An Answer with No Question

We don’t normally do this but, based on some recent conversations, we think advising you of the following official clarification of the 2019-2020  Laws of the Game that was issued by the International Board (IFAB) last August deserves some space here.  Interestingly, it is not actually a “clarification” but a new interpretation or practical guideline.  Either way, it clearly directs referees to make a change in how they handle one specific violation.

There is a very useful table at the end of Law 14 which summarizes penalties for various violations connected with performing a penalty kick (not all, but the most common ones).  The third one down from the top involves what to do if the goalkeeper violates Law 14 by not having at least one foot on the goal line between the goal posts (technically termed “an encroachment”).  If a goal is scored, the violation is ignored and the goal counted but, otherwise, the goalkeeper is cautioned and the penalty kick is retaken.

The IFAB issued a Circular (#17) on August 21 last year which introduced (as a “clarification”) a change under certain circumstances in the referee’s response if a goalkeeper lunges or steps entirely off the goal line before the kick is taken.  Instead of retaking the penalty kick and cautioning the goalkeeper, the referee should ignore the foot placement violation if the ball leaves the field or rebounds from the goal frame unless the goalkeeper’s violation “clearly impacted on the kicker.”

While the IFAB provided only one clear example of impacting the kicker (the goalkeeper prevents a goal), the interpretation seems clear that the goalkeeper making any contact with the ball should result in a retake (and caution) but the goalkeeper’s “encroachment” where no contact with the ball occurs should usually result only in a continuation of play (a goal kick if the ball leaves the field, a resumption of regular play if the ball stays on the field as, for example, if the kick rebounded from the goal frame).

To the best of our knowledge, neither the NFHS nor the NCAA picked up this IFAB change and applied it to their 2019-2020 season, though either organization may do so for 2020-2021.…

Penalty Kicks and Attacker Violations

(The following answer was slightly modified on 1/14/19 to clarify a follow-up question, highlighted in blue)

Eriq, an adult amateur player, asks:

Is there a rule whereby, during a penalty kick, a teammate of the kicker unknowingly steps inside the penalty area before the kick was taken and the kicker scores but, because of the teammate, the goal is not counted and an indirect free kick is given to the defending team?

There are no other infringements by the attacking team. When asked, the referee stated that it is a new rule for 2019.


Yes, there is … sort of.  And no, it didn’t.

Here’s the “yes, there is” part.  Although there are some differences between the International Board’s Laws of the Game and the Rules governing High School (NFHS) and collegiate (NCAA) soccer, US Soccer and the rest of the world follow what the International Board put into its Laws.  Law 14 (The Penalty Kick) is very clear regarding this scenario.  Purely as a matter of Law, it is an offense for any teammate of the attacking team (i.e., the team that is taking the penalty kick) to do any of the following things before the ball is in play on a penalty kick: (a) enter the penalty area, (b) enter the penalty arc, or (c) move closer than 12 yards to the opposing team’s goal line.

The remedy for such a violation is also very clear purely as a matter of Law.  Now comes the “sort of” part — if a goal is scored, the goal does not count and the penalty kick is retaken OR, if the goal is not scored, the defending team is given an indirect free kick where the teammate illegally did whichever of these things we just listed above (i.e., where the teammate illegally entered the arc area or penalty area or where the player came closer to the goal line than 12 yards).  The rule is inflexible as to the offense – one foot into the penalty area is just as illegal as 15 feet into the penalty area.  Nor does it make any difference whether the violation is the reason for the failure to score a goal – one step into the penalty area or into the penalty arc (which are the two most common ways to commit this offense) but the kicker kicks the ball 50 feet over the top of the goal’s crossbar does not remove the offense.  We might note that these limitations on the kicking team apply equally to the defending team: the only difference is that the punishments are different (if a goal is scored, it counts; if it is not scored, the penalty kick is retaken).

So, in your scenario, the teammate of the kicker violated Law 14.  However, the restart was incorrect because Law 14 states that the goal is canceled but the attacking team is given a retake of the penalty kick.

