Kicking the Goalkeeper

Marc, a high school and college parent, asks:

In a recent game, the goalie had possession of the ball while standing with both hands on the ball.. As the ball was held at about hip level waiting for the defense to move out, a player on the opposite team jogging by the keeper kicked the ball out of the keepers hands by hitting the keepers hands with the studs of his cleats.  This caused both teams to come together almost resulting in a fight. The referee cautioned the player who kicked the ball out and ended up red carding the goalie for dissent . Did the referee make the correct call?   Everybody at the match felt the player should have been sent off for violent conduct.

Answer

In general, kicking, striking, and spitting are considered red-cardable offenses unless there is clear evidence to mitigate the response to the offense down to a caution. This is opposite to the approach to all other direct free kick offenses where the referee starts with “careless” (no card at all) and then needs concrete evidence to justify treating them as “reckless” (a caution) or “excessive force” (a red card) events. It is possible that the referee (incorrectly) showed only a caution because he or she thought that this came under the special circumstances of “denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity” but this doesn’t even come close to applying because (a) the perpetrator was an attacker rather than a defender, (b) the action of kicking an opponent (as I mentioned) starts as a red card offense and then requires special circumstances to do anything less serious than a red card, and (c) the attacker was not “competing for the ball” because, while in the hands of the goalkeeper, the Law does not allow for an attacker to challenge in any way.

We can’t speak to the issue of the red card to the goalkeeper for “dissent” because, without more information, this is contrary to the Laws of the Game on its face.  Under Law 12, dissent is cautionable misconduct, and a red card would be correct only if the dissent included language which was abusive, insulting, or offensive OR the referee correctly cautioned the goalkeeper for dissent but this was the goalkeeper’s second caution in the game, in which case the red card would NOT be for dissent but for having received a second caution.

The opponent should have been shown a red card because the kick involved excessive force, the goalkeeper could be shown only a caution if the GK’s actions involved only dissent, and play should be restarted with a direct free kick coming out from where the kick occurred.

The above observations are sufficiently fundamental to the sport of soccer that they would apply regardless of whether the game occurred rules other than the Laws of the Game (e.g., NFHS/highschool or NCAA/college rules).…

Offside Position

Bill, a U-12 fan, asks:

Clarification on “second-last defender”:  Most diagrams explaining the offside law will show the second-last defender facing away, parallel to his own goal. In real life, this defender is often running ‘towards’ his goal, leaning his upper body in various directions, or has his arms extended away from his body.  Is the position of his feet, or rear foot, the decisive factor in calling offside?

Answer

That’s not the only way that “most diagrams” are often misleading.

The Law is quite clear on this – though offside position decisions rarely are decided this closely and, in a VAR-officiated game, there has been increasing talk about loosening that closeness by at least a little bit given how precisely the video results can be.  The offside position is determined by whether any part of an attacker’s body that is legally entitled to make contact with the ball is closer to the opposing team’s goal line than the part of the second-to-last defender’s body that is both legally entitled to make contact with the ball and is closest to the same goal line .  Phew!

What are the only parts of any player’s body (attacker or defender) that are NOT legally entitled to make contact with the ball?  The hands/arms from fingertips to the bottom of the shoulder joint.

Obviously, that’s a lot of words but it translates quite easily when converted to a visual image, but it is not easy to say.  For example, an attacker is NOT considered to be past the second to last defender if the attacker’s hand/arm is the only part of the attacker’s body that is past the part of the second to last defender’s body which is allowed to play the ball and is closest to that player’s goal line.  None of these statements needs to take into account where either the attacker or the second to last defender is facing (backward, forward, sideways, or any combination thereof).  And all of this is determined at the exact moment when a teammate of the forward-most attacker last plays or makes any contact with the ball (deliberately or accidentally).

We know that is a lot to swallow but it is the only, and most precise, way to state what the Law currently requires for determining an offside position. By the way, the same approach is used in determining whether an attacker is “past” the midfield line or “past” the ball (these other two requirements for an offside position are rarely in question).  Individually, these three requirements each uses the same concept of “past” as described above and thus all three use the same approach to what constitutes past some relevant reference point (midfield line, ball, and second-to-last defender).

