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Question Number: 27143

Law 5 - The Referee 1/27/2013

RE: Rec Adult

Robert of Winchester, England asks...

Why do referees not penalise goalkeepers for holding onto the ball for more than 6 seconds. We see this sort of foul every week in the English game but it's NEVER punished. Why not?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Robert
When the Law was first introduced its application was much more stricter. Players have become much more relaxed about the timing in recent years and unless the goalkeeper is 'abusing' the situation referees tend to be flexible.
I surveyed a game last season on this question and both goalkeeper had the ball in their possession ranging from 1/2 seconds right up to 10/12 on a number of occasions. I could not say that either team were concerned about the few times it was greater than 6 seconds and it could not be viewed that the GK were unduly wasting time so the referee responded accordingly. I might add that both GK approached the situation in a similar manner so the referee was consistent in his handling of same.
The most recent award of an IDFK at a high level was in the Women's' Olympic game between USA and Canada. The decision by the referee was viewed by many as 'harsh' and she was heavily criticised by Canada and many commentators.
So in effect referee simply respond to what is accepted in the game by players and managers.

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Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

Referees also do not call the large number of jersey pulls, hand checks, and pushes in every game. Why? FIFA has long held that stopping play for trifling infringements disrupts the enjoyment of the match. Infringements are enforced when they affect the game or the players.

The six second requirement came as part of a major change in the laws in 1996. Defenders were used to kicking the ball back to the keeper, and whenever the keeper handled the ball inside the PA, the keeper was restricted to only four steps before releasing the ball. It made very dull soccer.
The change was to eliminate the deliberate pass to the keeper, and let the keeper roam with the ball before releasing it. Both changes added to attacking soccer.
But, since the keeper in possession of the ball could not be challenged, the keeper needed to release it. A time limit was set.

In most cases, the keeper is holding the ball waiting for teammates to advance up the field before releasing it. Both teams do it, and treat it as a natural part of the game. It makes no difference to the match if the keeper takes 5 seconds or 7. Note: when the keeper appears to be wasting time or trying to prevent the opponents from gaining possession of the ball, it is usually obvious. The referee warning the goalkeeper to 'watch your time', however, is something that few fans or spectators see or hear. The warning usually will suffice.

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Answer provided by Referee Nathan Lacy

The intent of this law is to get the ball back into play. If the teams are doing exactly that and neither team is being disadvantaged then why get involved? As my mentor used to tell me - let's not go looking for trouble because it's going to find us anyway. Also, choose your battles carefully. This is one of those issues that using some common sense and managing is extremely important. Discerning between waiting for players to develop their tactical position on the field verus time wasting is an important thing for us as referees to be sensitve too. Also, like many other situations on the field, it's helpful to 'tee up' the call before you make it. Very visibly admonish the keeper(s) and let the whole stadium know what's going on (unless it's very very blatant). In that way when you do make the call teammates, coaches, and spectators won't be yelling at you but at the goalkeeper saying things like 'What the heck were you thinking? He told you what he was going to do?' All the best,

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