Now comes the “no, it didn’t” part. This is not a “new rule for 2019” – in point of fact, the described penalty if a teammate of the kicker violates Law 14 and a goal is not scored went into effect in 2005 but the restart which should have been given in your scenario (cancel goal and order a retake) has been in Law 14 for as long as we have been officiating (1984).…

Simultaneous Offenses on a Penalty Kick

Reuben, a U13 – U19 referee, asks:

Law 14 has a specific provision for what happens if the goalkeeper and the kicker commit an offense at the same time. I am having difficulty understanding how this could occur, namely what the kicker’s offense might be (other than illegal feinting, which is separately dealt with). Is there a particular situation this provision is intended to address? Please advise.


Alert reader Keith caught an error in the original version of this answer.  It has been corrected.  Thanks.

We think you are either reading it incorrectly or asking the wrong question (or both).  The section to which you are referring specifically has to do with the kicker’s offense of feinting after the whistle but at the moment of the kick and the goalkeeper’s offense of coming off the line before the ball is in play.

The section basically breaks down into (a) here is what you do if the kicker offends, (b) here is what you do if the goalkeeper offends, and (c) here is what you do if both offend.  If (c) is what happened, then (1), if there was a goal, you restart with an IFK and caution the kicker; but (2), if there was no goal (which means ANY outcome other than the ball going into the net), you retake the PK and caution both the kicker and the goalkeeper.

This scenario was newly introduced to the Law in 2017-2018 and repeated in 2018-2019 without any changes or clarifications so the only conclusion to reach from this is that what it says is exactly what the International Board intended.  For any who might suggest that they don’t understand it, the language is very clear (see above).  For any who might suggest that it makes no sense and why did they specify it this way rather than some other way, the only conclusion we can reach for this is that what it says is exactly what the International Board intended … and they outrank us all.…

Rules of Competition

(Originally published on 7/18/17, “Operation Restore”)

Mike, a U-12 and under coach, asks:

My son’s U12  team recently won a game 4-3 but scored a goal on a PK which was awarded in error when the opposing GK touched the ball outside the penalty area. It should’ve been a free kick, but the ref awarded my son’s team a PK. The PK was converted and we won 4-3. The next day we received an email from the opposing coach who said he was protesting the game as the ref told him AFTER the game he had awarded the PK in error. The game was over-turned and the game is going to be replayed. Is this correct?


Yes, probably, on both counts.  First, the referee clearly “set aside a law of the game” which is the official reason for a protest.  It doesn’t require any admission by the Referee that he or she made a mistake to file a protest, merely a recitation of the facts of the case.

Second, it is entirely up to the rules of competition under which your game was played whether a protest would be considered at all.  Most tournaments don’t but, for regular season games, the local league probably does but usually only for an issue which clearly involves a rule of law.  Usually this means that issues which are based solely on judgment, no matter how wrong they might be, are not allowed to be protested.  In this case, for example, deciding if an offense occurred inside or outside the penalty area is a judgment call, but deciding that stopping play for an offense occurring outside the penalty area could be restarted with a PK is governed solely by the Laws of the Game.

Third, once a protest is allowed and decided, again the local rules of competition determine what the person or body of persons who made the decision can do about it.  This could certainly (and often does) include ordering that the game be replayed in its entirety.   The close score could be a factor but often this solution is taken no matter what the score was … on the theory that a wrongfully given PK-which-converted could affect the playing dynamics for the rest of whatever time remained in the match and, literally anything could have happened.  But the decision could also have been to replay the game from the point of the erroneous decision but using the correct restart.

In brief, what you described would not be an unusual decision, but everything depends on the local rules of competition.  This is not something that is determined by some single rule or law that covers the entire country.  We wonder, however, whether either team sought to bring the mistake to the Referee’s attention or whether either of the assistant referees saw the location of the foul and, as would be their duty, sought to prevent the Referee from compounding the error.  Given that a PK is the most ceremonial of all restarts, there certainly would have been time and opportunity to do so.  Just wondering.


When Is the PK Over?

