

Answer:

This is typical.  First of all, it involves a misreading of how the Law was written 10-12 years ago (and quickly rewritten precisely because it had become so wrongly interpreted).  Second, the warped interpretation became ingrained in player’s heads because they thought it gave them “cover” to commit a foul.

In the 2007-2008 Lawbook, the following language was in Law 12 under the general heading “Direct Free Kick”: “A direct free kick is awarded … if a player … tackles an opponent to gain possession of the ball, making contact with the opponent before touching the ball.”  (We added the emphasis.)  That language had been around for a while but 2007-2008 was the last year precisely because it was being interpreted to mean that, as long as the player made contact with the ball first, it was thus OK to do harm right after contacting the ball.  Thus was, of course, not the intent of the language and, as a result, it was replaced in the 2008-2009 Lawbook by the simple statement “tackles an opponent” with the simple proviso that this action became a direct free kick foul only if it was performed carelessly, recklessly, or with excessive force.  That should have done it.  It didn’t.

The dangerous notion that contacting the ball first made anything that follows legal had become so widely misunderstood that, eventually, the International Board inserted into the 2016-2017 Lawbook the simple statement “If an offense involves contact, it is penalized by a direct free kick or penalty kick.”  In other words, if an action comes under the “careless, reckless, or excessive force” heading, it must be considered a direct free kick (or PK) offense if the player involved contacts an opponent before, during, or after the offense.  Briefly, then, if the tackling itself is illegal, it doesn’t matter if the opponent made contact with the ball before committing the offense.

Accordingly, for all practical purposes, the “contact with the ball first” defense was never actually legal but, so many had thought this was the case that this language was removed from the Law a decade ago and then, in case there was a player (or referee) who didn’t get the message, the International Board said in 2016 that, look, contact with the ball first excuses nothing — we took that language out of the Law for a reason so get with the program.…

Another Pass at “Pass-Back”

Mike, a U13-U19 referee, asks:

GK receives passback from teammate. GK receives ball with his feet outside the penalty area. Can he dribble into the  penalty area and then pickup the ball?

Answer:

There is debate on this issue.  The International Board has not definitively dealt with the question, much less offered an answer.

Personally, we would count it as a pass-back offense since it meets the two basic requirements – (1) deliberately played by the foot of a teammate and (2) handled directly thereafter by the goalkeeper.  Note, in this respect, that “directly” in soccer has always (regardless of the specific scenario) been defined as “no intervening touch/play of the ball by anyone other than the originator of the play and the recipient.”   Obviously, in your scenario, there is no involvement by any other player between the teammate’s kick and the goalkeeper’s handling.

The Board modified this section of the Law this year, however, and has said that, following a deliberate kick from a teammate, if the goalkeeper tries to kick the ball but is not satisfied with the result and then handles the ball, the goalkeeper should not be charged with a pass-back offense because “the goalkeeper has clearly kicked or attempted to kick the ball to release it into play.”  This quote is from Law 12 and we have emphasized the part of the quote that, to us at least, significantly limits what the goalkeeper can do to avoid a pass-back violation.  The best way, of course, is not to handle the ball in the first place!

Later in the section of the IFAB Lawbook that explains the Board’s new language regarding this situation, the Board says “When the GK clearly kicks or tries to kick the ball into play, this shows no intention to handle the ball so, if the clearance attempt is unsuccessful, then goalkeeper can then handle the ball without committing an offense.”  Again, to us, this explanation does not allow the goalkeeper to avoid committing an offense if he/she takes control of the ball outside the penalty area, dribbles it back into the penalty area, and then picks it up (which is exactly your scenario).  This not only doesn’t show an intention not to handle the ball, it actually shows an intention to get the ball into the penalty area precisely to handle the ball.

