Several of us were discussing recent games and the subject of outside agents came up. Most of us have seen banners, umbrellas, seagulls, and the occasional dog on the field. Normally these situations take care of themselves, with the exception of the dog who wants to grab the ball and run with it.
One situation we encounter is when a ball comes onto the field from a neighboring field. Usually a player just kicks it back at the first opportunity.
We saw a situation in a game where a ball comes into the penalty area. Play is not very close, so the keeper picks up the ball and kicks it back to the neighboring field. However, as she is doing so, play in her game turns around and her opponents take a shot and score.
Is this a goal or interference from an outside agent? And why?
USSF answer (May 6, 2009):
This is interference by an outside agent. To quote the “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game”:
An “outside agent” (under any portion of the Laws of the Game) is anything that enters the field without the permission of the referee and plays or misdirects the ball or otherwise interferes with the game. This means that outside agents can be dogs or coaches or spectators. Interference by any outside agent will result in the referee declaring a stoppage of play, restarting with a dropped ball where the ball was when play was stopped*.
If the referee was not observant enough to do what the Advice recommends, then he or she was negligent. If the nearer assistant referee did not provide assistance in this situation, then he or she was also negligent.
And then we come to the issue of terminal stupidity: We cannot help feeling that, in this case, the ‘keeper shares some culpability. In point of fact, it could be argued that the presence of the ball by itself did not interfere with play; it was the goalkeeper’s error in deciding that she should divert her attention from her main job to do something that wasn’t strictly necessary. We must repeat the old saying that the Laws of the Game are not intended to compensate for the mistakes of players.