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Question Number: 35265

Law 1- The Field 12/3/2023

RE: Competitive Under 16

Jose of Miami, Florida United States asks...

I have doubts regarding the relationship between a player's foot/feet and lines on the field. Allow me to present three cases as they relate to trow-ins, offsides, and PKs. On TIs, I am told that, even if any part of the player's foot/feet is touching the field of play during a TI, it is still legal, as long as the other part is touching the line or is off the field. On offside situations, I am told that, at the moment the ball is passed, if the player receiving it has any part of his foot/feet on the attacking field, he is committing an offside offense, but NOT if any part of his foot/feet is ON the halfway line, because the halfway line is a neutral line. Finally, I am told that, if a foul (for simplicity purposes, assume here the foul was foot related) occurs ON the penalty area line, the call should be a PK because the line is not neutral but is part of the penalty area. I hope you can see why I am confused. It these instructions are accurate, then the way you look at the position of the foot/feet vis-a-vis the line has to be interpreted differently on throw-ins, offsides, and PKs.

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Jose,
thanks for the question, no reason to doubt mate, just consider this for a moment.
The LOTG clearly delineate that the boundary lines that make up the area in question are in fact PART of the area they encompass. So there are a couple of points that are looked at differently, are they so difficult to put into perspective?

The fact the LOTG state you cannot be guilty of offside position in your half does seem to trifle with the 5 inch midline extending to both teams. Yet law 11 clearly identifies the playable body part inside the opposition half, CLOSEST to the opposing goal line is a determining factor in offside positional evaluations in relationship to the 2nd last opponent or possible ball location when last touched by a teammate. Essentially only the VAR freeze frame approach is likely to make such tight evaluations. There is a reason the when in doubt do not wave it about mantra is used for grassroots.
On throw ins they simply refer to feet on the ground in relationship to the 5 inch touchline
On fouls it is point of contact in relationship to the 5 inch touchline, PA, goal line, goal area ?

Imagine these 5 inch wide lines, extended skywards to infinity. It is a concept not always understood, so I suggest as thinking they are 5 inch invisible walls of water extending straight up.

Lets first consider the round ball , it is not a single contact point, it is 10 to 12 inches wide, if any of its curved portion is within or in contact with the wetted area, it is considered as INSIDE that area, even if the larger portion is not wet at all, that applies on the ground or in the air. What sort of evaluation in REAL time at grass roots do you think you can do if in the air is the reference point?

Consider the concept of the DFK foul contact occurring in that 5 inch wetted area that encompasses the penalty area it is now upgraded to a PK status as it has occurred within the boundaries of the PA. This applies to the goal area as well as the touchlines & goal lines themselves.

I slide on the ground and foot to foot, I bowl over an opponent at this 5 inch juncture that is a foul on the FOP at that exact point. If I kick him in the knee within that wetted are, that is inside that area, at that exact point. If a DFK and that occurs on the PA boundary line a PK upgrade is mandatory it is not a discretionary call!

Keep in mind while the contact point of a foul is critical for restart purposes, the application of advantage can see a secondary foul as a new foul as as long as that first one was not the cause of the final effect. The one foul that creates some confusion is the holding foul where it can occur outside the PA and be continued inside and thus designated a PK not a DFK outside! Also we now bring a reality to the fouls where momentum may have taken players into touch, we bring that foul back onto the FOP at the nearest point to the boundary lines as IF it occurred on the FOP within those boundary lines. That includes DFKs and PKs not just INDFKS

Now to further confuse you
if a defender was to handle the non wetted area of a ball closer to the midfield & on the other side of that curved ball was marginally in contact with the PA line thus slightly wet but is not the part of the ball that was handled, the ball location is the deciding factor in determining the deliberate handling foul as a PK . On the revers or flip side, a keeper could in fact be 100% outside his PA and yet reach back and get a hand to this ball on the dry side but as it IS barely wet on the goal side, still have 100% legal uncontested possession.

Granted it might be a difficult decision in real time to be 100% sure but if VAR was involved and conclusively determined it to be so a PK is correct if a defending player, a DFK out if an opposing player and nothing but play on if the keeper .

While not so critical or important for an attacking foul against the defenders as a DFK outbound! If there was doubt or determined not to be wet for defenders the placement MUST occur with no part of the ball being wet just outside the PA . This location is the EXACT same if a keeper was to exit the PA while holding onto the ball and carrying it completely outside to a non wet condition say punting it at the top of the Penalty arc.
It is not the kick/punt that was wrong, nor is that the restart point .
The restart point is the moment the ball wound up outside the the PA with the keepers hands in contact just marginally but 100% not wet just outside the 5 inch PA lines .

