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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 34552

Law 8 - The Start and Restart of Play 4/8/2022

Petr of Prague, Czech Republic Czech Republic asks...

This question is a follow up to question 32867

To question 32867, Mr Dawson answered:

'There are times when a ball goes out of play and we are unclear who last touched it so we award a goal kick corner or throw in based on our gut or we decided in cases where we simply have to guess WE DECIDE TO GUESS IN FAVOR OF OFFENCE OR DEFENSE BASED ON WHERE IT OCCURS.'

Situation: Opponents touch the ball at the same time. The ball leaves the field.

So you order a goal kick rather than a corner kick (or a throw-in for a team that is closer to own goal)?

Do I understand that correctly? :-)


Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Petr,
I think you understand the concept but it could be a two headed coin!
We usually have a definite idea of who was at fault or to blame but in those rare cases with NO AR to guide us, our eyes fail us, our gut can not tell us, and no chance that definative actions by the players could indicate a restart both already were ok with thus why disagree? We MUST have a restart decision once that ball is out of play no matter who might have last touched it as the game can not continue otherwise!

The LOTG USED to provide a drop ball scenario on a simultaneous touch for a ball headed out of play but this was seen as a weak decision by some!
It was thought by some. myself included, a decision to award the restart in the LEAST harmful way was a better way to go! THUS Goal kick NOT Corner kick as you surmised. Leaning to the defensive side so a possible error can not lead to a goal. .

The fact you would do this for both teams, at either end of the field, was in keeping with the concept of fair play & the referees' necessary neutrality! Keep in mind, this is MY opinion, it is not a prescribed MUST do in terms of the LOTG. It certainly WORKS for me when WE NEED a restart to continue play, I prefer to do least harm if in doubt!

It is entirely plausible a referee might go the opposite, to award the most ATTACKING restart option on any ball that was in doubt as to who last touched it before exiting into touch. THUS CORNER kick NOT Goal kick. Again the premise has to be equally applied at both ends to both teams. Promote attacking soccer, goals are exciting!

I do grasp if a better view highlights my choice as incorrect or a video later shows I cleatly got it wrong I will get razed amd perhaps some better positioning choices to think about in post game but the game must continue! We could give some consideration where a domination of one team over the other could create more restarts giving the defense a respite hampering the attackers or rewarding the attacking team with additional scoring opportunities? But should a teams' skill or a lack of it really affect the neutrality of an offical?

Your match, your decision, your reputation!

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Petr,

At times when the referee is 100% uncertain, going with the defence is usually seen as the safest option. I think this is because this has the least impact on the game - people will remember the controversial corner that the opposing team scored from much more than they will remember the corner they thought they should have gotten but didn't. When the referee is uncertain, both decisions are potentially incorrect - so it makes sense to choose the one with less match impact.

But referees can also look for cues to guide the decision even when they're not sure. The direction the ball goes out in will give a clue as to what's most likely - if a Blue player is on the left and Orange on the right, and they both kick it simultaneously then the ball goes out to the left, Orange almost certainly got the last touch (unless there was a slight deflection after this), so that can help.

On that note, sometimes the referee can briefly delay their signal - if the defence seems to move straight into position for a corrner, then may as well go with the corner! Of course, this approach has to be applied carefully - but if both teams seem to agree it's a corner, then it makes no sense for the referee to disagree - unless, of course, the referee is 100% certain (say, by spotting a deflection).

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Petr
There can be a direction decision in a game when it is just not possible to call with absolute certainty or it is just called the way it looks which could be shown to be *wrong* if video was available.

In the recent Benfica game involving a challenge on the goal line involving Salah, the assistant referee signalled for a goal kick. Video replay showed just how difficult that call was as there was a possibility it could have come off either player. I looked at the replay and there was a chance that the last touch on the line was by a Benfica defender so the AR gave what he thought he saw.

Anyway a goal kick was signalled and I suppose the AR called what he saw or what he thought he saw. Only the AR can say what he saw and the basis for his decision. Certainly the goal kick was the less contentious decision as a goal from the corner kick would have shown whether it was a corner or not in the first place.
At grassroot level video is not available or at least not at the standard of VAR so officials are rarely if ever shown to be incorrect on last touch decisions. In that regard officials can make what they believe to be their *guesstimate*of who last touched the ball. In such situations in the absence of certain opinion the best decision will be the least contentious one. The key part is integrity and I can safely say that I never made a decision knowing it to be wrong. When I came away from every game it was vital to me that my integrity was not compromised. I was the strongest adjudicator of that so I always made decisions that I believed to be correct

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Answer provided by Referee Joe Manjone


To respond to your question as to what happens when opponents touch the ball at the same time and the ball goes out of bounds, I would like to give you the NFHS (high school) rule interpretation as I now only referee high school games.

NFHS Rule 9-2-1 states that the game is started with a the ball until it is put in play by player receiving the drop ball.

If the ball leaves the field over the boundary lines of the goal area, the ball is dropped to the goalkeeper with all opposing players outside the penalty area.

I like the NFHS way of handling this simultaneous contact situation. However, to be honest, in the many high school games that I have officiated and watched, I have only seen a dropped ball called once. Officials will, as mentioned above, make (or guess) a decision on what team should get the throw in.

There are no videos in high school games so the referee with the assistance from the AR will make the call, and the call will stand.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to respond to a question that is often asked.

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