In practice, decisions about offside position in U12 and under age groups are nowhere as precise as this.  Indeed, under standard youth soccer rules governing games of players who are under 8 years of age, there are no offside positions because there cannot be any offside offense.  The cake slices become increasingly thin as players get increasingly older and/or experienced.  The precision applied to “past” as outlined above would likely be seen used only where the teams are much older and much more competitive.…

Offside and Off-field

William, an adult pro coach, asks:

In a recent SPL game, Celtic player N`Cham left the field of play, his body momentum carrying him over the goal line in a Celtic attack. However, knowing he couldn`t be considered offside if he remained off the playing area, he stayed behind the goal line as the attack produced a goal seconds later. Could he be considered in breach of the rules?  Thank you for your assistance.

Answer

Although the website’s archives are filled with offside scenario Q&As (many touching on this point), it has been a while and we are posting this Q&A mainly to continue reminding everyone of how Law 11 is properly enforced.

Based solely on the specific wording of your scenario, we need to make one correction to your statement and then offer an answer to your basic question.

Under the Law, an attacker who overruns a perimeter line and thus exits the field is considered to have left the field in the “normal course of play.”  As such, the lack of permission from the referee is waived and, by itself, is not an offense.  However, that player is still considered to be in an offside position if all the requirements of an offside position are met.  So, your statement that the attacker “couldn’t be considered offside if he remained off the playing field” is incorrect.

If, even from his “off the field” location but still in an offside position, he does any of the things defined in Law 11 as an offside offense, he is charged with an offside offense and the restart is an indirect free kick at the point on the perimeter line closest to where that attacker was (unless that puts the restart within the opposing team’s goal area, in which case the kick can be taken anywhere inside the goal area).  So, for example, suppose the attacker was just a foot off the field across the goal line and the ball came within reach of his foot while still on the field and he then took the opportunity to kick the ball. He has, from an offside position, interfered with play and thus has committed an offside offense.  Or, under the same circumstances, he shouts to distract the goalkeeper: he has interfered with an opponent while in an offside position and thus has committed an offside offense.  Or, looking at another possibility, suppose he ran back onto the field while the same play of the ball was occurring and then interfered with play or with an opponent.  He will have committed an offside offense because he came from an offside position even if, at the time of interference, he happened to be (say) farther from the goal line than the second to last opponent.  If he neither interferes with play nor interferes with an opponent while either still off the field or upon returning to the field during the same play of the ball, then he has not committed an offside offense.

In your scenario, he did none of those things and a goal was scored “seconds later” so, absent some other problem, the goal would stand.  Remember, being in an offside position by itself is not an offense.…

Ending a Game Early

Stuart, a U13 – U19 coach, asks:

During a U13 game, the ref blew for time, after 35mins, the players shook hands, then an opposing spectator came running on claiming he’d blown 6 mins early. I asked the ref and he said he’d blown on 35 mins…….what ensued were angry parents abusing a young referee, threatening to report him to the league. Taking the ref to be right, my team left.

I received a call later that day, saying the ref had admitted he may have blown early. Given he’s a child, who had been shouted at by adults, perhaps not a surprising announcement.

The League are now saying I’ll have to replay the game. Surely, from a Safeguarding point, they can’t support this. Can they demand I replay the full game? Or just the 6 mins he’s admitted to under playing?

Answer

The resolution to this problem is solely in the hands of what is technically called “the local competition authority” – the organization under whose auspices the match is held.  The Law does not cover everything – a lot of what it doesn’t cover is left to the referee, and the remainder is left to the local competition authority.

In this case, if the referee says that time is over, then it is over and that is that … for that specific game.  If this can be corrected while the referee is still there, the referee has the authority to order the teams back onto the field and to restart play at the point where play was ended.  The restart is either whatever the restart would be if play was ended at a stoppage of play – e.g., throw-in, corner kick, kick-off, etc. — or a dropped ball in favor of the team that last touched the ball when the whistle to end play was incorrectly sounded.

Once the referee has left the area of the field, he or she has to file a report.  If, in this report, the referee acknowledges an incorrect, early stoppage of play, it is up to the local competition authority to decide what to do about it.  They have three options.  First, they can order the game replayed in its entirety (as though the game in question had not happened),  Second, they can order that the game is accepted as played, despite the early stoppage, and the outcome stands with the score as is.  Third, they can order the game to be replayed from the moment of the early stoppage to the normal end of play and with all prior player events (e.g., goals, cards) kept in place as valid.  By the way, although this has no direct bearing on what the local competition authority decides, the Laws of the Game prescribe the first option for the highest level of games which are played under the authority of FIFA itself (i.e., international matches) if the match ends, for whatever reason, before the completion of scheduled time.…

Challenging the Goalkeeper

Greg, a senior amateur referee, asks:

When was Law 12.23 introduced?  In other words, when was “charging” a goalkeeper effectively banned ?

