Dropped Ball and Dribbling

Chris, a U13 – U19 coach, asks:

Drop ball restart. If only one player is part of the drop ball restart, can the player touch the ball twice before any other player? At a U16 club game, I saw a drop ball with one player where the Referee dropped the ball and the player dribbled several times before passing it.

Answer (see also “Apology” posted on July 5)

You may well see this many times because there is nothing wrong with it.  You may have a misconception based on how you worded the scenario suggesting that this is permissible only if/when there is just a single player contesting for the dropped ball.  A player, no matter how many other players are contesting for the dropped ball, can gain possession and then dribble the ball to his or her heart’s content … and do so while going from one end of the field to the other.

We suspect that your question was sparked by some clubhouse discussion which mixed up two different issues — “can a player receive the ball from a drop and thereafter touch the ball more than once?” versus “can a player score a goal directly from his or her taking possession of the ball from a drop?”  We’ve already answered the first of these with “Yes” but, sadly, we must answer the second of these with “No” and this answer would be true whether the player made only a single touch of the ball and shot the ball into the net or whether the player dribbled 40 yards downfield and then shot the ball into the net.  The player’s problem is that, while this has always been true, the 2016 rewrite of the relevant part of Law 8 made it clear that a goal cannot be scored on a dropped ball unless and until at least two different players had at least touched/played the ball between the drop and the ball entering the goal.

Sorting Out Injury Restarts

Adam, a U12 and Under coach, asks:

My question is, if my team (U8 players) kicks the ball and one player on the other team stops it with his face and gets injured, is that team then rewarded with a free kick in the penalty area?  Or would it be a drop ball or my team’s ball?

Answer (see also “Apology” posted on July 5)

Let’s at least take a moment of concern for the poor opponent who stopped a ball with his face!

OK, now let’s see if we can sort this out.  First of all, teams don’t kick a ball, individual players do.  Second, these individual players can kick the ball during play or at a restart.  Finally, these individual players kicking balls may, on any given kick and regardless of whether it occurs during play or a restart, strike the face of an opponent with evil intent (i.e., on purpose) or by accident.  Getting things down to this level helps us work out the answer.

If the kick occurred during play and the stoppage-by-face was not intentional, then play must be stopped for the injury and, under the Laws of the Game, once things have settled down, the restart must be a dropped ball where the ball was when play was stopped (note: special rules apply if that location happens to be in a team’s goal area). Same scenario but the kick that started it all was on a restart, then everything stays the same assuming that, depending on the restart, the ball was in play by the time the stoppage-by-face occurred.

If the ball didn’t make it into play (and, offhand, we think that the goal kick is probably the only restart in which this might or could be an issue), then play must be stopped and, after the dust settles, retake the original restart.

Ah, but now, if the kick (and this would apply as well to a throw-in) was directed at the face of an opponent, then play must still be stopped quickly but, in this case, the stoppage is not “for the injury” but for the offense (kicking).  Further, given the violent way it occurred and after the higher priority matters related to the injury are taken care of, a red card should be shown for violent conduct (not “serious foul play” because it didn’t happen while competing for the ball) — unless this game is being played under standard small-sided rules for U-8 players, in which case your duty is to explain what a bad thing was done while you escort the miscreant off the field.  Because “kicking an opponent” is a Law 12 offense, the restart is a direct free kick for the opposing team taken from the location of the opponent whose face stopped the ball (penalty kicks are not allowed for U-8 games).

As above, if the kick leading to the evilly intentional stoppage-by-face result was on a restart and the ball had not gone into play by the time of the face smashing, then retake the original restart but don’t forget the card if it is allowed or at least the removal of the player by some means.

By the way, under no circumstances and by no stretch of the imagination could your team, even theoretically, ever “get the ball” if it was one of your players that kicked the ball in the first place (unless it was on a restart by your team and the ball was not in play by the time your player smashed an opponent’s face with the ball).

Dropped Balls and Offside

Alan, an adult amateur referee, asks:

With the LOTG 2016-2017 changes, can a person who receives the ball directly from a dropped ball be considered in an offside position?

