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Question Number: 22495

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 11/11/2009

RE: Athena B Under 17

Paul Hofmann of Smyrna, Georgia USA asks...

A ball is deliberately kicked back to the keeper, who attempts to use her feet to Boom the ball up field to clear the area. However in the muddy field conditions she misplays the ball, still kicking it with her foot in accordance with the rules, but the ball goes nearly straight up, traveling roughly 30 to 40 feet in the air and only 8 yards or so up field. The ball takes one high bounce with plenty of back spin, and heads back into the penalty area towards the keeper. With a few attackers and defenders now in the immediate area, the keeper now runs up to the ball, jumps and catches it in the PA at a 6' high point of it's bounce.
I see no problem here. Because of the initial pass back, the keeper needed to play the ball with her feet, and she did. Her kick then was an obvious miss touch, absolutely no form of trickery by any stretch of the imagination.
Knowing too that the intent of the pass back rule is to prevent time wasting, I saw no violation in that regard either.
The coach however very politely questioned the no call, and I promised to politely discuss it at the half.
In that conversation, my A/R interrupted our conversation and told the coach that he would have awarded an indirect kick had he been the Center.
I asked the A/ R under what rule would he award that kick, and his only answer was that he believed the keeper could not play the ball with her hands after releasing it into play until another player touched the ball. I explained that applies only when the keeper has already used her hands once to make a save, she can not use her hands AGAIN. This was clearly not the case here.
So, enough paragraphs. What is the correct ruling? Play on or indirect. If indirect, WHY?

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

I really have to reread these questions!
WHO kicked the ball back???
If it was a team mate the keeper is NOT permitted the use of the hands.
Her mistake does NOT give her the right to use her hands!
Award the INDFK when she uses her hands!
The laws say say nothing about kicking the ball only not using the hands.
"An indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a goalkeeper, inside his own penalty area, commits the following offence:
? touches the ball with his hands after it has been deliberately kicked to him by a team-mate"
End quote

It is interesting you pose this question as we are debating in behind the scense this very concept! I hold the opinion that time wasting is NOT the ONLY consideration for awarding an indfk! Many referees feel it is the only consideration.

There is room to find these incidents as trifling or doubtful but I also think tactically an opponent has a right to expect that if he pursued these balls KNOWING the keeper cannot pick it up creates attacking opportunity! I hold the opinion a neutral official cannot use the spirit of why the law came into being as an excuse for a mistake especially if the opposition is affected!

Even if I disagree with your decision it is your decision and if an AR pipped up at that moment I would give serious consideration to shoving the flag where it does not shine never mind he botched the reasoning. The AR should not say anything once you have made a decision, you could chew his butt out for doing so! If there is anything to be said immediately it should be a private REF/AR chat or held until the post game review!

If this was an opponent who deliberately kicked the ball back then there is no reason to do anything at all

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Referee Hoffmann
A few good points in here and an excellent question. Here are my thoughts
1. The AR did the crew here no favours by giving his opinion openly and by interruption. The AR is there to assist the referee and he should not speak until asked to do so by the referee in the presence of 3rd parties. I have seen calls by referees that I would have decided differently but I would only tell the ref privately, not in open discussion. ARs should know that as unwritten rule.
2. I would have made the same decision as yourself. The keeper did not do this deliberately and genuinely kicked the ball back into open play. Circumstances then take over such as the weather, wind, backspin and to penalise the keeper from doing his/her job by handling the ball is not in the 'spirit of the game'. If the keeper tried to do this he/she would be there for quite a while. That was never intended in the law
3. The basis of the law on keepers not handling a ball deliberately kicked to him/her is to prevent time wasting and I believe that referees should only penalise deliberate handling of a backpass either directly or through control with the foot and picking up. Yes under a strict interpretation of what is referred to as the 'Backpass Rule' the ball has to be played by an opponent for him to pick it up again.
4. If the goalkeeper miscontrolled the ball at his/her feet on a backpass and then handled then I would penalise that but this scenario goes way beyond that.
As a final comment I would say that if I was answering this question for a goalkeeper I would tell him/her to err on the side of caution and not to handle the ball in these scenarios as a referee may award an IDFK here depending on the referee's viewpoint.

