eam A is awarded a goal kick when the ball crosses over the goal line out of bounds by the attacking team B. Team A’s goal keeper takes the kick while a defender stays in the penalty area. The defender is only in the penalty area and not in the box directly in front of the goal. As soon as the kick crosses out of the penalty area the referee blows the whistle and stops play. Then awards Team B with a direct free kick on goal from outside the penalty box. I must add that no player touched the ball after the kick prior to it leaving the penalty box.

When asked to clarify the call after the game the explanation given by the referee was that no player other than the goal keeper may be in the penalty box unless they are in the box directly in front of the goal. If I read the rule correctly this is wrong and only the opposing players must remain outside the penalty box. In this case Team B.

Can you shed some light on this? Was this just a bad call or was there an infraction by having a player other than the goal keeper in the penalty box?

USSF answer (November 6, 2008):
Normally we would not offer an “official” response to this question, as it is something that every referee surely “knows.” However, it seems clear that at least one referee may not be aware of the fact that only the opposing team is required to remain outside the penalty area until the ball has left the penalty area. I think we all agree that the original decision about the supposed offense was crazy but the follow-up decision about the restart was outright insane.  I have to wonder how this referee would respond to a defender other than the goalkeeper preparing to take the goal kick (which is a common practice).  Is it possible that you may not have reported correctly the referee’s explanation? Maybe the referee was merely wrong rather than stupendously wrong.

Law 16 tell us:

• The ball is kicked from any point within the goal area by a player of the defending team
• Opponents remain outside the penalty area until the ball is in play

“A player” means any player on the team, whether the goalkeeper or a forward or a midfielder or a defender. “Opponents” means the other team, not the kicking team.

We might also reiterate, as it was asked in an earlier question, that the ball must leave the penalty area to be in play. It may do so either in the air or on the ground. There is no requirement that the ball must leave the kicker’s foot and remain in the air until it has left the area.

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