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Question Number: 33546

Law 16 - The Goal Kick 7/30/2019

Petr of Prague, Czech Republic Czech Republic asks...


I have 'back pass rule' situations. First is from today's Champions League match Olympiacos vs. Plzen.

Situation 1: Goalkeeper takes goal kick. Teammate returns ball by chest to his hands. It happened repeatedly and the referee was silent. It is a consequence of the new goal kick rule :-)

Situation 2: Defender kicks the ball into the air and headed it to the goalkeeper. Goalkeeper catches this ball.

Situation 3: Defender kicks the ball into the air. His teammate headed it to the goalkeeper. Goalkeeper catches this ball.

Situation 4: Goalkeeper throws the ball and teammate returns it by the head to his hands.

LOTG say this:

There are different circumstances when a player must be cautioned for
unsporting behaviour including if a player:

uses a deliberate trick to pass the ball (including from a free kick) to the
goalkeeper with the head, chest, knee etc. to circumvent the Law, whether or
not the goalkeeper touches the ball with the hands

In my view, this rule applies to all four situations. What is your opinion?

Thank you very much!

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Petr,
So your Number #1 scenario might have to be reexamined by FIFA as indeed this is now a tactical ploy used. Aside from the keeper being the kicker & handling that ball off the chest of a nearby defender, lets think of a defender taking that goal or outgoing free kick? So another defender takes that chip off his chest or head, redirects the ball back to the keeper and then the keeper handles it? It was bound to occur once the need for the ball to leave the PA no longer is required, so a much shorter safer action can occur. The thing is tactically the teams/players learn to adapt their play based on the wording & interpretation of the LOTG. The idea of a free kick chested or headed back off a free kick INSIDE the PA, given the opposition can not be in the area to contest certainly seems unfair? If this is allowed you might as well change the LOTG to say on any outgoing ball from inside the PA just drop it to the keeper and start the 6 seconds? I guess IFAB cannot think of every inventive possibility lol It was mentioned in our discussions that a possibility the 6 seconds might be enforced stricter in these cases but lets not put aside the fact that a goal scoring opportunity plus the caution out of essentially nothing is a harsh penalty!

The thing is if this goal kick had kicked said ball OUTSIDE the PA and then the ball was headed back into the PA so there was some distance and skill involved, is it a circumvent? Certainly risky if it was a deliberate attempt to get the ball into the keeper's hands? Yet lets say the opposition provided no attacking threat and watched the header go back and the ball then rolls up to the keepers feet where it stops . Our keeper then waits until an attacker finally comes forward to challenge and he picks that ball up. He now has 6 seconds to release the ball but he used up all that time before! He is NOT restricted because the ball was not deliberately kicked to him BY a teammate. So no INDFK can occur from where he picks the ball up inside the PA. If this was USB circumvent WHO gets cautioned and where is the restart? Go back and allow a defender to kick the goal kick and another defender heads the ball back and the same thing occurs? Again the keeper is not restricted from using his hands. If this was USB circumvent, WHO gets cautioned and where is the restart? THAT determination occurs from the INTENT and occurs whether or not the keeper handles the ball.

Number 3: It is much the same as a throw in to a teammate who then heads the ball to the keeper. The keeper can not pick a ball up directly off the throw in but a 2nd player heading the ball then the keeper has no restriction. So to a defender who chips a ball up and a 2nd teammate heads it to the keeper takes skill but I see no true circumvention Who get cautioned? WHERE is the restart???

From your list ONLY #2 is in my opinion a guaranteed possible circumvent of USB misconduct , the defender can not deliberately use his feet to juggle the ball to his head. It is an indfk restart from where he used his feet. Yet even here there MIGHT be room to not make that call IF in the opinion of the referee if was an attempt to clear, the ball goes straight way up and the same defender, somehow on its way down, gets a head on it which goes to his keeper. I doubt it would be seen as a for sure INDFK circumvented pass back.

