TRICKERY

Question:
Under Law 12, Decision 3 deals with ‘Trickery’. Within this there seems to be a position among some referees that ‘Trickery’ – bringing the ball from your feet to your head – is a stand alone violation and should be called anytime it is observed, however this happens frequently during play all over the pitch.

At issue is that frequently players under the pressure of an opponent bring the ball from their feet to their head and play it over the opponent to a team mate or their keeper who strikes the ball with their foot, clearing the ball upfield, out and away from pressure.

Some referees say this was accomplished using ‘Trickery’ and a violation should be called with a yellow card given and an IFK as a restart.

What is the correct application of ‘Trickery’ in this instance?

USSF answer (October 15, 2008):
There are no longer any International F. A. Board decisions appended to Law 12. They were in the 2007/2008 edition of the Laws. Decision 3 of 2007/2008 reads:

Decision 3
Subject to the terms of Law 12, a player may pass the ball to his own goalkeeper using his head or chest or knee, etc. If, however, in the opinion of the referee, a player uses a deliberate trick while the ball is in play in order to circumvent the Law, the player is guilty of unsporting behavior. He is cautioned, shown the yellow card and an indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team from the place where the infringement occurred. * (see page 3)
A player using a deliberate trick to circumvent the Law while he is taking a free kick is cautioned for unsporting behavior and shown the yellow card. The free kick is retaken.
In such circumstances, it is irrelevant whether the goalkeeper subsequently touches the ball with his hands or not. The offense is committed by the player in attempting to circumvent both the letter and the spirit of Law 12.

That text is now found in the back of the Laws for 2008/2009, under Interpretations and Guidelines for Referees in reference to cautionable offenses:

* uses a deliberate trick while the ball is in play to pass the ball to his own goalkeeper with his head, chest, knee, etc. in order to circumvent the Law, irrespective of whether the goalkeeper touches the ball with his hands or not. The offense is committed by the player in attempting to circumvent both the letter and the spirit of law 12 and play is restarted with an indirect free kick
* uses a deliberate trick to pass the ball to his own goalkeeper to circumvent the Law while he is taking a free kick (after the player is cautioned, the free kick must be retaken)

It is clear from the text and from accepted use throughout the world — well maybe not in the United States, where “those foreigners” are not allowed to tell us anything — that the IFAB’s meaning is that trickery occurs only when a player is passing the ball to his/her own goalkeeper. It does not occur when the ball is passed to some other player.

Furthermore, just to lock it down tightly, the misconduct offense requires the referee to decide that the action was done to circumvent the Law. ┬áMerely observing that the ball was played from foot to head is not enough, even if the ball subsequently goes to or toward the GK. ┬áBecause we are dealing with misconduct here (the “trickery”) and not the foul commonly referred to as “pass back to the keeper,” we are required to evaluate the intentions of the defender.

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