This is a two part question
Part 1, I just took my recertification exam and had an disagreement not only with the instructor but with every one in the course about Law 12 and passing back to the keeper. I received my first referee certification in 1992 and when we were going through that course we were told, in the area of passing back to the keeper who would then touch the ball with their hands, that if a player for the keepers team passes the ball in the air to a teammate who then heads it back to the keeper than those players are cautioned for trying to circumvent the law and should be cautioned and a indirect free kick is awarded. In this course, everyone there including the instructor, said that that is a legal play and neither player should be cautioned; in fact the instructor said he would congratulate the players on being so inventive and that the law says you can pass the ball back with your head. Did I miss something here? Wouldn’t that also be trying to circumnavigate the law, or am I going crazy and that part of the law never existed?

Part 2, what started all of this is in Law 12 under decisions of the IFA Board, it states “A player using a deliberate trick to circumvent the Law while he is taking a free kick, is cautioned for unsporting behavior and showing the yellow card. The kick is retaking. In such a circumstances, it is irrelevant weather 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 sprit of law 12.”

Here’s the knock – if, like the instructor said, this only applies if the player flicks the ball to himself and then heads it back to his keeper, why doesn’t law 13 go in to effect and do to the fact he has touched it twice the ball goes to the other team as an indirect free kick. Or if the player does pass to a team mate to head back to his keeper than why would you not show both a yellow card and give the ball to the other team as an indirect free kick? Here is my other problem with this decision, what if defender A is taking an indirect free kick and passes it across the field to teammate B, who gets pleasure from offensive player 1, and tries to pass the ball back to his keeper, who never touches the ball with his hands, because that’s the only outlet he has at the time, player B gets a yellow card and the indirect free kick goes back to the defending team and they get to re-kick. This decision seems kind of dumb to me.

USSF answer (December 19, 2007):
O tempora, o mores! Things have changed since 1992, when FIFA issued Circular 488 on July 24. The sense of the circular was encapsulated in an article in Fair Play, the USSF referee magazine, in 1998. Nothing has changed but the way the Laws are numbered and the replacement in the Laws of “ungentlemanly conduct” with “unsporting behavior.”

What about players who seek to get around the Letter of the Law? In response to numerous queries from around the world, FIFA issued its Circular Number 488 on July 24, 1992. Circular 488 will not appear in the Laws of the Game, but must be known and understood by every referee. Because they directly affect the way in which the referee will treat time wasting, it is worthwhile to quote the Circular at length:Subject to the terms of Law XII, 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 in order to circumvent the amendment to Law XII, the player will be guilty of ungentlemanly conduct and will be punished accordingly in terms of Law XII; that is to say, the player will be cautioned and an indirect free-kick will be awarded to the opposing team from the place where the player committee the offense.

Examples of such tricks would include: a player who deliberately flicks the ball with his feet up onto his head in order to head the ball to his goalkeeper; or, a player who kneels down and deliberately pushes the ball to the goalkeeper with his knee, etc.

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 text and the spirit of Law XII, and the referee must only be convinced that this was the player’s motive.

It is obvious from the text of Circular 488 that players who use trickery in an attempt to get around the conditions of the amendment to Law XII must be dealt with immediately and firmly. The initiator of the trickery must be cautioned for ungentlemanly conduct and the match properly restarted. If the ball was already in play, an indirect free-kick from the spot where the initiator touched-not merely “kicked”-the ball is appropriate. If the ball was out of play, the restart for a violation depends upon how the circumvention began. If the action began from a free-kick or goal-kick that was properly taken, the restart will again be an indirect free-kick from the spot where the initiator of the trickery played it, regardless of whether he took the kick or was further along in the sequence of play. If the goal-kick or free-kick was _not_ properly taken, then the restart must be that goal-kick or free-kick. This could lead to a situation where the offending team has a player cautioned (or sent off for a second cautionable offense), but still retains the ball on the restart.

You would seem to have met a wise instructor; however, we hope that this instructor also noted that if this was from a restart, the player who flicked the ball to his/her head had committed a “double touch,” which would automatically be punished with an indirect free kick. If this occurred during play, then no offense is committed.

We have stated consistently and definitively:
The Law was rewritten in 1997 to reduce the number of options available to players for wasting time. Playing the ball to one’s goalkeeper was traditionally used as a way of “consuming” time. By the time the Law was rewritten, the practice had become synonymous with time wasting. Normal interplay of the ball among teammates is not a matter of concern to any referee; however, the referee must be concerned with obvious deliberate attempts to circumvent the requirements of the Law. In this case the player using the deliberate trick to circumvent the Law is committing unsporting behavior, for which he must be cautioned and shown the yellow card.

One clue to the correctness of the player’s action is whether it is a natural part of play or is clearly artificial and intended only to circumvent the Law. In such cases, the action is considered misconduct whether it ultimately is touched by the goalkeeper or not. Indeed, the misconduct should be whistled before the goalkeeper even has a chance to touch it.

This would also apply to a ball kicked by a player to a teammate, who then heads the ball to the ‘keeper. In most cases this would be considered to be a part of normal play.

On July 23, 2002, we stated:

If a goal-kick, taken by the goalkeeper, goes to a teammate outside the penalty area, who heads the ball back to the goalie, this does not infringe the requirements of Law 12. The referee must recognize the difference between situations during dynamic play, when opponents are constantly exerting pressure, and events developing from static situations, such as free-kicks, when the opposing team must be at least ten yards from the ball. The referee must always consider the distance between members of opposing teams as well as members of the same team before making the call.

The final information comes in an answer of November 14, 2007:

When speaking of trickery in playing the ball toward the goalkeeper, we normally think of this as occurring during restarts, not during dynamic play. A player who goes down on hands and knees to head the ball during dynamic play is not committing trickery.
With that point established, consider our response of August 29, 2007, to another question on trickery:
“When considering the possibility of trickery, the referee must decide if the action was natural (a normal sort of play, the sort of thing you would see in any sequence of play) or contrived (an artificial, unnatural play, which, in the referee’s opinion, is intended solely for the purpose of circumventing the Law and preventing the opponents from challenging for the ball).”The call is always in the opinion and at the discretion of the referee, who is the only person capable of making the judgment as to the nature of the kick. If there is any doubt in the referee’s mind as to the nature of the play, then common sense should prevail. Unless the referee believes plays like this to be trickery, there is no need to make a call.”

Consider also that the goalkeeper infringes the Law by handling a throw-in only if it has come directly to him or her from a throw-in taken by a teammate.

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