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Question Number: 32501

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 6/10/2018

RE: Competive Adult

Nilesh Lal of Suva, Fiji Fiji asks...

Is it true that goalkeepers are protected in the 6 yard box? The play unfolded as follows. A cross was made into the goal area by the attacking team by player A. Player B of the attacking team went in to head in the ball, the goalkeeper came out to collect the ball. Attacking Player B and the goalkeeper collided. The ball was free, Player C of the attacking team headed it into the goal. Is it a goal or a foul on the goalkeeper?

Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Goalkeepers have never had particular protection written into the laws.
However, I know there are a number of myths around such as 'you can't challenge the keeper in the air' or 'you can't touch the keeper in the Goal Area (6 yard box)'. And unfortunately I've seen referees who also believe this!

The keeper is just another player with some additional rights. They can be challenged, physically, just like any other player. Like any other contested header, the referee needs to consider if the physical contest is fair and legal.

It's impossible for us to say if the decision was correct - collisions between the attacker and the keeper might be a foul, they might not. One thing the referee needs to consider is whether the attacker is playing the keeper or the ball - if, say, the attacker was just barging the keeper out of the way in mid-air then this is probably a foul. If he's jumped and used his body to secure the aerial position to head the ball, it's probably fine. Then there's also the matter on whether the ball was headed out of the keeper's hands.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Nilesh,
There is no special protection afforded to goalkeepers based on being inside the goal area. However there is protection of a sort (though not positionally-based) in that the keeper may not be challenged if they already have control of the ball with the hands. When the ball is free (as you say it was in this case) then the keeper may be challenged - however the normal criteria still apply and for instance it is still an offence to jump at or into another player carelessly, recklessly or using excessive force.

I think there is a tendency to view the keeper as more vulnerable when they are jumping straight up with the arms extended vertically above them to catch the ball, as they are then more easily knocked off balance and less able to fend off an incoming challenge from an opponent, so that physical contact with a keeper in that scenario has a greater chance of being seen as for instance, careless, than might otherwise be the case.

But there is no blanket protection on any challenge simply because they are in the goal area.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Nilesh
At one time in the game goalkeepers could be legally charged while in possession of the ball except in the goal area. Over a lifetime that has all changed to what we have today where a goalkeeper cannot be challenged while in possession of the ball. The legacy of the goal area still survives with some.
Now while playing the ball the goalkeeper is like any other player in that he cannot be fouled such as being pushed, held, charged or jumped at. In addition the goalkeeper cannot commit these fouls as well
Now there will be times when in an aerial challenge an attacker and a goalkeeper will come together in the air both legitimately playing the ball. That is not a foul.
In your example it depends on the opinion of the referee where the goalkeeper has just caught or about to catch a high ball and an attacker jumps into him or charges him in the air which is a foul.

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