Soccer Referee Resources
Ask a Question
Recent Questions

Previous You-Call-It's

VAR (Video Assistant Referee)

Q&A Quick Search
The Field of Play
The Ball
The Players
The Players Equipment
The Referee
The Other Match Officials
The Duration of the Match
The Start and Restart of Play
The Ball In and Out of Play
Determining the Outcome of a Match
Fouls and Misconduct
Free Kicks
Penalty kick
Throw In
Goal Kick
Corner Kick

Common Sense
Kicks - Penalty Mark
The Technical Area
The Fourth Official
Attitude and Control
League Specific
High School

Common Acronyms
Meet The Ref
Contact AskTheRef
Help Wanted
About AskTheRef

Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

Panel Login

Question Number: 33883

Mechanics 2/13/2020

RE: Under 19

donald of washington dc, md usa asks...

would you say it's a common practice for referees to have a foul that occurs on the very edge inside the penalty box and place it on the line to not give the team a penalty kick? i'm talking one that's maybe a small trip or bump but occurs just barely inside the box, not wanting to give what is basically a 75% chance at a goal, and selling it on the edge of the box? one of those things that you wouldn't outwardly admit to a player/coach

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Donald
The keyword for me is integrity.
When I come away from a game I am always 110% content that every decision I made was *honest*. The most important person that I have to admit to is myself not anyone else so in the car on the trip home or siting at home reviewing the game I want to be always content with the decisions I have made. Does it happen and I would say it probably does at times but not common practice.
So in this case if the referee is 100% sure it is a penalty then he should award it for his own principles. To me a referee that makes a decision that is not honest with himself has let himself down and the game.
Now there will be times when a referee will be uncertain as to the location and that doubt can make the referee give the free kick. That is perfectly fine and the referee in his own mind will be content with that.
So for me there is a world of difference between making a decision based on uncertainty and a decision made to fit the circumstances.
I remember a few seasons ago in a game and there was an incident on the goal line just at the intersection of the penalty area line. A forward was being challenged by a defender who was stood behind him with the ball somewhat static I noticed the AR on that side move the flag unusually from hand to hand at knee level and I thought it was unusual. There was a lame appeal for a penalty kick at the time as the defender kicked the ball out over the goal line. I immediately shouted corner kick with little complaint. At half time I asked the AR what happened with the flag at that time and he said he thought it was a penalty as the defender had made contact with the attacker as he kicked the ball over the line and he forgot the penalty flag signal but as I had made my decision he deferred to my call. Now in my opinion, and from my view, it was not a foul and it never entered my mind that it was a foul. The decision made no difference in the game yet to me I was content with my decision at the time. Perhaps if I was closer as was the AR or I had a different view I might have seen a foul. Now the AR might have thought that I fudged the call yet that was not the case. If I thought there was a penalty I would have given it.

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe McHugh

View Referee Joe McHugh profile

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Don,
If it is a foul requiring you to whistle to stop play you need to have the courage to call it! That is IF you are 100% certain it did occur and 100% certain it did occur inside the PA.

If you are uncertain and wish to err on caution and place the ball JUST outside the PA so no part of the ball is in contact with the PA boundary lines then the DFK is correct in law but now we could have issues with integrity.

I have seen referees award INDFKs for CLEAR DFK offences just inside the PA or late in the game incorrectly assuming this was best for the game! . We have some leeway in deciding if a foul is trifling or doubtful. No one wants to give a penalty in the last minute for a little push or pull but if it is a clear penal foul and you KNOW the contact point was inside the PA of which the boundary line is indeed par of the area, it MUST be awarded as a PK.
AS a important distinction, you cannot place the ball ON the boundary line for a DFK restart because you are in effect SAYING it WAS inside the PA and as the restart is a DFK it could be protestable
Its Your match Your decision and Your reputation each & every time!

Read other questions answered by Referee Richard Dawson

View Referee Richard Dawson profile

Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

I would absolutely NOT say it is common practice.

I've been involved in refereeing, in various forms, for over 20 years. This is the first time I've ever heard of anybody doing that.

As Ref McHugh states - it's about integrity.

If the foul is in the PA (including, of course, on the line), then you must give it as a penalty. I cannot fathom any reason why you would consider doing otherwise.

You don't get to break the laws to suit your sense of 'fairness'. Some laws can be bent a bit - ie sometimes, for instance, you might be able to stretch an interpretation of what is a DOGSO, but you can't break them - so you can't deliberately put down the wrong offence because that feels fairer.

You need to be able to have the courage to make the correct decision.

Now, in terms of selling it - first off, you have to act like you're 100% certain you know where it is. When you have an AR, their job is to signal whether it's inside the PA or outside - usually if outside they'll remain on the edge of the PA, and if inside they'll sprint to the corner once the whistle is blown.

If by yourself it can be difficult to tell sometimes - especially on fields with poorly marked lines that you can barely even see from more than 10 yards away.

What I do is as soon as I see the foul, I stare at the exact blade of grass that was underneath the point of contact.

The sky could open up with a meteor landing in the carpark. Bill Gates could fly his helicopter overhead dropping bags of cash. I don't care - there is nothing in the world that will break my gaze with that blade of grass. That blade of grass will wither under the ferocity of my gaze.

And I will sprint towards that blade of grass. That means as I'm approaching, it becomes clear where it is in relation to the line. By doing this, even on fields where I can't see the line when I blow the whistle, I have 100% confidence in my decision on PK vs no-PK.

Another thing - with penalties in particular, if you're caught behind play, start running as you blow the whistle. That means by the time players turn around to argue, you've covered another 10-15 yards and they think you're a lot closer. It looks a lot more convincing when you're 5-10 yards away from the foul than 20-25.

Aside from that, of course, stand, signal and sound confident.

But let me reiterate - you simply do not have the right to make a penalty kick a free kick outside the PA just because 'it's easier to sell' or 'it doesn't deserve the PK'.

The PK is an outcome of the player's action - not yours.

Read other questions answered by Referee Jason Wright

View Referee Jason Wright profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 33883
Read other Q & A regarding Mechanics

Soccer Referee Extras

Did you Ask the Ref? Find your answer here.

Enter Question Number

If you received a response regarding a submitted question enter your question number above to find the answer

Offside Question?

Offside Explained by Chuck Fleischer & Richard Dawson, Former & Current Editor of AskTheRef

This web site and the answers to these questions are not sanctioned by or affiliated with any governing body of soccer. The opinions expressed on this site should not be considered official interpretations of the Laws of the Game and are merely opinions of AskTheRef and our panel members. If you need an official ruling you should contact your state or local representative through your club or league. On AskTheRef your questions are answered by a panel of licensed referees. See Meet The Ref for details about our panel members.