Throwing things

From a referee in Romania:

LOG USSF edition 2015/2016  writes at page no. 128: “If a player standing inside the field of play throws an object at any person standing outside the field of play, the referee restarts play with an indirect free kick from the position of the ball when play was stopped (see Law 13 – Position of free kick).”  This situation is not presented expressly in the LOG 2016/2017.  How should we handle a situation in which, for example, the goalkeeper aggressively throws the ball at a person off the field of play?


It’s always difficult to figure out what to do when there is no explicit guidance.  The best approach is to continue doing what the Law has said in the past because the prior guidance has not been specifically modified or rejected.  So, in short, continue following the prescribed restart:  an indirect free kick where the ball was when play was stopped.  However, that said, your question also raises two issues that we might usefully address.  First, why is it an indirect free kick?  Second, what does “where the ball was” mean in practice?

Although we use an indirect free kick because this is what the Law says (or said last year, as well as for many years before), it often helps to know the reason.  The Law involving thrown objects generally is based on the notion that, whenever anything is thrown, the object becomes an extension of the hand.  For example, if a player throws a rock at an opponent during play, this is considered a form of “striking” with the rock simply standing in for the fist.  Aside from the misconduct, where is the restart for this striking?  It is where the target was struck (or where the target ducked and avoided being actually hit).  It is as though the player had run up to that opponent and swung his fist.  Where the target is off the field, then, the thrown object leaving the field means that the thrower, in effect, left the field (there is, of course, still misconduct).  What is the restart if you stop play for a player who has illegally left the field?  An indirect free kick!

Now, as to the issue of the location of the restart, we come to a problem.  Wherever in the law an indirect free kick is specified as the restart and the location is not the usual “location of the offense,” the alternate location is “where the ball was when play was stopped.” (See, for example, the restart specified in Law 4 for a player re-entering the field without permission after being ordered off to correct or change equipment).  In all such cases, the location of the ball at the time of stoppage is easily determined because the ball has remained on the field.  This is true even in the case of a thrown object where the object is not the ball, but it is not true when the object is the ball and the ball has been thrown at something off the field.  Moreover, when has play actually been stopped?  Most people assume that this occurs only upon hearing a whistle but, actually, it is when the referee has decided to stop play.  In practice, though, by the time the dust settles, two things are locked in everyone’s mind — play is stopped and the ball is off the field. Since we do not restart play from off the field, we have to come up with something else — something consistent with the spirit of the Law.  Two location possibilities come to mind.  One is where the ball was last on the field when all this started and that would be where the thrown ball crossed the field’s boundary line.  The other is where the goalkeeper was when he or she launched the throw.  Either is supportable but, for various reasons, we would recommend defining “where the ball was” based on the position of the goalkeeper (it is probably the quickest to determine and the easiest to sell).