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Question Number: 35099

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 9/9/2023

Barry Stewart of Chilliwack, BC Canada asks...

A question from today's u-18 boys match.

An attacking player found himself slightly off the field by the opposing goal post. Rather than come immediately back onto the playing field, he ran behind the goal netting first, then back into play.

I realize he was liable to be called offside if conditions were met — but are there any other concerns? (He ended up not affecting play and the defence cleared the ball, btw.)

While on this topic: is a player also welcome to run down the side of the field — outside the touchline — then back into the playing area (again liable to potential offside rulings, or collisions with coaching staff or substitutes)?

I have asked in the past if a player can step off the field at a corner, for example, when an opposing player is time-wasting a ball in the corner. Once off the field, they might get a better poke at the ball. Panelists agreed that this would be legal.

Thanks again for your wisdom!

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Barry,
in direct answer I would not restart knowing a player was doing what you describe. I might not caution simply warn the player that was not a great idea. If he did so during active play
I would consider the impact it had on the match to a degree it proved to be deliberately contrived to gain an advantage! The LOTG demand only that we punish deliberate breaches of the laws that unfairly effect the game or are so volatile or impacting they simply can not be excused. I would have to be convinced it was intended as a deception not just a poor decision.

Players can through momentum, show non involvement or in efforts to avoid a collision temporarily leave the confines of the FOP.

It is expected they return quickly. Such situations rarely need to be scrutinized UNLESS such an action is undertaken with nefarious intents.

Keep in mind for purposes of offside stepping over the goal line that player is deemed ON the goal line and in exiting the touchline that player is seen as if inside the FOP.

There is GOOD reason to keep spectators back from the touchlines and that even the technical areas are at least 1 yard away. It is a clear look and run for the ARS but a player skirting the touchline to avoid an opponent can do so without fear of running into anyone!

A player running the touchline trying to widen the field of play for attacking purposes is fine assuming they are barely skirting it . They start ducking in way behind the technical areas or spectators as a screening move, creating dangerous collision possibilities, that is NOT acceptable! I have seen some rather dubious throw in situations where players exit retrieving it, tossing it to a teammate then try to linger down field after to slip in behind defenders.

Somewhat the same for exiting the FOP via the goal line then coming back in . Yet if they use the netted area to discard their opposition marker or avoid detection on a corner that also is NOT acceptable.

Your version of a player exiting to challenge for ball possession at a corner is correct. Just watch for the the corner flag being used or grabbed as a deterrent by either party! I actually sent a player off for using it as a whipping post. lol

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Barry
Thanks for the question.
Law 3 tells us that “ A player who crosses a boundary line as part of a playing movement does not commit an offence.” So going off the field of play to go around an opponent with the ball is not an offence or to challenge an opponent in the corner area from off the field of play is also not an offence. Same also in taking any restart where it is necessary such a corner, goal kick, corner kick or to retrieve the match ball.

Now what you have described here is not a playing movement and it would be a caution for leaving the field of play without permission and an indirect free kick restart. A referee could opine that as it had no impact on play with the ball cleared away to let it slide. The player though should be warned of his actions at the next stoppage.
A player could stand slightly off the field of play say at a corner yet not so much as to be considered off the field of play. The player is considered to be on the line for offside purposes.
I would also advise referees to ask players to stand on the FOP say at a corner kick not off it which includes inside the netting area with the express instruction to stay on the FOP. A referee should not allow the restart with players off the field of play around the goal area.

Running down the touchline off the field of play for a distance should also not happen and there is no reason to do it unless to go around an opponent yet an immediate return is required.
It may not even come to the referees notice yet if it his done for nefarious reasons such as intimidating coaching staff or substitutes it should be dealt with sternly. ARs does not need a player running in their space unless it is part of a playing movement with the ball so an AR will adjust accordingly.

Have a look at this video
The referee in my opinion should have prevented the corner kick from being taken by using his whistle to stop the restart the moment it started to happen.
As that did not happen and the actions were not part of normal play the goal should have been disallowed in both FIFA and NFHS codes. As to a caution it is unclear from the video who was involved and certainly if the scorer was one of four players that player should be cautioned. Four cautions would be overkill so I would pick one say the scorer or the first of the four to play the ball or the first to leave and restart with an IDFK to the defending team.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

He Barry,
The intent of the law is that a player who leaves the field of temporarily as part of the normal course of play should not be penalised for this. However a player who leaves the field deliberately and without the referee's permission for any other reason is to be cautioned.

So basically it comes down to your interpretation as a referee as to why the player has left the field and how this movement can be characterized. If you as a referee think that what the player has done can be considered as part of the normal course of play then you can allow it. But if not, you are entitled to caution the player for leaving the field without permission.

If as could be the case in the situation you describe first (the player going off the field on one side of the goal and coming back on just the other side of it) it's a little unclear what the player intended then as my colleagues have suggested it would probably suffice to just warn the player in the first instance.

As far as the other scenario you describe, I don't think it's allowable for a player to go running down the field outside of the touchline for an extended length of time or over an extended distance. Again, if the player just steps off the field temporarily while trying to play the ball or to avoid an opponent, that is fine but any more than that, I think we're looking at something more akin to a cautionable offence. Once more perhaps just a warning to start with but that sounds like less of a grey area to me.

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