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Question Number: 28848

Law 18 - Common Sense 10/13/2014

RE: Rec Under 15

George of Parangarecutirimicuaro, California Sacratomato asks...

Goalie lunges for the ball but loses control and the ball travels maybe one foot in front of her. An attacking player challenges for the ball. Opposing coach goes berserk over the no call from the ref. We discussed this particular play at half-time with the other refs. According to the other AR, who used to play goalie, even if the goalie loses momentary control, the ball is still considered to be in the goalie's possession.

Fast forward to the next week on a different game with different teams. Now AR is center ref. Grass was saturated with dew this morning making the ball slippery. In this game, goalie lunges for the ball, ball slips and travels two feet in front of her, attacker challenges and no call is made. Everyone seemed to be OK with the no call.

Trying to improve my skills and for future reference, what is the rule on goalie possession? How far must a fumbled ball travel before an attacker can challenge and/or the ball is no longer deemed in possession of the goalie?

Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

The Laws of the Game state that the goalkeeper is in control of the ball when it is in contact with his arm or hand (they provide an exception when the keeper is throwing the ball up or bouncing it just before releasing the ball).

Therefore, if the keeper loses the ball, even for a moment, it's fair game for the opponents. The opposing coach - and the other AR - are both incorrect. There's simply nothing in the laws that states the goalkeeper is still in possession if he fumbles it out of his hands.

All the referee needs to judge is whether the following challenge is legitimate or not (eg that the attacker doesn't challenge unfairly) - and sometimes it can be difficult to determine if the keeper gets his hands on the ball at roughly the same moment as the attacker kicks it.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi George,
The AR is incorrect. The coach has no reason to be upset if the ball is challenged because the keeper does not have possession. The ball can be an inch away it is still not in possession.
However as in ANY challenge the safety of the opponent cannot be ignored. When a keeper goes down and fumbles for the ball it is true an opponent still must use care where the ball and the keeper are in close proximity but in deciding to kick at the loose ball the challenge will be judged fair or foul on whether the opponent was shown any consideration for his safety. If the actions are unconcerned or blatantly disregards the safety or if it is a brutal use of force cards are in play as well.

A goalkeeper is considered to be in control of the ball:
while the ball is between his hands or between his hand and any surface (e.g. ground, own body)
while holding the ball in his outstretched open hand
while in the act of bouncing it on the ground or tossing it into the air

When a goalkeeper has gained possession of the ball with his hands, he cannot be challenged by an opponent.

the goalkeeper is considered to be in control of the ball by touching it with any part of his hands or arms except if the ball rebounds accidentally from him, e.g. after he has made a save. End Quote

A key point is often a keeper has the ball but is jostled by a momentum or collision of some sort by the opponent causing him to lose possession. That jostling by an opponent is a foul if the keeper had ball possession and any new challenge for the loose ball is unfair since the foul occurred to create it. Mind you at times a keeper's own team mate or a hard shot or a bump on the hard ground and the keeper LOSES possession, This is not a bounce or a toss up preparing to kick it away after 6 seconds of possession. This is a free ball temporarily available to play by ALL!

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

hi George
Must take an age spelling your address every single time!! LOL
Anyway thank you for your question. The AR was wrong as was the coach who went berserk.
Referee Dawson has quote the relevant section from the current Laws of the Game page# 120
Now as described the goalkeeper had not control or possession of the ball as quoted by the three conditions. The GK spilled the ball which is then considered a rebound in which case it can be challenged for by an opponent. The challenge though has to be a manner that is not careless or reckless such as lunging with a raised boot at the player from distance. That will be a foul.
Perhaps that is why the coach got irate yet in these situations the goalkeeper usually contributes by diving / lunging for the ball at players feet sometimes coming off worse as a result.
I recall a recent game where the goalkeeper spilled the ball out and the attacker got to play the ball first kicking it into the goal. Momentum carried the goalkeeper into the attacker just after the ball was kicked injuring his knee. That was caused by the GK not the forward. The goal was good.

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Answer provided by Referee James Sowa


Ref Dawson lays out the requirements for control pretty clearly. Another thing to keep in mind is the manner of the challenge when the ball is loose again. Did the player expose studs or go sliding in? Wind up and swing at the ball? etc... That can frustrate coaches as well and can lead to more problems. In both of your scenarios above the ball is loose and fair game.

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