I had an incident in a recent match which, despite much reflection, review of The Laws (and position papers, etc…), and deliberation with other referees, is still unsettled in my mind.
Basically, the situation involves a shot by ORANGE that is without any doubt on a path to enter YELLOW’s goal. Yellow defender (not the goalkeeper) while on the goal-line, between the uprights, leaps and handles the ball in mid-air directly back onto the field of play. I stop play, look to my AR to see if he has information, and he beckons me over. His words were simple “Ball went in the goal. Still a caution to [Yellow defender who handled the ball] for misconduct.”
Now, it’s my understanding that a player can be cautioned for unsuccessfully attempting to deny an obvious goal (say, by handling it, or some other foul). But the controversy here is whether or not you can still caution this Yellow player if the ball had already entered the goal when he handled it. [FYI – In this case, if the ball crossed the plane of the goal as the AR stated, then the ball MUST have entered before he batted the ball away from the goal with his hand.]
Support for cautioning Yellow was the 7+7 memo a few years ago, saying that an attempting to deny a goal/opportunity can be a caution. Support for not cautioning Yellow is that handling the ball after a goal is scored is not an offense because the ball is now out of play.
I lean towards the latter being the correct course of action (award the goal and no caution), but I need some insight outside of my immediate peers and leadership (too many strong, yet opposing opinions here). The only I seem to be able to conclude is that this is a gray area of The Laws. If you confirm that idea or offer a different conclusion, great. Thank you in advance for any guidance on this. If you need clarification on any of my descriptions, or lack thereof, please ask.
USSF answer (May 27, 2008):
The case for a caution for the apparent misconduct after the goal was already scored is iffy — not nonexistent, but iffy. Depending on the circumstances and on what had been occurring in this game up to that moment, the referee could defend a caution based on the argument that the player’s action was taken with the intent of preventing a goal and the fact that it was not only unsuccessful but too late as well does not eliminate the intent. A better solution might be to simply warn the player and remark on his good fortune that he might only have been attempting to prevent the ball from hitting the netting at the back of the goal because it appeared weak and likely to tear.
In any event, you will not find this and many other examples of unsporting behavior documented anywhere. They belong to that category of actions known as bringing the game into disrepute, for which a caution (under the category of unsporting behavior) should be given.