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With about 10 minutes left until match end, red is up by a goal. The red keeper is awarded a free kick for a poor challenge by blue from inside his own penalty area. The blue team aware of his ability to pound the ball a long way down field drop off to the midline.
Instead the red keeper chips the ball just outside his penalty area to a red defender who promptly heads the ball back into the red penalty area by the red keeper's feet. The red keeper bends down to pick the ball up but stops when he sees no blue players in the area. The red keeper simply stands and waits, dribbling the ball until an impatient blue player finally breaks way from the midfield to force the red keeper to pick up the ball. The red keeper takes possession and the blue attacker backs away so as not to interfere with the release. The red keeper goes to the opposite side of the Penalty area and tosses the ball to the red defender who promptly heads the ball back towards the red keeper and repeats the same waiting game until a blue attacker forces him to pick the ball up. Only this time the blue attacker tracks the movement of the red keeper who is unable to release he ball in under 6 seconds via the close pursuit by blue. He stops and yells at the referee how he cannot release the ball without possibly hitting the blue player. The blue player is yelling to the referee for red taking too long and wasting time.
Your Match Your Decision Your Reputation

Congratulations to those who formulated a response to the question.
Before you read further,

"I can explain it to you but I can not understand it for you!".

We ask that you remember our YOU call it is a made up scenario designed to poke at the outer edges of the LOTG as a fun exercise of WHAT IF?? What became evident as we engaged in the (WHAT IF?) possibilities, that as a group of referees, we are not in agreement on the concept of an individual referee's opinion of possible USB misconduct action versus the adaptation of players responding tactically to the LOTG as they are currently implemented and being taught by officials to use up time.

Despite prolonged, protracted and provocative discussions' via the back channels of the email chats and in the under the tent discussions. Where conviction and opinions battled, unswayed by the subtle or illuminating arguments of diametrically opposed referees, we arrive at an impasse where, ultimately, your conscience and current understanding of the LOTG will be your guide to seek out the nugget's of wisdom revealed and profound insights gleaned to arrive as to what answer you feel is correct, possible or ..a stretch.. as we agree to disagree and move on. If you were mislead to believe the responses from panel members and outside sources are to be the source of a definitive answer then we apologize here and now!

The message from FIFA/IFAB as Circular 1224 (2010) put it:

“It has been noted that certain associations and confederations are unilaterally issuing their own instructions and recommendations to referees within their territories concerning the enforcement of the Laws of the Game, thus increasing the chances of differing interpretations around the world. We would like to reiterate that the International Football Association Board (or FIFA on its behalf) is the only body with the authority to issue such additional instructions concerning the Laws of the Game in order to ensure uniform application worldwide.”

The Laws of the Game describe certain actions as either not being allowed or allowable. This YOU CALL IT scenario described is comprised of actions that in the opinion of many, are allowable play, using up time, NOT circumventing the law or wasting time, according to the LOTG. That includes the initial free kick pass by the red keeper to his team mate, who then heads the ball directly back towards the keeper. Also when he performs a second pass using his hands, to his team mate who then heads the ball directly back towards the keeper. Only when the blue player challenges does the keeper legally use his hands and only in the instant the blue player interferes with the keeper’s release of the ball back into play, is this action not allowed within the Laws of the Game. The Referee may decide to blow the whistle to stop play for the interference and award an indirect free kick to the red team and, according to the Laws, could choose to caution and show the yellow card to the blue player.

Offences committed against goalkeepers
• It is an offence for a player to prevent a goalkeeper from releasing the ball from his hands

Although some may feel that there is something unfair performed by the red keeper he is well within the Laws according to others. There is only legally playing the ball back and forth between teammates. Nothing the red keeper does is not permitted in law, nothing his teammates do is prohibited in law, it does not prevent a fair challenge by blue, nor is red responsible for blue's poor defending tactics.

Goalkeepers have of course, always tried different or implemented devised tactics to exploit the handling privilege in order to use up time but there is no trickery in using the LOTG as they are currently interpreted. Poor defending by blue, was in the opinion of many, a greater travesty than any potential red USB misconduct!

