Soccer Referee Resources
Ask a Question
Recent Questions

Previous You-Call-It's

VAR (Video Assistant Referee)

Q&A Quick Search
The Field of Play
The Ball
The Players
The Players Equipment
The Referee
The Other Match Officials
The Duration of the Match
The Start and Restart of Play
The Ball In and Out of Play
Determining the Outcome of a Match
Fouls and Misconduct
Free Kicks
Penalty kick
Throw In
Goal Kick
Corner Kick

Common Sense
Kicks - Penalty Mark
The Technical Area
The Fourth Official
Attitude and Control
League Specific
High School

Common Acronyms
Meet The Ref
Contact AskTheRef
Help Wanted
About AskTheRef

Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

Panel Login

Question Number: 34757

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 11/8/2022

RE: Competitive Professional

Jacob Mungoma of Malindi , Kenya Kenya asks...


I am grateful with the heights we've reached as a football family in terms of the quality of the game as a result of the day-to-day improvements through the annual law amendments by IFAB. Congratulations for that!

However, some scenarios are rare but mind boggling once they happen! Law 12 under handball offenses states that the Goalkeeper is treated just like any other player when he handles the ball outside the penalty area but is not sanctioned if he deliberately handles the ball. He is only sanctioned if playing the ball a 2nd time before it touches another player at a free kick, goal kick or throw-in and the 2nd touch is within the penalty area stopping a promising attack or DOGSO. Law 12 under DOGSO offenses, the Goalkeeper is not supposed to be sent off after handling the ball in his penalty area.

My question: if a defending player deliberately passes the ball to the Goalkeeper but out of miscalculation, the ball has to be chased by both an attacker and the Goalkeeper as it rolls towards the goal and somewhere inside the penalty area the Goalkeeper has to use the hands to handle the ball avoiding conceding a goal from the attacker, what if the correct sanction/decision? I believe the restart is an IDFK, all of us will get that one right!

Kindly as you give your response, I would highly appreciate if you let me know how the law applies to the scenario and how the test of fairness to both sides can be achieved.

Thank you in advance

Jacob Mungoma (Kenyan Div 1 Referee).

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Jacob
Thanks for the question.

After the 1990 World Cup many in the game felt that teams had abused the tactic of playing the ball back to their goalkeeper who could pick the ball up with impunity. That prevented any challenge for the ball so a team could legally withhold the ball from challenge by repeating this tactic. Opponents did not want to commit enough players forward to lessen the opportunities so it led to criticism about the tactic.
As a result the so called misnomer "Back-Pass Law" was introduced in 1992 which was to prevent teams from using this tactic. At the same time the law makers did not want to stop goalkeepers from doing what goalkeepers do which is to use the hands inside the penalty area As a result it was decided that the offence was to be a technical offence punished by an IDFK only and that the use of the hands on a back-pass inside the penalty area could not result in any disciplinary sanction. Outside the penalty area the goalkeeper is like any other player.

In your example where goalkeepers have to use their hands to prevent a goal on a back-pass or to stop the ball going to an attacker the sanction is an indirect free kick ONLY. The game could not consider a situation where a goalkeeper would be "prevented" from carrying out goalkeeping duties for fear of getting dismissed for saving say a goal.

In recent times the Law has been updated to deal with unfair situations that are of the goalkeeper's own making such as a double touch either through the use of the foot or through the use of a hand.

A few seasons ago I recall a situation where a goalkeeper took a goal kick. He miss kicked the ball which went to a team mate some 30 yards from goal. Now he tried to fly kick the ball and I was unsure what he was trying to do perhaps to help the ball forward. Anyway the kick headed straight for his own goal and the goalkeeper had to handle the ball over the bar. It could have been a failed back pass yet I awarded a corner kick. There was little complaint about the decision. I could not see myself awarding an IDFK for the goalkeeper's action which is what the GK had to do which was to save a goal nor did it merit any disciplinary sanction. Even if it was a back pass the game does not want goalkeepers sanctioned for doing this.

As to the recent amendment by IFAB on the DOGSO red card for a double touch infringement that does not sit so well with me as no one in the game is not going to react with a double touch when faced with such a situation. I can live with the use of a hand in such situations yet a kick on the ball is somewhat instinctive. The use of the hand is see as a double touch offence rather than handling inside the penalty area. Anyway that is what IFAB has set out in Law 12 and as referees we are expected to enforce this.

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe McHugh

View Referee Joe McHugh profile

Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Jacob,

So, to clarify - you're talking about how the goalkeeper is not to receive a card for handling the ball when they shouldn't inside their PA - yet, if the handle it as part of a double-touch scenario, then can.

