Goalkeepers and Control of the Ball

(Originally published on 7/5/17, “Operation Restore”)

An adult amateur referee asks:

Does pinning the ball on the ground with one hand for even a split second constitute “control” of the ball for the goalkeeper?


Yes.  You must sort out the actual sequence of events when things like this happen.  If your conclusion is doubtful as to the core issue of whether the pinning occurred before, during, or after an attempt to challenge for the ball by an opponent, you should add to your decision the factor of safety for the players involved.

Thus, if you have a clear view of things and are certain that control was established before the opponent’s challenge, you must signal for a stoppage and give the goalkeeper’s team possession of the ball for the restart.  If the decision is that the challenge clearly occurred before control was established, then (other things being equal) the challenge should be allowed.  However, if “other things” are not equal — for example, the challenge was performed in a dangerous manner and caused the goalkeeper to pull back to avoid injury , then you must call the offense against the challenger.

If it was so close that you really cannot tell, then you should decide what to do based on our high priority concern for the safety of the player who was unfairly most placed at risk.  Keep in mind that this factor must take into account the age and experience level of the players.