I should remind you keepers often toss the ball ahead so it looks funny but the ball most often is NOT in contact with the hands as it crosses into the FOP . Plus these are often trifling or doubtful occasions and not worth exploiting a scoring position out of essentially nothing.

Lets look at throw ins from the same lens of trifling and doubtful as well.
This simple restart, designed to get the ball quickly back into play is techy mecca for new officials and youth coaches. Sigh, . In my opinion, the encroachment up the touchline as opposed to the restart occurring where the ball actually exited the FOP as prescribed in law is is usually a bigger deal than foot position on or off the touchline but again how technical do you want this to be?

In essence the ball is actually being handled inside the FOP before it is released as the arms are extended into the FOP getting the ball wet as it were. thus it is now a live ball in play. The fact a ball can brush the touchline in the air and then exit into touch is a throw-in for the opposition it is not a retry of never in. . It got just marginally wet, it was in!

This concept is a bit diffrent in the feet can still be wet yet the throw in is incorrect if not in contact with the ground portion of the line. Unlike in the air for the ball or a foul to occur. What is unusual about the feet designation, is any part of the foot even in marginal contact with the touch line is considered ok as long as the entirety of the foot or the other is not completely on the infield side of the 5 inch boundary line. The fact the feet must REMAIN on the ground is cause for review as players will drag the back foot by the toe , lift the leg rocking forward, or tilt heel to toe, potentially having the foot comming up off the touch line. Once again we must be aware the ball is in the process of being released and once the hands let go of the ball over top of the head then the feet can do as they wish. I remind you a simple way to get the ball into play.

Offside as a two part equation is a simple freeze frame of Position, but that moment is based on the ability for the AR /CR to determine who was where, WHEN, that touch occurs. At grassroots just how exact do you think you will be? The fact we switched the restart location to the 2nd part, Involvement, we are now awarding INDFK from inside their own half has already sent the old guard into a frenzy! lol

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Jose
Thanks for the question.
The LotG states that lines form the part of the field of play that they define so all three are consistent. Law 2 states * These lines belong to the areas of which they are boundaries.*

On a throw in a player with feet ON or behind the line is legal. It is only when a foot is fully over the line that the player is on the field of play. The same applies to the ball as it has to be fully over the line to be out of plsy.

As to the half way line it is part of both halves so if a player has part of a foot over the line it is deemed to be in the attacking half and therefore if the player is to interfere with play or an opponent from that position it is offside.
Now at grassroots that is going to be very difficult to determine so an AR will need to see a more significant encroachment into the opponents half to call it. With VAR it is much easier with freeze frame and lines.

As to the penalty area line that is also part of the penalty area so if an offence happens on the line it is deemed to be inside the area. As regards the ball position all of the ball has to be outside the line to be deemed outside so any part of the ball ON the line is deemed inside the penalty area.

So there is consistency here throughout the Laws. A foot on the line at a throw in is consider to be off the field, a foot on the half way line is in the players own half while if part is over it is in the attacking half and at a penalty area line the line is part of the area.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe Manjone


I understand what you are saying. There is no consistency in the rules, but does there need to be a consistency?

The touchline is considered being in the field of play and the ball has to go completely over the line to be out of play or out of bounds. However, on a throw-in, the feet can be on the line, so the line is considered as being off the field of play. It would possibly be better to require the feet to be completely behind the touchline and off the field which is what happens on most throw ins. However, this is not the rule, and the current rule of legal feet positions has not been a problem for teams or officials.

The midfield line is considered as being in the team's own half of the field for the team on the attack. The rule had to be made for the midfield line to be in either the attacking or defensive team's goal half of the field. I think having it as part of the defensive half of the field allows the players and officials a better understanding of their position for offsides and the kickoff. Also, it is similar to the back court line in basketball where the mid-court line is considered back court for a team on offense.

As for the penalty area line. It is part of the penalty area and what occurs on the penalty area line is considered in the penalty area. It does not offer different options like the touch and midfield lines.

However, as the other referees pointed out, there is consistency with a foot on each of these lines causing the player to be in a certain area (out-of-bounds for throw-in defensive end for mid-field and penalty area.

Hopefully, this helps and your team has a successful season.

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