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: 35103

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 9/12/2023

RE: Under 14

Tyler of Vancouver, Bc Canada asks...

Hello! At what point is the goal keeper out of their penalty box? If the ball is just outside of the box, can they keep their feet in the box and pick it up? What if it’s on the line? How about if they’re already holding it? Is it where the goalkeeper is or where the ball is? I’m seeing a lot of drop kicks where their feet are in the box but the ball is outside of the box come of out their box and the hands are a little out too.
Thanks, Tyler.

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Tyler,
the LOTG designate that the BOUNDARY lines are PART of the area they surround.
The PA (penalty area) is also known as the 18 yard box where the LOTG ALSO allow the use of that keepers' hand ON THE BALL!

There is NOTHING in the LOTG that require a keeper to physically stay within the PA boundary lines when handling the ball. Only that the BALL itself must be within that area if the keepers' hands are in contact. BECAUSE outside the PA the keeper is simply another player and like any player should they be guilty of handling the ball outside their PA, THAT is a DFK from that point of contact. . .

Here is where it gets interesting

I want you to consider the 5 inch boundary line that encompasses the PA to be an invisible wall of water that stretches straight up into the sky just as high as the ball can go.

THEN consider this, IF that ball is the LEAST bit wet, on ANY portion of its surface, THAT ball is OK for a keeper to place their hands upon that ball, EVEN if that portion of the ball they are touching is not wet at all.

The reason is the ball will be considered as INSIDE the PA and thus legally touchable by the keeper. Even if part of the ball is completely on the field side outside, as long as some small part is on or breaking the plane of that 5 inch wall of water, it is safe to grab the ball.

So use your imagination, the keeper could be lying flat out on the ground, COMPLETELY outside their own PA , feet pointing back towards centre, as the arms are stretched back towards the PA and a portion of the hand pressing the ball to the ground.

As long as there is some part of that ball that is wet, in that it is in contact or breaking the plane of that 5 inch boundary line, technically the keeper, although standing or in this case lying down completely outside their PA, can STILL legally touch the ball, IF IT IS WET!

Mind you as in all things the vantage point of observation will still be what the referee will see from where they are when such things occur. Just remember this, IF the ball WAS deemed to be handled outside by the keeper, thus not wet, the restart MUST NEVER place the ball on the PA or overhang the plane of that boundary line BECAUSE??? That ball would be legal to handle if that was, where it was. The DFK must occur COMPLETELY outside the PA same as if he was a player.

This includes when keepers CARRY their ball in their hands outside by accident and forget to release the ball . That DFK restart is ALWAYS, JUST outside, the PA boundary line where they exited. Mind you we do try to avoid GOTCHA calls so some warning might be in order. Often they are tossing it out and away, upon kicking they appear outside, but the ball was thrown forward not CARRIED there. BE VERY sure before making such an impacting decision. I believe warnings are better in iffy situations then awarding a DFK and providing a scoring opportunity for the opposition, who did nothing to earn it. . Be sure the foul is clearly of a repetitive or aggressive nature not trifling or trivial!

I recall a young keeper ran up and punted the ball, at the top of the penalty arc, some 4 yards outside the PA . Ok the keeper perhaps though the D was part of the PA and thus could use it. The DFK foul call was correct but it could have been a triggered warning at the younger ages!

While watching as a mentor I noted the free kick was being taken from there. I sidled over to the AR and whispered, IF, it is a DFK for the handing it is just past the point he carried it outside NOT 4 yards away where it was kicked! The D or ARC is NOT part of the PA but only a designated line to show 10 yards from the PK spot, 12 yards from goal

Please do not do what one referee did, which is award a PK for the keeper coming outside their PA to handle the ball and only shown a yellow card caution, instead of a red card send off reduce them by a player with DFK from outside the PA for DOGSO. Sigh The match was a replay ordered because the previous referee messed up the KFTPM in a competitive championship elimination match. Now because this restart was against the LOTG it provided ANOTHER reason to protest and have the 2nd match replayed.


Read other questions answered by Referee Richard Dawson

View Referee Richard Dawson profile

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Tyler
Thanks for the question.
Goalkeepers are like any other players as they can go anywhere on the field of play to play the ball and they have the one exception in that they can uses there hands and arms inside the penalty area to play the ball. They do not have to be inside the area to handle the ball legally just as long as the ball in inside the penalty area.

The penalty area is set out in Law 1 and the line that marks the penalty area is part of the area. So a ball on or touching part of the penalty area line is inside the area so a goalkeeper is entitled to use the hands in playing the ball in such positions.

So to answer your question it is the location of the ball that matters. If the ball is fully outside the penalty area goalkeepers cannot use their hands to touch the ball.
Now you mention drop kicks and possible handling.
I like to show this video
Can we say for certain that the ball has been touched by hand fully over the penalty area line while being released as part of the punt? We can certainly opine that the goalkeeper crossed over the line through the kicking action and momentum yet where was the hand at the moment of release just before the kick close to the line below?
I recall an assistant referee in a Premier League game flagging for one of those only for freeze frame to show that the ball was released inside the area by the goalkeeper and kicked outside so there was no offence.

I only recall ever penalising clear offences where a goalkeeper carried the ball outside the area through a misjudgment of position mostly on balls played towards the area. I don't ever recall a call on a punt as at worst it is doubtful at speed. I have seen them given yet much like the PL decision they were not clear cut in my opinion and at best a guesstimate. It would have been better to have a word with the goalkeeper to be careful of the penalty area line.

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe McHugh

View Referee Joe McHugh profile

Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Tyler,
For refereeing purposes you don't really need to decide when the goalkeeper is outside of the penalty area - what you need to decide is when the ball is.

When the ball is moving from inside the penalty area to outside of it, it's only when the whole of the ball has crossed over the whole of the line, that the ball is outside the penalty area. And once it is wholly outside the penalty area, the goalkeeper may no longer handle it. Contrariwise, if any part of the ball is still overhanging the line then the ball is still in the penalty area and the goalkeeper is still allowed to handle it.

In answer to your question about whether the keeper can pick up a ball which is outside the box, so long as their feet are inside, the answer is no. Once again this is because it's the position of the ball that matters, not the position of the goalkeeper.

As far as dróp kicks go, the goalkeeper must release the ball from their hands before it has wholly crossed the penalty area line, in order to remain within the law. So long as they do that they are perfectly entitled to cross the penalty area line when kicking the ball, since there is no restriction on the goalie leaving their penalty area and playing the ball with their feet during a game.

Read other questions answered by Referee Peter Grove

View Referee Peter Grove profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 35103
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 free 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. While there is no charge for asking the questions, donation to maintain the site are welcomed! <>