In a fast break away one player with the ball makes an attack. About two yards outside the top of the penalty area the goal keeper fouls the attacker. Advantage is not applied. In the opinion of the referee, the foul (a DFK) does not merit a card of any type. The whistle is blown, the restart of a direct free kick is announced by the ref, the ball is placed, and the whistle is blown to restart play. Before other defenders can arrive the attacker starts to take what seems to be a certain goal scoring opportunity at an unguarded net.

Before the shot is taken the goal keeper places his foot on the ball, stopping any chance for a quick shot. Other defending players then arrive, making an advantageous quick restart impossible.

In the opinion of the referee the keeper has clearly denied an obvious goal scoring opportunity, and should be sent off. The referee believes that by every standard of common sense and of Fair Play the goal keeper has breached the Spirit of the Laws, and that the Laws were written to prevent and to punish this very type of misconduct.

But by the letter of the Law, the referee is not sure that he has the power to do so. As the ball was not in play when the event took place, there was not & could not be an “opponent moving towards the player’s goal”. Although the goal keeper’s action will cause him to be cautioned, he will not have caused “an offence punishable by a free kick or a penalty kick”. Because the ball was not in play when the keeper broke the Law(s), his act of misconduct will not nor could not cause a free kick or a penalty kick to be taken. That is, when the ball is out of play the restart will always remain unchanged.

The referee knows that the world is an imperfect place, that life can be hard, and sometimes bad things happen to good people; but it seems egregious if the LOTG allow the keeper to remain in the game.

Your views?

USSF answer (June 25, 2009):
No view, simply the Law: The goalkeeper cannot have denied an obvious goalscoring opportunity, as the ball was not in play when he committed his misconduct. Sometimes life is not fair. Caution the goalkeeper for failure to respect the required distance when play is restarted with a free kick; show the yellow card and restart with the original direct free kick, ensuring that all opponents are at least ten yards away when the ball is put into play.

We might also have hard words with the referee for not being proactive in the first place and preventing the goalkeeper from doing what he did.

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