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Question Number: 32264

Law 14 - The Penalty kick 3/1/2018

RE: Varsity & junior Varsity High School

Chuck Love of Syracuse, NY USA asks...

In a recent interview former English referee Peter Walton stated that refs give keepers 'considerable leeway' to come off their line before a PK is actually taken. My questions are: 1) Is he correct? I've seen it time & again so just by anecdotal evidence it seems he is. And so if that's the case 2) why do they allow a blatant breach of the Laws? It's not a judgement call; it's a black-letter, yes or no, on or off decision. IMO referees who do this are acting unethically and how any official can justify ignoring such a call is beyond me. Maybe you can sled some light on the subject. Thx.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Chuck
Former referee Peter Walton is telling it as it is and with the help of technology we can see that he is correct. Many times in real time and at speed it is not black and white and it can be a tight call. Throw in that 80% of penalties are converted then it is not such a huge issue.
Trifling and doubtful springs to mind so it is not really a situation where referees act unethically yet rather one of whether it needs to be called or not.
The final point out that I would make is that at a penalty kick the advantage is heavily stacked in favour of the kicker. Taking a shot unhindered from 12 yards at speed puts huge pressure on the goalkeeper and most know that to have any chance they need to be on the move at the moment of the kick if not slightly before.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Chuck,
the referee is given an important role protect the safety of the players and the integrity of their game. Notice I said theirs, as referencing the player,s not ours)

A referee is a neutral observer trying his or her best to make yes or no decisions to allow play to continue or stop play based on what they see the players doing and their own understanding of the LOTG /rules!

The high school uses the RULES the IFAB/FIFA uses the LOTG to assist in the decision making but we are told NOT to interfere in doubtful or trifling situations that play no reasonable impact on the match itself. Granted that remains a subjective opinion and it will appear at times as if the referee seems to be ignoring the letter of the law or a rule violation.

Encroaching used to be ignored unless the encroached player played an active part in follow up play so it can be forgiven that some referees using historical perspectives still entertain that thought process some what. A PK kicker pounds a ball a mile high or wide, how does someone stepping over the line affect that result? Would the ball have stayed down and on target?
If a well placed PK kick slots home into the top right corner after a left sided dive by a beaten keeper what difference does a step over the line have on the result?

I know there is a firmly belief that much like a ball that is in or out it is a yes or no decision to stop play or allow play. I in NO WAY see encroachment by players in the same light

In as much as they teach officials the rules and laws they (meaning those in POWER!) CONSTANTLY harp on the understanding tolerance and acceptance of what passes for fair play and often dictate or formulate hidden agendas or try to condition referees to react in a certain matter to certain things based on the influence who is in currently charge has.

I can and have suggested a different PK or KFTPM where we use a run in and keeper allowed to do as he wishes off a start of the whistle. These restrictive freeze moments and positions undertaken at PKs are NOT in any real way tied into what the game which if performed correctly I find an easy simile as
poetry in motion..

The BLATANT breech of the LOTG on encroachment only occurs if the illegal action impacts directly on play.

An early entering attacker follows up on rebound MUST not be allowed!
An early entering defender who clears a rebound MUST not be allowed!
A keeper whose movements off the goal line ahead of the PK kick clearly affect the kick by making a save or blocking the ball from entering the goal MUST be sanctioned.
A PK kicker who unfairly takes a PK must not be allowed!

Now any of the 4 components can be held accountable per the LOTG but can any of their actions not affect play? As much of what they do IS ignored it seems most referees are n some sort of agreement that encroaching in of its self is not a valid reason to retake or dismiss an outcome. Unless in the opinion of the referee it has done so!

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Chuck,
I would say that Peter Walton is most definitely correct in his assertion. For me there is no doubt that many referees are doing this. The more important question is your second one as to why this is so.

However I disagree with the idea that this is such a black and white issue. We have had a number of examples where questions regarding specific incidents were put forward as being cases of blatant infringement by the keeper. In almost all of them though, a freeze frame taken at the moment the ball was kicked showed the keeper with one foot still on the line and the other foot in the air moving forward off the line. In real time, it's often very difficult to say for sure that the keeper was fully off the line at the decisive point. I also think that often, the distance that the keeper has moved before making the save and the fact that they continue moving forward afterwards is misleading and makes it look as if the keeper was further off the line when the ball was kicked, than is actually the case.

Then there is the question of it being perhaps (at least apparently, in the minds of many referees) a 'trifling or dubious' offence with the emphasis here on the dubious part.

Lastly, I believe there may be a situation more recently where the 'law of unintended consequences' comes into play. When the IFAB made it a mandatory caution for a keeper who infringes this part of the law, it seems to me that it actually made referees more reluctant to call the offence as it then becomes a potentially much more impactful decision - it could for instance lead to a keeper being sent off in the case of a second caution, especially if this is happening during a penalty shoot-out.

Now, none of this makes it right not to call the offence if it has truly occurred but I hope that (as per your request) it sheds some light on the phenomenon. I also think it is a little harsh to accuse referees of acting unethically in this regard, I'm sure that virtually all of them feel they are applying the Laws within the boundaries of the discretion allowed to them by those laws.

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