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Question Number: 29478

Law 18 - Common Sense 6/12/2015

RE: Adult

Jason of Burlington, VT USA asks...

I have a question that will probably sound silly, but I have wondered about it for sometime now. If a team has a goal advantage or perhaps wanted to play for a tie, would the following strategy work or even be allowed? Could a team in theory surround the ball and lock arms and simply deny the opposition from touching it while the clock just runs and runs? Is there a rule of unsportsmanlike play that an official might call? I know the opposing team could probably try to push their way through the circle and get a foul called, but then the team could just reset the circle. So while this would not at all be real soccer and all fans would hate seeing it, my question is, is it legal? Could a team literally just block the opposition from getting to the ball and would the clock be allowed to just run and run without a whistle? I am kind of hoping there is a rule that outlaws such a thing or perhaps you will tell me this simply wouldn't work, but I wanted to ask an expert on whether this is plausible or not.

Answer provided by Referee Ben Mueller

Believe it or not this has been tried before. If the ball is not within playing distance of all the players, then the referee could call impeding progress of opponent. If a player tries to get through and players use arms to prevent the opponent from getting to the ball, then the referee could call holding. As far as unsporting, perhaps the referee could issue a caution here to someone after the fact..but i most likely would just call fouls against the team and that should stop it.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Jason,
Not legal !
And there are no silly questions if one is unsure, the only foolish question is one unasked!

The attempt to shield the ball in a manner in suggest to deny access would be a form of USB. If the ball is within playing distance, the player may be fairly charged by an opponent. If they link arms this would not be possible.

Standing in the way of an opponent because all players have a right to their position on the field of play is not the same as ...moving ...into the way of an opponent or designing a USB tactic that unfairly impedes or holds an opponent from a legitimate opportunity to challenge by acting in a manner which shows a lack of respect for the game.

Shielding the ball is permitted. A player who places himself between an
opponent and the ball for tactical reasons has not committed an offence as
long as the ball is kept within playing distance and the player does not hold off
the opponent with his arms or body. If the circle links arms or surrounds the ball in such a manner they are creating an offence against the game itself by holding off the opponents with arms and body position in a way the LOTG do not provide for.

Such a tactic must be halted as it will lead to inevitable physical contact that will create further animosity. If you see the circle completed prior to any opponent in the vicinity and are thinking to stop play to show a yellow card and caution for USB restart with an INDFK. I'd choose the one player who initiated it as a starting point.

One tactic that MIGHT dissolve the circle is to withdraw a yellow card and hold it at your side then glare at the circle with intensity and perhaps one word asked ... SERIOUSLY???... in a manner which leaves little doubt this will not end well if it does not stop

If there is an actual opponent impeded or blocked, whether you halt for an INDFK or DFK offence of holding the need to caution is not sacrosanct but depending on attitude and age might be useful.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Jason
Always ask. Anyway the answer is that it is not legal and the referee has a number of options to deal with it. The first option is that it is an impeding foul. One of the players after the ball has been put into play has moved into the path of the opponent to obstruct, block an opponent when the ball is not within playing distance of either player. Once there is contact it gets escalated to the 2nd option of a holding foul or a charging foul as one of the players has used his body / arm to hold an opponent away from challenging for the ball or used his body to careless charge an opponent with his back into his chest. The third option is that the players have acted in a manner which shows a lack of respect for the game which is a caution and the restart is an indirect free kick. The challenge there is to identify which player to caution. My advice is that as soon as it starts blow the whistle and award the IDFK for impeding. It takes away any possibility of contact and animosity between the players.
I recall in an U14 game a number of seasons ago the game had become a slaughter and some silliness has entered the game. On a free kick the leading team tried to set up a V formation in front of the ball with the ball carrier behind the V which they had seen on Mighty Ducks movie. I immediately awarded the IDFK for impeding to the defending team which put an end to that.
I have seen it also with two players at short corner kicks where the players tries to hold the ball in the corner area. Once one of the players moves to shield the team mate by moving into the path of the opponent while the team mate has the ball behind him that is impeding or holding once there is contact.
Now believe it or not if one search long enough on the net what you describe has been tried
In this clip the referee has clearly got it wrong and does not know the Law. After 2 minutes of nonsense play and a caution plus the potential for all sorts of misconduct the correct decision is arrived at. Patently as you can see the play is not part of the game and players having a laugh.

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