During an RIII match this past weekend, the GK intentionally left the field of play while the ball was in play. While only the GK knows for sure why he left the field, it appeared it was done to re-position a spare ball which was behind his net to the side of the net but it will never be known for sure as circumstance changed while he was off the field. The opposing team won possession and took a long shot on goal presumably to take advantage of the empty net. With his teammate encouragement, the GK re-entered the field of play and picked up the ball on the second bounce just outside the 6′ box thus deny the goal as there were no other defenders inside the 18′ yard box. The Referee played on as if no infraction had occurred which seems to be an incorrect call as the GK clearly gained advantage by his actions whether or not they were intentional.It does not take a lot of presumption on the part of the Referee to appreciate the opposing team took the long shot to benefit from the GK being out of the net. As such, the GK leaving prior to and re-entering after the shot was taken gave the GK an unfair advantage which is why it is a yellow card offense in the LOTG.

The correct call seems to be a yellow for either “deliberately leaving the field of play without the Referee’s permission” or “re-entering the field of play without the Referee’s permission” with the restart being an IFK from the spot where the GK first touched the ball.

A second possibility would have been a yellow for the GK for leaving or re-entering without permission plus a second yellow followed by a red for 2 CT for the GK for Unsporting Behavior as leaving the field and re-entering to make what amounted to a save seems to qualifies as UB. Again, the restart would be an IFK from the spot where the GK first touched the ball though now the team would be playing down a player.

What is the correct call?

USSF answer (April 5, 2007):
The infringement, if such there was, is trifling and not worth considering. The goalkeeper did not leave the field to deceive anyone, nor did he return in a deceitful manner. The correct decision, made by the intelligent referee on the game, is to make no voiced call at all.

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