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Question Number: 34630

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 6/25/2022

RE: Select, Competive Under 17

David P Hughes of Vancouver, WA United States asks...

inside the box, a forward takes a long touch which is obviously going out of play but the keeper ploughs into the forward and knocks him over.
a) if the ball was still in play when the contact was made, is it a penalty as the touch was obviously not going to be reached by the forward
b) if the ball was fractionally out, is it still a penalty?

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi David
so given your description, it would appear, in my opinion, that a foul is present provided the ball is still in play and said tackle had not caused the ball to be knocked away but was the result of the attacker's heavy touch. Given this occurs within the penalty are aka THE BOX it must be a DFK upgrade to pk status! It is possible a caution for reckless or USB tackle or even SFP for excessive contact might be present but DOGSO is not a consideration as you mentioned the attacker could not recover said ball in time so the criteria remains unfulfilled.

If the contact occurs just after the ball has exited into touch the contact is NOT a foul but possible misconduct depending on the severity of said contact! That said I have seen such close contact/ ball out situations just accepted as oh well even in quite harsh collisions. Its almost as if the miss results in a penance against the attacker instead of a referee looking more closely at the keepers' antics

It might be a referee is feeling antsy about awarding a PK for a ball headed into touch but the keeper should not be permitted to clean out the attacker as part of normal play either. Your use of the word fractionally, as in a doubting or trifling fashion can certainly influence a close decision. However, in terms of decision making, a referee should call what he knows to be true! an attempt to injure is NOT acceptable just because an attacker has good or lucky reflexes to avoid the brunt of what in the video my good colleague Ref McHugh shows is in effect an assault worthy of criminal charges!

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi David
Thanks for the question.

In A what you describe is an offence while the ball is in play. It makes no difference that the forward may not have been able to stop the ball leaving the field of play. If the goalkeeper was alert to the forward's poor touch he could have simply stood up and shepherded the ball out of play. Instead he chose to "plough into the forward " knocking him over. It is a penalty plus a caution for reckless play. As the ball is going out of play it did not deny an obvious goal scoring opportunity and anyway it might be opined that it was an attempt to play the ball which is a caution in a DOGSO situation.
So players have to be sanctioned for their actions no matter what might or might not have happened. The GK here knowingly fouled an opponent while the ball was in play and that can be done for a variety of reasons including foolish naïve play or perhaps just an attempt to crash into an opponent as part of play.
Have a look at this video

The first challenge was a foul and a penalty kick plus a caution for the goalkeeper. The referee decided for whatever reason that it was not a foul and restarted with a goal kick. Did he think the bad touch by the attacker meant he was not going to get the ball that went over the goal line or that the was not enough contact to merit a foul? He certainly blows for it in a manner that suggested a clear foul!
Obviously the goalkeeper paid no heed to the advice from the referee plus being lucky first off to avoid the penalty and a card. He committed a worse similar challenge some minutes later which did result in a red card.

Now we have all seen situations where opponents block, impede attackers when the ball is close to the goal line and many times it is not called. Those situations are judgement calls and many referees see it as legal "shielding" the ball as it exits yet may be considered on the limit of legality. That though is not what is described here.

In the case where the ball has already left the field of play BEFORE the contact by the goalkeeper that is not an offence punished by a direct free kick or a penalty kick yet it will still be misconduct once the referee opines that the challenge was reckless or used excessive force.
The difficulty for the referee can be determining if the ball is fractionally out or not at the time of the offence. My take on it is that in the absence of certainty on close calls will always prove difficult and I always focussed on the foul where there was doubt and uncertainty. When an attacker is lying in a heap inside the penalty area after a reckless challenge by the goalkeeper is anyone going to question a ball being fractionally out of play at the moment of contact?. Easy on paper or maybe with VAR yet a reckless challenge for the ball inside the penalty area is an offence that cannot be ignored. The game expects a sanction of a foul.
Now flip that around and say that the contact happens over the goal line while the ball was still in play that is now an offence punished by a direct free kick or penalty kick.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi David,

I see a lot of referees who seem to take the approach that a free shot on a striker is allowed if they've lost control in the PA. This seems to come from pressure to avoid match-changing decisions, or a notion that penalties shouldn't be called if play isn't actually affected.

Strictly speaking, whether the striker was going to regain the ball isn't a factor in determining whether a foul occurred - if a midfielder was clipped late around halfway, we're not going to ignore the foul if the ball was going out anyway, are we?

If it's a borderline fine then sure, there might be some justification in letting the actual impact on play (ie possession already lost) affect the decision.

One thing to be wary of though - often I see debates on televised decisions where there's a foul and people argue 'it was going out anyway' - but not taking into account that the only reason the attacker had no chance of regaining the ball was because of the foul!

For your second question - I'm not sure what you mean by 'fractionally out' - I presume you mean wholly out, but only just. If the ball is out when the 'foul' occurs, then it's not a foul. Fouls require the ball to be in play.

You can still issue a card if the contact is severe enough - but if it's out, maybe just a quick word.

However, for this to by my thinking, I would want to be absolutely certain the ball is out first.

With a neutral AR, teamwork is important here. As the referee, you'll glance to your AR before making a decision - and ideally, your AR is switched on enough to realise you're looking for their judgement on PK vs GK/CK, and signal appropriately. If you are a little unclear from your AR and you think it's worthy of a PK, you can go and check.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi David,
If a player is fouled in the opponent's penalty area when the ball is in play, giving a penalty kick is the correct decision. It makes no difference whether the fouled player had a chance of reaching the ball or not. As we have often pointed out, even if the ball was completely at the other end of the field when the foul occurred, it's still a penalty.

However it the ball is wholly out of play (even if only fractionally so) then a penalty kick is not possible, since a foul requires that the ball be in play.

In the second scenario, and as my colleagues have pointed out, even though a penalty cannot be given, the goalkeeper could still be sanctioned if the referee judges it appropriate.

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