In a B14 match attacking Red player A takes a shot from 25 yards away that strikes the crossbar, and ricochets to the ground, and bounces up about waist high, about 3-5 feet in front of the Blue goalkeeper. Attacking Red player B is only 2 feet from the ball, and he swings his leg sideways to kick the ball back into the net just as the Blue goalkeeper swoops in to scoop up the ball. The blue goalkeeper never gets his hands on the ball but just as he is about to, Red player B’s foot strikes the ball and Blue keepers face simultaneously. The ball goes into the net. The keeper goes down but recovers and finishes the match. All parties…. the center referee, his assistant referee, the coach of both the Red and Blue teams agrees there was no intent by Red B to strike or injure the keeper.
However, the coach of Blue team argues that since player safety is a referee’s paramount concern that the center ref should have either: (1) blown his whistle to stop the play before the injury; or (2) stopped play, disallowed the goal and awarded an indirect free kick to Blue for dangerous play. The coach of the Blue team argues that the interpretation of “in the possession of the goalkeeper” be expanded to include those situations where in the opinion of the center referee, the keeper is in imminent possession of the ball, and due to the proximity of an attacking player, stop play with his whistle to protect the keeper, and restart the plate as if the attacking player had interfered with the keeper or fouled him. What is the proper decision for the center referee in these circumstances and if the coach is correct, what is the authority in the LOTG or ATR for his position?
USSF answer (November 5, 2010):
Let’s break this down into smaller parts to help make the entire problem understandable for referees, coaches, and players alike.
1. THE GOALKEEPER POSITION AND DANGER
Yes, safety is the referee’s first concern under the Laws. However, referees — and coaches and players — need to remember that the position of goalkeeper is inherently dangerous and the goalkeeper is allowed a bit more leeway than other players in placing him- or herself in danger and thus affecting how the opponents can act. Everything he or she does when attempting to clear a ball or take it away from an onrushing attacker is dangerous. Why? Because it is the ‘keeper’s job to stop the ball from going into the goal, no matter at what height above the ground it may travel. Unless the ‘keeper did something that was careless or violent or reckless, and you said that he did not, then there was no foul, but simply bad luck. This is one of the lessons referees, players, and coaches need to learn.
Would we allow this for the opposing attackers? Not if it places the goalkeeper in danger that he cannot avoid. Is this inconsistent? Yes, but it is the way the game has always been played.
2. GOALKEEPER POSSESSION
The goalkeeper is considered to be in control (= possession) of the ball when the ball is held with both hands, held by trapping the ball between one hand and any surface (e. g., the ground, a goalpost, the goalkeeper’s body), or holding the ball in the outstretched open palm. And the “hand” in this case can consist of as few as one finger of the ‘keeper’s hand.
The Laws do not grant the referee the power to extend the definition of goalkeeper possession, nor to legislate new meanings on the field of play.
3. PLAYERS’ RIGHTS AND FAIR CHALLENGES
The goalkeeper has no more rights than any other player, with the exceptions of protective equipment and not being challenged when attempting to release the ball into general play. When not in possession of the ball, the goalkeeper may be fairly challenged. And the fairness is determined by the referee, not the coach and not the player.
There is no rule that “protects the goalie” from contact initiated by other players — as long as that contact is not against the requirements for a fair charge and does not happen when the goalkeeper is attempting to release the ball for others to play — in other words, to punt or throw the ball out of the penalty area.
Any time a player (either a field player or a goalkeeper) raises his/her leg above knee level there is the likelihood that someone will be hurt. As age and skill levels go down, the referee must interpret both “possession” and “safe challenge” more conservatively. Something an adult player might be allowed to do is not always the same as something a youth player (U14 for example) would be allowed to do.