The maxim "De minimis lex non curat" is not applied uniformly

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Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

Your assistant referee failed to assist and failed to support the referee. Worse, he engaged in dissent with the coach. Some partner.

He also appears to have confused the indirect free kick by a keeper touching the ball again after RELEASING IT FROM THE HANDS. The keeper did not touch the ball after it was directly kicked by a teammate. The question you resolved was whether the keeper complied with the spirit of the law, and whether any infringement by the keeper after the miskick was trifling or doubtful.

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Answer provided by Referee Michelle Maloney

Your AR needs a swift kick in the keister, and an apparently overdue lesson in referee ethics and professionalism.

Ref Wickham notes your AR's apparent confusion on the Law as applied to goalkeepers, and Ref McHugh notes your correct application of both the Law and the spirit. Please pay close attention to their comments and feel free to share with your ARs in the future - in pregame.

All the best,

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Answer provided by Referee Gary Voshol

I would have been under the same opinion as your AR, that the ball was deliberately kicked to the goalkeeper and she cannot handle it. No matter that she plays the ball with her feet first. Because once you decide that X number of touches or Y distance up in the air clears the offense, you now have to calibrate X and Y. I would, however, had kept my opinion to myself until we had a private moment.

Certainly you could view the infraction as being trifling, having little or no effect on play. But I would see it that way if the goalkeeper was not challenged for possession. The way I read your description, I think it should have been an IFK.

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Answer provided by Referee Nathan Lacy

Wow. A lot of discussion over a fairly short question. My approach on these situations is pretty simple and something I learned early on. Three criteria are required: (1) DELIBERATELY played to the keeper; (2) the foot was used (kicked); and (3) the keeper used his/her hands. The aspect of the keeper botching a clearance attempt has nothing to do with it and only serves to confuse the core issue. When you get down to the essence of what occurred the ball was DELIBERATELY played to the the keeper with a kick (the foot) of a teammate and the keeper subsequently used their hands in playing the ball. Hence, IFK. Why should I 'save' the keeper from a mistake that they have made? Specifically, if the keeper botches the clearance am I now I 'm going to allow them to use their hands to save the ball from going into the goal and/or be played by an opponent who might be able to collect the ball and go for goal? I think not. As for the AR - well, enough was said above. Clearly, this AR needs to learn a few lessons in manners but, more importantly, the concept of supporting you referee team and not opening the door to division/splitting the officials in front of the players and/or coaches.

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Answer provided by Referee MrRef

Interesting is it not the variety of opinions that flourish within the game?

Referee discretion is a hard nut to crack if a player or coach disagrees with their interpretation. Coaches teach players to pursue the ball and pressure the opponents to force them into mistakes and expect the laws to be enforced if their players are unfairly denied the opportunity to challenge or participate effectively

The law places 4 specific restrictions on the illegal use of the keeper's hands.

An indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a goalkeeper, inside his own penalty area, commits any of the following four offences:
(1)? controls the ball with his hands for more than six seconds before releasing it from his possession
(2)? touches the ball again with his hands after he has released it from his possession and before it has touched another player
(3)? touches the ball with his hands after it has been deliberately kicked to him by a team-mate
(4)? touches the ball with his hands after he has received it directly from a throw-in taken by a team-mate
End FIFA quote

'The Laws of the Game are intended to provide that games should be played with as little interference as possible, and in this view it is the duty of referees to penalize only deliberate breaches of the Law. Constant whistling for trifling and doubtful breaches produces bad feeling and loss of temper on the part of the players and spoils the pleasure of spectators.'
This former International F.A. Board Decision (previously included in Law 5 as Decision 8 was removed from the Law only because it was felt to be an unnecessary reminder of the referee's fundamental duty to penalize only those violations that matter. The spirit, if not the words, of this Decision remains at the heart of the Law. It is applicable to all possible violations of any of the Laws of the Game.
A trifling infraction is one which, though still an offense, has no significant impact upon play. A doubtful offense is one which neither the referee nor the other officials can attest to. Under no circumstances should the advantage clause be invoked for such 'offenses.' The referee's decision as to whether a player's action is trifling or not is affected considerably by the skill level of the players. However, the referee should remember to consider trifling offenses in determining persistent infringement of the Laws. Further, the referee may wish to talk to or warn a player regarding infringements which, though considered trifling, may nonetheless lead to frustration and retaliation if they continue. END USSF quote