Answer (see also “Apology” posted on July 5)

Nope, but the question you are asking has nothing to do with any of the Law changes that occurred in 2016-2017 (or, as a matter of fact, in 2017-2018 either).  The possibility of being in an offside position was decided decades ago when the offside position was defined as requiring four things.  the player in focus must (1) at the moment the ball is touched/played by a teammate, (2)  be ahead of the ball, (3) ahead of the second-to-last defender, and (4) ahead of the midfield line.  The simple truth is that the dropped ball lacks (and will always lack) requirement (1).  Because the ball is put into play by the Referee, whichever player makes initial contact with the ball once it is in play will not have been preceded by a touch/play of the ball by a teammate.  Ergo, no offside position — ever.

Now, once that player makes contact with the ball (assuming the ball made contact with the ground first), any teammate of that player is subject to being in an offside position based on requirements (2) – (4).

Perhaps what you were thinking of when you posted your question was the issue of whether a goal could legally be scored “directly” by the player who first makes legal contact with the ball at a dropped ball restart.  Unfortunately, that is a different question and, if that is what interests you, please submit it for consideration (the answer, by the way, is no).

Recalcitrant Coaches

A HS/College Referee asks:

I was officiating a U15G game. Before the game even started, I and my ARs took our positions on the field. I blew my whistle to get the teams to take the field. The Home team came right out and took their side of the field. The Visiting Team stood on the sideline listening to their coach give last minute instructions. I proceeded to wait another 15-20 seconds (to let him complete his instruction) then I blew my whistle a second time … no response. I then waited another 15-20 seconds and whistled a third time and stated loudly and within 10 yards of the team “Coach, let’s get your team on the field” … still no response. I then stepped closer and said “Coach, let’s go,” but he stuck his head up and stated “What???” I said “Let’s go” … but he proceeded to keep coaching. I said “Coach, you have a warning.  Let’s get them on the field” but again only “What??” I gave him a yellow card for dissent.  Is this the correct procedure, or is this a delay of game?

Answer

First off, any answer to this has to depend on a critical issue — namely, who or what was the competition authority?  In other words, (a) what set of rules were you under and (b) did those rules involve any local exceptions?  We ask because, although none of the standard rule sets (IFAB, HFHS, NCAA) has an explicit rule or ruling pertaining to a team failing to take to the field when requested by the referee, each rule set provides different tools the referee can use in such a case.  Moreover, specifically with respect to IFAB’s Laws of the Game as practiced in the US, many local competitions (leagues, tournaments, etc.) have special rules which can and do provide recourse.  Indeed, we are not familiar with a single tournament in this country which does have some sort of unyielding mandate to start and stay on time.

For example, many youth and adult amateur leagues around the US require that a game must start on the scheduled time and that, if a team does not or cannot field at least the minimum number of players at the scheduled time (or within some certain number of minutes thereafter), the referee is authorized either to consider the match as forfeited then and there or to go ahead and start the clock (this would apply to any period of play, not just the starting period) until some point is reached after which the match is considered abandoned by the players.  This can cover not only situations in which a team doesn’t have enough players present to start and either knows no more will appear or is waiting to see if more will appear.  This would also cover the situation you describe where a team refuses to take the field when required (which can also happen at any stoppage — a coach might decide to withdraw his or her team due to disagreement with circumstances or some specific decision with which the coach vehemently disagrees).

So, we cannot answer the core question without knowing the rules applied to the game.  And, if there are such rules, our answer would have to be, first, know what they are ahead of taking the assignment and, second, simply and faithfully follow them.  You might even engage the coach of the team which is ready to play in an effort to advise the visiting team of these rules.  However, if there are no local or competition-specific rules pertaining the scenario, we suggest you look to common sense and what you would do if, at the scheduled time, there was only one team present.  How long would you wait?  What reasonably could you do to ascertain the circumstances for the absence?  If this involved the very beginning of the match, could you adjust the length of the periods of play to accommodate the delay?  Are there following games which would be adversely affected by the delay?  Is it late enough in the day that the delay could result in unsafe lighting?

There is another approach that might be considered.  Even though the opposing team in your scenario is there, technically they are not “there” because “there” is defined as “on the field of play” and, as long as they are not, they are in effect not there at all.  This means that they are subject to any requirement that a game start on time or at least within some specified grace period … and that might become the most potent item of information you could bring to the attention of the recalcitrant coach.  “Coach, the game must begin in [x] minutes.  At exactly that time, I will whistle to start play, note the absence of the minimum number of opposing team players on the field, terminate the match according to Law 3.1, and include full details in my report to [the competition authority].”  Nothing needs to, nor should be, added to this little speech.  Then follow through.  Period.

