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Question Number: 34965

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 5/2/2023

RE: Club Under 18

Jake Olsen of Lehi, Utah United States asks...

If a goalkeeper is going up to collect the ball and is run into by an attacking player midair, what is the call and what color card should be shown?

Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Jake,
Without seeing the actual incident, it's difficult to make a judgement call. The possible range of decisions goes all the way from "accidental coming together" with no referee intervention required to (potentially) an excessive force challenge with a red card resulting.

The decisions at either end of the scale are of course, the less likely outcomes. Since the law states that, "A goalkeeper cannot be challenged by an opponent when in control of the ball with the hand(s)," then assuming the keeper had the ball in their hands before the challenge occurred, then it's probably going to be at least a foul, resulting in a direct free kick for the keeper's team.

Whether it's anything more would depend entirely on the precise nature of the challenge. If reckless, a yellow card would result and if it involved the use of excessive force, the challenging player should be sent off.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Jake
Thanks for the question

Soccer is a contact sport meaning that some contact is allowed legally such as a fair charge and where players come together accidentally after playing the ball.

Law 12 sets out what is not allowed and those are punished with a free kick. In addition where the illegal action has been deemed by the referee to be reckless then the offender is cautioned and shown a yellow card and if the offender has used excessive force endangering the safety of an opponents that player is dismissed and shown a red card.

In situations involving goalkeepers many times the ball is available to be challenged for on the ground or in the air by all players. The referee has to judge if a foul is present and who committed it. Sometimes it can be the goalkeeper who commits the offence. Other times its will be the attacker.

So each situation will be different ranging from a coming together to trifling ot doubtful to careless or reckless to using excessive force. Each situation will merit a different response from no offence to playing advantage, to a caution and to a dismissal.

In the modern game a greater deal of protection has been afforded to goalkeepers to make the role more safer. In the distant past goalkeepers were regularly charged even when they had the ball with one of the reasons why the goal area was introduced which was to prevent charging in that area as it was common for players to try to barge goalkeepers into the goal!
Thankfully that is no longer in the game and now goalkeepers do get protection and some will say that perhaps they are too protected.

Having said all that goalkeepers are not given free reign in their challenges for the ball and they can also be guilty of Law 12 offences and misconduct.

So to answer your question there is no one answer. If an offence has been committed against the goalkeeper it can be a careless foul which requires no action other than a free kick. Other border line cases the offender can be warned as to their conduct while once it steps into reckless or excessive force challenges those will result in cautions or dismissals respectively.

Law 12 tells us that reckless is when a player acts with disregard to the danger to, or consequences for, an opponent and must be cautioned while using excessive force is when a player exceeds the necessary use of force and/or endangers the safety of an opponent and
must be sent off.
Clearly those two terms require judgement calls which is made by the referee based on each situation.

My good colleague Referee Dawson makes reference to this situation on occasions
When it happened there was great debate about what was the correct decision. It ranged from a foul on the goalkeeper which was the decision on the day, to a foul on the attacker to a throw in. The referee on the day subsequently said that in hindsight he should have awarded a throw in yet many in the game felt that it should have been a penalty kick and a card.
Most agreed it was not a foul by the attacker yet some did and still do.
We can and do have an opinion on the call so it is not always straightforward.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Jake,

This all depends on the situation. Keepers can be challenged, just like any other player.

The referee needs to determine if it's a fair aerial challenge or not.

Some of the things the referee will look for is if the attacker appears to only be going for the ball, or if they seem to have targeted their jump 'at' the keeper - if there is aerial contact and the keeper is bumped off the ball and the attacker hasn't touched the ball, this will usually be a foul - but again, it depends. Of course, the referee will look out for things like raised elbows.

As for a card - it depends on the severity of the foul, if there is one. If the attacker is clearly jumping at the keeper with some force and making no real attempt for the ball, or if they've come in late, then it's probably a yellow. A raised elbow is likely to be a yellow too. A red would have to be absolutely, blatantly jumping straight at the keeper with high force and little pretence of going for the ball, or using an intentionally raised elbow.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Jake,
it's difficult to IMAGINE all circumstances that surround any individual conceptual foul. The forces involved, direction of the runs, reasonability of access, processing who is at fault based on the nature of the collision, determined by the angle of view a referee has at that moment in time.

A goal keeper going UP into the air to grab a high arcing incoming ball is generally in a good position to get to it first BECAUSE the keeper can raise those 2 to 3 foot arms over their head to grab it ahead of any other player. There is a provision within the LOTG that if a keeper is able to place their hands onto the ball they are gifted control and NO opponent can interfere or challenge . While a striker will attempt to win or challenge for a playable ball they can not arbitrarily run over a keeper or in fact any opponent in trying to do so.

Notice I used UP in my first description now think up and OUT or as in leaping or running at pace forward or even backwards to get to the ball first even if means going over the top of or into other players particularly the opposition.

Just as the opponents can not run over or into the keeper, the keeper has no carte blanch to run them over either. The Keeper has a risky job, being permitted to use the hands inside their own PA they can place themselves in vulnerable positions when challenging or being challenged! Even if you allow play after a slight bump it's good to be proactive. Let them be aware of your presence and that you did notice as teams take a very dim view of their keeper getting knocked about! "Easy! Watch yourself. Back off! You have the ball, relax!"

Opponents should understand to avoid and attempt to swerve away when the keeper has clear title of owner ship of ball control or even likely to have it, in avoiding any serious collision.
We could look at any contact, that is not a foul, as a coming together or perhaps a trifling bump with no real consequence.
If the opponents contact was deemed careless, a simple knock for loss of control as a charge or push that's a DFK out restart.
If it was forcefully a reckless tackle possibly endangering the safety then show a yellow card caution a DFK out restart.
If the tackle contact was excessive and very much a serious chance of injury we are looking at the red card and a sending off reducing the team a player with a DFK out restart
In all cases of a definite foul be sure to interject your presence and if possible disable the dissent and anger likely to follow any altercation.

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