Double touch would be a situation where a keeper has taken, say, a GK or FK and when the ball is inside the PA, chooses to handle the ball to stop an attacker getting it.

The reason we can card this handling and not others, is because the issue is the double touch, not the handling. Handling is only a foul here because of the double touch.

To put it another way, the handling itself is actually irrelevant if the goalkeeper kicked the ball in this situation, they'd receive a card.

So, it wouldn't make sense for handling to mean they don't receive a card, when they would for any other touch.

So, in this one instance they can receive the card for handling - because the handling is actually not the issue and they'd receive the same sanction for touching it with any other body part.

Read other questions answered by Referee Jason Wright

View Referee Jason Wright profile

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Jacob,
LOTG are generally tweaked to improve the game in terms of function & watchability.
I am sure those within the agencies you speak of are grateful for appreciating their efforts.
We also appreciate those such as yourself who are courageous enough to officiate the beautiful game!

A keeper has a difficult job, throwing themselves into the feet of onrushing players is a risky business. Yet THAT is their business, stopping the round ball from completely crossing the goal line under the crossbar between the posts.

The special use of the hands is granted in LAW 12.NO DFKs for handling inside the PA.
The keeper can have the use of the hands to play the ball within that 18-yard PA. for 6 seconds of uncontested possession.

To control the ball with the hand/arm for longer than six seconds before releasing it results in a possible INDFK against the keeper but officials realistically consider stretching that control time a wee bit to accommodate the match itself. Like a keeper regaining their feet allowing some recovery time after a tough save or the nearby antics of attackers hassling the release in a peripheral way as opposed to stopping play to caution and an indirect free kick is awarded if a player was preventing the goalkeeper from releasing the ball from the hands or kicks or attempting to kick the ball when the goalkeeper is in the process of releasing it

The LOTG state during ongoing play, once the keeper makes a save, having gained possession of the ball in his hands, he is allotted 6 seconds of uncontested holding time because a goalkeeper cannot be challenged by an opponent when in control of the ball with the hand(s). but then must release the ball from the hands back into play. He can still use his feet -ONLY -the hands are restricted for a short while another of the 21 players on the FOP must touch/play the ball first before the keeper can regain the legal USE of their hands again inside the PA.

One exception!

Darn those things its why you get caught out on occasion because it doesn't occur regularly to be ingrained! As you say some scenarios are rare but mind boggling once they happen! For example when a goalkeeper has clearly kicked or attempted to kick the ball to release it into play and something odd happens, super high wind, he slips, ball goes up into the air and he is forced to make a save to stop it from entering the goal by using his hands we are to ignore the 2nd touch as unreasonable punishment. The spirit of the LOTG do not want us offering goal scoring options when the attacking team has done nothing to deserve them and the keeper was only trying to do their job!

The 6 seconds release is DIFFERENT than if on a free kick if the keeper were to put that ball into play, he cannot legally play the ball a 2nd time with anybody part including the hands…. This is where a keeper COULD conceivably get into a cautionable yellow card or even a red card sent off for DOGSO. He is legally unable to play the ball period, much like offside players restricted from participating in play.

In direct response to your question when a defending player deliberately passes the ball to their keeper with a foot kick or a direct throw in (not a miskick that deflects weirdly as that is NOT an INFK incident but SIMPLY a poorly weighted pass or throw, high arc or bouncer where an attacking opponent is in hot pursuit as it rolls towards the goal forcing the keeper to make a save using their hands it would be as you believe an INDFK restart FROM THE POINT OF HANDLING subject to the special circumstances in the goal area.!

It is difficult to say a DIRECT throw in by a defender directed TO the keeper could be misconstrued but it is plausible to see a deliberate kick headed to the top corner of his own net with NO opponent trying to head it in as saved by a leaping keeper for a corner kick rather than a INDFK 6 yards out. The spirit of the LOTG do not want us offering goal scoring options when the attacking team has done nothing to deserve them, and the keeper was only trying to do their job!


Read other questions answered by Referee Richard Dawson

View Referee Richard Dawson profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 34757
Read other Q & A regarding Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct

Soccer Referee Extras

Did you Ask the Ref? Find your answer here.

Enter Question Number

If you received a response regarding a submitted question enter your question number above to find the answer

Offside Question?

Offside Explained by Chuck Fleischer & Richard Dawson, Former & Current Editor of AskTheRef

This web site and the answers to these questions are not sanctioned by or affiliated with any governing body of soccer. The opinions expressed on this site should not be considered official interpretations of the Laws of the Game and are merely opinions of AskTheRef and our panel members. If you need an official ruling you should contact your state or local representative through your club or league. On AskTheRef your questions are answered by a panel of licensed referees. See Meet The Ref for details about our panel members.