By the way, don’t even consider formally cautioning the coach in this scenario.  First, it is not permitted under the Laws of the Game.  Second, it will only step on the tail of the dragon.

The Dropped Ball

A referee asks:

Situation 1: There is no ‘double touch’ rule applicable to a dropped ball, right?  Only to all other restarts? Because the moment it touches the ground, even if simultaneously touched by a player, it is in play….& double touch rule doesn’t apply to the ground (which is what put it in play).

Situation 2:  The player who is the first to touch the ball…if he/she pulls it away or pushes it away & dribbles it, can that player shoot on goal?  What if, with his/her first touch, the player passes it to his/her other foot, which means the other foot or the one that first touched the ball = can be used for a shot on goal + a successful shot on goal can be allowed, as it is not a ‘direct kick on goal’ from a dropped ball?

Answer — Situation 1

It is correct that there is no “double touch” (also known as a “2nd touch”) violation possible on a dropped ball, but not for the reason you suggest.  It is not “the ground” that started the sequence of events which led to the ball being in play, it was the referee.  All second touch violations are based on and apply only to the person who performs the restart and only if that person is a player.  Touching the ground is merely a requirement for the ball to be in play, the same as the ball leaving the penalty area is one of the requirements for the ball to be in play on a goal kick.

Answer — Situation 2

Three people are important in understanding a dropped ball restart: the referee (who does it), the first player to make contact with the ball (who gains possession), and all other players on the field regardless of which team they are on.  The referee initiates the restart. If there is no “first player who contacts,” this means that the ball left the field directly from the drop and the Law requires that the ball be retrieved and dropped again at the same location.  Once you have a “first person who contacts,” a different dynamic takes over.  The referee goes back to officiating and this “first contact player” (let’s make this easy and say A12) takes center stage.  A12, in all respects but one, can play the ball in any way permitted by the Law.  This means, of course, that A12 can move the ball anywhere on the field by dribbling it (either or both feet), by heading the ball, by passing it to a teammate (or an opponent), and so forth.  The single thing A12 cannot do is score a goal (against either team!).

Notice, we didn’t say can’t “shoot on goal” because, in fact, that is something A12 could certainly do — it’s just that, if A12 did so and the ball went into either goal, the goal cannot be counted.  Using the left foot and then the right foot while dribbling makes no difference because it stays the same person and the rule applies to the person, not to one or the other of his/her feet.  Nor does it make any difference if A12 pushes the ball into space, then runs to the ball and continues moving it by any lawful means.  And it also makes no difference if A12 kicks the ball such that it deflects off the referee (or a crossbar or goalpost) and goes back to A12, who proceeds to continue moving the ball — A12 remains the “first contact player.”

So where do all players other than A12 come into this thing?  Once any of the “other” players (regardless of team) makes legal contact with the ball, the special identity of being the “first contact player” totally disappears — even to the point of A12 passing the ball to A43 who then passes it back to A12 who then shoots on goal … and scores (legally).  The moment A43 made contact with the ball, A12 is no longer the “first contact player”and now, along with any other player, can score legally.

By the way, if A12 did put the ball into the net without any other player making contact with the ball, the restart would be a goal kick if it was the opponent’s net but a corner kick if it was A12’s own net.

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.

Answer

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.

A Dropped Ball and A Pesky Spectator

Marlon Edwards, a coach, asks:

Can you score on your own team from a drop ball?

Red takes a shot on goal and, as the ball is rolling on the ground directly toward the goal with the goalkeeper seriously out of position, a spectator wearing the Blue team colors runs onto the field and kicks the ball away from the goal.  What is the restart?

Answer

Two very different questions.  The first one can be dealt with fairly quickly.  The short answer is, no.  The longer, more detailed answer needs to make sure we are talking about the same thing.  The dropped ball (DB) is a unique restart in that it is the only one of the 7 ways to start/restart a soccer game which is not performed by a player.  Another unique feature is that the ball is in play as soon as it touches the ground.  Once we have gotten to the ground-touching point, however, the DB is like the indirect free kick in that a goal cannot be scored in favor of either team directly from the first touch of the ball by any player following the drop.  If the ball should happen to enter a goal directly from the initial player contact, the restart is based on which team’s player kicked it into which team’s goal — goal kick if into the goal of the opposing team, corner kick if into the goal of the player’s own team.

