(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.