Answer

First of all, the reference to “law 12.23” is unfamiliar.  Law 12 only has 4 numbered sections. Perhaps you are referring to 12.23 in Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game (2010-2011 edition).  The relevant material in this section was rewritten and reorganized as 12.B.4 in the 2013-2014 edition of Advice (which was then discontinued after that edition).

Charging a goalkeeper was never banned as such.  It is entirely legal to charge a goalkeeper, provided that goalkeeper does not have hand control of the ball.

As regards this restriction, there has been a gradual evolution of the Law.  In 1984, for example, Law 12 stated the following: “In case of body contact in the goal area between an attacking player and the opposing goalkeeper not in possession of the ball, the Referee, as sole judge of intention, shall stop the game if, in his opinion, the action of the attacking player was intentional, and award an indirect free kick.” This language remained, word-for-word, in the Law until 1995 when the scenario was rewritten to specify that charging the goalkeeper was an indirect free kick offense if it occurred while the goalkeeper was holding the ball, obstructing an opponent, or was outside his goal area.  Further, a player who interferes with the goalkeeper’s effort to put the ball back into play is punished by an indirect free kick.

This stayed in effect for several years but then, in 1997-98, the language was simplified further by declaring that preventing a goalkeeper from releasing the ball into play with his hands was an indirect free kick offense anywhere inside the goalkeeper’s penalty area.

The Law on this subject has not changed materially from then up through the current Lawbook. Simply described, an opponent can charge a goalkeeper (providing the charge itself is legal, i.e., not careless, reckless, or done with excessive force) only if the goalkeeper is not in hand control of the ball.  If the goalkeeper does have hand control of the ball, any attempt at even an otherwise legal charge is taken as an interference of the goalkeeper’s release of the ball into play and results in an indirect free kick restart.  Of course, if this occurs as a result of a charge which is itself illegal, the restart would be a direct free kick because that takes priority as the more serious offense.…

Organizing Walls … Not!

Simon, an adult amateur fan, asks:

If a ref awards a direct free kick and measures out the 10 yards, should he wait until the goalkeeper has organized the wall and is ready before he restarts play? Secondly. If the aforementioned freekick comes from a foul by the goalkeeper, resulting in his sending off, should enough time be allowed for the keeper to get into place and organize the wall?

Answer

We have to correct several misconceptions – for all direct and indirect free kick restarts, there is no obligation for anyone, including the referee, to hold up that restart so that anyone organizes a wall!  Free kicks can be taken immediately, without any signal by the referee.  The only time a free kick is delayed is if the referee decides to make the restart “ceremonial” (meaning a whistle is required before the restart can be taken) and the referee is the only one who can make that decision.

Further, referees are neither expected nor required to measure out 10 yards.  The Law requires that opponents immediately withdraw to a minimum of 10 yards from the restart location.  If any opponent does not and this excessively delays the restart, he or she is subject to a caution for “failing to respect the required distance” – only new or hesitant referees ever measure out any required distance.  A common reason for the referee to hold up the restart is if the attacking team specifically asks for the minimum 10 yard distance to be enforced and, under these circumstances, the referee might move to some point on the field and direct all opponents closer to the restart location than that point to move back – a failure to do so or to unnecessarily delay moving back could also lead to a caution for any of the recalcitrant opponents.

Finally, if the goalkeeper commits a direct free kick foul inside his/her own penalty area, the restart is NOT a “free kick” but a penalty kick.  Penalty kicks are always ceremonial and the referee will not give the signal for the PK unless and until all parties, including the replacement goalkeeper and the designated PK taker, are in their proper place.  This would clearly include allowing time for the replacement goalkeeper to enter the field and take up his/her proper position on the goal line between the goal posts.  If the foul by the goalkeeper was an indirect free kick offense or if it was a DFK offense but was committed outside the goalkeeper’s penalty area, then the only obligation of the referee is to not allow the restart to occur until the red-carded goalkeeper has left the field and the defending team’s replacement goalkeeper is reasonably close to his/her goal (in other words, the referee wouldn’t whistle to restart play just as soon as the replacement goalkeeper enters the field).  See the opening 2 paragraphs above regarding the “organize the wall” issue.  If it is a PK, in fact, there is no “wall” anyway.…

Being Substituted

(The following inquiry from Heibel could not be answered directly — our private response was rejected as undeliverable)

Heibel, an adult amateur player, asks:

During the match, one of my players was subbed out and was leaving from the far side of the field, referee cards him a yellow, we ask for an explanation, ref doesn’t give one. Later in the game, I get called to sub out, I take a couple steps to leave the field from the far side but remember what happened to the other play so I immediately change direction and go towards the center of the field where the oncoming player is, I ran off at slightly less than a sprint. The ref cards me my second yellow saying i was wasting time. Now I have a red card, can’t play in the final. Should I argue it? Or was it a right call?