What is interesting about this is the word “directly” because, in soccer, it has a very definite meaning and refers to what happens immediately after a player touches/controls the ball or performs a restart.  If whatever happens does not involve another player touching the ball, it is said to have occurred “directly.”  In the 2016/2017 LOG Law 8, this was restated to be crystal clear: a goal cannot be legally scored unless, prior to entering the goal, the ball was touched by at least two different players.  So, we take away several thing from this.  First, once the ball has been touched by at least two players, a goal can be legally scored if it enters either team’s goal.  Second, the “two player” requirement is met by any two players from either or the same team but not by one player touching the ball twice.  This was not a substantive change in the Law, only a restatement for clarification.  By the way, if the ball leaves the field after the drop with no touch by any player, the DB is retaken.

On to the second question.  The fact that the spectator was wearing “colors” associated with one of the teams whose game he interrupted is irrelevant.  Even if he was wearing something like a team jersey and was decked out like a player (but his name is not on the team roster), the person is still only a spectator and we call such persons an “outside agent.”  The critical question that has to be answered in any outside agent situation is whether that person interfered with play in any way (made contact with the ball or any player or got in the way of play or a player).  If the agent did, play must be stopped and then, after the dust has settled and the outside agent removed, play is restarted with a dropped ball where the ball was when play was stopped.  Any goal apparently scored during or following such interference cannot be counted under any circumstances. If the agent did not (in the opinion of the referee), play is not stopped and the entry onto the field is handled at the next stoppage.  In the case here, it is obvious that there was interference — play should be stopped as soon as possible and restarted with a DB.

DROPPED BALL

Question:
Our team was awarded a drop ball free kick without an opposing player after time was suspended for an injured player. Our player was on a breakaway with no other opposing players between our player and goalkeeper when the injury time suspension was called. We scored off the direct kick (drop ball; the Ref dropped the ball in front of the player). Was that the correct decision?

Answer (April 28, 2014):
The conditions for scoring on a dropped ball were changed in July 2012 so as not to allow a goal on a dropped ball kicked directly into the goal after the ball hits the ground.. Here is what Law 8 has to say about it:

If the ball enters the goal:
• if a dropped ball is kicked directly into the opponents’ goal, a goal kick is awarded
• if a dropped ball is kicked directly into the team’s own goal, a corner kick is awarded to the opposing team

In this case, as The FA put it in their explanatory note for proposing the 2012 change:

Reason
There have been a number of occasions where goals have been scored from “uncontested” dropped balls. This has put a great deal of pressure on the referee as he has to allow the goal to stand. We then have the unseemly situation where the opposition allows the team to score from the kick-off without any players trying to stop them in order to rebalance the game.”

Thus, this turns the dropped ball into an indirect kick, from which a goal may NOT be scored directly.

MAY A PLAYER KICK THE BALL WITH THE BOTTOM OF THE FOOT?

Question:
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.

MUST THE GOALKEEPER BE IN POSITION FOR THE KICK-OFF?

Question:
Team A gets a penalty in their favour and allows their keeper to take it. Team B now gets the ball to the centre, everyone in their respected halves, touches the ball, shoots immediately and scores before the Team A’s keeper reaches back in his post.

My question is, does the referee have to check with both goalies before blowing the whistle to resume play?

My answer: (May 5, 2012):

No, the referee need not check with either goalkeeper at ANY restart.

Interestingly, nothing is said in the scenario about the referee whistling to signal that the kick-off could be taken. There is no requirement in the Laws of the Game that the referee check with the goalkeepers to see if they are ready. Failing that, and given that the kick-off is always ceremonial, it falls entirely to the referee to determine when the kick-off can occur, subject only to the requirements of the Law that each team must be in its respective half of the field. The referee is empowered to allow a corner kick (or a throw-in) to be taken even though the ‘keeper has not returned to the field of play, so there is no reason to assume that the goalkeeper, in his joy at scoring, should not return to his normal kick-off position for the KO to take place.

However, in a different situation, it is customary (but not required by the Laws) to allow players who have been substituted in for other players to reach their normal positions before any restart. This would be especially true of the goalkeeper.

To illustrate the first point, observe this videoclip (http://www.askasoccerreferee.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Celebration-Too-Soon1.wmv):