Number 4: the keeper playing catch with defender, is it a true circumvent? The opposition can certainly stop such a tactic by applying pressure but is that tactics under current LOTG illegal? Is it the same as player taking the ball into the corner and shielding it to use up time? A tactic I dislike but using up time is not USB wasting it! I am not convinced it is a circumvent just a silly waste of effort easily defended against. The ball never is near the feet? Perhaps this COULD be more of a USB action to waste time then a circumvent? Referees do have broad powers to limit actions they feel are contrary to the welfare of the game? I believe we will have more to say to this later on!


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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Petr,
Interesting thing is that most of those scenarios could occur already - eg if a keeper takes a FK that's outside the PA to a nearby defender, who chests it back and the keeper takes it into the PA. Or if the keeper takes a FK just inside but near the edge of the all these 'new' scenarios were mostly possible under the old laws.

Except, they're now worse under the new laws.

If the keeper and defender are allowed to exploit the fact that the defender can be in the PA at the time of the GK and the attacker can't be, then this effectively means all goal kicks are now taken from the keeper's hands, anywhere in the PA. Also means the keeper can move with the ball anywhere in the PA, uncontested for 6 seconds (though we know in professional games it's often up o 20 seconds), then release it to themselves and run with the ball.

Is the intention of a GK really that this can occur at every GK? I think not.

And that's the clearest example of why it's circumventing the laws of the game. It's exploiting the loophole to return the ball to the keeper's hands and completely change what a GK restart is, especially when the opposing team are unable to challenge this.

All 4 scenarios you posted are circumvention - the only question is when it's initiated by the keeper, who you issue a card 2. Both players may be justifiable, but we generally try to only caution 1 player in scenarios where several have committed an offence.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Petr,
Let's take situation 2 first - that is the old, familiar scenario which has been seen - and prohibited for several decades now, ever since the law change in 1992 that outlawed attempts to circumvent the law penalising the keeper for handling a ball deliberately kicked to them by a team mate. Situation 3 is a potential variant on the basic theme has often been discussed in refereeing circles. The main issue here is the distance between the players. If they are standing side by side, it's very likely an attempt at circumventing. The further apart they are, the less likely that this was deliberately intended as a ploy to get around the law - but in either case it's up to the referee to decide.

Although the first scenario is slightly novel, being a direct result of the new goal kick law, it is still a clear violation of the circumvention clause. It's identical in essence to the existing clause that says it is a cautionable offence if a player:

''uses a deliberate trick to pass the ball (including from a free kick) to the goalkeeper with the head, chest, knee etc. to circumvent the Law''

If it's an offence to do this at a free kick, it's equally an offence to do it at a goal kick.

However, for reasons that totally escape me, it seems that some referees have just failed to recognize this illegal ploy for what it is. If teams continue to do this, I hope and expect a clarification will be forthcoming from the IFAB soon.

Your fourth scenario, were it ever to happen, would not be circumvention in my opinion. If you look at any scenario where circumvention occurs (including the specific examples given when the law was first introduced) it pre-supposes a situation where the ball is on the ground and where, were it not for the law, the most natural and easiest thing for the player to do would be to kick it to the keeper - and where the player (or players) then contrive an unnatural and artificial manoeuvre to allow the ball to be played with a body part other than the foot. That has not happened here. I don't see a deliberate trick, so I don't see a circumvention offence here, though I can see that others might.

