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Question Number: 32069

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 11/30/2017

RE: Competive Adult

Richard of Derby, Derbyshire United Kingdom asks...

If a Goalkeeper gets any touch on the ball when diving at the feet of an attacker in the penalty area, is this automatically NOT a penalty? eg. Goalkeeper dives and gets a slight hand on the ball which doesn't discernibly change its speed or direction but due to his body been prone on the ground in making the challenge impedes the attacker from continuing towards goal. Penalty or not?

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Rich
We are in awe of keepers for their bravery in tossing themselves into harms way to stop a ball from entering their goal.

It is no easy task , jumping head first into a charging attacker to sweep or grab a ball off his feet.

We are aware that some attackers will drive the inside leg out and towards the keeper in hopes of drawing a foul as well.

Yet a keeper can not just causally wipe out an attacker on the pretext of, I got the ball, anymore than any other player. We look to see legitimate challenges, if not we then then gauge the severity of the contact in a careless reckless or excessive manner. The fact a keeper can get a hand on the ball is certainly in his favour as the attacker MUST also be VERY aware hand on ball by keeper for possession if it occurs, that ball cannot be challenged and the attacker must not play through the keeper hoping to bust the ball free.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Richard, I suspect this is a reference to the penalty awarded in the Everton vs West Ham game this week. As my colleagues have pointed out, getting the ball first does not allow free licence to then foul the opponent on the follow-through. So getting a touch on the ball does not automatically mean there cannot be an offence. The part of the law that deals with challenging an opponent for the ball still requires the referee to judge whether the challenge was careless, reckless or used excessive force, regardless of whether there is contact with the ball or not.

In the particular instance mentioned above, I think the referee made the right decision in awarding a foul and a penalty.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Richard
Frequent visitors to the site will know that getting the ball first is not a free pass at not committing a foul. There are no automatic decision in the game other than matters of fact such as the ball is over the line or not etc.
A player including the goalkeeper can challenge or tackle an opponent, play the ball first and still be called for a foul as in the opinion of the referee the players action was careless or reckless. At an extreme is a two footed lunge that plays the ball first yet follows through into the player a foul? No one would question that it is a reckless foul even if the ball was played first.
Now in regular play without the benefit of technology or video what does the referee or assistant see from his angle of view. Does the goalkeeper play the ball or catch the opponent first and then play the ball or does the referee not see the faintest of touches first yet sees the goalkeeper arm trip up an attacker inside the penalty area. The referee does not have the benefit of technology to confirm that at this time although the VAR (Video Assistant Referee) system plans to change that. .
Have a look at this video which I have shown in the past on the site
The referee awarded a penalty and then changed his mind going with a dropped ball. Did the goalkeeper in fact play the ball? Even with video replay I am still somewhat unsure if he actually played the ball. I suspect he did yet it would not look like that in play. The referee appeared unsure when he made the call and doubted himself. I doubt he was even sure about the decision to overturn the call. Anyway different matter and the subject of a complaint.
Now let us say that the ball was played. There can be situations where it is not a foul and where it is
Say the GK trips the attacker before playing the ball?
Say the GK does not touch the ball clearly?
Say the GK plays the ball and then trips up the attacker to prevent a follow up of the ball?
Say the actions of the GK were so aggressive that he just took the attacker out with no regard for anyone?
Yes many times when the diving goalkeeper plays the ball first and there is a coming together then there is no foul. The vagaries of human decision making will mean though that decision making is not going to be perfect. As I say to those in the game Ask a question of the referee in the game with some dubious unclear play and one might not like the answer. The diving GK at the feet of an opponent who clearly fails to get anything obvious on the ball runs a high risk of a foul being called. Clearly play the ball, either catching it or deviating it significantly will make the decision. Referees do look for clear ball movement off the hand, foot or whatever to help with the call. The absence of that runs a high risk of a foul being called.

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