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Question Number: 34347

Law 8 - The Start and Restart of Play 9/22/2021

RE: Rec, Comp, High School High School

Peter of Stockton, CA United States asks...

Just watched Manchester United Vs West Ham. Surely Bruno's goal should have stood. He was 4M away, the referee : In all other cases, the referee drops the ball for one player of the team that last touched the ball at the position where it last touched a player, an outside agent or, as outlined in Law 9.1, a match official
All other players (of both teams) must remain at least 4 m (4.5 yds) from the ball until it is in play
The ball is in play when it touches the ground.

Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Peter,
Although the wording of the law is perhaps not crystal clear (which to be honest it quite often isn't) on this particular point, it is clearly against the intent of the law for the Manchester United player to take the ball in this way.

In 2019 when the change to the dropped ball law was adopted, in the explanation for the amendment the IFAB wrote that for a dropped ball outside the penalty area (as this was):

"Returning the ball to the team that last played it restores what was ‘lost’ when play was stopped ... "

By taking the ball before the West Ham player had a chance to reach it Bruno Fernandes has clearly violated the intent of the law as quoted above and so the referee was completely correct in calling play back and dropping the ball a second time so that possession could indeed be restored to the team that had lost it, as the law intends.

The explanation of the change also said the following:

"It can be very unfair if a team gains an advantage or scores a goal because the ball has hit a match official, especially the referee."

So again, allowing Fernandes to score a goal from a dropped ball in this way would have been, in the words of the IFAB, "very unfair."

I would also point out that even if it were permissible for Fernandes to take the ball in this way (which as I read the law, it isn't) the goal could not have stood because no other player touched the ball.

Law 8 also says that after a dropped ball, at least two players must touch the ball before a goal can be scored.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Peter
The referee Jon Moss’ best option was to stop play and restart with another dropped ball. He might have restarted with a goal kick yet the easier decision was a retake of the DB
The goal fails on a number of points of Law
1. In all other cases, the referee drops the ball FOR one player of the team that last touched the ball at the position where it last touched a player, an outside agent or, as outlined in Law 9.1, a match official. Capitals by me.
2. If a dropped ball enters the goal without touching at least two players, play is restarted with: #  a goal kick if it enters the opponents’ goal

So based on the 2nd point alone it could not be a goal even if the referee had decided that he dropped the ball to a West Ham player and he failed of avail of the opportunity to get on with play. The wording is somewhat loose in that it can be opined that the ball was dropped FOR a WH player and the ball was in play when it touched the ground so a player who is the required distance away can challenge for the ball.

As to why the West Ham player did not get on with play only the referee can answer that. Was there confusion as to what was happening? Was it an attempt to delay the restart? The WH player makes no effort to play the ball?
The learning point for referees is that clarity needs to be brought to the situation by the referee with the opponents moved back the required distance
The referee needs to-ensure that the player who is getting the ball gets on with play.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Peter,
I will disagree slightly, although the intent of the law was to allow control of the ball back to the team that accidently had it taken away. It was not done so they could waste time deciding when to get on with it. That ball WAS in play once it touched the ground NOT when the WH player choose to play it. I was unimpressed in the manner by which the referee performed this restart which was in my opinion very sloppy. Too far away from the WH player in question. I tend to always stand between them, shielding the opposition ensuring the distance while reminding the other to get on with it. Was the MU player who did rush in 4 meters away? Nothing prevents him from challenging once that ball contacts the ground. What he CAN NOT do though is score directly because the LOTG also state two players must partcipate before a goal can be scored. The referee made a mess and cleaned it up best he could with another drop restart.

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Answer provided by Referee MrRef

Hi Peter
Following a Q&A discovered by Referee Grove from IFAB the answer is updated in Question # 34367

"Play is restarted with a dropped ball for Team A. After the ball has touched the ground, an opposing player (Team B) who remained more than 4 m away comes up and plays the ball first. What is the correct decision?

The referee allows play to continue. This is permitted as Law 8 only requires that all players (except the player for whom the ball is the ball until it is in play (i.e. until it touches the ground)."

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