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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 34273

Law 18 - Common Sense 7/28/2021

RE: REC Adult

William Meldrum of Vienna, VA USA asks...

Immediately prior to Sweden's 3rd goal against the USWNT in game 1 of the 2021 Olympics, Sweden player 1 passed to Sweden player 2. She then ran off the field, around Sweden player 2 and the USWNT defender, and re-entered the field many yards closer to her attacking goal where she received a return pass from Sweden player 2. Sweden player 1 then proceeded to cross the ball that led the Sweden's 3rd goal. Since Sweden player 1 voluntarily left the field of play and then re-entered the field of play in a more advantageous position, all without the referee's permission, why was the goal not disallowed and Sweden player 1 issued a yellow card?

Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi William,
This is because, as stated in Law 3:

"A player who crosses a boundary line as part of a playing movement does not commit an offence."

Running around an obstacle (even if it be a team mate) and leaving the field temporarily in this way, in order to continue on with a playing move, is permitted.

I was watching the game in question and I have to say it seemed fairly clear to me at the time, that this was a legitimate play.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Will,
my colleague Ref Grove answered it perfectly! We do expect players to remain on the FOP under normal circumstances yet we realize there will be times when momentum & pitch conditions can create the circumstances in as much as one might need to avoid a collision or simply retrieving the ball to restart play. A player can not deliberately leave to hide or screen her movements to gain an unfair advantage. If as you indicated this WAS the case then yes caution such action as USB. I agree with my colleague I saw it as part of normal play, not a ploy to gain an advantage! Cheers

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi William
There are many times when it is perfectly acceptable for a player to leave the field of play as part of a playing action such as going around a player, to take a restart etc.

In this example it was perfectly legal for the player to go around both her team mate and opponent outside the touchline
Our colleague Referee Grove has quoted the relevant section of Law 3 that refers to this.

Illegal actions for example would be going around behind the goal and nets say at a corner kick or walking off the field of play during play for something not connected with play or staying off the FOP for a period to deceive opponents through an unexpected return. Referees in my opinion should only punish unsporting actions that bring disorder to the game rather than minor situations that have no impact on play.

In the example the US defender had both players in view and she was not prevented from defending not did the overlap cause anything egregious. At this level had there been an offence it would have been punished.

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