The goalkeeper has committed an offense.…

FRD vs DR

Stephan, a U13 – U19 referee, asks (in more detail than can be repeated here):

What is the difference between FRD (the standard short version of “fails to respect the required distance”) and DR (the short version of “delays the restart of play”?  I’m sending this question to look for advice from USSF on how they want DR and FRD to be enforced in scenarios where the defender is deliberately standing over the ball at a free kick. (detailed example redacted). if I do caution for this sort of behavior, I will inevitably get the “but he’s allowed to stand there until the attacker asks for 10” complaint from the opposing team.  Should I be cautioning for this stuff, and if not, why not?  Coaches and players often argue that cautions for this rarely occur in higher level games

Answer

First of all, the website does not speak for USSF.  Whatever we offer here regarding the Laws of the Game comes from our officiating, instructing, and assessing experience.  If you take a look at the home page of the website, under the “About” tab, you see the “rules” under which the site is operated and that includes a clear statement that the website is not and has not been since 2012 an “official” source of USSF interpretations.  The Federation, in fact, has discontinued the prior standard practice of providing such interpretations on any routine basis.

Second, no matter what coaches and players say (keep in mind that they have biased reasons for arguing that their player should not be cautioned for this behavior), such actions are cautioned when appropriate.  Two things to remember here.  One is that you rarely see it because it rarely happens because, at higher levels of play, the players know a lot better than players at lower levels do where the referee sets the line.  The other is that, at higher levels of play, the referee is more experienced regarding steps that can be taken to prevent this sort of behavior.

That said, there is a clear difference between the two offenses connected with a free kick restart (actually, they apply to any dynamic play restart performed by a player for which there is a required distance for the opponents – TI, CK, GK).  One has general application, the other has a very specific application.  We all pretty much understand “failure to respect the required distance” – it is the more common situation and, while it involves various important balancing decisions, it is one which all referees face on a regular basis.  Any opponent who is closer than the required distance is taking a risk of being cautioned if, from within that distance, she interferes with the restart in any way.  The only official action the referee can take to prevent or enforce the interference is if the team with control of the ball on the restart asks for the minimum distance to be enforced, which automatically converts the restart to a ceremony.

The second often comes as a surprise and, particularly for the examples we will give, should result in a caution for delaying the restart of play without hesitation.  Note the difference.  In the first case, it is actually the kicking/throwing team that delays the restart by deciding that they want the minimum distance enforced, but that is their right and, unless, having enforced the minimum distance, an opponent decides at the last moment (i.e., just before the kick is taken) to move from the required distance to somewhere illegally nearer and, from there, interferes with play, we go with what the kicking/throwing team wants.

Here, however, one or more opponents conduct themselves in such a way as to prevent any restart from occurring – for example, kicking the ball away, taking control of the ball and refusing or delaying returning it to the team which has the restart, or (and here is the most interesting example), standing so close to the ball as to prevent it from being kicked entirely.  The referee might wait to see what develops if an opponent is, say, 2-3 yards away from the restart location at the moment of stoppage but is moving backward and giving at least the appearance of being in the process of respecting the required distance.  Referees are advised in such cases to “wait and see” what the team in control of the ball wants to do and go with the flow – in other words, stay out of it until it is clear that the team in control wants or needs intervention.  In this second scenario, however, the referee should step in immediately because, by the sorts of actions suggested here, the opposing team has concretely taken the decision away from the team with the restart by not even allowing them to have the ball or by blocking the ball so closely that the team in possession couldn’t take a restart even if that is what they wanted.  In short, the player who, for example, stands right in front of the ball (or walks across the front of the ball at the critical moment) has deliberately removed the attacking team’s option of restarting immediately.  This caution, thus, is immediate.  By the way, teams in control of the ball at a restart can also be cautioned for delaying the restart of play if they … well … delay the restart of play though, in this case, we advise referees to give the attacking team a warning that their delay is noted and must not continue – after which, they are the ones to get the caution (example: an attacker with a throw-in continues, despite a warning, to somehow fail to throw the ball into the field, despite several apparent tries to do so, or who delays while apparently trying to decide with teammate they will throw the ball to).