When the deliberately kicked portion of pass back law was first introduced some had a difficult time accepting the keeper COULD in fact deliberately kick the ball to himself when outside his penalty area and then pick it up when it was back inside his area! It appeared to us back then as if the KEEPER was using the LOTG in a way to circumvent the restriction that his TEAM MATES are under to get the ball to himself! Here in our scenario the keeper (or is it the player\/) has found a way to pass the ball to himself, twice. Now, as in then, has the keeper/players simply used tactical options, the LOTG have not YET restricted?

The first possible choice for USB is the keeper's original free kick from somewhere inside his own penalty area as he lifts/kicks the ball completely outside his PA to get the ball in play and his team mate heads the ball back towards the keeper from what we can assume is a standing position and that the 10 yds. distance, if required was respected. The keeper/player has ..contrived.. to get the ball back to the red keeper in a position where he gets to use his hands.

Is it a deliberate trick? Can we caution the keeper/player and retake the 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.

The 2nd possible choice for USB is when the keeper hand tosses/passes the ball onto the head of his team mate while play is ongoing (who may or may not be outside his penalty area) who heads the ball back towards the keeper. So has the keeper/player ..contrived.. once again to get the ball back to the keeper in a position where he gets to use his hands?

Is it a deliberate trick? Is it a lack of respect? Can we caution the keeper/player and award an INDFK from where the toss occurred subject to law 13 special circumstances in the goal area or where the player was subject to same special circumstances?

• acts in a manner which shows a lack of respect for the game
• 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 offence 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.

Since 1960s the gradual evolution of the keeper's handling accountability was being managed by the introducing of new laws and regulations such as the four steps, which brought out the Parry: the keeper's alternative to move the ball before taking steps or 2nd touch issues of ball control and the consecutive use of hands: the keeper trying within the LOTG to be creative and retain control. All these tactical nuances were created by the keeper trying to work within existing LOTG! The 6 second rule of control combined with the other 3 bucket points outlining the handling restrictions a keeper must contend with inside his own penalty area were all designed by IFAB and FIFA as a response to counter the then legal tactics of using time.

The inclusion of the USB clauses denouncing those who sought ways to undermine these concepts by trickery was, in the opinion of many, added to correct unforeseen imbalances. The one we are most familiar with is the use of a player's foot to flick the ball onto his head so he can pass the ball back to his keeper who has legal use of his hands and thus incontestable control. The reason was, this was the immediate tactical solution the players attempted when the LOTG first introduced the deliberate kick by a team mate restriction. Given the vagueness of circumstances how does one state with clarity or certainty as to who is responsible and just what is a deliberate trick attempting to circumvent both the letter and the spirit of Law 12? Law 12 is the most comprehensive and complicated law of the 17! It does sound rather inclusive as a broad spectrum antibiotic for unfair play does it not? Perhaps it ..HAS.. achieved its desired effect and speaks to any bullet portion of law contained within law 12. Is the Keeper guilty of receiving a tricky pass or gaining 6 seconds of uncontested usable time, through devious manipulation. Or has he merely use the pass options presently allowed under the LOTG?

Other than point out the USB tricky pass conditions mentioned in law 12 perhaps, already give referees' an option not to let such things ..pass.. ahem, unnoticed. In the past IFAB has seriously considered making any FORM of a deliberate pass to the keeper, a handling restriction! Keepers know the IFAB and FIFA respond to their tactics and perhaps do not wish to push the envelope of what they MIGHT get away with versus the repercussions that could be taken. Is it conceivable that IF players/keepers began or were seen trying to tactically use such methods as outlined in the you call it question and if they actually proved to be effective, the IFAB and FIFA could definitely reconsider making ANY FORM of a deliberate pass to the keeper, a handling restriction!

Whether one is willing to agree to disagree, it seems apparent that a number of referee hackles are quickly raised when they sense deviousness or the unusual and will look to the LOTG finding USB as an easy fix to correct actual misconduct misdeeds or even ..perceived.. misdeeds!
What are the repercussions if a referee chooses to see the red keeper actions as USB even though many maintain there is no basis in the LOTG as they see it under our you call it construct to call unsporting behavior? For the balance of that game, there is a question of game management. The team that is shown the yellow could be upset. After the game, depending on the rules of competition, there may be a protest, and a review. If the review board disagrees with the referee's decision, there may be consequences!

