Please provide the proper restarts for your answers on March 10, 2010 (text follows). I agree the goalkeeper cautioned, and the player or substitute is sent off for DOGSO – handling. In addition, would cautioning the substitute for unsporting behavior also be in the Spirit of the Game?

I believe the restart is a penalty kick if a player on the field exchanged places with the goalkeeper without informing the referee and committed DOGSO – handling,
but the restart is an indirect free kick from the place where the ball was when play was stopped if a substitute came on the field and exchanged places with the goalkeeper without informing the referee and committed DOGSO – handling.

I appreciate your clarifications.

Q&A OF MARCH 10, 2010


What would you do if a goalkeeper ran off the field and another player took his place without the referee knowing it during play. Also, the other team shoots and the new goalkeeper blocks it over the goal. Then you realize the keeper change. What do you do?

Answer (March 10, 2010):

We have a problem here with the description of the situation. Was this a “player” who was already on the field in another position or was it one of the substitutes from the bench?

The decision would be easy if it had been a player on the field who exchanged places — without informing the referee — with the ‘keeper (who then remained on the field): Allow play to continue and then caution both at the next stoppage.

However, based on your description, it seems that a substitute (loosely called a “player”) came on the field and replaced the former goalkeeper. The presents the referee with a totally different set of circumstances:
1. The referee’s acquiescence was not requested nor given for any substitution or exchange.
2. The goalkeeper deliberately left the field of play without the referee’s permission, so he must be cautioned.
3. The new goalkeeper entered the field without the referee’s permission and is thus still a substitute who has entered the field without permission and then denied the opposing team a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity.

That places the incident squarely under the sending-off offenses in Law 12: A player, substitute or substituted player is sent off if he commits any of the following seven offenses:
* denying the opposing team a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball (this does not apply to a goalkeeper within his own penalty area)

Therefore, because the substitute is not a player and certainly not a goalkeeper, he must be sent off in accordance with the Law.

USSF answer (May 31, 2010):
Don’t forget that we were dealing with two distinct possibilities in that scenario. We did not know if the “player” was a player already on the field who took over for the goalkeeper or whether it was a substitute who entered without permission.

There are two choices here — because two persons committed misconducts (there would be no fouls here, and certainly not handling because the player with the keeper jersey has the power of the ‘keeper to handle the ball even if he made the swap illegally). What were the offenses? The field player and the goalkeeper each should be cautioned for the illegal swap and the proper time to do this is at the next stoppage, in this case due to the ball leaving the field last touched by the goalkeeper (therefore a corner kick). However, the original goalkeeper also committed misconduct by leaving the field illegally, which is normally an indirect free kick for the opposing team where the ball was when play was stopped. Here, however, the play was stopped for the corner kick and, in any event, it would be more advantageous for the opposing team to retain the corner kick than to be given an indirect free kick. So, caution the field player and caution the original goalkeeper — a second caution for the illegal exit for the original goalkeeper is consistent with the Law but the referee could decide not to make this a second yellow and thus have to send off the original goalkeeper. Start with a corner kick.

In this scenario, two players have committed five acts of misconduct. The substitute (1) entered the field illegally, (2) illegally changed places with the goalkeeper, and (3) prevented an obvious goal scoring opportunity by handling the ball. The original goalkeeper (4) illegally changed places with the substitute and (5) illegally left the field. The Interpretation tells us, however, that the restart is determined by the illegal entry of the substitute onto the field, no matter what other offenses that substitute may commit thereafter. We also know that, although it would technically be correct to issue a caution for (1) or (2) to the substitute, the real (and most serious offense) was the prevention of the goal. So, send off the substitute for DGH and include a description of his other misconducts in your game report. Caution the original goalkeeper for the illegal exchange of places with the goalkeeper and, as above, decide whether a second caution for the illegal departure from the field would be in the best interests of the game as it would result of course in a red card. The problem here is the restart. Normally, this would be an indirect free kick for the substitute illegally entering the field placed where the ball was when play was stopped … but play wasn’t stopped for this offense, it was stopped because the ball left the field. However, Law 3 tells us that the illegal entry of a substitute doesn’t have to cause an immediate stoppage “if the substitute … does not interfere with play” — there are few more obvious or serious ways to interfere with play than stopping a ball from going into the net. Accordingly, play should be considered to have stopped when the substitute handled the ball and the opponents should be given an indirect free kick where the ball was when it was handled by the substitute.

Of course, the officiating team would not be facing such challenges if any of them had been more observant and caught the problem at its source instead of allowing it to expand past any easy solution.

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