Clay, an adult pro player, asks:
Regarding throw-ins, how far behind the touch line can a player take the throw? For example, counter attack occurs with players still on the other end of field. Ball is cleared out of bounds. Player of counter attacking team runs to the ball and takes the throw while standing more than 5 yards/meters behind the touch line.
Answer (see also “Apology” posted on July 5)
Players just love to push the limits, don’t they? The formal Law on the subject is very clear — the throw-in must be taken from the point on the touchline where the ball left the field. Period. And we all know exactly where that is, don’t we? Let’s be serious, except for a ball rolling slowly across the ground, no one really knows where the ball left the field (particularly when the ball is high in the air!).
So, whereas the Law is specific and clear, real life isn’t, and thus we offer three connected answers.
- First, the ball left the field where the Referee (assisted by the AR) says it left and this, in turn, is indicated by where the Referee allows the throw-in to be taken. In other words, the player has retrieved the ball and begins walking toward some point on the line — the Referee nods OK or points semi-vaguely to some general area or says nothing or (if dissatisfied) indicates to the player to move upfield or downfield or the player asks (verbally or otherwise) the AR where to take the throw-in.
- Second, the thrower has traditionally been given an allowance of up to a yard in either direction (including back from the line) from where the ball probably left the field.
- Third, Practical Refereeing 101 (what you learn on the field and from experienced officials) teaches us that variances greater the one yard can be tolerated the farther away the thrower is from the goal the thrower’s team is attacking. The theory here is that it is a technical violation of the Law but, in essence, trifling and so can be ignored or given a warning since the ball was put into play without delay and without a demonstrable unfair benefit gained.
Where we Referees start to grumble is when a player takes advantage of our good will by accepting our allowing the throw-in to be taken from somewhere in accordance with answers 1, 2, or 3 and then trampling on our good will by using that point to begin a lengthy and totally unnecessary run yards farther away, thus displaying contempt for answers 1, 2, and 3. Unfortunately, this is also often when we make a mistake by calling the player back after he or she throws the ball from a place which unexpectedly was many yards away from where we were allowing the player to take the restart and indicating that the player should take the throw-in again but this time from the correct place. If it was bad enough to call back, it was bad enough to be subject to the penalty specified in Law 15 — give the restart to the opposing team. If you don’t want to do that, then realize that you can’t call it back.
By the way, 5 yards back from the line is really pushing the envelop, no matter which of the three answers above you use.