FIFA has demanded that referees deal quickly and firmly with timewasting tactics. One of the least understood forms of time wasting is trickery in passing the ball to the goalkeeper.
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. Players may pass the ball to their goalkeeper in any legal way and not infringe on the requirements of Law 12. It is when a player uses trickery that the referee must act. Trickery is any contrived scheme or unnatural way of playing the ball in an attempt to circumvent the requirements of Law 12 when passing the ball to the goalkeeper.... If more than one player was involved in the trickery, the question as to which defender to punish can be answered only by the referee. The referee must be sure that the sequence of play was meant to circumvent the Law and to prevent opponents from having a fair chance to compete for the ball rather than have it unfairly handled by the goalkeeper. If, in the referee’s opinion, there was trickery, then it is the teammate who played the ball immediately prior to it going to the goalkeeper who would be cautioned.

In closing I as the editor will offer this personal observation, I think the notion of 'circumventing the laws of the game' is one of the most ludicrous concepts in the game. Either make it illegal or don't! It violates no provision in any of the 17 LOTG for players including the keepers to use these passing tactics, if they are legal. A referee has no right to impose his version of FAIR PLAY or alter the LOTG just because he does not like the current LOTG, however, ALL officials have an opinion, based on their current level of understanding the LOTG as to the extent of their power, duties and responsibilities. We are instructed not to call trifling or doubtful violations. There is frequently an interpretive aspect to what we call or don't call, because we are instructed to make calls based on ITOOTR.

In our YOU CALL IT scenario there is nothing that ..appears.. illegal and without seeing the incident ..I ..would have a difficult time finding a reason to punish the goalkeeper. In both instances where the keeper passes the ball to his team mates, the distance separating the keeper from his team mate, such an action ..might.. be perceived with a greater degree of skepticism by me, if they were close together and surrounded by blue players. On the other hand, although it may seem unfair, the blue player does commit an actual offense by not letting the goalkeeper release the ball and that is an IDFK.
As Always Your Match Your Decision Your Reputation

1128 Kevin Pondy Columbia SC USA Referee
Blue is impeding the goalkeeper and preventing him from releasing the ball. It is an indirect free kick for red. Based on that single incident, I would not card the blue player as it isn't for time wasting or trying to break up an attack. The free kick and throw to the defender's head are both legal, as they are not a deliberate tricks but a natural part of play and the blue team is afforded the opportunity to contest the headers. Whether the blue team decides to contest the headers or not is up to the them.

1131 Phil Tarzana CA United States Referee
Blue defender has committed an offense under Law 12, which says (p.121 of LOTG 2014/2015): "It is an offense for a player to prevent a goalkeeper from releasing the ball from his hands." The referee should caution the offender for violating one of the 7 enumerated cautionary offenses (delaying the restart of play). The restart, under Law 12 (p.37), is an INDFK at the position where the offense occurred. Since it occurred within the penalty area, all attackers must remain outside the penalty area & at least 10 yards from the ball, during the kick. The ball is not in play until it leaves the penalty area. Two things should be noted. First, the red team has used legal tactics to "delay the game". This is because the ball may be challenged by the blue team at any time, except when the GK has actual possession of the ball in his hands. The red team has not violated the Law 12 (p.37) restriction, which says: "An indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a goalkeeper...touches the ball with his hands after it has been deliberately kicked to him by a team-mate". Furthermore, red has not used "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." Had the red player kicked the ball up to his head to circumvent the rule, then the blue team would have an INDFK from the position of the red defender, who would be cautioned for unsporting behavior. On a side note, this tactic is rarely used, since a miscalculation by the GK or the red defender could turn over the ball to a blue attacker inside the red penalty area and all it takes is a blue defender to mark the red defender.

1136 Barry Stewart Chilliwack BC Canada Referee
While it's forbidden for a defender to use trickery to circumvent the "back pass-no-hands" law (bottom of page 123), this action is being initiated by the tricky keeper. The defender is simply heading it back, resetting the 6-second clock. Because the referee has allowed this to happen twice, I'll assume that he is on the same line of thinking that I am. The Blue attacker is wrong to impede the goalie's release and should instead be marking the defender, which would force the keeper's hand, obliging him to kick or throw the ball up field. If the ref stops play, the call should be IDFK for the Red team. Top of page 121. I would love to see this in a real game!

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