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Question Number: 22812

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 2/11/2010

RE: Adult

Ian Robinson of Swindon, Wiltshire England asks...

The attacking player runs into the box with the ball, goes round the goalkeeper and pushes the ball the wide of the goal (but still in the box). His momentum takes him off the field of play. A defending player then slides in to challenge for the ball and misses the ball but then fouls the player off the field of play (with the ball still in the penalty area).

What is the referee's decision and how to restart play, if he stops play??

Many thanks.

Answer provided by Referee Gene Nagy

Ian, fouls, by definition only happen on the field of play. It is called 'misconduct' if it happens off the field.

Under this premise, the referee has to decide what kind of misconduct this was. Let us assume it was unsporting, which is the catchall misconduct if it does not fit into any of the other six catagories. Say a studs up tackle but off the field. After stopping play and dealing with the caution the referee must restart with a drop ball.

There may be other extenuating circumstances like playing advantage if another opponent is just about to slot the ball home. But short of anything else, the restart is a drop ball.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Ian
These are never easy decisions. As the 'challenge' happened off the field of play it cannot be a penalty or a free kick. The referee has to determine, as the ball is still in play, does he allow play to continue. The referee then has to decide if the incident off the FOP affects the subsequent play such as preventing the attacker from rejoining play. If that is the case the referee would stop play, caution the defender for the misconduct and restart with a dropped ball from where play was stopped.
I would also, as a referee, need to be 100%+ certain that all of the foul contact happened outside the field of play and all contact happened totally off the FOP which is indeed rare. If any part of the player who is fouled is touching the goal line or touch line or any contact commenced inside the FOP the offence has happened on the field of play and it is a penalty or DFK. These off the field incidents are indeed rare and do cause a lot of difficulty for referees

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Answer provided by Referee Steve Montanino

To have a foul, four conditions must be met. The foul must be committed:
1. By a player
2. On the field of play
3. While the ball is in play
4. Against an opponent.

In this question, the 'foul' fails point 2 of the test, as we know fouls are punished at the location they are committed. Therefore this is not a foul.

Whether the game is stopped depends on whether the referee feels the contact rose to the level of misconduct (caution or send-off). Misconduct does not require the finding that the contact be reckless, or excessive to be punished. Nearly any contact COULD be punished as misconduct in the proper circumstances. For example, if the referee felt the contact prevented the attacker fairly returning to the field of play, then the referee could caution the opponent for a tactical foul.

So what is the restart, if the referee stops play for misconduct? From the FIFA Interpretation of the laws of the game & guidelines for referees (pg. 120 of the full FIFA laws of the game, available for free download at "If the player leaves the field of play to commit the offence, play is restarted with an indirect free kick from the position in which the ball was located when play was stopped." In this case it sounds like the player left the field and directly committed misconduct therefore the restart should be an IFK, with the goal area exception applying.

Thanks for visiting

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Answer provided by Referee Michelle Maloney

A great deal depends on how the referee views what happens. It will depend in part on the level of play, the skill of the players involved, the temperature at that time in the game, and a few other intangibles.

What we do know is the referee has a few choices available to her. If the attacker is completely off the field when the defender begins his slide and the contact takes place completely off the field, there can be no foul.

If the slide was not intended (does not look like the defender deliberately meant to slide of the field and contact the other player) to get the player but only did so by accident or carelessly, the referee may choose not to stop play at all, or if play is stopped (most likely to check on the attacker), it will restart with a dropped ball wherever the ball was when play was stopped. In your scenario, this could be plenty of punishment, since the ball was in the penalty area, which is a great opportunity for the attack.

If the referee decides the defender intended to leave the field, and it appears he either recklessly or violently contacted the attacker, we go from no call as in the previous scenario to having a couple of choices. We can caution the defender for leaving the field without permission (leaving to commit an offense is never leaving with permission - but leaving to play the ball or to go around an opponent is considered a normal part of play to which the referee implicitly gives permission to leave) and the restart for that is an IDFK wherever the ball was when play was stopped. The referee can decide that no further misconduct took place.

Or, we can caution for leaving the field and issue a second caution for unsporting behavior for the reckless tackle, or for the tactical play, which means the defender is sent off. The restart is still an IDFK.

Lastly, the referee can caution for leaving without permission and send off the defender for violent conduct for the excessive force used in the tackle. The restart there is still an IDFK from wherever the ball was located when play was stopped.

So, the referee has many choices in this situation, and the answer will depend entirely on the referee's opinion of what has happened and what is needed by the game that day, those teams.

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Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 22812
Read other Q & A regarding Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct

The following questions were asked as a follow up to the above question...

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