It is possible to consider any violation of the law a trifling or doubtful under certain circumstances but could referee discretion actually be a misapplication of the law rather than a practical reading of the circumstances?

A lot of emphasis on the spirit of why the laws were enacted tends to distort the historical significance of why the laws were changed and TACTICALLY how the players and coaches were forced to adapt to them. Historically the keeper and his defender(s) could play keep away by deliberately kicking the ball back and forth. If an opponent came too close the keeper could use their hands inside their penalty area to grasp the ball and prevent the opponent from challenging. Then restart the whole thing over again. It was a waste of time for a player to purse the ball as it was never going to be a fair contest. This defending tactic was legal at the time but used up playing time, slowed the match and created a palatable feeling of discontent by those observing the matches. FIFA and the IFAB recognized the need to promote, speeded up play, allow for more creativity and more goals. Almost all their law changes are directed towards those ideas unfortunately time wasting seems to be stuck in the mind set of many referees as the only consideration to enact these laws and look to excuse mistakes instead of awarding INDFKS as the law allows. Tactically these changes created some new thinking in the pursuit of the ball! An opposing player can now feasibly pursue these deliberately kicked balls to challenge since the keeper could NOT use the hands.

There are those who will say if the age is young or players inexperienced and the skill level poor the keeper may not realize upon the second attempt to play the ball the RESTRICTION of non use of hands is STILL in place as the ball was deliberately kicked by the team mate initially! If the attacking opponent created this by pressuring the defender or pressuring the keeper it is a tactical cause and effect! As opposed to a freak set of circumstances with no visible effect on the match!

I am not a gotcha referee nor do I believe in finding a technical infraction to create a scoring opportunity in some obtuse version of absolute law. I am adamant however that if the creation of tactical awareness creates opportunity the referee should allow that opportunity and punish it with the appropriate INDFK as required by law!

Lets me be clear on this point! None of what I discuss here is doubtful only trifling could apply!

An attack that forces an error by the keeper is not the same as a possession and release that is bobbled. A keeper who has clear and legal hand on ball possession has 6 FULL seconds once on the feet and in full command of faculties to redistribute the ball, can legally bounce that ball AND most importantly the opposition are not permitted to contest this release.

If the keeper simply commits a mistake and no opponent is disadvantaged by that mistake then trifling could certainly apply. Yet even an accidental drop of the ball, on a slippery day, as the keeper runs to punt it out. If the opponent is there to take advantage of that drop but had nothing to do with why it was dropped that ball is free to be challenged even if the referee permits the keeper to reacquire it and punt it away as part of the original 6 seconds of unchallenged possession time. We have discretionary powers, we must be wary we are not arbitrarily using them to promote our version of fair play when neutrality is required!

USSF EXCERPT from a position paper
This infraction came into the Laws of the Game in 1992 as part of the general effort to restrict opportunities for goalkeepers to waste time by unfairly withholding the ball from active challenge by taking possession of the ball with the hands. Other measures along the same lines include the 6 second limit on goalkeeper possession, the second possession restriction, and the throw-in to the goalkeeper by a teammate.

The offense rests on three events occurring in the following sequence:
? The ball is kicked (played with the foot) by a teammate of the goalkeeper,
? This action is deemed to be deliberate rather than a deflection, and
? The goalkeeper handles the ball directly (no intervening touch of play of the ball by anyone else)

When, in the opinion of the referee, these three conditions are met, the violation HAS occurred. It is not necessary for the ball to be "passed," it is not necessary for the ball to go "back," and it is not necessary for the deliberate play by the teammate to be "to" the goalkeeper.

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