There was a situation in a game that I witnessed today that raised some concern.
Team B had scored a goal. At this point they were losing 5-2. Team A , (ahead), recovered the ball in order to kick off and restart the game. As the player from Team A was carrying the ball back to the center without unnecessary delay, a player from Team B punched at the ball in order to dislodge it from the player on Team A. The player from Team A was able to retain possession of the ball and continued to advance toward the center of the field. The player from Team B at this time punched the player from Team A in the arm, again attempting to dislodge the ball.
No fouls were called.
Two questions come up, does the team against whom the goal was scored have the right to advance the ball back to center, as long as it is done without delay of the game? Who legally has possession of the ball after the goal is scored. Obviously the player who threw the punch is in gross misconduct of the laws of the game and should have been sent off, but was not. Only wondering about who can legally advance the ball back to kick off.
Answer (October 9, 2007):
The reason no “fouls” were called during the movement of the ball back to the center of the field is that no foul may be committed when play has already been stopped. The referee should have punished both players for their misconduct.
After the referee has stopped play for the goal, the ball, although “dead” until play is restarted with a kick-off, does belong to the team against which the goal was scored. Traditionally the ball is carried back to the center spot by the team against which the goal was scored (Team A). A player who provokes confrontation by deliberately touching the ball after the referee has stopped play may be cautioned for delaying the restart of play. (See the Additional Instructions and Guidelines for Referees in the back of the Laws of the Game 2007/2008.) This would be the case of the player from the scoring team (B) who was interfering with the Team A player carrying the ball to the center of the field.
The team which has possession (A) may “allow” the opposing team to hold/transfer/carry/etc. the ball by acceding to the action (i.e., not disputing it). However, the opposing team does this at its peril. In the incident cited, Team B, perhaps believing that A was moving too slowly to carry the ball back to the center circle for the kick-off, tried to take the ball that “belonged” to Team A. Team B has no right at any time to request that the ball be given over to it (including such childish behavior as attempting to punch the ball out of the Team A player’s control, and even less to punch the opponent’s arm directly).
The Team B player should have been cautioned for delaying the restart of play when he/she initially tried to take the ball away from Team A. If this had occurred, perhaps the subsequent punch by B would have been avoided. If the two actions happened so closely together that the referee had no time to issue the caution, then the Team B player should have been sent off for violent conduct and the attempt to delay the restart included in the match report as additional misconduct.