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Question Number: 31628

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 7/2/2017

RE: Adult

Diane of Wollongong, NSW Australia asks...

Was there ever a rule against a player playing the ball whilst on the ground?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Diane
No such rule ever existed. There is a law which prevents a player playing in a dangerous manner which includes posing a danger to himself. So if a player is lying on the ball or say with the ball under his legs while lying on the ground that can and may prevent an opponent from playing the ball for fear of kicking the player. The fact that the prostrate player cannot move quickly or easily compared to be on his feet that is the potential risk. That then makes it playing in a dangerous manner if the player attempts to play the ball rather than rolling away or getting up out of the way of the opponent who is trying to kick the ball.
However remove the opponent from the play or the opponent is unable to play the ball immediately due to his position or the player on the ground kicks the ball away quickly then there is no possibility of PIADM and play continues.
What has happened is that a myth has developed around the game because in these situations the prostrate player may pose a risk to himself so the offence is called with an indirect free kick awarded. The offence is not playing the ball on the ground yet rather preventing an opponent from playing the ball while prostrate on the ground. Two entirely different things. When the PIADM offence is called many assume it is called for playing the ball every single time which is not the case.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Diane ,
no such rule or law existed. This PLAYING THE BALL WHILE ON THE GROUND which is linked to PIADM ( Playing in a dangerous manner) became a myth much like the one that implies VERBAL IMPEDING by calling out MINE or I GOT IT! is a foul!

It is reminiscent of creating the idea of HANDBALL being a shortened forerunner of handling the ball deliberately or PASSBACK being applied to the portion of the Laws prohibiting a keeper to use his hands on a ball deliberately kicked to him or throw in to him by a team mate!

In the use of just 'handball' it creates almost a fight every time a ball hits the hand, pass back has NOTHING to do with direction, verbal impeding is linked to unfairly deceives an opponent through an unsporting comment or action designed to trick or confuse which is a form of USB thus cautionable thus an INDFK only if we stop play to do so!

PIADM can occur any number of ways INCLUDING while a player IS on the ground this PIADM also includes the myth that a HIGH FOOT is a foul, while it CAN be construed as unsafe it is NOT automatically a foul .

This same philosophy applies to playing the ball on the ground it CAN be a form of PIADM but it is NOT automatically a foul. We look at the situation in context! Players can inadvertently windup on the ground. Many a good goal gets scored from the seat of the pants. An opponent must be unfairly denied access of the ball or the player must foolishly decide to lay on top or cover the ball for an inordinately extended period to waste time or react in such a manner as the actions pose a danger to themselves or others.

However just because a player decides to retain possession or tries to shield the ball while immediately trying to get to his feet again it isnot a foul . WE expect a player to arise and continue play or play the ball away once he or she is on the ground. An opponent can not just kick away without regard for the player on the ground that is a DFK of kicking and a DFK AGAINST The opponent! If the player on the ground is actively arising and getting on with play we expect this, th ball IS within playing distance and you are allowed to shield the ball from a nearby opponent. WHAT creates issues is in what actions the player on the ground chooses to do in CONTEXT of the situation.

Example (1) ball is between the legs player is in a seated position. He CLAMPS his legs around the ball as an opponent attempts to role the ball out using the sole of his foot. The player attempts to swing right or left or summersault away from the challenge by the opponent The opponent COULD only kick at the ball which would put the safety of the player at risk thus PIADM thus INDFK .
The player COULD do these actions IF the opponent was not within playing distance and was not challenging for the ball those same actions are fine!

Example (2) ball is underneath the chest or belly of a player who has fallen on the ball. We expect the player to get to his feet and continues play. We allow a second or to for recovery . With opponent's nearby to challenge the player on the ground must not try to block access my placing his head over the ball or using his arms to coral the ball or push away a foot or leg seeking to draw the ball lout. As long as the opponent's are not kicking away wildly we look at the actions of the player on the ground in terms of is he or she arising in a fair manner trying to legally shield the ball or acting unwisely by unsafely preventing the opponent's access? Given he CANNOT use the arms to play the ball I would not allow him to use the arms to protect the ball. If he simply remains on top of the ball surrounded by opponents, reluctant to arise he will be held accountable and an INDFK for PIADM is likely! If the player simply lies on top say hoping to remain until his keeper can get to the ball if inside the PA or simply to waste time pretending to be winded this can be a form of USB in as much as it is PIADM.

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Answer provided by Referee Gary Voshol

There are some amateur leagues that prohibit slide tackles. The rec associations near me prohibit it for U10 and under, because they don't have the maturity to do it safely. I've heard of adult leagues, just above 'pickup' level, that will ban slide tackles because everyone has to go to work tomorrow.

Somehow this ban on slide tackles morphs into the myth about not playing on the ground. Even when they get older, you still hear it. I've responded, 'What? That's so U8.'

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Diane,
Under the Laws of the Game, there has never been a provision that a player should be penalised simply for playing the ball while on the ground. It is an unfortunate myth that seems to persist. As my colleagues have mentioned, there is a possibility that playing in a dangerous manner might occur in such situations but it is equally possible that it would not.

Also, as Ref Voshol says, there are some competitions, most often those involving children or veterans that have a competition rule against slide tackles (even though this is not one of the permitted modifications) but even in those competitions, it does not (or at least, should not) translate to a total ban on playing the ball from the ground. If for instance a player were to end up on the ground without having effected a slide tackle and (especially if no opponent were nearby) were then to kick the ball, this would not be an offence even if slide tackles were prohibited.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Diane,

There has never been a law against playing the ball from the ground - unfortunately there are some referees out there that don't realise this!
I was once penalised for 'playing the ball from the ground' with nobody around - and this was in a men's all age match. It's also bewildering how often older players scream for a foul when somebody plays the ball from the ground.

And really - isn't a slide tackle playing the ball from the ground?

I suspect that people thinking this is a law comes from a misunderstanding around the actual law or Playing in a Dangerous Manner - PIADM. As my esteemed colleagues have explained, this can apply in some cases when a player on the ground makes it unsafe for any opponents to challenge them (eg by trapping the ball underneath themselves). There are a number of considerations here as to whether a foul has been committed, and if the players standing above are playing dangerously it could be a foul above them. So I suspect some people - players and referees - have taken that idea that 'sometimes' it's a foul to 'play it from the ground' and extended that to all instances - without understanding what the foul actually is or why it's a foul in those cases.

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