However (and possibly more pertinently) it's not something that we're likely to see anyway. It's not a scenario that has just become possible because of a recent change in the law, so I think we can be fairly certain that if it were a tactic that was in any way useful, we would have seen it in use already. Keepers have had 150 years in which they could have used this tactic and the fact that they haven't, indicates to me that it's unlikely to start occurring any time soon.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Petr
Law 12 as you know tells us that a goalkeeper cannot touch the ball with his hands when it is deliberately kicked to him by a team mate. It also tells us that it is a caution for USB when a player uses a deliberate trick to pass the ball (including from a free kick) to the goalkeeper with the head, chest, knee etc. to circumvent the Law, whether or not the goalkeeper touches the ball with the hands.
The key for me in the 4 scenarios is whether they were tricks that merited a caution.
These are examples of the situation described in 1
For me the test is also why was it done and what is the context. Context is everything. Plus is it really circumvention? Law 16 allows for the ball to be played inside the penalty area. Yes in scenarios 2,3,4 I can see potential for circumvention as the ball is in play and the player/s are using a trick to circumvent Law 12
IFAB when it first introduced this Law was to prevent constant back-passing to goalkeepers who then withheld the ball from challenge in their arms. Soon after it was introduced it was necessary to amend the Law to introduce a sanction for circumvention.
Have a look at this video
I assume it was from a throw in that the player headed the ball. This for me was not circumvention and the context was a long throw with a decision to head it to the GK after being closed down by an opponent The GK immediately picks it up so he has 6 seconds to release it. If I was the referee in that situation I would allow play to continue and strictly enforce the 6 seconds if so minded.
Now we know that there are certain examples of circumvention of Law 12 which include going to ground to head the ball, flicking the ball up from the ground to head it, arranging players close to each other to make a trick play etc.
For me the opponents have a role to play here. The reason these pass back situations first developed was that opponents were not prepared to commit enough players forward to have a numerical balance. Most of the time it was one maybe two forwards and four defenders with no high press. That allows the team with the ball to have unchallenged possession.
In the video the Green defender does not have an opponent within 20 yards of him and with no high press that high press did not happen. The ball was available for challenge from the throw in yet the opponents chose otherwise. Also what loss was there to the opponents. Six seconds!
So for me unless there is an obvious trick involved I am not getting involved in a caution for a defender.
It reminds me of a situation in a game a few season ago where a goalkeeper late in the game parried a very weak mis hit shot and he then promptly dribbled off into the corner of the penalty area where he stood with the ball at his feet until eventually challenged by an opponent. The context was to use up time. When he picked the ball up I blew for the IDFK citing the parry of catch and release. Now I have also in plenty of games seen parries that were also picked up to punt with no complaint nor any attempt to use up time etc. I simply saw those as trifling with no need to intervene.

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Answer provided by Referee MrRef

First off Petr ,
it is very good observation.
This was completely predictable, and perhaps, could have been easily addressed by saying the GK cannot handle the ball following a GK until the ball has touched an opponent or the ball has left the PA?

I should note we offer opinions, we are not IFAB or FIFA but we try very hard to be correct in law when stating YES this is or NO it is not.
It seems we as a panel are not fully in step with how to address all 4 of your scenarios.
Likely because your scenarios offend our sensibilities more than the LOTG.
I think we all can agree we really do not like ANY of them as a tactic.
That said players do find ways to work around the LOTG based on IFAB or FIFA's interpretive stances.

The LOTG do state that the opponents must be outside the penalty area until the ball is in play on either goal kick or any outgoing free kick. That is a fact. YET it also states,
'If, when a goal kick or outgoing free kick is taken, any opponents that are inside the penalty area because they did not have time to leave, the referee allows play to continue. If an opponent who is in the penalty area when the goal/outgoing free kick is taken, or enters the penalty area before the ball is in play, touches or challenges for the ball before it is in play, the goal or free kick is retaken.'
end quote

This restriction on opposition movement then does not permit an opponent to stop the flick into the chest or head given the PA is an 18 yard area and also a 10 yard free kick withdrawal restriction allows time for the attackers to use the LOTG in a manner to get the ball into the keeper's hand It was back in 1992 that the tactical action commonly referred to as a BACK-PASS was no longer going to be a legal tactic and so the goalkeeper was not permitted to touch the ball with hands on any occasion when a team-mate deliberately kicked the ball to this goalkeeper. Of course players, immediately got cute trying to find a work around and this created the circumvent circular to expound that trickery was NOT going to be permitted as a way of having the keeper being able to use their hands needlessly.

In your first scenario keeper kicks ball into chest of defender and picks the ball up, neat and tidy.
In similar vein, a defender takes the goal/free kick from inside the PA and kicks it up into the chest or head of a teammate who deflects that ball back to the keeper who uses their hands. Convoluted with the extra touch but same result. Note the ball could have traveled outside the PA if it was closer up to the boundary lines

FIFA Quote
'Cautions for unsporting behavior
There are different circumstances when a player must be cautioned for unsporting behavior including if a player:

shows a lack of respect for the game

uses a deliberate trick to pass the ball (including from a free kick) to the goalkeeper with the head, chest, knee etc. to circumvent the Law, whether or not the goalkeeper touches the ball with the hands'
End Quote

FIFA Quote
Decisions will be made to the best of the referee's 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.

