I have a question regarding the rights a keeper has to attempt to collect or parry a ball within his own penalty area.

I have been a referee for many years and have been told many conflicting thoughts on a keeper’s “rights” within his own penalty area. I have always worked games under the thought that a keeper has no “special” rights within their area, other than to use their hands to collect the ball.

I was watching a high school boy’s game this week where a situation occurred between the keeper and an attacker that I thought was mishandled and would like your thoughts so that I better understand the “Laws”.

The situation was:

The attacking team had a free kick from outside the defending team’s penalty area. When play restarted, the attacking team put the play in play by kicking the ball into the penalty area where many players, both attacking and defending players, were waiting to try to play the ball. The keeper came out of his goal area and jumped into (through) the mass of players and successfully parried the ball away before the ball reached the head of an attacker. The attacking player had already established his position and had jumped straight up to try to head the ball towards the goal. The keeper, however, went “through” the attacker while trying to parry the ball causing injury to the attacking player (the attacking player left the field and did not return). I believed that the keeper had committed a penal foul for which a penalty kick should be awarded. At a minimum, I believed the keeper’s conduct should be considered a dangerous play for which an indirect free kick should have been awarded.

After the game had concluded, I questioned the center as to why no foul was called. His reasoning was that a keeper had a right to the ball within his own penalty area and cannot be penalized in his own area. I know there are a number of infractions whereby the penalty or restart are different if committed by a keeper in his own penalty area… but I have never heard of such a rule that protects a keeper in this way.

Can you please comment on what “rights” a keeper has within in his penalty area and whether or not a keeper can receive a penal foul (for which a penalty kick is awarded) or a caution within their own area? Also, I would like your thoughts on the proper call given the scenario described above.

USSF answer (October 15, 2008):
On October 2, 2008, we included this information on a ‘keeper’s rights in an answer: “All players are entitled to the same protection under the Laws of the Game. The goalkeeper has no right to special protection. The goalkeeper’s role is, by the very requirements of that role, inherently dangerous. Goalkeepers know this going in and most operate accordingly.” The goalkeeper does have the right to be able to release the ball back into general play without interference. That and the right to wear some special protective equipment not permitted to other players is about it.

We would suggest that your referee was operating under a misapprehension. If the goalkeeper commits an infringement of the Laws, he or she must be punished just like any other player.

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