Robert, a referee of older youth players, asks:

A penalty kick is completed when the ball stops moving. How about giving me some examples when a ball stops moving during a penalty kick situation.


The International Board, in its infinite wisdom when it rewrote the Laws of the Game to make them simpler and easier to understand, wasn’t entirely successful in several of its changes.  This is one of them.  Note that almost the exact same language was used in Laws 10 and 14 to say when the kick was complete:

Law 10:  The kick is completed when the ball stops moving, goes out of play or the referee stops play for any infringement of the Laws

Law 14:  The penalty kick is completed when the ball stops moving, goes out of play or the referee stops play for any infringement of the Laws.

More to the point of your question, both Laws include “ball stops moving” as one of the ways that a kick from the mark (KFTM) or a penalty kick (PK) may be considered ended.  This works fairly well for a KFTM and it also works for a PK taken in extended time.  As long as the ball continues to move while making contact with any one or combination of the goalkeeper, goalframe, or the ground, a valid goal can be scored.  Yet, at the same time, in each case no one else is allowed to participate in the play.  Thus, if a PK in extended time or a KFTM struck the crossbar, rebounded backward onto the ground in front of the goal, but had acquired a spin which resulted in the ball now rolling forward a few feet into the goal, that goal would count.  The same would be true if the ball rebounded from the crossbar to the back of the goalkeeper and then rebounded from there into the goal.

A regular, ordinary PK, however, is a bit different because, except for the original kicker, the ball can be played by anyone once it is in play (kicked and moved forward).  During that time, it is entirely possible that the ball could be motionless … and it doesn’t matter because, with one exception, no one particularly cares when, whether, or even if the PK is “over.”

The exception is if an outside agent interferes with play at the taking of a penalty kick.  Ordinarily, if play is stopped because of outside agent interference, the restart is a dropped ball.  We can just picture some spectator, who supports the Orange team which is just about ready to defend against a PK, thinking that, if he or she ran onto the field after the PK was taken and interfered, the referee would have to stop play and then restart with a dropped ball (effectively taking the PK away from the hated opponent)!  So the Laws of the Game provide that, if the interference occurs while the ball is moving toward the goal and hasn’t made contact as yet with any part of the goalframe or the goalkeeper, the restart will be a retake of the PK.  Until the ball stops moving forward (not just stops moving), the PK is not “over” at least for the purpose of retaking the PK rather than having a dropped ball in the case of outside agent interference.  The implicit theory of this provision is that a team which has been awarded a PK should have a reasonable opportunity to score and any event which interferes with that during the period from the ball being kicked and the ball reaching the immediate area of the goal should result in the offended team getting to redo the PK after all the dust has settled.…

What Is a Kick?

A HS/College coach asks:

Is it within the laws of the game to “lift” the ball (meaning to slide your foot under and propel the ball up in the air — as opposed to striking or rolling it with your sole) on a kick-off, corner, free kick, etc.


Yes.  We think.  Probably.  Actually, the only place which specifically deals with your question is in Law 13 (Free Kicks) where it states that “a free kick can be taken by lifting the ball with a foot or both feet simultaneously” (2016/2017 edition).  So, at least for direct and indirect free kicks, the answer is clear.

What we don’t know, because the Law doesn’t mention it, is whether the same “ruling” would apply to such other restarts as penalty kicks, kick-offs, corner kicks, or goal kicks.  Because, in general, all restarts involving kicking a ball are similar in many respects, our conclusion would be that, in practice, the “lift with the foot” approved for free kicks would apply to all “kick the ball” restarts, but with the proviso that all such restarts must still be governed by any other characteristics specified in the Law.  For example, a penalty kick must still “go forward” even if lifted up.  Another example would be that, even if the ball is put into play by lifting it up with the foot (or both feet), a player who did so and then headed or volleyed the ball would still be guilty of a second touch violation.

Perhaps the reason the Law is silent on whether the “lift with the foot” kick applies to kicked-ball restarts other than free kicks is that it really makes little sense (at least as regards to the purposes and dynamics of these other restarts) to kick the ball in this particular way.  Why, for example, would a player want to take a goal kick or penalty kick using that technique?

