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Question Number: 31911

Law 5 - The Referee 10/16/2017

RE: Travel Under 11

Brian White of Palmer, MA USA asks...

Had a call this weekend that, while I believe I applied the laws correctly, still doesn't sit well from a 'fair play' standpoint.

Team A takes a hard shot right to Team B goalie's chest. He makes the save on his knees, and Team A retreats for the punt. He releases the ball to his teammate. I watch him for a moment to make sure he's okay - waiting to see if I need to stop play (again, no attackers around, as they backed up for the coming punt).

Goalie catches his breath, and is good to go, but in that moment, his teammate picks up the ball. Different scenarios run through my head, and I whistle for handling in the box. Team A scores on the PK, but irrelevant as Team B wins 3-1. Had this goal affected the outcome of the game, I would be even more conflicted.

As I saw it, I had 2 choices. A) Whistle for handling in the box, B) Pretend I stopped play for injury, giving a drop ball at the top of the goal box.

I don't like B, as it's not my place to bail out Team B, but at the same time, I hate to reward Team A because the teammate thought his goalie might be hurt (recall this is U10).

I really wish FIFA (or maybe just the league) would mirror the HS rule, where the team in obvious possession gets the IDFK, but even that here would only have helped with Option B.

While I think that the kids need learn to play the whistle - even if it's a hard lesson - I still hate to see something like this affect the outcome of the game.

In a perfect world of fair play, perhaps Team A should have just passed the ball back to the keeper on the PK.

Any better options on how to handle this scenario?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Brian
The answer for me hinges on why the player on Team B picked the ball. Did he assume based on everyones reaction that play was stopping or about to be stopped? Did your watching closely of the goalkeeper give him an indication that all was not well which ends up as a stoppage
For me at Under 10/11 this is a Law 18 decision. Blow the whistle, go and deal with the winded goalkeeper and restart with a dropped ball. Team A has not been disadvantaged here or that the player has acted in a way that is an intentional infringement of the Laws. Team A can give the ball back to Team B or vice versa.
I once was in a game with a senior referee. He played advantage on a clear foul with the player going down injured. The team mate of the injured player did not see or hear the advantage signal so he picked the ball up. The referee restarted with the original free kick after the player was treated and there was no complaint about it.
Sometimes we have to make the *best* decision for the game. That is now fully supported by the recent statements in the Laws which I quote*
** Decisions will be made to the best of the referees ability according to the Laws of the Game and the *spirit of the game* and will be based on the opinion of the referee who has the discretion to take appropriate action within the framework of the Laws of the Game.**
** Referees should apply the Laws within the ‘spirit of the game to help produce fair and safe matches**
Nothing wrong with stopping the game albeit somewhat late to check on the well being and safety of a player. Any gripe from a dissenting voice gets the * I stopped for a player injury* answer.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Brian,
youth matches are less about absolutes and more about positives. In cases of hesitation or indecision if the action is CLEARLY related to safety I generally stop play and deal with the perception be it true or not simply as it sets the groundwork for fair play later in life! Sometimes you can not save a player from something they do incorrectly be it on purpose not knowing or accidentally in not thinking but sometimes you can understand and find a way out that does not in the end really have a negative impact. Yes you could use the PLAY the whistle as a teaching moment but perhaps a free kick at midfield where the trip and fall winded a player so another picked the ball up thinking a stoppage was in order rather than an undeserved PK

I had a u-12 match good keeper in the first half but in the second half they replaced him and he played sweeper which is good as I like to see kids get moved around when young to different positions. as a developmental tool . UNFORTUNATELY our sweeper was still in keeper mindset when a hard shot chest high towards the goal 5 minutes in, clearly destined to enter the goal, rather than head it or let it bounce off his chest he did what he had done many times in the first half, simply caught the ball.
I was looking right at him I could see it in his eyes and face he knew what he had done instinctively . He also knew it was going to get him in trouble I kind of looked at him with a wry shrug & nodded as if saying poor kid I am sorry but! as I knew why this occurred and was about to raise my whistle to then I would have sadly shown him a red card and sent him off for DOGSO when he quickly tossed the ball over his shoulder into the goal. I held onto my whistle, laughed, signaled goal with restart kick off and had a quick chat with him but showed no card at all. We both knew why he did what he did was not deliberate but instinctive, the goal was officially NOT denied and I had no doubt the lesson was learned so any card was unnecessary to set a standard when everyone knew the situation for what it was a momentary mind freeze and a rather bizarre solution that I felt was good for the game.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Brian,
In this case, given the age of the players involved and the fact that you did already have concerns about a potential injury to the keeper, I can certainly see an argument for a 'Law 18 - Common Sense' decision as my colleagues have suggested. You could even invoke the 'ghost of laws past' and use the principle that used to be expressed in the former IFAB decision 8 to Law 5 and which said (in part), ''The Laws of the Game are intended to provide that games should be played with as little interference as possible, and in this view it is the duty of referees to penalize only deliberate breaches of the Law.''

Although the law-makers seem to have moved away from that viewpoint somewhat, certainly in terms of professional or adult matches, I think the concept is a bit more applicable for so-called 'u-littles'.

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