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Question Number: 26771

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 9/16/2012

RE: MLS Professional

Scott of Vancouver, BC Canada asks...


I was recently watching Seattle at Portland. During the game in the 69th minute a cross was deflected by a defender and was about to roll out for a corner kick.

Another defender sprints after the ball as the teammates goalkeeper also tries to come and save it.

The defender gets to the ball and JUST stops/rolls it back into play by an inch and the goalkeeper comes running over and slides/picks it up.

There were many Portland players screaming for a pass back.

Is this ruled as a pass back? The ball wasn't directly passed to the goalkeeper but it was directly stopped with the (I would assume)intention for the goalkeeper to pick it up.

If this is allowed couldn't a defender essentially put his foot on the ball in open play in the box and then run off (similar action of saving it from going out of play) and have the keeper pick it up?


Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Scott
The Law states that the ball must be deliberately kicked to the goalkeeper and that decision is in the opinion of the referee. The referee had to determine in this situation whether it was a deliberately kick or if the ball was stopped under pressure by a defender so as to play it again with the goalkeeper subsequently getting involved. If it is the latter then it is not an offence for the goalkeeper to touch the ball with his hands.
In the situation where a player stops the ball clearly with the intent of leaving it for the goalkeeper then that is a deliberate kick albeit a few inches and that should be punished.
If you as a referee were of the opinion that as you state " it was directly stopped with the (I would assume)intention for the goalkeeper to pick it up" then you will act on your assumption with the award of the IDFK. If it is doubtful and you are unsure of your assumption perhaps based on the goalkeeper's decision then you may see it as no offence or trifling at worse allowing play to continue.
You might notice that referees, at the professional level, are in recent times only punishing 'stonewall' breaches of the incorrectly called 'backpass' law and the 6 second rule. Indeed the decision by Referee Pedersen to punish the Canadian goalkeeper in the Olympic games for holdiing the ball for 14 seconds was lambasted by many yet any game will clearly show that the '6 seconds' is regularly breached.
Likewise referees are only punishing deliberate breaches of the 'backpass' and there are many examples in recent times.
Once the ball is in the hands on a 'doubtful' situation the GK has 6 seconds to put it back into play so the import of the law is present, which was the original intent of the law makers.

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Answer provided by Referee Michelle Maloney

The keeper is not allowed to handle a ball deliberately kicked by a teammate. Whether the referee considered this a deliberate kick or not is the deciding factor, and I suspect you'd get a 50/50 response, with 50 saying yes and 50 saying no.

At the professional level, this would most likely not be called, although it all depends on the circumstances.

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