In any event, however, the answer is absolutely clear with regards to free kicks, and probably the same for any other kicked-ball restart.…


My team had a pK shoot out last weekend. The referee placed the ball on the mark. We kicked first and my player moved the ball because it was in a hole but left it on the mark. The referee walked back to the ball picked it up and appeared to push it even harder in the original spot. Is the referee allowed to move or place the ball even though it’s on the mark. It clearly bothered my player. The referee did place the ball every single time after that as well So at least he was consistent.

Answer (May 13, 2015):
The ball must be placed on some part of the spot/mark. It can be moved to avoid holes or water. The only restriction is the ball may not be moved closer to the goal line than the spot itself.

As I am fond of saying, some referees make too much of themselves and fail to remember that it is not the referee’s game, it belongs to the players.…


Law- 14 penalty kicks.
The Defending Goalkeeper
As stated by the rules of Fifa
The defending goalkeeper:
• must remain on his goal line, facing the kicker, between the goalposts until the ball has been kicked.
My question is does the keeper have to keep a part of their body on the line until the ball is kicked? Or does the keeper have to keep both feet on the line until the ball is kicked? It is allowed for keepers to move side to side so the feet obviously do not have to be on the goal line. I would guess this question relates to the plane being broken. When watching any professional games it seems that the keeper is allowed to move forward as long as a part of the body is on the goal line in the plane between the goalposts. I am looking for some clarification on this rule because as I have gray areas of rules.

Answer (October 15, 2014):

As you note, the Law tells us that the defending goalkeeper must remain on his goal line, facing the kicker, between the goalposts until the ball has been kicked. A later portion on Law 14, in the back of the Law book under Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees, reiterates that the referee must confirm, before the penalty kick is taken, that the goalkeeper is on the goal line between the goalposts and facing the kicker. If the goalkeeper violates these instructions, the kick may be taken; however, if the ball enters the goal, the goal is awarded. If the ball does not enter the goal, the kick is retaken.

To answer your question specifically, the goalkeeper must remain on the line. No specific body part is mentioned, because it is traditional that the goalkeeper be upright, both feet on the line. He or she may move along the line, but must not move forward or backward.

Not sure where any grayness might enter the picture, unless you take into account poor work by lazy referees at all levels of the game, those who allow the ‘keeper to move forward (or sometimes backward), which is not permitted until AFTER the ball has been kicked.

And one correction: The Laws of the Game are not written by FIFA. They are written by the International Football Association Board, of which FIFA is a member. FIFA publishes the Laws for all.…


The referee allowed this to stand. Should he have done so? If so, why? If not, why not?

Answer (June 4, 2014):
I was asked this question twice and answered the first one from the Laws, based on how the referee perceived the incident.

//much deleted//
Feinting in the run-up to take a penalty kick to confuse opponents is permitted as part of football. However, feinting to kick the ball once the player has completed his run-up is considered an infringement of Law 14 and an act of unsporting behavior for which the player must be cautioned.

The second time I decided to suggest something more commonsense, an idea supplied by a friend in Eastern New York (and I quote directly):
“as soon as that player goes down, my whistle sounds…
‘the player fell…so you have to go and check on his welfare…cause you know he might have hurt something…and since it’s clearly an attempt to deceive I might have a word with him about it in the process…”

A final comment: Whatever works for your personality as a referee and conforms with the Laws is always the best thing to do.…


Please clarify that kicking the ball for a corner kick it is ok to kick with the bottom of your boot.

Answer (March 8, 2014):
Yes, the kicker may use the bottom of the foot as long as he has played the ball in a kicking motion. The referee needs to use common sense and apply practices currently accepted in modern soccer, no matter how much these may differ from what we have learned and applied in the past. On any free kick, whether direct or indirect, the Law is clear: The ball must be moved a minimum distance with the foot, preferably in a kicking motion. In many cases, this means that the ball may be stepped on, although it still must move some minimum distance. If the referee does not see some minimal movement on the initial kick, then the ball is not yet in play and the kick must be taken correctly.…