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Question Number: 28423

Law 17 - Corner Kick 5/14/2014

RE: Competitive Under 13

Natalie White of Cambridge, England, UK asks...


Our team was winning (2-1) in a recent cup final football (soccer) match.

In the last six minutes of time the opposing team had a corner given. The corner taker kicked the ball off the pitch and it ended up behind the goal, the referee then awarded the opposing team a penalty because of one of our players pushing and shoving around the goal area (something that had been going on all match by both teams throughout, but nothing had been done previously).

I thought a penalty could not be awarded if the ball is out of play?

Was this decision by the ref. correct? Another ref. watching the game at the time said that no way should a penalty have been awarded.

Sadly the game then drew 2-2 due to goal being scored from this penalty and the game ended up in a penalty shoot-out after extra time and the opposing team went on to win 5-4.

Thanks in advance

Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

If everything happened when the ball was out of play, then no, it could not be a penalty kick. By definition, a penalty kick requires one of the 10 direct free kick fouls, and a foul can only happen when the ball is in play.

What often happens, however, is that the push or hold begins before the ball was put in play and continues after the ball is in play. In that circumstance, the penalty kick is warranted. On a corner kick, the ball is in play when it is kicked and moved. So, even though it curves behind the goal, the ball was in play for an instant. Unfortunately, the defender who committed the foul in that instant is responsible for the penalty kick being awarded.

Even if it happened while the ball was in play, however, the wise referee will consider whether any infringement was doubtful or trifling when the result of the corner kick indicates there never was a meaningful opportunity for a play on the ball. A jersey grab might be ignored, but a rugby style tackle would not, IMO. Ultimately, when it happened and whether it was too clear to ignore is a judgment call for the referee.

While it is fair and appropriate for a coach, parent or spectator to have questions on the play, it was not appropriate for the someone who claims to be a referee to criticize the referee's judgment call. The "other" referee didn't see what the referee saw, and was unaware whether on a prior corner kick the referee had given a private warning to a player for the same conduct on an earlier corner kick (which was then ignored). My experience is that those who make such criticisms often turn out not to be current referees and never worked at the level they criticized.

(I'm particularly sensitive because I learned this lesson the hard way. When I was 13 and knew everything there was to know, I was loudly critical of every decision by the referee at a professional match that I attended with my father. Eventually, the woman sitting in front of us stood up, looked at me, and said, "that's my husband. He knows better than you.")

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Natalie
A foul can only be committed when the ball is in play. Now when the corner kick was taken the ball was in play so any foul on the field of play can be sanctioned until the ball leaves the field of play again .
Now unfortunately the game has become blighted by this pulling and dragging at corner kicks / free kicks. Many referees fail to deal with it with the appropriate sanction of a foul and perhaps a caution.
I suspect what happened here was the referee focussed in on a particular set of players. The ball was kicked and the referee made the call on the foul he seen with the ball then going out of play, unconnected with the foul scenario. That is still a foul and a penalty kick.
I would like to show you these two videos.

In the first one Naylor No 3 Green clearly grabs Ambrosini No 23 Red AC Milan causing a foul while the ball was in play. The referee saw it and as it was contrary to the Laws a penalty was awarded. Was it harsh? Many say that it was as #23 Red had no hope of playing the ball. I'm sure there are referees who would not have awarded the penalty in this scenario and perhaps some complaint had they not done so.
In the 2nd one the referee warns White 6 and Red 18 for pulling & pushing before the free kick. The player ignores the warning and then fouls Red when the ball was in play resulting in a penalty kick. White team go apoplectic about this decision. Those watching it did not see the penalty but the referee did and that is all that matters. The decision was confirmed as correct afterwards by the referee assessors
Had there been no fouls no sanction would have been required in either case.

As to your referee friend I believe that given the circumstances perhaps he would not have awarded the penalty. He might not have awarded the penalties in the examples above as well?.
Marcus Merk (Germany) and Howard Webb (England) both FIFA referees made the calls in both games and that is all that matters. The same happened in the game you refer to.
One of the traits required in a good referee is courage. The quote that inspired me on the quality of courage is one from Pierluigi Collina (Italy) now Head of Refereeing in UEFA and one of the most respected referees in his time
""The best referee is one who has the courage to make decisions even when it would be easier not to.""

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