1. The ball deflects over the goal line to give Team A a corner kick. Player A1 retrieves the ball, which is about 15 yards beyond the end line and in line with the side of the penalty area, and throws it to teammate A2 who is positioned by the corner flag. A2 quickly takes a corner kick while A1, who is still a couple of yards out of bounds, is running diagonally towards a position on the field in front of the near post. A1 enters the field unmarked as the kick is in the air, and he scores on a header. Even though he was off the field when the ball was initially played, is this a legal goal since he had a legitimate reason for being off the field? Does it matter that he did not re-enter at the nearest point of the field instead running diagonally towards a spot nearer the goal? Is there any reason that the referee should delay the corner kick until he returns to play?
2. Same general scenario, but the ball goes out of touch at the 35-yard line for a throw-in for Team A in its offensive end. A1 retrieves the ball in line with the 25 yard line – about 10 yards out of bounds – and throws it back to A2 to take the throw-in. A1 then runs diagonally towards the field, entering at the 18-yard line, behind the defense who apparently hasn’t noticed him. He runs onto a long throw-in and eventually scores. Good goal? Should the referee hold up play in a situation like this?
USSF answer (June 6, 2011):
1. If it is clear to the referee that there was no duplicity in this situation, then it was probably legal. To avoid such situations (and their concomitant problems) in the future, the referee should hold up play until the player has returned to the field of play. There is no requirement that the player must return to the field at the same point from which he left.
2. Same answer. Plus, the referee must be aware of this player’s position in situations where, depending on the sequence of play, the returning player might be in an offside position.
The referee should always ensure that all players (other than the taker) are on the field when play is restarted from off the field.
NOTE: The referee is not responsible for poor defensive play. The Laws of the Game were not written to compensate for the mistakes of the players.