Where Does the Fault Fall?

Max, a U13 – U19 player, asks:

If someone has tripped on the field, is it legal to jump over them in order to get the ball on the other side?


A qualified yes.  “Qualified” because the actual, on the field, answer depends on several specific measurements that have to be made in a fraction of a second (and the assumption that the jumper and the faller are opponents).

First, how “down on the ground” is the player who tripped?  Is he flat on the ground or just down on the elbows and knees, or higher.  Second, at the moment of deciding to jump over the downed player, does it look like it just happened or it was a hard fall such that the player is “down for the count” (i.e., not likely to get up until after the leap over him)?  Obviously the more “down on the ground” the player is AND the less likely it is that the downed player is likely to start getting up, the more reasonable it is for the player going for the ball to try a jump over.

However, jumping over a player on the ground (unless the fall to the ground happened immediately right in front of the not-down player), is a risky decision and the burden of proof is on the jumper, not the faller.  In other words, if the jumper either takes no heed of the player on or going to the ground or even if the jumper makes an erroneously-decided jump, causing contact with the player on the ground, particularly if it results in an injury, it must be judged as the jumper’s fault.  Depending on the circumstances, contact with the downed player would probably result in a decision that the action was a careless (no card) or reckless (caution) foul.

Of course, probably on the rare side, the foul could be charged against the player who fell IF the referee, given all the facts and circumstances, decided that the leap over was reasonable but the downed player “retaliated” against the leaper by deliberately and knowingly attempting to get up for the sole purpose of bringing the leaper down (and preventing him from getting to the ball).  Given the assumption that such a decision by the fallen player was deliberate, the foul (tripping or attempting to kick) would be charged against the faller with a potential caution (recklessness).

An event like this could be evaluated in several different ways depending on how the referee assesses  the actions of the two players involved.