By the way, taking note of the following common refrain from players – “but he’s allowed to stand there until the attacker asks for 10” – simply demonstrates either that (a) players haven’t the slightest idea of what the Law actually says or (b) they know but are simply gaming the referee in the hopes that he or she is not experienced enough to know what the Law says.  It is actually very clear.  At the moment of a stoppage where the referee has made it clear which team has control of the ball for the restart (which is why we strongly recommend that referees not delay making this simple fact clear!), all opponents are expected and required to be or stay at or to quickly get to the required distance.

Shielding vs Impeding vs Interference

SJ, a U13 – U19 coach, asks:

We played in a U15 match where one of the defensive backs shielded one of my forwards from going for the ball. When the defender has the ball I believe this is within the rules of the game. However, later in the match, a similar event happened only this time a 2nd defensive back screened the striker making no attempt to play the ball, in essence preventing the movement to the ball allowing the other DB to get there first. Isn’t this interference? I think the restart would be an Indirest free kick for the attacking team. Could you please let me know?

Answer

As with many things regarding the Laws of the Game, it is (a) more complicated than many think, (b) it depends on the context, and (c) the final decision belongs to the referee based on what SHE saw.

Let’s clear up the Law issues first because, surprisingly, they are the simplest.  Shielding and “impedes the progress of an opponent” are often used interchangeably – they should not be.  Only the latter (“impedes the progress”) is in the Law, “shielding” is not.  However, there are several forms of “impeding” – for example, with or without contact and impeding versus “blocking” (which can be found in Laws 11 and 15).  The Laws of the Game Glossary (its dictionary, in effect) provides a simple definition of impeding that covers all of these types – “To delay, block or prevent an opponent’s action or movement“ – and so we have to clarify all of them.   Impeding the progress of an opponent in Law 12 is an indirect free kick foul that applies when, without making contact, a player moves into the way of an opponent for the apparent purpose of stopping, slowing down, or forcing a change of direction of that opponent, with the ball not within playing distance of either player.

So, a player simply standing in one spot which happens to be a spot that an opponent wants to occupy, cannot be impeding that opponent because, having staked out her own location, she has a right to stay there and the opponent has to move around.  Crashing into the player (in an “you’re in my way” manner) becomes an offense (most likely illegal challenging) against the opponent.  If the ball is within playing distance or either or both players, then impeding is exactly what each is attempting to do in the process of gaining/keeping control of the ball – and it’s legal so long as neither one commits any Law 12 foul while doing so.  If there IS contact, it becomes a direct free kick foul.  Now we come to the issue of “context” and “the opinion of the referee” because that is where the “apparent purpose” comes in … and referees have all sorts of clues on this subject (for example, noting that the player running into or across the path of the opponent was focusing her attention on the opponent rather than on the direction in which she was moving).

The action commonly considered “shielding” is actually entirely legal and, while it may be impeding in a general sense (e.g. blocking) an opponent, it is not usually an offense.  An example of this is the situation in which defender A17 has played a ball in such a way that, if it crosses her own goal line, it would result in a corner kick for Team B so A17 tries to get to the ball to prevent it from leaving the field while B29 very much wants the ball to leave the field and attempts to “shield” A17 from getting the ball by interposing herself between A17 and the goal line.  B29’s challenge is to remain within playing distance of the ball as it moves toward the goal line and to not “hold” A17 within the meaning of Law 12.  A17’s challenge is to get around B29 without anything more than incidental contact with B29 and definitely not contact which would be considered “pushing/pulling” under Law 12.  Everyone gets frustrated and both the referee and the nearer AR are watching this play like hawks for any infractions of the Law.

“ Impeding” without movement is illegal only under two circumstances – offside offense and defending against a throw-in.  An attacker commits an offside offense merely by (with or without moving) being in the way of any opponent while that attacker is in an offside position – this is considered interfering with an opponent.  In the case of Law 15, a player who is closer than 2 yards to an opposing player’s throw-in or who, in the opinion of the referee, is acting in such a way as to distract or interfere with the thrower even if she is at or farther way than the minimum two yards away distance has also committed an offense but, although Law 15 uses the term “impeding,” it is not the same as a Law 12 impeding offense.