Answer

The Law requires (as of this year) that, with certain exceptions, players being subbed out to leave the field must exit at the closest point relative to the field’s perimeter lines (e.g., touch or goal line).

As for a card, well, it seems ill-advised.  A caution could be given if the referee decided the departing player was deliberately and clearly wasting time under circumstances where such wasting was meaningful (i.e., your team is 1 goal up with just 45 seconds remaining in the half and the stoppage involves a restart under the control of the opposing team where, with luck, the opposing team might score).  A caution is hardly mandatory and would not be given ordinarily merely because a departing player was moving off the field toward the usual, traditional, though never actually mandated location of the midfield line on the team side of the field just because that was farther away than some other exit point.

Frankly, we don’t understand the basis for the red card you mentioned receiving … unless you had already received a caution earlier in the game.  In any event, we don’t have a clear mental picture regarding what path you took in leaving the field.  You say that you momentarily began leaving by moving to the “far side” but it is not clear whether you were referring to a path that would take you off the field by the longest distance or you were using the term “far side” as a traditional reference to the side of the field opposite to the team side.  In any event, we also don’t know what you meant by changing direction to the “center of the field where the oncoming player is.”  The latter makes no sense unless you were meaning to say that you began moving to the side of the field from which the incoming player entered (which, for entering players, is still mandated in most cases).

The first point, however, is that, just as with the other player in this scenario, you were required to leave the field at the nearest point of the touch or goal line, regardless of which direction this took you.  Further, unless you WERE already sitting on a caution from some earlier incident, the prior caution for your teammate is not included in YOUR card count.  The card is given to a PERSON, not a TEAM.  Finally, we have as little support for the caution to you for “time wasting” as was already expressed for the earlier caution for the same reason – if either of you were in fact wasting time (a decision which must be based on actual wasting of meaningful time and not merely predicated on merely leaving the field on a longer path than the Law allows), then the caution is justified but only under the circumstances just outlined and only if the time being wasted was meaningful and not technical.

Referees should be conservative as regards unnecessary cards – a simple reminder to a departing player that he/she is now required to leave at the closest point (which, remember, was the reason given by the International Board for the change!) should be adequate.  Keep in mind that there is, after all, a maximum of 1,200 feet of touch+goal lines encompassing an international match field (1,380 feet if not international) and, technically, there is exactly only one precise point in all that distance that is “nearest” which any player must use in exiting in order to meet the “closest point” requirement.  Like so much in the Law, some measure of common sense must be applied and that common sense is based on actual, meaningful time-wasting which a player stubbornly, deliberately engages in despite being warned by the referee.

As for arguing, the answer is no, don’t bother.  If you are really bothered, file a complaint.…

Post-Game Misconduct

Kate, an adult amateur coach, asks:

At what point after the game does a referee’s jurisdiction end ? I am the secretary of a club and have received a suspension notice from our regional governing body. The referee saw 2 players mouthing off at each other in the car park approximately 20 minutes to half an hour after the game had ended. There was no physical contact . I have been told the players have been suspended and the matter passed to an arbitrator .

Answer

Under the Law and in accordance with standard mechanics/policies from US Soccer (which, from the language of your inquiry, suggests to us is not your governing body), the referee’s authority after a game lasts while the referee remains “in the area” of the field.  This is normally taken to include only the immediate environs – which, in turn, generally extends roughly about as far outside the field as a bit beyond the depth of the team areas.  Unfortunately, the Law/policy on this presumes a high level game played in a stadium so all that we said operationally means in such circumstances that the referee remains responsible until the officiating team exits the field into the stadium.  In practice and for everyday games where there are no changing rooms or stadiums, this becomes much looser.

However, we are more concerned about the passage of time in your scenario.  Short of a general melee involving whole teams, there is no reason for an official to remain in the area of the field for discipline matters for more than 10-15 minutes – even if the referee had to remain in the general area due to another assignment following soon after the game in question.

