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Question Number: 34098

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 1/5/2021

RE: High school/competitive High School

Devery H. of Naples, Florida United States asks...

Situation 1:
I had a game tonight where looking back I wondered if I did the right thing. A defender and an attacker were shoulder to shoulder, top of the area, running toward the goal line. The defender kicked the ball and a millisecond later the attacker fouled her. Enough to make her fall. The ball rolled past the goal line for a corner. So that’s what I called. She was fouled. I told her as much. But I also told her she kicked the ball out first and then was fouled. In that situation, unless the foul was reckless or excessive, was it correct to give the corner kick? Or should I have given the foul?

Situation 2: a couple of weeks ago I had a similar situation. This time an attacker was in the penalty area. He made a shot and was fouled a millisecond after. The foul was nothing egregious. Any contact made while or after someone is in the motion of shooting is pretty much going to make the shooter fall. And of course everyone was clamoring for a penalty. I judged that the ball was leaving the field of play before the shooter was fouled so I called a goal kick and not a penalty. Again, was this the correct interpretation?

I just want to get things right. My take is if a player kicks a ball and is fouled afterward, the ball was played (first) and then when out of play. And that takes precedence over the foul? And unless the foul is reckless or excessive, there is nothing I can do beside talk to the perp and the recipient of the foul.

What think you? Thanks In anticipation.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Devery
The ball has to be in play for a foul to occur. If the ball is out of play it is misconduct and depending on the severity of that a referee might have a word or issue a card. The restart though does not change.
Generally tackles that occur with the ball destined to be out of play happen while the ball is IN play or at least doubtful enough to be sure that it was in fact out of play.
In the corner incident I would say that there was sufficient doubt about the ball being over the goal line before to foul occurred and as you say a millisecond after the kick the defender was fouled. My advice is that when a *late* foul happens then call that. Is anyone including yourself going to be certain that the ball was out of play to only consider it misconduct only?
I would have blown the whistle and gone with the DFK to the defender for the late challenge and advised the attacker accordingly. If the foul merited a card then that should be issued as well.
Put it the way that you have asked. Say the attacker lunged two footed with the same time sequence making heavy contact with the defender would you award a corner kick after issuing a card. Decisions must work across all scenarios so if it a foul on a reckless challenge it is a foul on a careless one.
On the shot at goal ones it can be somewhat different in that advantage is a consideration plus there may be more of momentum or coming together than a foul. As Referee Grove points out many referees change their threshold on what constitutes a foul when it involves a shot on goal close to or inside the penalty area.
In the past when this has been asked and it has been regularly I always advise to consider the actual circumstances. As a referee if I like most on the field focus on the shot outcome then every chance the contact may be a coming together partly caused by the attacker. Advantage is the best decision or even a doubtful offence.
However if my focus is on the contact by the defender’s actions such as a heavy late challenge then that is what is going to get called. The foul is most likely to have happened while the ball is in play and either a DFK or a penalty is the decision. Obviously if a goal is scored then advantage should be played and disciplinary action taken for the foul.
In your scenario 2 if it was an obvious late challenge by a defender and the shot was made I would be calling that once my focus is on the manner of the contact. If it is doubtful or just a coming together then that is rarely going to be called.
So to be clear. If the ball is IN play and a foul occurs that should be called. If the ball is clearly OUT of play it is misconduct only and the offender can be sanctioned with a card yet the restart does not change for the ball out of play.
Judging if the ball is out of play or not can be difficult and I always err on the side of the fouled against player. A late challenge deserves to be punished. A referee can and should uses advantage in shots on goal situations yet again if the challenge is reckless even if a shot is got away with no goal scored it should be called. If it is doubtful / trifling or a coming together then many referees will not make a call.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Devery,
In sorry to have to tell you that, at least from a technical viewpoint, you did get these incidents wrong. So long as a foul occurs while the ball is still in play, you should give the foul, regardless of the fact that the ball went out of play later - or the fact that it was "only" a careless foul.

Now, having said that, it is the case that quite often when a player has successfully got a shot away, the threshold for what is a foul challenge seems to miraculously change and what would almost certainly have been a foul (and often indeed, a booking) if it had been the other way round and a forward had caught a defender like that, just as the defender made a clearance, it suddenly becomes a challenge that is not worth penalising.

I personally do not like this tendency but it does seem to be quite ingrained into football culture and it can be quite difficult to swim against the tide.

However, if you're absolutely sure that there was a foul, I think you should still give it (even though it leads to a penalty) although you would be well-advised to be absolutely, 100% sure before doing so. And even then, you can expect to get some criticism for it.

But the basic principle, whether it involves a potential penalty or a potential corner is that according to the rules, if a foul occurred while the ball was in play, you should give the foul, no matter where the ball goes afterwards.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe Manjone


As indicated in NFHS Rule 18-1-1n, a foul is a rule infraction by a player on the field of play during play.

NFHS Rule 9-1-1a states that a ball is out of play when it has completely crossed a goal line or touchline, whether on the ground or in the air.

Thus, if a foul occurs while the ball is still in play, it should be called. Your decision to not call a foul that occurred while the ball was in play because you know that the ball was going out of play, was incorrect. You should have called the foul.

I see that there are only 55 more days until the Florida High School State Championships take place in Deland. I have you have a successful remainder of the high schools season and you get to work one of the the state championship games.

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