Back to your question (you thought we would never get there!).  Clearly, the situation you described first was not an impeding offense if and only if at least one of the two combatants was within playing distance of the ball.  Your second scenario, however, doesn’t include enough information (see above) to tell whether it was different from or essentially the same as the first scenario.  It all depends on (a)  whether the defensive back was within playing distance of the ball and (b) whether that defensive back had already established her position, thus forcing the striker to take extra time and distance to get around her or whether the defensive back moved into or with the striker as the striker attempted to move around the defensive back and (c) stayed with playing distance of the ball during the whole shielding time and (d) the referee saw all this (remember, what YOU saw doesn’t matter – don’t take it personally).  Remember also that actually attempting to play the ball is not the issue — the issue is “being within playing distance.”…

DOGSO/OGSO Once Again

Richard, an adult amateur player, asks:

Hi. I am a central defender and was sent off towards the end of a game this morning for denial of a clear goal scoring opportunity. In this instance there was a covering defender which the referee agreed with but he said that if I hadn’t fouled the striker, it would would have been a 2 on 1, i.e. the man I fouled as well as the person the covering defender was marking against the covering defender. However there was obviously the goalkeeper as well and this all happened about 35 yards from goal. I have never before seen an instance of someone being sent off for this offense when there is a covering defender which the referee agreed with and given the distance from goal I’m not sure this constitutes an obvious goal scoring opportunity. Was the referee within his rights to send me off?

Answer

Without attempting to nit-pick, the technical answer is, yes, the referee was within his rights, but not necessarily in accordance with how the Law is implemented.

The standard protocol for denying an “obvious goal scoring opportunity” (aka “OGSO”) depends on what kind of foul it was.  If it was a handling offense, the only criterion is the referee’s decision as to whether, but for the handling, the ball would have either gone into the net or been very close to that.

For all other fouls, the referee must balance the following four factors regarding OGSO:

  • The number of defenders  between the foul and the opposing team’s goal who are able to defend (i.e., doesn’t include a defender incapacitated and on the ground or a defender far enough either to the right or left who would have had no ability to participate in any defense based on how close to the goal the offense occurred) and the defender who committed the foul is not included in the count.   This criterion is inflexible – it is applied if the number is 1 and does not apply if the number is 2 or more.  In short,  if there are two or more defenders meeting this requirement, it cannot be an OGSO no matter the status of the other three elements.

The other three elements are flexible and must be weighed together with the above element.

  • The distance from the location of the foul and the goal – this is a yardstick and becomes increasingly important as the distance is shorter.  For example, a foul within 18 yards would rate this factor at the highest level whereas a distance of half a field would seriously weaken the likelihood that it was an OGSO. Every distance in between is in between highest level and lowest level.  35 yards would be a moderately important factor.
  • The general direction of play at the moment of the foul.  That direction must be toward the goal.  If not clearly toward the goal, an OGSO decision is less supportable.  Note, however, that the player against whom the foul was committed might, at that precise moment, might be temporarily not moving directly toward the goal if he or she is attempting to avoid or evade the defender.  The issue is whether the direction of the play, in general, has been toward the goal. If it has been, then this factor is clearly present.
  • Finally, the distance from the site of the foul to the ball at the moment of the foul.  The factor is present if the ball is with “playing distance” – meaning that the fouled player would have been able to continue maintaining possession of the ball if the foul had not happened.  An example is if the player with the ball had played the ball several yards or more ahead just before the foul occurred.  If the ball is considered to be within playing distance, this factor is present.

It is not necessary that each of these four factors be equally present.  Number of defenders has to be 1 or none, direction of play has to be generally toward the goal, the ball cannot be clearly beyond playing distance.  Distance to the goal is, as noted, the most dependent on judgment – the best that can be said is that “too far” detracts from OGSO while close in (certainly within 18-20 yards) makes the factor definitely present.

The question you asked is easy, the answer is not.  It depends on aggregating the nonnumerical value of four factors and then making a decision based on the feel of the game.  In your scenario, the weakest (one might say, possibly entirely absent) is the one we listed first.…