U 17 higher level girl’s game. Ball is played toward the goalkeeper and it is obvious that the goalkeeper will get the ball although there is an attacking player in an offside position a substantial distance away from the goal area. As ball is going toward the goalkeeper referee is distracted by other events taking place on the field and looks away and does not notice that the assistant referee has signaled offside although the attacker clearly was not going to get the ball and was not attempting to play the ball. Whistle is not blown and offside is not signaled by center referee. When center referee looks back, goalkeeper in reliance on the assistant referee’s signal has carried the ball outside the penalty area in line with the assistant referee, placed it on the ground and is preparing to take kick. Attacking team wants hand ball called for carrying the ball outside the penalty area. Your opinion on the proper way to have handled the situation?

USSF answer (November 12, 2008):
The principal error here was the mistake was made by the player — taking the assistant referee’s signal as an indication that play has stopped (particularly given the “U 17 higher level” of the competition). We can apply these ancient words of wisdom to the situation: “The Laws of the Game were not written to compensate for the mistakes of players.”  The referee should either drive this point home to the goalkeeper by calling deliberate handling or, if feeling kindly at that time and perhaps a bit embarrassed, the referee could whistle to stop play, declare that the whistle was inadvertent, and restart with a dropped ball (because of the stoppage with no accompanying infringement or, as in this case, a trifling violation).

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