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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 25175

Law 5 - The Referee 7/6/2011

RE: Select

Todd Wendorf of Harrisburg, PA United States asks...

Alright...I will bring up the elephant in the room. On July 3rd, during the Australia-Equatorial Guinea women's match, a defender from Equatorial Guinea appeared to have intentionally handled the ball in the Penalty Area. After holding the ball for a couple of seconds (and steps), she released the ball back to her keeper and play continued.

Obviously, the Center's attention must have been elsewhere as she did not whistle the offense.

So...why didn't either AR bring it to her attention? There have been times where the Center during pre-game has instructed his/her ARs that 'the Penalty Area is mine'. Meaning, do not call anything in there.

Is it possible that this was the case? I have yet to see a replay that shows where the Center is located during this situation. I find it hard to believe that all three (and the Fourth) were all screened from such an obvious offense.

I would love to hear what the esteemed panel thinks of this situation.

Unfortunately, these types of miscues on a public venue give officials a bad name.

Thank you for your thoughts!!

Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

The assistant referee's first obligation is to look at the referee. If the assistant believes that the referee saw what happened and made a judgment call, the assistant referee has no power to correct the referee's judgment - - no matter how grave the apparent error. If the assistant believes that the referee did not see what happened, the assistant has a duty to the game and to the referee to raise the flag and indicate the foul!

No one should use a 'don't call anything in the penalty area' pregame instruction with experienced assistant referees. It is unlikely that this was a factor.

Fortunately, the mistake did not affect the outcome of the match.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Todd
Yes I was amazed at this decision or lack thereof. But sure isn't mistakes part of the game and this will be used in those ""Whar happens next" video quizzes in the years ahead. Referee Gaal I understand will not be staying for the final part of the tournament which speaks for itself.
As regards the decision itself we can all surmise what may have transpired. Both the referee and AR have stated that it was missed which I assume was due simply a fluke of positioning. a blind spot, and attention elsewhere that it was missed by very senior officials.
When I first saw it I thought that it could have been an 'Did I really see that ' moment for the ref crew when something so unexpected happens.
My other thought was that it could also have been a situation where the AR and 4th official may have thought 'Surely the ref saw it and ignored it so I won't call it and its not in my area of responsibility'
I have also asked myself why did the deliberate handling happen in this very unusual way. I have watched the video and it sounds to me like there were whistles in the stand that may have confused the NG player causing her to think that the play was stopped. Assuming that it was seen the ref and her crew IMO could have used Law 5 by stopping play and restarting with a dropped ball using the following .
'' If a spectator blows a whistle and the referee considers the whistle interfered with play (e.g. a player picks up the ball with his hands, assuming that play has been stopped), the referee must stop the match and restart the play with a dropped ball from the position of the ball when play was stopped, unless play was stopped inside the goal area, in which case the referee drops the ball on the goal area line parallel to the goal line at the point nearest to where the ball was located when play was stopped.""
I believe that a whistle in the crowd caused this and I would like to hear the NG's player reasoning for such a blatant mistake.
The last time I saw this was when a team's regular goalkeeper was playing outfield and on a cross he forgot he was not in goal. Imagine every player's amazement when he leaped up and caught the ball clean as a whistle. Easy penalty and one very embarrassed player. At least he had an excuse !!

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Answer provided by Referee Nathan Lacy

Anything we say here regarding what we thought happened is pure speculation. What is fact is that a statement was made wherein the referee apologized for 'missing the sequence' - and I'm not even going to guess as to the dynamics at the tournament regarding the referee and her crew. As for your specific item regarding referee instructions as to 'the penalty area is mine' - that mentality is supposed to have gone the way of the dodo many moons ago. I would think that ANY referee at this level giving those kinds of instructions would have an extremely short career. The present emphasis is 'get it right' and to function as a team in order to achieve that goal - the Maradonna 'hand of god' event being a pivotal turning point in officiating philosophy. I don't know that we will ever find out what actually occurred in that situation but I would place a very low likelihood on the idea that it was the referee having given instructions to here crew to 'not call anything in the penalty area'. All the best,

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