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Question Number: 31520

Law 5 - The Referee 5/9/2017

RE: Competritive Adult


The assistant referee checked the nets before starting the game. However, a ball enters the goal through a hole in the side of the net when going out for a goal kick.
The referees were confused and they awarded the goal.
Is this a technical error? What can be done about this?
Thank you


Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Mike,
In association football (soccer), a ghost goal (or phantom goal) is a questionable goal, usually involving uncertainty as to whether or not a ball crossed the goal line.
This incident shows just how important such a pre-match referee pitch inspection can prove to be!
If during a match the AR or CR recognizes the ball DID in fact enter through a hole in the side of the net they should patch that hole before restarting and award the goal kick or corner as to how it occurred!!
Given a goal WAS awarded means they do not recognize the ball did enter through the hole. They must feel the ball did in fact enter under the cross bar, between the posts and over the goal line as that is the ONLY way a goal can be legally scored As an opinion on a fact of play nothing can be done once the ghost goal is restarted with the kick off. ! If a video showed it as conclusive proof perhaps an association might consider a replay having a word to the referees about better inspection of the goals prior to the match but I doubt anything changes unless there is sufficient time and available fields to replay .
Such things happen, it rarely ends favourably unless it is CLEARLY seen by all to be exactly what transpired!


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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Michael
Over the years there have been many *ghost* goal awarded by referees on the basis that the ball entered the goal between the goalposts and under the crossbar. Video replays subsequently showed that the referees made errors in judgement not in law. Once the goal is awarded and the game kicks off again nothing can be done.
In the goal mentioned by Referee Dawson the German Bundesliga ruled that the result would stand as referee Felix Brych did not break any rules in making his decision so it was not an error in law just an error in judgement. Although there was a ghost goal awarded previously in the Bundesliga which resulted in the game being replayed I expect that the Bundesliga could have been rebuffed for the decision hence its later decision to allow the result to stand.
Here are a few more
I recall many seasons ago in an Over 40 game a team claimed that a ball entered the goal over the cross bar through a hole in the net. It looked like a goal to me and there was no obvious hole in the net. There was no video evidence to disprove the call. A cursory view of the net did not show any hole and a more detailed examination after the game on my own showed no hole that a ball could enter through. That was my opinion based on my pre match inspection. To this day I believe that the goal was good.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Mike,
Unfortunately for the team conceding the goal, this is not considered a technical error, just an error in judgement. As my colleagues have pointed out, there have been numerous incidents of such goals. Although there was the one occasion when a game was replayed, as Ref McHugh alludes to, FIFA raised an official objection to this, since replaying a game for this reason contravenes the provision in Law 5 that:

''The decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play, including whether or not a goal is scored and the result of the match, are final.''

To the best of my knowledge, no other game has been replayed before or since, due to a so-called 'ghost goal.'

So although it may seem unfair, officially there is nothing that can be done about such a refereeing mistake.

Incidentally, when the German game referred to was replayed, it did not turn out well for the team that had conceded the ghost goal. Having lost the initial game 2-1, 1 FC Nuernberg lost the replayed game 5-0 and ironically enough, were relegated on goal difference.

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