Recognizing your answer on this question from the archives (Oct. 12, 2007), I have always considered the goalkeeper perhaps carrying the ball a tad too long in his hands before punting as committing a doubtful or trifling offense (after all, what difference is 1 foot or so on a kick of perhaps 40 yards?).
Nonetheless, I had a zealous AR raise a flag for just such an offense, a flag that I did not see for several seconds as the ball was in dynamic play at the other end of the field when it came down. Flummoxed at seeing the flag, I blew the whistle and the AR proceeded to shout for all the world to hear, “The goalie crossed the line before punting.” I admit to being perturbed not just at the calling of the offense but at the flagrant disregard for procedure in the shout as it gave me little choice in addressing the matter.
I proceeded to tell this story with my crew at my next match and carefully included mention in the pre-game conference that I considered any offense well behind the course of play to be trifling unless it rose to the level of misconduct. Amazingly, an AR made the same call in that game even after the pre-game conference, and he also shouted out, “It was a whole yard.”
My question therefore is two-fold —
1. Am I indeed correct that this offense can be doubtful and/or trifling, even at “a whole yard,” when absolutely nobody on the field except the AR even notices?
2. If I am correct, do you have any advice for how the wise referee can recover some sense of credibility with the players after such a call is made? Having been burned twice, I want to be really ready next time.
USSF answer (October 20, 2008):
Answer 1: While recognizing that the offense by the goalkeeper of crossing the penalty area line with the ball still in hand is never doubtful, but often trifling, we must also recognize that it is certainly an infringement of the Law and must always be treated as such. The referee will usually allow the first such act to go unpunished, but must then clearly warn the goalkeeper to observe and honor the line and the Law. If it occurs again, the referee should call the foul and no later than the third offense caution the goalkeeper for persistent infringement of the Laws of the Game.
Answer 2: Sage advice for the intelligent referee is hard to give when assistant referees fail to follow instructions from the referee in the pregame conference. As long as play is stopped anyway, acknowledge the AR’s flag and go over to speak with him or her. Reinforce the instruction not to interfere in the flow of the game with trifling matters — but remember the sage advice given in Answer 1 — and remind the goalkeeper to stay within the confines of the penalty area when he or she has the ball in hand. Then restart the game properly and add the time lost in this exchange to the time of the half.
Another course of action might be for the referee to confer with the AR (making sure the conversation was private), direct the AR to nod his or her head in apparent agreement, walk back toward the ball (making a swing past the GK for a private discussion of no more than a sentence or two), and then restart with a dropped ball. In short, although the AR has obviously created a problem — both the the signal and then with his horrendous mechanics — the situation is still not without options.