All this resolves into a fairly clear but at times indeterminate set of levels of concern.  Cards can only be shown to players or team officials during the match.  Once the match is over, the referee is responsible for including in the game’s official report to the competition authority any misconduct by players or team officials only while the persons committing misconduct and the referee are both still “in the area of the field” and only for a relatively short time — everyone has places to go and things to do so there is no good reason for sticking around.  At this second level of responsibility, the referee can include a general description of the misconduct plus a statement of what card and under what category of misbehavior that card would have been given had the conduct occurred during the game itself.  After this, the Law envisions no referee responsibility as a referee for any conduct by anyone.  Of course, depending on the behavior, there are civil or criminal remedies that parties can pursue.

Personally, we would suggest that the behavior in question occurred too long after the game and too far away from the field to remain clearly within the responsibility of the referee.  Of course, a league organization might well decide that it wishes to deal with behavior that, in their opinion, might reflect negatively on the organization’s reputation and might wish to gather information from the referee, not as a referee but as an ordinary witness to the event.…

Attackers/Defenders and Goalkeeper Interference

Tim, a U13 – U19 player, asks:

I have two questions:
1. I was called for a foul in game for blocking the goalkeeper from punting the ball. But after searching the rule online, I found that my play was not like any of the given circumstances. As the goalkeeper tossed the ball up to punt it, I started my run up toward the keeper and, after he made contact with the ball, I blocked it. The ref said that I blocked the the keeper, but I don’t think that makes sense. What does blocking the keeper really mean?
2. What counts as an attacking position? In that same game mentioned in the first question, the ref called the game over after a player on my team lost the ball after he was elbowed in the face. The ball rolls out of the box and the ref does not call a foul, but ends the game. His reasoning was that time had been up and we were out of an attacking position. But 8 players of our team, plus the entire other team were in the box, and our players were the closest to the ball at that point. So what is an attacking position exactly?

Answer

Purely as a matter of Law, there is no such offense as “blocking the keeper” – what you described is, using the terminology of the Law, interfering with the goalkeeper’s release of the ball into play.  That “release” is further understood to include the process of physically releasing the ball in preparation for a kick.  In your first scenario, you definitely interfered.  As a matter of mechanics, however, most referees would have stepped in the moment they saw you not only NOT retreating but, worse, moving closer, and shouted for you to get back.  Failing to do so is not only an offense (indirect free kick restart) but also cautionable as unsporting behavior.

The Laws of the Game provide a relatively simple answer to your second question.  By common definition, every player on the team which has control of the ball or which last had control of the ball is an attacker … everyone else is a defender.  This includes circumstances in which the ball is not in play, in which case the team that has the restart are the attackers.  The only time in a game in which there are no attackers or defenders is during the midgame break.…

Jersey Numbers

Christopher, a High School & College referee, asks:

The keeper wearing jersey #31 was injured and replaced with a substitute keeper wearing jersey #1.  This keeper then got a red card and had to leave the field. A player on the field became a keeper but wearing the same jersey #1 worn by the keeper who was red carded.  Is this permitted?

Answer

This is less a matter of Law than a matter of procedure governed by the local rules of competition.  Another way of putting it is that we have no particular answer to it because it is not strictly a Law question – the Law per se has nothing to say about jersey numbers, only the fact that the keeper’s jersey has to be clearly distinguishable from the jerseys of everyone else and that, in turn, is solely a matter of color (and secondarily, of design).

The purpose of jersey numbering has little to do with distinguishing field players from goalkeepers and much more to do with (a) maintaining a “clean” team roster and (b) enabling the referee to record jersey numbers rather than actual player names if/when there is ever a need to record behavior generally and cards specifically for the match report at the end of the match.  For example, the local rules of competition might well have a requirement that each player and substitute have a unique number on the jersey which matches the a number identifying the player in the roster given to the referee before the start of the game.  It also depends on the level of competition because, at lower levels, teams generally may not have sufficient funds to have uniquely numbered “backup” jerseys in cases like goalkeeper replacement and/or replacement of a damaged and/or bloody jersey.

By the way, note that, as part of the point made earlier that the Law has nothing to say regarding jersey numbers, there is certainly nothing requiring goalkeepers to wear any particular number (e.g., 1) or that a replacement player has to wear a jersey with the same number as worn by the player who was replaced.  At most, local rules might require that any jersey numbers noted on a team’s roster might need to be adjusted as/when there is a change.…