A referee or other match official is not held liable for:
any other decision taken in accordance with the Laws of the Game or in conformity with their duties under the terms of FIFA, confederation, national football association or competition rules or regulations under which the match is played.
end quote.

The Laws cannot deal with every possible situation, so where there is no direct
provision in the Laws, The IFAB expects the referee to make a decision within
the 'spirit' of the game' this often involves asking the question, "what would
football want/expect?"

Your 2nd situation is the old standard and if it is done in a deliberate manner it is an INDFK and caution to the player no matter if the keeper was to use their hands or not, it is the CLEAR INTENT being deemed as misconduct! If, as ref Dawson pointed out it was a chance occurrence through an aborted clearance it would be ignored!

Your third situation is fraught with inconsistencies but if the referee was of the opinion it was a deliberate act to get around the Law prohibiting the back pass, that decision could be made to punish the misconduct which I would likely attribute to the instigator using his feet or the thrower, not the relay man and the keepers participation is not important. It is the CLEAR INTENT that is the misconduct but it is a huge stretch unless these players are grouped in a 3 foot circle.

Your fourth situation baffles me as to how it is circumvention, the ball is never on the ground but it certainly seems odd? Yet odd or not, it is not illegal. I have not seen it done so thank goodness for that but an opponent would move up to stop such nonsense. Yet a referee might indeed opine it as USB.
From our pitch to your pitch in the spirit of fair play

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Answer provided by Referee MrRef

To all national football associations and confederations

Zurich, 2 August 2019

Law 16 The Goal kick clarifications

The changes to the Laws of the Game 2019/20 have proved successful as seen at the FIFA Women's World Cup, FIFA u20 World Cup and in confederation and national competitions. The changes to Law 16 The Goal Kick have often led to the game being restarted quickly and positively but there are two situations which have generated questions from across the football world which we would like to clarify.

Goalkeeper 'lifting' the ball to a team mate who heads/chests it back to the goalkeeper
There has been much debate about whether, at a goal kick, the goalkeeper is permitted to 'lift' the ball to a team mate to head or chest it back to the goalkeeper to catch and then put into play. The views of technical and refereeing experts about whether this is within the 'spirit' of the Laws is divided so the matter will be discussed by The IFAB Technical Sub Committee. Until then, this practice should not be permitted nor should it be penalised - if it occurs the referee should order the goal kick to be re-taken (but no disciplinary action).

Opponent in the penalty area when a goal kick is taken
Law 16 requires all opponents to be outside the penalty area until the goal kick is taken and if an opponent remains inside or enters the penalty area before the kick is taken and plays, challenges or touches the ball, the goal kick is retaken.

However, Law 16 also applies the 'quick' free kick principles outlined in Law 13 Free Kicks Offences and sanctions that if any opponents are in the penalty areas because they did not have time to leave, the referee allows play to continue.

In practical terms, this means that referees should manage goal kicks (and defending team free kicks in their own penalty area) in the same way as they manage free kicks:
Unless the kick is taken quickly, opposing players should be required to be outside the penalty area and remain outside until the kick has been taken
If the kick is taken quickly and an opponent genuinely did not have time to leave the penalty area, the opponent may not interfere with or prevent the taking of the kick but may intercept the ball once it is in play. This is allowed because the defending team, as at a quick free kick, tried to gain an advantage by taking the kick quickly and if this 'goes wrong' the Law is not there to 'save' them.
Players who deliberately remain inside or enter the penalty area before the kick is taken should not gain an unfair advantage, even if the kick is taken quickly
If an opposing player commits an offence (as outlined above) the goal kick is retaken; there is no disciplinary sanction unless the offence occurs a number of times (persistent misconduct)

Referees are skilled at managing 9.15m at free kicks and they should apply these skills and principles to the management of goal kicks and defending team free kicks in their own penalty area.

We hope that these clarifications will be helpful in the application of Law 16 and would ask that you communicate them to your referees, participants and the media.

If any further clarifications are required, please e mail the Technical Director of The IFAB:

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